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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Week 6 NFL DFS QB Breakdown: Taylor Heinicke is a Value

In this piece, I highlight quarterbacks who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.

As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.

Top Quarterbacks in the FantasyLabs Models

There are four quarterbacks atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, and Ryan Hodge have constructed.

Here’s where they place within our Week 6 Fantasy Rankings (as of Tuesday evening):

  • Lamar Jackson (3rd)
  • Kyler Murray (5th)
  • Matthew Stafford (6th)
  • Taylor Heinicke (12th)

We’ll discuss why these four are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other quarterbacks in potential high-scoring games.

FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns

  • Wide Receivers on Wednesday
  • Tight Ends on Thursday
  • Running Backs on Friday

For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.

Top Model Quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson ($7,400 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Baltimore Ravens (-3) vs Los Angeles Chargers (51.5 total)

Jackson continues to improve as a passer, averaging the most yards per attempt of his career so far through five games. When you add that to his still-lethal rushing ability (68 yards per game), you have a recipe for fantasy greatness.

Lamar was particularly impressive in leading the Ravens to a comeback win on Monday against the Colts. He threw a season-high 43 passes, completing 86% of them. With how much better the Ravens offense looked when he was throwing it, let’s hope that’s a bigger part of their game plan moving forward.

There’s reason to believe it will be the plan in Baltimore. Offensively, the Ravens are seventh in passing DVOA and 16th on the ground. With first-round wide receiver Rashod Bateman potentially making his debut this week, there’s still room for the passing attack to improve. Head coach John Harbaugh has proven himself to be an adaptable coach — most notably in overhauling the offense to suit Jackson in the first place — so we could see more of a shift to the passing attack.

This week, the game environment sets up well for a shootout. Baltimore’s 22nd-ranked defense is unlikely to keep the Chargers off the scoreboard since it could barely stop the Colts, so the Ravens offense will need to keep pace. That will likely need to come through Jackson.

Jackson leads one of our Pro’s Models on FanDuel, where he’s a far better deal. He’s one one-hundredth of a point off Patrick Mahomes for the lead in Projected Plus/Minus there. His sky-high ceiling keeps him in play on DraftKings, but it’s harder to fit him into lineups.

Kyler Murray ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel): Arizona Cardinals (+2.5) at Cleveland Browns (50 total)

Murray leads the other four Pro Models on FanDuel, where he has a slate-best 99% Bargain Rating.

The former No. 1 overall pick has been able to take his foot off the gas the past few weeks with three comfortable wins. Murray hasn’t topped 23 FanDuel points in that span, which followed back-to-back performances of 34 or more points to open the year.

This week’s matchup against Cleveland could reverse that trend, though. The Browns are 19th in DVOA against the pass, which raises our expectations for Murray’s efficiency. Cleveland is much tougher against the run (fifth), which should also force Arizona to the air.

The Browns are also favored, which could force Arizona to attack deep into this game. The Cardinals are the third-fastest-paced team in the first half, but they have ranked 30th in the second half, largely due to having comfortable leads in most games.

When he has been called upon to lead the Arizona offense, Murray has been hugely efficient this season, with an NFL-best 75.2% completion rate, also ranking third in yards per attempt.

The difficulty with Murray as a fantasy asset has been the volume. He ranks 19th in pass attempts, but we can expect that to improve this week, which makes him a standout play. Don’t forget his rushing upside — Murray has three touchdowns on the ground this season.

One of the difficulties with playing Murray for tournaments has been the Cardinals’ distribution of targets. Six players have seen at least 10% of Kyler’s attempts, with none over 20%. We can get around that this week while still benefiting from correlation by pairing Kyler with Kareem Hunt or Odell Beckham from the Browns. If Murray has a big game, it’s likely to come with the Browns chasing points and throwing more themselves. Kyler, of course, can also be played alone.

Matthew Stafford ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (-10.5) at New York Giants (47.5 total)

Stafford has been the model of consistency this season. He’s fallen short of 20 DraftKings points just once, and that week he still got to 18.22. Week 6 should be no different, with the Rams implied for the second-highest Vegas total on the slate.

The Giants will be the worst defense (by DVOA) Stafford and the Rams have faced to date, which has given the Rams an implied total of 29 points.

With Los Angeles also playing at the league’s fastest situation-neutral pace, it’s hard to poke holes in Stafford. A potential concern is the Rams getting out to a big lead, thus reducing their aggressiveness. Here’s how all quarterbacks have done when favored by at least a touchdown over the last few seasons using our Trends tool:

Pretty, pretty good.

I’ve mentioned a few times this year that avoiding quarterbacks due to a game script that’s “too positive” is largely a mistake. Even for tournaments, these quarterbacks have a high ceiling. At Stafford’s salary, you need him to score 33.5 DraftKings points to “5x” his salary, putting you on pace for 250 points. Quarterbacks in this sample have scored that many points 13% of the time.

