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.
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:
- Player pool is restricted to Sunday main slate contests (doesn’t include night games).
- Cannot be among top-five highest-priced players at position.
- Cannot have a projected ownership over 5% on DraftKings.
- 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 1 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.
CINCINNATI BENGALS QB JOE BURROW ($6,300)
The 2020 draft’s No. 1 overall pick hasn’t exactly lit the NFL on fire through three weeks. Still, we’ve seen plenty of reason to believe that the future remains bright for the 2019 National Champion and Heisman Trophy winner.
Of course, it hasn’t been easy for Burrow. He ranks 10th in pressured dropback rate despite having the ninth-quickest release. Just 40% of his pass attempts have targeted a receiver that PFF has deemed open — the fifth-lowest mark in the league among 33 qualified signal-callers.
The Bengals’ offensive line is struggling mightily, but Burrow continues to warrant fantasy QB1 treatment thanks to 1) the team’s porous defense, 2) growing chemistry with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, and 3) ridiculous volume that has produced a league-high 164 dropbacks and a 16-64-1 rushing line through three weeks of action. Burrow has actually averaged more rushing yards per game (21) than Deshaun Watson (16) this season.
(Check out my Week 4 QB rankings breakdown for thoughts on the best and worst matchups under center around the league.)
Again: Burrow has already been flashing serious high-end ability. He’s the fantasy QB9 through three weeks despite hardly facing a cake schedule in the Chargers, Browns and Eagles.
Okay Joe Burrow okay pic.twitter.com/jVk5pFN4Ev
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 30, 2020
Up next is a home spot against the Jaguars’ 20th-ranked scoring defense. There are a number of reasons to not fear this matchup:
- The Jaguars rank dead last in total pressures through three weeks. “Oh but Ian you’re using a total number and not a rate.” Fine. They’re 24th in pressures per dropback at just 26%.
- Only the Cowboys have allowed a higher QB rating against (120.6) than the Jaguars (120.4).
- The Jaguars rank 26th and 29th in explosive pass rate and pass yards per attempt allowed, respectively.
- Only the Falcons, Seahawks, Cowboys and Dolphins have allowed more fantasy points to opposing QBs.
Burrow has been a top-10 fantasy QB that is priced accordingly as the main slate’s QB10. However, he’s priced just behind Deshaun Watson ($6,600) and Cam Newton ($6,400), leading to his reduced ownership despite having a far superior matchup. Consider firing off Burrow-Boyd-Green/Higgins stacks in an effort to get in on the talented rookie’s true NFL coming out party.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS RB JONATHAN TAYLOR ($6,600)
The Colts’ second-round rookie has had a productive start to his NFL career:
- Week 1: 9-22-0 rushing, 6-67-0 receiving, PPR RB22
- Week 2: 26-101-1 rushing, 2-9-0 receiving, PPR RB14
- Week 3: 13-59-1 rushing, 1-3-0 receiving, PPR RB22
It’s truly the Taylor show in Indianapolis after Marlon Mack (Achilles, IR) was lost for the season in Week 1. Sure, Nyheim Hines has siphoned away some pass-game work and Jordan Wilkins has gotten work with games out of reach, but neutral game-script should yield 20-plus touches for Taylor more weeks than not. Overall, Taylor (66 snaps) has far and away been more involved than Hines (25) and Wilkins (15) in non-garbage time moments over the past two weeks.
(Check out my Week 4 RB committee breakdown for thoughts on the projected backfield splits around the league.)
The Colts have blown the doors off the Vikings and Jets in consecutive weeks after their disappointing Week 1 loss to the Jaguars. Taylor is breaking tackles at the same or better rate than the likes of Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones. The only concern surrounding Taylor’s ability to function as a fantasy RB1 entering the 2020 season was whether or not he’d be able to get enough touches in this crowded backfield; the Mack injury has made this a non-issue.
So far the Bears have faced the Falcons, Lions and Giants. They’ve largely been gashed on the ground, and this reality could’ve been more clear to the public eye had Saquon Barkley (knee, IR) not suffered his season-ending injury after just four touches.
- Todd Gurley: 14 carries-80 rush yards-1 TD
- Adrian Peterson: 14-93-0
- Dion Lewis: 10-20-1
- Brian Hill: 9-58-1
The Colts are road favorites facing a Bears defense that has allowed more yards before contact per rush than anyone other than the Texans and Packers. Their 3-0 start has come courtesy of a 1) 17-point comeback to edge out the Lions, 2) 4-point home win over the Giants, and 3) 16-point comeback to narrowly beat the Falcons.
The Bears rank 13th in point differential and 17th in team DVOA; this is not your typical undefeated juggernaut. The plethora of value RBs in the $5,500-$6,000 range, combined with the reality that Alvin Kamara is probably still underpriced at $8,000, has Taylor flying under the radar. Even an unexpected negative game script wouldn’t necessarily be a fatal blow to Taylor considering he’s caught all nine of his targets this season.
I get not building cash lineups around Taylor, but the consensus RB1 is plenty worthy of heavy tournament exposure in a matchup that could yield a surprisingly positive game script against a run defense that might not be as scary as most think.
