Wendell Smallwood: League Winner?

Most leagues aren’t won or lost in the First Round of a draft and the early stages of drafts are usually filled with picks that won’t sink your team or separate you from the league. Grabbing a late round guy who can make a difference down the stretch is a huge part of draft night. It is why David Johnson was on a lot of league winners last year.

A lot of names have been thrown around for 2016 but for my money there is a running back who (as of this writing) is essentially free in a 15-Round draft: Wendell Smallwood.

First let’s start with his measurables:

  • 5’10/208
  • 40: 4.47
  • 3-Cone: 6.83
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: 11.14
  • Broad Jump: 120 Inches

Yes, he is a little on the smallish side but his 3-Cone and 60-Yard Shuttle were tops among RBs at the combine this year. His 40-yard dash tied him for 5th. In other words, he checks the boxes in terms of athleticism.

As far as actual college production goes, Smallwood led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards last fall over such household names as Samaje Perine and Shock Linwood. He also caught 26 passes and his 6.4 YPC placed him 10th among FBS running backs with at least 200 carries. I feel confident that his combine numbers weren’t a fluke.


Wendell Smallwood could be a league-winner in 2016.

As for opportunity, Smallwood joins an Eagles team with Ryan Mathews handling the early down work and Darren Sproles being the primary 3rd Down back. They also have Kenjon Barner but he is a Chip Kelly holdover who is unlikely to make the roster. With the combination of Mathews being injury prone and new coach Doug Pederson being an Andy Reid disciple, Smallwood may find himself the beneficiary of a major role in the Philadelphia backfield which would potentially mean huge things.

Let’s start with Pederson and his running back usage. For the sake of sample size, we will look at the Chiefs offense from 2013-2015 when he was Offensive Coordinator and how he utilized his running backs:

2013 – The Chiefs running backs had 338 total carries, led by Jamaal Charles with 259 which is a staggering 77% market share. Chief backs also had 88 total catches on 129 targets (led, again, by Charles with 70 and 104 respectively) for over 800 yards. Collectively they accounted for over 2300 total yards and 23 TDs but Charles himself had a monster year in 2013 with 329 total touches for almost 2000 yards and 19 TDs.

*This doesn’t include any stats for Dexter McCluster who received 80 targets (53 catches) on his own, usually working out of the slot or in motion out of the backfield.

2014 – Chief running backs had 348 combined carries (for 1,527 yards) with Charles getting 206 and Knile Davis 134. Charles didn’t play in Week 17 that year due to KC wrapping up a playoff berth or he likely would have went over 225 total carries on the year. The targets were down considerably with 56 catches on 84 total targets with Charles again receiving the lion’s share of the work with 40 on 59.

It should be noted that despite Charles having his workload reduced to 250 total touches and the running back targets being way down, the Chiefs’ running backs still had almost 2000 total yards with 21 TDs. These are healthy numbers.

2015 – Charles got hurt in Week 5 so it is hard to look at this season the same way. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware filled in well enough but the Chiefs went from having a guy in Charles who averaged 5.1 YPC to West who averaged 4 YPC.

Looking at Charles in a vacuum, prior to the injury he was on pace to approach his 2013 numbers through the first 5 games:

  • 71 Carries – 364 Yards – 4 TDs
  • 21 Receptions (29 Targets) – 177 Yards – 1 TD
  • 16 Game Projection:
    • 290 Carries – 1164 Yards – 13 TDs
    • 67 Receptions (93 Targets) – 567 Yards – 5 TDs
    • 357 Touches – 1731 Yards – 18 TDs

While it is unlikely that he would have received 350+ touches, I think it is pretty clear that Pederson is going to lean on his running backs. These numbers would have made Charles the clear-cut #1 Overall RB of 2015.

Speaking of Charles, here are his 2008 combine measurables:

  • 6’1/200
  • 40: 4.38
  • 3-Cone: 6.80
  • Broad Jump: 122 Inches

Look familiar? It should because Smallwood had very similar numbers this year. Outside of the 40-time, the numbers are almost identical. Oh, and Charles also led the Big 12 in rushing in 2008 with 1,619 yards (6.3 YPC) so it appears that Pederson knew what he was getting when he took Smallwood in the 5th Round.

The good news for Smallwood’s prospects are twofold: Mathews is almost assuredly going to get hurt sooner than later and even if it doesn’t happen right away, Pederson’s offense will be able to accommodate more than one running back getting early down work. It would probably be beneficial for Mathews if Smallwood was given a role early on to try and manage the former’s workload, but a lot will naturally depend on pass protection. Smallwood he has been lauded for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield so there is a chance he will see some early down situational work in that capacity. While Sproles could throw a wrench into the plan, he just turned 33 and has never been more than a complimentary pass catching specialist.

