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Expert fantasy football advice: Breaking down Bills at Falcons

Quarterback

Team Pos Player Pass Pass Yds Pass TDs INTs Rushes Rush Yds Rush TDs Standard PPR
ATL QB Matt Ryan 33.0 300.2 2.0 0.4 1.8 6.0 0.0 20.1 20.1
BUF QB Tyrod Taylor 34.8 228.0 1.1 0.6 5.5 33.1 0.2 17.4 17.4

 

Tyrod Taylor (BUF) is a more efficient QB than he's given credit for. He currently is 10th in adjusted yards per attempt according to Pro-Football-Reference, and he's thrown a TD on 4.4 percent of his passes over his career, which is right around league average. Where Taylor's fantasy prowess is hurt most is that the Bills simply don't throw the ball often, although he's able to mitigate that weakness via his rushing production.

This week Taylor's upside is a bit higher than usual. As 9.5 point underdogs, the Bills may find themselves in a large negative game script, possibly earlier in the game, which would lead to more pass attempts and a quickened offensive pace. The Bills haven't trailed by more than a single score at any point through their first three games, allowing them to stick to a run-heavy approach.

Last week also provided the first glimmer of hope for Taylor in Rick Dennison's offense. While we won't see Taylor take the downfield shots he's been successful at the previous two seasons, Taylor spent more time in shotgun, in rollouts, and off of play-action passes and less time in three-step drops that don't suit his skill-set.

Taylor is a good streaming candidate in 12-team leagues or deeper this week, and he's a fun tournament play in DFS as well. Taylor's ability to accrue fantasy points on the ground means you don't have to stack him with a pass catcher, but if you decide to, both Jordan Matthews and Charles Clay would give you a cheap QB-pass catcher stack to allow you to load up elsewhere.

Matt Ryan (ATL) is an obvious start in season-long formats where you own him. His DFS stock is more muddied. He projects behind some of the other higher-end QBs this week like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees. However, in a vacuum, he's underpriced.  DFS salaries have dro

Ryan's DFS salaries have dropped after averaging 1.33 TDs per week through three weeks. Last season he averaged 2.38 TDs per week, equivalent to 4.16 more fantasy points per week in standard leagues. Now, Ryan was unlikely to sustain his league-leading 7.1 TD percentage from a year ago. However, he has maintained his league-leading 9.3 YPA. We should expect his TD percentage to settle in somewhere between his current rate (4.3 percent) and last year's rate (7.1 percent). The Falcons currently have scored 50 percent of offensive TDs on the ground; that number was just 34.5 percent in 2016.

Running Back

Team Pos Player Rushes Rush Yds Rush TDs Receptions Rec Yds Rec TD Standard PPR
BUF RB LeSean McCoy 14.2 70.8 0.5 5.0 40.7 0.1 14.8 19.8
ATL RB Devonta Freeman 15.6 73.2 0.7 2.1 18.8 0.1 14.3 16.4
ATL RB Tevin Coleman 8.3 41.5 0.4 2.9 32.5 0.2 10.8 13.7
BUF RB Mike Tolbert 6.6 24.9 0.2 0.5 4.0 0.0 4.3 4.7

 

While I was down on LeSean McCoy (BUF) (relative to his redraft ADP) to start the season, there are some encouraging signs despite a combined 30 rush yards the last two games and no TDs on the season. The biggest concern is the pesky presence of Mike Tolbert, which has kept McCoy's total touches capped and taken some of his red zone opportunities away. However, let's focus on the positive both long-term and specific to this week.

Long-term, McCoy's efficiency (YPA and TD percentage) are going nowhere but up, even if they don't match last year's level. That's an encouraging sign given that he's still 13th in PPR fantasy points at the RB position despite the slow start in those categories.

One of the main reasons why McCoy has been able to produce in the fantasy realm is involvement in the passing game. He's received a whopping 25.6 percent of his team's targets, nearly double last year's mark (13.8 percent). That number won't last, but even a baseline in the high-teens adds a ton to McCoy's floor/ceiling combination and helps keep him valuable even in negative game scripts.

Speaking of which, the Bills are 9.5 point underdogs. That would have scared us more entering the season, but with McCoy so involved in the passing game, he's game-script proof right now. Additionally, the Falcons funnel targets to the RB position, allowing the most in 2016 and again to start this season.

Aside from the expected involvement in the passing game, McCoy's efficiency rise should start immediately. McCoy, according to Warren Sharp of SharpFootballStats.com, the Bills have faced the third toughest run defense schedule the last two weeks, but face the 31st ranked run defense this week in Atlanta:

There's a lot of noise in "splits", but it's also worth noting that McCoy has historically performed better on turf than on grass. The Bills will play inside in Atlanta this week.

Devonta Freeman (ATL) is an every week starter in seasonal leagues. The Bills defense has been great, but Freeman's game is predicated on high-leverage volume (targets, red zone opportunities) for one of the league's most efficient offenses.

