Articles by Mark Stopa

A listing of all the articles written by Mark Stopa for the RotoWire Blog.

Run-N-Shoot: Vouching for Kenjon Barner for Week 8

We all know that James White is an obvious upgrade this week with Sony Michel listed as doubtful with a knee injury and the Patriots facing a bad Bills team. But with the Patriots’ well-established aversion to running White between the tackles, what about Kenjon Barner in Week 8?

Earlier this week, I claimed Barner in FAAB or FCFS in most of my leagues, theorizing he’s bound to get 10-plus rushes and a TD in a game in which the Patriots are double-digit favorites. When I posted this logic on Twitter, though, @MarkStopa, few seemed to support me. RotoWire colleague and good buddy Kevin Payne panned the tweet, and I’ve also seen Barner called a “Hail Mary” and “dart throw” by others in the industry.

This made me want to dig into my theory a bit more.

Most would agree that Barner will fill the lead “rushing-back” role for New England this week. But what does that mean, exactly? How has the “lead rushing back” for the Patriots fared in games where they’re double-digit favorites? Let’s take a look.

Here is the result of each Patriots game since 2016 when they were double-digit favorites and the running back production, on the ground, in each:

• 2018 Week 5 vs Colts, -10; Win 38-24: Michel 18-98-1; White 2-0-0

• 2017 Div. Rd. vs. Titans, -13.5; Win 35-14: Dion Lewis 15-62-0, Bolden 4-27-1, White 4-11-1

• 2017 Week 17 vs. Jets, -15.5; Win 26-6: Lewis 26-93-1, Brandon Bolden 9-46-0

• 2017 Week 16 vs. Bills, -12; Win 37-16: Lewis 24-129-1, Mike Gillislee 6-28-1, Bolden 4-20

• 2017 Week 14 vs. Dolphins, -12; Loss 27-20: Lewis 5-17-0, Burkhead 5-8-1, White DNP

• 2017 Week 3 vs. Texans, -13; Win 36-33: Gillislee 12-31-0, White 5-17-0

• 2016 Div. Rd. vs. Texans, -16; Win 34-16: Lewis 13-41-1, Blount 8-31-0

• 2016 Week 13 vs. Rams, -13.5; Win 26-10: Blount 18-88-1, Lewis 5-27-0, White 3-17-0

• 2016 Week 11 vs. 49ers, -13; Win 30-17; Blount 19-124-0, Lewis 5-23-0

• 2016 Week 5 vs. Browns, -10.5; Win 33-13: Blount 18-37-1, White 5-26-0

Do you see any trends here? I sure do.

The Patriots won by double digits in nine of these 11 games. Look at the production for the Pats RBs on the ground in these nine contests. In eight of these nine games, they got at least one rushing TD. The lone exception, Week 11 of 2016, Blount went 19-124-0. We can hence summarize it this way: in the 11 games in which the Pats have been a double-digit favorite since 2016, they won nine of those games by double digits, and their running backs ran for a TD and/or 100 yards in all nine of those games.

Just as notable in these nine games was the number of carries: 20, 23, 35, 34, 31, 21, 26, 24, 23. Notice James White’s production in these games? Not one game with more than five carries. So when Michel sits this week, and the Pats continue their trend of having 20-plus carries in games where they’re favored by double-digits and win by 10-plus points, you tell me: who’s going to get the carries?

I can hear the criticism now. “You’re cherry-picking the games where the Pats won by double digits, Stopa, ignoring the ones where they didn’t.”

That’s true, kind of. In two of the 11 games in which the Pats have been a double-digit favorite since 2016, their running backs laid an egg on the ground. One of those whiffs was a loss in Miami, while the other was a shootout against Deshaun Watson. You tell me, friends: is Buffalo going to beat the Patriots this week? Is Derek Anderson going to quarterback a shootout? Even the diehards among Bills Mafia would concede, “no” and “no.” New England is going to win by double-digits, just like it’s done in nine of 11 games where it’s been a double-digit favorite since 2016.

When you look at Barner this week, look at those nine game logs, above: 20-plus carries resulted in 100 yards and/or a TD in *every* game.  That’s why I see Barner as a virtual lock for 10-15 carries – with upside for more – and a TD this week.