Considering that Smallwood currently has an ADP in the 180-range, he is probably going undrafted in shallow leagues. He may not be a guy to rush out and pick up today but he is one Mathews hamstring tweak (which will happen soon) from being the feature back in Philadelphia. I am trying to jump on the train wherever available as a means of seeing where the chips fall as August rolls on. Keep Smallwood on your radar and when Mathews goes down, scoop him up and profit.

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Mockin’ Time

With training camps opening up and football season right around the corner, I have been doing mock drafts on Yahoo and FantasyFootballCalculator.com over the past few weeks. As most people know, you don’t know what you are going to get on these sites as guys will do some stupid things that deviate completely from how a real draft will go. Outside of MFL10s, I rarely draft a real team until midway through August if not later. Injuries and roster movement make it difficult to track players and I don’t believe in drafting early for those reasons so unfortunately mock drafts are the best I can do.

This year I have been fortunate enough to secure a spot in Fantasy Alarm/Sirius XM contributor Howard Bender’s Mock Draft Army and I have taken part in a number of PPR and Standard Drafts on Fantrax (which is a great format – check them out). So far these mocks have been great – They’re fast, competitive and everyone in the room is obviously on their game. It has also provided me with a platform to test a couple of strategies and get outside of my comfort zone (i.e. taking a RB early) to see how my team would look.


For my latest draft, I did a 12-team standard where I picked from the 7th spot and you can see the see the draft board here. As per my usual I wasn’t necessarily targeting a specific player early on but I was intent on taking a RB with my first pick unless one of the big three (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, or Odell Beckham) fell to me. Here are a few highlights:

Round 1 – Ezekiel Elliott: This was the obvious choice here and one that I am growing increasingly comfortable with given the likely workload and Lev Bell’s potential suspension. I’ve got Elliott ranked third among running backs and in a standard draft I think it is important to come away with one in your first two picks. With Todd Gurley and David Johnson both off the board (Gurley went #1 overall), Elliot was a pretty easy pick. Assuming at worst he gets 60% of the workload, 300 touches is easily within reach.

Round 2 – Mark Ingram: I thought AJ Green or Allen Robinson would make it back to me but they both went right before I picked. I considered Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery here but in 12 games last year Ingram had 1174 combined yards and six TDs and that type of production was too much to pass up. This is the first mock that I have went RB-RB but there is more value at the position in standard scoring formats. I locked in two guys who should be 3-Down feature backs this year.

Round 3 – Keenan Allen: I passed over Mike Evans, Demaryius Thomas and TY Hilton here because I feel like Allen is the safest of the four and after taking two RBs I wanted a guy with a solid floor. I admittedly like Allen slightly more in a PPR format but he was still on pace for over 1400 yards last year before getting hurt. I don’t see any reason why the Chargers will not put the ball in the air a ton again this year which means more targets for Allen.

Round 8 – Josh Gordon: This was a luxury pick because I drafted him as my WR5 but as soon as I went with Elliott and Ingram I decided that getting Gordon would be a priority. I probably waited a round too long and in a regular draft I wouldn’t hesitate to grab him in the 7th. Given that his ceiling is so high I am a believer in Gordon this late even considering all the baggage that goes with him and here’s why: Tyler Lockett, Willie Snead, Stefan Diggs, Tavon Austin, Steve Smith Sr., and Nelson Agholor. Those are the receivers left on the board when I made the pick. No brainer.

Round 11/12 – Tony Romo/Marcus Mariota: I was talking myself out of Russell Wilson early on in the draft and these two picks are why you wait on QB. I like having a running QB so Mariota and Tyrod Taylor are likely to end up on a lot of my teams this fall. In Romo I am handcuffing 85% of the Cowboys TD production this year between him and Elliott.

The rest of my team:

  • QB – Romo, Mariota
  • RB – Elliott, Ingram, Matt Jones, Jerick McKinnon
  • WR – Allen, Gordon, Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Jordan Matthews, Stefon Diggs
  • TE – Ladarius Green
  • K – Chris Boswell
  • DEF – Oakland

Overall this turned out pretty well for a late July draft. Tight end would probably require dropping Diggs or McKinnon for a capable backup but I like what Ladarius Green’s potential upside looks like this year.

On another note I am going to start writing more as the calendar flips to August tomorrow. I will hopefully have some positional tiers up on the site this week and more mock draft recaps to critique where I could have done better.

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Keyarris Garrett: Fools Gold or Fantasy Gold?

I have written and re-written this one several times because I have went back and forth on how to approach it. While I believe the 2016 Draft Class lacks what I consider to be an instant difference maker at wide receiver, I do think it is a solid class. Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, and Will Fuller all have warts in regards to catching the football but for the most part it seem that teams – both real and for fantasy purposes – will not be taking these guys a higher than where they should go. This is especially true in the case of Treadwell who is looks like he could slip until the middle-end of the 1st Round after potentially being a top-5 pick a few months ago.

