The Week 8 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 1 p.m. ET. In this piece, I highlight the quarterbacks who stand out in our large suite of analytical DFS Tools, most specifically the industry-leading FantasyLabs Models.
Top Quarterbacks in the FantasyLabs Models
There are two quarterbacks atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Deshaun Watson: $7,100 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel
- Matthew Stafford: $6,100 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
Deshaun Watson: Houston Texans (-6.5) vs. Oakland Raiders, 51.5 Over/Under
There’s a lot to like about Watson in the big picture. For the season, he’s the No. 2 FanDuel quarterback with 24.7 points per game. He’s been a strong source of value with his +6.92 Plus/Minus.
Since he entered the league in 2017, only Patrick Mahomes has averaged more than Watson’s 23.5 FanDuel points per start (including playoffs, per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool).
Thanks to his Konami Code rushing ability, Watson has an incredibly high weekly floor, especially because of his usage near the goal line. Despite starting only six games as a rookie, Watson has a position-high 15 carries inside the opponent 5-yard line since 2016 (per Pro Football Focus). Dak Prescott is the only quarterback with more than Watson’s 12 rushing touchdowns over that span.
Because of his multi-dimensional scoring capability, Watson is as much of a lock as any quarterback to get a touchdown any given week, either through the air or on the ground.
Deshaun has played in 31 NFL games. Here are how many TDs he’s scored in each game:
In not one career game has Watson failed to score a TD.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 22, 2019
To put this into context: Mahomes has two scoreless games in 26 starts, and he’s the league’s best quarterback. That Watson is yet to have a scoreless game is almost unbelievable.
Over the past three years, Watson has had steady-as-clockwork high-end marks of 8.4, 8.5 and 8.5 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A). But he has some issues. As dynamic as he is, Watson has been a pretty volatile producer, especially this year (per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
In six of his seven games, Watson has had either more than 25 or fewer than 13 FanDuel points. That spread is massive, and it makes him a little difficult to trust in cash games, particularly since he’s always one of the higher-priced quarterbacks in any given slate.
Additionally, Watson is on the negative side of his reverse favorite/underdog splits.
- Underdog (13 games): 25.5 FanDuel points, +8.76 Plus/Minus, 76.9% Consistency Rating
- Favorite (17 games): 21.9 FanDuel points, +4.88 Plus/Minus, 70.6% Consistency Rating
And perhaps most importantly, Watson will be without field-stretching wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring).
In his 30 starts, Watson has exhibited stark Fuller-based splits (based on whether plays just 30% of snaps).
- With Fuller (17 games): 25.8 FanDuel points, 32.5 pass attempts, 283.2 yards passing, 2.47 touchdowns passing
- Without Fuller (13 games): 20.4 FanDuel points, 32.2 pass attempts, 241.1 yards passing, 1.23 touchdowns passing
Of any connection Watson has with a receiver, the Fuller connection has been the most productive, yielding an elite 11.9 AY/A (per RotoViz AY/A app). Without Fuller threatening the defense deep, Watson’s upside is likely diminished.
But perhaps Watson’s Fuller-based splits will be less drastic now. In previous seasons, the Texans have lacked a sufficient field-stretching presence to fill in for Fuller, but now they have Kenny Stills (16.2 yards per reception, 4.38-second 40-yard dash). With Stills playing on the outside and Keke Coutee fully healthy and able to slide back into the slot, the Texans still have one the league’s best pass-catching trios. Because of the team’s receiving depth, Watson really might be able to withstand Fuller’s absence.
And then there’s the obvious: Watson has one the slate’s best matchups. The Raiders are No. 31 with a mephitic 39.5 PFF coverage grade. They’ve allowed the third-most FanDuel points to quarterbacks with 23.5 per game — and that’s despite having three soft matchups against the talent-deficient Joe Flacco, run game-hindered Kirk Cousins and injury-elevated Chase Daniel.
Just last week Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback in the Millionaire Maker-winning lineup, thanks to his 429-yard, six-touchdown smackdown of the Raiders, and let’s not forget what Mahomes did to them in Week 2 with his 443-yard, four-touchdown performance.
