Daily Fantasy Sports Buried Treasure: AFC West
Welcome to DFS Buried Treasure
Every year players emerge from the depths of the roster to shine as a beacon of hope for desperate DFS players. Sometimes these players end up being lineup mainstays, sometimes not. Often these players start as fodder on the back end of the depth chart. Given the right conditions, these players can blow past their meager pricing and provide tremendous value. It is still very early to be thinking of DFS lineups, but this series will try to highlight players with the skills and circumstances to return great value on a likely depressed salary. These might not be for the faint of heart, but there is a lot of potential here. These are the DFS buried treasures, AFC West edition. Previous editions can be found below:
Denver Broncos: DaeSean Hamilton, WR
There is a full blown youth movement underway on the Denver Broncos’ offense. Both of the top two projected running backs are entering their second year. General Manager John Elway selected yet another quarterback inthe draft in Drew Lock to be the eventual starter. And after years of running Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders out at wide receiver, new blood has arrived. Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton were both drafted in 2018, and established themselves as pieces for the future. Sutton has more expectations as the second rounder, but DaeSean Hamilton might be a better value.
As a rookie, Hamilton missed a couple of games in the middle of the season, and wasn’t much of a factor until late in the year. With injuries mounting to the offense, Hamilton stepped in and started the final five games of the season. Once in, and able to establish some flow within the offense, Hamilton looked like a DFS stud in the making.
Look at the actual production provided by Hamilton over the final stretch of games for Denver last season:
That’s three straight weeks above average for the position from a rookie playing in just his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th professional starts. During that four week stretch to finish the season, Hamilton was the most targeted receiving option. More than fellow rookies Courtland Sutton, who is overpriced in most formats at this point, and Tim Patrick. Patrick actually makes an interesting case and is someone worth monitoring for DFS purposes. If he were a few years younger, the buzz around him would certainly be louder than it currently is. As the leader in receptions, targets, and touchdowns the last month, Hamilton offered a glimpse of his true talent. He was also second on the team in yards after the catch while having the shorts average depth of target of the three leading WRs. He was being targeted often and was efficient with his opportunities.
With veteran Emmanuel Sanders working his way back from a torn achilles, the talk around Broncos’ camp is that he will be worked back in slowly. That makes sense given his age and the timeframe of the injury, which occurred in December. Now, Hamilton will work as the second option to start the year. Even if Sanders can come back, Hamilton will be a very appealing slot option. Assuming he can continue to average double-digit points, as he did the last month of the regular season, he can become a poor man’s, Tyler Boyd.
Assuming that Hamilton follows a Boyd-like price trajectory, it should be several weeks before his price catches up to his actual production. Given that Hamilton’s price did not go above the $4,000 range until Week 17, he will likely start the season somewhere in the mid to low $4K range. A decent showing from Sanders in the preseason and training camps would likely help Hamilton too. Either role for Hamilton, as the secondary option or the slot receiver, should help DaeSean exceed his salary. As long as he remains the leader in target share, he will be worthy of consideration for DFS. Add in an extra year of development and Hamilton is in great shape to become a roster mainstay.
Kansas City Chiefs: Carlos Hyde, RB
In Kansas City’s post-Kareem Hunt backfield, Damien Williams stepped in and was a productive player down the stretch. Williams was able to step in and be productive, overcoming a career of underwhelming performance along the way. As great a story as it was, for Williams and Kansas City, the question remains: how much of that success was due to Williams and his abilities, and how much was because of Patrick Mahomes and the high flying Chiefs offense? What would the production look like from a more pedigreed, more previously productive back? We might find the answer this year, as free agent signing, Carlos Hyde is now in the Kansas City backfield.
Set to open training camp as the backup, Carlos Hyde makes more sense as the starter on paper. He was a much more productive player in both college and the NFL. Carlos Hyde had more rushing yards in his first two seasons as part of a running back rotation than Williams has in his entire four-year career. But, Hyde was available for a reason, and he is not considered as high an upside play after a rough 2018. After signing in Cleveland, he was quickly overshadowed by talented rookie RB, Nick Chubb. Then came a trade to Jacksonville, a place where offense went to die last year. A formerly productive RB being ignored due to bad luck and an awful offensive line in front of him on a losing team is a solid recipe for a bounce-back season.
Everyone will be chasing a piece of the high flying KC offense. With Andy Reid as the coach, Patrick Mahomes under center, and elite options at WR and TE in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, this offense should again be near the top of most offensive categories. Last year they set fire to opposing defenses. Looking beyond last year, though, Reid has a solid history of producing above-average RB1 seasons:
Even his RB2 has been above average way more often than not:
Clearly, the RBs under Reid are worth using, and he has shown that he can make journeymen players look like DFS gold. Even the recent news that Tyreek Hill will not be suspended should help the running game. In fact, it actually helps neutralize the major advantage that Williams has over Hyde. Over their careers, Williams has been a much more consistent receiver. Damien has accrued more yards receiving than rushing in his professional career. Aside from the 2017 season, Hyde has never shown much in the passing game. Then, in his last season with San Francisco, Hyde had 88 targets and 59 receptions, more than doubling his career totals up to that point. Should Hyde become the primary runner for Reid and the Chiefs, Williams’ target totals will be hurt by the return of Hill.