Run-N-Shoot: Week 8 Cash Lineup on DraftKings

After several years of playing DFS on DraftKings, I’ve fine-tuned my approach in 2017.  I create one lineup each week for the Sunday main slate and submit it hundreds of times into low-priced Double-ups and 50-50s.  This way, I avoid both the randomness of Head-to-Heads and the sharks of the DFS community.  My goal each week is to create a better lineup than half of my fellow cash players.  If I do, then I double my money.  If not, then I lo

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Run-N-Shoot: Race in (Fantasy) Sports

The conversation started innocently enough.  Yahoo’s Scott Pianowski wondered why Twitter had so much love for Stefon Diggs yet such little interest in fellow Vikings wideout Adam Thielen.

“Race,” I wondered openly.

Nobody responded.  Race impacting sports?  Or our decision-making in fantasy?  That’s a topic too PC for most to broach.

Yet my comment about race did get one “like,” from Dodgers starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  Emboldened to initiate a chat with Brandon, I decided to ask him about race in the sports world.  The following exchange ensued:

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Run-N-Shoot: Week 7 Thoughts for DraftKings

Every NFL week is odd in its own way.  As we enter Week 7, the weirdness comes via an incredible amount of injuries.  It seems like half the league is questionable, and not in a Belichick sort of way, either – lots of key players are legitimately questionable to play just 24 hours before lineups lock for Sunday kickoff.

As game time approaches, here’s how I see things as I contemplate Week 7 lineups on DraftKings.

Injuries = Narrower passing trees.  Golden Tate exploded in Week 6 to the tune of 8-165-1, exceeding his total yardage and touchdowns from the prior five games combined.  Old man Boldin got in on the act as well, posting 8-60-1 on 9 targets at just $3,900.  In retrospect, it’s easy to see why this happened:  Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick were both inactive, leaving Matthew Stafford few options in the passing game.

So who are this week’s version of Tate and Boldin, i.e. guys who will get more usage because of injuries around them?  That’s the question I’ll be asking myself until 1pm Sunday.

If LeSean McCoy is inactive, Mike Gillislee is a borderline must play in cash at minimum salary.  He’s a virtual lock for 15(+) touches on the NFL’s best rushing offense.

Jamaal Charles was severely out-snapped by Spencer Ware last week and tweaked his knee in practice.  Even if Charles plays, Ware has a great home matchup against the Saints 30th-ranked rush DVOA, but it’s a truly fantastic spot if Charles is inactive.

Ebron and Riddick are out again, and I’d think Josh Norman will shadow Marvin Jones (who is overpriced at $7,000 anyway), so Tate ($4,900) and Boldin ($4,000) are both sold options.  Boldin is the antithesis of sexy, but he’s a nice pivot off of Tate with the public chasing last week’s points.

The Lions D is last in DVOA, so with the public’s attention on SD/Atl and KC/NO, a Wash/Det stack may be sneaky.  Jordan Reed is out again, but Vernon Davis ran a route on all 35 of Kirk Cousins‘ passes last week.  At just $2,900 and facing a Lions D that has given up nearly a TD per game to opposing tight ends over the past two years, Vernon is playable in cash and GPPs.  So is Pierre Garcon at $3,700, especially if Desean Jackson doesn’t play.  But my favorite play from this game might be Matt Jones at just $4,200.  Jones won’t do much in the passing game, but 18 carries behind a terrific offensive line against a terrible Lions defense is going to yield 20(+) DK points.  Even with all the value at RB this week – Gillislee, DeMarco, Quizz, Ware – I see Jones as an option in cash.

SD-ATL has the highest O/U of the week at 53, so we know points are coming.  But from where?  Julio Jones always has the potential to explode, but I’m nervous about rostering him for $9,200 given his targets per game – 8, 5, 7, 15, 6, 9 – that’s far less than other top wideouts.  Plus, there’s a real possibility Atlanta runs all over the Chargers (21st ranked rush DVOA).  That makes Devonta Freeman is GPP viable at $5,900, particularly in a week where most folks will go stars and scrubs; mid-range guys are a way to differentiate.

Travis Benjamin is questionable, and if he’s out, the Chargers are down to Tyrell Williams, Dontrell Inman, and Griff Whalen at receiver.  Yuck.  In that scenario, look for stud corner Desmond Trufant to take Williams out of the game (something he’s done to every WR1 he’s faced this year), pushing lots of targets to talented rookie Hunter Henry, just $3,600, as the Chargers run lots of 2-TE sets.  Williams is only $4,400, but I actually like him more if Benjamin plays.  Consider Inman a GPP flyer at $3,300 if Benjamin sits.

