Matt Kartozian, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Courtland Sutton
- Which wide receivers should you target in NFL DFS Week 9?
- Matthew Freedman breaks down the best options including a deep dive on Denver's Courtland Sutton.
We’re officially in the second half of the 2018 NFL season, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.1 points per game per team. The action continues with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Ordinarily in my positional breakdowns, I touch on every fantasy-relevant player, but starting now, I’m going to focus only on the players at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
I’m doing this for a few reasons.
- I’m lazy. I just freed up 20 hours in my schedule. Someone’s about to get back on #TeamSex.
- I’m hoping to make the breakdowns easier to consume, more actionable and less noisy.
- I’m looking to create more value for FantasyLabs members. To this point, I’ve provided as much information as I can for free to everyone. By being more judicious in what I share, I’ll ensure that Labs subscribers maintain their edge.
- I’m lazy. Really lazy.
Plus, on the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, guest Evan Silva and I jokingly made a beer-backed wager as to whose treatise would be longer this week: His matchups column or my four-volume positional analysis.
I don’t want to brag — because it’s nothing to brag about — but I’m just starting the third piece, and the win is already mine.
From now on, I’m just taking victory laps.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
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Model Wide Receivers
This week, there are nine — NINE! — DraftKings and FanDuel wide receivers at the top of our individual Pro Models.
Here are the three I find most notable:
- Adam Thielen: $8,900 DraftKings; $8,900 FanDuel
- DeSean Jackson: $5,000 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Courtland Sutton: $3,900 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
Adam Thielen: Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) vs. Detroit Lions, 49 Over/Under
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (ribs) is expected not to play. Running back Dalvin Cook (hamstring) is expected to play 8-12 snaps.
The spread opened at -7 but has since moved down even though the Vikings have gotten the supermajority of the tickets and money. In other words, the Vikings are on the wrong side of reverse line movement, which means that some caution is warranted when it comes to Thielen — but we are talking about the only player in NFL history to open a season with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving performances. For an undrafted, small-school, average-sized hometown receiver, he’s not bad.
Thielen leads the league with 96 targets, 74 receptions and 925 yards receiving. He’s second among all wide receivers with 302 yards after the catch. A masterful technician, Thielen has run 61.9% of his routes from the slot, where he leads the league with 59 targets and 47 receptions. Lions cornerback Darius Slay has historically shadowed Diggs, which means that Thielen will run most of his routes against cornerback Nevin Lawson, who has been the team’s primary Y defender since the Week 6 bye. In his two games since shifting to the slot, Lawson has “earned” subpar Pro Football Focus (PFF) coverage grades of 44.5 and 41.2. He’s entirely exploitable.
And on the outside, Thielen figures to run most of his routes against cornerback Teez Tabor, who has an NFL-low 30.7 PFF coverage grade. In his four games as a starter, he’s allowed 13-231-3 receiving on 16 targets.
With players like these, it’s not a surprise that the Lions are 30th against the pass with a 35.0% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Regardless of where he lines up, Thielen has a great matchup against the Lions.
Thielen’s dominance this season is unfathomable. Not since Week 1 has Thielen scored fewer than 26 DraftKings points. Even though he is the slate’s most expensive wide receiver, he’s still arguably undervalued because Thielen’s +10.9 Plus/Minus is order of magnitudes greater than that of any other receiver. Besides a few low-priced non-relevant No. 3 receivers who get almost no usage, Thielen is the only wide receiver in the league with a 100% DraftKings Consistency Rating.
On Sunday morning, I might look to bet the over on Thielen’s yardage prop. He’s hit the over in seven of his eight games this year, and his matchup is just so advantageous.To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 169-80-6, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Thielen leads all wide receivers in our Models with his median and ceiling projections, and he’s the No. 1 FanDuel wide receiver in the Levitan Model.
DeSean Jackson: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) at Carolina Panthers, 55 O/U
As the Red Hot Chili Peppers say, “Blood sugar crazy, she has it: FitzMagic, FitzMagic.” The Bucs have brought back the Beard, and my alliteration game is ON.
After quarterback Jameis Winston throw four interceptions in Week 8, he was replaced by backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, who brought the Bucs back to the cusp of victory with 194 yards and two touchdowns on an efficient 11-of-15 passing. Fitz is slated to start in Week 9, and that’s good news for D-Jax. Amazingly, five of Jackson’s seven receiving touchdowns with the Bucs have been thrown by Fitzpatrick, even though Winston since last season has attempted many more passes (590-307).
