The Daily Spin – NFL Cash Game Edition – Week 6

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte October 17, 2020 11:04

The Daily Spin – NFL Cash Game Edition – Week 6

I’ve been trading wins and losses this season through five weeks, but enjoyed a nice Sunday main slate where there was never a moment sweating my roster which always makes the games abundantly more enjoyable. Not every play worked perfectly, but that was something I had planned on in advance. Many weeks, the way your team syncs up is the most important part of planning out your strategy.

Most weeks, it is not too difficult to gauge which players are going to have heavy volume, especially among the top tier names. It does not take a lot of deep study to land on DeAndre Hopkins or Alvin Kamara. The real question is how to fit them into your roster and knowing where you can make sacrifices along the way.

Last week provided a great illustration for this with the build I used for my cash game roster. I knew from the start that I was going to need to clear some salary cap space on my roster since a few of the names I wanted to pay up were in particularly good situations where the matchup/volume/ownership equation was really strong in creating a handful of plays that dictated the composition of my team.

I wrote about Zeke last week and while I was not ready to say that he was a lock for the week, I knew a few important factors going into the game against the Giants strongly pointed towards me needing to get him onto my roster Sunday afternoon. First, he’s volume proof. He’s going to get 20+ opportunities per week and while the Giants have been good against the run, there was no chance that they would be able to stack the box to stuff the run when Dallas has one of the most lethal passing attacks in the league. While the yardage totals were not spectacular (91 rushing, 14 receiving), Zeke again saw opportunities near the goal line and punched in two TDs. We knew that given the lack of big name RBs to work with that Zeke would likely attract plenty of owners as well and that was certainly the case as he was 60-70% owned for the week. While there were other names that you could have used instead of Zeke that were in good situations, certainly none have Zeke’s pedigree or role in their respective offenses so the risk overall was low in playing him, but I felt was fairly high had we chosen to fade him as it would not have taken much more for him to get to a 30 DK point effort.

Most of the rest of my plays flowed from the Zeke decision pretty easily. I started at QB with Deshaun Watson. I liked Dak in his matchup, but usually shy away from paying up for a QB and RB from the same team so it was easy to take the savings and invest in Watson. The run game with David Johnson is still mediocre at best. DJ is never going to take over games with the Texans and the defense is poor enough so that they are going to be in plenty of high scoring games this season. Amusingly enough about this game, Brandin Cooks (a big, fat zero in Week 4 for my cash game team), exploded for a massive output against the Jags. It’s a great reminder to look back at players from the previous week to see who laid an egg. For GPP contests, you gain a massive ownership edge in going right back to some of these players the following week.

I played Mike Davis for the third week in a row and he is only getting better as time goes on and he gets comfortable in the offense. I really like what the Panthers are doing right now and it is a great lesson for teams around the league. Of course, to get here, they had to commit the cardinal sin of overpaying a RB, but if you are a GM around the league taking notes on these things, a very clear trend is developing for those smart enough to learn from the mistakes of others.

I am going to deviate for a moment to go on a little tangent (rant) if you do not mind. The RB position gets so much attention around the NFL and among fans and many of the biggest stars in recent years have been the big name backs around the league. Unfortunately, what I see in watching these teams is that having one of these elite backs beyond their initial contract is a near death sentence for the franchise by the time they sign contract #2.

As a Vikings fan, if you have shared any text/DM exchanges with me over the last two years, you know my feelings about Dalvin Cook. When he’s healthy, he can dominate a game on the stat sheet and in the way that the team is able to tilt the field when he’s running well. However, the key part of that last sentence is ‘when he’s healthy’ as Dalvin is NEVER able to stay on the field all season without missing significant time due to injuries.

The other major issue is that the Vikings run a very system oriented offense in the zone blocking scheme instituted by OC Gary Kubiak, made famous from his days in Denver where the Broncos could plug and play just about anyone at RB and get them 1000 yards. Once Terrell Davis tore up his knee at the beginning of the 1999 season, which derailed his career, the Broncos moved towards using a rotation of backs, many of whom had incredible success for a season or two before moving on to other cities for bigger contracts where few found anything close to the same success.

