Daily Fantasy Sports Buried Treasure: AFC South
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.
Houston Texans: Vyncint Smith, Wide Receiver
This may be one of the more obscure players featured in this series. Smith is a paper stud, possessing some tremendous attributes but little in the way of actual production. Hailing from Limestone College, Smith was a solid performer in his four years. He finished his collegiate career with a 49/849/3 line his senior year. During his pro-day, Smith put up an excellent 4.36 second forty yard dash time and 39.5 inch vertical. He is a deep threat project, who many teams deemed worth a shot. Developing his skills is the focus on all his draft reports, but the raw athleticism is there.
Comparing him to the main deep threat on the Texans roster, Smith has a better than passing resemblance to Will Fuller:
The reason to remember Smith for DFS purposes is simple. Soft tissue injuries. Looking at the Houston wide receiver depth chart, there is a scary injury history for the WR2 and WR3. Fuller is currently six months out from his torn ACL, suffered in October. While he is expected to be back for Week 1, his recovery is not guaranteed. Even fully healed from his ACL, Fuller is no sure thing. He has missed significant time with various leg injuries, including hamstring and hip injuries last season.
Keke Coutee, the presumptive WR3, was only able to play in seven games last year, including one playoff game. He had hamstring issues of his own to overcome. After missing all of the preseason, Coutee had multiple streaks of missed games. Even when playing healthy, though, Coutee serves as more of a slot/possession type receiver. Both Coutee and Fuller are one play away from missing multiple weeks. In this offense, the attention being drawn to top WR DeAndre Hopkins makes the WR2 spot a very attractive play.
Smith was priced as a minimum play every week of the 2018 season. He did start one game, in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, but was ultimately too raw to make an impact. Considering his Division II background, and raw prospect profile, even with the injuries forcing him into the start it was surprising to see him out there against an elite AFC team. Still, with another year of seasoning, and watching Hopkins and Fuller practice under his belt, Smith could return some big value on a rock bottom price. Even his lone touchdown catch last year showed his potential as a receiver.
Smith runs by his defender with ease and is able to throttle down and make the catch. Maybe the most impressive thing in that play is his field awareness. He displayed body control to settle under the pass, secure the ball, and stay in the boundary long enough to complete the play. For someone that raw, this is a surprising play. The type that locks up a roster spot and creates the opportunity for more.
Indianapolis Colts: Chester Rogers, Wide Reciever
Most fantasy players should be familiar with Chester Rogers. The third-year pro set new career highs in several meaningful categories, including games started, targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. There was a three-game stretch, from Week 4 through Week 6, that Rogers averaged 16.2 points per game in DraftKings. Two of those games were on the road, showing Rogers’ ability was not merely a product of fast, indoor turf. Compared to the positional average for those three weeks, Rogers was comfortably above it.
During the 2018 season, the Indianapolis Colts had more passing attempts than all but one team: the Pittsburgh Steelers. Part of the pass-heavy game planning was the lack of consistency coming from the running back position. Marlon Mack looked like a potential bell-cow back at times and was bottled up others. He missed four games last year with a hamstring issue and was also put into the concussion protocol later in the year (although he did not miss any time due to the concussion). For a running back, a combination of soft tissue injury and concussion history is less than ideal.
The other offensive star, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was also banged up often in 2018. While Hilton played in every game, he was constantly appearing on the injury report. If the Colts continue to rely on a pass-heavy attack, expect the WR group to be heavily featured. Look at the current Colts’ WR depth chart, and there are some other options, but none as ready to contribute as Rogers. Devin Funchess is basically a WR failure meme, and new draftee Parris Campbell is very raw as a receiver.
Those additions to the roster should help keep Rogers’ price low to start the season. The secondary receiving option for the Colts jumped around in price. Dontrelle Inman had some decent weeks but never rose above $3,800. Rogers himself peaked at $4,700 in Week 7, right after his three-game stretch of above average finishes. His price quickly sank back down to the mid to low $3,000 range after a couple of bad weeks and a Week 9 absence. Assuming his price stays in the range of $4,000 to mid $3,000s, Rogers should be able to return decent value. His head start in the offense should most strongly manifest in the early part of the season, giving him an additional leg up. The WR2 from the passing offense that finished with the second most passing touchdowns and sixth most yards is worth serious roster consideration.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Oliver, Tight End
This is the first rookie that has been featured as a buried treasure. As a third-round pick of the Jaguars, Oliver will be expected to contribute sooner rather than later. Oliver profiles as a similar player, physically, as previous Foles target Zach Ertz. Both are listed as 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds on their draft profile pages. Ertz is listed as having 31 and 3/4 inch arms and 9 and 3/4 inch hands. Oliver is 33 and 1/2 and 10 and 3/4 for the same measurements. Ertz ran a slower 40-yard dash (4.76 to 4.63 for Oliver), was less explosive in the broad and vertical jumps than Oliver (30.5 and 111.0 for Ertz, 34.0 and 117.0 for Oliver). The young product from San Jose State can step in and fill a void for the Jaguars, as a receiving threat from the tight end position. He also is currently listed at the TE2, behind free agent signing Geoff Swaim. This is very likely a situation where Oliver is the passing threat, while Swaim handles more of the inline blocking duties.
