Cash games were an absolute mess this week as virtually all of the highly owned players flopped. Russell Wilson, Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi, Thomas Rawls, Amari Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin, Greg Olsen and Gary Barnidge were all heavily owned (18-percent or more in double ups) in enticing matchups on paper and flopped for their respective price tags. Heading into Monday Night Football, cash lines in double ups was around 111 while the cash line in the Run and Gun GPP was sitting at 123.70…quite the difference. The takeaway here is on weeks like this, it is okay to be in line with the pack, meaning rostering most of the players you know are going to be heavily owned is a fine play (especially in cash games). However, if only chalky players were rostered then you would be done for. It is important to incorporate your own research into lineups because adding one under-owned player who outperformed their price tag literally would have been enough to cash easily this week. Simply rostering all players perceived to be highly owned does not/did not create any sort of “advantage” from the pack. Let this week be a prime example of a situation where mindlessly following groupthink is not a profitable strategy (as is the case for the long run).
Here are some of Fantasy Expert Ricky Sanders’ DFS-relevant observations from Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season:
Matt Barkley, Bears – Prior to Sunday, Matt Barkley had attempted 65 career passes without throwing a TD. Against the Titans at home, that all changed; he completed 28-54 passes (51.9-percent) for 316 yards and three TDs to go along with two interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, 10 of Barkley’s 26 incomplete passes were dropped by the target he was throwing to. In other words, Barkley easily could have completed 70-percent of his passes if he were working with a competent supporting cast. The problem is the supporting cast is not competent with Zach Miller, Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long and Josh Sitton all out for the foreseeable future. On the one hand, Coach John Fox’s showed confidence in the youngster by allowing him to sling the pigskin 50-plus times in a game the team should have won (had it not been for a Joshua Bellamy drop in the end zone). On the other hand, these are the players he is going to be throwing to on a weekly basis and the gameplan is unlikely to include this sort of throwing volume on a weekly basis. Barkley is a different player to gauge moving forward because a decrease in volume would not be the end of the world for a typical QB but this situation is far from typical. The offensive line is banged up and therefore mediocre and his weapons are probably the worst in the league. Consequently, this 25.64 fantasy point outburst should be chalked up as a fluke even though he will be playing from behind plenty in upcoming weeks. Consider him a poor man’s Blake Bortles because expecting anything more will probably lead to a letdown. It’s a shame because Barkley played a heck of a game.
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks – Just because a player is anointed the starter does not mean he is guaranteed to succeed and Thomas Rawls painfully personified that concept this week. For a RB who does not catch many passes (nine receptions (RECs) in three prior games), game flow means the world to them. If the team gets down early, like the Seahawks did in this game, he could easily struggle on any given week. Although Rawls dominated the backfield snaps with 37 of them, George Farmer took over late and ended up playing 16 total snaps. Unfortunately, the Seahawks offensive line is mediocre at best (especially on the left side) and just could not establish a rhythm against a Buccaneers defense that rates poorly in both passing and rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. In theory, Rawls is a better player and is in a better spot than the final result this week but the final line was incredibly disappointing. Facing a tough Panthers rushing defense next week, Rawls should be considered nothing more than a low-end RB2. If the team falls behind early, Rawls could once again end up underwhelming those who rostered him.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers – After writing about a few mid-tier talents, it only felt right to include one of the game’s best: Mike Evans. Following a game where he eclipsed 100 yards and scored TDs against one of the best secondaries in the league, Evans has officially reached matchup-proof status. Looking back to earlier in the year, Evans even torched the Cardinals (aka Patrick Peterson) for 6-70-1 and produced a halfway respectable 5-59 against the Broncos’ pair of excellent corners. Over the course of the next two weeks, Evans draws matchups against the Chargers and Saints who both rank in the top 12 against opposing number one WRs in DVOA. There should be no reservations whatsoever about at least rostering him in tournaments in both contests as he is proving this year that he can get it done against the best in the game. Welcome to elite WR1 status, Mr. Evans, which is an upgrade from simply the “WR1” tier. He now is in the same conversation as Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones for best WR in all of fantasy football.
Taylor Gabriel, Falcons – Taylor Gabriel is short (5’8”) and relies on speed which makes him a perfect complement to Julio Jones in the passing game. While Jones can rely on his size to go up and catch a ball at its highest point, plays can be drawn up to get Gabriel in space and his legs can do the rest. For the fourth consecutive week, Gabriel scored a TD so this is now officially becoming a trend. Amazingly, all of Gabriel’s scores during that span, and there have been five total, have come from at least 15 yards out. Hell, three of the five scores have been 35 yard TDs or longer so the speed is clearly a weapon. With most of the defensive focus on Jones and the running game, Gabriel has been able to run free (and they even call the occasional rushing play for him). On a semi-related note, the Falcons’ official Twitter professionally trolled the Browns after Gabriel’s latest monster performance and it is worth checking out. Anyways, Gabriel is just a necessary weapon for a loaded Falcons offense and his recent affinity for the end zone certainly needs to be taken into consideration. Paying for him in DFS next week against the Chiefs may be a week too late but his production looks like a staple in this offense moving forward (at least on most weeks).
Tyler Eifert, Bengals – If it were not for the Chiefs/Broncos game going to overtime, the TE in the worst possible matchup would have been the one who finished with the most fantasy points on the weekend slate: Tyler Eifert. Due to the absences of A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard in the passing game, Eifert was destined to see an uptick in target share. When all said and done, Eifert hauled in 5-11 targets for 68 yards and a TD which is actually an excellent performance considering the circumstances. There should be no red flags waving due to the 45.4-percent catch rate because the Ravens ranked number one in TE defense according to DVOA heading into this game. The extra attention should not affect his fantasy value in a negative way moving forward because the added volume is the real key. Unlike QBs, volume is the name of the game for pass-catchers and Eifert is a very talented one. Remember, he was being put in the same breath with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed last year as he scored 13 TDs. Moving forward, Eifert is easily a top five TE on a weekly basis and should be valued as at least a top three TE overall (assuming Gronkowski is healthy). If Gronkowski is out, he could rate as high as top two.