Gillislee will be highly owned, so if you want to fade him in GPPs, Charles Clay at $3,000 is a nice pivot.  Robert Woods seems unlikely to play and Sammy Watkins is dead (sigh), so somebody has to catch balls for Buffalo.  Plus, Rex Ryan helped Clay go off in his first matchup against his old Dolphins team a couple of years ago; unlike most coaches, the #RevengeGameNarrative seems to matter to matter to Rex.

I like the setup for A.J. Green at $8,600 and Andy Dalton at $6,000.  Cleveland has been torched by opposing quarterbacks all year, and I’ve regularly profited by picking on them in DFS.  That said, I have two hesitations about stacking them in cash: (1) Tyler Eifert may return, and even if it’s on a limited basis, chances are those touches will come in the red zone; (2) this feels like the game Jeremy Hill – a viable GPP play in his own right at just $4,000 – might finally break out.

Joe Flacco wins the lottery this week, getting to face the Jets dumpster-fire of a pass defense.  But he missed two practices with a sore shoulder, and Steve Smith seems likely to sit.  Mike Wallace is a bit pricey at $5,800 but has 30 targets the past three weeks (yes, as many as Julio) and will be low owned as the public avoids the mid-range WRs.  Breshad Perriman is unpolished but will score from deep eventually; this week is as likely as any (think Sammie Coates versus Jets).  I’ll have exposure to Perriman at $3,500.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was finally taken out to pasture, but do we really trust Geno Smith to get the ball to Brandon Marshall?  I do, actually, particularly if Jimmy Smith is inactive.  Remember, it was only after Smith got hurt last week that Odell Beckham, Jr. went off.  Marshall is expensive at $7,600 but will be low owned, and I expect Geno to lock onto him all game.

The Tampa/SF game confounds me.  Jacquizz Rodgers at $4,300 will be massively owned, as will Mike Evans at $7,800.  Plus there’s Cameron Brate at $2,900, Adam Humphries at minimum salary, and Jameis Winston at $5,900.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Are the Bucs good enough to justify all of these DFS options, particularly on the road, heading out west, against a 49ers D that plays much better at home (think Week 1 shutout vs Rams)?  I’ll have less exposure to Rodgers than the public will.

Gerald McCoy is one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles; his expected return from injury pushes me off whatever poo-poo platter the Niners intend to throw out at running back.  It also makes me think a Colin KaepernickTorrey Smith stack is GPP viable, but Smith is, like the rest of the league, questionable.  Can Quinton Patton finally justify some of his preseason hype at just $3,000?  He did see 7 targets last week in Kaep’s return to the lineup, and Tampa is 22nd in pass DVOA.  It’s too bad Kaepernick has drawn so much attention to himself from the national anthem stuff, as that alone will drive up his ownership.

All this talk and no Oak/Jax?  There are lots of great options at WR in cash (Julio, Green, and Evans are the chalk), but I’m trying to fit Allen Robinson into my lineups.  The Raiders are 28th in pass DVOA and 26th against #1 WRs, so this should be A-Rob’s long-awaited breakout.  With the public hopping aboard the Amari Cooper train again, it may be time to go back to Michael Crabtree for $1,300 less, particularly with talented rookie Jalen Ramsey covering Cooper.  I’ve heard some Marquis Lee talk this week at just $3,200, and he has averaged 6.5 targets the past 4 games.  But if I’m taking a flyer in Jax, give me Chris Ivory for $3,400; I can see him posting a 2-TD game against the Raiders, who are just 29th in rush DVOA.

Quick Hitters:

The Colts defense is atrocious.  DeMarco Murray is a plug and play in cash at $7,200.  I’m actually glad he struggled last week; maybe that will scare off some folks.

With Terrelle Pryor questionable, I’m generally fading Cleveland.  If you insist on a full game stack, add Gary Barnidge at $3,200 to your Dalton/Green stack.

Everyone is ignoring Vikings/Eagles, and I understand why.  But Jerrick McKinnon is talented enough to be part of a winning GPP formula at just $4,300, and I have yet to hear his name mentioned by anyone in the industry this week.

Andrew Luck leads the NFL in sacks taken, and the Titans are among the league leaders in sacks.  Hello, Titans D/ST, at home, for just $2,500.

