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Week 7 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

We had some surprise defenses crack the top-10 in Week 6 with the Atlanta Falcons picking off Kirk Cousins seemingly at will and the Tampa Bay Bucs easily handling Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Even with that, we were able to get six of the top-10 defensive units, but the Indianapolis Colts may be showing some cracks in the armor, and Washington offensive ineptitude surprisingly flipped the script and allowed the Giants to finish as the only top-10 unit in that matchup.

I've been mentioning this for weeks, but it bears repeating that scoring and yards are at an all-time high this year. 4,621 points or 25.4 points per game so far this season and are gaining 363.3 yards per game, which are both the most through the first five weeks of any season in the Super Bowl era. With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 7 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 7 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 7 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 7. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 7 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 7 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Buffalo Bills Defense @ NYJ 13.9
2 1 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. NYG 13.5
3 1 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ DEN 12.3
4 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. CHI 11.8

Perhaps I'm about to be overly hard on the Bills as a life-long Bills fan, but their defense is concerning me right now. Yes, the Jets are a terrible offense. They rank 31st in passing yards, 26th in sacks allowed, 31st in drives ending in a score, and 15th in rushing and now are without Le'Veon Bell. But, as the Chiefs showed on Monday night, the Bills can be run on, even though Frank Gore and the Jets offensive line are not Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Chiefs unit. This is clearly not the same Bills defense that we've seen over the last couple of years. In addition to being gashed by the run, they are dead last in pressure rate. If you are not creating pressure, then you don't give yourself much chance to add fantasy points through sacks and turnovers. With Sam Darnold coming back, the Jets should become a little better on offense, though not much. I know you simply want to play defenses going up against the Jets, and the Bills have enough talented defensive players that you have to imagine they can take advantage of this matchup, but I could just as easily see the Eagles as the #1 DST this week due to their ability to create pressure.

The Eagles have started to get healthier on defense and are currently fourth in the NFL with 21 sacks. The Giants are 25th in the NFL with 17 sacks allowed, so I expect a healthy Eagles defensive front to get in Daniel Jones' face throughout the game which is good news since the Giants are already third-worst in the NFL with 18.4% of drives ending in a turnover. Even without the pressure, the Giants simply aren't a good offense right now. They're 27th passing yards, 28th in rushing yards, and 25th in drives ending in a score. If the Eagles are without Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz, who both left hurt on Sunday, the already sputtering offense will be even more short-handed which could lead to some short fields for the Giants. However, that's not enough to scare me off using this Eagles unit against one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

The Chiefs defense came to play Monday night against a solid Bills offense. The Chiefs send blitzes at one of the highest rates, and although they didn't sack Josh Allen, they were in his face all night long. Kansas City is 7th in the league in pressure rate, tops in quarterback knockdown rate at 1o.6%, and 9th in quarterback hurries. That will be useful against a Denver offensive line that is 22nd in sacks allowed and 5th-worst in the league with 16.7% of drives ending in a turnover. Obviously, having Drew Lock, Melvin Gordon, and Phillip Lindsay back will help the Broncos offense overall, but they don't have the firepower to keep up with the Chiefs and their defense is too banged up to keep the Chiefs from scoring. That will mean the Broncos will be forced to pass in the second half, which will lead to more blitzes, sacks, and turnovers for the Chiefs defense.

The Rams had been riding high on defense before falling short against the 49ers on Sunday night. However, maybe you're noticing a trend, but the Bears offense is simply not as good as the 49ers with all their pieces back. The Bears are 15th in sacks allowed, 18th in passing yards, 25th in rushing yards, and 27th in drives ending in points. While their sack numbers aren't egregious, the Rams defense is 5th in the league in sacks and 5th in drives ending in points against. With Jalen Ramsey likely shadowing Allen Robinson, I don't expect the Bears to be able to move the ball much in this game, which will allow more chances for Aaron Donald and company to get to a super immobile Nick Foles.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense  vs. LV 10.9
6 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense   @ NE 10.6
7 2 New York Giants Defense @ PHI 10.3
8 2 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ TEN 9.8

Tampa Bay thoroughly dominated Green Bay on Sunday, so it's not too much to expect a similar outing against a lesser-talented Las Vegas team. It's clear that losing Vita Vea didn't inhibit the Bucs' ability to stop the run. They're tops in the NFL with only 3.0 yards allowed per carry, which should help them against a Raiders' offense that relies heavily on Josh Jacobs. The Bucs are 3rd-best in pressure rate at 28.3% and second-best sack total, which means that, despite the Raiders not allowing many sacks this season, the Bucs should still be able to generate pressure on Derek Carr and the offense. That's good news considering Las Vegas is 9th-worst in the league in drives ending in turnovers. I expect Tampa Bay to score nearly at will against this Las Vegas defense, and even if the Raiders do put up points, they will also likely cough up a few turnovers. Tampa Bay is just playing too well to bet against right now.

The 49ers came to play on Sunday against the Rams, starting to look a little more like the playoff contenders they've been in recent years. Despite their rash of injuries, they are still fifth in the league in pressure rate, third in quarterback knockdowns and fourth in quarterback hurries. As we saw on Sunday against the Broncos, this is not the same Patriots offense, even with Cam Newton back. They are 17th in sacks allowed, 30th in passing yards, 7th-worst in drives ending in points, and worst in the league in drives ending in an offensive turnover at 19.2%. The Patriots are unlikely to put up lots of points against this 49ers defense, which raises their defensive floor and it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco can also notch a few sacks and force some turnovers.

I honestly can't believe I have the Giants this high, but here we are. They just finished as a top-10 unit against Washington and now will face an Eagles offense that will be without Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz and possibly still without Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson. This is also an Eagles offense that is dead last in sacks allowed, 26th in yards per play, and 27th in drives ending in a turnover. Also, this Giants defense hasn't been as bad as many think. James Bradbury has been great in shadow coverage against opponents' top receivers, and the team is 9th in pressure rate, 10th in sacks, and 10th in quarterback knockdowns. With the Eagles not even entirely sure who will be starting for them at right guard on Thursday, I expect the Giants to be able to get into Carson Wentz's face throughout what should be an ugly game with lots of turnovers.

The Steelers absolutely dismantled the Browns on Sunday. Now they will get a much stiffer test in the Tennessee Titans. I think the Steelers are the best defense in the NFL, but the Titans are no joke on offense, so it moves Pittsburgh down a little bit in our weekly ranks. The Titans offense is second in the league in drives that end in a score, fourth in the league in yards per play, and best in the league in sacks allowed. However, there is only so far down that I can drop a Steelers defense that is the best pressure defense in the NFL by a large margin. Their 38.9% pressure rate is well above the second-best rate of 29.2%. The Steelers blitz the most in the league (46.3%), have the most quarterback hurries, and are 2nd-best in yards per rushing attempt at 3.3 yards. Add to that the fact that the Titans just lost starting left tackle Taylor Lewan to a torn ACL, and I think the Steelers will be able to get some pressure on Ryan Tannehill in this game.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. JAX 9.3
10 3 Cleveland Browns Defense @ CIN 8.9
11 3 New England Patriots Defense vs. SF 8.6
12 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. CAR 8.3
13 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ LAR 7.7
14 3 Washington Football Team Defense vs. DAL 7.5
15 3 Green Bay Packers Defense @ HOU 6.9

The Chargers are fresh off the bye and have two weeks to prepare for a Jaguars offense that has been struggling with consistency of late. While Jacksonville is 6th in passing yards, Minshew has also thrown 11 interceptions, the offensive line has given up the 18th most sacks, and the Jaguars have the 7th-most drives ending in a turnover. The Chargers may only have eight sacks on the season, but they are 11th in pressure rate and 3rd in quarterback hurries. The Chargers are getting healthier on defense with Melvin Ingram and Justin Jones back both at practice. If either one of them, or both, is able to return on Sunday, it would be a big boost to a pass rush that could wreak havoc on an over-matched Jaguars offensive line.

As I mentioned above, the Browns got trampled on Sunday by the Steelers, but their defense had been playing good football up until that point. They will also face a much softer test this week. The Bengals are 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed, 24th in drives ending in points, and have an offensive line that has been below average in almost every blocking metric. The Browns defense is 6th in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing only 3.6 yards per attempt, but they have been destroyed through the slot. That means the Bengals only hope is Joe Burrow to Tyler Boyd. If the Browns can build an early lead against a bad Bengals Defense and force passing downs, it will give more opportunity for sacks for a defense that is 2nd in the NFL in quarterback hurries and 2nd-best in the league in drives that end in an offensive turnover at 18.2%.

The Patriots defense certainly wasn't the reason they lost to the Broncos on Sunday. They are 4th in the league in pressure rate and best in the league in drives ending in a defensive turnover. That pressure will be a factor on Sunday considering the 49ers are 27th in the league in sacks allowed and may not have as strong of a running game with Raheem Mostert out to keep the Patriots from coming after Jimmy Garropolo. What keeps me from pushing the Patriots into the top-10 is the fact that their defensive faults have been overshadowed a bit by the talent-level of opponents and gamescript. They are 18th in the NFL in yards per play allowed, 13th in yards allowed per carry, 15th in drives ending in a score, and 27th in yards allowed per pass attempt. The 49ers offense is middle of the road in drives ending in turnover and has been much better at protecting the ball with Jimmy G and Deebo Samuel back in the lineup. I expect them to take better care of the ball and scheme ways to take advantage of a Patriots defense that is giving up a fair amount of yards per play and surviving by slowing down the pace of play.

The Saints will come off their bye week with two weeks to prepare for a Carolina offense that is 19th in sacks allowed and just scored 16 points against the Bears. Teddy Bridgewater has been solid for the Panthers, but he also has five interceptions to only six touchdowns on the season. With the Saints offense expected to get Michael Thomas back, they should exploit a vulnerable Panthers Defense and force Bridgewater to have to throw often to keep up. That will leave open opportunities for a defense that had the bye week to get healthy. What this comes down to for me is simply that the Saints have been a strong defensive unit for a couple of years now and have too many good players to keep giving up this many yards and touchdowns through the air. With Sean Payton and company coming out of the bye week, I expect them to begin to right the ship.

The Bears defense showed up to play against a solid Panthers offense on Sunday, but this still a defense that is underperforming its previous levels. They are 21st in pressure rate, 24th in quarterback hurry percentage, and 15th in drives ending in an offensive turnover. The best way to slow down the Rams offense is to get pressure on Jared Goff. However, the Bears pressure rate matched up against a Rams offense that is 4th in the league in sacks allowed doesn't give me confidence that Goff will be under a lot of pressure. That means he can manage an offense that is 10th in yards per play and 4th in expected points contributed by the offense.

What we saw from the Cowboys offense on Monday night made me even more confident in playing the Washington defense against them. The Cowboys may be 21st in sacks allowed, but their cobbled together offensive line gave up a ton of pressure against the Cardinals, and the task won't be any easier against a Washington team that is 8th in sacks, 13th in pressure rate, and 11th in quarterback hurry rate. The Cowboys offense is 31st in the NFL in offensive drives ending in a turnover and clearly doesn't have the firepower to score quickly with Andy Dalton under center. I don't expect Washington to handle them the way Arizona did, but a few turnovers and sacks seem likely.

The Bills' offense set the league on fire for the first four weeks, but we've seen the return of frazzled Josh Allen. The strong-armed quarterback has continued to score points and gain yardage with his legs, but he has also begun turning the ball over a bit more and the Bills are now 25th in the league drives ending in a turnover. The Jets get pressure at a below-average rate and their offense continues to put the defense in poor positions, but if Josh Allen is trending towards past issues with inaccuracy and holding onto the ball too long, it's likely going to lead to some questionable decisions, sacks, and maybe turnovers.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ WAS 6.7
17 4 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. PIT 6.3
18 4 New York Jets Defense vs. BUF 5.9
19 4 Denver Broncos Defense vs. KC 5.1
20 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense vs. CLE 4.9
21 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ ARI 4.4
22 4 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. DET 3.9

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs. SEA 3.4
24 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. LAC 2.9
25 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense vs. TB 2.3
26 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ ATL 1.9
27 5 Houston Texans Defense vs. GB 1.1
28 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ NO 0.9
29 5 Miami Dolphins Defense BYE 0.0
30 5 Baltimore Ravens Defense BYE 0.0
31 5 Indianapolis Colts Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense BYE 0.0


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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Matchups and Start/Sit 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 6 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

I was riding high after predicting eight out of the top ten defenses two weeks ago, but we saw some craziness this Sunday (along with some top tier defenses postponed or canceled), which caused only a 50% success rate in identifying top-10 units. Miami throttling San Francisco was truly a surprise, as was a Kansas City defense that hadn't allowed more than 20 points in any game this season allowing 40 points to Las Vegas.

I touched on this last week, but teams have now scored 3,900 points or 25.6 points per game so far this season and are gaining 367.4 yards per game which are both the most through the first five weeks of any season in the Super Bowl era. With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 6 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 6 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 5 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 6. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 6 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 6 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ PHI 13.4
2 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. DEN 12.9
3 1 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. CIN 12.1
4 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. CLE 11.6

Yes, Philadelphia is set to get a little bit healthier on offense with the returns of Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, and they just put up 29 points on the Steelers, but they are also the third-largest underdog on the slate, according to Las Vegas.  The Eagles are still going to be hobbled on the offensive line, and Lane Johnson is getting a second opinion on his troublesome knee, which is an even bigger issue than their beleaguered receiving corps. Philadelphia has allowed the third-most sacks in the league, with 19 in only five games. The relentless pressure has also caused Carson Wentz to throw nine interceptions, which is the most in the league. As I mentioned above, I'm not really concerned if the Eagles are able to put up 20 points in this game since most teams are doing that relatively consistently this year. The Ravens defense hasn't been elite this year, ranking only 14th in pressure ate, but they are 6th in the NFL in sacks and should find themselves in the backfield consistently on Sunday, racking up sacks and causing a few interceptions. All of which makes them one of the best bets at DST in Week 6.

Holding the Chiefs offense in check the way the Patriots did during the first half last Monday night was a truly impressive feat; however, I'm not sure we should have expected much different from Bill Belichick. Yes, the Chiefs wound up with 26 points and the win, but their offense was stalled way more than usual. Belichick has always been an incredible defensive coach, but now his task gets significantly easier on Sunday, even if the Denver Broncos get Drew Lock back under center. The Patriots may only have six sacks on the season, but they are second in the NFL in pressure rate at 30.9% and third in the league with 26 quarterback hurries, numbers that are more impressive when you consider that three of the four teams the Patriots have played are in the top-13 in pressure allowed. Meanwhile, the Broncos were 28th in the league with 13 sacks allowed before missing this Sunday with a "BYE" and simply don't have the playmakers to scare these Patriots defenders. Yes, Jerry Jeudy will be good, but he's not somebody that is going to consistently get the better of Stephon Gilmore, who should be back from his COVID diagnosis on Sunday. I expect the Patriots to control this game and cause lots of problems for the Broncos offense.

The Colts are the second-largest favorite according to Vegas odds, but this game will hinge on the health of their defense. Star linebacker Darius Leonard missed Sunday's game against the Browns with a groin injury and, despite playing, fellow linebackers Anthony Walker and Bobby Okerele were banged up during the week and came into the game hobbled. As a result, the Colts gave up 385 yards to the Browns and lost 32-23. The Colts were able to pick Baker Mayfield off twice, but only got one sack against the Browns stalwart offensive line. It will be a much different story on Sunday against a Bengals offensive line that has been one of the worst in football, allowing a league-leading 22 sacks, including seven last week to a Ravens team that has consistently gotten less pressure on the quarterback than Indianapolis. That's good news for a Colts defense that is 8th in the NFL in pressure rate and 9th in quarterback hurry percentage. With Phillip Rivers more likely to find success against the Bengals Defense than he did against the Browns, and the Bengals likely playing this game without A.J. Green (who admittedly wasn't really productive when in) the Colts should get up early in this game and take advantage of a weak Bengals offensive line.

As I mentioned above, the Browns don't give up a lot of sacks, but Baker Mayfield is still one of the more turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league. Only 53.2% of his passes have been on target, according to Pro Football Reference, and he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league last year when pressured. So far this season, he has only been pressured on 13.5% of dropbacks and has been hurried a total of 13 times in five games. That has allowed him to curtail some of his mistakes (even though there have been a few head-scratching throws); however, the Steelers have the third-highest blitz percentage at 38.7% and the best pressure rate in the league at 38.1%. Since the Steelers are second in the league with only 3.3 yards allowed per rush, the Browns may have to turn to Baker more often than they want. If he is not able to stand in a clean pocket, he's more liable to make mistakes that lead to turnovers. Pairing that with the likely low-scoring total in this division rivalry, and I like the Steelers as a high floor offense with a good chance at a defensive touchdown.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Miami Dolphins Defense  vs. NYJ 11.3
6 2 Washington Football Team Defense @ NYG 10.4
7 2 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. HOU 10.2
8 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ SF 9.8

The Dolphins defense just manhandled a near-full strength 49ers team, so it makes sense to have faith in them to put up a similarly inspired effort against an undermanned Jets team. Le'Veon Bell came back, but his usage continued to be questionable. Sam Darnold missed last week, as did left tackle Mekhi Bechton, but they may return this weekend which would be a boon for the Jets. The Dolphins as a unit have been fairly average on the year, ranking 13th in pressure rate and 16th in hurry percentage despite being tied for 7th in sacks. This pick is really more about the ineptitude of the Jets offense that is 25th in the league in sacks allowed and 28th in total yards.

If we're attacking the Jets, then we should also be attacking the other New Jersey (sorry, New York) team. The Giants put up 30+ points against the Cowboys, but that is more about Dallas featuring one of the worst defenses in the league than the Giants all of the sudden becoming a strong offense. Devonta Freeman lacks explosiveness and Darius Slayton gives the Giants one consistent weapon on the outside, but he doesn't have much help. Washington got Chase Young back this Sunday, which is great news for a pass rush that suffered a bit without him. However, on the year, they are 3rd in the league in interceptions, sixth in the league in sacks, 12th in quarterback hurry rate, and will now face a Giants team that is 27th in total yards and 26th in sacks allowed. I think Washington will be a surprisingly high-scoring defensive unit this week.

As of this writing, the Titans have only played one half of football in two weeks, but they look pretty good for a team that was a bit short-handed due to their COVID designations. Another week should allow them to get talented players that Kristian Fulton and Jeffrey Simmons back in the fold. Coming into Tuesday night's game, they are fourth in the league in pressure rate and first in quarterback knockdowns, despite having only four sacks. That tells me that a big week is coming, and who better to have it against than a Texans offensive line that is 28th in sacks allowed. The Titans defense is 7th in the league in drives ending in points, so I expect them to keep this from turning into a truly high-scoring affair, especially with Derrick Henry grinding down a weak Texans Defense, so I feel more confident in using the Titans this weekend.

As I mentioned above, the Dolphins defense held the 49ers to 259 yards of offense, picked off two passes, and registered five sacks. They've also consistently generated a worse pass rush than the Rams throughout the season. That makes me a little bullish on a Rams defense that is 9th in the NFL in pressure rate and tied for first in sacks. The 49ers are 29th in the league in sacks allowed and are clearly discombobulated right now as they recover from a slew of injuries, which means it's the wrong time to have to face Aaron Donald. The Rams defense has been steadily improving on the season, so I look for Los Angeles to take advantage of a beaten-down 49ers team.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 New York Giants Defense vs. WAS 9.1
10 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ BUF 8.9
11 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ CAR 8.4
12 3 New York Jets Defense @ MIA 8.1
13 3 San Francisco 49ers Defense  vs. LAR 7.9
14 3 Denver Broncos Defense @ NE 7.6
15 3 Cleveland Browns Defense @ PIT 7.1

OK, we all know the Giants defense is not that good, but Washington's offense may be worse. They benched Dwayne Haskins and got even worse production from Kyle Allen and Alex Smith. It was great seeing Smith back on the field, but he was hit constantly and he clearly doesn't have the mobility that he used to. The Giants are 11th in pressure rate and 12th in sacks, but this play is simply about attacking one of the worst offenses in the NFL. If Alex Smith starts again, which should be expected, the Giants really only have to worry about stopping Terry McLaurin and can go to work on an offensive line that is 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed with 21 in five games.

The Bills offense has been an elite offense this season, but they looked relatively mediocre in a first half without John Brown and both starting right guard Jon Feliciano and his back-up Brian Winters. That's not a great sign against a Chiefs defense that is 7th in the league in pressure rate. Josh Allen has gotten away with a few questionable throws heading into Tuesday night, and then had those decisions come back to bite him against the Titans on national television. The Chiefs were exposed against the Raiders on Sunday, but this is still a strong defensive unit that blitzes the 6th-most in the league and could cause problems for replacements on the Bills'offensive line. I think this game will be fast-paced and involve a fair share of sacks and turnovers.

The Bears defense has so far lacked the bite of recent seasons, ranking 18th in pressure rate, 16th in sacks, and 23rd in quarterback hurry percentage. They're also 12th in the number of drives ending in scores and will face off against a surprisingly strong Panthers offense that has the fourth-most yards in the league. The Panthers have allowed the 15th-most sacks in the NFL, so it's likely that the Bears bring down Bridgewater a couple of times, but this isn't the slam dunk game people would have assumed once Christian McCaffrey went down.

I know we don't want to pick on the Dolphins offense after what they just did to San Francisco, but we've seen enough of Ryan Fitzpatrick to know that turnovers are always on the table when he takes the field. The Jets' secondary has struggled, but they are 9th in the NFL with five interceptions, tied for third in quarterback knockdowns, and are 17th in the NFL in pressure rate, so they still have a little bit of pep, unlike the offensive side of the ball. Maybe I'm alone here, but I think we could just as easily see the Dolphins throw two interceptions and yield three-plus sacks as I can see them turn in another rout.

This hasn't been a great season for the 49ers, and they've lost some key pieces on the defensive line, but they are still 5th in the NFL in pressure rate and 7th in quarterback knockdowns, which means they're getting after the quarterback. The Rams have only allowed seven sacks total on the season and are third in the league in total yards, so they will score points and keep the 49ers from putting up a massive fantasy total, but we all know how Jared Goff's play diminishes when he's under pressure, so there's a chance we can see Bad Goff on Sunday in a messy game overall. I think the 49ers are too well-coached to come out and lay another egg.

An extra week means the Patriots will most likely be starting Cam Newton in this game instead of Jarrett Stidham, which is, as I'm sure you know, a massive difference. The Broncos defense is still 6th in the NFL in pressure rate and 5th in quarterback hurry percentage, but they banged up enough that I'm not sure they can contain a well-coached Patriots offense for the entire game. I just don't see a lot of upside in the matchup, especially with how the Broncos offense put their defense in bad positions throughout the entire game against the Jets. However, I think the Broncos can get to Cam a couple of times, and I can't envision this being a high-scoring, or exciting, football game.

The Browns have played really solid defense of late, including a strong game in limiting an admittedly average Colts offense. The Steelers have a near-elite offensive line that has allowed only six sacks in four games and should have little problem with a Browns pass rush that has a mediocre 19.6% pressure rate. However, the Browns do lead the league in quarterback hurries with 30, which could cause problems for Ben Roethlisberger since the veteran loves to hold the ball a little longer than he should. Chase Claypool was superb last week, but if Diontae Johnson misses next week, Claypool will really need to deliver against since JuJu Smith-Schuster will likely get a heavy dose of Denzel Ward. I expect this to be a grinding, low-scoring game that should keep the fantasy DST floors relatively safe.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Buffalo Bills Defense vs KC 6.9
17 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ TB 6.3
18 4 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. CHI 6.1
19 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ IND 5.3
20 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. GB 4.9
21 4 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ DAL 4.5
22 4 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. DET 4.2

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Houston Texans Defense @ TEN 3.8
24 5 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. BAL 3.1
25 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ JAX 2.7
26 5 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs ARI 2.1
27 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ MIN 1.2
28 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. ATL 0.9
29 5 New Orleans Saints Defense BYE 0.4
30 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense BYE 0.3
31 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Seattle Seahawks Defense BYE 0.0


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Week 5 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

After successfully predicting eight out of the top ten defenses last week, we may be starting to hit our groove. Some of them felt a bit like gimmes, but the Jets in the top-10 was the subject of criticism and watching the Bills round into form a bit was also nice. The only two outliers here were my faith in the Seahawks Defense to capitalize on Ryan Fitzpatrick's mistakes, and my belief that the Cardinals Defense could curtail the Christian McCaffrey-less Panthers. However, the Cam Newton news on Saturday (after the rankings were published) also drastically shifted the defensive landscape.

Now four weeks in, certain stats have started to stabilize and we have a good idea that the limited preseason may be impacting defenses more than offenses. Entering Monday night, teams had scored 3,151 points, which was already the most through the first month of any season in the Super Bowl era. On top of that, there has been a combined average of 13.65 penalties per game, down from an average of 18.54 through the same stretch last season. All of this is causing offenses to put up video game numbers, which means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weakpoints and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 5 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 5 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 5 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 5. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 5 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 5 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense  vs.PHI 14.1
2 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. DEN 13.4
3 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. CIN 12.1
4 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ WAS 11.4

Having a game postponed due to positive COVID tests is never a good thing, but it did give the Steelers an extra few days to gameplan for Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Coming into Sunday's victory over to the 49ers, the Eagles offense was a shell of itself. Repeated injuries to their offensive line, as well as to Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, and Jalen Reagor left Wentz with practice squad wide receivers. Even though the Eagles scored 25 points and won the game on Sunday night, they only gained 267 yards of total offense against a defense that has been decimated by injuries. Alshon Jeffrey may come back next week, but he's going to be incredibly rusty, and the Eagles offensive line will still be the walking wounded, especially with the revelation that Lane Johnson will have to play the entire season through injury. Through four games, the Eagles are allowing a tremendous amount of pressure, tied for 29th in the NFL in sacks allowed, and the Steelers lead the league in blitz percentage (51.2%) and pressure rate (46.5%). San Francisco was able to get to Wentz three times despite losing yet another defensive lineman (Ezekiel Ansah) to injury, so I expect the Steelers to make his life miserable this weekend.

Holding the Chiefs offense in check the way the Patriots did during the first half on Monday night was a truly impressive feat; however, I'm not sure we should have expected much different from Bill Belichick. Yes, the Chiefs wound up with 26 points and the win, but their offense was stalled way more than usual. Belichick has always been an incredible defensive coach, but now his task gets significantly easier on Sunday against Brett Rypien (most likely) and the Denver Broncos. Fresh off of throwing three interceptions and almost giving the game away against the Jets, Rypien looks like fresh meat to the Patriots coaching staff. The Patriots may only have six sacks on the season, but they are sixth in the NFL in pressure rate at 26.9% and seventh in the league with 19 quarterback hurries, numbers that are more impressive when you consider that three of the four teams the Patriots have played are in the top-13 in pressure allowed. Meanwhile, the Broncos are 28th in the league with 13 sacks allowed and simply don't have the playmakers to scare these Patriots defenders. Yes, Jerry Jeudy will be good, but he's not somebody that is going to consistently get the better of Stephon Gilmore right now. I expect the Patriots to control this game and cause lots of problems for Rypien. UPDATE: Stephone Gilmore recently tested positive for COVID, which will likely downgrade this defense, slightly, when I update the rankings after Thursday's game. 

The Ravens surprisingly allowed 343 total yards to Washington in their 31-17 victory on Sunday, coming away with only one sack and one turnover against Dwayne Haskins, who had been on the verge of demotion before the game began. To make matters more troubling, Washington is currently 25th in the league with 13 sacks allowed, so the fact that the Ravens couldn't get to Haskins often is mildly concerning and a microcosm of their larger issues. On the season, the Ravens are tied for a disappointing 15th in the league with nine sacks and are 22nd with only a 20.4% pressure rate. Those numbers simply aren't going to do it. However, the Bengals may be just what the doctor ordered. Despite their victory against Jacksonville, and Joe Mixon's big day, the Bengals offensive line has been horrendous. They get very little push in the running game and are 31st in the league with 15 sacks allowed. I'm betting on the talent the Ravens have on defense, and if they can't come away with multiple sacks this weekend, it may be time to move them out of the elite tier.

After getting shellacked in the first half against the Bills, the Rams defense has really started to wake up. They were getting no pressure on the quarterback early in the season, but are now fifth in the NFL in sacks and 17th in pressure rate, which is a major improvement over the last two weeks. They now get to face the aforementioned Washington offense, which should be no contest for this Rams defense. With Jalen Ramsey more than capable of making life hard on Terry McLaurin, Haskins will need to consistently move the ball with his other options on offense. I simply don't seem that happening against a Rams defense that is playing fast and hungry. They got to Daniel Jones five times on Sunday, and I expect more of the same this week. Remember, Dwayne Haskins was on the verge of being benched for Kyle Allen. One mediocre game doesn't all of the sudden make him a much better quarterback.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense  vs. MIA 11.1
6 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ CHI 10.6
7 2 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. CLE 10.1
8 2 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ NYJ 9.8

As I mentioned above, the 49ers just suffered yet another defensive injury, but they are also second in the NFL with a 30.9% pressure rate and held the Eagles to under 300 yards of total offense. The good news for the 49ers is that there is a chance they get linebacker Dre Greenlaw and cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley, K'Waun Williams, and Ahkello Witherspoon back in time for the game against Miami. While those won't help their decimated pass rush, getting some starters back in the secondary will be crucial for a match-up against pass-happy Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins. The Harvard graduate as thrown the third-most interceptions in the league, but the Dolphins have only allowed six sacks per game, so that San Francisco pressure rate will be put to the test. I expect the 49ers to grind this game out on the ground, not giving Miami a chance to run as many plays as they did this weekend. That will lead to this being a low-scoring game with a Fitz interception or two thrown into the mix for a solid overall game at the office of the Niners defense.

