There will never be a better spot for any player in DFS than David Johnson at home against by far the worst rushing defense in the entire league. In fact, no other team had allowed 5.0 yards per carry (YPC) nor over 145 yards rushing heading into the week and yet the 49ers were allowing 5.3 YPC and surrendering a ridiculous 193.0 yards rushing per week. At $16,000, Johnson needed to finish as RB1, or at least come close, in order to warrant rostering him otherwise it was clearly overspending. Since there was no strong case to be made against him, it took some intestinal fortitude to consider fading him. The concept of game theory is to zig when others are zagging because the potential reward is so great even if the outcome is unlikely. When games locked, Johnson turned out to be a whopping 65-percent owned. Even though Johnson started off hot and had scored two TDs by 18 seconds into the second quarter, he faded afterwards and finished behind Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray who were all substantially cheaper. Even worse is Elliott, Bell and Murray were some of the most logical GPP alternatives. Basically, the moral of the story is to always rely on the extreme variance in the game of football. Surely it is beneficial move to use a player in an absolutely incredibly spot in cash games but thinking differently always wins the big tournaments. If you have the guts to not use the guy who stands out as having the best matchup of the entire week by far, it always has the possibility of paying off. Johnson was not bad at all and still he is only present in half the top 10 overall lineups in the Run and Gun this week. The next time a guy like Johnson makes too much sense, remember back to this Johnson situation and build at least a few contrarian lineups accordingly.
Here are some of my other DFS-relevant observations from Week 10 of the 2016 NFL season:
Carson Wentz, Eagles – Apparently this rookie wall is more structurally sound than expected because Carson Wentz should have been set up for a monstrous week on paper. He was facing a Falcons team at home that was allowing a ridiculous 28 points per game and had given up the most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. The most frustrating part of his miniscule 9.24 fantasy point outing was the bad fantasy performance was not really his fault. Not only did the team infiltrate the red zone twice but they scored twice down close as well. Unfortunately, the play calling and Ryan Mathews’ effectiveness limited the need for Wentz to have to attempt passes down by the end zone. Additionally, his receivers dropped some passes once again with none worse than Jordan Matthews’ down the middle of the field that would have resulted in at least a 30 yard gain if not much more. The nature of this offense is conservative which would explain why 18 other QBs have attempted more passes than he has and 32 other QBs (min. 15 pass attempts) have averaged more yards per attempt (YPA) than his 6.37. Until further notice, nothing about his game signifies he can be used in cash games…even in the absolute best possible matchups.
Ryan Mathews, Eagles – We all learned something on Sunday: whomever Coach Doug Pederson deems as the starter and/or lead back is not the starter and/or lead back. For three consecutive weeks, he has said one thing and done the other and he struck again in a big way in Week 10. With everyone set to roster Darren Sproles in an elite matchup against the team that had allowed the most receiving yards to opposing backs, Coach Pederson trolled fantasy owners by allotting 21 touches to Ryan Mathews and only 10 for Sproles. At least eight of the touches were receptions (RECs) and Sproles finished respectably because the tilt in this situation could have gotten out of control. Moving forward, the words that come out of the coach’s mouth mean literally nothing unless you want to interpret them to mean literally the exact opposite. To make the case for Mathews though, he sneakily has scored in all but two games for the Eagles despite his fluctuating workload. If the Eagles make it to the red zone, he is usually given at least one chance to punch it in (20 red zone touches heading into this week which ranks 11th amongst all backs) and frequently makes the most of his opportunities. On most weeks, Mathews possesses the upside of a RB2 at the very least.
James Starks, Packers – Well, that did not take long for James Starks to dominate the playing time in the backfield. In just his first game back from injury, Starks played 55 total snaps to Ty Montgomery’s 22 (and two of those came at WR). Starks slid right into the lead back role although, on this offense, that does not mean as much as on most. When all said and done, Starks touched the ball 10 times to Montgomery’s five but he was the lucky one to receive the red zone target that inevitably lead to a receiving TD. It only took those 10 touches for Starks to finish as RB12 this week (it was a low scoring week at the position) which shows he does not need an Ezekiel Elliot-esque amount of volume to succeed in this offense. Inevitably, the Packers will end up in the red zone quite often and Starks could factor in to the scoring equation in both the passing and rushing game. The problem is Starks ranks 72nd in terms of fantasy points per opportunity amongst all backs who have played at least 25-percent of their team’s snaps meaning he only averages 0.23 fantasy points per each carry/pass route combined. So while the TD turned his day into a productive one, he still only managed 13 fantasy points. With his brutal efficiency, his ceiling does not stretch much higher. If rostering him, he will need to score otherwise he will totally disappoint and this team possesses many options in the red zone. While it feels like we should be optimistic on Starks after this game, the reality is he does not rate as a particularly enticing fantasy option.
Allen Robinson, Jaguars – Quietly, Allen Robinson has set season-highs for yardage in back-to-back weeks and has found the end zone in each of those contests. After catching 7-12 targets last week, Robinson caught 9-13 passes this week en route to his first 100-plus yard performance of the season and his best catch rate of the season (69-percent). Following a terrible three week stretch, Robinson is back to showing fantasy owners his true potential; the type of potential that led to 1,400 yards and 14 TDs just a season ago. Robinson simply is too talented to be held down for long and these monstrous days were bound to happen at some time. Now that he is riding a little momentum, his ownership percentage will probably rise as well. However, his name is still somewhat synonymous with disappointment so there still may be a buying opportunity here. Robinson is not the same as Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery in the sense that they are stuck with brutal QBs incapable of getting them the ball. Although Bortles is brutal, he still targets Robinson in the double-digits most weeks and game flow is usually in Robinson’s favor. Against a porous Lions defense next week, Robinson is a fantastic play once again in possibly the last week he can be rostered at a sub 10-percent ownership in tournaments.
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers – Although Cameron Brate finished as TE2 this week in terms of fantasy points, the most impressive and eye-opening aspect of his line were the 84 receiving yards. Amongst all TEs with at least 20 targets this season, Brate’s 5.9 yards per target (YPT) heading into this week ranked 12th worst. Putting it differently, 28 qualified TEs had produced a superior YPT than Brate heading into Week 10. Part of the reason for the success was due to Jameis Winston’s escapability in the pocket which bought time for his pass-catchers to get open. By the time the game had finished, Brate improved his YPT to 8.0 overall and moved up all the way to 10th in terms of average depth of target (aDOT) at the position. In other words, Brate showed this week his skill set stretches beyond acting as Winston’s security blanket and he actually possesses the ability to stretch the field as well. Prior to this week, Brate had gone four consecutive games without cracking 45 yards receiving and had been totally relying on scoring to make his value. This week, he caught all seven of his targets for 84 yards receiving so the TD was simply the icing on the cake. For three consecutive weeks, the targets have been trending upwards and he is starting to resemble his borderline TE1 self from earlier in the season. Over the course of the next four weeks, the team will face three defenses that rank in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of sacks including the Saints who rank absolutely dead last. If Winston is able to buy time, that will directly correlate to a more productive fantasy day for Brate.