In DFS, Freeman is overpriced with the expectation that Atlanta's rush TD percentage drops off, and also the potential for Tevin Coleman (ATL) to close the gap a little bit in rush attempts, like he did last season.

Coleman is an awesome athlete, who profiles at an elite level in the NFL. PlayerProfiler.com has Coleman's best comparable as Jamaal Charles. He's averaged 5.2 YPC this season on limited carries and possesses big-time playmaking ability both as a rusher and pass catcher. He remains a start in deep season-long leagues or leagues where you either drafted a Zero-RB team or hybrid variation or have suffered an injury to a starter. On DraftKings where RB pricing is tight this week, Coleman is worth sprinkling in GPPs but is not a core play in any format.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Team Pos Player Receptions Rec Yds Rec TD Standard PPR
ATL WR Julio Jones 5.6 99.9 0.5 12.9 18.6
ATL WR Mohamed Sanu 4.7 59.0 0.4 8.1 12.8
BUF TE Charles Clay 5.3 53.6 0.3 7.4 12.7
BUF WR Jordan Matthews 4.5 51.5 0.2 6.5 11.0
ATL WR Taylor Gabriel 3.0 43.9 0.3 6.6 9.6
BUF WR Zay Jones 3.1 31.7 0.2 4.3 7.3
ATL TE Austin Hooper 2.3 27.4 0.3 4.4 6.6
BUF WR Andre Holmes 1.8 23.3 0.2 3.4 5.2

 

 

Mohamed Sanu (ATL) has developed into a higher floor option this year, receiving 23 percent of his team's targets through three weeks, a sharp incline from the 16 percent he posted last season. Sanu doesn't have big upside, which keeps him off our DFS radar with his price tag adjusting to his strong start to the season, but the above projections do put him right around the Top-30 WRs on the week, making him a viable WR3 in season-long formats.

Similar to LeSean McCoy, Julio Jones (ATL) has been a quality fantasy producer (Top-20 WR) despite not finding the end zone. While the TDs will certainly go up, this is the second straight season that Atlanta has had trouble getting him the ball in the red zone. It's something the coaching staff has noted, but the actions on the field don't reflect their remarks. In DFS leagues, Jones is in a similar boat as his QB Matt Ryan. He's one of the top projected scorers on the week but lags behind Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and even AJ Green in perceived upside. The result makes him a usable tournament play (simply because he is every week), but you aren't building cash game lineups around him.

Teammate Taylor Gabriel (ATL) is a boom or bust option who is going to make some big plays but has not seen the expected uptick in targets this season that would make him a reliable every week starter.

This is the first time all season where we're somewhat excited about some Bills' receiving options. Charles Clay (BUF) is a stronger fantasy asset than I've given him credit for through three weeks, especially since his volatility isn't abnormal for the TE position anyways. Clay has averaged 6 targets a week through three weeks, and he's received 5 red zone targets. That's notable at a TE position where simply finding the end zone can make you a startable TE in season-long leagues, regardless of the rest of the stat line.

With DFS pricing tighter this week, Clay actually enters the cash game conversation on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He's a smart salary cap relief play at a volatile position.

In PPR leagues, we're finally at a spot where we can recommend Jordan Matthews (BUF). Now, this selection is not without risk. As I've noted in this space the previous two weeks, Taylor has targeted his WRs at an abnormally low rate. Coupled with low team pass volume, it's an unenviable fantasy spot for WRs.

However, the Bills were able to get Matthews more involved last week; he saw a season-high 5 targets. Due to game script, the Bills could see more pass volume as a team this week, and individually, Matthews could see his highest market share of targets.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Matthews has played 66.3 percent of his snaps from the slot. Meanwhile, Atlanta is a team that defends well on the outside, which funnels targets inside. It's one of the reasons we're also high on McCoy and Clay. Atlanta slot CB Brian Pool, per PFF, has the second highest rate of receptions allowed and targets allowed per cover snap of 18 qualified slot cornerbacks. Overall, he's allowed the most targets, receptions, and yards. Some of that is skewed following a matchup against Golden Tate, but it meshes with what we know about Atlanta historically.

Matthews is a borderline WR3 in season-long leagues, but a Flex play in deeper leagues or if you utilize deeper rosters. He's overpriced on FanDuel, but at $3,900 on DraftKings, he's firmly in play in tournament formats.

Defense/ST

The exciting news for Bills' fans is the defense looks legitimate. The front seven has generated pressure, while the secondary looks in lockstep with one another, a welcome change from the chaos that often occurred under Rex Ryan. They currently rank second in Football Outsiders' DVOA.

Unfortunately, the Bills are in a horrible spot as a 9.5 point underdog, on the road, in a dome, against one of the league's top offenses. You aren't playing them in any format.

Atlanta is a borderline Top-10 defense simply due to a favorable projected game script and a relatively low implied total for the Bills (19.5). Defensive injuries on the Atlanta side of the ball coupled with Taylor's limiting of turnovers, though, limits the upside. Neither defense is that appealing for fantasy in this game, but if you had to play one, it would be Atlanta.

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