While the Chargers put up 31 points against the Bucs on Sunday, only 24 of those came against the defense, and, as mentioned above, scoring is up across the league, so we can't judge a defense only by the amount of points they give up. The Bucs limited the Chargers to 324 total yards; yet, 125 of them came on two touchdowns passes by Justin Herbert. Now, those still count, but that means, outside of two big plays, the Bucs held the Chargers to 199 yards on 48 plays, or 4.1 yards per play. The only reason I bring that up is that the Chicago Bears with Nick Foles are not the kind of explosive offense to take advantage of the Bucs' tendency to give up big plays. However, they also aren't the type of offense to give up a ton of sacks, as they held the Colts high-pressure defense to only one. They also only put up 11 points in a loss. I don't think the Bears are going to do much damage on offense and the Bucs are currently fourth in the NFL in sacks and 3rd in pressure rate (29.9%), so they'll likely get to Foles once or twice and at least pressure him into some bad throws since I expect the Bears to be playing from behind.

Losing Nick Chubb is a major blow for the Browns offense. Yes, they still have Kareem Hunt, but those two as a tandem never gave the defense a chance to breathe. While Hunt is explosive, he doesn't have Chubb's power inside and isn't as effective in goal-line situations. The rushing offense is absolutely crucial to the Browns' success because it puts less pressure on the erratic play of Baker Mayfield. In Sunday's win, the Browns ran for 307 of their 508 total yards. That's going to be a lot harder to do against a Colts defense that is 6th in the NFL with 3.6 yards allowed per attempt and tops in the league by allowing only 26.7% of drives end in points. If the Browns aren't able to control the game on the ground and use it to set up play-action then Mayfield is going to have to put more weight on his own shoulders against a Colts defense that is 4th in the league in pressure rate (27.9%), tied for 8th in sacks, and tied for 10th in quarterback hurries. A game where Baker throws more usually means more interceptions and less high-scoring offense, especially against a defense that isn't allowing many points to begin with.

It's pretty clear after four weeks that you play your defenses against the Jets. Even the Browns Defense that had lost nearly every impact starter other than Bradley Chubb still put up a reasonable performance. Believe it or not, this Cardinals defense is better. They are tied for 6th in the league with 11 sacks and are 15th in drives that end in a score. They're relatively average in both rushing and passing defense, but they have been a bit weaker against the run this year,  a fact which shouldn't hurt them much against Frank Gore and the Jets. The Cardinals will also likely get safety Budda Baker back this week, which only makes them a stronger play. On the other side of the ball, I simply can't see the Jets Defense stopping Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, provided the veteran receiver is healed enough from a foot injury that clearly hampered him against Carolina. If the Cardinals are scoring points, that will put the Jets in catch-up mode, and they simply don't have the offensive line to consistently protect Darnold in that situation. The young signal-caller has made some great plays this year, but is also making more head-scratching mistakes as a result of his dismal supporting cast. I expect more of the latter on Sunday.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Buffalo Bills Defense @ TEN 9.5
10 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. LV 9.4
11 3 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. BUF 8.5
12 3 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. IND 8.2
13 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. LAC 7.9
14 3 Denver Broncos Defense @ NE 7.4
15 3 Houston Texans Defense vs. JAX 7.1

The Bills defense is starting to come around. They kept Raiders star Josh Jacobs in check for much of Sunday afternoon and stifled an admittedly banged up Raiders offense until a garbage-time touchdown at the end of the game. However, this is a different task. The Bills are still only 16th in the NFL in yards allowed per carry with 4.4, and the Titans will bring bruiser Derrick Henry with them on Sunday. Now, the Titans offensive line hasn't been great and they're currently 27th in the league with only 3.8 yards per attempt, but we know Henry's talent and the Bills also lost linebacker Matt Milano to injury on Sunday, so if he's unable to play, this advantage swings even more to Tennessee. With news that wide receiver A.J. Brown is on track to return Week 5, this becomes a more dangerous Titans offense. Considering they've only allowed four sacks on the year, I don't expect the Bills to get to Ryan Tannehill that much, which means this could be a slow, low-scoring game that won't yield too many fantasy points. UPDATE: With more Titans testing positive for COVID, this game has a real chance to be postponed or outright canceled (with Tennessee forfeiting) since the Titans have already had a bye. Get a back-up option ready. 

The Chiefs just came out of that Monday night game with a dominating win over the Patriots, even though it was a version without Cam Newton. However, the Chiefs defense is 9th in the NFL in pressure rate, fifth in the NFL in sacks, and third in interceptions. That opportunistic nature is going to be important against a Raiders offensive line that's banged up and looked to tire in the second half against the Bills. What's more, it's unclear if the Raiders will get Henry Ruggs or Bryan Edwards back for this game, leaving Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow as the main pass-catching options. If that's the case, the Chiefs defense may move up in the rankings, but I think Derek Carr will be throwing in catch-up mode all game long, which will lead to garbage points, but also a lot of turnovers and sacks.

The Bills offense has been on fire to start the season, but they've also not played a defense that is the same caliber as the Titans. Add to that that the Titans had extra days to prepare for this Bills team, and you could see the first rough Sunday for this Buffalo offense. The Bills offensive line is without Jon Feliciano and also lost Brian Winters on Sunday; that's not great for a line that is already 18th in the league in sacks allowed. The Titans may only have four sacks, but they are 5th in the NFL in pressure rate and second in quarterback knockdowns, so they are likely going to be in Josh Allen's face. The quarterback's near-injury and horrible fourth-quarter sack on Sunday show that there are still chinks in his armor. If the Titans can get pressure on him, they can turn some of that Hero Ball mentality into some turnovers, which will be crucial in what should be a low-scoring game. UPDATE: With more Titans testing positive for COVID, this game has a real chance to be postponed or outright canceled (with Tennessee forfeiting) since the Titans have already had a bye. Get a back-up option ready. 

The Browns defense is decidedly average when it comes to pressure rate (16th) and quarterback knockdowns (30th), but they are tops in the league in quarterback hurries and 8th in yards allowed per rushing attempt at 3.9 yards. Those last two stats are particularly important in this game because Phillip Rivers remains relatively immobile, and the Colts will try to win this on the ground. TY Hilton has looked like a shell of his former self and has yet to top 87 yards in a game since Andrew Luck retired. If the Colts can't get Jonathan Taylor going against a solid run defense, then I expect a fair share of stalled drives and punts. The Colts offensive line is good enough to prevent many sacks, but I expect an interception from the Browns and a really ugly game without many points scored.

The Saints secondary is beyond banged up right now, and Justin Herbert actually looks pretty good. However, the loss of Austin Ekeler hurts the Chargers offense enough to keep the Saints in play in deeper leagues. The Saints had done a decent job containing the Lions, limiting them to 281 yards on the day, 112 of which came on two scoring drives when the game was essentially already decided. Still, this is a team that's 27th in the league in pressure rate and 28th in drives ending in points allowed with 53.1%, so there is cause for concern. If the Saints secondary, particularly Marshon Lattimore, can come back healthy on Sunday, then I like them to take advantage of a banged-up Chargers team and a rookie quarterback. If not, I would stay away from this game.

This ranking is assuming that Cam Newton misses another week since he was diagnosed with COVID-19, which has a 14-day quarantine period. With Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham under center, this offense simply isn't scary. The Broncos defense is banged up enough that I'm not sure they can contain a well-coached Patriots offense for the entire game, so I just don't see a lot of upside in the matchup, especially with how the Broncos offense but their defense in bad positions throughout the entire game against the Jets. However, I think a few turnovers are in store with those either of those players at quarterback, and I can't envision this being a high-scoring, or exciting, football game.

Don't look now, but we have a Replacement Coach Narrative. After the Texans fired Bill O'Brien, there was a report that the Texans players felt a sense of relief. They will now be playing for Romeo Crennell, the defensive coordinator, who appears well-loved in the locker room. However, that's not reason enough to want to play them. What is the reason is that the Jaguars are 27th in the league in sacks allowed and the Texans are tied for 10th in the league in sacks. The Texans blitz the 7th most in the league, which could confuse a mediocre Jaguars offensive line and cause issues for Gardner Minshew, who already has four interceptions on the year. I expect the Texans to be fired up and think they could dominate the Jaguars in this game.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. NYG 7.0
17 4 New York Jets Defense vs. ARI 6.6
18 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. MIN 6.5
19 4 Chicago Bears Defense vs. TB 5.2
20 4 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ PIT 4.9
21 4 Washington Football Team Defense vs. BAL 4.5
22 4 Miami Dolphins Defense @ SF 4.2

Yes, I know the Cowboys are playing the Giants, but they just gave up over 500 yards to the Browns and have given up 1,722 yards through four games, over 430 per game. The fact that they're playing the Giants gives them some upside for sacks and turnovers, but this is also a really bad defense that could give up 20+ points easily in this game.

The Jets run defense is solid, but they're secondary is not equipped to handle Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. They may notch a sack or two, which can keep them interesting in super deep leagues, but this isn't a match-up I would be targeting.

Jamaal Adams appears to be another week away from returning, so that makes the Seahawks secondary vulnerable to Adam Thielen and emerging Justin Jefferson. I expect the Seahawks to score at will against Minnesota, which will lead to lots of garbage time points and yards for the Vikings offense. The Seahawks will likely get enough sacks to keep them in deep league consideration, but I don't love the play this week.

The Bears defense simply doesn't have the bite it's had in year's past. They are 28th in the league in pressure rate and have a mediocre eight sacks over four games. They rarely blitz and simply aren't getting pressure with their front four, especially against a Bucs offensive line that has allowed five total sacks in four games. With the way Tom Brady just torched a better Chargers secondary, I wouldn't feel comfortable lining up the Bears against him this week, even with Chris Godwin likely to miss another week.

The Eagles defense woke up against an injured Niners team on Sunday night, and I think this defense is one to keep an eye on now that they're starting to get healthy. I'm just not interested in them this week. Facing Nick Mullens, Jerrick McKinnon, and the Niners, even with George Kittle, is much different than facing this Steelers offense. Additionally, I think the Steelers defense is going to have a field day with the Eagles offensive line, which will likely lead to turnovers and a lot of bad spots for the Eagles defense. That's never good for fantasy production.

Michael Thomas is likely to return this week, and the Chargers just allowed 38 points to a Tampa Bay offense without Chris Godwin. Are you really confident in rolling them out against a fully healthy Saints offense?

Washington gets a tremendous amount of pressure, which keeps them from the bottom tier, but this isn't going to be a game you want to play them. They are banged up on the defensive line and don't have the secondary talent to keep this Ravens team from running up 30+ points.

The Dolphins squeeze into the bottom of this tier because we still don't know who is suiting up for San Francisco. If Jimmy Garropollo, Raheem Mostert, and/or Deebo Samuel come back, this is an entirely different offense and one that I am not comfortable attacking with the Dolphins and their mediocre pass rush.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ NO 3.9
24 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. CAR 3.1
25 5 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ BAL 2.5
26 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ HOU 2.4
27 5 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. ATL 1.5
28 5 New York Giants Defense @ DAL 0.8
29 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ SEA 0.4
30 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense @ KC 0.3
31 5 Detroit Lions Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Green Bay Packers Defense BYE 0.0


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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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Week 4 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Another week, and another six out of the top 10 defenses correct. Some of the top ones were gimmes, and I'm a little surprised by how the Chargers Defense laid an egg versus Carolina and the way the Bills Defense just seemed totally lost against the Rams in the second half. I'm happy I trusted my gut with Cleveland despite most experts having them in the mid-teens, and it's becoming clear which teams we really want to target now with our defenses.

After three weeks, we're starting to get a better sense of which offensive lines are truly weakpoints and which teams are playing at a pace that's too slow to really capitalize on for defensive streamers. We're starting to learn which teams are going to be blitz-heavy and which offenses may consistently put their defenses in bad positions. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 4 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 4 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 4 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 4. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 4 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 4 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

UPDATED FRIDAY MORNING 9:30 AM ET

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense   @ WAS 14.1
2 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense  vs. PHI 13.0
3 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense  vs. LAC 12.1
4 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. NYG 11.9

A week after facing the Kansas City Chiefs and giving up 517 total yards, the Baltimore defense gets to get back to work against Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Football Team. For two weeks, Haskins looked moderately better than what we saw in 2019, and the team was showing some signs of life, but he really crashed down to earth against the Browns on Sunday, throwing three interceptions and finishing with a 30.8 QBR. While the Ravens were unable to get much pressure on Patrick Mahomes on Monday night, we know not to judge a defense solely by how it handles the Chiefs. The Ravens Defense is filled with talent and should absolutely capitalize on Haskins and an offense without many playmakers. Look for the Ravens to take out their frustration repeatedly on Sunday.

The 49ers defense may be banged up, but this team still has tons of talent and finished as the 5th ranked defense after limiting the Giants to nine points while notching two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. The 49ers suffered yet another injury on Sunday as starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley left with a concussion, but the Eagles will come into this game with a similarly hobbled offensive line that has allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL through three games. To add insult to injury, the Eagles' receiving corps took a hit on Sunday after both DeSean Jackson and Dallas Goedert were unable to finish the game. Goedert is expected to miss "some time," and Jackson seems unlikely to play Sunday, which will mean that, since Alshon Jeffrey still seems like he's another week or so away, the Eagles will face San Francisco with Zach Ertz and Greg Ward and little else. Doug Pederson is already talking about ways to get Carson Wentz out of his own head, and the Eagles have looked like a sloppy mess all season, even allowing Cincinnati to finish as the 13th ranked defense, fueled by three sacks and two interceptions. Even injured, this 49ers defense is worlds better than what the Bengals are putting out on the field. If the Eagles can't get healthy in time for Sunday, it's going to be a long day.

So let's see, the Carolina Panthers just held the Chargers to 16 points and finished as the 7th ranked defense after getting shredded by the Bucs and Raiders. Justin Herbert may have an exciting future ahead of him, but he's clearly still prone to rookie mistakes, and it cost the Chargers last week. Tampa Bay is an elite run defense, giving up only 2.9 yards per carry, so the Chargers will need to rely on Herbert to move the ball through the air. That's going to open him up to a Bucs pass rush that is second in the league in blitz rate (43.8%), third in the NFL in sacks, and second in the league in tackles for a loss. Bryan Bulaga (back), Mike Williams (hamstring), and Trai Turner (groin) all left Sunday's game injured and have been unable to practice so far this week, which is only going to make Herbert more vulnerable against an opportunistic defense.

The Rams may have been burned by Josh Allen repeatedly on Sunday, but that defensive line also tormented him in the second half of the game. That's a good sign since this defense has underperformed in terms of pressure so far this season, registering only a 19% pressure rate and seven sacks on the season. However, the matchup is too good to ignore. The Giants don't have a strong enough running game to keep the Rams' defensive line honest, which means Aaron Donald and company can come after an offensive line that is 24th in the NFL with nine sacks allowed on the season. The Rams' secondary has issues, but the Giants offense doesn't have near the same firepower as the Bills do to take advantage of issues. In fact, Daniel Jones has thrown four interceptions already this season, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him add to that total on Sunday.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Indianapolis Colts Defense  @ CHI 11.3
6 2 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ MIA 11.1
7 2 Denver Broncos Defense vs. NYJ 10.4
8 2 Buffalo Bills Defense @ LV 10.2

I said last week that the loss of Malik Hooker could prove detrimental to the Colts when they face an offense that can really air it out against them; however, potentially getting starting corner Rock Ya-Sin back could help. Even with Nick Foles, I'm not convinced the Bears are that offense. Foles certainly looked more competent than Mitchell Trubisky, but he has his own flaws as a passer, and the Colts are currently 2nd in the NFL with a 35.5% pressure rate and seventh in the league with nine sacks through the first three games. If the Colts secondary was in better health, I'd be even more confident about this, but the Bears just lost a dynamic weapon in Tarik Cohen and Anthony Miller seems to have been demoted to a non-factor, so the offense is basically David Montgomery and Allen Robinson with Foles. There's some talent there, but I expect the Colts' pressure to make Foles uncomfortable and create a few turnover opportunities in what could turn into a low-scoring slugfest between two solid defenses with good running backs.

The Seahawks may have given up 31 points to the Cowboys on Sunday, but they finished as the 8th ranked defense thanks to two sacks, two interceptions, a safety, and a blocked field goal. All of which just goes to show what an opportunistic defense they are and how even average or slightly above average defenses can be helped by their elite offense piling on points and forcing teams to keep up. That's especially true this week. I expect the Seahawks offense to dismantle the Dolphins Defense while the Seahawks defense, which is third in the NFL with only 3.0 yards per carry allowed, shuts down the Miami running game. That will put gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick in catch-up mode against a team that's best in the league in quarterback knockdowns, tied for second in the league in interceptions, and tied for eighth in quarterback hurries, despite only notching five sacks. Fitzpatrick may throw for tons of yards and a handful of points, but he's going to get sacked and likely turn the ball over a few times. UPDATE: With Jamaal Adams and starting linebacker Jordyn Brooks likely out for this game, it downgrades the Seahawks a little since the Dolphins will clearly try to get Mike Gesicki involved frequently in the middle of the field now. 

It's pretty clear after three weeks that you play your defenses against the Jets, but the Broncos defense just hasn't been great to start the season. There is still talent on that defense, but losing Von Miller, A.J. Bouye, and now Jurrell Casey takes a bit of the teeth out of a once-ferocious unit. Still, the Jets offense is truly inept, and, to make matters worse for them, starting left tackle Mekhi Bechton is being evaluated for a shoulder injury and may miss this Sunday's game, which would damage an already fragile offense. The Broncos defense is tied for 9th in the league in quarterback knockdowns, so despite their mediocre pressure and sack totals, they may be able to create some pressure against a depleted Jets offensive line. What this ranking really comes down to is that this is likely to be an ugly game that few people will actually enjoy watching, but should be low-scoring enough to lead to a solid defensive night for the Broncos. WHOOPS. The defense played relatively well last night, but a blown sack led to a long Sam Darnold touchdown and Bretty Rypien's repeated mistakes put the defense in bad positions throughout the night. 

Something is not right with the Bills defense. A lot of it is health-related. Tremaine Edmunds came back on Sunday, but was out of the game and being monitored by the training staff a few times, and the Bills also lost Micah Hyde in the middle of the game to an ankle injury. However, both men are expected to play on Sunday after practicing this week, and it seems like the Bills may also get starting cornerback Josh Norman back, which would be huge news for a defense that has really struggled with its CB2 play. That is especially important with a banged-up Raiders passing attack coming to town. The Raiders are currently top-five in quarterback rating and expected points contributed by the passing offense; however, both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards and likely to miss this Sunday's game, leaving the starting wide receivers as Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones (Revenge Game?). The Patriots also provided a clear blueprint for how to defend this passing attack, and the Raiders have the most fumbles lost in the NFL through the first three weeks, so it's possible that the Bills defense can capitalize on the injuries and mistakes. With how dominant the Bills defensive units have been since this coaching staff has taken over, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can right the ship.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ CAR 9.7
10 3 New York Jets Defense vs. DEN 9.1
11 3 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. TB 8.3
12 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs NE 8.2
13 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ SF 7.6
14 3 Chicago Bears Defense vs. IND 7.4
15 3 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense  @ CIN 7.1

I know the Panthers won last week without Christian McCaffrey, but let's not all of the sudden forget the way in which losing him saps this team of so much firepower. We've also started to see that this Cardinals defense is not the doormat that many people assumed it would be because of the popular narrative of how they were unable to contain tight ends last year. Arizona is fifth in the league with 11 sacks despite a mediocre pressure rate and quarterback knockdown totals, which tells me that they're not getting consistent pressure but are making the most of the pressure they get. Still their secondary has been strong, allowing only 6.2 net yards gained per pass attempt, which is good for 13th in the league. With Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense likely to score early and often against the Panthers Defense, Teddy Bridgewater will be under a lot of pressure to push the ball down the field, and he's yet to show that he can be a consistent playmaker. I expect a couple of turnovers in this game for the Cardinals defense and I'd be surprised if the Panthers score over 20 points.

The Jets may be bad on offense, but their defensive line is certainly still solid. The Jets are 12th in the NFL with a 24.3% pressure rate and sixth in the league with 12 quarterback knockdowns. They will now be facing a Broncos offensive line that is 30th in the league with 13 sacks allowed and just lost their starting right tackle Elijah Wilkerson, who was already a back-up thrust into action due to COVID opt-outs. With Brett Rypien now looking like the starting quarterback for the Broncos, this should be an ugly game between two of the worst offenses in the NFL. The Jets defense may actually keep this team in the game and be a sneaky fantasy play. They gave up a lot of points and surprisingly got gashed by a big Melvin Gordon run at the end of the game, but the interceptions and defensive touchdown are always something you like to see. 

Yes, the Chargers just suffered a shocking loss to the Panthers. However, that doesn't change the talent that this defense possesses and the fact that they have the fifth-best pressure rate in the NFL (27.3%) and the second-most quarterback hurries at 22. If there's one thing we all know about Tom Brady, it's that he hates being pressured and hit. With Chris Godwin leaving Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, there's a good chance that Brady is down one elite weapon against two Pro Bowl corners in Casey Heyward and Chris Harris Jr., provided Harris Jr. is fully recovered from his own foot injury. The Bucs still have the pieces to put points on the board, but they only scored 23 points in Week 1 when Godwin left early and 28 points last week, which included a Godwin touchdown, so it's not as if this offense is setting the world on fire. In fact, they are 23rd in total yards and 21st in percentage of drives that end in a score, so it's not a given that they are going to hang a huge amount of points on a good defense. Don't be surprised if the Chargers get to Brady for a few sacks and maybe an interception as well.

The Chiefs just came out of that Monday night game with a dominating win over the Ravens in which they held Baltimore to 20 points, 228 yards of total offense, and sacked Lamar Jackson four times. If they can do that to the Ravens, then why not the Patriots? Yes, Cam Newton has looked good, and the Patriots are 3-0, but they've also played two poor defenses in the Dolphins and Raiders, and got into a shootout with an average Seahawks defense. The Patriots don't have the rushing attack that the Ravens do and have only slightly better receivers. Plus, you can make a strong case that the Ravens defense is better than New England's defense which means the Patriots offense, which is 21st in the NFL in possessions that lead to points, will be chasing 30+ points as well. The Chiefs Defense is fourth in the league in pressure rate, sixth in sacks, and seventh in quarterback hurries, so I expect that they make this hard on Cam Newton and likely force a couple of turnovers to go along with some sacks. However, if Chris Jones, who has only had limited practices this week, is unable to go, it would be a big loss against Cam.

The Eagles defense is starting to get healthy and they had eight sacks against the Bengals last week, plus 10 tackles for a loss, and 18 quarterback hits. They will face a 49ers team that just lost another offensive weapon as Jerrick McKinnon seems unlikely to play this week with a rib injury. Nick Mullens looks good in relief on Sunday, and the team should get George Kittle back, so this won't be a cakewalk. Plus, I expect the Eagles offense to put the defense in some bad spots on Sunday; however, I think the defense can create some pressure, which will raise the floor of their fantasy point total.

The Bears had a rough task against the Falcons on Sunday, and will likely be in another slugfest this week; however, I expect this one to be slower and more focused on the Colts' dominant offensive line and rising star Jonathan Taylor. The Colts throw the eighth-fewest passes of any team in the NFL and have the eighth-most rushing attempts. The Bears have also allowed the 7th-most yards per carry in the league at 5.0, so it makes sense for the Colts to pound the ball. To make matters worse for the Chicago defense, the Colts have only allowed three sacks on the year, and the Bears have had below-average pressure metrics with the 31st ranked 10.4% pressure rate despite seven sacks on the season. Like the Steelers above, the pace of this game is likely going to limit the Bears' chances for sacks, but it should keep the game relatively low-scoring, and there is always a chance for a Phillip Rivers interception to shift the tide of the game.

As I mentioned above, the Eagles were in the backfield a ton against the Bengals on Sunday. On the season, the Jaguars are better than the Eagles with a 24.2% pressure rate (13th in the league) and 11 quarterback knockdowns (tied for 7th). If the Eagles were able to do that to the Bengals, then I expect the Jaguars to be able to do something similar; however, their upside is limited by the fact that Joe Burrow still threw no interceptions despite the pressure, and the Jaguars secondary could get burned by his up-tempo Bengals offense that is healthier than what the Eagles trotted out onto the field last Sunday.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense vs. JAX 6.9
17 4 New Orleans Saints Defense @ DET 6.4
18 4 Houston Texans Defense vs. MIN 6.2
19 4 New England Patriots Defense @ KC 5.9
20 4 Washington Football Team Defense vs. BAL 5.4
21 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. CLE 4.8
22 4 New York Giants Defense @ LAR 4.4

The Bengals are 28th in the NFL in pressure rate with a 14.9% rate and have only five sacks on the year and one quarterback knockdown on the year. However, they finished as the 13th ranked defense in Week 3 against the Eagles and will now face the Jaguars, who are 28th in the NFL in sacks allowed with 10, only one fewer than the Eagles. I basically expect this game to play out much like the Eagles game did last Sunday, which keeps the Bengals on the radar in deep leagues.

Kenny Golladay is back for the Lions, which makes this a little bit less of an appealing matchup than it would have been earlier in the season. The Saints also have an alarmingly low 17.2% pressure rate (27th in the league), and 53.1% of the offensive drives against them have ended in a score, the 5th-worst mark in the league. With the secondary playing well below levels of previous years, this could be a high-scoring game against Matthew Stafford and a healthy Lions receiving corps.

The Texans' defense has been bad, allowing scores on 58.6% of offensive possessions, which is second-worst in the league. They are also 23rd in the league with a 19.4% pressure rate and have only seven sacks, four quarterback knockdowns, and nine hurries on the year. However, as we mentioned with the Titans, facing the Vikings can do wonders for a team's defense. Kirk Cousins has already thrown six interceptions and the offense has an 8.2% sack percentage, which is 26th in the league. JJ Watt alone should be able to make Cousins' life miserable on Sunday, which will make the Texans a sneaky defensive option.

Bill Belichick is an elite defensive mind and completely shut down the Raiders offense last week. Yet, going into Arrowhead and stopping Patrick Mahomes and crew is a whole other ballgame. I expect the Patriots to make this a game and cause a mistake or two, but I don't think they have the firepower to stay with the Chiefs. The Chiefs have also allowed only two sacks on the year and Mahomes has thrown zero interceptions, so it's going to be hard for the Patriots defense to add many extra points to their fantasy total in this one.

Washington has a tough task on its hands on Sunday, but the Chiefs showed that it can be done, sacking Jackson four times. Washington's defense may not be great overall, but its pass rush is near the tops in the league, with the seventh-best pressure rate (26.1%), the second-most sacks (13), and the ninth-best hurry rate (11.8%). I expect the Ravens to score and win this game, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Washington defensive line caused a few problems along the way.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense vs. BUF 4.1
24 5 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. ATL 3.3
25 5 Cleveland Browns Defense @ DAL 3.1
26 5 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. ARI 3.0
27 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ HOU 2.8
28 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ GB 1.5
29 5 Detroit Lions Defense vs. NO .4
30 5 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. SEA 0.3
31 5 Tennessee Titans Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense BYE 0.0


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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks (10/2/20) - MLB DFS Lineups

And then there were two. After the Cubs-Marlins rainout and the Padres' offensive explosion, we head into Friday with only a two-game slate.  Not getting too cute with pitching would be my approach. There is really only one clear option, outlined below, so you can always differentiate with bats.

Yu Darvish remains the obvious pitching target. Since we have to play two arms on DraftKings, I'm leaning towards rostering both Darvish and Jack Flaherty. I can see a case for Sixto Sanchez, but he's really looked shakey in his last two outings, and Adrian Morejon just threw last night, so he's likely not going to throw too many innings tonight. Given the use of the bullpens last night, Cardinals/Padres look like the top spots to attack while the Cubs are also intriguing with Sanchez's performance of late.

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 10/2/2020. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. You can also read more DFS advice and lineup picks for sites like FanDuel, and other sports too.

 

DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers

Yu Darvish - P, CHC at MIA ($9,000)

Bubba said it pretty perfectly yesterday, so I'm going to allow his words to linger for a bit longer: "Darvish has been a man amongst boys in the majority of his starts this season. He has pitched at least six innings in 11 straight starts and struck out at least seven in nine of those 11 starts. That type of consistency can allow a hiccup or two and still put together a very strong outing. He will face an RHH heavy Marlins lineup and on the season Darvish has allowed RHH to hit .211 with a .230 wOBA and a 39.8% strikeout rate. Give me all the Darvish today." On top of that, Darvish is now $700 cheaper than he was yesterday.

Other Options: Jack Flaherty (STL at SD) $8,400

 

DraftKings DFS Infielders

Yadier Molina - C, STL at Padres Bullpen Game ($3,600)

Molina is 5-10 with two RBI and two runs scored during the Padres series. Considering the limited options we have today, Molina deserved a long look at your catcher position. He's hitting .342 over his last 10 games and .277 on the season. Plus, he's an experienced veteran who likely won't be shaken by the moment and will be able to adjust to the string of different relievers the Padres use today.

Mitch Moreland 1B, SD vs Jack Flaherty ($4,300)

I know many people are going to flock to Paul Goldschmidt given the matchup; however, I think Moreland could be a sneaky option. Jack Flaherty, who we're considering for tonight because of the limited options, hasn't been himself this season, pitching to a 4.91 ERA. In his final regular-season tune-up, he allowed three runs over five innings against Milwaukee, striking out five and walking four. Two starts before that, Flaherty gave up nine runs in three innings against those same Brewers. Moreland has cooled after his hot start, but he still has a .315 ISO and .938 OPS against right-handed pitchers. With the way the Padres were swinging the bats last night, and how tired the Cardinals bullpen likely is, I'm going to try and get exposure to this offense in my lineups.