The salary for Hyde reflects his falling stature in fantasy circles as the season progressed. Peaking at $5,500 in Week 5, his price decreased steadily after that. In fact, his price only increased twice from that point on and bottomed out near the $3,000 position minimum. Even accounting for a Kansas City bump to his pricing, Hyde should start the season as a solid value. Considering how unlikely players are to trust Hyde to produce early on, rostering him should not only provide value but also help to differentiate your lineups from others. Feel free to take a shot as long as his salary stays at or below his 2018 high of $5,500.
Los Angeles Chargers: Hunter Henry, TE
An emerging annual tradition in the fantasy community is the predicted breakout season for Hunter Henry. Ever since going as the 4th pick in the second round to the Chargers in 2016, people have been dreaming of the day he takes over for Antonio Gates as Philip Rivers’ preferred end zone target. There have been some tantalizing teases from Henry, including a four week stretch from Weeks 3-6 when he averaged 16.25 points per game. Unfortunately, he has yet to reproduce a stretch that productive since. Still, the hope remains he can reach those heights again, and soon. Coming into the 2019 season after recovering from a torn ACL, many questions remain. While he was able to make an appearance in the Chargers’ playoff game against the New England Patriots, he only was on the field for 14 plays. None of those plays included a pass targeted for him, and only appears as a name next to a row of zeroes.
So, why the optimism for Henry? He still possesses the physical stature and football IQ to be useful, even if his considerable athletic ability is slightly compromised. Even that view of him as a player is overly pessimistic. Players commonly return from torn ACLs just as explosive and fast as before the injury. If he can improve on his 2017 season, which was still very good for a second-year TE who was sharing time with a future Hall of Famer:
The potential for Henry is obvious when you look at his production compared to the positional average. When he’s been healthy, he has produced. Now, with Antonio Gates retired, and Henry likely to be the main TE in this offense, he should deliver the type of season analysts have been talking about. It is a small sample size, but Henry’s production without Gates in the lineup just pushes the narrative of Henry as a top TE:
Depending on how Henry looks in training camp and the preseason, his ACL injury might actually help his pricing. A slow start to the season could help depress his salary in DFS games. Should he come out of the preseason looking great, his price point likely would remain palatable. Even in Henry’s 2017 season, his salary in DraftKings never exceeded $4,800. Given how the TE position played out last year, with the top three options being so much better week to week than the rest, Henry can help reestablish a middle tier. In the past, those players existed, and were much more consistent, while still being able to offer a reasonably high ceiling. There should be several weeks where Henry will be underpriced, meaning there should be ample opportunities to fit top-10 positional production into lineups for cheap.
Oakland Raiders: Darren Waller, TE
So, this is a bit of a deep cut. Looking at a list of presumed starting TEs across the league, Waller is likely one of the least recognized. Still, as of now, he is the starting TE for the Oakland Raiders. The team has made some significant moves in the short tenure of coach Jon Gruden. They also are in a much better place, in terms of offensive talent, than they were a year ago. After the high profile acquisition of wide receiver Antonio Brown, drafting Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow, and signing Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson, the Raiders are ready to make some noise in the AFC West. Here is where Waller comes in.
Up until now, Waller has been his own worst enemy. Waller has had issues with drug use in the past, talking openly about his usage of marijuana. It has hurt his career, leading to suspensions in college and the NFL. He lost a year in 2017 due to violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. After being released by Baltimore and picked up by Oakland last year, Waller is ready to make good on the potential he possesses.
Speaking of that untapped potential, Waller has loads of it. A former college WR, Waller is a great blend of size and speed as a TE. Listed as 6’6” and 255 lbs, he put up a 4.46 40 time at the combine. If he managed to have a somewhat productive college career, he would have found himself a first or second-day pick. Instead, he totaled a 51/971/9 line in three seasons and was stuck with the dreaded, “Project” label. Now transitioned to a TE, Waller looks to make his first real impact at the professional level. His athleticism pops on tape and isn’t lost from workouts to on-field play. Take a look at this tweet from Matt Waldman about Waller:
The Darren Waller #Raiders Thread.
A 6'6" TE/WR with 4.46-speed and a 37-inch vertical, Waller's 4.25-second 20-Shuttle is star-caliber acceleration for a WR, much less a TE. Here is it on display with this end-around. pic.twitter.com/NFjS5FUwSO
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) July 18, 2019
Given his extremely limited amount of professional production, there isn’t much to breakdown in terms of his past statistical outcomes. Think of Waller as having had a redshirt season. He is pure potential and could be the type of player that can help win a DFS tournament for you. He’s been in the league and knows what is expected of him.
After being picked up by Oakland last season, teammates and coaches have had nothing but great things to say about the unproven TE. Coach Gruden and QB Derek Carr have been effusive in their praise of him. Not only for his work on the field but his attitude off it. Waller knows he won’t have many more chances, and looks to be ready to take advantage of this opportunity. Last year’s starting TE, Jared Cook, is gone. While the team did sign Luke Wilson and draft Foster Moreau in the fourth round, Waller looks to be the first option for now.
Not much to discuss here either. Given his lack of production up to this point in Waller’s career, he has been priced accordingly. He was at the position minimum, $2,500, all of last season in DraftKings. As the season approaches, he will likely see a bump if he is announced as the starting TE. Still, his salary is very unlikely to go far outside of the $3,000 dollar range. On a team that will likely be throwing a lot, a starting player with his physical gifts is worth a mention at worst, and serious consideration for usage. Call him a sleeper, a steal, or a good value; he has the skill set to put up one or two huge plays each week. For a dart throw type play, that is the upside you are looking for.