If playing Stafford in tournaments, you’ll certainly want to pair him with some Giants. It’s unlikely that Stafford gets to that ceiling without New York scoring some itself, so there’s a positive correlation.

For cash games, though, the move might be to play Stafford and Darrel Henderson. This was a solid move when Jared Goff and Todd Gurley were leading the Rams’ high-flying offense in 2018. By playing the starting quarterback and running back, you ensure exposure to almost all of Los Angeles’ touchdowns. Henderson isn’t quite 2018 Gurley (by usage or ability), but the theory is the same.

Stafford leads one of our Pro Models on DraftKings, where he’s the leader in Projected Plus/Minus.

Taylor Heinicke ($5,800 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): Washington Football Team (+7.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (55.5 total)

Heinicke is a slightly surprising addition to this list, but he leads four of our Pro’s Models on DraftKings, where he has the highest Pts/Sal of the slate. On FanDuel, he’s too pricey to be in serious consideration, so let’s focus on DraftKings here.

Before running into the tough Saints defense, Heinicke had quietly scored at least 23 DraftKings points in each of his starts for Washington. He’s had to do so because the Football Team’s defense has been a huge disappointment to start the season.

The matchup against the Chiefs doesn’t appear to be a get-right spot for the defense. That means the Football Team will likely be pushing the pace to keep up, which should work out well for them — the Chiefs have the league’s worst defensive DVOA by a wide margin. The Chiefs boost an average opponent’s offensive production by 29.3%, while the next worst team, Jacksonville, is at 23%. Outside of those two, no team is worth more than a 13.3% boost on average.

I’ve written at nauseam how great it is to play quarterbacks against the Chiefs. That theory was developed even before they had the league’s worst defense.

I’ll be interested to see if the field catches on to that strategy this week — Heinicke’s high in ownership so far this year is 5.7%. Keep an eye on our Ownership Projections late in the week. If he isn’t among the top two or three quarterbacks, he’ll be a massively plus EV (expected value) play this week.

Heinicke makes sense for cash games due to his outstanding value. He’s also solid in tournaments, with Terry McLaurin providing an obvious stacking partner and the Chiefs providing ample bring-back possibilities. McLaurin is drawing almost 30% of Heinicke’s targets this year, good for seventh in the league.

Our models feature a Stacks tool that can help you find the best player combinations for tournaments. Heinicke and McLaurin grade out as the top pair (by model score) in most of our DraftKings Models.

Other Quarterbacks With Week-Winning Upside

Patrick Mahomes ($8,300 DraftKings, $9,000 FanDuel): Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) vs. Washington Football Team (55.5 total)

Of course, you could flip that model the other way and roll with Mahomes as your quarterback. He’s always a top fantasy option, even with his occasionally prohibitive price.

It certainly feels like Mahomes has struggled a bit this season with the Chiefs getting off to a 2-3 start, but he still leads all players in scoring on both DraftKings and FanDuel this year.

Washington’s defense is far worse than anticipated prior to the season, which is a boost for Mahomes. If Kansas City gets out to a big lead, it’s unlikely the game stays that way for long. Also, the absence of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is probably a slight positive for Mahomes since the ground game will be even less effective without CEH.

Mahomes trails only Lamar Jackson in Median and Ceiling Projections this week.

Justin Herbert ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Los Angeles Chargers(+3) vs. Baltimore Ravens (51.5 total)

Continuing with the theme of “opposing quarterback to a model leader,” we have Herbert. I’ve pointed it out before, but quarterback and opposing quarterback actually have the strongest correlation of any two positions. What this means is that if we’re targeting a quarterback, his opposing number is likely to also be a solid play.

Herbert trails only Jackson in fantasy scoring over the last month, averaging 27.8 DraftKings points. There’s no reason to expect that to change this week against a 22nd-ranked Ravens defense. Herbert is a great leverage play if Jackson looks to be chalky this week.

Joe Burrow ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Cincinnati Bengals (-3) at Detroit Lions (47.5 total)

Any quarterback against the porous Lions defense deserves a mention, but particularly one with three talented receivers to throw to.

Detroit has actually been solid against opposing quarterbacks on paper, with a -2.0 Opponent Plus/Minus allowed to signal-callers. However, some of this is due to opposing teams being able to ease up with a big lead.

This week, as mere three-point favorites, that probably won’t be the case for the Bengals. Burrow is fifth in Ceiling and Pts/Sal this week, and he could go overlooked at his price.

My early guess is that most players will be either paying up to the Mahomes/Jackson/Murray tier or looking to go cheap with Heinicke. That leaves a big hole in the middle for Burrow.


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