Jason Kipnis- 2B, CHC vs Sixto Sanchez (DK $2900)

This is a play based on recent form. Sanchez took the league by storm in his first few starts but really hit a rough patch over his last two, giving up nine earned runs on 12 hits in seven innings. Over that span, he struck out only four and walked six. Even though I wasn't concerned about Anderson as a rookie in his first playoff start, I'm a little concerned about Sanchez, who has already shown chinks in the armor against playoff-caliber teams. Kipnis is in play if we believe the Cubs are able to get to Sanchez as the Nationals and Braves did. The second baseman is hitting .272 with a .343 OBP, .342 wOBA, and 113 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Those numbers won't set the world on fire, but they give you a solid floor and may be just what you need as you try to pay up for some of the bigger bats on the slate.

Matt Carpenter - 3B, STL at Padres Bullpen Game ($3,900)

I think third base is the perfect spot to pay down on Friday. If David Bote is in the lineup for the Cubs, I would be tempted to slide him into the lineup, but Carpenter is another inexpensive option. He went 1-3 last night with three runs scored. He's had a disappointing season but looked good last night, with some impressive at-bats and solid contact. There's not a long track record of success here for 2020, but you have to save money somewhere on the slate and this is just a gut call for me.

Fernando Tatis Jr. - SS, SD at Jack Flaherty ($5,600)

If I'm paying up any bat on the slate, it's likely Tatis. He's been a star this whole season and then almost single-handedly kept the Padres in the playoffs yesterday by going 3-5 with two HR, five RBI, and two runs scored. He has 19 home runs and a .963 OPS on the season, so we know that he can change the game with one swing. When one of the best players in the league is running a heater like this, it's not something you should be rushing to fade.

DraftKings DFS Outfielders

Jurickson Profar - OF, SD vs Jack Flaherty ($4,000)

Many people are going to want to play Wil Myers after last night, and I'm totally fine with it. I just may not have the salary to get him into my lineup. Profar was in the value article yesterday and he makes for another good option tonight at a reasonable cost. He went 2-3 last night with a run scored and is 4-7 during the season. He's hitting .371 over his last 10 games with a .920 OPS and has pretty even splits so far this season, so I'm not worried about him facing a right-handed pitcher. As I mentioned before, I think the Padres offense keeps the momentum going tonight with their season on the line.

Dexter Fowler - OF, STL at Padres Bullpen Game ($2,500)

Dylan Carlson is going to be another cheap option on the slate tonight, but Fowler could be an intriguing pivot. He's $600 cheaper than Carlson and has gone 4-10 with two RBI during the series with San Diego, scoring 12 DraftKings points in last night's loss. At this price, there is very little that he needs to provide in order to bring back value, so I'm willing to roll the dice on his recent production and hope he can push double-digits for a third game in a row.

Ian Happ - OF, CHC vs Sixto Sanchez ($4,200)

If I'm worried about Sanchez's performance tonight, then there are some Cubs that I need to get in the lineup. Happ is one of the guys that I'm most confident in. He hasn't quite been the same hitter since he hit himself in the eye with a foul ball, but he had a solid 2020, hitting .262 with 13 HR, a 13% BB%, and an average exit velocity of 91.1 miles per hour. He was in the MVP discussion before the foul ball incident, and it's possible that he's getting his rhythm back since he has a small four-game hitting streak going. Happ went 2-4 with a solo home run during the first game of this series, so I'll slot him into the lineup and hope he keeps it going against a vulnerable pitcher.

DraftKings DFS Stacks

  • Chicago Cubs at Miami Marlins (Sixto Sanchez, RHP)
  • St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres (Bullpen Game)
  • San Diego Padres vs St. Louis Cardinals (Jack Flaherty, RHP)



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Were We Wrong To Be Excited About Joe Mixon?

We did it again. I say "we" because I'm right there with you. We told ourselves we wouldn't be duped. We told ourselves that we wouldn't go back considering the frustration he caused us in the past; yet, here we are, rostering Joe Mixon and wondering what we've gotten ourselves into again.

It seems like every season we convince ourselves that the talent Mixon possesses is too good to ignore. Surely an offensive mind like Zac Taylor will notice this and make better use of it. Surely the presence of first overall pick Joe Burrow will only make Mixon better. Surely, Giovani Bernard will eventually get phased out of the offense and become just another back-up running back. Yet, through three weeks, Mixon is the 38th ranked running back in half-PPR leagues. He's averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per attempt, has not found the end zone, and has already lost a fumble after not losing one in either of the last two seasons.

Fantasy GMs are fed up and thinking about shipping Mixon off to any interested buyer, but should we be abandoning the much-maligned running back so quickly? I re-watched a lot of Bengals film on NFL Gamepass, looked into the usage metrics, consulted some great work from Ben Gretch and Football Outsiders, and analyzed the upcoming schedule to try to help us all understand what to do with Mixon.

 

A Clear Lead Role, But Does It Matter?

Right off the bat, we see that Mixon is clearly the lead back in Cincinnati. The Bengals have 70 total carries on the season; 52 have gone to Mixon, 16 have gone to Burrow, and only two have gone to Giovani Bernard. That means Mixon gets 74.3% of the total rushes, only Josh Jacobs (77.3%) and Derrick Henry (79.6%) have a higher total of their team's rushes through the first three weeks. In the game against Cleveland, where Cincinnati gave up 35 points and was trailing all game, Mixon still received 16 carries, and against Philadelphia, when Cincinnati led for a while and ended in a tie, Mixon received 94.4% of the team's rushes, which was 17 total carries (not as much as one might think with 94%).

All of which shows us that Mixon will get consistent carries no matter how the gamescript plays out. In fact, Mixon's 52 carries are 6th most in the NFL, behind Henry, Jacobs, Ezekiel Elliott, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Kenyan Drake (also a surprise).

He has also gotten the most Red Zone opportunities of any player on the Bengals. That total is only seven, and he's only two ahead of Bernard and three ahead of Drew Sample, whose gotten four passing looks, but leading the team is Red Zone usage is still a plus. The majority of Bernard's red zone looks have come in the two-minute offense when he was the main back on the field, so there is optimism that, if the offense can improve and get more Red Zone chances, Mixon would see more high-value touches.

The second part of the equation simply comes down to: does it matter how many carries Mixon gets?

Of course, we know opportunity trumps all in fantasy, so, on one hand, yes, it matters. On the other, Cincinnati's offensive line is bad. According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals are 31st in the league in line adjusted yards ("the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line"). They are 27th in the league in success with power blocking (43%) and 29th in the league in Stuffed Runs - runs where the back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage - with 22% of runs being stuffed. If we want to pile on, they're also 28th in 2nd level yards gained ("runs when running backs earn between 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage") and 31st in open field yards ("runs where running backs earn more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage").

So the big problem here is clearly the offensive line. Mixon is getting enough carries to be successful but is simply unable to do anything with them, as evidenced by only having 78.8% of runs go for positive yardage. Mixon has 57.9% of his yards coming after contact, but he averages only 1.8 yards after contact, which means Mixon is getting a sizable percentage of his yards after being hit but isn't actually able to gain many more yards.

A perfect example is this 3rd down run on the first drive against the Browns. Joe Burrow reads the coverage and audibles to a draw from the shotgun formation.

Within seconds, about the time Mixon even lays a hand on the football, Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has blown by the right guard responsible for him, Fred Johnson.

Before Mixon can hit the hole, he's engulfed by Richardson - who also has an unblocked teammate ready to help out just in case Mixon had broken the first tackle. As seen above, he takes the handoff at around the 36-yard line, and, as seen below, he's met by Richardson at basically the 35-yard-line.

There isn't a running back in the NFL who could consistently wiggle out of that jam, and it's one Mixon finds himself in all too frequently. In short, we love the usage, which is actually elite, but the quality of that usage has been poor and may not get better with no offensive line help on the way.

 

Will They Ever Throw To Him?

Since we've established how often Mixon is used in the running game, this is the crucial area to determine Mixon's value.

First of all, Mixon is a good receiver. Just watching him makes that clear. You can't watch him make catches like this and come away thinking that he couldn't be an elite receiving back.

If we need stats, he has zero drops on the year, has a 77.8% catch rate, and has gained an elite 10.3 yards after the catch per reception this year, as evidence by his open-field agility and the ability to break tackles for additional yards.

However, Mixon is eighth on the team with nine total targets. Bernard has 15. Mixon has caught seven of those nine targets, but seeing only 6.6% of your team's total targets is never a positive. Especially when Bernard has 11%. This is doubly problematic since the Bengals are currently second in the NFL with 141 passing attempts through three games. This is a team throwing the ball often and still not targeting Mixon nearly as much as we'd like.

However, perhaps it's not all bad news. In total, his number of routes run is elite, and his route participation is fine. In Week 3, Mixon ran routes on 56% of Cincinnati's dropbacks, which was a season-high. Although the targets weren't there, the fact that he is running more routes gives me a bit of optimism that he can be more involved in the passing game going forward.

The key difference is that Bernard has 24.6% targets per routes run; yet, Joe Mixon has only 9.7%,. That could either be because Cincinnati is running more designed screens when Bernard is in the game (hurry up and playing from behind scenarios), but it's also a bad sign that Mixon is below his previous season threshold of 17%-22% targets per routes run.

The lack of passing game usage is a major concern, and we can't sugar-coat that. We know the talent is there, but we simply have to hope that the increase in routes run in Week 3 will lead to more targets as he gets closer to the rate he's had for the previous three seasons.

 

Room for Defensive Improvement?

One of the main arguments used against Mixon is that the Bengals Defense is so bad that they will always be trailing, which will lead to more Bernard than we might see if the Bengals were in competitive games and didn't need to throw to catch up.

When you dig into the Bengals' defensive stats, there is some cause for mild optimism that they won't be trailing as much as we expect. The Bengals defense is 24th in the NFL in yards allowed and are 0-2-1 despite facing the Chargers, Browns, and a banged-up Eagles team. However, their 74 points allowed is actually 11th in the NFL, and they've only allowed scores on 38.9% of the offense's drives, which is good for 12th in the NFL. Their Red Zone conversion percentage against is currently 60%, which is also 12th in the NFL, their average points allowed per drive is 11th, and their average time allowed per drive is 12th. What that all amounts to is that the Bengals may actually be an average defense and not a bad defense.

Yes, their opponents haven't been great, but they also have upcoming games against the Jaguars, Colts, Browns, Washington Football Team, Dolphins, and Giants, so there are enough games coming up to suggest that the defense may not be an outright liability. This is obviously important because closer games mean less hurry-up offense and, likely, less Giovani Bernard since, as we discussed above, Mixon is clearly the primary ballcarrier and is running enough routes to be effective in the passing game when the games are close.

 

Upcoming Schedule is a Potential Playoff Boon

Which delves right into the upcoming schedule. The remaining fantasy games for Mixon (with defense's yards per attempt ranking) are as follows: Jacksonville (9th), Baltimore (14th), Indianapolis (11th), Cleveland (6th), Tennessee (32nd), Pittsburgh (1st), Washington (15th), New York Giants (7th), Miami (23rd), and Dallas (8th).

When you factor in yards allowed per game, Tennessee, New York, Washington, Miami, and Dallas are all ranked 20th or worse in the NFL. Which, all in all, means that Mixon has a relatively average schedule for the rest of the season. Miami, Tennessee, Washington, and New York are all clearly plus matchups. Dallas, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis would be neutral in terms of running back value, and Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore would appear to be tougher matchups. So, four plus-matchups, three negative-matchups, and three neutral-matchups.

Looking further into it, Mixon will end the fantasy regular season with a game against Washington or New York (depending on your league's schedule) and then begin the fantasy playoffs with games against New York, Miami, and Dallas (again, depending on your league's schedule). Obviously, a lot can change with injury and performance of those defenses over time, but, if you're confident that your team can make the postseason, Mixon could be a strong contributor for you in Weeks 11-14.

 

Final Verdict

In looking at everything above, I think we were all foolish if we assumed Mixon would rise to RB1 status. The Bengals offensive line simply isn't good enough, and they target him in the passing game at a rate that won't raise his floor to compensate for the poor blocking.

However, I still think Mixon can be counted on as a matchup-dependent RB2 and an RB3/Flex in his tougher matchups. His fantasy playoff schedule will also make him more of a low-end RB1 in those Week 11-14 games, as mentioned above.

There simply aren't many running backs in the league getting the workload that Mixon is, and we know that he has the talent to do well with those opportunities. If there's any clear indication that the number of trustworthy backs may be minimal, it's that Adrian Peterson and James Robinson are both among the top-12 running backs in rushing yards and both Christian McCaffrey and Raheem Mostert are top-15 running backs in half-PPR leagues despite missing one full game each. Rex Burkhead, Jerrick McKinnon, Darrell Henderson, and Todd Gurley are all currently top-24 runnings backs - or RB2s - in half-PPR leagues, and they all have equal, if not larger, concerns that those facing Mixon.

You likely didn't draft him to be an RB2, but there is value in consistent opportunity. Mixon's elite rushing percentage is rare and if Bernard ever missed time, as he has in three of his seven seasons, Mixon would have a top-five share of touches among all running backs.

I don't think you - or I - are going to get much for Mixon in a trade right now, so my personal plan is to hold onto him, especially in leagues where I have a strong enough stable of running back or flex options to pick up the slack during his tough matchups. I'll adjust my expectations for his performance, hope that the target share increases, and that he can come through for me in the playoffs. If it looks like my team won't get to the playoffs without help, I'll likely try to dangle him after a good game against Indianapolis or Tennesse coming up (or Jacksonville this week if your team is in a desperate situation).



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Week 3 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

About ten minutes into Week 2, it became clear that the week for fantasy teams would simply be a matter of luck and survival. Some of the NFL's top players on both offense and defense went down with season-ending or multi-week injuries, drastically changing a number of matchups in mere minutes. While injuries are part of the nature of football, it was a particularly devastating week of injuries and one that will have us re-evaluating many of the defensive rankings in weeks to come.

With the chaos in mind, I'm relatively satisfied with getting six of the top 10 defenses correctly for the week. In hindsight, I wish I had trusted the Colts' Week 1 pressure rate a little more against a mediocre Minnesota offense, I may have been too high on the Titans new-look defensive line, and the Bills' defensive injuries impacted the overall scheme more than I had anticipated. So, we will readjust using the new information at our fingertips, and see if we can get a little more accurate this week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side.

 

Week 3 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 3 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 3 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 3. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 3 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 3 pickup or add.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

UPDATED: THURSDAY 4:00 PM

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense  vs. HOU 14.1
2 1 Indianapolis Colts Defense  vs. NYJ 13.6
3 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense  @ NYG 12.7
4 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense  @ DEN 11.7

Yes, the Steelers haven't played the best offenses with wins over the Giants and the Courtland Sutton and Drew Lock-less Denver Broncos, but you can't argue with the talent on this defense. They're first in the league with a 42.6% pressure rate (according to Pro Football Reference) and second in the league with 10 sacks through two games. They're also second in the league with three interceptions. They now face a Texans offense that is 21st in the NFL with an 11.1% turnover rate and has allowed a league-high eight sacks. Even if Deshaun Watson winds up putting points on the board, the Steelers are going to be in the backfield all game, which will lead to sacks and turnovers and that is what we want to target when choosing a fantasy defense.

Man, the Jets are not a good football team. The 49ers were already without George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, but they lost their starting quarterback, starting running back, and two starting defensive ends in the first half of the game against the Jets and still won 31-13. Without Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder, there simply wasn't enough to keep the 49ers guessing on defense. It's possible that Crowder is back on Sunday, but the Jets also lost Chris Hogan and Breshad Perriman to injury this week, which means they would still be extremely short-handed when they take on a Colts defense that is 4th in the NFL with a 33.3% pressure rate and third in the league with seven sacks. Considering the Jets also lost their starting center, Connor McGovern, on Sunday, the Colts' pressure rate could be even more of a factor. While the Colts did lose Malik Hooker to a torn achilles tendon, it likely won't impact the team's ability to stop the undermanned Jets; however, it's a major blow to their long-term outlook.

Talk about two teams limping into a game against one another. The New York Giants, much like the Panthers, just lost their top player in running back Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL; however, the 49ers had defensive stars Joey Bosa and Solomon Thomas leave the game early with apparent ACL injuries, and they're already missing pass rusher Dee Ford. it's a brutal blow to both teams. However, I think the 49ers' defense is better positioned to absorb the losses given the depth on their defense. The Giants without Saquon are just an entirely different offense and one in which the 49ers won't have to fear the run. That will put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Daniel Jones, and while he may put up a lot of yards and some points, he will likely be on his back a lot since the Giants are second-worst in the league with seven sacks allowed through two games. A young quarterback behind a bad offensive line with no running back help is almost always going to lead to poor decisions and turnovers.

Tampa Bay is an elite run defense. They proved that last year and continue to show it this year by allowing only 2.9 yards per carry on 58 rushes, despite also facing Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and Christian McCaffrey for three quarters before he got hurt. In addition to that, the Bucs have registered a slightly below-average 21% pressure rate (18th in the league) but have six sacks (tied for fourth). On Sunday, they will face a Broncos team that is second-worst in the league with seven sacks allowed and will be without Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, and Phillip Lindsay. Even at full strength, the Broncos were likely going to find it hard to run on the Bucs, but now they will also have to try to beat them through the air with two rookie wide receivers and Jeff Driskel at quarterback. That's a matchup that you're going to want to target.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Buffalo Bills Defense  vs. LAR 11.5
6 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. CAR 11.4
7 2 Washington Football Team Defense @ CLE 10.3
8 2 Cleveland Browns Defense  vs. WAS 9.9

The Bills defense has played only two quarters this season with star linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards. The impact was obvious on Sunday as you watched Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki just toy with thee backups. However, both men have gotten limited practices in to begin the week so there is optimism that they will be back in time for the showdown against the Rams. That's good news for the Bills, who rely on their linebackers to not only cover the middle of the field but in their blitz packages. The Bills have blitzed the 6th-most in the NFL so far, so getting those weapons back will be crucial for them. While the Rams are currently 2-0, with wins over the Cowboys and short-handed Eagles, let's not forget who Jared Goff has proven himself to be in his NFL career. With a clean pocket, he is a talented passer; however, he is prone to collapses and boneheaded throws. A healthy Bills defense will be a much bigger test than anything he has seen so far this season, especially after starting right guard Joe Noteboom left Sunday's win with a calf injury and didn't return.

The Chargers defense was impressive in keeping the Chiefs offense off the scoreboard for much of Sunday afternoon, and they are also 5th in the league with a 29.9% pressure rate and have two sacks in each game. The talent on this defense is clearly top-notch and they will now get to face a Carolina team that won't have its best player after Christian McCaffrey suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday. So the defense that just held Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins to 289 passing yards will face Teddy Bridgewater, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson. That offense is no match for a Chargers secondary that just added Chris Harris Jr. to a secondary that already featured Pro Bowl CB Casey Heyward. With the Panther likely being forced to pass more, the Chargers can sell out on the pass rush, and I don't think Bridgewater will be able to make them pay.

Washington may not be a great football team, but it's really their offense that still has a fair amount of improving to do. The Washington defensive line is elite and their secondary was much-maligned coming into the season, but they put up a respectable showing against Kyler Murray and a high-powered Cardinals offense by limiting him to 278 yards passing and picking him off once. Yes, they were also taken advantage of on the ground, particularly by Murray, who ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns. However, Washington still sacked Murray three times and is 11th in the NFL with a 24.7% pressure rate and first in the league with 11 sacks through two games. That sack rate is clearly not sustainable, and they will now face a Browns team that has only given up two sacks total on the season, but Baker Mayfield is prone to making head-scratching throws, and this Browns offense is as inconsistent as they come. There will be ample opportunity for Washington's elite pressure rate to cause sacks and poor decisions which will lead to turnovers and fantasy points.

You may be thinking: "the Browns in the top 10? Are you crazy!?" The answer is that I hope not. The Browns have always had talent on their defense but have underperformed or been let down by their offense. That hasn't been the result so far, even though beating up on the Bengals on Thursday isn't exactly a high threshold to meet. However, through two weeks, the Browns are sixth in the NFL with a 28.6% pressure rate. That has only turned into five total sacks, but some of that can be attributed to Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball out in time and Joe Burrow scrambling around more than many quarterbacks will. The Browns will now bring their elite pressure rate into a matchup with Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Football Team, who are tied for second-worst in the league with seven sacks allowed in two games and just lost Brandon Scherff, one of the best guards in football, to a knee injury. With the Browns likely to get lots of pressure, I would be shocked if that didn't lead to a Haskins turnover or two, which only makes Cleveland a more attractive defense in Week 3.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. CIN 9.5
10 3 New England Patriots Defense  vs. LV 9.0
11 3 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ BUF 8.4
12 3 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. CHI 7.6
13 3 Tennessee Titans Defense @ MIN 7.5
14 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs. DET 7.4
15 3 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @PHI 6.9

 

The Eagles defense certainly hasn't looked great to start the year; however, I believe this has more to do with an offense that has allowed eight sacks and turned the ball over six times in two games. The offense has repeatedly put the defense in terrible situations and kept the defense on the field, causing the players to get tired and worn down. Fortunately for Philadelphia, their opponent on Sunday has been equally as giving on offense and might not have the firepower to make the Eagles pay for their mistakes. The Bengals have allowed six sacks in two games and have turned the ball over three times. The Eagles are only 15th in the NFL with a 22.7% pressure rate, but they just got Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, and Derek Barnett back for the first time on Sunday against the Rams. With a full week of practice under their belts, I expect those three talented defenders to put up a much better showing against a mediocre Bengals offensive line and put pressure on rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

The Patriots may no longer be the favorites to win the AFC East, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a good football team. They are 3rd in the NFL with a 33.8% pressure rate, and while that has only led to three sacks, it has led to 12 quarterback hurries and contributed to picking off three passes against Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. Week 2 was not as kind, but the Seahawks are going to be a tough matchup for anybody now that they're letting Russell Wilson cook. The Raiders allowed zero sacks in their Week 1 blowout, but the game against the Saints was a big step up in competition. The Saints were able to get to Carr three times, and the Raiders offense only gained 375 total yards, but they did put up 34 points on a good defense, which indicates that they could be a challenge for opposing defenses. The Patriots gameplan without Tom Brady appears to be to slow the game down and use Cam as a runner (unless they're forced to play catch-up). This will likely mean fewer plays, which knocks them down the rankings a little bit, but I also expect Belicheck to scheme a way to stop Josh Jacobs and force Derek Carr to beat them through the air, which could lead to a few sacks from that high pressure rate and a turnover or two.

The Rams defense is underperforming their talent so far. They're 26th in the league with a 15.7% pressure rate and have only three sacks in two games. That's particularly troubling considering one of those games was against the Philadelphia Eagles, who lead the league in sacks allowed. The Bills offense has allowed four sacks in two games, and Josh Allen has looked tremendous, but he's also prone to stupid mistakes and nearly lost another fumble last week when he tried to take on a linebacker and then a defensive end to fight for a first down. The Rams defense will be a big step up for Josh Allen and company, and I would imagine Sean McDermott will try to slow the game down and keep the Rams offense off the field if he can. This could mean fewer scoring opportunities for the Bills.

Yes, Atlanta blew a massive lead to Dallas and most people will scoff at the idea of using their defense. However, facing Dallas and Seattle is not exactly an easy task for an opposing defense, and the Falcons were playing really well in the first half before going on cruise control. They are 9th in the league with a 26.7% pressure rate with four sacks and ten quarterback knockdowns despite playing two incredibly mobile quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. On Sunday they will face Mitch Trubisky. The Falcons run defense is currently 9th in the league, allowing 4.1 yards per carry to two elite run defenses, so I expect them to be able to stop the Bears on the ground and face Trubisky to beat them through the air. That is going to lead to sacks and turnovers.

I have not been impressed by the Titans' defense so far. They've allowed 803 total yards, which is 24th in the league, have only two interceptions and two sacks on the season, and are 20th in the NFL with an 18.8% pressure rate. They also lost Jonathan Joseph to injury last week after already being without Adoree Jackson, so this secondary is really beat up. The only reason I have them this high is that the Vikings are not a talented football team and Gary Kubiak, their offensive coordinator, came out this week and suggested that their team needs to run the football more. Yes, they have Dalvin Cook, but running the ball more isn't going to all of the sudden make this offense scary, and it also doesn't take advantage of the injuries on the Titans. Perhaps this is a get-right game for a defense that has a talented line.

The aforementioned Cardinals are now 2-0 and making good on their promise to be one of the breakout teams of 2020. However, they've been doing it as much with their defense as with their high-flying offense. The Cardinals are 12th in the NFL in pressure rate with a 24% rate and are tied for third in the league with seven sacks. However, the Detroit Lions will likely get star wide receiver Kenny Golladay back this week, which is a massive upgrade for their offense. They're currently 21st in the NFL with five sacks allowed through two games, but I think this is likely going to be a high-scoring game, and with Golladay in tow, Stafford has more weapons to throw to, which could limit the time he needs to spend in the pocket. If the Lions can also get D'Andre Swift more involved in the passing game, that could severely limit the Cardinals' sack chances.

Surprisingly, the Bengals are 8th in the NFL in pressure rate with a 27.6% rate. They have only two sacks on the year, but their 13 quarterback hurries are 4th in the NFL. That's enough to make me intrigued by them in deeper leagues since they are going up against an Eagles team that leads the league in sacks and pressure allowed. The Eagles also lost another offensive lineman on Sunday when guard Isaac Seumalo went down for what is likely to be the rest of the season. That means Jason Kelce is the only presumed Eagles starter on the offensive line that has survived the first two weeks. I expect the Bengals to be in the backfield often this week.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 New York Jets Defense vs. IND 5.9
17 4 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. GB 5.5
18 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense  @ BAL 5.2
19 4 New York Giants Defense vs. SF 5.0
20 4 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. KC 4.5
21 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ NO 4.4
22 4 Chicago Bears Defense @ ATL 4.0

The Jets may be bad on offense, but their defensive line is certainly still elite. The Jets are currently 7th in the NFL with a 28% pressure rate. They have six sacks on the season, to go along with 11 quarterback knockdowns. While their numbers against the run aren't great, those are skewed by two big plays against the 49ers, one of which was when the game was already out of reach. The Jets defensive line certainly has the personnel to keep Jonathan Taylor from running wild, which will lead to more passing attempts for immobile Phillip Rivers who is throwing to a depleted Colts receiving group with TY Hilton looking like a shell of his former self and Parris Campbell and Jack Doyle both out. I expect the Colts to score points, and probably win, but I think the Jets will notch a few sacks and give themselves a chance at a decent fantasy day.

The Saints may have allowed 34 points to the Raiders on Monday night, but they actually did a good job with Josh Jacobs, holding him to 88 yards on 27 carries. The Raiders receivers were also relatively ineffective, as the only offensive player to really do damage was tight end Darren Waller. The Packers don't have that kind of weapon at tight end. Davante Adams will be back, but may be at less than 100%, and will have to square off against Marshon Lattimore. The Saints have six sacks on the season and will be facing a Packers offensive line that has already lost two starters in Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor.

You never really want to recommend defenses playing against Lamar Jackson and company, which is really the only reason the Chiefs are so far down on this list. They're an opportunistic defense that is 4th in the league with a 26.7% pressure rate, tied for 4th with six sacks, and also has two interceptions on the young season. While Lamar Jackson is elusive and a dangerous playmaker, the Ravens have allowed a combined six sacks in the first two games of the season, so it's not as if the Chiefs will be held to a blank slate on Sunday. I expect the pace of play to be high here, so the more plays the offenses will run, the higher the chances of sacks and turnovers become. That gives this Chiefs Defense a chance to put up a decent number of points despite the tough matchup.

The Giants get the benefit of facing a 49ers team that will be without Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Jimmy Garropolo, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman. Yes, they will likely still lose that game, but it's not an offense to be incredibly scared of. The Giants currently have a respectable six sacks and 19.1% pressure rate, so they could notch a few sacks in what should be an ugly and low scoring game.

The Baltimore Ravens are currently the favorite in their Monday night showdown with Kansas City, but I'm not as optimistic about their defense for fantasy purposes. They're still a tremendously talented group, and a top play against most opponents, but the Chiefs have allowed only two sacks total on the season 12.2% pressure rate is 22nd in the NFL. It's possible that the blowouts they've had in both games have led to more defensive substitutions, which has led to decreased production, but I don't love their chances to put up a massive sack total against the Chiefs. The Ravens also lost starting cornerback Tavon Young to a season-ending knee injury, and while they have the depth to replace him, losing cornerback depth right before playing the Kansas City Chiefs is never an ideal situation. In the end, I think the Ravens will get a couple of sacks and maybe a turnover, but the Chiefs are also going to put points on the board so I don't see a ton of upside in this matchup.

As we saw on Monday night, the Saints are not as dynamic an offense without Michael Thomas. They simply lack the big-play ability, and Drew Brees has an exceptionally low average depth of target (aDOT) as he uses his running backs more in the passing game. They can still put up points, but I don't think this is a team that is going to score 30+ until Thomas comes back, which raises the floor for defenses playing against them. The Packers are 13th in the NFL with a 23.2% pressure rate and have six sacks in two games, so they can raise the fantasy floor a little bit; although, I don't think there is really high upside in this contest.

