Week 14 DFS fades and players to avoid
Most things went as planned last week — you know, except for the fact that 10 starting quarterbacks finished with fewer than 200 yards passing, and there were also nine of them who threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Drew Brees didn’t throw a touchdown at home for the first time since 2009, Joe Flacco threw four touchdowns and two of them were to Dennis Pitta, who hadn’t scored once all season (or last season… or the season before that). Just as we all planned, right?
Now back to reality, where Week 14 is here, and so are we with the fades of the week. If this is your first time here, what you’ll get is two quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, and one tight end to scratch off your DFS lists. Whether it’s because projected ownership is too high, a player has a tough matchup, or someone who may not be playing enough snaps, these are players who you should look to avoid. And as a weekly reminder, just because a player is a fade, it doesn’t mean he won’t play well. It just means that he likely won’t be worth his price, considering similarly priced alternatives, who’ll likely have a lower ownership percentage. It’s also important to know that this article is focused around cash games, though you should also have lower ownership in tournaments as well.
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Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (at Bills)
If you’ve been here before, you likely understand why Roethlisberger is here in the “fade” section. Most people talk about Drew Brees and the difference between home and away, but believe it or not, Roethlisberger’s splits are just as dramatic, if not moreso. Below are his numbers over the last three years:
|On the Road||20||24.2||36.8||7.47||1.10||0.95||17.7|
As you can see, not quite the same player. On top of that, he’ll be going up against a Bills team that will be at home, fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Bills have allowed just 15 passing touchdowns through 12 games this year, and will likely get cornerback Ronald Darby back this week. Despite playing a solid cast of quarterbacks over the last four weeks (Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr), they have averaged just 218.8 passing yards per game (none with more than 282 yards), and none of them threw more than two touchdowns. This fade is more to do with Roethlisberger than anything, but the Bills aren’t a team that offers a feeding frenzy, either. (One note: The Bills expect to get CB Ronald Darby back from a concussion this week. But if that doesn’t happen, Roethlisberger becomes more appealing as a tournament option.)
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Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (vs. Broncos)
It’s just about miraculous what the Broncos defense has been able to do this year, allowing just 10 passing touchdowns while intercepting 12 passes. It’s not just that, either, as they have held all but three quarterbacks to 220 or fewer yards through the air. You see where this is headed — it’s going to be a long day for Mariota and the passing attack. Because of all those factors, there has been just one quarterback who has totaled more than 15 fantasy points while throwing the ball. Yes, Cam Newton scored over 20 fantasy points in Week 1, but if you recall, he scored 11.1 of his points via rushing. If there is one area that Mariota has a chance to succeed, it’s running the ball himself, as the Broncos have actually allowed three rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks, second-most in the NFL. The issue is that Mariota has run the ball more than five times just twice all season, lowering his probability of a touchdown, especially when Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry are goal-line studs. If Mariota scores 18 fantasy points in this game, it would be considered a massive success, but in DFS, that is not going to cut it.
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins (vs. Cardinals)
If you were here last week, Ajayi was in this very column as a fade, which turned out to be a good call. As a matter of fact, I wrote a redraft piece about a month ago to sell Ajayi knowing that this run of matchups was coming. The beauty of DFS is knowing that you get to choose from anybody, so why in the world would you choose to play him against the Cardinals? They have allowed a ridiculous 3.35 yards per carry on the season to opposing running backs, which has limited all but two running backs to 78 or less rushing yards. Since their bye in Week 9, they have not allowed a running back to reach 65 yards on the ground, and they have played against Carlos Hyde, Jerick McKinnon, Devonta Freeman and Rob Kelley in that time. Ajayi himself looked good against the Ravens last week, despite it being a tough matchup, but the problem is that his carries are decreasing as the defense gets worse and worse. Since three straight games with 24 or more carries in Weeks 6-9, Ajayi has now totaled an average of just 15.3 carries per game over the last three weeks. While he did catch six passes against the Ravens last week, it was really out of character, as he’s totaled one or zero receptions in six of the other 10 games he’s played. If there were something to save Ajayi in this matchup, it’d be his shot at a touchdown, as the Cardinals have allowed 10 of them on the season. So if you want to use Ajayi, it’d better be in a tournament lineup and not cash.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (vs. Ravens)