There is a lot of be said for Coleman, although I think coming from the Baylor system where he got an insane amount of volume in averaging almost 10 targets a game may lead some to believe he is better than he is. More than any other receiver in the draft, his success may be largely dependent on where he ends up. If a team like the Browns tries to trade into the back of the 1st Round to grab him, then Corey we hardly knew ye. As for Fuller, I think he is Mike Wallace with a better route tree and I say that having watched every game Fuller has played while at ND. I think he is good but his build and inability to catch the ball consistently with his hands will cause him problems.

What I really wanted to write about was a 6’4, 220 pound receiver from Tulsa named Keyarris Garrett. This is a guy who ran a 4.53 at the Combine and who’s RotoViz Freak Score of 67 put him in the neighborhood of AJ Green and Dez Bryant. In fact, Bryant makes a good comp for Garrett measurement-wise:

  • Dez Bryant: 6’3, 224 – 4.52
  • Garrett: 6’4, 220 – 4.53

When watching Garrett the first thing that stands out is that physically he looks like he belongs. The game that stands out is when he went up against Oklahoma and there were a lot of times where he made the Sooner secondary look very ordinary. That was not an easy task (Coleman only went 3-51 against them) and there is little doubt that his physical gifts will show well in the NFL. When you consider that he might fall all the way until the 3rd Day of the Draft he could easily turn out to be, at minimum, the best WR value of this class.

When looking at Garrett on film a few things stand out:

  1. He gets off his man well which is mostly due to his size and strength. I wouldn’t call him the most polished receiver coming out but he is so explosive off the line that bump-and-run coverage wasn’t usually an issue for him.
  2. He is long and he uses his body well to catch jump balls. He is also a long strider and that has helped him in getting down the field away from DBs. I think his 4.53 speed is  a little bit deceptive but for a prospect his size, he can move.
  3. He lacks technique but was able to get away with it against inferior opponents. His route tree is undeniably limited right now but I don’t think this is an uncommon issue with WRs coming out of spread style programs.
  4. If he played a higher profile program, he would be a First Round pick.

His combination of size and speed would be tantalizing enough but there is also the production factor as he had a 96/1588/8 line last year. All 8 of his TDs went for 20+ yards too so there is plenty of big pay ability available there. I would like to see him work more in the Red Zone in the same way that Dez has become such a great weapon in that area but that is something that will come with time. If Garrett isn’t asked to do too much this year, I think there is some real breakout potential in 2017 and beyond which is why I believe he is the best prospect in this draft for the long term.

I do have some concerns with Garrett, one being that he is 23 years old which puts him behind the curve. His development this year into next will be huge as his window for being a productive NFL player might be smaller than some younger prospects. Ultimately I don’t see health as being a major concern but he overcame an ACL tear while at Tulsa and for big receivers this can be a red flag as knee injuries tend to creep up on them as their careers wear on.

Garrett’s physical ability outweighs everything else for me and I think he has an incredibly high ceiling an in a Dynasty format. I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a high 2 or a late 1 on him as I think he has the potential to be the best receiver in this class by a wide margin. In redraft leagues he is probably best served as a late-round flier in deeper leagues unless he manages to fall into a situation (Dallas, Carolina) that gives him an opportunity to catch 50 plus passes this year.

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CJ Prosise – 3 Down Extraordinaire?

I’ll admit to being a homer for this article because I am a Notre Dame fan but CJ Prosise might offer one of the best values of the this year’s draft. Although he came to South Bend weighing in at 190 pounds and running a 4.73 40 yard dash, Prosise wowed Irish coaches with his athletic ability during their visits to see him. Officially recruited as a hybrid athlete who excelled at safety during his time at Woodberry Forest High School in Virginia, Prosise was immediately turned into a wide receiver for the Irish during his freshman season. He played two years there – primarily in the slot – amassing 36 catches but going into the 2015 season was asked to move to running back as the Irish lacked sufficient depth at the position. Fortunately for Prosise he took over the starting role midway through Week 1 due to an injury.

The Upside

Prosise ended up rushing for over 1,000 yards in just over 10 games but he also caught 26 passes out of the backfield after he took over as the starter. His first 8 games had him on the fringe of the Heisman discussion as he went over 100 yards rushing 5 times and added a 100 yard receiving game against Clemson. He also did this:

On that particular play the two defensive ends for Georgia Tech get too far upfield which gets the whole play started but two seconds into the play you can see what makes him intriguing. The play is blocked well but once Prosise gets to the second level there isn’t a lot of wasted movement in his running style. Rather than trying a juke with his lower half he simply uses a little shoulder shake which then creates an opportunity to get into the secondary where he runs away from everyone. I love this play for a lot of reasons but it showcases Prosise as a runner and considering it came in just his third game at the position, it showcases how high his ceiling is.