Remember some of these names from over the years: Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Tatum Bell, Mike Bell and Peyton Hillis

The one player whose name has likely not faded from memory for NFL fans is that of Clinton Portis. Here the Broncos created what I still believe to be the textbook case for how to deal with elite level talent out of a running back early in his career. In 2002 and 2003, Portis broke into the NFL and became an immediate star. In two seasons, he rushed for 3,099 yards (5.5 yard average) and 29 TDs and added 71 receptions for 678 yards and 2 additional TDs.

So what did the Broncos do after the 2003 season? My god, they traded their star back away to the Redskins for Champ Bailey in one of the biggest blockbuster trades in league history and what would prove to be an absolute heist for the Broncos. Elite level corners are one of the most coveted positions around the league as there are very few players that qualify as lockdown players for any amount of time. Bailey stepped in for Denver and provided them exactly that elite level of play for the next ten seasons on the way to finishing up a Hall of Fame career.

For Portis, he was not a flop by any stretch as a Redskin, but he was not near the player he had been in Denver, primarily due to the scheme Denver deployed to create success for its RBs. In seven seasons with the Redskins, he rushed for 6,824 yards and 46 TDs, certainly not terrible numbers, but his average per carry fell to just 4.1 yards over those seven seasons and was never higher than 4.3 yards in any given year, far below anything he accomplished with the Broncos. He had four productive seasons in Washington and three where he was hampered by injuries. The Broncos paid Portis $1.8 million for about 1/3 of his career production. The Redskins paid him over $41 million for the rest.

I promise this all relates to this week and I am not completely rambling away here all hopped up on 6 oz of Super Espresso.  This season, maybe more than any other in recent history illustrates a point that I always make when discussing the running back position, especially with fellow Viking fans. It makes almost no sense to pay good or even great backs the big, second contract of their career.

Three examples this season show the problems in doling out big dollars at this position when we look at Zeke Elliot, Christian McCaffrey, Le’Veon Bell and now Dalvin Cook. I’ll even go as far as including Alvin Kamara as the Saints are now likely to be strapped for cash in the years ahead which will make it very difficult to hold onto other key players on the roster.

If you go back and read my column from a week ago, you will see that Zeke is being sustained on volume along this season. The efficiency numbers are gone from earlier in his career now that he is not running behind an otherworldly offensive line. He’s still going to get the touches, but talking heads like Skip Bayless will not be able to figure out why he’s not dominating like before.

In Carolina, the Panthers opted to shell out huge dollars for jack of all trades RB, Christian McCaffrey. They started off the season, 0-2 and CMC got hurt which led most people to write off the rest of the year. Few expected much out of backup, Mike Davis in the weeks ahead, and yet, three weeks later, the Panthers have won three in a row and Davis has seen his production rise every week.

For the Vikings, the story is similar to the Panthers. They foolishly opted to pay big dollars to Dalvin Cook and when he predictably got hurt last week, the team did not miss a step in playing backup and clone, Alexander Mattison who rushed for over 100 yards in a dominating effort against a Seahawk defense that had been strong against the run to start the season. They have no money to upgrade a sagging offensive line that has failed to protect the QB the last five years and will not be able to sign any big name corners to help an inexperienced group, but they have Cook on the hook for $60 million for the next five years. This is straight out of the playbook for how to be a losing GM.

The Jets are the best example of all of how paying big bucks for a RB can go completely pear shaped in short order. After just a year and change, they released Le’Veon Bell this week as he posted awful numbers. What a surprise that he would struggle when going from running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL to the absolute worst in the league.

The lesson here for us as fantasy owners should be clear, and this is especially true for season long leagues. Focus on systems over individual players. When you are looking at positions each week, the matchup between the offensive and defensive line is as important as the names touching the football.