All three major DFS sites (DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo) incorporate some sort of point per reception, whether it be a full point on DraftKings, or a half point on FanDuel and Yahoo. For that reason, Blount will always be someone who either scores a touchdown or busts. Even last week, Blount was one of my favorite plays in standard leagues (had him ranked in the top eight), I didn’t want to put him in the “locks” article, even at just $5,500 on DraftKings. He racked up 88 yards and a touchdown, which is a great game by most counts, but his 14.8 PPR points paled in comparison to most and he finished outside of the top 15 at his position. So when you see him pop up on the list this week against the Ravens, it should send some sort of signal to your brain that says not to play him. Outside of Matt Forte in Week 7, the Ravens have not allowed a single running back to reach 16 PPR points (and they played against Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott in that stretch) since way back in Week 2. It just so happens that Jay Ajayi and Isaiah Crowell are the only starting running backs to average more than 3.8 yards per carry against them this season. We know that Blount relies on touchdowns for production, so when you see that the Ravens have allowed just three rushing touchdowns this season, and none since Week 7, you should look other ways.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders (at Chiefs)
While some situations like the Falcons have been really unpredictable from week to week, the Raiders have been somewhat easy to figure out, at least when it comes to their receivers. When Amari Cooper has a legit shutdown cornerback in coverage, Crabtree has blown up. It was a similar situation last week, where Cooper saw a lot of Stephon Gilmore and Crabtree was matched up with backup cornerback Kevon Seymour. Crabtree went off for 74 yards and a touchdown, while Cooper eked out of that game with just two catches — though one was a touchdown. This week is the opposite, where Crabtree will see a lot of Marcus Peters, the Chiefs left cornerback. That is the side Crabtree lines up on for about 55 percent of his routes, while Cooper will match up against the combination of Steven Nelson and Phillip Gaines for roughly 78 percent of his snaps. If you were to go back to the Week 6 matchup between these two teams, you’d see that Crabtree was held in check for just two catches and 10 yards, while Cooper totaled 10 catches for 129 yards. It’s not to say that this will happen exactly like this again, but the Chiefs don’t play shadow coverage, so it’d have to be the Raiders willingly downgrading Cooper’s matchup, which we don’t foresee happening. On top of that, the Chiefs allow just 16.8 points per game at home, so scoring will be hard to come by this week.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Texans)
All he does is score touchdowns, right? I’ve heard that Moncrief is the “New Eric Decker” now that he’s scored a touchdown in six of his seven games this season. If you go back to last season, he scored in five of seven games he’s played with Andrew Luck, so there definitely seems to be something there. But here’s the thing — he isn’t doing anything else. There have been 112 wide receivers who’ve seen at least 20 targets this year, and here are Moncrief’s rankings among them: 37th in targets (6.7 per game), 68th in yards per game (39.6 per game), 102nd in yards per target (5.9 yards). As you can see, if Moncrief doesn’t score, he’s essentially a waste of a roster spot in DFS, and costing as much as he does makes it an easy decision to fade him when playing against the Texans. Moncrief plays on the perimeter about 75 percent of the time, which means he’ll see Johnathan Joseph and A.J. Bouye in coverage most of the time (Bouye about 50 percent of the time), and that’s not ideal. In their coverage this season, Joseph and Bouye have allowed just two touchdowns on a combined 115 targets in coverage. Bouye has graded out as PFF’s No. 11 cornerback of the 213 eligible, while Joseph comes in at a respectable No. 48. The best matchup on the Colts goes to T.Y. Hilton, who will match up with Kareem Jackson in the slot. Moncrief may be a touchdown machine, but he’s also failed to record more than 64 yards in a game since Week 12 of last year.
Jordan Reed/Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins (at Eagles)
There are only three teams that will make me firmly say “do not play” DFS tight ends against them, and the Redskins have run into the Nos. 1 and 2 teams on that list the last two weeks, facing the Cardinals (No. 1) last week and the Eagles (No. 2) this. We are now 13 weeks into the NFL season, so we have a good grasp on who teams are and where their strengths are. While the Cardinals hadn’t allowed more than 53 yards to a tight end all season, the Eagles have yet to allow one more than 55 yards. Doug Pederson comes from the coaching tree of the Chiefs, who were No. 1 against tight ends last year, and has improved an Eagles defense that was already really good at tight ends (finished No. 10 last year). On the season, they are allowing just 2.6 receptions and 27.3 yards per game to the opposing team of tight ends. If you go back to the time these two teams met in Week 6, you’d see that Davis finished with 50 yards and a touchdown. But it’s even more telling that all but 1.3 fantasy points came on one play, when he caught a 37-yard touchdown. He had just one catch the rest of the game, and that was with Reed out of the lineup. If Reed misses another game, Davis might deserve a look in tournaments, but stay far away from both of them in cash lineups.