He will likely find the field as a 3rd Down back initially which makes a lot of sense given the fact that he played receiver for two seasons which means he brings a skill that most NFL teams now covet in their running backs. When I started writing this I was re-watching a lot of his snaps from last year thinking that his pass protection would be an issue but he does a decent job picking up blitzes as well. I know the adjustment to NFL protections is a lot for any young running back (especially one who has one year of experience) but as long as he is brought along, it isn’t unreasonable to think he could be adequate here as well.

Here are highlights of his game against USC, which might have been his best game of the season. His patience on the first run is terrific as he lets a well defended play develop rather than trying to get something that isn’t there. The other thing that strikes me here is in the pass game how quickly he gets upfield once the ball is in his hands. A lot of times you see guys who want to stretch a swing pass but he gets up the field almost immediately. I think this makes Prosise a true three-down back because his skill set on 3rd Down might be the best of any running back in the draft not named Zeke Elliott.

Additionally, Prosise showed well at the combine running a 4.48 after weighing in at 220 pounds. That combination puts him in some good company and according to the RotoViz RB Prospect Lab App he draws comps with Marshawn Lynch (although, admittedly, that is probably asking a lot) and Gio Bernard at the upper end. Prosise has an NFL-ready body and this is coming from a below-average strength and conditioning program at ND.

The Downside

The risk with Prosise is obvious as he played running back for the first time last fall so he is unlikely to know the finer points of the position. Most people will immediately point to the pass protection but I feel that he will have a greater challenge running in an I-formation offense with the QB under center. At Notre Dame he ran predominately out of a shotgun look so working out of a more traditional look will be an adjustment for him that someone like Derrick Henry won’t have which ultimately puts Prosise behind. On the positive, Autry Denson was his position coach and he did a terrific job with the Irish running backs last year in general.

Another issue is ball security as he had five fumbles in his 156 rushing attempts last year. I do believe this is something that can easily be cleaned up but ball security in the NFL is like fame to the Kardashians.

I hesitate to bring up durability issues with Prosise but he did suffer a high ankle sprain against Boston College on November 21st and never played another down. This included a Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State that occurred almost 6 weeks after the fact. Speculation as to why he was held out can easily be found using a simple Google search, but he will be expected to play hurt in the NFL.

Finally, and this is probably picking a nit, but true freshman Josh Adams was pretty damn impressive in the two games that Prosise missed and both were against top tier opponents in Stanford and Ohio State. I won’t call any Irish running back a product of Brian Kelly’s system because I think that is underselling the player, but Adams had 274 total yards and a couple of TDs in those two games so it wasn’t as if Prosise was irreplaceable.

The Bottom Line

Despite some potential issues, after (re)watching CJ Prosise last fall I came away more impressed and I am genuinely disappointed that his injury occurred when it did as I would have loved to see him go against Stanford and Ohio State. I know the sample size is ridiculously small but his body is NFL ready and he has the physical tools to be a productive player right away. He is unlikely to go much higher than the 3rd Round but he will represent one of the best values on the board when he gets selected.

Personally I feel that his immediate success will depend largely on who drafts him but if he can be brought along with some patience, there is no reason that a 3rd Down role wouldn’t be a good situation for him right away with the potential for more down the line. Obviously somewhere like Indianapolis would work but a place that intrigues me is Baltimore as he would fit nicely into Marc Trestman’s offense with Justin Forsett getting ready to fall off the running back cliff and Buck Allen being meh. Washington might also present another landing spot, as Matt Jones has fumbling issues of his own and his 3.4 YPC didn’t exactly inspire confidence heading into 2016.

Overall I think Prosise is the 3rd best back in this draft behind Zeke Elliott and Kenneth Dixon – a stance that is gaining traction and doesn’t really make my opinion much different from the crowd. I honestly don’t know that anyone can reasonably argue what his ceiling is considering no one has much information to go on but that is what makes him intriguing in the first place. The biggest question he will have to answer is whether or not he can handle to rigors of the position after amassing just over 150 carries last fall. The good news is that there isn’t much tread off the tires so he should have plenty of wear and tear left.

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DraftKings Plays – Week 10


Tom Brady – Cupcake matchup against the Giants with the highest total (54.5) of the week. Losing Dion Lewis would be an issue for a lot of teams but the Patriots plug away better than anyone so I don’t think this will hurt Brady too much unless you think Legarrette Blount is going to get 25 touches. The Giants are 30th in PPG allowed to the QB position so if you can afford him (and I think with some value plays I will list below you can), you should get him in there, especially with a lack of quality RB options this week that have a safe floor.