It’s telling that Mahomes and Rodgers — the two quarterbacks most comparable to Watson in skill and salary to face the Raiders — averaged a whopping 37.7 FanDuel points per game with a +19.95 Plus/Minus against them. It’s no surprise that Watson has position-high median and ceiling projections in our Models.
The Raiders have a quarterback-friendly funnel defense that ranks No. 10 against the run (-18.2% DVOA) but No. 30 against the pass (20.0% DVOA, per Football Outsiders).
And the Raiders might be even worse than usual in pass defense this week. They just traded away 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley, so they’re down a starter. On top of that, they traded him to the Texans, of all teams. Do you think the Texans are going to ask him information about the opposing coverages, scheme tendencies and defensive signals? I’m telling y’all, it’s sabotage.
The Raiders secondary is basically going to be a naked lunch out there on Sunday. No secrets.
As for the cornerbacks left on the team — the situation is not good.
No. 1 corner Daryl Worley has below-average PFF coverage grades of 51.5 and 59.3 in his two seasons with the Raiders. Slot man Lamarcus Joyner has allowed a putrid 80.6% catch rate. And new starter Trayvon Mullen is a rookie with just 56 coverage snaps to his name.
Even with his volatility and high salary, Watson will be deservedly chalky in cash games and guaranteed prize pools. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Watson with his receivers.
Watson is the unanimous No. 1 quarterback in our Pro Models for FanDuel, where he has position-high marks with his Projected Plus/Minus and Pro Trends. He’s also the top option in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Raybon and SportsGeek Models for DraftKings.
It’s Watson week.
Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions (-7) vs. New York Giants, 49.5 O/U
Let’s be honest: There’s just something about Metroplex men named Matt. We’re a rare breed. We naturally smell like Old Spice, for instance.
In his first season with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the gunslinging Stafford hasn’t been consistent, but he has been a top-six positional producer in half his games.
After averaging a career-low 236.1 passing yards per game last year, Stafford has bounced back this year and is slightly outpacing his 2011-15 Calvin Johnson-aided 289.7 yards with a mark of 291.8.
Although Bevell has historically been a run-focused coordinator, the Lions have had a middle-of-the-road 58.5% pass-play rate with him, and now that starting running back Kerryon Johnson (knee, injured reserve) is out, the Lions might lean all the more on the passing game.
Coming off his best game of the year — a 364-yard, four-touchdown effort against a tough divisional rival Vikings defense — Stafford is in good form. But what he really has going for him this week is the matchup. The Giants are No. 28 with a 43.1 PFF coverage grade, and that seems generous.
Janoris Jenkins is basically the No. 1 cornerback by default. He hasn’t shadowed since Week 3, probably because the Giants know they can’t trust him to win one-on-one matchups. They’re No. 31 against opposing No. 1 receivers (40.3% DVOA). Based on where they’ve tended to line up, I expect wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. to face Jenkins the most of any of the Giants corners. Coming off the second four-touchdown performance of his career, Jones should be able to get the better of Jenkins.
No. 2 cornerback DeAndre Baker has struggled his way to a 37.0 PFF coverage grade in his first year, allowing a verboten 72.7% catch rate and top-five 409 yards receiving. And he matches up horribly with wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who is taller (6-foot-4 vs. 5-foot-11), heavier (218 pounds vs. 193) and faster (4.50-second 40 vs. 4.52). The veteran could really have a career-best performance against the raw rookie.
And slot cornerback Grant Haley is a second-year undrafted player who owns a 45.4 PFF coverage grade and has allowed an 83.9% catch rate. Wide receiver Danny Amendola has 100 yards in two of his five games with the Lions and is technically proficient enough to run circles around Haley. The Giants are No. 31 against supplementary a.k.a slot receivers (35.3% DVOA).
Stafford is too risky for cash games because of his inconsistency, but his tasty matchup makes him a delectable GPP entree. He’s the No. 1 quarterback in the Koerner and Freedman Models for DraftKings, where he has a position-high ceiling projection.
