This edition of the Paydirt Gold Lab Notes takes a look at a number of topics, including Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Chiefs passing attack, Todd Gurley’s breakaway status, the potential platoon mismatch of the week, and what to make of Tom Brady versus Denver.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling is quite likely to be the top vertical target with Davante Adams out. MVS was very quiet in fantasy scoring last week, but it’s worth noting that he has been targeted on eight of the Packers 18 deep passes this year. Look for him to be just as central to the Packers downfield passing attack in the absence of Adams, especially against a Saints defense that just allowed Derek Carr to complete or draw a penalty on five of eight deep passes for a total of 120 yards.
The Chiefs are going vertical even less often than anticipated. In one of the wow stats of the week, Kansas City has only nine deep pass attempts in the first two weeks of the season. I had projected that the Chiefs would run the ball a lot more this year and not be quite as aggressive in the passing game, but trending for only 72 deep passes all year long is an even lower pace than anticipated, even if one accounts for the favorable game script in Week 1. This trend almost certainly won’t continue, as Andy Reid is not going to scale his downfield playcalling by this amount, but this tendency could make any borderline Chiefs player such as Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, or Mecole Hardman a risky prospect in DFS-style leagues this week.
Todd Gurley has shown zero breakaway ability so far this year. One of the main questions regarding Gurley during draft time was whether or not he would get his breakaway ability back following the knee issue. So far, the answer is no, as Gurley has tallied an abysmal 6.0 GBYPA on 16 good blocking rush attempts this year. Atlanta’s team average in GBYPA is 6.1 so it’s not as if Gurley will lose rush attempts to Ito Smith or Brian Hill, but this is still a major concern. The Bears rush defense has been very solid in the breakaway department, as they have posted a 6.7-yard mark in GBYPA allowed. This combination of factors could make Gurley a lower upside play this week, so those fantasy managers who have higher upside options should consider putting them in the lineup. On a related note, Gurley’s GBYPA pace could dramatically improve in Weeks 4-7 when the Falcons face four straight green-rated rush defenses, so also keep an eye out for Gurley as a low-cost trade option if he does struggle against Chicago.
The Giants running backs do not make for good longshot options this week. Big Blue has atrocious run blocking this year, as the Giants have posted a miserable 36.7 percent GBR this year. New York ranked fourth in that category last year and should get better here eventually, but don’t expect that this week versus a powerful 49ers rush defense. This means it’s a good week to avoid starting any Giants running back even in deep leagues.
The potential platoon mismatch of the week is Houston’s pass blocking versus the Steelers pass rushing. Per pro-football-reference.com, Houston has the fourth highest pass pressure rate allowed this year, rates last in quarterback hits, and is next to last in quarterback pressures. That trend will not get better versus a blitz happy Pittsburgh defense that ranks first in the league with an astounding 42.6 percent pass pressure rate. Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks are both capable of turning any aerial into a long TD, and the Steelers can be hit/miss in their coverage, but the potential for this to be the biggest platoon mismatch of the week makes any Houston player a high risk option in any fantasy league.
Tom Brady may be struggling but it isn’t due to Bruce Arians scaling back the Buccaneers passing attack. Brady has attempted 17 deep passes so far this year, a pace that rates near the top of the league in that category. That the Bucs have done this despite injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin that caused Evans to be very ineffective in Week 1 and Godwin to miss Week 2 shows that Arians isn’t curtailing his no risk it/no biscuit approach even with Brady’s occasional struggles.
A related item of note here is that Brady has thrown deep passes to six different targets, which is partially a result of his not yet being able to funnel his deep passes through Evans and Godwin. Now that Evans and Godwin are both healthy, the takeaway here may be that it isn’t a good idea to be impatient with Brady, especially against a Denver defense that will be without its top pass rusher and cornerback and is giving up 18.2 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks via the passing game through two weeks.