The Bears have a shockingly low 12.8% pressure rate, which is 30th in the NFL. They've managed five sacks on only 12 total pressures, which is a tremendous rate, but is also showing that they're not getting to the quarterback that much. They've been solid against the pass, currently 10th in the league in yards allowed per attempt, but they've also played the Giants and Kenny Golladay-less Lions, so the competition hasn't been incredibly strong. This Falcons offense is another animal and if the Bears aren't going to get into the backfield and put pressure on Matt Ryan then I can't be too confident in them as a play.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. DAL 3.9
24 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. MIA 3.7
25 5 Houston Texans Defense @ PIT 3.3
26 5 Miami Dolphins Defense @ JAX 3.1
27 5 Denver Broncos Defense vs. TB 2.5
28 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense @ NE 1.7
29 5 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ SEA 1.5
30 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ LAC 0.6
31 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. TEN 0.55
32 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ ARI 0.4


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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks (9/25/20) - MLB DFS Lineups

We head into Friday night of the final weekend of the regular season with a 10 game slate on tap. There are a few big-name pitchers that jump out like Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Jose Berrios, Dinelson Lamet, and Carlos Carrasco. We also have a few intriguing SP2 options, which is good because you may find yourself needing to avoid the high-priced options if you want to get hitters from the high-powered offenses that aren't facing these aces.

With all the good pitchers on the slate, it limits the offensive options, so the stacks are more straightforward tonight. You can roll with the Braves, Astros, Royals, and Padres or try to target one of the more susceptible high-priced arms by going with one-offs or stacks from the Twins, Cubs, or Dodgers. There is likely to be at least one big-name pitcher who falls flat tonight so identifying the right one could give you a huge leg up. It's also important to remember that the Giants and Padres game on the slate is a seven-inning game that's the first of a doubleheader, so you have to be ready for each batter in those lineups to get one fewer at-bat than normal, which hurts their value a bit.

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 9/25/2020. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. You can also read more DFS advice and lineup picks for sites like FanDuel, and other sports too.

 

DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers

Dinelson Lamet - P, SD at SF ($9,700)

With so few offenses in blow-up spots tonight, I'm not sure that I can stomach paying up for Darvish or Carrasco, and Kershaw versus a talented Angels lineup just isn't as appealing to me as this. Yes, the Giants have some strong hitters, but Lamet has been on fire lately, allowing two earned runs total in his last three starts (20.2 innings) while striking out 32 and walking only four over that time. While two of those matchups were against the Rockies in San Diego and the Mariners, he also dominated a strong Dodgers lineup. We want to chase strikeouts for fantasy goodness, and it doesn't get much better than Lamet's 35.2 K%. We've also seen, in a small sample size, that managers tend to stretch good starters longer in the first game of these short doubleheaders in order to save the bullpen for the second game. If Lamet is running hot, he's liable to get all seven innings and has a good chance at that win bonus.

Chris Bassitt - P, OAK vs SEA ($7,900)

Bassitt is one of my favorite arms on the slate bar none. He's allowed one earned run over his last three starts (19.2 innings) while striking out 19 and walking five. Bassitt has a 2.57 ERA on the season and could take advantage of a Mariners team that is bottom-10 with a 24.7% strikeout rate and has gotten worse since Dylan Moore went on the IL. The Mariners are also bottom-10 in ISO, wOBA, and wRC+, so this is a strong matchup to target, especially if you want to pay up for some of the big bats on the slate.

Other Options: Carlos Carrasco (CLE vs PIT) $10,400, Jose Urquidy (HOU vs TEX) $7,100

 

DraftKings DFS Infielders

Travis d'Arnaud - C, ATL vs Chris Mazza ($4,800)

If you want to pay up at catcher for sure-fire production, D'Arnaud is my top choice since the Braves are one of my top stacks. He's hitting .341 over the last 10 games with two home runs and eight RBI. He hits in the middle of a potent lineup and has been crushing the ball this year with a .540 SLG, .217 ISO, and 93.3 mph average exit velocity. The Red Sox bullpen was called in a bit in yesterday's blowout loss to Baltimore, and I imagine they'll be asked to carry the load a bit today after the Braves get to Chris Mazza and his 5.40 ERA.

Other Options: Salvador Perez (KC vs DET) $5,000, Sean Murphy (OAK vs SEA) $3,800

Garrett Cooper - 1B, MIA vs J.A. Happ ($3,600)

There are definitely some higher-priced options to target tonight, but you can't fill all of your roster spots with the top-tier offensive options. Cooper has had a solid season, hitting .288/.363/.495 with five home runs. He also has fared pretty well against left-handed pitchers, batting .351 with a .378 ISO and 1.130 OPS on the season. Happ has been better of late, but he's prone to get hit hard and giving up home runs, so perhaps this is the night the magic wears off.

Other Options: Freddie Freeman (ATL vs BOS) $5,400, Luke Voit (NYY vs MIA) $5,300

DJ LeMahieu - 2B/3B, NYY vs Sandy Alcantara  ($5,300)

Sandy Alcantara has been pitching relatively well of late, and I'm actually not super eager to attack him; however, LaMahieu has simply been on fire and is the best hitter on a dangerous Yankees team. Over the last 10 games, he's hitting .372 with four home runs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs. He has an absurd .744 SLG and 1.193 OPS, and if you want some exposure to the Yankee lineup tonight, I think he's the perfect place to start rather than chasing the home runs with some of the more popular mashers.

Other Options: Ozzie Albies (ATL vs BOS) $5,400, Chris Taylor (LAD vs LAA) $4,600, Jon Berti (MIA @ NYY) $2,400

Jose Ramirez - 3B, CLE vs Mitch Keller ($5,600)

When I talked about paying down at pitcher, or even playing Cooper, in order to roster the higher-priced bats at other positions, I was especially thinking about Ramirez. J-Ram is tearing the cover off of the ball lately. Over the last 10 games, he's hitting .421 with six home runs, 18 RBI, nine runs, while crushing a 1.026 SLG and 1.515 OPS. It's really hard to keep that out of your lineup, especially against a young pitcher like Keller who has been prone to giving up hard contact. The Indians' offense as a whole hasn't been great, so I wouldn't go for a full-stack, but a one-off with Ramirez or a mini-stack with him could be a strong play tonight.

Other Options: Rafael Devers (BOS @ ATL) $5,200, Brian Anderson (MIA @ NYY) $3,900, Mikael Franco (KC vs DET) $3,900

Adalberto Mondesi - SS, KC vs Spencer Turnbull ($4,800)

So Mondesi put up 30 fantasy points last night and is now CHEAPER than he was last night? Um, OK. As Bubba mentioned yesterday, Mondesi is hitting like the guy that was drafted in the top four rounds of fantasy drafts. Last night he went 4-for-4 with two runs, two RBI, and two stolen bases. He's stolen six bases over his last 10 games and continues to contribute across the board for the Royals. I like Kansas City as a sneaky stack against Turnbull, who continues to insist on throwing his mediocre sinker, which has gotten hit around all year. Pairing Mondesi with Franco or Perez is a great mini-stack that may come in under-rostered tonight.

Other Options: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD @SF) $5,300, Willi Castro (DET @ KC) $3,400

DraftKings DFS Outfielders

George Springer - OF, HOU @ Kyle Cody ($5,400)

Houston is in a good spot tonight against Cody, and Springer makes for a solid option if you have the funds to pay up. He has three home runs in his last four games and is riding an 11-game hitting streak. Springer has a tremendous 16.8% K% for the season and a solid .275 ISO which has helped lead to 14 home runs on the season. The Astros offense as a whole has been waking up a bit, and everybody seems to hit well against the Rangers, so I like getting some exposure to this lineup tonight.

Marcell Ozuna - OF, ATL vs Chris Mazza ($4,900)

You want to play your Braves tonight, which almost always means you want to play Ozuna. He's hitting .327 with 17 HR and a 1.041 OPS on the season, but he's stepped it up in September, hitting .379/.455/.759 with nine home runs, 30 RBI, and 15 runs. I think the Braves are gonna put a hurting on the Red Sox tonight, and Ozuna's spot in the middle of the order will afford him plenty of opportunities to get in on that fun.

Eddie Rosario - OF, MIN vs Tyler Mahle ($4,100)

I'm not actively trying to attack Mahle today because I think he's a solid arm, but the Twins have a strong offense and Rosario has been swinging the bat well lately. He's hitting .297 in September, has hits in six of his last seven games, a home run in two of his last four, and six RBIs over those four games. Mahle is a popular arm given his price-point tonight, so having some Twins in your lineup could give you some sneaky differentiation.

Other Options: Wil Myers (SD @SF) $5,000, Michael Brantley (HOU @ TEX) $4,000, Max Kepler (MIN vs CIN) $4,000, Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS @ ATL) $3,400

DraftKings DFS Stacks

  • Atlanta Braves vs Boston Red Sox (Chris Mazza, LHP)
  • Houston Astros at Texas Rangers (Kyle Cody, RHP)
  • Sneaky Stack- Kansas City Royals vs Detroit Tigers (Spencer Turnbull, RHP)
  • Sneaky Stack #2- Miami Marlins vs New York Yankees (J.A. Happ, LHP)



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Is the Buffalo Bills' Offense For Real?

Move out of the way for the NFL's new most explosive offense: the... Buffalo Bills?

Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills rank 3rd in the NFL in total yards (928), 3rd in yards per play (6.6), 1st in passing yards (719), 2nd in passing TDs (6), and 5th in Pro Football Reference's Expected Points metric (which is the expected points contributed solely by an offense) with 35.50.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seems to be scheming his offense perfectly for the opposition. The million-dollar question is: will it continue?

 

Finally a Franchise QB

Josh Allen has looked like a breakout star and is currently the number two quarterback in fantasy.

Stefon Diggs, the number four wide receiver in half PPR leagues, is making catches all over the field, and his presence has opened up more explosive plays for John Brown, who is currently the 10th ranked receiver in half PPR leagues. The Bills are a force to be reckoned with.

They've also played the Jets and the Dolphins to start the season.

So which one is it: is this an indication of how the Bills offense will operate this year and should we adjust our rankings accordingly or was this just a two-week aberration against bottom-barrel defenses? I looked through the Bills gameplans, formation usage, and production in order to understand what the true identity of this offense is.

Let's just get this out there right from the start. I'm not here for the Josh Allen hatred that has continued to pervade the fantasy community since the NFL Draft. Yes, he will fumble. Yes, he will make some bone-headed throws. However, he is also a young quarterback who is clearly getting better in many areas and has already proven that, even with his flaws, he can consistently put up fantasy goodness.

On the season, Allen has completed 57 of 81 passes (70.4%) for 729 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. As was displayed online repeatedly this week, that start has only ever been equaled by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Patrick Mahomes. Not bad company to keep.

One of the keys to that has been Allen's improvement as a deep passer. The young quarterback has been maligned for having a big arm and no idea where the ball is going, and that narrative was affirmed last year when Allen finished 29th in the league in Football Outsiders' Deep Ball Project, completing only 19 of 57 attempts on throws 21-plus yards from scrimmage. To make matters worse, he was only four-for-29 on passes that traveled 30 or more yards in the air.

So far this season, Allen is seven-for-nine on passes over 20 yards and was two-for-three on passes over 30 yards against Miami alone. While the secondaries of the Dolphins and Jets can certainly be a factor in this (especially after the Dolphins lost Byron Jones), you can clearly see Allen's improvements in technique on a few of these deep passes.

On his first completion of the day (the first pass below), Allen sells the play-action well and stays light on his feet in the drop. He climbs up into the pocket, keeping his eyes on John Brown in the middle of the field to hold the safety in his place. Allen feels the pressure coming from his right side, and flings a pass that hits Diggs on the money. No matter who is in coverage on that play, that pass is perfect. It's the type of touch pass that everybody said Allen wasn't able to make.

Another play that shows Allen's growth was his long completion to Isaiah McKenzie. Here, Allen takes a deep drop and, again, works to climb the pocket. He doesn't take the immediate option to pass to Singletary in the flat because he sees the linebacker lurking behind him.

Allen works through two more reads before feeling pressure in the pocket. Here is where we see the growth. Instead of tucking the ball and running into that vast open space, Allen keeps his eyes downfield, giving McKenzie time to make one more move in space to lose his defender.

Then hits him in stride for a huge run after the catch.

Another throw that shows Allen's improvements in the pocket is the touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis. When Allen feels the pressure in the pocket, he has the presence of mind to switch the ball from his right hand to his left hand to keep the ball secure.

Then he switches back as he's rolling outside of the pocket. Even throw he throws off of his back foot, he squares his shoulders and puts the ball where only Gabriel Davis can get it. It's an incredible catch but is also a great throw on a 3rd and goal with the Bills down by three.

That's either a touchdown or a game-tying field goal if it falls incomplete because Allen was able to avoid some of the simple mistakes that plagued him as a younger quarterback.

That improvement in technique, and the improvements in his supporting cast, has led to a jump in production from the fourth-year pro. Despite Allen being 9th in the league with an average depth of target of 8.9 yards, he has only thrown only 19.8% "bad passes," according to RotoWire. That's fewer than Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, and some other names that wouldn't surprise you.

Allen will likely not hover around 70% accuracy all year, but it's foolish to write off this clear evidence of a young player improving and just saying that he's faced bad defenses. Allen is renowned for being a hard worker, and it's clear that all that hard work has finally started to pay off.

 

Josh Allen May Not Run As Much

Josh Allen's rushing prowess remains. The Bills have run the ball 55 times this year, and Josh Allen is second on the team with 18 carries (The Bills' top three rushers are all within two carries of each other, but that's a discussion for later). Allen has gained 75 yards and a touchdown on those rushes, which raises his floor as a fantasy quarterback. However, there's been an interesting development.

Josh Allen is no longer the goal-line back.

The Bills have had 14 rushes in the Red Zone so far this year, and Zach Moss has gotten eight of those carries. Devin Singletary is second on the team with three and then Josh Allen has two. When you remember that, last year, Frank Gore had 26 Red Zone touches despite converting on only 11.1% of rushes inside the 10-yard-line and 18.2% of rushes inside the five-yard-line, it becomes clear that the Bills don't want Josh Allen to be the primary goal-line back. He only had 14.3% of the team's Red Zone opportunities last year and that was with Gore being abysmal with his chances. Had Frank Gore had even moderate success at the goal-line, it's highly likely that Josh Allen's rushing touchdown total would have dropped from nine to something closer to four.

 

Brian Daboll Helps and Hurts Josh Allen's Fantasy Value

Another big factor in Josh Allen's rushing production is Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll. What's become incredibly clear after two games is that the Bills are going to have drastically different offensive approaches depending on the defense they're playing.

When the Bills faced the Jets, Daboll adapted a gameplan to counter the Jets' stout run defense, which included running Allen a lot: "The quarterback zone read is an obvious element to our game, particularly I would say last game... You go back and play a team like New York who is very, very good at stopping the run, it's just a way to try and get an extra [advantage]."

It was easy to watch that first game and think that Josh Allen was going to run all season long for the Bills. However, Daboll noticed an opportunity against Miami's secondary, even with Byron Jones healthy, that the Dolphins ran a lot of man coverage, which would make them susceptible to crossing routes and rub patterns. As a result, the Bills repeatedly attacked the Dolphins with those concepts, and Josh Allen was seven-for-ten on crossing routes for 172 yards and a touchdown.

On the flip side, Allen finished with only four carries against the Dolphins and 17.4% of the team's rushes, an obvious indication that Allen's scripted rushing will be matchup dependent.

So with Allen no longer being featured as much near the goal-line and the designed runs being limited to certain matchups, the quarterback's overall rushing upside may not match last season. However, it's clear that Daboll will put Allen in the best possible position to succeed, which will just not always involve the fantasy-friendly rushing that we have become accustomed to. Getting 17.4% of a team's carries is still rare at the position and will give Allen a safer floor every week than most quarterbacks, but he may not come close to challenging guys like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, or Cam Newton (the Patriots goal-line back) for rushing value.

 

Stefon Diggs is Now a WR1

People didn't want to draft Diggs as a WR1 coming into the season even though he had been drafted as one before while playing with Kirk Cousins and sharing targets with Adam Theilen on a Vikings offense that is as geared towards the run as the Bills offense was supposed to be. That doesn't quite add up to me.

Diggs saw 94 targets last year, catching 63 balls for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns. He finished as the 21st ranked WR, just one spot behind John Brown. Diggs also finished 18 total fantasy points from finishing as a top-12 fantasy wide receiver. That's a few more big plays or touchdowns but certainly within reach.

After two games, Diggs has already seen 22 targets from Josh Allen, or 23% of his total from the ENTIRE YEAR last year.

Last year, Diggs caught 20 passes that were 20+ yards down the field. He has five already this season. However, the Bills are also using him on drag routes and crossing routes closer to the line of scrimmage, which is why his average depth of target (aDOT) is 11.3 after being at 14.9 last year for Minnesota. While that may seem like a bad thing, I should point out at, in 2018, when Diggs finished as the 11th ranked wide receiver in half-PPR leagues, he had an aDOT of only 8.8 yards.

That season, Cousins peppered him with 149 targets, and Diggs hauled in 102 passes for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns. With the Bills, Diggs is currently on pace for 176 targets, 128 catches, 1,912 yards, and eight touchdowns. More importantly, he's running routes at an elite rate and seeing enough of a target share to make that route total especially useful.

Obviously, those numbers are skewed by a tremendously small sample size, but it illustrates the point that the Bills are actually using Diggs the way he's been most effective in the past. Last year, he was basically a glorified deep threat, but the Bills are allowing him to run his whole route tree, and he has proven for years that he is an elite route runner.

Josh Allen has also shown that he is going to go to Diggs when he needs a big catch, and since Allen has been known to lock onto his favorite receivers, it's not out of the question that Diggs gets over 120 targets this year. If he's able to do that, while being his team's clear top option, and running a more versatile route tree, I see no reason why he can't push to be a top 12-15 wide receiver by the end of the season.

 

John Brown Is Essentially Will Fuller (without the injuries)

John Brown's value is obviously impacted by the addition of Stefon Diggs; however, it's not only negative. Diggs is now the clear number one wide receiver, but that attention can also open up more opportunities for Brown, as evidenced by his long touchdown grab on Sunday, where the defensive attention on Diggs allowed Brown to sneak free over the top of the secondary.

There will clearly be games where Brown is heavily involved. He had ten targets in Week 1 and six in Week 2. However, his role as the number two receiver on this team also means that his opportunities will be harder to rely on. As I mentioned above, Daboll is clearly going to scheme to attack specific defenses. When the Bills pass, that will mean Brown can still be heavily involved in the passing game; however, if the Bills think their advantage is on the ground, Brown will be less of a consistent focus in the gameplan, but will still be used to stretch the field.

That sounds a lot, to me, like Will Fuller.

John Brown, much like Fuller, has dynamic deep speed and can change a real-life and fantasy game in one play. Below, you can see how far down the field Josh Allen tends to target Brown. Now, the Catch % isn't ideal, but we mentioned Allen's growth in that regard earlier on.

As a contract, Will Fuller has incredibly similar aDOT and AY/Snap but the Catch % has been much higher with Deshaun Watson throwing him the ball. Fuller's Drop % was 5.6 last year, compared to 5.2% for Brown, so the difference in catch rate is not because of the receivers' skill sets. John Brown also has a bit more of a diverse route tree than Fuller, which is why his percentage of team targets has always been higher.

However, to me, the crux of the comparison is simply that John Brown now becomes more of a big-play deep threat than the primary option he was in the past. Much like rostering Will Fuller, having John Brown on your team will entail the headaches of trying to decide which matchup is best suited to a big-play touchdown. There will be days when he does nothing and other days when he explodes, and at the end of the year, he's likely to end up as a top-40 fantasy wide receiver.

 

Buy Gabriel Davis in Dynasty

This is only a short segment, but if you have a dynasty team, you need to get this man. First, his touchdown catch against the Dolphins was all you need to know about the hands and playmaking ability that he possesses.

The Bills have also used 10 personnel (four wide receivers) on 32 plays this season. The next highest is the Cardinals with 17. They WANT to get Davis on the field with Diggs, Brown, and Cole Beasley. He is actively forcing them to play him. John Brown is 30 with only one more year on his contract, and Cole Beasley is 31 with two more years on his deal. Sometime in the next couple of seasons, Gabriel Davis is going to push his way into being Diggs' running mate, and there could be a lot more plays like this to come.

 

Buy Devin Singletary and Hold Zach Moss

So after all of this love for the Bills passing offense, why am I not concerned about the Bills running backs? Well first, I think it was foolish of anybody to assume that either of these guys would become a RB1 in fantasy. It was never going to happen unless the other got injured, and even then I think the Bills would try to rotate carries.

As it currently stands, Devin Singletary leads the team with 19 carries, but Zach Moss is right behind him with 17. The Bills want to run a timeshare. That always meant the ceiling for either of these backs was as an RB2. I don't think we're far off from seeing that.

The Bills may also not finish 6th in the NFL in rushing attempts like they did last year with 465, but Sean McDermott doesn't want to be a one-dimensional team. As I mentioned above, they will scheme to attack a specific defense, so there will be games where the Bills rely on their running backs to carry the offense. The Bills are going to run the ball.

The Bills also want to run the ball, or use their backs, in the Red Zone. So far, Zach Moss has gotten 31.3% of the Bills' Red Zone touches, and Singletary is second with 15.6%; that's 46.9% of the team's total Red Zone work going to the two backs. If the offense is humming, these guys are going to get Red Zone looks.

That's also why I still think Moss is fantasy-viable. He currently has 10 Red Zone touches on the season. That's a tremendous pace, and you always want to roster players getting those kinds of high-value touches. In games where the Bills are putting up points and getting goal-line carries, Moss has a real shot at a touchdown and his touchdown catch in the first game against the Jets showed that the Bills will use him in a number of ways in the Red Zone. That puts him in the RB3/Flex discussion depending on the matchup.

The reason I like Singeltary more is because of his passing game involvement. Even though Zack Moss has run routes this year, Singletary's numbers are a little bit better.

Singletary:

Moss:

Singletary has not only run more routes and gotten more targets, but he runs a higher percentage of routes when he's on the field and runs routes further down the field. Those are crucial for tallying fantasy points, and if you look at the Bills' schedule coming up, that receiving value will be even more important.

In the coming weeks, the Bills will take on a ton of high-performing offenses: Rams, Raiders, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Cardinals; plus, offenses that are slower-paced but are more than capable of getting ahead of the Bills by double-digit points: Titans, 49ers, and Patriots. If the Bills are trailing in any of those games, which seems likely, expect Singletary to be more involved given his two-minute drill and passing down work on top of his normal rushing share.

 

Summary - TL;DR

If you just came here looking for a quick answer, my take is that this Bills offense is absolutely for real but will likely look different week-t0-week which will make it tough to rely on anybody consistently outside of Allen and Diggs.

Josh Allen: I believe he pushes to be a top-five fantasy QB but will likely end up around seventh or eighth with some top-five weeks mixed in.

Stefon Diggs: I think Diggs finishes as a top-15 wide receiver because of target share and his obvious skills

John Brown: A rosterable wide receiver who will finish as a WR2 some weeks due to big plays but it will be tough to figure out which weeks those are.

Devin Singletary: I'm buying and think the upcoming schedule and his role in the passing game will give him an RB3 floor, especially in PPR leagues, with him pushing RB2 value often over the next few weeks.

Zack Moss: Holding because of his goal-line role. Will be more valuable in weeks where the Bills are ahead.



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Week 2 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Man, it was fun to watch NFL football again. In addition to just enjoying the games, we got to get a more clear understanding of the talent that teams are putting out onto the field and who might have stronger offensive or defensive units than we initially anticipated. Remember that picking the right defense is as much about the talent on the defensive side of the ball as it is about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side.

Below are my Week 2 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 2 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our eighth year now writing this weekly column. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 2. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker.

Below I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 2 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 2 pickup or add.

 

Week 2 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. NYJ 14.75
2 1 Buffalo Bills Defense @ MIA 13.1*
3 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. DEN 12.7
4 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ HOU 11.5

Yes, the 49ers took a surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday; however, that doesn't stop them from being one of the league's top defenses. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray feeling more confident in his second year in the offense, the Cardinals were always a trendy pick to take a big leap forward this year. Don't overreact to one game. Instead, imagine what the 49ers are going to do to Adam Gase and his inept offense. The Jets put up 276 yards against the Bills in Week 1 and 69 of them came on one busted play for Jamison Crowder. The rest of the time, the Jets were unable to sustain any drives, except after the game had been put away in the 4th quarter, and, to top it off, Le'Veon Bell left the game early with a quad injury. If the Jets have to go forward with only Frank Gore and Breshad Perriman to help Crowder and Sam Darnold, it's going to be a very long day.

The Bills defense thoroughly dominated the Jets on Sunday. As mentioned above, they allowed 207 yards if you take away one busted play to Jamison Crowder. The Jets gained 86 additional yards on their final drive of the game when the Bills were up 27-10 with less than six minutes to play. With three sacks and an interception added on top, the Bills showed just how elite a unit they can be. Certainly, one with way more talent than the Dolphins' offensive unit possesses. However, a key will be to monitor the health of the Bills linebacking corps. Four of the Bills six active linebackers, including starters Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards, left the game with an injury. *If one or both of them isn't able to suit up against the Dolphins, it would be a blow to the Bills defensive ranking and really test their depth.

The Steelers lost Javon Hargrave in the offseason, and some wondered what type of impact that would have on their defensive unit. None. This team is stacked. Listen, I know the Giants haven't been good in a while, but their offense has scored points. The Steelers putting the clamps on them was not a given, but it was a good sign that there will likely not be any dropoff in this unit. Now they get another young, inexperienced quarterback and don't have to gameplan for a dynamic talent like Saquon Barkley (although Courtland Sutton isn't a slouch). I expect it to be a low-scoring affair and wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers came away with a few turnovers and a handful of sacks as the cherry on top.

As we mentioned in Week 1, the Baltimore Ravens have perhaps the most balanced defensive unit in football, and they made Baker Mayfield and the Browns look awful on Sunday. While they only recorded two sacks, they forced three turnovers and had the Browns disoriented all game. You may look at the Texans and say that they are a stiffer test, but I'm not entirely sure that's true. Without DeAndre Hopkins, this offense is not much different from the Browns. Yes, Deshaun Watson is much better than Mayfield, but the Browns backfield and wide receiver corps are vastly superior to what the Texans trot out there, and that's before we get to the offensive line. On Thursday night, the Chiefs had 18 QB hurries, 25 pressures, and a 62.5% pressure rate against these Texans. That's an absurd stat and makes me think that the Ravens defense is absolutely going to feast on this Texans offensive line.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. LAC 10.95
6 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ PHI 10.5
7 2 New Orleans Saints Defense @ LV 10.2
8 2 Tennessee Titans Defense vs JAX 9.6

As mentioned above, the Chiefs' defensive unit was in the backfield at will on Thursday. They dialed up 13 blitzes, hit Watson seven times, sacked him four, and picked off one pass. This is, in part, because the Chiefs offense is so dynamic so their defense knows teams have to throw to keep up. That gives them the freedom to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback, which means that even if they let up a decent amount of yards and points as a unit, they still can finish with a huge fantasy day. I expect that to continue against a Chargers offense that looked totally punchless against a poor Bengals team. Tyrod Taylor has the legs to avoid taking too many sacks, but if the Chargers need to throw the ball to keep up with the Chiefs, it's going to take Tyrod out of his comfort zone and led to forced throws and turnovers.

Despite being a massive underdog, the Washington Football Team allowed only 265 total yards to the Eagles while sacking Carson Wentz eight times and forcing two interceptions. The performance was partially an indication of the talent on Washington's defense but also just a clear warning sign of how banged up the Eagles are on offense. They were without three starting offensive lineman, plus Miles Sanders and Alshon Jeffrey. Sanders and Lane Johnson will "try to do more in practice" this week, but this is still going to be an under-manned offense that will allow tons of pressure, which is horrible news against a defense line of Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and Leonard Floyd. The Rams held a strong Cowboys offense in check on Sunday night while also sacking Dak Prescott three times. The Cowboys offensive line - and offense in general - is much better than what the Eagles will trot out on Sunday, and this could be another game where the defense feasts on the birds.

We expected the Saints defensive unit to finish in the top 10 but were a little worried about what the new-look Bucs defense would do. It turns out, it simply didn't matter. The Saints allowed only 325 yards of total offense while sacking Brady three times and picking him off twice. The Las Vegas Raiders boast some talent on the offensive end, but it's not anything close to what the Bucs put on the field, and the Saints dismantled that unit. If the Saints can do that to the Bucs offense, I love their chances of handling the Raiders on Sunday.

The Tennessee defensive line is scary. After signing Jadeveon Clowney, they added him to a defense that already features Jeffrey Simmons, Vic Beasley, and a dynamic secondary. The Titans were a little banged up in Week 1 without Beasley and cornerback Adoree Jackson (who will be out three weeks), and the Jaguars put up a solid performance in a 27-20 win against the Colts but that was mainly on the back of their defense, which sacked Phillip Rivers four times and had the league's highest pressure rate. While the Colts' defense is solid, this is more of a sign that the Jaguars haven't quite fixed all of their offensive line issues from last year. The Titans have a superior defensive line and should be able to get in Gardner Minshew's face just as much as the Colts did. The Titans offensive gameplan will also slow the game down and give the Jaguars offense less time on the field, which should lead to fewer yards and, potentially, fewer points than the 27 they hung on the Colts. All of which makes me inclined to buy into the Titans this week.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs WAS 9.1
10 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ NYG 8.9
11 3 Denver Broncos Defense @ PIT 8.1
12 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. CAR 7.9
13 3 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. MIN 7.5
14 3 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. NE 7.1
15 3 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. BUF 6.9

Well, the Cardinals certainly rose to the challenge in Week 1 against the defending NFC champions, holding the 49ers to 20 points and sacking Jimmy Garroppolo three times. I don't all of a sudden think that this is a ferocious unit, but Dre Kirkpatrick is a fine complement to Patrick Peterson and both Chandler Jones and newly-signed Jordan Phillips can push the pocket. Where the Cardinals shine for me this week is their matchup. Washington may have won Week 1, but their offense didn't look inspiring at all. They simply capitalized on a banged-up Eagles team. The Cardinals offense should do much better against Washington, which will force Dwayne Haskins to play catch-up and take more chanced through the air. That's where the sacks and picks will come, and a big reason the Cardinals could put together another stellar defensive performance.

