Every single injury and suspension matters when playing NFL daily fantasy sports (DFS). They cause the DFS landscape to change on a weekly basis. … Staying on top of them all means staying ahead of the game. Injuries and suspensions to lesser teammates or defensive players can cause studs to become a must play in any given week. Furthermore, fitting a lineup under the required salary cap on Fantasy Aces can be difficult, but injuries and suspensions often create opportunities for players with low salaries to outperform their price. DFS websites, Fantasy Aces included, don’t generally adjust a player’s salary until after they have performed on the field. Thus, being proactive about injuries and predicting a breakout player before it happens not only provides legit bragging rights, but also plenty of chances to be successful in DFS.
Whereas you might not have been able to before, taking advantage of those cheap players benefiting from the absence of others can allow you the ability to fit multiple studs into your lineups. Every single player that benefits from an injured/suspended teammate or opponent should always be considered. That’s why I’ll be bringing this column to you weekly breaking down the most relevant injuries and suspensions each week in DFS. So let’s get to it:
Delvin Breaux, Dannell Ellerbe, and Sheldon Rankins All Out
The Saints defense was historically bad last season. They gave up the second-most passing yards, most pass TDs, and second-most rushing yards. The absolute last thing they can afford is injuries, but that is exactly what has happened. Their best cornerback, Delvin Breaux, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and first-round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins have all been ruled out for Sunday. Eli Manning ($6,650) is my favorite QB play of the week in a potential shootout with Drew Brees, Odell Beckham ($6,350) is my favorite WR play, Sterling Shepard ($4,700) and Victor Cruz ($4,450) are both options as well, and Rashad Jennings ($4,800) intrigues me as well. Even though Jennings shares time with Shane Vereen, he received 18 carries and 19 total touches in Week 1. If there was ever a matchup he could exploit, this would be the one.
Suspensions of Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant + Injury to Ladarius Green
Antonio Brown ($6,450) is obviously in play every single week. He’s the best WR in the NFL and is as close to matchup proof as you can get. Even though it’s hard to believe Brown’s value could get any higher, that’s exactly what injuries and suspensions to the Steelers offense have done. Brown will continue to eat as the clear cut WR1 in an offense currently missing Bell, Bryant, and Green.
I made a huge error by not talking about DeAngelo Williams ($4,950) in this column last week. I’ve learned my lesson. Williams currently has no volume issues as the clear-cut RB1 in this offense. We saw that come to fruition on Monday night as Williams racked up a whopping 32 total touches. He’s a dual-threat back that has muli-TD upside every single week, playing in one of the best offenses in the NFL. Williams not only benefits from the suspension to Bell but from the Bryant suspension and injury to Green as well. Shallower ball distribution means more carries and targets for Williams. Plus, his matchup against the Bengals this week isn’t as tough because Vontaze Burfict is suspended and won’t play in this game.
Tyler Eifert Out + Offseason Losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu
The absence of Eifert, Sanu, and Jones was extremely influential in A.J. Green’s ($6,000) heavy workload last week. Green saw 13 targets for a whopping 43.3 percent of the Bengals’ total target share. This is why I was so bullish on Green in season long leagues and I’m disappointed in myself for largely fading him in DFS last week because of his matchup with Darrelle Revis. Green is the man in Cincinnati right now by a wide margin. Expect his opportunities to remain plentiful, which is exactly what we’re looking for in DFS. Green gets a Steelers defense this week that gave up the third-most passing yards and 12th-most pass TDs last season.
Chris Ivory Out + Joey Bosa Out
Chris Ivory will miss his second straight game this weekend, making T.J. Yeldon ($4,800) a great play yet again. Yeldon saw 25 touches as the unquestioned lead back in Jacksonville last week. Now he gets a Chargers defense that gave up the sixth-most rushing yards and third-most rushing TDs last season. They will receive no reinforcements this week either as first round pick Joey Bosa will miss his second straight game due to injury.
RGIII Out + Suspension of Josh Gordon + Injury to Elvis Dumervil
Josh McCown ($5,000) steps in as a very capable starting QB for the Browns this week. He’s one of my favorite streamers, as he gets a home matchup with the Ravens who gave up the ninth-most passing TDs last season. All signs point to them being without Elvis Dumervil this week as well.
With Josh Gordon still suspended, Gary Barnidge ($4,400) should be the clear-cut #1 option in the passing game this week, just as he was on numerous occasions with McCown in the lineup last season. Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman are inexperienced and don’t nearly share the same rapport with McCown that Barnidge does. In two games against the Ravens last season with McCown as his QB, Barnidge totaled 15 catches for 230 yards and a TD.
Gary Barnidge 16-game pace was a Gronkian 92-1,282-12 in McCown's 8 starts last year. 66-804-4 with #Browns other QBs. 0-0 with RG3 Week 1.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) September 12, 2016
Gary Barnidge's weekly PPR finishes in games in which McCown threw double digit passes in 2015: TE2, TE4, TE3, TE5, TE5, TE6, TE10.
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) September 12, 2016
Vontae Davis Out + Injury to Demaryius Thomas
With Demaryius Thomas either going to be ruled out or playing at less than 100%, look for C. J. Anderson ($5,700) to see even more work this week. He already saw 24 touches last week against a tough Carolina Panthers defense. Now, he gets a much more favorable matchup against a Colts defense that gave up the eighth-most rushing yards and sixth-most rushing TDs last year. They certainly didn’t do anything in Week 1 to show they’ve improved.