Upside Quarterbacks for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($7,200 DK, $8,600 FD): Wilson is the No. 3 DraftKings quarterback with 24.4 points per game. He easily leads the league with 29 end-zone targets and 15 passing touchdowns. The Falcons have allowed a league-high 26.2 DraftKings points per game to opposing quarterbacks and could be without No. 1 cornerback Desmond Trufant (toe), who has missed the past two weeks. Wilson has position-high floor projections in our Models. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Falcons CB Desmond Trufant (toe) is out.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams ($6,800 DK, $8,000 FD): With all of his ups and downs, Goff has 314.5 passing yards per game over the past month and is coming off a three-touchdown performance. The Rams are laying lots of points, and London favorites are 26-12-2 against the spread, good for a 31.9% return on investment (per Bet Labs). Starting Bengals cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and William Jackson III (shoulder) both missed Week 7, and I expect them to sit this week as well. The Rams have a slate-high 30.5-point implied Vegas total. UPDATE (Oct. 26): RB Malcolm Brown (ankle) is out. Bengals CBs Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) are out. Bengals CB William Jackson III (shoulder) is in.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($6,600 DK, $7,900 FD): Brady is having a predictably dominant yet ho-hum season as the No. 8 DraftKings quarterback with 21.3 points per game. Because the undefeated Pats have won by an average of 25 points per game, Brady hasn’t been called upon to pass the bejeezus out of the ball, but perhaps the Browns coming out of the bye can push the Patriots a little more. I’m tentatively projecting outside cornerbacks Denzel Ward (hamstring) and Greedy Williams (hamstring) to play, but I doubt they’ll be at 100%, and if they’re once again out, Brady will be an intriguing option with diminished ownership. Brady is on the positive side of his splits as a home favorite. UPDATE (Oct. 26): TEs Matt LaCosse (knee) and Ryan Izzo (concussion) are out. WR Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) is in. Browns CBs Denzel Ward (hamstring) and Greedy Williams (hamstring) are in. Browns FS Damarious Randall (hamstring) is out.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills ($6,500 DK, $7,700 FD): Allen’s 6.1 AY/A is a Dalton-level mark that leaves a lot to be desired, but he’s No. 2 at the position with 7.5 carries and 1.5 red-zone carries per game (per Player Profiler). The Eagles have allowed 20-plus FanDuel points per game to opposing quarterbacks in five of six games. In his five career starts as a home favorite, Allen has averaged 24.4 FanDuel points with a +8.10 Plus/Minus and 100% Consistency Rating. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Eagles LB Nigel Bradham (ankle) and CB Avonte Maddox (concussion) are out.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals ($6,200 DK, $7,400 FD): The rookie is the No. 9 FanDuel quarterback with 19.6 points per game. The Saints have allowed the eighth-most FanDuel points to quarterbacks with 20.6 per game, and they’re weak at slot corner, given that starter P.J. Williams (suspended) is out and backup Patrick Robinson (hamstring) exited Week 7 early. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk (ankle) — assuming he returns — should dominate their slot matchups. Murray has a position-high 65% Bargain Rating on FanDuel. UPDATE (Oct. 26): RB David Johnson (ankle, back) and WR Christian Kirk (ankle) are still uncertain to play. Saints CB Patrick Robinson (hamstring) is out.
Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars ($5,500 DK, $6,900 FD): Uncle Rico has underwhelmed with 209 passing yards per game over the past two weeks, but he’s a home favorite this week. I have little respect for Jets cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, who have combined to allow a 71% catch rate this year. UPDATE (Oct. 26): WR Marqise Lee (foot) is in. WR Dede Westbrook (neck, shoulder) is questionable but seems likely to play. Jets LB C.J. Mosley (groin) is out.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans ($5,100 DK, $6,900 FD): Tanny isn’t Marcus Mariota, for better and worse, and as long as he funnels targets to potential-laden wide receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown, he has the chance for a 300-yard, multi-touchdown game, as evidenced by his Week 8 performance. The Buccaneers have a massive funnel defense that ranks No. 1 against the run (-38.3% DVOA) but No. 25 against the pass (20.6% DVOA). The Bucs have allowed the fifth-most DraftKings points to opposing quarterbacks with 24.1 per game. UPDATE (Oct. 26): TE Delanie Walker (ankle) is out.
- Matt Ryan (ankle): OUT
- Drew Brees (thumb): IN
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: Deshaun Watson
Photo credit: USA Today-Sports