Editor’s Note: This guest post looking at Week 5 GPP pivot plays on Fantasy Aces was written by Steve Repsold. Follow him on Twitter @SteveRepsold. …
If there’s one mistake I make too often in my NFL DFS lineups it’s worrying about ownership percentages. That may seem like a strange lede to an article about leveraging those ownership numbers in order to gain maximum advantage over the field, but it’s true. Whether I come down with a bad case of Fancy Play Syndrome or I assume other people think like I do, it’s never any single player that’s the problem; it’s that I try to win the ownership battle at every position. Not only is that not smart, it’s also not necessary. Even in the largest fields, you only need one or two sub-10% players (who score a lot) to vault your lineup to the top of the leaderboard. In short, don’t be afraid to play some chalk in your GPP lineups. Pick positions at which you’re going to make your stand and pivot hard on those players.
Let’s take a look at some of this week’s popular plays at each position and potential pivots.
Highest owned: Ben Roethlisberger $7,000 vs. NYJ (33%), Derek Carr $6,600 vs. SD (21%)
How capricious NFL DFS players can be. Last week Big Ben was one of my top pivots at only four percent owned. Five touchdowns in primetime on Sunday night later and he’s the highest owned QB in Week Five by more than ten percent. Okay, so that’s not the only difference. The matchup with the Jets is a friendlier one for sure. They helped Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson to their best games of the season, giving up three passing touchdowns to each. Andy Dalton threw for 366 yards and a score. It’s definitely an exploitable defense and I’m certainly not expecting Roethlisberger to have a bad game. But if he has anything less than the best game, you can get an advantage on a third of the field. That is a tempting prospect.
Derek Carr is having a stellar start to his 2016 season, which is beginning to be reflected in his price. He’s only $400 less than Roethlisberger, who has a better matchup. Sure, the Chargers have managed to collapse week-in week-out, but they haven’t given up huge fantasy days to quarterbacks in the process (with Alex Smith, of all people, in Week One being the closest). Another knock on Carr (for Fantasy Aces) is his passing yards per game average. Fantasy Aces awards 0.05 points for every passing yard, meaning QBs get a point every 20 yards instead of the more traditional 25 yards. Carr is only averaging 266.5 yards per game, which includes games against the Saints, Falcons, and Titans, who are three of the NFL’s worst pass defenses.
Pivots: Aaron Rodgers $7,600 vs. NYG (9%), Andy Dalton $6,300 @ DAL (4%)
I always like rostering Aaron Rodgers at home. Since 2013, he’s averaged six more fantasy points per game at home. He gets picked off at a third of his road rate and he averages almost a full touchdown per game more. The Giants defense is susceptible to the pass, especially recently with some of their best corners injured. Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have practiced in a limited manner this week, but they are definitely not 100 percent. If either can’t play it’s a further downgrade for this defense. But let’s be honest: Aaron Rodgers at home can pick them apart regardless.
Let me go ahead and get the #NarrativeStreet out of the way. Andy Dalton is from the Dallas area and went to school at nearby TCU. This is the first time in his NFL career he’s playing there and will have lots of friends and family in attendance. Is that why I’m recommending him? No, but it can’t hurt. However, I like him because he has a guy named AJ Green to throw it to, who has been running circles around opposing defenses and who should run 40 percent or more of his routes against the beatable Brandon Carr, which is a matchup strongly in Green’s favor. If Dallas tries to take away Green, they’ll need more than just Carr to do it, which should open the field up for Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd, both of whom can make enough plays to keep Dalton rolling until Green is open again.
Highest Owned: Melvin Gordon $5,300 @ OAK (19%), Jerick McKinnon $4,500 vs. HOU (24%)
The Thursday slate included 25 percent worth of David Johnson, which I think will mainly translate into more Le’Veon Bell on the main slate. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of it trickle down to bump Gordon’s ownership up into the low 20s. If we forget about fantasy points for a minute and just look at Gordon’s rushing numbers, I think it’s pretty clear he’s a strong fade candidate. In four games, he’s put up lines of 14-57, 24-102, 16-35, and 19-36. That. Is. Worrisome. He gets work in the receiving game, too, and that helps, but in half-PPR especially, it’s not enough to make up for brutal inefficiency if he doesn’t get a short touchdown or two.
McKinnon is a guy the Vikings have needed to get more involved for a long time. They seem to have turned the corner on that as he saw 18 carries and five targets to Matt Asiata’s six and two last game. But Asiata still did keep McKinnon’s good night from being a great one by vulturing a short TD. Despite McKinnon’s red zone touchdown late, I have a feeling the true goal line chances will continue to be Asiata’s domain. Like Roethlisberger, McKinnon had his best game of the season in primetime last week. His ownership increase feels more artificial to me because the Houston defense this week is much stouter against the run than the Giants defense he faced last week, unlike the situation with Roethlisberger. The Houston defense, Watt-less though they may be, are allowing one of the lowest rushing success rates (42.6%) in the NFL.
Pivots: Todd Gurley $5,400 vs. BUF (7%), Frank Gore $4,700 vs. CHI (5%)
Hey, remember when Todd Gurley was good, back in the days before he did a Carl’s Jr. commercial? Well he’s still that same guy! He’s faced some tough defenses so far this season including the Seahawks and Cardinals. Combined with the Rams’ general ineptness on offense, particularly in the passing game, it’s meant Gurley’s had nowhere to run. Even the best back would struggle in that role. Gurley’s best game came against Tampa Bay (85 yards and two touchdowns). The Bills are actually surrendering nearly 47 percent successful runs, but have thus far limited the yardage given up. That’s where Gurley’s talent and tackle-breaking ability comes into play. If he can start breaking big plays, his ceiling is massive.