The Bears did not look great against the Lions this week, but the Lions are a solid offense with Matthew Stafford under center, even without Kenny Golladay. Still, this is not the same elite Bears unit. They do have impressive top-end talent in Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, plus an experienced corps of linebackers, but it's not a unit to win you your week like they used to be. The good news for the Bears is that the Giants' offensive line has its own share of weaknesses and Daniel Jones still takes a few too many chances with the ball, which means some sacks and turnovers could add fantasy value despite the Giants being able to move the football and score.

The Broncos have lost Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller, so even though they gained A.J. Bouyeand Jurell Casey and got back Bradley Chubb, this is not as dynamic a unit as it could have been. Still, the were able to hit Tannehill eight times behind a strong Titans offensive line and showed some punch in a grinding Monday Night Football battle. It should be a knocked down, drag-it-out fight against the Steelers, but a Steelers offense with Ben Roethlisberger back is far more dynamic than the one led by Mason Rudolph. Keep an eye on James Conner's status because if he were to miss the game, it would elevate the Broncos a few spots, even though Benny Snell did look good in the win over the Giants.

The Tampa Bay Bucs may have come out flat in their showdown against the Saints, but it wasn't the defense's fault. There was some excitement surrounding the unit after they signed Ndamukong Suh and drafted Antoine Winfield Jr to pair with solid young players like Lavonte David, Devin White, and Vita Vea. The Bucs were an elite run defense last year and carried that over into 2020 allowing the Saints to gain only 2.4 yards per carry on 34 rushes. Everybody knows how Carolina wants to move the ball. If the Bucs can make it hard for Christian McCaffrey to get going, they can keep the Panthers in check and force them to make Teddy Bridgewater make plays.

As I mentioned above, the Colts had the second-highest pressure rate in the league after Week 1 and the highest sack percentage at 16.7%, which is good news because they spent a lot of resources on improving their defense in the offseason. The Colts also only allowed 264 yards of offense but were done in by a few Phillip Rivers turnovers in his own end. They now take on a Minnesota Vikings offense that features a dynamic running game but a passing attack that has lost some of its bite without Stefon Diggs. They totaled 393 yards in a shootout with the Packers but a lot of that was in playing from behind, and I don't think this is much more than a ball-control offense. They likely won't give up many sacks but the Colts should keep them from scoring too many points, which still makes them a solid unit for the week.

It's simple here: the Dolphins defense might not be great, but Josh Allen loves to turn the ball over. The Dolphins had two sacks and a fifth-best 9.5% pressure rate against the Patriots, and the Bills are without their starting right guard Jon Feliciano. The Dolphins could lose and still come away with a few turnovers.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Cleveland Browns Defense vs CIN 6.5
17 4 New England Patriots Defense @ SEA 6.2
18 4 Washington Football Team Defense @ ARI 5.15
19 4 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. DET 4.9
20 4 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs LAR 4.45
21 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs ATL 4.15
22 4 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ IND 3.9

Losing Mack Wilson is a bit of a blow for the Browns defense, and Olivier Vernon is still only practicing as a limited participant, which isn't great news before a Thursday game. On top of that, rookie cornerback Greedy Williams hasn't even been able to practice with a shoulder injury. That turned a potentially enticing streaming matchup against the Bengals into simply a solid, but not salivating opportunity.

The Patriots are a solid defensive team, but I'm not sure they're particularly elite. Yes, they picked Ryan Fitzpatrick off three times but what NFL franchise hasn't done that? They were also only able to get a 3.2% pressure rate against a mediocre offensive line, and I don't want to trust them after Russell Wilson looked lights out to start the season.

Guess who the number one fantasy defense is after one week? Yup, the Washington Football Team. While that is clearly a product of the Eagles limping into the game, this defense is loaded with former first-round picks, including second overall pick Chase Young, who had 1.5 sacks in his first NFL game. Washington had the third-best pressure rate last year, and also the third-best rate in Week 1. The secondary is still an issue, and I look for the Cardinals to put up a lot of yards and a fair few points, but I think Washington will record enough sacks and force a turnover or two, which will make this a startable defensive unit in deep leagues.

The Packers allowed almost 400 yards of offense to the Vikings and weren't able to get much pressure on Kirk Cousins. The Lions will feature perhaps a more dynamic offense (especially if Kenny Golladay returns), so this isn't a game that I'm excited to roster any defense.

The Eagles just lost Vinny Curry for four weeks on top of all of their other injuries. The offense will likely keep putting the defense in bad spots until they can get to full strength.

The Cowboys lost Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins in free agency and then lost Leighton Vander Esch for six weeks during a Week 1 loss. It's a banged-up unit set to face an elite offense. Even with some talent left on the Cowboys' roster, that's just not a match-up I can recommend attacking.

The narrative about the Minnesota Vikings being a top-notch defensive unit is outdated. They've seen a lot of talent leave town and they now have a collection of young talent learning how to play together. That inexperienced unit allowed 522 yards to the Packers while getting 0 pressures against a mediocre Packers offensive line. The Colts don't have the same offensive firepower, but their offensive line is one of the best in the league and won't make it easy for the Vikings to get any pressure.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. TEN 3.7
24 5 New York Jets Defense vs. SF 3.0
25 5 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ CLE 2.9
26 5 New York Giants Defense @ CHI 2.8
27 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ GB 2.5
28 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ DAL 2.1
29 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs KC 0.85
30 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense vs NO 0.65
31 5 Houston Texans Defense vs BAL 0.55
32 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ TB 0.4


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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks (9/18/20) - MLB DFS Lineups

We had only a small 6-game slate on Thursday night, so it's like Christmas morning looking at this 12-game slate tonight. There are a couple of top-end arms and a few main bats to focus on. We still have Coors in play as well which may lower the amount some of the other strong offenses are rostered. It should be another fun slate as we head to the close of the MLB season.

When looking at the slate the top-priced arm is Zack Greinke against a poor Diamondbacks lineup, but you can also pivot to Tyler Glasnow, Chris Paddack, or Zach Plesac. When it comes to value arms it is a little more difficult, but we shall find some once lineups are released and we can see which offenses are a little friendlier to target. As with yesterday, with Coors in play, many will flock to the matchup between the Dodgers and Rockies, hopefully lowering the amount the Yankees and even Angels are rostered. Overall it is a straight forward night, but make sure to listen to MLB DFS Quick Hits to get all the angles for tonight's slate.

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 9/18/2020. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. You can also read more DFS advice and lineup picks for sites like FanDuel, and other sports too.

 

DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers

Zach Plesac - P, CLE at DET ($8,500)

There are a few high-priced offenses that I'd like to target tonight, so paying this price for Plesac against a mediocre offense is extremely enticing to me. He had a rough last outing against a stacked Twins lineup, but he has been dominant all year, registering a 2.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and a 23.5 K-BB%. The Tigers lead the league with a 27.3 K%, so Plesac should be able to push towards double-digit strikeouts in a game where we should also feel confident in his ability to get the win bonus. With the higher priced options struggling (Glasnow), coming back from injury (Max Fried), or facing good offenses (Kyle Hendricks, Zac Gallen), Plesac is definitely one of my favorite pitchers on the slate.

Danny Duffy- P, KC at MIL ($7,800)

If you don't want to roster two high-priced arms, I like Duffy as a potential SP2. He was scheduled to start earlier in the week but missed the team's flight. While a player being disciplined is never a good thing, it does mean that Duffy isn't injured and received a few extra days of rest, which could help him against a Brewers team that is seventh-worst in the league in K% against LHP with a 24.5% mark. Duffy has found his swing-and-miss stuff again this year, raising his K% to 23.9% and is giving up only 27.1% hard contact, down from 39.1% last year. He's also had a brutal schedule with multiple starts against the White Sox and Twins. I think this will be a nice respite for him, and while I don't expect a huge game, I like his floor and chances to be a low-priced SP2 option who won't torpedo your lineup.

Other Options: Chris Paddack (SD at SEA) $8,800, Zack Greinke (HOU vs ARI) $10,100

 

DraftKings DFS Infielders

Will Smith - C, LAD at Ryan Castellani ($4,800)

I know we don't usually like to pay up at catcher, but Will Smith has really begun to separate himself from the pack. He's hitting .436 over his last 10 games with 2 HR and 9 RBI, which has led the Dodgers to move him into the middle of their high-powered offense. Now he gets to travel to Coors to face Castellani, who has allowed a 2.36 HR/9 and a 90.4 mph average exit velocity. His 4.46 ERA is not at all supported by his 7.19 FIP and 5.96 SIERA, and I think the Dodgers could wallop him tonight. If you can find value in other spots, I love the idea of paying up for Smith.

Luke Voit - 1B, NYY vs Martin Perez  ($5,300)

There are a ton of first baseman you can pay up for tonight, but I have to mention Voit because he has been absolutely crushing the baseball. He has hit four home runs in his last three games and seven in his last 10. He's hitting .326 over that 10 game span with 17 RBI and 13 R as a huge part of these Yankees onslaughts. While his average against LHP hasn't been great this year, he is also sporting a .182 BABIP which has driven that down. The quality of contact is great, with a .417 ISO and .397 wOBA against southpaws. A slight knock against him tonight is that Perez has controlled his home runs, with only a 1.21 HR/9. However, the Yankees can still hit him around the yard and then get into Boston's weak bullpen, where Voit can do even more damage.

(NOTE: I also really like Jared Walsh tonight if you don't want to pay up for Voit)

Other Options: Freddie Freeman (ATL at NYM) $5,700, Jose Abreu (CWS at CIN) $5,100, Hunter Dozier (KC at MIL) $4,100, Jared Walsh (LAA vs TEX) $4,000

DJ LaMahieu- 2B/3B, NYY vs Martin Perez  ($5,600)

Value is not nearly as strong at 2B as it is at other positions today. There are some dart throw options in good environments who haven't been hitting well lately, but nothing that is screaming out to me. That means I may opt to pay down at other positions and go for a sure thing here. DJL is another Yankee who has caught fire of late, hitting .400 over his last 10 games with 6 HR, 11 RBI, 16 R, and a crazy 8:3 BB:K ratio. He is seeing the ball incredibly well and is another strong option against a mediocre Red Sox pitching staff.

Other Options: Jose Altuve (HOU vs ARI) $3,700, Ryan McMahon (COL vs LAD) $3,600

Jose Ramirez - 3B, CLE at Michael Fulmer ($5,300)

Most people are going to be looking to attack Coors and the Yankees tonight, but the Indians are an intriguing stack to me that will likely be low-owned. Michael Fulmer has struggled tremendously in his return from a knee injury that kept him out all last year. He will only be serving as the opener (again), but he currently sports a 9.27 ERA, a 2.82 HR/9, and is giving up an average exit velocity of 91.7 mph. Jose Ramirez just went 4-5 with 2 HR last night and his hitting .405 over his last 10 games with 5 HR, 8 RBI, and 9 Runs. I expect people to attack other options at the position, so he might be a nice lower-rostered option.

Other Options: Manny Machado (SD at SEA) $5,400, Justin Turner (LAD at COL) $5,200, Gio Urshela (NYY vs BOS) $4,500, Edwin Rios (LAD at COL) $3,400

Xander Bogaerts - SS, BOS, at Jordan Montgomery ($4,700)

Below, you'll see a lot more of the common names to play on tonight's slate, which is why I wanted to target Xander. The Red Sox haven't been good this year as a team, but their offense has been OK and Bogaerts has been pretty good, particularly against left-handed pitching. On the season he's hitting .360 with a .280 ISO, 1.047 OPS, and .440 wOBA against lefties. Jordan Montgomery was good in his last start against Baltimore, but he's been inconsistent on the season and is certainly a hittable option for Bogaerts and the Sox. I think many people will opt for other options around this price range, so he could be under-rostered.

Other Options: Trevor Story (COL vs LAD) $5,600, Francisco Lindor (CLE at DET) $5,500, Corey Seagar (LAD at COL) $5,300

 

DraftKings DFS Outfielders

Giancarlo Stanton - OF, NYY vs Martin Perez ($4,300)

This will be the last Yankee I write up; I swear. Stanton is hot at the moment, and we know that when the big man gets going, you're going to want to be on board. He's played only two games since coming off the IL, but last night he went 4-5 with a HR and 2 RBI, so perhaps he's beginning to get his timing back. His price is one of the more affordable Yankees on the slate, which makes him easier to fit into stacks or a way to get one-off exposure to a dynamic lineup.

AJ Pollock- OF, LAD at Ryan Castellani ($4,200)

Everybody already knows that Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger have good match-ups today and you should absolutely play them if you can afford to get them into your lineup; however, I wanted to highlight a Dodgers pivot play at a more affordable salary. Pollock was available last night as a pinch-hitter, which makes me think that his hamstring may be healed enough to get him into the starting lineup tonight. He's hit .325 over his last 10 games with 4 HR, 7 RBI, and 8 Runs. After a down August, he has really rebounded and is actually hitting .314 over the entire month of September while batting in the middle of a loaded Dodgers lineup, in Coors, against a bad arm. I love this at the price, but make sure you check the lineup to ensure he's in there.

Marcel Ozuna - OF, ATL at Steven Matz ($4,900)

I really like the Braves offense tonight against Matz in his first game off of the IL. I expect them to get to him early, and the Mets bullpen was taxed last night after Seth Lugo could only get through two innings. The power hasn't been there for Ozuna of late, but his 14 HR and .277 ISO on the season tell us that's it's definitely in there. He's been making good contact with a .295 average over his last 10 games and his place in the middle of the Braves lineup ensures that he'll have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs if they get going.

Other options: Mookie Betts (LAD at COL) $6,000, Mike Trout (LAA vs TEX) $5,900, Charlie Blackmon (COL vs LAD) $5,600, Adam Duvall (ATL at NYM) $4,500, Ryan Braun (MIL vs KC) $3,600

 

DraftKings DFS Stacks

  • COORS- some really nice value to go with the studs, both teams in play with the Dodgers going with a bullpen game
  • New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox (Martin Perez, LHP)
  • Los Angeles Angels vs Texas Rangers (Jimmy Herget, RHP) - bullpen game
  • Sneaky Stack- Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks (Zac Gallen, RHP)
  • No Ownership Stack- Cincinnati Reds vs Chicago White Sox (Jonathan Stiever, RHP)



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From to Farm to Roster: Potential Call-Ups for Week 9

We're almost to the end of the fantasy season, and there is only one FAAB period left to help get our teams over the finish line. With that in mind, there are far fewer impact players that have yet to be called up.

I'll still discuss players on a team's Taxi Squad or Alternate Site Camp who are worth keeping an eye on or stashing in hopes of reaping fantasy goodness. I'll list league sizes where the player could be relevant and give you information on the situation so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

 

Overview

As a point of clarification: Taxi Squad and Alternate Site Camp are two different things. When teams go on the road, they are able to bring three players who are not on the active roster, in case of an emergency. This is the Taxi Squad. These players cannot appear in games unless there is a corresponding transaction but are clearly those that are the closest to being "called-up," so it's important to keep an eye on those.

The Alternate Site Camp is where all other players in the 60-man pool are and could be seen as this year's "Minor Leagues." They will scrimmage each other and get instruction, but only some of them are potential call-ups this year while others are top prospects who are simply there to get work in. Teams can also add players to their 60-man pool or release them from it, so these will also be fluid.

 

Priority Pickups

These are players I believe you should put in claims for now (depending on your league size) based on their proximity to playing time.

Daniel Ponce de Leon, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

12-team leagues

Ponce was sent to the Alternate Site after his last start against the Brewers, but the speculation is that had more to do with the Cardinals wanting extra relievers for their upcoming doubleheaders than it did with him not being in their plans. After all, he did strike out nine over six innings while giving up only two runs. He's shown strikeout upside in the past and a start against the lowly Pirates could be a tremendous opportunity for teams in their fantasy finals to steal a win and some Ks. The Cardinals haven't announced any starters for the weekend series, but I would be shocked if Ponce wasn't one of them.

Mickey Moniak, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

15-team leagues

EDIT: MONIAK WAS CALLED UP AFTER THE ARTICLE WAS SUBMITTED

After Kyle Garlick was hurt on Tuesday night, there was some speculation that the Phillies would call up their former number one pick. Moniak would join an outfield with Andrew McCutchen, Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley, and Phil Gosselin, so playing time is not guaranteed, but there is a path to it if he performs. The problem is that he hasn't really performed. He was drafted as a high contact hitter, but he has hit above .270 once in the minors and has had a K% over 21% each of the last three seasons. He's begun to add a little power to his game, but he will only ever be average there. The only reason I would consider him in deep leagues is that he has some speed to swipe a few bases, and he could hit in a solid lineup and his singles could turn into a few runs. I'm not overly excited though.

 

Bruce Zimmermann, SP, Baltimore Orioles

15-team leagues and AL-only

Believe it or not, I'm a little bit excited about this one. Zimmermann was on my radar for dynasty leagues after his strong 2019 season, so I'm interested to see him get a start against a Tampa Bay team that is solid but features a bevy of left-handed hitters for the left-handed Zimmermann to work against. After working out at Driveline, Zimmermann worked to perfect his curveball which he hopes to pair with an average fastball but good slider and changeup, which makes him effective against both righties and lefties. He's not going to get a lot of strikeouts, but he's an intriguing arm if you need some WHIP help for the final weeks.

 

Watch List

These are players who I don't believe warrant an immediate add but are guys who should be on your radar for a call-up in the near future. If you're in a really deep league, perhaps some of these guys could act as a bench stash, depending on the size of your roster and health of your team. 

Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles

It seems unlikely now, but I'm going to keep it up because of GM Mike Elias' comments:

Heading into their final game against the Mets, the Orioles are only a game and a half out of a playoff spot. Pedro Severino has been hitting the ball well, so they're in no rush to move on from him behind the dish, but they can also move Renato Nunez back to 1B and DH Rutschman instead of Pat Valaika or Chris Davis. The Orioles' top prospect against played above A-ball and only hit .154 in his 12 games there, but he was taken first overall last year because his bat was so advanced. He's incredibly polished with enticing raw power and consistent contact metrics. He's also, by all accounts, an incredibly hard worker who would adapt quickly to a new level.

Nick Pivetta, SP, Boston Red Sox

I'm not sure you really want to do this to yourself, but in an AL-Only league, you may need to take any opportunity you get. Pivetta was rumored to be starting last week against the Phillies, but the team went with Chris Mazza instead, which means Pivetta may start at some point in the final weeks of the season. This is the same Nick Pivetta that had a 15.88 ERA across 5.2 innings with the Phillies this season. However, we all know that Pivetta has tantalized baseball enthusiasts with his raw stuff for a few years now. Perhaps the Red Sox can unlock some of that talent? It's not necessarily likely, but you can stash him on your bench and find out. Even he goes on a good stretch, he could be a difference-maker in those deep leagues.

Adonis Medina, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Jake Arrieta was hurt earlier this week, which means the Phillies will likely need another starter in the coming weeks. They have both Medina and Cole Irvin starting at the alternate site, but I put Medina here because he'd be a little more interesting for fantasy purposes. A little bit of the shine has worn off his prospect status. He never added the velocity that people expected, but his sinker, slider, changeup combo has allowed him to limit hard contact. The secondary pitches were also hard for him to control, but if he can figure them out, he has enough movement on the pitches to make him a solid risk in the right matchup.

Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox

NOTE: Duran's speed was also on display Wednesday with an inside the park home run at the Alternate Site. Just call him up and see what he can do. SWING CHANGE ALERT! After struggling with high fastballs last year, Duran altered his swing to be able to elevate his hands above the ball. It appears to be working as he's showing home run power at the Alternate Site. Duran is an elite speed outfielder so any added pop to his game would take him from a potential fourth outfielder to a true everyday player. With Andrew Benintendi out and Kevin Pillar now in Colorado, the Red Sox don't have much in the way of outfield depth behind Alex Verdugo and Jackie Bradley Jr. Sure, they can play Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, and Yairo Munoz there, but why not see what Duran can give them? If he does get the call, he could be valuable for his speed alone.



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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks (9/11/20) - MLB DFS Lineups

We head into Friday night with a 10 game slate on tap starting at the unusual time of 8:05. A slate with a few top-end arms and a lot of places to attack with bats. There is some spotty weather that could factor in, so keep an eye on weather reports during the day before you lock in your lineup. Make sure to listen to MLB DFS Quick Hits to get a full rundown of the player pool and how to attack the slate.

When looking at the slate, be cautious about the presence of Gerrit Cole. Although he appears on the slate, the Yankees and Orioles game will NOT BE COUNTED. Don't just blindly click on Cole, especially with Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Kenta Maeda also available. The Coors bats and White Sox bats will likely be expensive and popular, while the Mariners and Athletics are a couple of the affordable targets tonight.

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 9/11/2020. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. You can also read more DFS advice and lineup picks for sites like FanDuel, and other sports too.

 

DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers

Lucas Giolito - P, CWS vs DET ($10,500)

It might be hard to pass on Bieber, but I'm not going to pay 11K to attack the Minnesota Twins offense. Instead, I'll take Giolito, who has also been near-dominant this season against a much weaker offense. Yes, the Tigers have shown flashes of fight on offense, but they also have the highest K% in the league against right-handed pitching at 28.3%. They also have the third-worst OBP (.270), fifth-worst wOBA (.300), and seventh-worst batting average (.233). This is an offense you can attack, especially with a strikeout pitcher like Giolito, who has a ridiculous 34.9 K% this season and is allowing only a 1.85 batting average against. Fire him up as your top arm on the slate.

Yusei Kikuchi - P, SEA at ARI ($6,200)

When looking for an SP2 tonight, I'm really interested in Kikuchi and it mainly has to do with the matchup. On the season, the Diamondbacks have the league's worst wOBA, RC+, ISO, and OP against left-handed pitching. They've also traded away Starling Marte and saw Ketel Marte go on the disabled list. Even though they are middle of the pack in K%, this is an offense you can target, even with imperfect pitchers like Kikuchi. The second-year import pitcher has allowed four earned runs on nine hits over his last 11 innings while striking out 13 and scoring 17.1 and 28.3 DraftKings points. I think that's the range of outcomes you can expect from him tonight, but getting 20 points from your SP2 at this price is nothing to be upset about.

Other Options: Kenta Maeda vs CLE ($10,200), Luis Castillo at STL ($9,600), Garrett Richards vs SF ($7,500)

 

DraftKings DFS Infielders

Jacob Stallings - C, PIT at Kris Bubic ($3,000)

The catcher position is a little bit of a mess tonight, so I'm looking to save salary here so that I can pay up for one of the aces on the slate without sacrificing top bats. Stallings has hit .364 this year against left-handed pitching with a .955 OPS and .427 wOBA. Bubic may have a bright future ahead of him, but he's not missing many bats, so I'll take my chances that the Pirates and Stallings can get to him for a few runs.

Other Options: Luis Torrens (SEA at ARI) $2,900, Tony Wolters (COL vs LAA) $2,700, Jacob Nottingham (MIL vs CHC) $2,600

Mitch Moreland - 1B, SD vs Johnny Cueto ($4,000)

Moreland has cooled off a little of late, but he's still hitting .301 with 9 HR, a .398 ISO, and .443 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season. Cueto was beginning to get hit around a little before facing Arizona in back-to-back starts, so I'm not too worried about his numbers. He still gives up a lot of contact and doesn't miss a ton of bats. I expect the Padres offense to put a few crooked numbers on the board, and I like Moreland to be at the center of that.

Other Options: Matt Olson (OAK at TEX) $5,000, Brandon Belt (SF at SD) $3,300, Christian Walker (ARI vs SEA) $3,700

Keston Hiura - 2B, MIL vs Jon Lester  ($5,300)

Yes, Hiura's price tag is a little high for somebody only hitting .229 on the season, but he has four home runs over his last 10 games, so I'm banking on the power here against Lester, who is giving up 2.01 HR/9. All of Lester's home runs this year have come against right-handed batters, and Milwaukee is a home run-friendly stadium, so I think the forces can align here against the veteran left-hander who has given up 10 earned runs on 14 hits over his last 8.2 innings - against St. Louis and Pittsburgh, who are not offenses that strike fear into my heart.

(NOTE: I also love Dylan Moore (2B/OF SEA) at Caleb Smith ($3,600) if you need/want to pay down. This is Smith's first start since battling COVID, and he'll be pitching in an Arizona stadium that is incredibly offensive friendly now that the roof is open. Moore has a .258 ISO, .516 SLG, and .343 wOBA against left-handers this year, and I think a mini-stack for the Mariners is absolutely in play here against a bad Diamondbacks bullpen as well.) 

Other Options: Ryan McMahon (COL vs LAA) $3,900, Ty France (SEA at ARI) $3,800

Nolan Arenado - 3B, COL vs Griffin Canning ($5,600)

I know it's a chalky pick, but I'm not going to not put Arenado here. He heads home to face a mediocre pitcher in Griffin Canning, and you should want exposure. Despite being a trendy breakout pick pre-injury, Canning has returned lacking the swing-and-miss stuff many expected. He only has a 20.2 K% and a 9.8 SwStr%. He's giving up 11% barrels and only 11% soft contact, which means batters are squaring the ball up against him often. Arenado hits .324 at home with a .309 ISO, so I'm into this matchup.

Other Options: Manny Machado (SD vs SF) $5,700, Anthony Rendon (LAA at COL) $4,400, Maikel Franco (KC vs PIT) $3,500

Tim Anderson - SS, COL vs Casey Mize ($5,700)

You're likely going to want to pay up at shortstop tonight. There are some cheaper options I'll list below, but with Anderson, Fernando Tatis Jr., Trevor Story, and Francisco Lindor all swinging a hot bat or having good match-ups, it's hard to avoid them. I'll focus on Anderson here to give the White Sox some love. He's been hitting .324 over the last 10 days with 9 runs while hitting at the top of a strong offense. The power hasn't quite been there recently, but he might be able to get it back against Mize, who has had a rough transition to the big leagues. The rookie has a 6.75 ERA, a 12.5% barrel rate, and has yet to get out of the fifth inning in any start. He has the stuff to miss bats, but I like the chances of the White Sox putting up a fair few runs tonight, so getting their leadoff hitter isn't a bad idea.

Other Options: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD vs SF) $6,000, Trevor Story (COL vs LAA) $5,800, Erik Gonzalez (PIT at KC) $3,300

 

DraftKings DFS Outfielders

Edward Olivares - OF, KC vs Steven Brault ($2,600)

The Royals are actually a sneaky stack tonight against a mediocre left-handed pitcher and bullpen. Since coming over to the team, Olivares has been inserted into the starting lineup and mashing. He's hitting .351 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, and a .946 OPS over the last ten games. Brault isn't allowing a lot of home runs, and Kauffman Stadium will suppress power, but he has only a 7.7 SwStr% and is allowing an 80.3 Contact%. The Royals have been an underrated offense all season, and I think they could provide a cheap stack or mini-stack on tonight's slate.

Mike Trout- OF, LAA at German Marquez ($6,000)

I mean, you're putting the best player in the league in Coors Field, so he has to be on your radar. Trout is hitting .343 with 4 HR, 7 RBI, 11 runs, and a 1.260 OPS over his last 10 games. Marquez was the arm who had "figured out Coors," but he's currently pitching to a 7.03 ERA, .327 average, .363 wOBA, and 50% hard contact. Don't let the Marquez narrative fool you and feel free to stack your Angels.

Shogo Akiyama - OF, CIN at Adam Wainwright ($2,100)

If you want to pay up for the Coors bats or White Sox bats, you're going to need to find value. Akiyama hasn't impressed in his MLB debut, but he is hitting at the top of the Reds lineup that has some punch. He's hitting .318 over the last 10 games with a .483 OBP that has helped him swipe 4 bases.  Wainwright is pitching above his head right now, but he's not missing bats (19.6 K%), and his 4.50 xFIP and 4.55 SIERA suggest that regression is coming. I'll slot Akiyama into my lineups so that I can get a solid floor and pay up for the bigger bats.

Other Options: Charlie Blackmon (COL vs LAA) $5,800, Wil Myers (SD vs SF) $4,300, Alex Dickerson (SF at SD) $4,100

DraftKings DFS Stacks

  • Colorado Rockies vs Los Angeles Angels (Griffin Canning, RHP)
  • Los Angeles Angels at Colorado Rockies (German Marquez, RHP)
  • Seattle Mariners at Arizona Diamondbacks (Caleb Smith, LHP)
  • Kansas City Royals vs Pittsburgh Pirates (Steven Brault, LHP)



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Can James Robinson Be the Next Phillip Lindsay?

When Leonard Fournette was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, there was a lot of speculation about whether Ryquell Armstead, the second-year back from Temple, would be elevated to the starting position on a run-heavy offense. However, Armstead is still battling with COVID-19 and is not ready for game action, so the Jaguars' first depth chart had James Robinson listed as the starter.

Who??? While many were not familiar with James Robinson, the Illinois State product put himself on the map with a strong four-year career and a solid postseason showcase at the NFL Combine and East-West Shrine Bowl. So now the question becomes: do we want to roster James Robinson?

I've tried to consume as much James Robinson content as I could over the past few days and succinctly put together a document that addresses that question. Below we'll look at who Robinson is, what his athletic make-up suggests, how he can contribute on the field, and what his role might realistically be in the Jacksonville offense. Hopefully, after we've covered all of that, it will be clear how we reached the decision that comes at the end of the article.

 

Who is James Robinson?