Aaron Rodgers – He is pissed off and the Packers are huge favorites which tells me that he is going to shred the Lions pass defense this week. In 12 career games against Detroit he is 10-2 with a 22:5 TD to interception ratio (also has 2 TDs on the ground) while averaging over 245 YPG through the air. I would consider 245/2 TDs to be his floor this week.

Blake Bortles – He has been inconsistent lately but the matchup is plum and he has done well against bottom-feeder secondaries for which the Ravens certainly qualify. I am actually ok with using him in cash this week because of his rushing upside and his price ($5600 on DK) being towards the lower end of the QB spectrum. He has had some rough outings over the past 4 weeks but this represents a chance for him to get back on track and I like him a lot this week.

SHOCKER SPECIAL: Matt Cassel – He is priced at the minimum and with the Cowboys probably not looking to pound the ball to keep McFadden healthy, Cassel has a chance for another nice fantasy day on the heels of a great SNF game last week. The Bucs are brutal against the pass and while this game has a low total, I think Cassel makes for a solid contrarian GPP play this week.


Adrian Peterson – This is a prime opportunity to roster AP as the Vikings go on the road with either a banged up Teddy B or a used up Shaun Hill. He has been more involved in the offense over recent weeks amassing at least 22 touches since coming off their Week 5 Bye and the Raiders just coughed up a monster game to Deangelo Williams. I think Peterson is much safer than Gurley this week, albeit with a lower ceiling (can’t believe I just typed that).

Honestly, after AP you have a glut of guys in the $4700-$6500 range I could suggest. Depending on how you want to construct your roster, you could go a number of ways.

Best Matchup: Lamar Miller ($5400), Doug Martin ($5600), Mark Ingram ($6400), DeAngelo Williams ($6500)
Value Picks: James Starks ($4900), Leg Blount ($4900), Jeremy Langford ($4800), Gio Bernard ($4700)
Contrarian: Jeremy Hill ($5300), Demarco Murray ($6200), Shane Vereen ($4300)

Once I step back and look at that mess, it looks like you have a couple of choices here. I didn’t mention Gurley because of his price ($7300) and surprisingly tough matchup with the Bears as Chicago has been really stingy to opposing RBs so far this year. I think you could go for the gusto at RB and roster AP and Gurley to give you the highest RB ceiling possible but it would cost you a 1/3 of your budget on DK. What I will likey do is roster one of the two (I prefer AP) and then go for someone from the list above (I really like Doug Martin and Mark Ingram again this week) that has a solid floor.

Your other option at RB is to roster two of the guys listed above and then load up elsewhere with maybe a Brady/Gronk stack. I really want to buy into James Starks because he has been playing well and he finally gets his chance to shine but I am afraid of Lacy getting the goaline work. I also think that people are going to flock to DeAngelo Williams but I would be careful there: If Landry Jones can’t get into an early rhythm (and I have zero confidence in him this week as I think he stinks), the Browns will load up to stop Williams. I think that game is going to be ugly in general and I am personally staying away from DWill until Ben is back.

WR – There are a lot of good WR options this week so as bad as RB might be, I think this is a position that offers plenty of chance for production.

Randall Cobb – This just seems like a Cobb type of game: The Lions give up the 23rd most points to WR, he draws a good matchup in the slot and his price is only $6700 on DK. I like the Green Bay offense in general this week and with the RB position being in flux, they may be throwing it more often – especially in the Red Zone.

Allen Robinson – Like I mentioned with Bortles, this is a good matchup and Robinson has been on fire averaging 20+ DK PPG over his last four games despite Bortles struggling. If you can buy into Bortles bouncing back, I think you can almost certainly count on Robinson to pay off his $6700 salary on DK as he as been getting at least 9 targets per week since his Week 1 dud.

Jarvis Landry – This is more of a DK specific play because of the PPR scoring but Landry gets the Eagles this week and their inability to cover anyone in the slot was out there for all to see last Sunday as Cole Beasley put on a show. Landry was his typical self last week with 11 catches for 69 yards but he is due for some positive TD regression and he has hit double digits in scoring every week on DK. He is like Antonio Brown without the downfield capability.

Obviously then you have the usual suspects of ODB, Deandre Hopkins, Julius Edelman, AJ Green and Megatron at the top of the WR heap. I think you can construct your roster in a ton of different ways at this position – it is really just a matter of whether or not you want to pay up. I think Hopkins is the guy I would target if doing so as the Patriots will likely roll coverage to slow Beckham down.


Jordan Reed – His price is right and the Saints are pretty terrible at defending TEs so he is going to make his way onto a lot of my rosters this weekend. I also love the fact Washington is at home against a dome team and Cousins likes throwing to him. This sets up as a good week for Reed.

Jimmy Graham – This is not a conventional pick because of how Graham has struggled this year but the Seahawks are coming off the bye and they face an Arizona team that has struggled mightily against TEs for the past few seasons. I think this is a great contrarian GPP play as Graham is very likely to be less than 10% owned.

