Daily Fantasy Sports Buried Treasure: AFC 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.
Buffalo Bills: Tyler Kroft, Tight End
The fantasy community has been abuzz about the prospects of quarterback Josh Allen as he enters his second year. Opinions seem split about Allen’s immediate abilities as a passer, but he showed enough in 2018 for Buffalo to experience genuine excitement heading into 2019. This offseason, the Bills brought in deep threat John Brown and slot man Cole Beasley. They will be paired with the top two receivers from last year, Zay Jones and Robert Foster. Buffalo also does not have any tight ends from last year’s team returning. Enter, Tyler Kroft, the former Cincinnati Bengal. Coming off a year lost mostly to injury, Kroft was a secondary option behind Tyler Eifert. The lone exception was in Week 5 when Kroft suffered what would be a season-ending foot injury. Looking only at 2018 production, Kroft offers little in the way of fantasy interest. Go back just one year, though, and his prospects improve.
In 2017, Kroft had his most productive professional season. As the starting TE for Cincinnati (Eifert was hurt), Kroft set career highs in every meaningful statistical category. Finishing as the TE16 that season, he had seven weeks above the positional average and two where he was TE1.
As the starter for Buffalo, Kroft has the ability to step in and be a meaningful part of the offense. With two backs on the wrong side of 30, the passing game is primed for a prominent role. In 2017, the same year Kroft was having his best season, Charles Clay was TE18. While Clay was a bit more consistent, Kroft showed a much higher upside.
Looking at the players around TE15 and below (Chris Herndon, Mark Andrews, etc.) their pricing stays around the low to mid $3000 range. C.J. Uzomah, who replaced Kroft as the starting TE for Cincinnati only had two weeks above $3500. With as top heavy as TE was last year in DFS, using one of the non-big three was an exercise in the upside. Kroft has shown he can be a TE1-type player for a singular week. That kind of value is very interesting. Think of Kroft as the big names and flashy rookies get priced over him. Do not be surprised if he can sneak in a few boom weeks again in 2019.
Miami Dolphins: Kallen Ballage, Running Back
There has been a lot of turnover in Miami as the old regime of Adam Gase has been turned over in favor of Brian Flores. Flores is fresh off a championship season as the New England Patriots defensive coordinator. There is a lot of uncertainty for this team, as several offensive mainstays are no longer on the team, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Frank Gore. With Gore gone, it would make sense for Flores to feature Kenyan Drake. One thing possibly preventing this is Flores’ offensive coordinator, Chad O’Shea. O’Shea has never before been this high on the coaching ladder and was most recently the New England Patriots wide receivers coach. If O’Shea chooses to use multiple weapons out of his backfield, ala his former co-worker Josh McDaniels, we could see Kalen Ballage breakout.
McDaniels was consistently able to get above average seasons out of his RB2s. The last four seasons, his RB2 has been above the coach average. The skills of the top two players also seem to complement one another in a way that can benefit both players. Last year, Frank Gore started the majority of the games and was a virtual non-entity in the passing game. Drake started half as many games, but still managed 73 targets and 53 receptions. Assuming Drake will be used as more of a pass catcher and occasional runner, similar to James White, Ballage could be used as more of a ground threat.
The potential of Ballage as a runner was on display in Week 15:
Increasing the workload for that guy in his second year would certainly help a new head coach start off well. While the lack of receiving work does put a bit of a cap on Ballage as a DFS commodity, his running skill can compensate. With new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in town, this offense should be better than last year. Opportunities will be there, and Ballage will be a great matchup play based on his raw talent.
As with all DFS related matters, this is the key. Ballage made such a large impression with the run against the Minnesota Vikings, he will not be a complete unknown. Even after that huge play and a 10 carry, 123-yard day his price only increased $700, moving up to $3,700. Given the Dolphins current depth chart, Ballage will get a lot of preseason run. This could lead to a slight inflation of his price, but keep an eye on it heading into Week 1. Do not sleep on Ballage if he manages to hover around the $4,000-$4,500 range or below.