The other beneficiaries of Thomas being hobbled should be Emmanuel Sanders ($5,000) and Virgil Green ($4,200). The Broncos have one of the shallowest target distributions in the entire NFL. Only five players saw a target in Week 1, including Thomas. Sanders already saw 32 percent of the team’s target share in Week 1 and now becomes the #1 WR in Denver, if he wasn’t already. Plus, he gets a favorable matchup against a Colts defense that gave up the ninth-most passing yards and 12th-most passing TDs last season. They were that bad even with their best cornerback Vontae Davis in the lineup; he won’t play in this game. Virgil Green benefits from the same favorable matchup and is one of my favorite TE plays this weekend.
Zach Ertz Out
Zach Ertz saw seven targets and 18.9 percent of the Eagles’ total target share last week. Those opportunities are now up for grabs because Ertz won’t play in Week 2. The biggest and most obvious beneficiary should be Jordan Matthews ($5,000), who already saw 14 targets in Week 1 and a whopping 37.8 percent of the Eagles’ total target share a week ago. The matchup is also pretty nice, as Matthews gets a Bears defense that gave up the fifth-most pass TDs last season and just got dusted by rookie Will Fuller in his very first NFL game.
A deep sleeper whose name you’re guaranteed to hear on Sunday night is Trey Burton ($3,000). With Brent Celek more of a blocking tight end at this stage of his career, look for Burton to assume the passc-atching tight end role in the Eagles’ offense this week. I expect him to see more targets than Celek and is someone that could really surprise.
Keenan Allen Out + Prince Amukamara Out
Keenan Allen was an absolute target monster when healthy last season. He picked up right where he left off in Week 1, until he unfortunately tore his ACL. His absence leaves a whole bunch of targets up for grabs in the Chargers’ offense. Travis Benjamin ($4,500) not only benefits from Allen’s absence from a target share perspective, but he also has a more favorable matchup now that Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara has been ruled out. Benjamin led the Chargers in targets with eight in Week 1 and that number could go up on Sunday. Antonio Gates ($4,400) and Danny Woodhead ($4,450) should also receive more opportunities in this contest, and Tyrell Williams ($3,700) makes for an interesting punt play.
Keanu Neal Out
Derek Carr ($6,300), Amari Cooper ($5,500), and Michael Crabtree ($4,900) are all in a very good situation this week. They get a Falcons defense that Pro Football Focus ranked 26th in the NFL out of 32 teams heading into the season. Jameis Winston just put up 281 yards and four TDs on the Falcons in Week 1, and they’ll receive no help from first-round pick safety Keanu Neal, as he’ll miss yet another game due to injury.
Cowboys’ Defensive Front-7 Missing Some Key Pieces
DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Rolando McClain will all miss this contest due to suspensions. Their absences helped Eli Manning throw for three scores against the Cowboys defense last week. This is good news for Kirk Cousins ($6,650), who gets a Cowboys secondary that Pro Football Focus ranked 30th in the NFL heading into 2016. Washington attempted the fourth-most passes in Week 1 and that is a trend that I expect to continue. That pass volume is going to continue to benefit DeSean Jackson ($4,700) all season long. While I believe his floor is more stable than some realize, his ceiling remains as high as ever. Jackson is a threat to take one to the house on every single play and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do that at least once against a poor Dallas secondary this week.
Injuries to Russell Wilson and C.J. Prosise
Although the Seahawks are claiming Russell Wilson will be 100% this weekend, I’m not buying it. I expect the game plan to include a few more runs than usual in order to protect Wilson and his bum ankle. That’s good news for Thomas Rawls ($4,400), who was named the starter earlier in the week. Rawls already saw 15 touches last week in what was supposed to be his “second preseason game”, as he put the finishing touches on his recovery from offseason ankle surgery. He clearly proved to the coaching staff he’s healthy and I expect them to utilize him heavily this week. Plus, rookie pass-catching specialist C.J. Prosise is currently wearing a club on his hand after breaking a bone last week. That should lead to more pass catching opportunities for Rawls as well. I expect Rawls to see 20+ touches in a favorable matchup against a Rams defense that gave up the 13th-most rushing yards last season and was just gashed by Carlos Hyde in Week 1.
Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd Out + Sam Shields Out
On the surface, the Packers and Vikings game doesn’t seem to be a very fantasy friendly contest. However, with key defensive players on both teams ruled out for Sunday night, things could get a little interesting. After missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL, Jordy Nelson ($5,450) returned in Week 1 and led all Packers in targets with 9, while seeing 27.3 percent of the team’s target share. With star cornerback Xavier Rhodes ruled out, could we see a signature performance from Nelson? It’s certainly possible.
On the Vikings side of things, Stefon Diggs ($4,650) seems to pretty clearly be the #1 WR and top option in the passing game. Diggs saw nine targets and 27.3 percent of the team’s target share in Week 1. His matchup just got more favorable with Packers cornerback Sam Shields ruled out. I expect the Packers to win this game somewhat comfortably, meaning new starting QB Sam Bradford will be forced to throw a lot in the second half. Look for plenty of those targets to be thrown in Diggs’ direction. He’s talented enough to make the most of them.
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