Drafting Oliver filled a team need, as Jacksonville’s tight ends were awful last year, and new QB Nick Foles has made good use of his tight ends in the past. Looking at the “production” the Jaguars got last year, their leading tight end was James O’Shaughnessy. He finished the year with an imposing 24/214 line with no touchdowns. Their main tight end threat, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, was hurt early in the season and the team never really recovered. Even he did not make much of an impact last year, though. In his five games, he averaged just over 2 catches and 18 yards per game. This should not happen again this year, after upgrades at the QB position and the hiring of Foles’ old position coach with the Eagles, John DeFilippo, as the offensive coordinator.
The DeFilippo hiring is important for Foles and Oliver because Foles has targeted his tight ends often the last three years.
In the two years the two worked together (a total of 9 regular season games) his TE finished as TE3 in 2016 and TE4 in 2017.
Getting a physical copy of Zach Ertz in Josh Oliver will help Foles, and having Foles will help Oliver Develop.
Having established a team need for production, and then finding someone to fill that need was good for Jacksonville. His current narrative is reminiscent of Mike Gesicki heading into his freshman campaign. He was a second-round pick walking into a solid opportunity on a team with no real solid TE options. His price never rose above $2,900, which was in Week 1. The expectations were tepid, and Gesicki did not disappoint. But, for Oliver, he has a slightly better offensive situation and a QB with a noted history of targeting his position. Even with that, Oliver’s price should be in the mid $3,000s or less. Should he be listed with anything in the $2,000s he could be a solid dart throw that no one is talking much about now.
Tennessee Titans: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback
Speaking of the Miami Dolphins, their former starting QB is now located in Nashville. Signing with the Titans to back up incumbent starter Marcus Mariota, Tannehill hopes to regain some value as a player. He joins a team with a second-year head coach and big ambitions. Having made the playoffs in 2017, the Titans look to regain that status. Their success, like every team except for the Philadelphia Eagles apparently, is tied to the fate of their quarterback. For Tennessee, their quarterback is coming off a terrible season.
Marcus Mariota had career lows in yards passing, yards passing per game, QBR, and net yards per pass attempt. He also took the most sacks of his career while suffering a host of injuries. Mariota played through a nerve issue that caused numbness in his throwing hand, a torn plantar fascia, a broken rib, and more. While he showed he is tough, he was also just bad, and it is fair to ask if he will ever fulfill his potential. That is all that stands between Tannehill and the starting QB gig in Tennessee.
For all of the complaints about Tannehill as a player in real life, he has had very useful stretches in fantasy formats.
The graphic above shows Tannehill’s 2016 season broken down by points scored per week. He missed one game in Week 8 before suffering a torn ACL later in the season. When he has played and is healthy, he is a better fantasy asset than Mariota. Tannehill has twice thrown for 4,000+ yards and both throw for almost identical career TD% and INT% rates. Mariota has more rushing yards, but on a per game basis, averages less than 10 yards per game more than Tannehill. As a starter, Tannehill leaves much to be desired, but as a backup, he is highly qualified. With more time removed from his ACL injury, Tannehill should be able to get back to the middling heights he achieved pre-injury.
Assuming that Mariota misses time, and Tannehill is thrown into the starting position, he will have very interesting potential against most any opponent. He has been a solid garbage time accumulator in his career, so even a blow out loss is not insurmountable for him. Last year he peaked at $5,500 in Week 4, before his pricing kept him down amongst the backups. That is the baseline for his pricing, and it would likely be well below that. Any starting QB under $5,000 is worth looking at if you need to save salary. Starting them depends on more things, but there is good value to be found for a DFS player. Do not overlook Tannehill because of his bad 2018 season. A spot start for him could be a lucrative opportunity for you.