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The Price is Right: NFL Week 10

In this space, we will look each week at players who have strong potential to outperform their price on FanDuel so we can invite them to come on down into our lineups. This is not a play all these picks column, but rather a place to uncover value to allow us to unlock massive upside in our lineups.

In my day job, I work in higher education. There are so many things I love about the job and about the industry I get to be a part of every day. What I learned recently going through some strategic planning processes and thought exercises about the future is that so much of what we do is about balance. There is the balance of teaching versus research, the balance of growing our capabilities and resources versus affordability of college, balance of strict academic rigor versus the right mix of options for campus social life. There are seemingly endless decisions that go into making a university work and making it a place that’s attractive not only to potential students but staff and faculty, parents, alumni, donors, the community and a whole host of other constituents that must be considered. Balancing these priorities and the needs of stakeholders is a complex but important problem.

I wrote some things last week about how Week 9 would be an incredibly interesting slate that offered up a number of questions in terms how to balance rosters. There were a number of ways to go and I ended up trying several of them. One of the methods I often try to utilize in my rosters is stars/scrubs. Last week that seemed to be a winning strategy going into lock. There were so many strong running back and quarterback plays and seemingly so many strong wide receiver value plays that it opened up any combination of ways to mix and match players to build an optimal roster. Unfortunately, many of those value receiver plays busted. And so a somewhat balanced approach combined with a couple studs likely benefited more than often than going chalky value. I can state for a fact that my rosters with Courtland Sutton, DJ Moore, Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph all under-performed compared to my expectations.

I am a lot better at the science of DFS than I am at the art of DFS. The research, the data, the analysis – no problem. Those nuances that are required to look at projections of where people are going and analyze whether it’s in my best interest to follow that path or chart my own course it something I need to improve upon. I sometimes miss that fine touch – knowing when to zig when others zag and trust my individual approach instead of relying on the opinions of the masses. This balance between gut and data often leads to an overly conservative approach that locks me out of bigger opportunities:

In Week 10 I am going to try and find a way to balance feel and facts. Let’s go win this thing.

Quarterback – Marcus Mariota ($6,700)

How do you feel about guys like Sam Darnold, Brock Osweiler, Josh Rosen, Blake Bortles? Any of these guys make you feel good enough to want to press the lock button? Well we have Marcus Mariota at the same price as these guys and week 10 owners should definitely reap the benefit of the Monday-night-stellar-game-but-prices-have-already-been-released narrative. As we saw against Dallas, Mariota looks the healthiest he has all year (it helps when you can hold a football) and has really begun funneling his passing to a few reliable options. Corey Davis and Dion Lewis saw a combined 52% of the target share against Dallas, and no other player drew more than 7.4%.

Mariota threw his way to his highest number of passing yards, highest number of air yards, and highest touchdown total since Week 4. It also wasn’t just success through the air. He racked up his best rushing totals since that Week 4 overtime game with 10 rushes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots, even after holding Rodgers relatively in check, have dropped to 18th in passing defense DVOA and an even more pitiful 25th in DVOA against pass catching running backs. Enter Dion Lewis against his old team. Pair Mariota and Lewis together in cash games or tournaments, I don’t care. YOLO, friends.

Running Back – David Johnson ($6,900)

Bryon Leftwich takes over as the new offensive coordinator leaving David Johnson owners with all kinds of hope and feels. In his first game, Johnson goes out there and gets four targets, 11% of the target share, just 16 rushes, 100 total yards and zero touchdowns.

…or for several of my season-long teams. But I think this is the week. Yes, the Cardinals are 17-point underdogs, yes they are on the road, and yes they still have Josh Rosen and a motley crew of a supporting cast. But Johnson still owns a 76% share of his team’s rushing attempts on the season and the Chiefs are now dead last in rushing defense DVOA on the year and rank 29th against pass-catching running backs.  In a game where there will be PLENTY of garbage time, here is hoping the Cardinals used their bye to scheme a way for their best player to #touchtheballmore.

Running Back – Aaron Jones ($6,500)

This should be a simple game-plan for the Packers: AJ and MVS. Miami allows the eighth most FanDuel running back points per game this year, while allowing the 11th fewest wide receiver points mainly on the shoulders of Xavien Howard who will guard Davante Adams on Sunday. Last week, the Dolphins turned Sam Darnold into a red-headed Mark Sanchez (all that was missing was a butt fumble) and the Jets still managed to get 73 yards on the ground. The rushing totals allowed by Miami in the six games prior: 188, 248, 164, 103, 175, 103 – with six rushing touchdowns as a kicker.

The past two games for the Packers, Jones has finally been able to create some space between him and Jamaal Williams. Jones has 26 of 44 rushing attempts in that span (59%) and had his most targets of the year last week with Ty Montfumble out of the picture. Most encouraging, however, were the two red zone touches Jones managed while Williams was shutout in that stat. Anytime you get a share of red zone looks on a team with Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham, you are playing with house money. I’m all in.

Tight End – Jordan Reed ($5,200) or Vernon Davis ($5,100)

Back to the well again with tight ends against the Buccaneers. Tampa ranks second in FanDuel points per game allowed to tight ends on the year, but for how bad it is, that number is slightly misleading. On Pro Football Reference the Panthers are worse, technically, but they just completed a game where they gave up over 50 yards and two touchdowns to Pittsburgh tight ends. Normalize everyone to before Week 10 starts and the Bucs are back in the lead.

Despite the relative lack of production from Washington tight ends this year, you are going to want whomever starts this game – Jordan Reed is officially Questionable. The Redskins will be missing Jamison Crowder, Chris Thompson and Paul Richardson from their skill positions and they just lost two starting offensive linemen last week as well, while already being down their starting left tackle. Alex Smith will have no choice but quick dump offs in a game where Washington is a road underdog

Last week against the Falcons (ranked 19 spots higher that the Bucs for tight end DVOA defense), the two tight ends on Washington combined for nine catches and 96 yards – and they both own a health target share on the season (Reed – 22.6%, Davis – 10.4%). If Reed’s back keeps him out of this game, fire up Davis and don’t look back.

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