Daily Fantasy Sports Buried Treasure: NFC East
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, NFC East edition. Previous editions can be found below:
Dallas Cowboys: Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver
Most fantasy players understand that a player’s value can be increased not only by their own talent but the relative lack thereof nearby. This is also true in DFS. Coming into 2018, Michael Gallup is in a great spot to outproduce his early pricing. Gallup is entering his second season in the NFL, after having a mediocre first season with Dallas. The former third-round pick out of Colorado State made a name for himself after two very productive seasons in the Mountain West Conference. As the offseason has progressed, the excitement around Gallup has only grown. While his surface numbers weren’t great, there are reasons to be optimistic about his future performance. Now, with his rookie season behind him, Gallup can move forward. While there are likely to be more ups and downs in 2019, DFS allows us to leverage ownership of Gallup to coincide with his production’s movement.
About that rookie season: it was aggressively “meh.” His final season stat line of 33/507/2 was good for WR77 and left a lot to be desired. Despite that, he did have 68 targets last year. While he did play in all 16 games, he only started half of them and had more opportunities as the season progressed. Prior to the Cowboys Week 8 bye, Gallup averaged 3.1 targets/game. After he was getting more than 5/game, even factoring in a no-show, 0 target performance in Dallas’ bizarre Week 15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. While the correlation of targets to production isn’t perfect, it can be a solid indicator of performance. A full season working as the WR2 in camp, and NFL experience should help Gallup offer better returns on his opportunities. Last year his opportunities outweighed his production, but there is room for improvement in both areas:
You can see above that Gallup did not put up a great PP/Opp ratio. He was ranked 61st in targets for WR, and only managed a WR77 finish. Right above him, at WR76 was Robert Foster, who actually did much better compared to Gallup on a per opportunity basis. Josh Gordon was included as a baseline for a WR4, as he was the WR48. Gallup showed solid receiving ability in college and in his draft workouts. For the games where target data was available, Gallup was catch rates of 57% and 63%, respectively, for 2017 and 2016. An increase in targets for Gallup will bump up his scoring, even with his gross 48.5% catch rate from his rookie season.
The Cooper Effect
Additionally, there is the Amari Cooper effect to consider. That Dallas bye week also marks the time before and after Cooper was added to the roster. Gallup was 27 spots better in PPR ranks with Cooper than without.
The Dallas offense as a whole was better with Cooper on board. Quarterback Dak Prescott jumped to the projected QB2 versus the QB7 with Cooper. Even with the aforementioned shutout loss to Indy, Dallas averaged 2 more points per game with Cooper in town and went 7-2 with him on the roster. All that, and the passing game might get even more volume with a potential Zeke Elliot holdout. Volume will be key for Gallup in 2019, as it is for almost every WR.
An unofficial poll of twitter shows that he is somewhere between Randy Moss and Jerry Rice in terms of expected outcomes, so his hype amongst parts of the market is high. Luckily, that hasn’t translated to his DFS pricing just yet. Last season, Gallup only cost $4,000 in Week 1 and was under that the rest of the season. Already he has eclipsed that mark in Week 1 for 2019, as DraftKings has him at $4,300. Still, for a WR2 on an offense expected to be very good, that is a solid value. Possibly inflating his value is his Week 1 opponent, the New York Giants, who enter the season with a predicted 6 win total per opening Las Vegas lines. Should his pricing trend similar to 2018, where a lack of immediate production leads to a depression in salary, he will end up being a very good value instead of a solid one.
New York Giants: Cody Latimer, Wide Receiver
Honestly, the Giants’ roster is a whole lot of ugly, aside from Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard. Finding value here is hard, but not impossible. Enter Cody Latimer, former Denver Bronco and starting year two with the Giants. As one of the remaining healthy, non-suspended, WRs for Week 1, Latimer will likely step into a starting role right away for the Giants. Latimer has been underwhelming thus far in his NFL career and odds of a major breakout are low at this point. But, Eli Manning will HAVE to throw to someone. Free-agent signee Golden Tate is likely to lose the appeal of his 4 game suspension and presumed WR1 Sterling Shepard is dealing with an injured thumb. Latimer dealt with an array of injuries last year that hindered his ability but had some good moments on the field. Now, as the likely WR2 to start the year, he can become a moderate DFS value with little to no hype to his name.
Sometimes the best ability is availability. Early in training camp, Latimer has been fighting Bennie Fowler for ranking in the WR hierarchy. While there really is no winner in that fight, there was a loser, for now, in Fowler. This would make sense, given the skill set Latimer possesses. Shepard and Tate are both smaller WRs, best deployed in space. Latimer has shown a consistent ability to use his size (6-2, 215) and his prep-basketball background to hold off defenders and make contested catches. In Week 17 last year, Latimer’s only game he received more than 4 targets, he looked good for NY, finishing with a 4/72/1 line. The touchdown catch displayed his concentration and comfort making catches while having a defender close by:
If there is one thing that Eli Manning can do, it’s force the ball into a tight space, whether it should be there or not. And while it comes in an extremely small sample size, Latimer and Manning showed a solid connection last year.
The floor is low. The ceiling is low. But, with his pricing and some more targets, Latimer should be useful for a few weeks.
The bottom of the barrel is approaching! Latimer was one of the cheapest WRs to play meaningful downs last year. He only priced above the position minimum 5 times in 16 games. His price never went above $3,300. DraftKings has decided to return to the well because Latimer is $3,300 for Week 1 in 2019. Assuming Tate’s suspension appeal is denied, he will be one of the cheapest WR2 to start the season. The second his price gets out of the $3,000s or Tate come back, make sure to bail on Latimer. Until then, he can be a reasonable punt option, especially with two bad pass defenses in the first four games. Check in again by the Giants’ Week 3 matchup against Tampa Bay, when there will be a better sense of both his role in the offense and his pricing.
