Fantasy football can be a fickle game sometimes. The margins are so narrow on the field that any efficiency is difficult to sustain. That cuts both ways with high efficiency and low efficiency play. Last week’s article centered on zooming out beyond individual player efficiency from the first three weeks to our longer view, pre-season expectations. To recap, it’s tempting to take the results of the first three weeks and project forward based on those. We don’t want to fall into a take lock fallacy that ignores what’s been happening this year, but we also can’t overreact to small sample efficiency. Using that long run view was the thesis behind some of the recommendations last week.
On a weekly basis however, two players seeing similar opportunity can produce vastly different fantasy performances due largely to the mercurial nature of fantasy football efficiency.
We saw Stefon Diggs and Odell Beckham both lead their team in targets with 10 and seven respectively. They dominated the Air Yards, going over 125 each, exactly the kind of volume we seek out in fantasy football. The results in fantasy points did not play out the same though. Diggs caught seven of his targets for 114 yards consistently making plays down the field. Beckham only brought in two for a disappointing 27 yards. That can happen in this game. The lesson is to keep chasing the volume rather than the efficiency.
This all lends more power to stacking as the optimal GPP roster construction strategy. When building a tournament lineup, a WR and a QB on the same team are more likely to perform efficiently on the same day than ones on different teams. That isn’t to say you can’t find a QB and a WR who each have good days; it’s just that it’s harder to do consistently. In such a tough game, let’s make it easier on ourselves where we can.
Week 4 Review
We’ve already discussed how Stefon Diggs and Odell Beckham did on Sunday. From a popularity perspective, Beckham really took off over the course of the week. He showed up in 18.5-percent of rosters. Several sites had identified the Vikings-Browns game as a value game stack, and with the dearth of other Cleveland pass catching options, Odell became a virtual necessity for those stacks. Diggs was less so at 8.4-percent likely due to strong options in Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill all priced similarly.
The QB pairs with those two performed about as well as their WR counterparts (more evidence of our correlated scoring claims). With Beckham’s popularity, doubling down with Mayfield at only 3-percent roster share proved to be a decent leverage opportunity that just didn’t hit this week. Allen was among the most popular QBs even after the price jump at around 14-percent. He hit 20 but underwhelmed given the price tag.
The final stack recommended last week featured Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Popular in cash games, Prescott only saw around a 7-percent roster share. Cooper though nearly doubled that. Prescott had a great day throwing 4 touchdowns, including one to Cooper, but on a lower passing volume day, Cooper was unable to hit a ceiling performance finishing with only 16 DK points.
Week 5 Overview
Week 5 presents an interesting slate. Many of the high-end QBs play outside the main slate, namely Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and Matthew Stafford. With fewer options at the top, that will likely lead to a few chalky plays emerging. It also makes budget QBs more viable since it lowers the opportunity cost of potentially missing on an elite performance. Another factor in play this week is the lack of expected shootouts. No game in the main slate has a total above 52 points currently. That should limit popularity of any one specific QB or game.
Taylor Heinicke and Terry McLaurin
Since relieving the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke has been a fantasy revelation. He’s finished as a top 12 QB in each of his three starts. Yet despite this, DraftKings won’t budge on his sub $6k price. We won’t argue with it. The 31.5 (No. 25) Team Pass Plays Per Game average doesn’t indicate a full aerial assault, but the Football Team ranks No. 4 with a 2.16 Pace of Play. The combination of being underdogs and playing fast could lead to higher passing volume. Heinicke is also chipping in some points on the ground. His 20 carries so far rank No. 6, while his 87 rushing yards rank No. 8.
Another reason the low team pass play count isn’t as concerning is because how concentrated the Washington passing offense is. Terry McLaurin is the undisputed alpha on the team. His 31.3-percent Target Share ranks No. 7 among qualified wide receivers, and that Target Share actually rises to 33.3-percent in the red zone. He’s being peppered with targets, and even more critically, they’re the valuable targets. 44.5-percent (No. 8) of Washington’s Air Yards go to him.
Heinicke is cheap and has been productive through the air and on the ground. By pairing him with his favorite target, you can expect a solid target floor with plenty of ceiling, as we saw last week. With McLaurin’s bump in price, he also becomes an intriguing leverage point off some more popular WRs in the same price range (D.J. Moore and Deebo Samuel in particular).
Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen
Through four games, Justin Herbert has been fully unleashed. The Chargers rank No. 4 in Team Pass Plays Per Game (41.3), No. 2 in Red Zone Attempts (33), and No. 5 in Air Yards (1,312). This elite usage puts him in play for DFS every week. They match up with a Cleveland team at home this week that has been a problematic matchup for other QBs. We’re banking on volume being able to offset any possible efficiency drop given the opponent in a spot where he likely won’t be a popular option.
Teams' concentration of targets based on combined target share of the top three pass-catchers. I have started removing players who will be out an extended time period (i.e., Chark, Jeudy) to show the concentration of the remaining players. pic.twitter.com/XKoW8uDrvX
— Sam Hoppen (@SamHoppen) October 4, 2021
The WR pricing for the Chargers reflects the issue DraftKings has with Monday night games happening after salaries are set for the following week. Keenan Allen costs $700 less than Mike Williams despite consistently seeing more opportunity, and especially so in Week 4. Allen has commanded 44 (No. 3) targets, including 9 (No. 1) Red Zone Targets. Fantasy point-wise, Williams has scored the touchdowns. I don’t need to re-state how volatile those are. Given the red zone involvement Allen has had to date, that can flip at any time. In a highly concentrated passing offense, take the cost savings for one of the biggest target hogs on one of the pass happiest offenses in the league.
Tom Brady and Mike Evans
Our final recommended stack this week features Tom Brady and Mike Evans. The Bucs are passing even more than the Chargers. They lead the league in Team Pass Plays per Game with 46.0. Brady has 36 (No. 1) Red Zone Attempts, 1,621 (No. 1) Air Yards, 25 (No. 2) Deep Ball Attempts, 12 (No. 2) Money Throws, and 10 (No. 3) Passing Touchdowns. Tampa’s league-leading 3.14 Pace of Play fuels all of this volume and allows Brady to keep doing it all this year. This week, they have one of the highest implied team totals, and have shown a willingness to continue throwing both near the goal line and when leading in games.
We’re paying up for the more expensive of the lead WRs with Mike Evans. Between Evans and Chris Godwin, we’re making a play for ceiling given their respective roles. Godwin has played out of the slot (144 Slot Snaps ranks No. 3) with targets coming closer to the line of scrimmage (8.6 Average Target Distance ranks No. 76). Evans has been earning more targets that are further down the field (12.3 Average Target Distance ranks No. 33). Those deeper passes are more likely to produce explosive plays, which in turn are more likely to produce slate-breaking fantasy performances. With this passing volume, both are good plays as are double stacks with another ancillary receiver.