First of all, it might be fruitful to start with an introduction to James Robinson. Robinson is a 5'9" 220 pound all-purpose back from Illinois State who finished his career 2nd in school history with 4,444 rushing yards, 44 rushing touchdowns, and 5,218 all-purpose yards. In his senior season, he racked up 1,899 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 364 carries. He only caught 16 passes for 80 yards, but we'll get into more later about why that doesn't concern me too much.

 

Athletic Profile

What I keep coming back to in his athletic profile is the explosion. Take a quick look at his Combine percentiles:

His 4.64 40-yard dash makes people think he's slow or a plodder, but that's not the case. Yes, Robinson doesn't have elite straight-line speed or the sharpest cuts; however, he hits holes hard and has the athleticism to plant his feet and drive when he needs to. The Vertical Jump and Broad jump numbers above are both evidence of the explosion that he gets from his strong lower body, which helps him rip off chunk plays, even if he's not taking carries 70 yards to the house.

To put it in another visual form:

Again, the straight-line speed is subpar, but a 92nd-percentile burst score and 69th-percentile agility score are evidence of a broader skillset than simply a physical bruiser between the tackles. In fact, his Combine metrics put his athletic profile most closely compared to Ryan Williams, Alfred Morris, Alexander Mattison, Kenneth Dixon, and Rex Burkhead.

While not a sexy list of names, those are running backs who proved (or we assume, in Mattison's case) they can be successful as a team's workhorse. The College Dominator Ranking, which is a measurement of a runningback's ability to dominant the workload and control of a team's offense is also a clear indication of the way that Robinson's athletic profile, while not drool-inducing, allows for him to be an asset in all areas.

 

Fantasy Skill Set

Despite being a little on the shorter end at 5'9," Robinson plays much closer to his 220-pound frame. He runs low to the ground, with good balance, which allows him to withstand contact and pick up extra yards. Obviously, it's the same skillset that makes him a solid short-yardage or goal-line back since he can get below the defenders' pad levels and drive piles with his strong legs.

As a runner, Robinson's best trait is likely his vision. He has the patience to allow his lineman to open up holes and has the vision and decisiveness to hit them when they appear. The video below is a good example of that:

His feet are quick enough initial to avoid the one defender in the backfield but when he cuts upfield, he takes one or two extra chop steps because he lacks the nimble footwork of a much smaller or more explosive back. Still, he avoids the tackle, has the intelligence to shift his positioning enough to avoid any real contact from the defenders, and then has enough speed to finish the run. It's not a "Wow" play, but it's a smart run by a good football player.

Despite a limited role in the passing game, Robinson has shown soft hands and the ability to gain yards after the catch.

He has soft hands - which he also showed in postseason workouts - and here his vision comes into play again as he sees the first defender before his head is really fully turned around. He is able to run through the ensuing ankle tackle and mediocre body bump from the safety before seeing the cut back lane and his blockers. Another instinctive play that leads to a big gain and a score.

It's important to keep in mind that, when you have a record-setting running back, who is averaging close to six yards per carry, you may not feel the need to have him catch passes that often. It's that old adage, "if it ain't broke..." However, Robinson's tape and his postseason workouts suggest that he can absolutely be a factor out of the backfield. He's not going to be Austin Ekeler, but remember that Fournette caught 76 passes for 522 yards last season, and there is nothing in Robinson's profile that suggests he isn't capable of doing the same.

Lastly, Robinson has proven himself to be reliable in pass protection, approaching his blocks with a low based and the same aggressiveness that he runs with. While this doesn't seem like a fantasy trait, it's good news because it will help him to stay on the field in all downs, except for third-and-long (which we'll discuss more later).

 

Team Rushing Usage

Doug Marrone likes to run the ball. It was true when he was in Buffalo and has remained true since he took over as the Jaguars head coach in 2017. That first season, the Jaguars ran the ball 517 times. In 2018, that number dropped to 416 times, which was just about league average. However, that season Leonard Fournette played only 8 games. In the first six games that Fournette played, the Jaguars were in the top-10 in the league in rushing attempts.

However, there was a shift last year as the Jaguars were 23rd in the league in rushing attempts. Part of the reason for that is Gardner Minshew. The rookie ran for 344 yards on 67 carries, none of which count towards the team's total that earned them the 23rd overall ranking. Another factor was the decline of the Jaguars' defense. In particular, the once-vaunted secondary dealt with injuries and departures and rose to 17th in passing yards allowed after being a top-10 unit prior; they also only intercepted 10 passes, which was 7th-worst in the league.

As a result of this, the Jaguars threw the ball 589 times, 12th-most in the league, after throwing it 536 times in 2018 and 527 times in 2017. As a result, the Jaguars overall have become a slightly less run-heavy team.

Which might also be because of their weakness up front. Coming into the 2020 season, Pro Football Focus names the Jaguars as the 26th best offensive line in the league. Based on Football Outsiders' metrics, the Jaguars were fifth-worst in the league with 3.88 adjusted line yards (team yards per carry based on what was blocked). They were 20th overall in Power Blocking and had 20% of their runs stuffed at the line of scrimmage, which was good for 23rd in the league. Right Guard A.J. Cann seems to be a particular weak point and the team needs more from Left Guard Andrew Norwell, who was the fifth-highest lineman in the league but earned the 17th-best grade among guards.

The team isn't trending in the right direction, but, based on Marrone's track record, I believe he wants to be able to run the ball. If the defense and the offensive line can take a step back in the right direction, I think it's feasible that the Jaguars' passing attempts go back closer to 2018 levels.

 

Potential Workhorse Role

However, when the Jaguars run the ball, Marrone tends to feature one back. They ran the ball with a non-QB 315 times last year, and Fournette toted 265 of those carries, which was good for 84.1%. He was on the field for 844 snaps, which was third-most in the league for an offensive player, and his 82.5% of the team's overall snaps was good for fifth-most. He was the definition of a workhorse.

In 2018, Fournette was only active for eight games. In the six games where he was healthy and completed the entire game, Fournette took 71.4% of the team's carries. In 2017, Fournette played only 13 games but carried the ball on 268 of the team's 459 carries; yet, in weeks 1-6 (before he got hurt), he handled 130 of the team's 179 non-QB rushes (72.6%).

All of which is to say, the Jaguars under Marrone have historically operated with one main back. Now, it would be foolish to assume that Robinson takes Fournette's 82.5% snap share, but the only other backs who are competing with him for snaps are similarly unproven Devine Ozigbo and third-down back Chris Thompson. To top it off, Ozigbo didn't even practice on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury which would all but ensure that Robinson is the starter and main ballcarrier for week one. If he comes out of the gates hot, there is no reason he couldn't take on the 71-72% of the team's carries that Fournette totaled in 2017-18.

 

Red Zone Opportuities

What makes Robinson's potential role even more attractive is the red zone usage. Marrone's preference for running the ball also showed up a lot once the Jaguars got inside the 20-yard line. Fournette was 6th in the NFL in red zone carries last year with 46 carries inside the 20-yard line. He was also 6th in the NFL with 68.7% of his team's red zone carries.

Despite no longer being as run-heavy as they had been in the past, Jacksonville threw the ball 70 times in the red zone in 2019 and ran the ball 67 times, which equates to 51.1% pass and 48.9% run. As mentioned above, Fournette saw 46 of those carries, Gardner Minshew had 10, and Ryquell Armstead had 8, mostly, when Fournette was injured. Ozigbo had the other three, totaling five yards and no score.

Ozigbo is also a bigger back at 6'0" 225 pounds, but he had only 77.8% positive runs last season and gained only 44.4% of yards after contact, both of which are well below average.

Obviously, last season was an incredibly small sample size, and Ozigbo does have the power to move the pile, but his height (6'0") might actually be a disadvantage there since Robinson is just as strong but runs lower to the ground and can get beneath the opponents' pad levels. If the rookie proves that he can be effective in short-yardage situations, the red zone role on this team could add even more value to his fantasy profile.

 

Limited Passing Game Role

With all the positive information we've given about Robinson, it's time to call out a glaring negative: the addition of Chris Thompson. Jaguars' offensive coordinator did not bring his Chris Thompson with him from Washington if he wasn't planning to use him.

The 29-year-old has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his career but makes his money in the passing game. He's caught at least 35 passes in every NFL season where he's been a member of a committee, totaling 350 yards or more in three of five. He has an elite drop rate (0 last year) and saw 12.5% of Washington's targets, which was among the best at the running back position.

Thompson has some of his own weaknesses, the most important of which is that he can't seem to stay healthy. However, when he's on the field, he also uses his elusiveness far more than strength or vision. In fact, Thompson only broke 10.8% of tackles last year, which was a below-average number, a surprise for an athlete as dynamic as he is. Still, he is going to remain a consistent part of the Jaguars' passing game as long as he is healthy, which will cut into Robinson's potential snaps and workload.

 

Final Verdict

Overall, there is a lot to like here, if you keep your expectations in check. Robinson is an undrafted rookie from an FCS school on a team with a mediocre offensive line. If the blocking in front of him isn't good, Robinson isn't going to consistently make guys miss in the backfield and put together big gains. He's smart and instinctive enough to avoid taking big losses, but he's going to need some help.

Where I believe Robinson has value is that he will consistently drive the ball forward and pick up those extra yards. He will take the right angles and make the right decisions to avoid big lost yardage, and he has good enough hands to chip in a few receptions each game and keep a defense honest. When you pair that with his potential role as a goal-line back and Jacksonville's trend towards using one main running back, I think you could be looking at 12-15 carries and 2-3 receptions a game plus goal-line work.

That's a great running back to have on your bench and deploy in the right matchups where his share of the carries could mean that the total rushes climbs up closer to 20. If I come out of drafts with Robinson has my RB5 (or RB4 in deeper leagues), I would be extremely happy.



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From to Farm to Roster: Potential Call-Ups for Week 8

With the trade deadline now firmly behind us and the shortened regular season only a few weeks from completion, we've seen the notable roster moves slow to a craw. It's possible that see a few more of these names brought up as teams push for a postseason bid, or in the event of an injury, but you'll see far fewer names on the pick-ups list than there have been in weeks past. That's just where we're at right now.

I'll still discuss players on a team's Taxi Squad or Alternate Site Camp who are worth keeping an eye on or stashing in hopes of reaping fantasy goodness. I'll list league sizes where the player could be relevant and give you information on the situation so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

 

Overview

As a point of clarification: Taxi Squad and Alternate Site Camp are two different things. When teams go on the road, they are able to bring three players who are not on the active roster, in case of an emergency. This is the Taxi Squad. These players cannot appear in games unless there is a corresponding transaction but are clearly those that are the closest to being "called-up," so it's important to keep an eye on those.

The Alternate Site Camp is where all other players in the 60-man pool are and could be seen as this year's "Minor Leagues." They will scrimmage each other and get instruction, but only some of them are potential call-ups this year while others are top prospects who are simply there to get work in. Teams can also add players to their 60-man pool or release them from it, so these will also be fluid.

 

Priority Pickups

These are players I believe you should put in claims for now (depending on your league size) based on their proximity to playing time.

Isan Diaz, 2B, Miami Marlins

12-team leagues

Isan Diaz still has not officially reported to Miami, so I'll leave this up here from last week in case he's still available in your league: So this one is a little bit of a cheat since Diaz isn't technically at the Alternate Site yet, but it was just announced on Tuesday that he would be opting to re-join the Marlins for the stretch run. All of the back and forth aside, Diaz could easily re-take the starting 2B job that he left when he opted out a few weeks back. The left-handed hitter struggled in his call-up last year, hitting .173/.259/.307 with 5 HR, 23 RBI, and 17 Runs across 49 games, but there is more potential in his bat. Before his promotion, Diaz hit .305 with 26 HR and 5 SB in AA. He also registered an 11.3 BB% after compiling a 10.5 BB% across two levels in 208. The solid plate discipline and pop make him an intriguing option for the closing weeks because of how pesky the Marlins' lineup has become. Jon Berti can go back to his super-utility role, and Diaz could join a lineup with Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Jesus Aguilar, and Brian Anderson. Depending on where he hits in the order, that should give him the ability to notch some runs or RBIs for your squad.

Cole Hamels, SP, Atlanta Braves

15-team leagues

With Max Fried going on the IL, the Braves have discussed calling up Hamels to take his spot in the rotation. The veteran left-hander is throwing a simulated game at the team's alternate site and then will be re-evaluated. Despite the narrative that Hamels had a rough 2019, he actually finished with a 3.81 ERA, 23.2% K%, and 11.8 SwStr% while dealing with a career-high .315 BABIP. He is still not the same pitcher he was in his prime as his BB% has been rising and he's giving up more fly balls and hard contact then he used to; however, he can be a capable pitcher in a deep league and will be pitching for one of the better teams in baseball. If you roster him, I'd expect an ERA just under 4.00 with a solid K/9 around 9 with a good chance at wins.

Daz Cameron, OF, Detroit Tigers

15-team leagues

NOTE: CAMERON WAS CALLED UP ON WEDNESDAY AFTER THE ARTICLE WAS SUBMITTED

The Tigers have surprised people a bit this season, showing themselves to be a dynamic young team that may be slightly ahead of the promising future we all envisioned. They've seen breakouts from Victor Reyes and Willi Castro and called-up two of their most exciting pitchers in Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, but the outfield production has lagged. Jorge Bonifacio (.204/.255/.318) and Christin Stewart (.171/.233/.317) and simply not getting it done. The Tigers called up Derek Hill last week, but they could also look to give Cameron a try to close the season. The son of Mike Cameron, Daz has his father's blend of power and speed, clubbing 13 HRs last year while swiping 17 bases at AAA. He also showed solid patience at the plate with a 11.7 BB%. The issue is that he's never been able to hit for a consistent average. A high-20s K% has led to a .212 average in his games at AAA. That would be fine if, like Bobby Dalbec, Cameron possessed consistent raw power; however, Cameron appears to be more of a 20-25 HR bat. His solid walk rate makes him more attractive in OBP leagues, and his ability to steal bases can help him carve out some value if he gets a chance, but don't expect him to take the fantasy world by storm.

Nick Pivetta, SP, Boston Red Sox

AL-Only Leagues

I'm not sure you really want to do this to yourself, but in an AL-Only league, you may need to take any opportunity you get. Pivetta was rumored to be starting the last game against the Phillies, but the team went with Chris Mazza instead, which means Pivetta may start during the Tampa Bay series. This is the same Nick Pivetta that had a 15.88 ERA across 5.2 innings with the Phillies this season. However, we all know that Pivetta has tantalized baseball enthusiasts with his raw stuff for a few years now. Perhaps the Red Sox can unlock some of that talent? It's not necessarily likely, but you can stash him on your bench and find out. Even he goes on a good stretch, he could be a difference-maker in those deep leagues.

 

Watch List

These are players who I don't believe warrant an immediate add but are guys who should be on your radar for a call-up in the near future. If you're in a really deep league, perhaps some of these guys could act as a bench stash, depending on the size of your roster and health of your team. 

MacKenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres

It's sad to move Gore down to the Watch List, but I think the Padres have made it pretty clear that they are in no hurry to call him up. It's far more likely that we either don't see him at all this year or he debuts in a multi-inning bullpen role for the playoffs. All of which makes him far less valuable to fantasy managers.

Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles

Yes, this seems like a longshot. Then again...

Heading into their final game against the Mets, the Orioles are only a game and a half out of a playoff spot. Pedro Severino has been hitting the ball well, so they're in no rush to move on from him behind the dish, but they can also move Renato Nunez back to 1B and DH Rutschman instead of Pat Valaika or Chris Davis. The Orioles' top prospect against played above A-ball and only hit .154 in his 12 games there, but he was taken first overall last year because his bat was so advanced. He's incredibly polished with enticing raw power and consistent contact metrics. He's also, by all accounts, an incredibly hard worker who would adapt quickly to a new level.

Connor Seabold, SP, Boston Red Sox

I'm going to keep Seabold on here because he's been pitching well at the Alternate Site, I think Nick Pivetta should be a reliever, and all that I wrote last week still applies.

I think Seabold will get a shot with the Red Sox this year. They did just throw Mike Kickham for three innings against the Braves, so at some point you need to give a more legitimate prospect a chance, especially an older one. Seabold has thrown almost 100 combined innings at AA between 2018 and 2019, which should be enough to warrant a cup of coffee to see how he can handle MLB talent. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball but features a solid curveball and change-up and knows how to mix pitches to keep hitters off-balance. That development of his change-up has been crucial to establishing him as a potential fit in the rotation instead of a bullpen arm. He's never going to rack up massive strikeout totals, but he should keep the walks to a minimum, induce soft contact, and get some wins with a solid offense behind him. That would be worth taking a flyer on in deep leagues.

Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox

SWING CHANGE ALERT! After struggling with high fastballs last year, Duran altered his swing to be able to elevate his hands above the ball. It appears to be working as he's showing home run power at the Alternate Site. Duran is an elite speed outfielder so any added pop to his game would take him from a potential fourth outfielder to a true everyday player. With Andrew Benintendi out and Kevin Pillar now in Colorado, the Red Sox don't have much in the way of outfield depth behind Alex Verdugo and Jackie Bradley Jr. Sure, they can play Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, and Yairo Munoz there, but why not see what Duran can give them? If he does get the call, he could be valuable for his speed alone.

Jared Oliva, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates had been using Anthony Alford in the outfield but he's out for the season with a fractured elbow, so maybe that opens the door op for Oliva? Here's what I wrote last week: The Pirates weren't as active at the deadline as many figured, and Gregory Polanco is still with the team. They were able to trade Jarrod Dyson, which could allow for Oliva to make his debut, especially considering the Pirates called up Ke'Bryan Hayes, who they claimed wouldn't be up this year. Oliva has yet to tap into the power that many scouts believe he has, but he has a solid approach at the plate and stole 35 bases last year. He plays good enough defense to play regularly and be an asset if he can get on base enough to use his plus wheels and baserunning instincts. Adding Oliva this year may not get you the power that could be lurking under the surface, but he should make consistent enough contact to get on base and use his wheels to cause some damage. Basically, you'd be getting what you get out of Jon Berti but with the potential for more power if the approach has changed any over the last year.

Seth Beer, 1B/DH, Arizona Diamondbacks

I'm going to leave this here because the Diamondbacks are going nowhere, and I truly want to will this into existence: The Diamondbacks dealt away Archie Bradley and Starling Marte and traded for an injured Caleb Smith, so it seems pretty clear that they're looking to build towards the future. Beer has never played above AA, but the Diamondbacks are struggling on offense and might be aggressive in trying to remedy that since this was a season they were built to compete. Also, there has never been a more perfect year to call-up Beer since he's a below-average defender who will benefit greatly from the DH position. As a former college player, Beer has a mature approach at the plate. He's yet to register the walk rate in the minors that he displayed in college, but he demonstrates good patience and is not a major strikeout bat. He has always been relatively pull-centric in his approach and has the power to be a consistent force as a middle of the order.



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From to Farm to Roster: Potential Call-Ups for Week 7

We had a relatively successful run against last week. Between the article going live and today, two of the four priority pick-ups I mentioned are already in the Majors and one of the guys on the Watch List (Yairo Munoz) also got the call. With the trade deadline just passing, it's possible that we'll see a few more of these names brought up, but I think the rapid pace of the call-ups may have died down.

I'll still discuss players on a team's Taxi Squad or Alternate Site Camp who are worth keeping an eye on or stashing in hopes of reaping fantasy goodness. I'll list league sizes where the player could be relevant and give you information on the situation so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

 

Overview

As a point of clarification: Taxi Squad and Alternate Site Camp are two different things. When teams go on the road, they are able to bring three players who are not on the active roster, in case of an emergency. This is the Taxi Squad. These players cannot appear in games unless there is a corresponding transaction but are clearly those that are the closest to being "called-up," so it's important to keep an eye on those.

The Alternate Site Camp is where all other players in the 60-man pool are and could be seen as this year's "Minor Leagues." They will scrimmage each other and get instruction, but only some of them are potential call-ups this year while others are top prospects who are simply there to get work in. Teams can also add players to their 60-man pool or release them from it, so these will also be fluid.

Now that we've covered that, let's look at some guys who should be on your Pick-Up and Watch List radars. Remember that these are players who are NOT on the active roster, so there will be few pick-ups each week since it's rare you would want to grab a lot of guys who aren't active in a season where every game played counts.

 

Priority Pickups

These are players I believe you should put in claims for now (depending on your league size) based on their proximity to playing time.

Isan Diaz, 2B, Miami Marlins

12-team leagues

So this one is a little bit of a cheat since Diaz isn't technically at the Alternate Site yet, but it was just announced on Tuesday that he would be opting to re-join the Marlins for the stretch run. All of the back and forth aside, Diaz could easily re-take the starting 2B job that he left when he opted out a few weeks back. The left-handed hitter struggled in his call-up last year, hitting .173/.259/.307 with 5 HR, 23 RBI, and 17 Runs across 49 games, but there is more potential in his bat. Before his promotion, Diaz hit .305 with 26 HR and 5 SB in AA. He also registered an 11.3 BB% after compiling a 10.5 BB% across two levels in 208. The solid plate discipline and pop make him an intriguing option for the closing weeks because of how pesky the Marlins' lineup has become. Jon Berti can go back to his super-utility role, and Diaz could join a lineup with Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Jesus Aguilar, and Brian Anderson. Depending on where he hits in the order, that should give him the ability to notch some runs or RBIs for your squad.

MacKenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

Another week, and another time that I'm suggesting you stash MacKenzie Gore; however, the key here is that I no longer think Gore will be viable in all 12-team leagues. The Padres loaded up on their bullpen at the trade deadline, so I imagine that if/when Gore comes up, he won't be stretched out more than five innings unless he's really cruising. The 21-year-old Gore, struggled slightly in 21.2 innings of AA last year but still had a 10.38 K/9 on the back of plus command and great spin rates on his secondary pitches. Expectations should be tempered at his age in his first taste of the big leagues, but you'll definitely want a piece of him.

 

Watch List

These are players who I don't believe warrant an immediate add but are guys who should be on your radar for a call-up in the near future. If you're in a really deep league, perhaps some of these guys could act as a bench stash, depending on the size of your roster and health of your team. 

Connor Seabold, SP, Boston Red Sox

As I mentioned last week, I think Seabold will get a shot with the Red Sox this year. They did just throw Mike Kickham for three innings against the Braves, so at some point you need to give a more legitimate prospect a chance, especially an older one. Seabold has thrown almost 100 combined innings at AA between 2018 and 2019, which should be enough to warrant a cup of coffee to see how he can handle MLB talent. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball but features a solid curveball and change-up and knows how to mix pitches to keep hitters off-balance. That development of his change-up has been crucial to establishing him as a potential fit in the rotation instead of a bullpen arm. He's never going to rack up massive strikeout totals, but he should keep the walks to a minimum, induce soft contact, and get some wins with a solid offense behind him. That would be worth taking a flyer on in deep leagues.

Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox

SWING CHANGE ALERT! After struggling with high fastballs last year, Duran altered his swing to be able to elevate his hands above the ball. It appears to be working.

Duran is an elite speed outfielder so any added pop to his game would take him from a potential fourth outfielder to a true everyday player. With Andrew Benintendi out and Kevin Pillar now in Colorado, the Red Sox don't have much in the way of outfield depth behind Alex Verdugo and Jackie Bradley Jr. Sure, they can play Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, and Yairo Munoz there, but why not see what Duran can give them? If he does get the call, he could be valuable for his speed alone.

Sam Delaplane, RP, Seattle Mariners

The Mariners just traded basically their entire bullpen. Taylor Williams, Dan Altavilla, and Austin Adams are all gone, which leaves only Yoshihisa Hirano at the back-end of the bullpen. That could open the door for Delaplane, who looks like the team's closer of the future. The 25-year-old rode his elite slider to dominant numbers in High-A and AA. His FIP was an identical 1.99 at each level while he had a K% of 48.4% in high-A and 43.3% in AA, numbers that led the minor leagues. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he can spot it well and knows how to pair it with that deadly slider, so the combination could make him a solid closer option for fantasy teams for the final couple weeks of the season.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Chicago White Sox

It may seem crazy that a hitter who was drafted last year could make the major leagues this season but that's how pro-ready Vaughn's bat was. He's not a gifted athlete, but he's a patient, strong, and smart hitter. He makes a tremendous amount of contact and has plus power already. In a season with an expanded playoff format and a few of the AL favorites showing cracks in the armor, the White Sox have every incentive to push to compete this season. That may mean moving on from Edwin Encarnacion soon. The 37-year-0ld was only signed to a one-year contract and is clearly not part of the team's long-term plans. Even as the team has gotten hot, he's still slashing .167/.257/.411; although he has been hitting for more authority with 6 HR and 9 RBI in 25 games. If the White Sox are really making a final push, those numbers aren't enough to hold off the team's top prospect.

Edward Cabrera, SP, Miami Marlins

The Marlins called up Sixto Sanchez two weeks ago and Jazz Chisolm this week. It's pretty clear they're going for it. So why not call up their next best pitching prospect? Well, for starters, Cabrera is just now throwing again after dealing with a "minor right arm injury" this summer. The 22-year-old has a big arm with a mid-90s fastball and tremendous athleticism. He changed his arm slot in 2017 so his breaking balls now have more bite and he's shown that he can make adjustments to iron out his flaws. He lacks a consistent third pitch, but that might be good news for 2020 since Cabrera has a dynamic fastball and strong slider that could make him a dangerous relief prospect. Given his arm injury, that's likely how Miami would use him if they call him up. I'm not sure he would automatically work into high-leverage innings, but it's also not like the Marlins have a murder's row of strong options to close games. We've seen dominant starting pitching prospects, like Carlos Martinez, break-in as electric relievers, so it's certainly a possibility for Cabrera if he does indeed get the call.

Jared Oliva, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates weren't as active at the deadline as many figured, and Gregory Polanco is still with the team. They were able to trade Jarrod Dyson, which could allow for Oliva to make his debut, especially considering the Pirates called up Ke'Bryan Hayes, who they claimed wouldn't be up this year. Oliva has yet to tap into the power that many scouts believe he has, but he has a solid approach at the plate and stole 35 bases last year. He plays good enough defense to play regularly and be an asset if he can get on base enough to use his plus wheels and baserunning instincts. Adding Oliva this year may not get you the power that could be lurking under the surface, but he should make consistent enough contact to get on base and use his wheels to cause some damage. Basically, you'd be getting what you get out of Jon Berti but with the potential for more power if the approach has changed any over the last year.

Seth Beer, 1B/DH, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks dealt away Archie Bradley and Starling Marte on Monday and traded for an injured Caleb Smith, so it seems pretty clear that they're looking to build towards the future. Beer has never played above AA, but the Diamondbacks are struggling on offense and might be aggressive in trying to remedy that since this was a season they were built to compete. Also, there has never been a more perfect year to call-up Beer since he's a below-average defender who will benefit greatly from the DH position where Jake Lamb is currently slotted in and hitting .063 in seven games.

As a former college player, Beer has a mature approach at the plate. He's yet to register the walk rate in the minors that he displayed in college, but he demonstrates good patience and is not a major strikeout bat. He has always been relatively pull-centric in his approach and has the power to be a consistent force as a middle of the order.



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Too Hot to Hold: Sell-High Candidates

Now that we've flipped the calendar into September, we have only one month left of baseball. It was a perilous journey, but we somehow managed to get here, so it's time to stop wondering if the season will continue as planned and give yourself over fully to managing your teams. For those of you who are thinking that you're already out of it, remember that the remainder of the season isn't too much shorter than what we've already played, so there is always a chance to make up ground. Today we're going to look at some overachieving players that could be traded for max value at the right time before they slump.

When thinking about making trades for the back half of your season, it's important to remember not just to "get good players," but to get players that fit your team's needs. Look at the categories where you are under-performing but also where you can make up ground. If you're already last in Runs and 30+ behind the team above you, that may not be the best target to make up ground. Aim to add talent in categories where there is an easier climb for you up the standings.

Remember that the idea for these players below is that they're playing at a level where you can get MAX value for them. This is not a list of players you NEED to move on from. If you have any of these guys and are near the top of the standings in categories where they have been an asset, maybe try to see if you can trade one of them to get reinforcements in places where you are weakest, but, again, don't force it.

 

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, San Francisco Giants

(Current Yahoo rank: 25th)

Yaz the Younger has already started to cool down from his hot start, but his ranking in many redraft leagues has yet to be impacted. So far, he's compiled a .280/.399/.568 triple slash with seven HR, 30 Runs, 24 RBI, and two SB. He's second in the league in runs, hitting atop a surprisingly spry San Francisco lineup. However, with Austin Slater hurt and Donovan Solano also beginning to cool off, the runs have dried up a bit with only two in the last week of games.

His weak contact (38th-percentile Exit Velocity) and .243 xBA finally caught up to him as he's only 12-for-50 over the last two weeks, his GB% is a 40.4% (almost 7% higher than last year), and he's seen his K% rise pretty drastically.

If you want a cherry on top, the San Fransisco Giants play their last two games in Coors Field on September 1 and 2, and then their only other road games will be in San Diego, Seattle, and Oakland, which are not parks that favor left-handed power. He may still be a decent source of runs in games where the Giants' streaky bats wake up, but if you can still sell him off of his early-season dominance, now might be the time.

 

Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners

(Current Yahoo rank: 13th)

Yes, I know that Kyle Lewis simply hasn't stopped hitting, posting a .339 average with a.973 OPS, 8 HR, 29 Runs, 21 RBI, and two SB. But I also know that he leads the league, among qualified hitters, with a .422 BABIP and has a 20th-percentile Whiff%, 39th-percentile K%, and 29th-percentile Exit Velocity. He's overperforming all of his x-stats with a .339 average despite a .274 xBA and .542 SLG despite a .493 xSLG.