CHICAGO BEARS RB DAVID MONTGOMERY ($5,500)
Tarik Cohen (ACL, IR) is done for the season. There’s a real chance that Montgomery is given a true three-down role. He’s certainly earned the opportunity through three weeks:
- Yards after contact per attempt: 3.1 (No. 17 among 67 players with 20-plus attempts)
- Missed forced tackles per attempt: 0.22 (No. 20)
- Total forced missed tackles: 11 (tied for No. 11)
Only Chris Carson (81%) and Austin Ekeler (81%) have gained at least 2.0 yards after contact on a higher percentage of their carries than Montgomery (79%) this season. Montgomery has caught 31 of 44 targets for 249 yards and a pair of scores as a receiver over the past two seasons; he’s hardly a liability in the passing game.
I’m the self-appointed president of the Cordarrelle Patterson Fan Club; obviously I’d love to sit here and say CP is going to get double-digit touches per game with Cohen out of the picture. Still, that doesn’t seem to be in the fold for the NFL’s second-most efficient rusher of all time; don’t expect Patterson’s present role to increase all that much.
Up next is a home date against the Colts’ great, but untested, defense. We shouldn’t completely dismiss their performance over the Jaguars, Vikings and Jets, but it’s not a matchup to particularly fear.
Montgomery would normally be chalkier, but the likes of David Johnson ($5,600), Mike Davis ($5,700), Joe Mixon ($5,800) and Kenyan Drake ($6,000) have a mix of more proven pass-game work and superior matchups. That’s fine; load up on those values in cash games.
Still, Montgomery’s status as the potential workhorse back that could see 20-plus touches per game makes him anyone’s idea of a value himself at this low price point. The second-year back has been playing better and better; consider firing up the engine of the Bears’ rushing attack in this underrated home spot.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS WR KEENAN ALLEN ($6,500)
Rookie Justin Herbert’s target distribution through two weeks is as follows:
- Allen (27 targets)
- Austin Ekeler (15)
- Hunter Henry (15)
- Jalen Guyton (5)
- Mike Williams (5)
- K.J. Hill (4)
- Joshua Kelley (4)
- Virgil Green (1)
Allen and DeAndre Hopkins each have six targets on screens this season; no other wideout has more than three. The potential absence of Williams (hamstring) would further funnel the majority of this offense’s target share to Allen, who is basically averaging the same per-target efficiency with Herbert under center (7.9 yards per target) as he did with Philip Rivers in 2019 (8.0).
The Buccaneers haven’t exactly been a lock-down secondary this season. Only the Panthers (11.2%) and Raiders (9.5%) have had a lower contested target percentage than the Buccaneers (11.4%) this season. Matchups against Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Jeff Driskel have hardly represented the toughest test to start the season.
(Check out my Week 4 WR/CB matchups breakdown for thoughts on the best and worst matchups on the outside around the league.)
Trusting a rookie QB making a cross-country road trip is hardly ideal, but Allen is truly looking at a near double-digit target floor against a secondary that is perhaps being a bit overrated due to their soft start to the season. Allen is sandwiched between more chalky options like Amari Cooper ($6,700), Allen Robinson ($6,700), Adam Thielen ($6,600) and Mike Evans ($6,400), yet Allen certainly seems to have the highest target projection out of the group.
The Chargers as a whole don’t represent a fantasy-friendly offense, but injuries and Herbert’s early target distribution at least paints the picture of a condensed target tree. Take advantage of Allen receiving a top-five workload while he’s still priced down.
CLEVELAND BROWNS WR JARVIS LANDRY ($5,100)
Landry had offseason hip surgery and was considered questionable for Week 1. He’s toughed it out thus far, playing 71%, 60% and 71% of the offense’s snaps during the first three weeks of the season. Unfortunately, the targets just haven’t been there: Landry has caught 12 of 13 targets for 143 scoreless yards.
The Browns’ slot WR is averaging a career-high 11.0 yards per target. It’s not like the injury is leading to limited snaps; on Baker Mayfield’s 98 dropbacks this season, OBJ (83 routes) and Landry (80) have been almost equally involved. Beckham (22 targets) has clearly been the No. 1 option ahead of Landry (13), but whether or not this disparity continues to exist as the season progresses remains to be seen.
The largest issue for this passing game has been simple: volume. Two of Mayfield’s bottom-five volume games of his career have come this season, as he’s thrown just 23 passes in consecutive weeks in wins over the Bengals and Football Team.
Enter: the Cowboys. Dak Prescott and company present a fantasy-friendly mixture of a high-powered offense and awful defense. It’s hard to understate just how bad the Cowboys’ secondary has been — and yet they’ve been lucky. Through three weeks, nobody has had a higher opponent drop rate than Dallas (10.5%). Starting CBs Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and Anthony Brown (ribs) remain sidelined, meaning Landry will be facing off against a lucky, banged-up, awful secondary that has struggled to slow down slot receivers through three weeks:
- Tyler Lockett: 9 receptions-100 yards-3 TD (13 targets)
- Russell Gage: 6-46-1 (9)
- Cooper Kupp: 4-40-0 (5)
Beckham is looking fairly chalky, but Landry seems to be flying under the radar at his low price point due to the presence of Justin Jefferson ($5,200) and T.Y. Hilton ($5,300). The Cowboys-Browns matchup features: 1) two offenses with positive combined EPA per play rates, 2) the week’s fastest-paced matchup in combined situation neutral pace, 3) the main slate’s single-highest game total. This is as fantasy-friendly of a spot as we’re going to find.
(Check out my Week 4 Mismatch Manifesto for more matchup-specific stats from around the league.)
Landry is playing his usual role; the Browns just haven’t been in a position where they’ve been forced to pass against a bad secondary. Luckily, that very situation is on the horizon, and Landry’s slow start to the season has him flying under the radar at a more than reasonable salary.