SHOCKER SPECIAL: Kyle Rudolph – Cheap option ($3000 on DK) going against the worst defense in the NFL when it comes to opposing TEs. If you are into the DvP metric, all signs point to Rudolph scoring but he is pretty much a TD dependent play.

As always, Gronk is in the team picture as well – The Giants don’t defend well against TEs and with Dion Lewis going down we could see more Gronk moving forward. I think the Pats passing game will be fun to dissect after Sunday because the DR guys have Lafell as their poster boy this week. Personally I can see Gronk going for 30 fantasy points pretty easily but for $8000 I think I will spend my money elsewhere.

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DFS – Week 8

It has been awhile since I have had a chance to make an in-depth post but I have hit a wall the past two weeks and I am going to try and rebound this weekend so I went old school pen and paper to go with some spreadsheets. I started looking at DvP and DVOA along with some early Vegas lines so I will discuss three games below and the guys I am targeting in each.

Pittsburgh (9th DVOA) at Cincinnati (4th DVOA) – 48.5 O/U 

The current DVOA for both of these teams is strong but the Vegas total is one of the highest of the week and both teams rank in the middle of the league in DvP against position almost across the board. The lone exception to this is that Pittsburgh is strong against the run which is why I am not recommending either of the Bengals running backs this week. Vegas also thinks this will be a close game with Cincinnati currently installed as a 1.5 point favorite so this game has a good chance to provide us with production.

Andy Dalton ($6000 on DK– Pittsburgh is 19th against QBs and this game has a nice total, so even if Dalton’s price had crept up into the mid-6K range he would still be a good play. As it is he looks like one of the best values on the slate as he is averaging over 25 DK PPG and he has been super consistent in scoring between 18 and 31 points every week. In looking at the Steelers’ game logs, aside from two really good performances against average QBs in Nick Foles and Joe Flacco they have given up at least 240 yards to every QB they have faced this year. There is some concern that Dalton has a history of playing better on the road than he does at home but coming off the bye week in a Divisional game, I think he can pay off his price tag without much problem and he is currently my main cash game QB.

Ben Roethlisberger ($6700 on DK)
 – Cincinnati has been pretty good overall (4th in DVOA) defensively this year but Ben has a couple of things working for him this week. First, his price tag is at a $500 discount due to this being his first game action in over 4 weeks. You are unlikely to see him this cheap again this year and if he is close to 100%, he should show no ill effects of the knee injury. Second, he has arguably the best collection of weapons in the entire league and the Bengals have struggled against the pass coughing up 261.5 YPG to mostly mediocre QBs. I think when you take everything into consideration with Ben, he is certainly a viable cash play but his GPP potential this week is enormous and a Steelers stack will be as cheap as you will get it the remainder of the season so take advantage.

AJ Green ($7600 on DK
– When I initially looked at Green I was thinking it was a no-brainer to pair him with Dalton because the Steelers don’t have a corner who can cover him. However, a closer look at his game logs reveal a guy who has been all over the place with his production and with the exception of his huge Week 3 in Baltimore (10/227/2), he hasn’t went over 100 yards in any other game. This week presents a chance to break out coming off the bye as the Steelers rank just outside the bottom 3rd in DvP against the WR position and with this game potentially turning into a shootout, Green should see his share of targets. He is completely out of the question in cash games for me but I have toyed with a few lineups that include him and Antonio Brown for a GPP and I like what I have. Green’s floor is probably in the 10-12 point range but as you can see his ceiling is 40+ which is what you want in a tournament play so I would at least consider him as his ownership is unlikely to be very high.

Antonio Brown ($7800 on DK)
 – This price for Brown is absurdly low but thats what happens when Mike Vick and Landry Jones are under center. With Ben back I think you will see Brown targeted very heavily as they have a lot of lost time to make up for. While he has put up three consecutive duds, keep in mind that he was averaging 31.86 DKPPG when Ben was healthy so the floor is probably the low 20s this weekend. Cincinnati is smack in the middle in DvP against WRs (15th) so it is a neutral matchup but for this price I don’t think it matters. Get Brown in your lineups no matter what the format.

Martavis Bryant ($5300 on DK) – Bryant was actually quite productive even with Vick and Jones but his presence in the Pittsburgh offense adds a dynamic that it has been missing. Bryant is a big target and as he showed on the long TD against Arizona, he can run with anyone in the league. His polish as a route-runner needs some work but for DFS purposes we can safely ignore that shortcoming and focus on a guy who priced in the mid-tier of WRs with a ceiling that could produce 7X value. I think Bryant is a good complimentary piece in any format but particularly in cash games where value WR plays are tough to find this week.