Philadelphia Eagles: Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver
Many Eagles players have been the subjects of extensive think pieces and hot takes about their upcoming season, but one player seems to have flown under the radar, Nelson Agholor. He is certainly not the Eagles most talented pass catcher, but his circumstances dictate a fantasy fate better than the immediate dismissal he has mostly received. Now going into his fifth year and the final one of his current rookie contract, Agholor is in a crowded receiver group. Still on the outside is Alshon Jeffrey, and Zach Ertz is a machine at TE. But the Eagles also brought back DeSean Jackson and drafted rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round. Luckily, since Agholor has found new life as a slot receiver with QB Carson Wentz and coach Doug Pederson in town, he still has a clear role on the team. It’s a talented group on paper, but it wouldn’t take much for the composition of the group to drastically change.
In a word: injuries. Drafting a player for a season-long team based solely on injury speculation is simply a bad draft strategy. However, DFS gives players the flexibility of using players who can immediately benefit from someone else missing time. The Eagles could have some issues here. For as talented as Alshon is, he has also missed 20 games in his 7-year career. DeSean Jackson is going to be 33 this year and hasn’t played a full season since 2013. There will be games where Agholor will be a default WR2 or even WR1. As for JJAW, as great as he may be down the road, rookie WR campaigns tend to be fantasy fool’s gold.
If Jeffrey or Jackson (or both) do miss time, Agholor should be ready. He was the top WR in 2017 (in terms of fantasy points) and WR2 in 2018. Both the WR1 and WR2 positions have been very useful under Doug Pederson in the last two seasons.
Agholor has had highs and lows but shown he is capable with or without a WR1 around.
Again, for a season-long format, Agholor is not ideal, but he has fallen so far (he is currently outside the top 200 for PPR leagues per Fantasy Football Calculator) there is a built in differentiation by rostering him. If Jackson or Agholor are out, and the matchup is good, Agholor could sneak in as a very good GPP play.
The big drop in expectations for Agholor will help manage his salary. Early last year, he was probably one of the more overpriced WR options. As seen above, he was great in Week 2, inflating his price up to $6,100 before several bad weeks dropped him under $4,000. Weeks 16 & 17 brought a huge ROI, scoring 20+ both weeks while also being under $4,000. He is starting 2019 at $3,900 for Week 1 and a quiet start will help drop it a couple hundred more. Even with a known injury that would take Jackson or Jeffrey out shouldn’t drive his price up too much. Rostering Agholor will work even better if Jackson or Jeffrey carry a questionable or doubtful status. They will still likely be priced as if they are going to play. If that happens, Agholor could become an excellent pivot play. The floor is low, but his ceiling is high enough to warrant some exposure in tournaments.
Washington Redskins: Chris Thompson, Running Back
As drafts kick-off, the Washington backfield has been the subject of moderate interest. Derrius Guice and his hamstring have been the main focus so far. After news 0f Guice’s injury broke, Adrian Peterson showed up on fantasy radars again. Ignoring the RBs, the Washington offense is considered underwhelming at best by most of the fantasy community. The WR group is one of the least talented on paper heading into the year, and they have a very uncertain QB situation. Through all of this, a returning veteran has slipped through the cracks, and now, like many other players highlighted in this series, has become a potentially underrated and overlooked commodity. Chris Thompson is ready to bounce back from a rough couple of seasons. Last year he missed 6 games with two different rib injuries, while also dealing with a banged-up knee. Complicating things further was the fact that he was returning from a broken fibula that ended his season in November of 2017.
Prior to that injury, Thompson had been a key part of the Redskins’ offense and was in the middle of a breakout year. That season, Thompson was averaging 51 yards per game receiving and 80.4 total yards/game. He was a well-respected leader on a team without much of an offensive identity. Finally, this season Thompson is healthy and ready to contribute. The roster even has similar question marks on offense that it did in that quasi-breakthrough season in 2017.
Washington is bad. The offense is bad. The defense will probably be bad. Head coach Jay Gruden hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2016 when Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson were catching passes from Kirk Cousins. In 2019, the offense is likely to spread the ball around to several players. The WR depth chart is littered with unproven commodities in Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, and Terry McLaurin and just plain bad players, like Josh Doctson. The best bets to be consistent threats for this team are veterans, Jordan Reed and Thompson. Take a closer look at what a healthy Thompson was doing in 2017:
That’s 6 of 10 games played finishing above the positional average, as the pass-catching back on a mediocre team. The top WR on that Redskins team (by targets) were: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, and Terrelle Pryor. Yuck. Look at the current roster: Quinn is the Crowder-style slot receiver, Doctson is still there, and Richardson and McLaurin figure to be outside threats opposite of Doctson. No one there is currently deserving of even the paltry 78 targets Doctson got last year while leading the WR in that category. Even his bad 2018 started off with back to back 20+ performances, including 13 receptions and 92 receiving yards in Week 2. He can contribute to this offense, and could become a trusted outlet for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins if he becomes the starter.
Of all the players highlighted in this series, Thompson probably has the worst pricing from 2018. After two great performances to kick-off 2018, his pricing went up and was very slow to readjust. There were several games he didn’t even play but was still priced on DraftKings. For example, his second-highest pricing was $6,100 in Week 6, when he was a late scratch due to his first rib injury. By season’s end, he was back down to $3,900 and is even cheaper for this year’s opener, $3,500. With Guice still hurt and Peterson no threat to take receiving work from him, Thompson could return to DFS prominence as soon as Week 1 against the Eagles. Watch his progress and ensure health, but Thompson should surpass his 2017 production in a full season.