Mike Davis has become a plug and play option every week for us as he is now occupying the exact same role in the offense for the Panthers as CMC. Does that mean that CMC is not a great football players? Of course not. He has a level of talent that is unmistakable, but it is not adding as much to his team’s success as his salary would otherwise indicate. We learn this lesson all too regularly in Daily Fantasy Sports as injuries create immediate opportunities at the RB position for players to shine.

Beyond Davis, I had Robby Anderson, CeeDee Lamb and Travis Kelce down as players I wanted to make sure to get into my lineup. Anderson was still cheap and had a great matchup against a broken Falcons secondary and came through with a 100 yard effort.

I wanted to get a piece of the Dallas passing attack in my lineup against a Giants team that had been good against the run, but not so great defending the pass. While Amari Cooper had been crushing it through four games, the Giants do have James Bradberry at corner and I knew he would shadow Cooper which meant that Dak would have to look elsewhere to exploit the defense. Michael Gallup was an option, but Gallup is a very boom or bust type of player that needs to break off a long TD reception as his targets can be somewhat limited, but do always have big play potential. I settled on CeeDee Lamb as he is getting a very consistent number of targets each week and had a clear mismatch in coverage against Darnay Holmes. He easily eclipsed 100 yards on 11 targets and 8 receptions.

I also wanted to get Travis Kelce into my lineup. He had a very favorable matchup against the Raiders and that game looked likely to be high scoring. It is rare to get him in this type of situation as the Chiefs play a lot of prime time games or he is too expensive, but I knew we had some affordable options for paying down at RB, WR and defense so that I could fit him if I wanted to and to be honest, it gets tiresome to play punts at TE every week and praying not to take a zero so it was refreshing to get a dominant performance out of Kelce.

For the other two options, I knew I was going to have to pay down in a big way. At WR, as soon as it was announced that Julio Jones would be out for the Falcons, I shrugged and inserted Olamide Zaccheaus into my lineup at minimum salary. We’d seen him targeted 15 times in two games after Julio was injured so it seemed reasonable to expect 4-5 catches for 40-50 yards as a floor. The risk here was pretty low as well as I knew he would be very popular so even if he posted a total dud (1 catch for 13 yards), it would not hurt me seriously. He was owned by 60-70% of teams across most contests last week so when he did not play well, it did not create a big problem. I made that play purely for salary cap relief. Sometimes you will roster a play in NFL DFS where you know the floor is zero, but you accept that in a tradeoff to get a bigger name with heavy volume on your team.

On defense, the Texans were a cheap punt against a bad Jaguar team that is getting worse as the weeks go by. I typically pay down for defense, especially on DK where every last dollar is precious. I look for two things when diving down to grab a cheap defense. Can they generate pressure and does the opposing line allow a lot of pressure? If I can get either of those in my favor, I am willing to go to war with some teams that may not be that great, but save me cap space.

The last roster spot came down to Antonio Gibson or Darius Slayton. I had room to pull Zeke up to the second RB slot and drop Slayton into the flex position. I ended up using Gibson which did not work out for me. I had been really encouraged with the trend for Gibson in Washington and he’d been getting more touches with increased involvement in the passing game. I also figured having Kyle Allen in the game would create a similar situation to what we saw last year when Allen dumped the ball off to CMC about 100 times. Unfortunately, Allen got hurt early, Washington fell behind and deserted the run game and JD McKissic reemerged as the pass catching back which limited Gibson to 10.1 fantasy points. It was not a total disaster, but Slayton caught 8 passes for 129 yards so I am glad this decision did not come back to haunt me.

Week 5 Team
Deshaun Watson 6900 29.86
Mike Davis 6400 29.9
Antonio Gibson 5000 10.1
Robby Anderson 5900 22.5
Olamide Zaccheaus 3000 2.3
CeeDee Lamb 6000 23.4
Travis Kelce 6400 27.8
Zeke Elliott 7800 23.5
Texans 2600 9
50000 178.36

 


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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte October 17, 2020 11:04

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