Lev Bell ($8300 on DK) – Bell is the premier RB in the NFL and he is the epitome of a cash game play as his usage is incredibly high as he is a weekly lock for 20-25 touches and his involvement in the passing game means he is a true 3-Down back. His price is down slightly from where it has been the past few weeks and the Bengals defense has struggled against the run recently. Bell is another guy where the matchup is irrelevant but since he is the highest priced RB this week I feel compelled to make a case for rostering him anyway. I think you are going to want shares of the Steelers offense in your lineups and there are enough value RBs (Martin, Johnson, Stewart) this week to get Bell as your RB1 in a few of them.

San Diego (24th in DVOA) at Baltimore (18th in DVOA) – 50.5 O/U 

This game features the highest total of all the games on Sunday with Baltimore being a 3 point favorite at home. My only concern with some of these plays is that San Diego is traveling to the East Coast for a 1:00 kickoff but that might be something I am subconsciously overrating.

Phillip Rivers ($6600 on DK– Rivers is still being priced as a mid-tier QB despite being the most volume-based QB in the NFL as he is averaging a ridiculous 44 attempts and 350 yards per game. This week he gets a Ravens defense that is dead last in DvP against QBs and has been torched for the better part of this season. Josh McCown and Collin Kaepernick both went off against Baltimore so this is a pretty safe play with a high ceiling. If you can find the extra $600 Rivers probably has a higher ceiling than Dalton and considering he is averaging 24 DK PPG, he should pay off his salary in a great matchup. The only negatives are not having Antonio Gates and a leaky offensive line that might struggle a little bit with Baltimore’s pressure up front. Ultimately the volume Rivers has each week should be enough to make up for this and with another big week this might be the last time he is a sub-$7000 QB.

Justin Forsett ($6100 on DK– Forsett has been up and down this season with some brutal performances but in the last three weeks he has become more involved in the passing (2 reception TDs) and consider this: San Diego has allowed over 100 rushing yards per game every week since Week 1 and is 32nd in DvP. I think this presents a strong opportunity to use Forsett as recency bias from Monday night will likely keep ownership on him at a reasonable level in all formats. I also like the fact that Baltimore is a home favorite which sets up nicely for him to have a strong performance.

Keenan Allen ($7700 on DK– Sticking with a theme for this game, Allen faces a defense that is at the bottom of DvP for receivers and obviously with Rivers throwing the ball with such regularity he needs to be on the radar. I see Allen as a pretty safe play this week but what really excites me is that despite double digit targets in each of his last three games, he hasn’t found the end zone. I think some positive regression is in order in this regard and that only adds to an already high upside. I feel safe locking him in for at least 18 DK points with the potential for a 30+ game within reasonable reach. However, if he is too expensive for you then maybe you should look at…

Stevie Johnson ($3200 on DK – Ridiculously cheap, Johnson only needs around 10 points to pay off his salary and without Gates in the offense I feel like he has a great chance of getting that and then some as he is easily my favorite value play this week. Against Oakland he returned from an injury a had a 4/50 line on 8 targets which was a season-high so this is a positive for him in a game where Antonio Gates is looking doubtful. If you want a cheap stack, Rivers and Johnson definitely fit the bill although you will likely have to compete with higher ownership.

Tampa Bay (27th in DVOA) at Atlanta (17th in DVOA) – 48 O/U

This game offers a few options with the high total but Atlanta is currently a 7-point favorite. I really like a lot of the Atlanta offense in this one, although their prices are pretty high. I have managed to fit Freeman in one of my cash lineups on DraftKings though and I think he is going to have a big week.

Doug Martin ($5500 on DK) – Martin has had an incredible three week stretch where he has averaged 30.4 DK PPG and this week he gets a Falcons defense that is 30th in DvP against RBs. Martin has averaged 22 touches per week during that span and has been pretty involved in the passing game so at his price he looks really appealing but this will largely depend on the Bucs keeping it close and staying in the game. If they can do that, Martin has the potential for a big week and either way, I still expect his floor to be around 12 points which for the money would return good value.

Devonta Freeman ($8000 on DK) – Like most of the Atlanta offense, Freeman disappointed owners last week at Tennessee scoring only 15 DK points which tells you how good he has been. This week he returns home to the Georgia Dome and with the Falcons being such a heavy favorite, this is lining up to be a good week for him to rebound and I think Atlanta will ride him in the 2nd half. Since Week 3 Freeman has seen 25+ touches in three games and combined with his touchdown upside makes for a great play as ownership on him may even be down a bit since he didn’t blow up last week. He is more of a tournament play for me because of his price but in a game with a high total and his team as a big favorite he is an obvious play.

Julio Jones ($9200 on DK) – Jones gets a great matchup against a burnable secondary and with the Atlanta offense having a high team total and Jones getting healthy, this might be a huge chance to get him in a GPP to pair with Ryan and have a high production stack. Personally, I go for more balanced lineups in cash so I won’t fork over 18.4% of my budget for him there, however he hasn’t went over 100 yards since Week Three and this looks like the type of game where he is a monster. With the Falcons having a team total of almost 28, fire him up.