Will New England need to keep the foot on the gas against Landry Jones?  Nobody is talking about LeGarrette Blount, but this could easily be a Blount/Pats D kind of week.  Even if it’s not, the Pats passing tree is so broad – Gronk, Edelman, Hogan, White, Bennett – that it’s hard to justify playing any of them in cash given all the value elsewhere.

Follow me on Twitter, @MarkStopa, where I’ll be eagerly awaiting more injury info before 1pm on Sunday.

Run-N-Shoot: DraftKings Pricing, Week 6

Last week was one of the most fun Sundays I’ve ever had in fantasy sports.  I won again in cash, bringing me to 4-1 on the year.  But the true exhilaration was a third-place finish in a big GPP and having 9 lineups exceed 200 points in the Milly Maker on DraftKings.   (The million dollar lineup usually has about 245 points, so if you exceed 200, you’re in contention).

So, this week, I decided to mix in some GPP thoughts with my usual thoughts on cash games.  Without further ado:

Week 6 Suggestions on DraftKings (in rough order of how much I like them):

LeVeon Bell, $7,900:   LeVeon has hit value in cash games (3x salary) both games he’s played since returning from suspension despite failing to spike.  Given Ben Roethlisberger’s pronounced home/road splits in recent years and this week’s matchup in Miami, this looks like a prime spot for Bell’s touchdown variance to normalize.  I’m expecting a breakout week for Bell – think 30(+) DK points – and that we never see Bell’s salary below $8,000 again this year.

Tavon Austin, $3,900:  I rarely roster Austin in DFS, and I’ve never done so in cash.  But that’s going to change this week.  Austin has 45 targets in 5 games – that’s 9 per game for you non-math gurus – plus 9 more touches out of the backfield.  As much as I dislike Austin’s game, that’s incredible usage for a player who costs just $3,900 (compared to his Week 1 salary, $5,000).  If that doesn’t convince you, the Lions only good corner, Darius Slay, is likely to shadow Kenny Britt, and Detroit’s pass defense is 32nd in DVOA per FO even with Slay.

John Brown, $4,500:  The Jets have been crushed on the deep ball all year, which is precisely Brown’s specialty.  It’s a shame Brown isn’t on the Sunday slate, as he’s one of my favorite plays of the we – so much so that I’ll play some Monday games just to roster him.

Rob Gronkowski, $6,700:  Here’s the beauty of Gronk this week:  (1) his price hasn’t adjusted to him being healthy (long-time players know that his price in years past was typically around $8,000); and (2) for GPPs, many owners will chase Martellus Bennett’s points from last week, leaving Gronk’s ownership low.  I’m not certain I’ll play Gronk in cash, as Jimmy Graham, Gary Barnidge and others have solid arguments, but I’ll definitely have Yo Soy Fiesta in some GPP lineups.

Gio Bernard, $4,600:  The Bengals are the epitome of the running back timeshare in today’s NFL:  they have one guy, Jeremy Hill, who dominates touches if they’re winning, but a different guy, Gio, if they’re losing.  Many weeks, this is frustrating because it forces fantasy owners to predict game flow.  This week, though, Cincy is a TD-plus underdog in New England, so the game flow sets up perfectly for Gio.  Plus, Hill is nicked up, so Bernard may have seen more usage than normal anyway.  In a similar set-up in Week 2, Bernard went 9-100-1 through the air, with much of that damage coming in the fourth quarter of the Bengals loss.

James White, $4,100:  Predicting where the touchdowns will go in New England is going to be a weekly headache.  But at this price, White can give you the 12 DK points you need in cash simply by showing up:  4-5 catches, 50 yards, with a few rushes mixed in.  And if White happens to hit paydirt, at this price, he’ll be part of the formula for a winning GPP.

Cam Meredith, $4,100:  I generally don’t like rostering players whose salaries increased significantly after a huge game the previous week (what many in the industry call “chasing points”), and Meredith’s $1,100 increase after 9-130-1 on 12 targets certainly qualifies.  But Meredith is still just $4,100 and faces an unimposing Jaguars defense whose stud rookie corner is likely to spend most of his time covering Alshon Jeffery.  I’m fine with Cam in both cash and GPPs this week.