New England Patriots: Maurice Harris, Wide Receiver
The New England Patriots often prefer to sit back and wait in free agency. Other teams will make big name signings on day one, while NWE mines the middle class of NFL veterans to fill out their roster. Of particular interest for NWE fans this offseason is the receiver group. With Rob Gronkowski opting to retire Julian Edelman is the only reliable source of production. The Patriots had to make some moves. While most of the attention will go to Bruce Ellington, he will be priced accordingly. As the second pass receiving option for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ offense, he might not fly that far under the radar. Another new Patriot, Maurice Harris, just might.
McDaniels’ has been able to turn mediocre players into relevant pieces before. In 2012 and 2014, when Rob Gronkowski only started 21 of a possible 32 games, Brandon Lloyd and Brandon LaFell put up the 26th and 22nd ranked WR seasons. Harris might not have the draft pedigree of those two, but he did manage to explode for one week last year. In his second career start back in Week 8, Harris went off for a ten catch 124-yard day. His production is even more impressive once his price is factored in. In DraftKings, Harris only cost $3,300. Week 8 remains his only career game with double-digit targets. Immediately after that game, Harris had another double-digit point day, in Week 9. Right as quarterback Alex Smith seemed to be gaining trust in Harris, he suffered his gruesome leg injury in Week 10.
Prices for Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan, who each operated as the third receiver at times for New England, were mostly low. Dorsett only had one week over $5,000, and eleven less than $4,000. Hogan was more expensive, but mostly because he was expected to feature prominently with Edelman serving a four-game suspension to open the season. After Week 5 his price never went above $4,000. If Harris can keep a price in the sub-$4,000 range and can create a connection with Tom Brady, he could be a huge value.
New York Jets: Elijah McGuire, Running Back
Ending quite an eventful year of doing nothing, Le’Veon Bell became the new king of New York when he signed as a free agent. Immediately, the narrative of the Jets was one of ascension. It seems with Bell and quarterback Sam Darnold heading into his second season, the offense will reach new heights. Beyond perhaps anything the Jets have previously achieved. Currently being ignored, however, is backup running back Elijah McGuire. Despite not playing until Week 10, McGuire showed promise for the Jets and fantasy owners. Once his workload increased in Week 14, he put up three straight games with double-digit points, averaging a line of 45.7 yards rushing, 3 receptions, and 34 yards receiving. In that same stretch, McGuire also scored 4 touchdowns, 3 rushing and 1 receiving. It is interesting to note that all of his scores came inside the red zone. As his touches went up, he began to operate as an above average RB for a cheap price.
The idea that Le’Veon Bell will be able to step right into New York’s offense and thrive is not impossible, but perhaps it is unrealistic. Bell still only has one complete season in his career, and the last season he played he had 406 touches. There were cracks in his game showing up, even then, as his yards per touch was his lowest number since his rookie season. Now, he is expected to bring his unique running style to a line that was mediocre in both pass protection and rushing production last year. The Jets 4.0 yards per rush last year was the fourth-worst mark in the league. Adding Kelvin Beachum and Kelechi Osemele to the left side likely will not be enough of an upgrade to make a marked difference.
Even McGuire’s competition for backup duties are not as daunting as they might appear. The recent signing of Ty Montgomery should not affect McGuire. Last year, after burning all his bridges in Green Bay, Montgomery landed in Baltimore. The Ravens’ team philosophy of running non-stop did not mix well with Montgomery’s skill set as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Still, his production dropped and McGuire would be a better bet to be the first man after Bell. The new coach has talked about managing Bell’s workload, so the backups should see touches. It is just a matter of making sure they go to the better option.
While Montgomery will likely eat into touches early, this should help to drive McGuire’s price down. DraftKings began to increase his price as the starting RB for New York, but even in Week 17 it was only $5,300. If Montgomery can help suppress his price, by the time McGuire re-emerges as the second best option he should be cheap enough to offer great value. Seeing McGuire in the $3,000s would be ideal, and be ready to hop onto him the first week after he breaks out again.