Matt Forte ($7300 on DK) – His market share of carries is high and he is a true feature back coming off a bye week.
Todd Gurley ($6300 on DK) – Another good matchup this week coming off a huge performance. Ownership will be high but it shouldn’t matter.
Lamar Miller ($4700 on DK) – High total (51.5) and this offense looks completely different since coming back from London.
Eric Decker ($5300 on DK) – Decker gets an Oakland secondary that was torched last week underneath.
Stefon Diggs ($4800 on DK) – Cheap price tag for a guy who is Teddy B’s number one target against a terrible Bears secondary.

I didn’t hit any TE’s as the situation is still murky but if Gates is out, Ladarius Green will be in 100% of my lineups. I will add more throughout tomorrow and this weekend leading up to Sunday – Good Luck for those of you playing the Thursday slate.

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This Is How A Heart Breaks…

I am going to switch gears and discuss my dynasty league baseball team which just finished 3rd in our playoff after running away with the regular season title. Here is the team:

  • C: Brian McCann, Yasmani Grandal
  • 1B: Freddie Freeman, Brandon Belt, Wil Myers (UTIL),
  • 2B: Brian Dozier, Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Cesar Hernandez Jurickson Profar
  • 3B: Josh Donaldson, Alex Rodriguez, Justin Turner
  • SS: Jean Segura, Trea Turner
  • OF: JD Martinez, AJ Pollock, Shin-Soo Choo, Alex Gordon, David Peralta
  • P: Chris Sale, Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Samardzija, Mark Buerhle, Collin McHugh, Anibal Sanchez, Tyson Ross
  • RP: Craig Kimbrel, Dylan Bundy

As you can see, it is a deep team with only a handful of weak areas (SS, C) that need to be addressed. When I took over the team two years ago Freeman, Dozier, Donaldson, Myers and Gordon were the only current positional players on the roster so I have done a lot of work to build this team to where it is. Here are some notable moves:

  1. Traded Evan Gattis to get Chris Sale and JD Martinez. The guy I made the deal with was all over Gattis before this year and I threw Sale’s name out there to see how warm the water was and he didn’t balk at it whatsoever. Getting Sale was a major coup but when he was willing to throw in Martinez it was a no-brainer despite giving up a potential top-5 player at a thin position.
  2. AJ Pollock was a guy I grabbed last summer because I had followed him since he was at Notre Dame and he was hitting at the top of a pretty good Arizona lineup. In that park I figured he would be worth at least a platoon spot but he turned in one of the better seasons among OFs this year.
  3. Rodriguez and McCann were both dropped for different reasons but I was fortunate enough to get them both. The McCann pickup was particularly important as I had traded Gattis and was streaming catchers each week. ARod obviously outperformed all expectations almost everyone had of him and he was situated in my DH spot for most of the year.
  4. When Stroman and Profar got hurt, they were both dropped and I was happy to scoop them up. The same went for Dylan Bundy. I was able to stash Stroman and Profar all year on the DL. This forced me to keep Darvish on my bench but with a reasonably deep bench it wasn’t an issue.

This team is a lesson in two things: How difficult it can be to win a fantasy championship and how much variance there can be in baseball. After rolling through the regular season with a 66-22 record (we play 4 teams each week), my team stumbled in the 2nd Round of the playoffs and got beat by the eventual league champion. I came back in the consolation round and performed up to my usual but it was too little, too late. Fortunately in 2016 I will get both Darvish and Stroman back which gives me a formidable pitching staff with four guys who could potentially be in the top 20. That doesn’t take Liriano and McHugh (who I think has a very bright future) into account either so I feel good about them moving forward.

Positionally speaking I am going to have to find a heir apparent for McCann sooner than later. Grandal flashed some tools this year but he is too inconsistent at this point for me to believe he is going to be a long-term answer at the position. The same could be said for Jean Segura at SS but Trea Turner lurks at he should take over as the full-time SS in Washington next summer. Turner was a tremendous talent coming out of NC State and he has made a rapid ascension to the big leagues but I think he has a top-5 SS ceiling. Obviously I am going to have to be patient with him but considering I slid threw most of the season with below average production at the position it is probably something I can afford to do.

Short of an injury, this is a team that has a nice window to contend for the next 2-3 years without doing much to remake any specific area. The key will be getting continued production from Donaldson, Dozier and Pollock while hoping that Freeman, Belt and Myers can stay healthy for 145 games. While it was heartbreaking not to take home a title, it is satisfying to look at what I have built up to this point. Dynasty Leagues are a blast and this one is no different so, “We are on to 2016.”

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