Cam Newton, $8,100:  Is it blasphemy to refer to anyone as “Cam” besides Newton?  On a week where Newton is headed into the Superdome, probably.  Barring a setback with his concussion, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Newton doesn’t post 25(+) DK points against the Saints.  GPP players might even benefit from others shying away given the injury concerns.

Jarvis Landry, $6,800:  Like Tavon Austin, Landry is a guy whose skill set I can’t stand; I drafted 91 MFLs and didn’t choose Landry once.  But the setup this week is juicy:  at home, as a TD-plus underdog, in what should, in theory, be a bounce-back spot for the whole Miami offense after a dreadful Week 5.  Landry had 10(+) targets each game entering Week 5, and it’s not hard to envision him starting another such streak as Ryan Tannehill checks it down the whole second half while playing from behind.

LeSean McCoy, $6,900:  McCoy is the centerpiece of the Watkins-less offense in Buffalo, and that bodes well in a game the Bills are a TD-plus favorite against a West Coast team.  McCoy often gets replaced at the goal line, but his three-down usage makes him a solid bet for the 20(+) points we need in cash games.

Jeremy Maclin, $6,300:  The Raiders are at or near the bottom of the NFL in most defensive categories, especially against the pass.  Maclin has yet to have a breakout game in 2016, but I like his chances this week.  Jeremy is probably too expensive for cash (his Week 1 salary was $6,500, and I’d have preferred his price come down more given the modest production so far), but I’ll definitely have him mixed into some GPPs.  If I can hold my nose long enough, I may even pair him with Alex Smith.

Dak Prescott, $5,900:  The Packers defense is fantastic against the run but subpar against the pass.  If you’re not paying up for Cam at QB, then Dak at just $5,900 in a spot where he might have to throw more than normal looks appealing.

Tyler Lockett, $3,600:  Lockett is not someone I’ll play in cash, as he’s coming off an injury and hasn’t been producing.  But Lockett’s boom-or-bust skill set bodes well for GPPs, especially with the Falcons leaky salary on tap and Lockett’s salary all the way down to $3,600.  (He was $5,000 in Week 1.)

Lamar Miller, $6,600:  Miller has zero touchdowns through five games and McCoy has a great matchup for just $300 more.  But the Colts defense is dreadful, and after Miller got just 8 carries last week in a bad loss, I can see Houston doing what they did in Week 1, giving Miller 28 carries and taking pressure off the struggling Brock Osweiler.    If that’s how Week 6 unfolds, it’s not hard to see Miller going 28-125-2, making him a viable GPP play.

Gregg Olsen, $7,000:  It feels weird to have Olsen cost more than a healthy Rob Gronkowski, so much so that it probably pushes me off of Olsen in cash.  But a GPP stack with Cam, Olsen, and some combination of the Saints pass-catchers is certainly a viable play.

Fades:

Todd Gurley, $6,700:  Gurley has managed to average 16 DK points the last two weeks despite an atrocious Rams offensive line on the strength of 8 receptions.  But that was with third down back Benny Cunningham inactive.  With Cunningham expected to play in Week 6, Gurley is likely to revert to his form from Weeks 1-3, when he totaled just 3 catches.  I’m off Gurley this week in all formats.

Ben Roethlisberger, $7,500 and Antonio Brown, $10,000:  In seasonal leagues, you have to play these guys.  In DFS, though, the very reasons I like LeVeon are why I don’t like Ben and Brown this week.

Martellus Bennett, $4,500:  I own Bennett in a ton of seasonal leagues and dozens of MFLs.  But with the public chasing points after his 3-TD explosion, Bennett’s ownership will be higher than I’d like in GPPs, and there are safer options in cash.  I could eat these words, but I see this as a Gronk week.

As always, I’ll share more thoughts on Twitter as Sunday gets closer.  @MarkStopa

Run-N-Shoot: Week 3 Recap of DK Cash Games, Week 4 Preview

Most of America missed it, after an hour-plus weather delay in Tampa, but the end of the Bucs game was the worst end-game coaching we will see in 2016.  Here was the situation:  down 37-32 with 49 seconds left and two timeouts, the Bucs completed a 12 yard dumpoff to Charles Sims.  He was tackled in bounds at the Rams 15, making it a first down with about 37 seconds left.

The strategy there is obvious (particularly since Tampa had an hour to prepare for it).  Call timeout and you have the ball at the Rams 15 with 35 or so seconds left, 1st and 10, and a timeout still in your pocket.

Yet what does Tampa do? 

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