From the young Jerrick McKinnon, you can pivot to the eternally young (kind of) Frank Gore. The matchup with the Bears could hardly be better. Pretty much any number you look at is good for Gore. The Bears defense is allowing a greater than 50 percent rushing success rate, 4.4 yards per carry, and over 100 rushing yards per game. Gore is handling around 20 touches per game and gets opportunities in the Red Zone as well. His pass catching ability keeps him in play even if the Colts are getting blown out.
Highest Owned: Antonio Brown $6,550 vs. NYJ (30%), Brandon Marshall $5,000 @ PIT (24%)
What can I say about Antonio Brown that hasn’t been said before? He’s an amazing player. If you’re scared by the mere suggestion of fading him, well, you should be. The worst I can say about him is he’ll see a lot of Darrelle Revis’ coverage, but this season, that coverage hasn’t been all that impressive. He’s the highest owned WR for good reason.
I’m torn on Brandon Marshall. On the one hand, he should see a lot of William Gay in coverage, which is not an easy matchup. On the other hand, Richard Sherman recently heaped praise on Marshall following their matchup (in which Marshall scored a TD, but Sherman also picked a pass intended for him), so he is matchup-proof to some degree. The real story may be the absence of Eric Decker, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. The targets will be there for Marshall (though I expect Quincey Enunwa to absorb a lot of Decker’s looks, too), but the defensive attention will be there as well.
Pivots: Julio Jones $6,400 @ DEN (1%), Kelvin Benjamin $5,000 vs. TB (6%)
I double-checked Julio’s ownership percentage multiple times while doing my research because I simply could not believe less than a full week removed from his 12-300-1 day only one percent of lineups rostered him. I guess because he’s facing Denver and “Denver” has become synonymous with “defense” in recent years everyone just wrote him off. Besides the fact he literally last week reminded us we should not write him off no matter how tough the defense is perceived to be, this also fails to account for who on Denver’s defense he’s likely to face the most. Aqib Talib? No. Chris Harris? No. Julio should run at least half his routes against the five-inch shorter Bradley Roby, who is not the same caliber of cover corner as the other two. We know what Julio’s ceiling looks like and getting that at one percent ownership is worth some risk.
With Cam Newton’s status up in the air, Kelvin Benjamin is a virtual lock to go under-owned. The Bucs pass defense has been an absolute sieve this year, surrendering an average net yards per attempt (ANYA) of 9.3, one of the worst marks in the NFL, but because of the uncertainty at QB for Carolina, people will stay away when they shouldn’t. If Derek Anderson does end up starting, it could in fact be a boon for Benjamin. In six games with Anderson playing a significant amount, Kelvin has averaged six more fantasy points per game than in the 14 games with only Cam. Either way, I expect Kelvin Benjamin to eat against Tampa Bay and we’re getting him at a tiny ownership percentage.
Highest Owned: Zach Ertz $4,550 vs. DET (17%)
Zach Ertz is in a really good spot. The middle of the Detroit defense has been a black hole that sucks in any player and spits out a bunch of fantasy points. That’s both good and bad. In Week One, for example, they gave up a bunch of fantasy points to… Jack Doyle. The question is not whether Detroit will yield fantasy points over the middle or not, but whether they’ll go to Ertz, Celek, Trey Burton, Darren Sproles, or perhaps Jordan Matthews from the slot. Eek. That’s potentially a lot of mouths to feed and this is Ertz’s first game back from injury. He should be fully healthy, but there’s a chance he splits more snaps with the emergence of Trey Burton as a legitimate receiving threat.
Pivot: Cameron Brate $4,300 @ CAR (3%)
I plugged Brate in this spot last week. He put up a respectable five catches for 67 yards on eight targets. This week he gets a better matchup against Carolina, who give up points to the TE position at a rate just behind that of Detroit. In the last two weeks, Brate has 10 catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 18 targets. Six of those were Red Zone targets. That’s the most Red Zone targets on the team over that span and it’s not particularly close (the ghost of Vincent Jackson is next with three).
Highest Owned: BUF D/ST $2,700 @ LA (17%)
It’s not hard to see why the Bills defense is getting the love here. They could see even more ownership on Sunday since the Thursday numbers include the 49ers defense at 15% and a similar price. They’re facing Case Keenum and the hapless Rams offense (with special guest Todd Gurley). The game has the lowest Vegas total of the week at 39.5. They’re priced way below any of the high salary defenses. Did I mention Case Keenum already? However, defense not only wins championships, it also wins GPPs. It’s one of the highest variance positions in NFL fantasy and not coincidentally one of my favorite places to fade the chalk and take a stand.
Pivot: NE D/ST $3,400 @ CLE (3%)
What better place to stand than on the visitor’s sideline in Cleveland? The factory of sadness that is the Browns has continued churning out disappointment at record-setting rates (except for a sprinkling of Terrelle Pryor’s awesomeness here and there). Coming off a loss at home in which the Bills quite frankly embarrassed them, the Patriots defense is going to be fired up. I’m sure it is not lost on Bill Belichick’s defense that the Cleveland Browns once fired their head coach. The Browns are on their third-string center so far this season, so the offensive line is going to be operating farther below whatever low level they already were before. You’ll have to pay up a bit to be contrarian, but a contrarian defense that racks up sacks or scores a defensive TD is often the difference between cashing a GPP and winning it.
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