News & Analysis

Hartitz: Fantasy Football Week 2 Helicopter Targets

DFS players around the world cherish the opportunity to win copious amounts of money every Sunday. Taking down the DraftKings Millionaire contest, or any other massive tournament for that matter, would objectively be awesome.

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One must be bold in order to win a large-scale DFS tournament. Fading a chalky stud who busts in favor of an under-the-radar talent who goes off can be the difference between finishing in the middle of the pack and making a push at a top spot.

I like to call these under-the-radar selections “helicopter picks.” The criteria for inclusion is as follows:

  1. Player pool is restricted to Sunday main slate contests (doesn’t include night games).
  2. Cannot be among top-five highest-priced players at position.
  3. Cannot have a projected ownership over 5% on DraftKings.
  4. Prediction for RB/WR/TE must be at least 100 total yards and two scores; QB is 300 total yards and four scores.

We’re looking for undervalued studs with sky-high upside. What follows is a breakdown on my five finalists for the Week 2 helicopter play of the week listed in no particular order. I’ll drop down to name the winner via Twitter shortly after midnight on Saturday.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS RB RAHEEM MOSTERT ($6,400 ON DRAFTKINGS, 2.36% PROJECTED OWNERSHIP)

The 49ers dropped their Week 1 matchup to the Cardinals, but it was another strong performance from Mostert. Overall, he posted 15-56-0 rushing and 4-95-1 receiving lines during his first career start, locking up the fastest in Next-Gen Stats’ database since 2018.

Yes, Coleman will likely see more snaps in future weeks when his sickle cell disease is less at risk from the California wildfires. Also yes, Mostert had a career-high five targets and should be in line for more work in the pass game moving forward, particularly while George Kittle (knee), Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) and Deebo Samuel (foot, IR) remain banged up.

McKinnon is the team’s pass-down back in obvious passing situations, but even a handful of targets per game could be enough to enable Mostert as a more consistent fantasy RB1. He had just 25 targets in 19 games last season (including playoffs) despite averaging a robust 7.5 yards per target.

This is a battle between what we know is a great rushing offense and potentially a great run defense; the 49ers ranked sixth in yards before contact per rush and the Jets third in yards allowed before contact per rush in Week 1.

Check out my Week 2 Mismatch Manifesto for more matchup-specific stats from around the league.

Still, generally we’re better off fading high-end matchups from great pass defenses as opposed to those that appear to be stout against the run. The correlations between rank in fantasy points allowed to a position and that defense’s corresponding pass/run funnel rank in 2019 were as follows:

  • QB: +0.76
  • RB: +0.13
  • WR: +0.65
  • TE: +0.35

The 49ers are presently seven-point favorites ahead of this road matchup. Mostert is their offensive engine with Kittle either extremely banged up or sidelined entirely alongside Deebo. Don’t be so quick to fade a great player poised for 15-plus touches just because their matchup (maybe) isn’t that great.

HOUSTON TEXANS WR WILL FULLER ($6,300 ON DRAFTKINGS, 2.58% PROJECTED OWNERSHIP)

Fuller’s solid season-opening performance could’ve been bigger had Deshaun Watson not overthrown him after he broke wide open deep on his way to picking up a chunk gain. Alas, 8-112-0 on 10 targets was great to see.

 Fuller joins a dangerous list of No. 1 wideouts with an air yard market share of at least 50% after one week of action:

Even more positive for Fuller was the manner in which he was used. The speedy field-stretching talent saw both his overall targets and fantasy-friendly nature of the opportunities rise in Week 1. Overall, three of Fuller's 11 (27%) targets were go routes in Week 1, while only 11 of his 112 (10%) pass-game opportunities were on go routes during the 2018-2019 seasons.

The Ravens obviously boast a strong secondary, although they haven’t made a habit of shadowing since acquiring Marcus Peters, meaning the Texans should be able to scheme Fuller into the matchup of their choosing. Avoiding Marlon Humphrey in favor of Peters and slot CB Tavon Young seems wise.

Peters has been fantastic with the Ravens, but at some point we’re going to see the boom-or-bust corner’s longtime tendency to jump routes come back to bite him. Nobody has more interceptions (27) or pick-sixes (6) than Peters since he entered the league in 2015, but we've also seen him allow more than a few touchdowns in 2015 (8), 2016 (3), 2017 (4), 2018 (6) and 2019 (5) alike. Overall, only Malcolm Butler (28) has allowed more receiving scores than Peters (26) over the past five seasons.

Check out my Week 2 WR/CB matchups breakdown for thoughts on the best and worst matchups on the outside around the league.

Brandin Cooks should be a bit more involved in future weeks, but Fuller is clearly the No. 1 WR in this new-look Texans passing game. The matchup could certainly be better, although this could be a fantasy-friendly environment considering only Falcons-Cowboys (53) has a higher game total than Ravens-Texans. Amari Cooper is projected for far higher ownership at the same price tag, although it’s Fuller who might just have the more certain target share, and he’s plenty good enough to win pretty much any matchup in a big way.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS WR SCOTTY MILLER ($4,100 ON DRAFTKINGS, 2.82% PROJECTED OWNERSHIP)

Don’t let the Buccaneers’ Week 1 loss distract you from the reality that Tom Brady’s deep-ball ability has aged like a fine glass of sheesh.