In fact, this year Fitz has clearly been at his best when targeting Jackson.
Although Jackson is splitting time with second-year breakout Chris Godwin and is yet to play the supermajority of snaps in any game, he’s a key contributor to a wide receiver unit that leads the league with 286.4 yards and 58.4 PPR points per game.
While D-Jax reportedly asked for (or demanded) a trade earlier this season, he’s likely satisfied now that Fitz is starting, given that he’s exhibited staggering quarterback-based splits over the past two years. While these splits are apparent even in the games with quarterback changes, I’ve removed such games from the sample so the trend may be better seen.
- Jackson with Fitzpatrick (six complete games): 17.7 DraftKings points, 6.3 targets, 4.7 receptions, 80.3 yards, 0.67 touchdowns
- Jackson with Winston (11 complete games): 9.8 DraftKings points, 6.3 targets, 3.2 receptions, 48.8 yards, 0.09 touchdowns
That Jackson has the same number of targets with each quarterback is incredibly telling. For Jackson at least, Fitz has easily been the superior passer. If not for a random rushing touchdown D-Jax got in Week 6, his fantasy average with Winston would be even lower.
As I mention in The Action Network Bucs-Panthers betting preview, I expect a lot of points to be scored in this game. For one, it has a slate-high 70.16 pass-funnel rating. On top of that, Bucs games have a 6-1 over/under record in Fitzpatrick’s seven starts, good for a nice 69% return on investment for over bettors (per Bet Labs). If the Bucs find themselves in a shootout, D-Jax will probably get a couple of high-leverage targets with touchdown potential.
On the season, Jackson is first in the league with 0.45 PPR points per snap and third with 3.0 yards per route (PFF). He’s the No. 1 DraftKings wide receiver in the CSURAM88 Model.
Courtland Sutton: Denver Broncos (-1) vs. Houston Texans, 45.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Running back Royce Freeman (ankle) is expected not to play.
With the recent trade of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas — “What is dead may never die” — Sutton is slated to play as the No. 2 receiver in the Broncos offense right away. Emmanuel Sanders will still get his share of the targets, and HC Vance Joseph (the worst ATS coach in the league) is still in charge, but even so, the future is bright for Sutton, who has either 50 yards or a touchdown in each game over the past five weeks.
Although he’s been a distant No. 3 option to this point in the season, Sutton is impressively top-10 in the league with eight end-zone targets. Under the assumption that Sutton’s target volume will significantly increase with Thomas gone, he could have a massive breakout if his aggressive end-zone usage rate holds.
Sutton led the team as a redshirt freshman with 49 receptions for 862 yards and nine touchdowns. His market share numbers were impressive, as he captured 33.9 and 47.4 percent of SMU’s receiving yards and touchdowns. After a strong sophomore season (76 receptions, 1,246 yards, and 10 touchdowns; 39.3 and 45.5 percent of receiving yards and touchdowns), Sutton was eligible for the NFL draft but returned to SMU for his junior year, which was solid: 68 receptions, 1,085 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Sutton is a potential first-round prospect, and he had an excellent combine. He’s not a speedster, but his agility drills were outstanding for a player of his size. Given that Sutton was on the SMU basketball team for the second half of the 2015-16 season, he plays football with an aggressive “my ball” mentality and is a big-bodied polished route runner with downfield ability: In his 2016 breakout, he was second among draft-eligible players with 16 deep receptions (Pro Football Focus).
With good size and great college production, Sutton is in an elite cohort. Of all the first- and second-rounders to enter the NFL over the past decade, here are the big-bodied wide receivers (at least 6’0″ and 200 pounds) with multiple 1,000-10 receiving seasons in college.
- Corey Davis (2017, 1.05)
- Josh Doctson (2016, 1.22)
- Amari Cooper (2015, 1.04)
- Sammy Watkins (2014, 1.04)
- Davante Adams (2014, 2.53)
- Justin Blackmon (2012, 1.05)
- Michael Crabtree (2009, 1.10)
As a multi-year spread-system producer who relies more on size and technique than speed, Sutton is highly comparable as a prospect to Adams and Crabtree, except he’s bigger.
Given the salary savings and roster flexibility he offers, Sutton has a position-high ownership projection and will likely be rostered in excess of 30% in GPPs.
Sutton is the No. 1 DraftKings wide receiver in the Levitan, Koerner and Raybon Models.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 9 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.