He's done a good job in reducing his K%, although it has started to trickle back up of late, has significantly cut down on his O-Swing%, and has improved his BB% by leaps and bounds, but his overall profile does not match up with the current results. He's pulling the ball less than he has in the past, hitting the ball in the air less than last year, and not making a lot of hard contact.

He's a young player who has clearly improved, but I think you're going to see the K% keep moving back upwards, the average steadily decline, and those counting stats are going to be impacted by losing Austin Nola in the lineup around him. I'm not suggesting that Lewis is bad or a pretender, but in redraft leagues, I would be looking to see if somebody is all the way in on his August performance and willing to give up something akin to a top-20 or 30 asset.

 

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves

(Current Yahoo rank: 20th)

There were many people pushing their way onto the Dansby Swanson Hype Train in the offseason and that has proven to be a very comfortable ride as of now; however, I'm expecting travel to become a little more turbulent in the coming weeks. Let's start with the good: Swanson is hitting .303 with five HR, 29 Runs, 20 RBI, and four SB. He's playing great defense for Atlanta and is locked into the top of their lineup, which keeps his run totals safe. However, there is a glaring concern:

Those numbers are not moving in the direction you want them to be in. Overall, Swanson is swinging 4% more than he did last year, but that also leads to a 2.2% increase in O-Swing%, and a 3% increase in SwStr%, which is fueled by a near 6% drop in Z-Contact%. Despite becoming more aggressive, Swanson has dropped his Pull% by 7% and increased his GB% by 4.4%. Hitting the ball on the ground isn't bad for a guy with 90th-percentile sprint speed, but being less patient could be coming back to bite the shortstop a bit now. His .389 BABIP indicates that he's getting lucky on a fair amount of his in-play contact and his xBA has started to decline over the last few weeks as that BABIP has regressed a little closer to the mean.

As with Kyle Lewis, I don't think Swanson is a bad player to have on your team, but I think the new, more aggressive all-fields approach will lead to less power and more inconsistency with his average. If you can find somebody who truly believes Swanson is a top-40 player, it might not be a bad idea to swing a deal.

 

Anthony Santander, OF, Baltimore Orioles

(Current Yahoo Ranking: 31st)

You'll have to move quickly on this one because Santander is already starting to cool off, like the Orioles themselves. The left-handed hitter came out of the gates swinging, racking up 10 HRs, 28 RBI, and a .585 SLG so far, despite just a .257 BABIP. He's hitting the ball hard, and his Statcast page is filled with red. Everything at first glance seems to support a similarly strong second-half, but some of the approach changes have already been to rear their heads.

For starters, Santander has decreased his Pull% from 46% to 36.9%. That's a drastic drop for a power-hitter. He has raised is FB% to 48.2%, which you like to see, but his Infield Fly Ball% has also jumped to 17%, and that has a lot to do with this:

Santander currently has a 24.7-degree launch angle, and it's been climbing steadily. Over that same period of time, you can see an inverse impact on his xSLG:

His K% has also risen from the lowest point of 8% on August 22nd to 24% on the 30th, which has bumped his season-long number to 16.6%. So you have a power hitter whose no longer pulling the ball as much, has a launch angle that has overcorrected too far, and an increased strikeout rate and SwStr% driven by a slightly more aggressive approach and less overall contact (maybe due to the extreme bat path through the zone). Santander still plays in a hitter's park, so he'll notch a few more HRs under his belt, but if you can find somebody to buy into him as a consistent power threat, it's the time to move him for a player who can help you more consistently in other categories.

 

Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

(Current Yahoo ranking: 15th)

That rage you feel building up inside of you as you read the name above, that's why you should put out feelers for a trade. Remember, we're talking about selling "high," so none of these players are playing poorly. Robert is an elite dynasty league asset, but in redraft leagues, there are signs that he may hit some regression in September.

The rookie has been great in his first season with the White Sox, hitting .298 with 10 HR, 22 Runs, 24 RBI, and 4 SB. He has 96th-percentile Barrel%, 92nd-percentile xSLG, and 86th-percentile Exit Velocity. However, there are a few red flags. Robert has a 32 K% and only a 7 BB%, and he's currently rocking a .366 BABIP. His FB% (40.3%) and GB% (37.7%) are near identical, with the FB% being much lower than his AAA numbers, and the GB% being almost 10% higher. While his contact metrics are leveling out, his lack of plate discipline continues to plateau.

This is typical of a young player who could get taken advantage of by Major League pitchers as he begins to see the same pitchers time and time again in this short season. It's already been mentioned that hitters have less access to film this year than in years past, so as pitchers face Robert more, they'll get a better understanding of how to throw to him, and he may struggle to catch up. What it comes down to for me is that Robert is an extremely high profile name who has produced up until this point. He also has an inflated BABIP and concerning plate discipline metrics. You should by no means force a trade, but I think he's a great name to float and see if you can get a player who could help you in categories where you're struggling.

 

Kevin Pillar, OF, Colorado Rockies

(Current Yahoo ranking: 160th)

This one is relatively short. Pillar has been hitting well this year, with a .274 average, four HR, and 20 Runs. However, he was playing every day in Boston and will now likely be a platoon bat against left-handed pitching in Colorado. Also, the narrative that he "crushes lefties" is overblown. For his career, Pillar hits .281/.315/.459 against left-handers with a .178 ISO and .254/.290/.388 against right-handers with a .134 ISO.

He's not going to be a lock to produce every time the team faces a lefty and with him likely sitting on the bench most of the time against right-handed pitching, he loses a lot of value. See if another team in your league sees the move to Coors Field as a boost in value and try to get Pillar off your hands.

 

Lance Lynn, SP Texas Rangers

(Current Yahoo Ranking: 19th)

Fantasy owners with Lance Lynn were likely cursing at their screens on Monday when he wasn't dealt to a contender. The right-hander has been a huge success this season, compiling a 1.93 ERA and 27.7 K% in 51.1 innings and a 4-1 record across eight starts. While the surface numbers are elite, and the four wins are solid, Lynn has benefited from a .197 BABIP and has currently left 88.4% of runners on base after registering a 74.4% mark last year.

When you dig further in, you see that Lynn is allowing 6% more fly balls, inducing 2% fewer swings outside of the zone, and his fastball pVAL has dropped from 20.4 to 8.2. The last number is what concerns me a little bit. Lynn throws his fastball 57.6% of the time, and so far it's performed close enough to last year, despite minor dips in Whiff% and PutAway%, and a drop in velocity from 94.6 mph to 94 mph. However, the high fly ball rate, slight dip in fastball effectiveness, and inflated LOB% and BABIP have led to a 3.97 SIERA and 4.15 xFIP.

With six road games coming up in Houston and three in Anaheim, Lynn is going to be pitching outside of the friendly confines of Texas' dome, and it's possible that the regression could lead to some rough starts. I'd be inclined to offer Lynn and a bat to a disgruntled Mike Clevinger, Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty owner, or see if you can flip him alone for an elite bat.

 

Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

(Current Yahoo Ranking: 83rd)

Most people weren't buying into Adam Wainwright at the start of the year, even though the 39-year-old was coming off of his best season since 2014. Wainwright has found success going more curve-heavy and is currently sporting a 3-0 record with a 2.65 ERA and minuscule 0.88 WHIP. He has an unimpressive 19.1 K% but during his best season in 2014, he had a 19.9 K%, so perhaps he's at his best when he's not pitching for strikeouts.

The issue I see this season is that Wainwright has upped his cutter usage to 27%, and it's perhaps not as good of a pitch as it's been so far. Batters are hitting .194 against it with a .287 SLG as opposed to the .282 xBA and .416 xSLG. Now, x-stats aren't always an indication of where a player will end up, but when the difference is so jarring, you need to take notice.

So, we know that Wainwright is overperforming with his cutter, and he's also gone to his sinker more often, so it's clear that the veteran is trying to get batters to hit the ball on the ground and use his elite infield defense behind him. Yet, he actually has a lower GB% than last year and his FB% has increased by 9% to 37.9%. What's happening is that his HR/FB% has shrunk to 8.3% from 15% last year and his BABIP is a crazy .202. His career BABIP is .298 so that is absolutely going to regress, even with his elite defense, and some of the increased fly balls he's allowing and going to start leaving the yard.

The Central is one of the weaker hitting divisions, but I see some blow-up outings in the future for Wainwright. Considering he threw a complete game against the Indians with nine strikeouts in his last outing, I think now is the time to try and trade him. It's possible the Cubs do a number on him in Wrigley this weekend.



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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks (9/4/20) - MLB DFS Lineups

After a weird 6 game slate on Thursday that locked at 4:05 pm EST, we get a 9 game slate of goodness tonight. Unfortunately, we miss out on the beauty that is Sixto Sanchez and a slew of doubleheaders robs us of the Twins, Yankees, and Blue Jays hitters. Still, there is a lot to like, especially if you like pitching.

Last night was Clayton Kershaw and Clayton all alone. However, today you can roll with Yu Darvish, Dylan Bundy, Jack Flaherty, a resurgent Carlos Carrasco, or even pair one with a low-cost option like Dane Dunning or Yusei Kikuchi against Texas. With so many pitching targets, there are a lot of ways you can build your roster tonight so make sure you also check out MLB DFS Quick Hits to get a full rundown of the player pool for those all-important value plays.

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 9/4/2020. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. You can also read more DFS advice and lineup picks for sites like FanDuel, and other sports too.

 

DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers

Yu Darvish - P, CHC vs STL ($11,000)

Darvish is in a complicated DFS situation tonight. For one, to me, he's clearly the best pitcher on the slate. He comes into the start with a 1.47 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over seven starts. That low WHIP shows just how far he's come in terms of ironing out his command issues, and when he's not walking guys, his stuff is incredibly hard to hit, as evidenced by the .220 batting average against. However, the Cardinals don't really strikeout. Against RHP, St. Louis has a 21% K%, which is fifth-best in the league. Now, they also don't hit for a ton of power with the 23rd-best SLG (.400) and 25th-ranked ISO (.145) against righties. There's a good chance you see seven innings from Darvish with few runs allowed and six or seven strikeouts. That's likely a high 20s output on DraftKings, which is solid but makes me think twice given the price tag. Still, Darvish is the safest bet on the slate which is ideal for cash builds and you can pair him with an upside risk for GPPs.

Carlos Carrasco  - P, CLE vs MIL ($10,200)

Carrasco may be my favorite GPP play today. I don't think people will rush to roster him after a three-game stretch where his command deserted him, leading to 10 earned runs allowed across 12 innings, with nine walks. However, the strikeouts were still there during that stretch - 16 in 12 innings - and he bounced back nicely in his last start with six shutout innings - allowing only two hits - against the aforementioned Cardinals. Now he gets to face the Brewers, who are second-worst in the league with a 27.3% K% against right-handed pitchers. They combine that with a third-worst OPS (.639) and fourth-worst ISO (.145). This could be a game where Carrasco racks up double-digit strikeouts, and I like having exposure to that in my tournament builds.

My SP2 Options: Dane Dunning (CWS at KC) $5,800, Yusei Kikuchi (SEA vs TEX) $5,700), Taylor Clarke (ARI at SF) $4,800

 

DraftKings DFS Infielders

Jose Trevino - C, TEX at Yusei Kikuchi ($2,700)

If you roll with one of the non-Kikuchi SP2s, then sliding Trevino into your lineup as a salary-saving catcher option makes sense. While I think Kikuchi will have a strong start against the Rangers, it's unlikely to be flawless, and Trevino is hitting .364 against lefties this year. With Robinson Chirinos out of town, Trevino will be the everyday catcher in Texas. He's hitting .291 on the season with an .806 OPS, and I think he can grab a few hits and push for double-digits at a bargain price.

Pete Alonso - 1B, NYM vs Jake Arrieta ($4,300)

I admit that I was not really a Pete Alonso Truther at the start of this season; however, nobody should ever doubt the dude's power. It's real and it's glorious. He's hit home runs in back-to-back games, and it almost makes you forget that he's hitting only .143 over his last 10 games. But you're rostering him for that one swing, and against Arrieta and his 6.49 ERA and minuscule 16.2% K%, I think you have a good chance of seeing another big fly. The Mets are one of my favorite stacks on the slate, and I think Alonso is a solid option to complete that.

Other Options: Rhys Hoskins (PHI at NYM) $4,600, Christian Walker (ARI at SF) $4,100, Ty France (SEA vs TEX) $4,100

Robinson Cano- 2B, NYM vs Jake Arrieta  ($4,600)

We already talked about why I like the Mets stack for tonight, so let's just talk for a second about Cano. The veteran had surprisingly solid contact metrics last season in his injury-shortened 107 games, and there were a few people suggesting that he could be a solid middle of the order bat for the Mets still. I'm not sure anybody expected this. The 37-year-old is slashing .375/.408/.667 with 7 HR and a tremendous 10.7% K%. He has a career-high Hard% and is hitting a whopping .435 against right-handed pitching this year. My Mets stacks are likely starting with him.

Other Options: Garrett Hampson 2B/OF (COL at LAD) $4,000 Jeff McNeil 2B/OF (NYM vs PHI) $3,500,

Anthony Rendon - 3B, LAA vs Lance McCullers ($5,000)

I think there is an intriguing group of low-cost options at 3B today (see below), but if you're paying up, I like Rendon. People are still under the impression that McCullers is the same pitcher he was pre-injury, but the swing and miss stuff hasn't returned yet. He has a 10.9% SwStr% and a 20.3% K% en route to a 5.06 ERA. Anaheim is also playing like one of the best hitter's parks in the league after changing the fences, especially with the heat in southern California right now. The ball is flying, and I expect Rendon to take advantage of that. He's hitting .299 on the year with a solid .956 OPS, and I think he'll be in the middle of a few rallies today.

Other Options: Kyle Seager (SEA vs TEX) $4,600, J.D. Davis (NYM vs PHI) $4,000, Alec Bohm (PHI at NYM) $3,100

Corey Seager - SS vs Antonio Senzatela ($5,000)

When healthy, there was never a doubt that Seager was a talented hitter. It's been awesome to watch him swing this year, and he's been truly on fire of late. Over his last 10, he's hitting .390 with 3 HR, 6 RBI, 9 R, and a 1.127 OPS. Senzatela has been solid for the Rockies away from Coors, but he's not missing many bats with only a 15.9% K%. Allowing so much contact is not a good thing with Seager locked in, and the Dodgers lineup around him being so damn strong.

Other Options: Tim Anderson (CHW at KC) $5,500, Didi Gregorius (PHI at NYM) $4,400, Amed Rosario (NYM vs PHI) $3,000

DraftKings DFS Outfielders

Bryce Harper - OF, PHI at Rick Porcello ($6,100)

This is why you roster those cheaper SP2s. I just can't pass up the chance to roster Harper against Porcello. Harper is hitting only .143 over his last 10 games, but this is a get-right game for the slugger. He's hitting .276 on the season with 7 HR and a strong .964 OPS. Porcello could be the gas can that lights Harper's fire. The right-hander has a 6.00 ERA with only a 18.5% K% and is allowing a 44% Hard%, which is the worst of his career. If/when Porcello gets knocked out of this game, the Mets bullpen has been a problem for them all year, which would give Harper a chance to add on to a big night.

Luis Robert - OF, CWS at Brady Singer ($4,900)

Let's ride the hot bat against a pitcher who has struggled with his transition to the Major Leagues. Robert is hitting .282 over the last 10 games, but he has 4 HR, 10 RBI, and a .967 OPS. The White Sox exploded last night, and I look for them to carry that momentum over tonight against the rookie Singer. The right-hander has a 5.19 ERA across his first seven starts with a 2.08 HR/9 and a 46.1% Hard%, which makes me think that we could see any massive Robert bomb tonight.

Michael Brantley - OF, HOU vs Dylan Bundy ($3,400)

Yes, Dylan Bundy is good, but I still don't understand how DraftKings keeps pricing Brantley like this. For starters, he's the clean-up or three-hole hitter on a strong offensive squad, even without Alex Bregman. He's also been a consistently productive hitter his entire career - when he's healthy, so his performance this year should come as no surprise. Over his last 10 games, he's hitting .324 with 2 HR, 12 RBI, and 8 Runs. He also has home runs in two of his last three games. Even against a pitcher like Bundy, if I'm going to pay down, I want to safe floor of a skilled bat like Brantley.

Other Options: Michael Conforto (NYM vs PHI) $4,800, Sam Haggerty 3B/OF (SEA vs TEX) $4,100, Franmil Reyes (CLE at MIL) $4,000, Alex Dickerson (SF vs ARI) $3,900, Jay Bruce (PHI at NYM) $2,700

 

DraftKings DFS Stacks

  • Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals (Brady Singer, RHP)
  • Seattle Mariners vs Texas Rangers (Kyle Cody, RHP)
  • Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets (Rick Porcello, RHP)
  • New York Mets vs Philadelphia Phillies (Jake Arrieta, RHP)



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From to Farm to Roster: Potential Call-Ups for Week 6

Oh, boy, these call-ups are coming in bunches. Between last Thursday and today, seven of the eight priority pick-ups I mentioned last week are already in the Majors and one of the guys on the Watch List (Ryan Mountcastle) also got the call.

With more teams vying for the expanded playoff spots, call-ups seem to be happening at a rapid rate. Hopefully, together we can lock into a few more guys before people have to shell out crazy FAAB dollars to roster them.

Below I'll discuss players on a team's Taxi Squad or Alternate Site Camp who are worth keeping an eye on or stashing in hopes of reaping fantasy goodness. I'll list league sizes where the player could be relevant and give you information on the situation so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

 

Overview

As a point of clarification: Taxi Squad and Alternate Site Camp are two different things. When teams go on the road, they are able to bring three players who are not on the active roster, in case of an emergency. This is the Taxi Squad. These players cannot appear in games unless there is a corresponding transaction but are clearly those that are the closest to being "called-up," so it's important to keep an eye on those.

The Alternate Site Camp is where all other players in the 60-man pool are and could be seen as this year's "Minor Leagues." They will scrimmage each other and get instruction, but only some of them are potential call-ups this year while others are top prospects who are simply there to get work in. Teams can also add players to their 60-man pool or release them from it, so these will also be fluid.

Now that we've covered that, let's look at some guys who should be on your Pick-Up and Watch List radars. Remember that these are players who are NOT on the active roster, so there will be few pick-ups each week since it's rare you would want to grab a lot of guys who aren't active in a season where every game played counts.

 

Priority Pickups

These are players I believe you should put in claims for now (depending on your league size) based on their proximity to playing time.

Gavin Lux, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

10-teams with deep benches or 12-team leagues

By now, I'm sure everybody has seen the videos and heard the news that Lux hit two home runs off of Tony Gonsolin in an intrasquad scrimmage this week. After battling COVID at the beginning of the restart, Lux was sent to Alternate Site to recover and iron out some minor kinks in his game. It was a luxury the Dodgers could afford because they are a deep and loaded team. The addition of the DH allowed the Dodgers to get all four of their outfielders (Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, AJ Pollock, and Joc Pederson) in the lineup against right-handed pitching.

With Max Muncy slotting in at 1B, that meant the Dodgers could send Lux down and feel confident in what they could get out of veterans Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor. It's worked so far as Taylor, Hernandez, and Pollock have all been solid; however, the Padres are closing in on the Dodgers, and the team could use the jolt that Lux would provide. His floor is basically what Taylor and Hernandez are giving right now, so it seems likely that the team would see what he can do. If he comes out swinging a hot bat as he did in AAA, then he could be the difference that carries them across the finish line.

MacKenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

Another week, and another time that I'm suggesting you stash MacKenzie Gore. I remain convinced that we will see Gore soon. Adrian Morejon had an impressive, but short, first start but was roughed up a bit by the Astros his next time out. That rotation spot is absolutely Gore's long-term, especially with the team currently two games up in the Wild Card hunt.

The 21-year-old Gore, struggled slightly in 21.2 innings of AA last year but still had a 10.38 K/9 on the back of plus command and great spin rates on his secondary pitches. Expectations should be tempered at his age in his first taste of the big leagues, but you'll definitely want a piece of him.

Matt Manning, SP Detroit Tigers 

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal made headlines when they were promoted last week, but here's the thing: Manning may actually be better than both of them. Mize has the big name, but Manning was the superior arm in AA last year, registering a 2.56 ERA, 28.1 K%, and 20.9% K-BB% across 24 starts. He's been the healthier pitcher between the two in his career and pairs a mid-90s fastball with a dynamic curve that he can throw on the corners for strikes or in the dirt as a strikeout pitch.

His changeup is average right now, which could cap his ultimate upside, but if he gets that working, he's a legitimate ace. If the Tigers are going for it this year, calling up Manning to take Michael Fulmer's spot in the rotation would make sense. Gore is likely the only rookie SP I'd spend more FAAB on then Manning, so if you have a deep bench, stash him now to save yourself the cash.

Logan Gilbert, SP, Seattle Mariners

15-team leagues

Mariners are likely to be active sellers during the trade deadline, and one of the names that keeps coming up in trade rumors is Taijuan Walker. If the Mariners were to deal from their current rotation, look for Gilbert to get a call up to the big show. The Mariners' top pitching prospect only has 50 innings at AA, but he's a former college arm with a wealth of experience and a strong understanding of his approach.

He has a mid-90s fastball which is supported with an array of secondary pitches that have flashed plus but could use more consistency. The curve may be the best one, but all of them benefit from his overall strong command and ability to mix and match and keep hitters off balance. His K% has decreased as he's gone up levels and he's likely never going to put up massive strikeouts, but he should keep ratios in check and be a solid SP4 for your fantasy teams for this year with the potential for more.

Bobby Dalbec, 1B/3B, Boston Red Sox

12-team OPS leagues or 15-team leagues

The Red Sox are another team that appears to be sellers at the trade deadline, and it would not surprise me if Mitch Moreland is one of the guys to go. The veteran has a .350/.458/.817 triple-slash and is signed to a one-year deal. He could be a great platoon bat for a contending team, and it would open up some reps at first base for the Red Sox to see what they have in Dalbec, who is the Red Sox's number three prospect and the closest to a Major League call-up.

He has tremendous power, clubbing 27 HRs across two levels last year, but he also has inflated strikeouts to go along with it. He's displayed good patience throughout his minor league career, and the Red Sox giving him work at 1B shows that they want to find ways to get his bat in the lineup.

 

Watch List

These are players who I don't believe warrant an immediate add but are guys who should be on your radar for a call-up in the near future. If you're in a really deep league, perhaps some of these guys could act as a bench stash, depending on the size of your roster and health of your team. 

Connor Seabold, SP, Boston Red Sox

Continuing with the Red Sox, their rotation got a potential bump last week when the team traded Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree for Seabold and Nick Pivetta. I still think Pivetta is a long-term fit in the bullpen, but Seabold has a chance to be a quality 4th or 5th starter on an MLB team. Seabold has thrown almost 100 combined innings at AA between 2018 and 2019, which should be enough to warrant a cup of coffee to see how he can handle MLB talent.

He doesn't have an overpowering fastball but features a solid curveball and change-up and knows how to mix pitches to keep hitters off-balance. That development of his change-up has been crucial to establishing him as a potential fit in the rotation instead of a bullpen arm. He's never going to rack up massive strikeout totals, but he should keep the walks to a minimum, induce soft contact, and get some wins with a solid offense behind him. That would be worth taking a flyer on in deep leagues.

Yairo Munoz, INF/OF, Boston Red Sox

As mentioned above, the Red Sox seem to be a likely seller during the trade deadline. With any of Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Andrew Benintendi potentially being moved, it would open up lots of at-bats, but the Red Sox don't have a ton of MLB-ready bats to slot into the outfield. Munoz is one that intrigues me for deeper leagues.

He has played all over the diamond, which could make him a uniquely talented asset in 15-team leagues. In 2018 and 2019, Munoz showed solid overall skills in his time with the Cardinals, hitting .276 with 8 HR and 5 SB in 108 games 2018 and .267 with 2 HR and 8 SB in 88 games in 2019. His ability to play anywhere and chip in some sneaky steals could make him useful in deeper leagues, especially with so few guys actually running this year.

Jon Duplantier, SP Arizona Diamondbacks

With Merrill Kelly now out for the season after surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder, the Diamondbacks are shuffling up their rotation. Alex Young will remain in and Taylor Clarke will be stretched out from his bullpen role to get the first crack at the fifth spot. The team also has Taylor Widener currently throwing out of the bullpen, but he's a minor league starter who could get a shot if Clarke fails. However, I also think fantasy owners should keep an eye on Duplantier.

He battled shoulder issues at the beginning of the season but has begun ramping up his throwing program and may be ready to contribute in a couple of weeks. The Diamondbacks' number 10 prospect had a solid major league debut last year, registering a 4.42 ERA and 20.9 K% across 36.2 innings. However, he could also come up as a multi-inning bullpen arm, which would likely increase his overall strikeout and ratio value while giving him the chance to earn a few coveted wins in front of Archie Bradley. Just keep an eye out for news on his continued recovery.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Chicago White Sox

It may seem crazy that a hitter who was drafted last year could make the major leagues this season but that's how pro-ready Vaughn's bat was. He's not a gifted athlete, but he's a patient, strong, and smart hitter. He makes a tremendous amount of contact and has plus power already. In a season with an expanded playoff format and a few of the AL favorites showing cracks in the armor, the White Sox have every incentive to push to compete this season.

That may mean moving on from Edwin Encarnacion soon. The 37-year-0ld was only signed to a one-year contract and is clearly not part of the team's long-term plans. He's also started the year off ice-cold with a 1.60/.208/.300 triple-slash with 2 HR and 3 RBI in 14 games. Not everybody can age the way Nelson Cruz does, so perhaps he needs to step aside for Vaughn and his beautiful swing.

Jared Oliva, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are another team that figures to be sellers at the deadline, with Gregory Polanco being one of the names frequently mentioned. If the Pirates are able to offload Polanco or other veteran outfielders, like Jarrod Dyson, that could allow for Oliva to make his debut. Oliva has yet to tap into the power that many scouts believe he has, but he has a solid approach at the plate and stole 35 bases last year.

He plays good enough defense to play regularly and be an asset if he can get on base enough to use his plus wheels and baserunning instincts. Adding Oliva this year may not get you the power that could be lurking under the surface, but he should make consistent enough contact to get on base and use his wheels to cause some damage. Basically, you'd be getting what you get out of Jon Berti but with the potential for more power if the approach has changed any over the last year.

Seth Beer, 1B/DH, Arizona Diamondbacks

I'm likely dreaming on this one a little bit since Beer has never played above AA, but the Diamondbacks are struggling on offense and might be aggressive in trying to remedy that since this was a season they were built to compete. Also, there has never been a more perfect year to call-up Beer since he's a below-average defender who will benefit greatly from the DH position where Jake Lamb is currently slotted in and hitting .063 in seven games.

As a former college player, Beer has a mature approach at the plate. He's yet to register the walk rate in the minors that he displayed in college, but he demonstrates good patience and is not a major strikeout bat. He has always been relatively pull-centric in his approach and has the power to be a consistent force as a middle of the order.

Brandon Marsh, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Angels

Brandon Marsh has begun getting reps at first base, which makes me think that the Angels are experimenting with ways to call him up despite their crowded outfield. With Shohei Ohtani locked in at DH, that means 1B is the only spot for Marsh. It's currently being held down by 40-year-old Albert Pujols, who is off to a .196/.255/.392 start with 3 HR and 8 RBI.

The power output has been nice, and I can't see the Angels immediately going to Marsh; however, he's a talented prospect with a good eye and solid speed. He's often overlooked because he shared an outfield with Jo Adell, but if he seems primed to get a call-up, you're going to want him on your roster.



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2020 Fantasy Football Tight End Rookie Rankings: Post-NFL Draft

Welcome back RotoBallers! Below you will find our staff's updated 2020 fantasy football rookie tight end rankings. These rankings are being released after the 2020 NFL Draft, but things will of course change as we get closer to the NFL season. Those of you who are regular RotoBaller readers have likely already seen our updated overall fantasy football rookie rankings, released the morning after the draft. Now it's time to break those down in detail, going position by position with some tiered rankings analysis.

The RotoBaller crew has been busy fine-tuning all fantasy football rankings in the hours immediately following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft. The first task was to focus on the recently-selected prospects in order to prepare dynasty owners for upcoming rookie drafts. Analysts Brandon MurchisonPhil Clark, and Pierre Camus have put together their early consensus tight end rookie rankings (with overall rookie rankings listed) for our loyal readers to use to their advantage.

The tight end position is arguably the least-reliable position for immediate contributions considering the nuances that many rookies need to learn - run blocking, pass blocking, route trees, motion concepts, etc. Since 1996 only three rookie tight ends have scored over 100 points and only five have finished in the top-10 at the position during that season. In addition, the 2020 NFL Draft class was deep at many positions but tight end was certainly not one of them, so while we explore the rookie tight end class, it's important to keep in mind that most of these players will have little success during their first season and only a small handful of them are likely to become fantasy-viable in general. That's why it's so crucial that you select the right one in upcoming drafts.

 

NFL TE Rookie Rankings for Fantasy Football (Post-Draft)

Be sure to also check out our fantasy football rankings and analysis for the 2020 rookie running backs, rookie wide receiversrookie quarterbacks, and our top 130 rookies list.