The Bucs utilized the following WR rotation:

The wild card for this week is that Godwin (concussion) is unlikely to suit up after failing to practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Perhaps rookie Tyler Johnson replaces Godwin’s slot-heavy role, but either way Miller seems likely to get a bump in snaps and targets.

Not that there was much wrong with his Week 1 usage; Miller caught five of five targets for 73 scoreless yards while also drawing a 28-yard DPI on a well-placed deep ball. Afterwards, coach Bruce Arians noted that Miller just did what he’s done every day in practice and that Tom trusts him.

Miller is a pint-sized (5-foot-9 and 174-pounds) speedster (4.44-second 40-yard dash) who averaged a robust 15.4 yards per reception as a rookie. He’s facing off against a Panthers secondary that largely couldn’t handle Henry Ruggs downfield in Week 1 despite Derek Carr’s general distaste for throwing deep. Mike Evans is obviously primed to smash, but the week’s second-highest implied scoring offense seems poised to enable more than one fantasy-friendly receiver in this potential smash spot.

Perhaps Miller’s ownership skyrockets after the public realizes Godwin likely won’t be suiting up. But maybe not. There are some other values in the $4,000 range such as CeeDee Lamb ($4,700), Diontae Johnson ($4,500), Parris Campbell ($4,500), Christian Kirk ($4,300) and Mike Williams ($4,200) who seem to be attracting most of the attention at the moment. Don’t be to fire up TB12-Evans-Miller stacks at your leisure this weekend.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS RB AUSTIN EKELER ($6,500 ON DRAFTKINGS, 1.68% PROJECTED OWNERSHIP)

Ekeler fantasy investors are largely freaking out after he gained just 87 scoreless yards in the Chargers’ Week 1 win over the Bengals. While the lack of a TD was disappointing, a career-high 19 carries and sterling near-70% snap rate reinforced the reality that Ekeler is this backfield’s lead dog.

The bad news is that the Tyrod Taylor version of the Chargers offense looked awfully pitiful for a large portion of Week 1. We already knew Ekeler’s receiving production was bound to regress, but he could become more of a RB2 than RB1 if this winds up being one of the league’s lower-ranked scoring offenses. He’ll get more than one target moving forward; I’m more concerned with whether or not this Chargers offense is going to find the end zone more than one or two times per game throughout the season.

Luckily, Ekeler’s target volume should rebound immediately in the Chargers’ Week 2 matchup against the Chiefs considering the likelihood that they trail on the scoreboard sooner rather than later. It’s certainly what happened last season: Two of Ekeler’s top three games in total receptions came against the Chiefs courtesy of 8-108-0 and 9-43-0 receiving lines.

Joshua Kelley might very well win out over Justin Jackson as the backfield’s 1.B. option, but I have a hard time believing Ekeler will see anything fewer than 15 touches per game anytime soon. The NFL’s 12th-highest-paid RB performed fine in Week 1 and gets a Chiefs front-seven that just made 2020 David Johnson look nearly half a decade younger.

Ownership at the RB position is trending toward either the cheap sub-$6,000 values, or the $7,000-plus workhorses. Taking some stabs at the middle range of talented backs also poised for large roles could be a good way of creating some contrarian lineups in large-field tournaments, even if their matchup isn’t perceived to be all that great.

CHICAGO BEARS RB DAVID MONTGOMERY ($5,600 ON DRAFTKINGS, 1.69% PROJECTED OWNERSHIP)

Tarik Cohen (46% snaps, 7 carries, 2 targets) barely out-snapped Montgomery (45%, 13, 2) in Week 1 despite the Bears trailing by multiple scores entering the fourth quarter. Overall, Cohen took a nine to six snap lead in the fourth, and Montgomery saw only two touches during the game’s final 15 minutes.

Check out my Week 2 RB committee breakdown for thoughts on the projected backfield splits around the league.

This sort of split reflects what we saw for most of 2020. When the Bears are able to get a lead and play ahead, Montgomery gets 20-plus touches. When they don’t, it’s usually a frustrating scoreless effort consisting of 12-15 touches. Montgomery was a significantly better fantasy option when the Bears were favored in 2019 (per the FantasyLabs trends tool):

  • Underdog: 8.9 DraftKings PPG, -2.4 Plus/Minus, 10% Consistency Rating
  • Favorite: 12.2 DraftKings PPG, +0.9 Plus/Minus, 46% Consistency Rating

Montgomery ranked sixth among 30 qualified RBs in yards after contact per attempt last week. He played better down the stretch in 2019 and seemed to carry that momentum into Week 1. Not listed on the injury report to start the week, Montgomery appears to be the clear-cut starting back, at home, favored by nearly a touchdown against a Giants defense that just allowed Benny Snell to convert 19 rush attempts into 113 yards.

Both Jonathan Taylor and Montgomery are early-down-centric backs on unproven offenses going up against maybe-not-that-good defenses. However, Taylor might just carry the single-highest ownership rate on the entire slate, and Montgomery is coming in under the radar in a potentially better matchup.

I won’t disagree that Taylor should be projected for more points; his receiving ceiling already looks higher, and the talent discrepancy between the two backs might in fact be large. Still, weird things happen in football, and pivoting off of the slate’s chalkiest back for a guy set to see a similar amount of opportunities in the same price range might be a good way to separate yourself from the pack in tournaments.

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