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Brandon Phil
4 26 Cole Kmet TE 23 30 24
4 34 Devin Asiasi TE 36 36 32
5 39 Adam Trautman TE 33 38 43
5 43 Harrison Bryant TE 54 37 34
5 44 Albert Okwuegbunam TE 49 41 46
5 45 Brycen Hopkins TE 45 52 48
6 46 Dalton Keene TE 52 46 #N/A
6 48 Josiah Deguara TE #N/A 47 59
7 57 Thaddeus Moss TE 43 51 81
8 66 Hunter Bryant TE #N/A 71 57
8 67 Colby Parkinson TE 59 60 73
9 80 Charlie Woerner TE 71 #N/A #N/A
9 85 Stephen Sullivan TE #N/A #N/A 74
9 86 Sean McKeon TE 74 #N/A #N/A
10 91 Cheyenne O'Grady TE #N/A 109 50
10 98 Jared Pinkney TE #N/A 84 #N/A
10 99 Jacob Breeland TE 72 105 76

 

Tier 1 - TE Rookie Rankings

Tier 4 for All Rookie Positions/Ranks

Cole Kmet was the first tight end off the board and joins a ridiculously large tight end group in Chicago that is currently at ten after undrafted free agent signings. Obviously, the room will not end up that crowded, but the Bears did just throw $9 million guaranteed at Jimmy Graham on a two-year deal, which suggests they view him as a starting option.

Graham hasn't been effective in years, so Kmet could easily beat him out, but the rookie is not a strong enough blocker to currently start in the Bears offense, which asks their tight end to go in motion and block out in space a fair bit. If Kmet does improve there and gets on the field more, he could become fantasy relevant by the end of the season or in 2021 since the tight end is a crucial part of the Bears system and the Notre Dame product is a good in-line threat.

His hands are solid, but not great, and he's not going to do much damage after the catch so his upside will always be dependent on seeing a large enough target share and getting red zone looks, but there aren't many sure-fire hits at the tight end position anyway.

Devin Asiasi becomes an intriguing name because of where he landed. We all know the Patriots have loved to use their tight end in the past, but with Tom Brady gone and Bill Belichick likely not far behind him, the Patriots offense could look vastly different in a year or two. Asiasi is a bit of a raw prospect with only one year of production in college and work still to do on filling out his frame and getting stronger as a blocker.

However, he has upside as a receiving target, with good hands and solid quickness for the position. The Patriots are notoriously hesitant to allow rookies on the field, so Asiasi will need to show himself to be a consistently strong blocker at the NFL level before he sees any action, but his overall athleticism and solid hands give him more potential upside than Kmet, just with a much lower floor.

 

Tier 2 - TE Rookie Rankings

Tier 5 for All Rookie Positions/Ranks

Adam Trautman may be my favorite tight end in this class from a long-term fantasy perspective. He's a bit raw since he came into college as a quarterback, but he has ideal size for the position and tremendous athleticism. He was a basketball player, so he can keep defenders on his back and go up and high point a pass, but he also has the versatility to line up in different formations.

He's learning the technical aspects of blocking, but he has shown an aptitude and a desire for it, which is encouraging. He also landed in an ideal long-term spot. He won't contribute much as a rookie given his necessary growth and the presence of Jared Cook, but Cook is 33 and signed for only one more year, so Trautman could emerge in 2021 as a top-10 fantasy tight end in the Saints high-powered offense.

Harrison Bryant is a gifted receiver who ended up in a poor spot. The Browns just signed Austin Hooper to be the highest-paid tight end in football and still have David Njoku on the roster - a former first-round pick with elite athleticism who they couldn't find a way to get production out of when he was healthy. Bryant's future will entirely depend on how he is deployed because he is not strong enough or a good enough blocker to be a traditional tight end.

He will need to go in motion or line up out wide and operate mainly as a receiver. That's problematic on a roster that already has Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Austin Hooper. Until one or more of those players leaves town, it's hard to see Bryant having much fantasy value, but with trade rumors circling around OBJ, you could take a stab at the rookie and hope he becomes a Gerald Everett-type in the Browns offense.

Albert Okwuegbunam also landed in a bad spot for consistent fantasy value. Yes, he gets to play with his former college teammate Drew Lock, but he's also playing behind last year's first-round pick Noah Fant. The two are similar as "speed" players at the position, but Fant has much better quickness which allows him to get open underneath more often than Okquegbunam showed in college. The rookie's ceiling appears to be as a back-up tight end who could hit a splash play or two with his good straight-line speed.

Brycen Hopkins is another player who landed in a poor spot for immediate production. A solid receiving option with elite route running ability and the hands to be an effective downfield threat, Hopkins joins a tight end room that already has two similar players in Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee.

Despite not being exceptionally big, Hopkins is a willing and able blocker in space, so he fits in perfectly with the Rams offensive scheme; he just won't have much playing time early on to demonstrate that. Higbee is under contract until 2023, but Everett will come off the books after this season, so there is a chance for Hopkins to carve out a large share of the tight end role if the Rams decide not to bring Everett back. It's a roll of the dice, but the upside is there for him to be just behind Trautman in terms of ultimate fantasy success in his current system.

 

Tier 3 - TE Rookie Rankings

Tier 6 for All Rookie Positions/Ranks

Dalton Keene was the other tight end the Patriots took in the draft. An extremely versatile athlete, Keene managed to show out despite few opportunities at Virginia Tech. He proved to be a strong blocker with good hands that was able to break tackles and fight for jump balls.

As an alleged exceptional worker, Keene has the chance to be the type of player that is far more successful as a professional than a collegiate athlete, and he's in the system to do it. Based on his flashes of playmaking ability and his grinder mentality, I'd pick Keene over Asiasi as my long-term bet in New England, but it just might take a few years.

 

Tier 4 and Later - TE Rookie Rankings

Tier 7 for All Rookie Positions/Ranks

Thaddeus Moss is another one of the players in the aforementioned Bears tight end room after latching on as one of the higher-profile undrafted free agents. Randy Moss' son is not a dynamic athlete, which is likely why he slipped in the draft, but he is a physical and capable blocker, which will keep him on the field in the NFL, particularly in the red zone. Since Moss also has a wide catch radius and solid hands, his ability as a blocker could allow him to become a touchdown-dependent threat in the NFL, much in the same way Kyle Rudolph has.

Colby Parkinson landed in possibly the best spot after being drafted by the Seahawks. Pete Carrol's offense loves to use the tight end and so does Russell Wilson, which is why an unknown player like Will Dissly was able to rise to fantasy prominence this past season. However, Dissly has now suffered season-ending leg injuries in back-to-back seasons which left Jacob Hollister as the top option in Seattle.

Parkinson is a massive 6'7" and has shown the ability to make strong catches with his hands, which gives him an incredible catch radius. He's a willing blocker, so he doesn't need to be removed from the field in run situations, and his size obviously gives him huge touchdown potential. He works best in a tandem with a small more athletic player like Hollister, so Parkinson has the upside in this offense to be snagged late in dynasty drafts.

Sean McKeon picked a good spot for himself by signing an undrafted free agent contract with the Cowboys, who brought Jason Witten out of retirement because they were so disappointed with their tight end performance. McKeon is similar in that he's not an elite athlete but has exception hands and the ability to make difficult contested catches. He's an effective blocker but not exceptionally big or strong, so he won't be an every-down player; however, he could easily fill the role that Witten had for years in Dallas as a smart player who gets the most of his limited athletic ability.

Hunter Bryant is more of a move tight end who will contribute as a wide receiver rather than an in-line blocker. He has great ability after the catch and solid quickness, which will enable him to lineup flexed out wide in the slot. Bryant will likely not emerge as a starter at tight end given his size limitations and the presence of T.J. Hockenson, but Detroit doesn't exactly have a stable underneath option in their passing game, so it might come down to a battle between Bryant and fellow rookie Quentin Cepheus to see who fills that role. Bryant's ceiling is likely capped in that situation, but he has enough athleticism to become an intriguing stash in deeper leagues as a potential big slot receiving option.

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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From Farm to Roster: Potential Call-Ups For Week 5

Today is a busy article since we've had quite a few call-ups between last Thursday and today and even more who we know are coming this weekend. Three of the five priority pick-ups I mentioned last week are already in the Majors and two of the guys on the Watch List (Franklyn Kilome and Dane Dunning) also got the call. With more teams vying for the expanded playoff spots, call-ups seem to be happening at a rapid rate. Hopefully, together we can lock into a few more guys before people have to shell out crazy FAAB dollars to roster them.

Below I'll discuss players on a team's Taxi Squad or Alternate Site Camp who are worth keeping an eye on or stashing in hopes of reaping fantasy goodness. I'll list league sizes where the player could be relevant and give you information on the situation so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

As a point of clarification: Taxi Squad and Alternate Site Camp are two different things. When teams go on the road, they are able to bring three players who are not on the active roster, in case of an emergency. This is the Taxi Squad. These players cannot appear in games unless there is a corresponding transaction but are clearly those that are the closest to being "called-up," so it's important to keep an eye on those. The Alternate Site Camp is where all other players in the 60-man pool are and could be seen as this year's "Minor Leagues." They will scrimmage each other and get instruction, but only some of them are potential call-ups this year while others are top prospects who are simply there to get work in. Teams can also add players to their 60-man pool or release them from it, so these will also be fluid.

Now that we've covered that, let's look at some guys who should be on your Pick-Up and Watch List radars. Remember that these are players who are NOT on the active roster, so there will be few pick-ups each week since it's rare you would want to grab a lot of guys who aren't active in a season where every game played counts.

 

Priority Pickups

These are players I believe you should put in claims for now (depending on your league size) based on their proximity to playing time.

Joey Bart, C San Francisco Giants

10-team leagues

We have a new top-dog on the column with the news that the Giants are going to call up Joey Bart to be the team's starting catcher. Considering the locked-in playing time, Bart needs to be added in all leagues and can be started immediately in two-catcher ones, but I would think of him as a bench stash in 10-team, single catcher leagues until you can see what he looks like against MLB pitching. I believe what you can expect from Bart for 2020 is MLB-ready power with an inconsistent approach and hit tool and not much speed on the basepaths. Still, his power alone should make him a factor at the catcher position, and if he shows the increased patience he did at AA, he could hit consistently enough to be an easy top-10 option in all league types. Just remember that Jo Adell, who is considered an all-world prospect, is hitting .200 through his first 10 games, so it's reckless to assume Bart will come up and hit immediately and jettison a proven and reliable catcher option for him.

MacKenzie Gore, SP San Diego Padres

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

I would have sworn before the season started that Gore would be promoted. Alas, here we are. Still, I remain convinced that we will see Gore soon. Adrian Morejon got the start for the Padres on Tuesday and was relatively impressive over three innings where he also showcased a weird and devastating knuckle-change.

His outing gives him another start at least, but that rotation spot is absolutely Gore's long-term, especially with the team only a half game out of the playoffs currently. The team called up Luis Patino two weeks ago, but he's pitched exclusively out of the bullpen, as they claimed he would, so Gore is the logical choice for a Padres team that is trying to compete this year. The 21-year-old Gore, struggled slightly in 21.2 innings of AA last year but still had a 10.38 K/9 on the back of plus command and great spin rates on his secondary pitches. Expectations should be tempered at his age in his first taste of the big leagues, but you'll definitely want a piece of him.

Matt Manning, SP Detroit Tigers 

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal made headlines when they were promoted on Monday, but here's the thing: Manning may actually be better than both of them. Mize has the big name, but Manning was the superior arm in AA last year, registering a 2.56 ERA, 28.1 K%, and 20.9% K-BB% across 24 starts. He's been the healthier pitcher between the two in his career and pairs a mid-90s fastball with a dynamic curve that he can throw on the corners for strikes or in the dirt as a strikeout pitch. His changeup is average right now, which could cap his ultimate upside, but if he gets that working, he's a legitimate ace. If the Tigers are going for it this year, calling up Manning to take Michael Fulmer's spot in the rotation - or even poor poor Matt Boyd's - would make sense. Gore is likely the only rookie SP I'd spend more FAAB on then Manning, so if you have a deep bench, stash him now to save yourself the cash.

Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

NOTE: David Dahl was placed on the IL and Rodgers was called up after this article was submitted.

There have been some rumblings that the Rockies are going to call up the former third overall pick. With David Dahl (.189/.237/.243) and Sam Hilliard (.167/.268/.278) both struggling, Garrett Hampson has cemented himself as a regular in the outfield. That has left Ryan McMahon at 2B, Trevor Story at SS, and Daniel Murphy at 1B, and a rotating cast of characters at DH. It's certainly feasible that Rodgers could push his way into the 2B job, moving McMahon to 1B and Murphy to DH. However, this is the Rockies and they're likely going to find ways to continue to get Matt Kemp and Chris Owings in the lineup unless Rodgers comes out swinging an incredibly hot bat. The 24-year-old saw his K% spike in his brief Major League debut, which highlighted his aggressive tendencies. He has great hands and the potential for real power, but his plate discipline leaves a little to be desired. He's apparently looked good on defense and has the athleticism to be a steady defender and the speed to chip in a few steals. He's likely no longer a future superstar, but he has enough of a well-rounded skillset to be a strong fantasy contributor.

Sixto Sanchez, SP Miami Marlins

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

The Marlins announced that they are calling up Sanchez for the weekend series in Washington, and I am approaching him cautiously. Last year in AA, he showed his typical high-90s velocity but had the same trouble consistently missing bats with his fastball. An 8.48 K/9 in AA is not necessarily a number that makes you think of elite pitching prospects. His fastball wasn't able to beat minor leaguers simply with velocity, so it's not going to be able to do it in the majors either. His change-up is dynamic, but the slider is inconsistent, which means that I'm not entirely sure Sanchez has enough secondary stuff to keep MLB hitters from sitting on a fastball that has been hit a lot in the minors. I have no information on if any of this has been worked on during the quarantine, so I'm willing to pick Sanchez up and stash him on my bench to see what he looks like in his first starts. Just remember that for every Casey Mize, who impressed in his debut, there are more Tarik Skubal's or Nate Pearson's (before the injury) who run into trouble in their first major league starts. You don't have the time in 2020 to give Sanchez 3-4 starts on your bench to figure it out.

Ian Anderson, SP Atlanta Braves

12-teams with deep benches or 15-team leagues

Anderson gets bumped up from the Watch List to the Pick-Ups as Touki Toussaint continues to struggle as a starter. I think it's inevitable that Bryse Wilson takes Toussaint's spot in the rotation, but Wilson has a spotty MLB track record of his own, and Kyle Wright has also been a mess as a starter for the Braves this season, which could open up another spot for Anderson, the Braves top pitching prospect. He still needs to refine his curveball, but the 21-year-old has a dynamic fastball and changeup pairing that, if he finds that consistent third pitch, could make him another dynamic young arm in the Braves staff. With the other young pitchers faltering, and Anderson apparently carving up his teammates (below) the Braves may have no chance but to call him up if they want to compete this season.

Jake Fraley, OF Seattle Mariners

15-team leagues

Fraley pushed his way onto the Major League roster last year after hitting .298 with 19 HR and 22 SB across 99 games at AA and AAA. He struggled in his 41 plate appearances with the big league club, but that may have been due more to a series of injuries than a lack of talent. He has the defensive chops to stay in CF long-term and has always shown himself to be a solid contact hitter with plus speed. The power growth last year was nice to see and seemed to come from a concerted effort to lower his GB%, so maybe it's here to stay. Even without the power, the defense, speed, and contact profile make him an upgrade over what Seattle is currently getting from newly-optioned Mallex Smith (.133/.170/.178) and Dee Gordon (.125/.186/.150), and Tim Lopes has always profiled as more of a utility player than a full-time outfielder. With Jared Kelenic likely starting 2021 in the Mariners outfield and Kyle Lewis playing himself into another spot, the Mariners could very well see if Fraley has the chops to complete the outfield trio long-term.

Christian Pache, OF, Atlanta Braves

15-team leagues

NOTE: Nick Markakis was diagnosed with COVID-19, and Pache was called up after this article was submitted.

Pache's presence on this list is dependent on how Ronald Acuna's wrist injury heals. The Braves, of course, are pushing to compete this year, but wrists can take a while to heal due to the way in which they're stretched and flexed in almost every aspect of a baseball game. With Acuna on the shelf, the Braves are rolling out an outfield of Edner Inciarte, Nick Markakis, and Adam Duvall, with Marcell Ozuna at DH. That's not a playoff-caliber unit. Duvall and Markakis likely still have value as platoon bats, but Inciarte is truly struggling to a .186/.262/.220 slash line. He brings strong defense in CF but that's Pache's calling card. The 21-year-old is likely better defensively than Inciarte is right now and has shown enough growth at the plate over the last year to suggest that he could be a better overall option even with his swinging strike rate a bit too high and power not yet fully developed. If Acuna's injury seems like it might linger, and Pache does get the call, his defense will keep him in the lineup regularly, but don't expect many fireworks with the bat. He'll steal some bags and score some runs in a strong lineup, but this isn't a Dylan Carlson or Alec Bohm type of offensive profile just yet.

Triston McKenzie, SP Cleveland Indians

15-team leagues

It's tempting to fully buy-in on McKenzie because of the Indians' track record of success in developing pitching. McKenzie was a prospect I was really high on a few years ago, but he also missed all of 2019 and threw only 90 innings in 2018, so his development has certainly been stalled by injury. When on, McKenzie has a deceptive delivery with good life on his fastball and a potentially plus curveball. The Indians have done well with pitchers who lack elite velocity, so McKenzie fits in well there, but without a consistent third pitch, which he hasn't shown in the minors, he'll be hard to rely on in the majors. Also, I can't help but think this is a short-term solution as the Indians are likely to either call back Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger or trade them and bring in other starting pitchers. Given the uncertain nature of McKenzie's repertoire and his potential short stay in the majors, I would personally wait in anything but the deepest of leagues.

Watch List

These are players who I don't believe warrant an immediate add but are guys who should be on your radar for a call-up in the near future. If you're in a really deep league, perhaps some of these guys could act as a bench stash, depending on the size of your roster and health of your team. 

Fernando Rodney, RP Houston Astros

Ryan Pressly has turned the corner a bit in the last week, and I'm slightly less concerned about the health of his arm, so Rodney moves from a pick-up to a player to watch.  Pressly had a late start to the season, has already dealt with an arm issue this offseason, and has altered his pitch mix to limit the use of his curveball, which was his best pitch last year. There's a chance he is still not 100%. That's where Rodney comes in. It may seem like a joke since he's almost 44-years-old, but the veteran certainly has experience. Despite his 5.66 ERA last year, his pitch mix, velocity and x-stats were near identical to 2018, when he finished with a 3.36 ERA and 25 saves. He also gave up fewer fly balls and less hard contact in 2019, so I think the poor results were a bit flukey. If you roster Rodney, you won't be doing it for the ratios, but he should have a mid-9 K/9 and could be in line for saves on one of baseball's best teams. If you stash him now, you could get that for free.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Chicago White Sox

It may seem crazy that a guy who was drafted last year could make the major leagues this season but that's how pro-ready Vaughn was as a hitter. He's not a gifted athlete, but he's a patient, strong, and smart hitter. He makes a tremendous amount of contact and has plus power already. In a season with an expanded playoff format, and a few of the AL favorites showing cracks in the armor, the White Sox have every incentive to push to compete this season. That may mean moving on from Edwin Encarnacion soon. The 37-year-0ld was only signed to a one-year contract and is clearly not part of the team's long-term plans. He's also started the year off ice cold with a 1.60/.208/.300 triple-slash with 2 HR and 3 RBI in 14 games. Not everybody can age the way Nelson Cruz does, so perhaps he needs to step aside for Vaughn and his beautiful swing.

Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox rotation is a mess and if they were serious at all about putting a competent team on the field, they would have done something about it by now. As a result, I'm not entirely convinced the team is going to make any drastic moves to add talent to their big league club, but calling up a newly signed free agent like Gonzalves might be in the cards. The 26-year-old has yet to find success in the Major Leagues, but he was a former highly regarded prep prospect who has a 2.50 career minor league ERA and put up a 2.96 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.52 K/9 in AAA in 2018. After missing most of last year with an elbow injury, he appears back to full strength and could be a much better option in the Sox rotation than the aforementioned pitchers. If he gets a job, he could be rosterable in deep leagues given the offense behind him or streamable in certain match-ups.

 

Now the holdovers from last week that still intrigue me.

Seth Beer, 1B/DH, Arizona Diamondbacks

I'm likely dreaming on this one a little bit since Beer has never played above AA, but the Diamondbacks are struggling on offense and might be aggressive in trying to remedy that since this was a season they were built to compete. Also, there has never been a more perfect year to call-up Beer since he's a below-average defender who will benefit greatly from the DH position where Jake Lamb is currently slotted in and hitting .063 in seven games. As a former college player, Beer has a mature approach at the plate. He's yet to register the walk rate in the minors that he displayed in college, but he demonstrates good patience and is not a major strikeout bat. He has always been relatively pull-centric in his approach and has the power to be a consistent force as a middle of the order.

Brandon Marsh, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Angels

Brandon Marsh has begun getting reps at first base, which makes me think that the Angels are experimenting with ways to call him up despite their crowded outfield. With Shohei Ohtani locked in at DH, that means 1B is the only spot for Marsh. It's currently being held down by 40-year-old Albert Pujols, who is off to a .196/.255/.392 start with 3 HR and 8 RBI. The power output has been nice, and I can't see the Angels immediately going to Marsh; however, he's a talented prospect with a good eye and solid speed. He's often overlooked because he shared an outfield with Jo Adell, but if he seems primed to get a call-up, you're going to want him on your roster.

Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles

At some point this season, the Orioles are going to call up Mountcastle, we're just not entirely sure when. He doesn't really have a set defensive position, but he has plus-power and hit 25 HR with a .321 average for the Orioles AAA club last year. He doesn't draw a lot of walks but doesn't have an egregious K% either, so he could profile as a .260 hitter with solid pop. If you have deep benches, you can stash him in 12-team leagues since it's a near-lock that he'll be up eventually, especially with D.J. Stewart starting the year on a 0-for-21 skid. There's no logical reason for the Orioles to trot him out over Mountcastle, but so far they show no indication that they're going to do anything differently.



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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks (8/21/20) - MLB DFS Lineups

We head into a Friday night 13 game with only the Mets and Yankees taking the night off due to the Mets' potential COVID cases. As Bubba mentioned yesterday, it's been hot on the west coast, so look to attack some of those big offenses, and really even the ones you normally don't consider potent as the Giants' bats won people lots of money last night.

You may also need some value bats in your lineup in order to pay up for some of the big arms on the slate. Walker Buehler has had a slow start to the year, but Aaron Nola and Max Fried have looked dominant and the rest of the pitching slate is full of question marks. You can take some chances with the other pitching targets,

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 8/21/2020. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. You can also read more DFS advice and lineup picks for sites like FanDuel, and other sports too.

 

DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers

Aaron Nola - P, PHI at ATL ($9,900)

You may see Atlanta up there and be less certain about rostering Nola. That shouldn't be the case. Without Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr., and, to an obviously lesser extent, Nick Markakis, this Atlanta offense is not one that instills a tremendous amount of fear. Certainly not when taking on Nola. The 27-year old has found his groove against this year, registering a 2.05 ERA, 39.8% strikeout rate, and monstrous 35.5 K-BB%. K-BB% is one of the first stats that stabilizes and indicates that Nola's early dominance might not be flukey. He's inducing a career-high 14.8 SwStr%, and the Braves are third-worst in the league with a 26.7 K%. All of it adds up to Nola being my favorite arm on the slate tonight.

Adrian Houser - P, MIL at PIT ($8,400)

I think Adrian Houser is going to be under-owned tonight because his last two starts against strong Cubs and Twins teams left him with average stats. However, he held his own in both of those games, and the underlying metrics suggest that Houser is ready to breakout. Houser's SwStr% has improved to 10.7%, which is driven by adding two inches of drop on his slider and an inch of sink on his sinker. His extra movement has been one of the reasons that he's in the top five in groundball rate, but the strikeouts haven't come. I think they will. Even if they don't come in this game, you have a pitcher who is inducing a lot of groundballs and weak contact facing a team that has the worst ISO in the league and second-worst batting average. Houser may not rack up the strikeouts to put up massive numbers, but I think he's perhaps the safest non-Nola arm on the slate with upside for more.

Other Options: Walker Buehler (LAD vs COL) $10,200, Max Fried (ATL vs PHI) $8,900, Andrew Heaney (LAA @ OAK) $7,700, Chad Kuhl (PIT vs MIL) $6,900

 

DraftKings DFS Infielders

Jose Abreu - 1B, CWS at Jon Lester ($4,100)

Don't look now, but here comes Jose Abreu. He's 8-for-14 in his last three games with a HR, 6 RBI and an average of 18.3 DraftKings points a game. Even before this recent hot streak, Abreu has been striking the ball well, hitting at a career-high 92.4 mph exit velocity and 52.5 Hard%. In his career, Abreu has a .547 SLG and .236 ISO against left-handed pitching and gets a good match-up in Jon Lester. I'd be looking to get some exposure to the White Sox lineup, and Abreu seems like a nice, relatively inexpensive option to do so.

Other Options: Miguel Sano (MIN at KC) $4,700, Renato Nunez (BAL vs BOS) $4,400, Wilmer Flores (SF vs ARI) $3,900, Jeimer Candelario (DET at CLE) $3,600

Ketel Marte- 2B, ARI at Logan Webb ($4,400)

Ketel Marte isn't hitting for as much power as he did last year, so his price has continued to fall on DraftKings. However, he's still hitting .343, his SwStr% is down to 6.3%, and his Hard% is up to 42.9%. The biggest change is that his ISO is down from .264 to .098. Much of that is the way that he's being pitched, but I'm not concerned in the big picture because of the quality of contact Marte is making. He now gets to face a mediocre arm in Logan Webb, who has a 7.5 K-BB% across 20.1 innings. Webb doesn't miss many bats but has registered a 5.6% HR/FB ratio which will absolutely regress to the mean. I look for Marte to be one of the reasons it does.

Other Options: Mike Moustakas (CIN at STL) $5,100, Tommy La Stella (LAA at OAK) $4,300, Phil Gosselin (PHI at ATL) $4,100, Abraham Toro (HOU at SD) $3,000

Manny Machado - 3B, SD vs Lance McCullers Jr. ($4,300)

I don't love many of the options at 3B tonight, but Machado has been hitting the ball well lately, notching a .400 average with 2 HR and 8 RBI over the last 10 games. He has two hits in each of the last three games and is hitting in a potent Padres lineup that has packed a punch recently. Machado will also get to face a vulnerable arm in McCullers, who has not looked like the same arm in his return from arm injury. His K% has dropped from 26.9 to 20.7, his SwStr% dropped from 13.5% to 11.2%, and his HR/FB ratio has jumped up to 21.4%. He's simply not missing the bats he did before, which could be a problem against a guy swinging a hot bat.

Other Options: Matt Chapman (OAK vs LAA) $4,700, Yoan Moncada (CWS at CHC) $4,400, Brad Miller (STL vs CIN) $3,700, Evan Longoria (SF vs LAA) $3,400

Tim Anderson - SS, CHW at Jon Lester ($4,800)

There simply are very few people swinging the bat as well as Anderson is right now. Over his last 10 games, the shortstop is hitting .436 with 5 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB, and a 1.399 OPS. He now gets to bring his act on the road to face a vulnerable Jon Lester. There are many good options at shortstop tonight, but I wouldn't overthink it too much. If you have the salary to put Anderson in your lineup, it will likely be the right choice.

Other Options: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD vs HOU) $5,200, Xander Bogaerts (BOS at BAL) $5,100, Marcus Semien (OAK vs LAA) $4,700, Javier Baez (CHC vs CHW) $4,100, Nick Ahmed (ARI at SF) $3,500, Freddy Galvis (CIN at STL) $3,200

 

DraftKings DFS Outfielders

Austin Slater - OF, SF vs Robbie Ray ($2,800)

Austin Slater facing a lefty? LOCK IT IN. In all seriousness, I had Slater locked into my lineups yesterday against Jose Suarez, and I'll likely do the same today against Ray. Slater is hitting .375 with 4 HR, 5 RBI, and 5 SB over his last 10 games. He's hitting .450 with 3 of those HRs against left-handed pitching, and now he gets to face Ray, who may have changed his mechanics but has been the same old mess on the mound. Ray has an 8.59 ERA and is giving up 2.86 HR/9. You want Giants right-handed bats in your lineup tonight and Slater should be a damn near lock at this price.

Nelson Cruz - OF, MIN vs Danny Duffy ($5,100)

Don't overthink it, if you can play Cruz versus a left-handed pitcher, do it. Cruz homered last night and is hitting .429 with 4 HR against lefties this year. For his career, he has a .278 ISO and .571 SLG against lefties. Last year specifically, he had 16 HRs and a 1.207 OPS. Duffy has always been a guy who got by with velocity, so I love the matchup here, and Cruz apparently does too since he's hitting .360 with a .960 SLG, 5 HR, and 10 RBI in his career against Duffy.

Mark Canha - OF, OAK vs Andrew Heaney ($3,700)

I'm not excited to attack Heaney today since he's a solid arm and the A's struggle as a team versus left-handed pitching, but I do love Canha at this price in this spot. He hit fourth for the A's last night against another left-handed pitcher and put up 16 DraftKings points. He's hitting .279 with 3 HR and 17 RBI on the season and has a 1.044 OPS over his last 10 games. He should be in a solid spot for RBIs tonight and could put up his third straight 16+ point night.

Other Options: Mike Yastrzemski (SF vs ARI) $5,100, Franmil Reyes (CLE vs DET) $4,600, Anthony Santander (BAL vs BOS) $4,600, Eloy Jimenez (CHW at CHC) $4,100, Dylan Moore (SEA vs TEX) $3,900, Stephen Piscotty (OAK vs AZ) $3,500, Jesse Winker (CIN at STL) $3,500

 

DraftKings DFS Stacks

  • Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (John Means, LHP)
  • Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester, LHP)
  • Baltimore Orioles vs Boston Red Sox (Bullpen game)
  • San Francisco Giants vs Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray, LHP)



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Daily MLB DFS Value Plays for FanDuel, DraftKings - August 20, 2020 (Premium Content)


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