After researching the NFL player pool at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end each week over the past few seasons, I will go on a new path for the daily games in 2021. I continue to make the stat projections for Sports Illustrated, and this baseline will be used to identify possible values at each position during the season.
In the daily games, we see players with low salaries post difference-maker scores each week. The key to winning is mixing a core of studs with some undervalued options that post impact scores for their price point.
Depending on the format, the goal is to find players that will score three or four times their salary to have a shot at GPP (grand prize pool).
Top Tier: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills ($7,800/$8,800)
Over his last five matchups, Allen had three starts with 30 pass attempts or fewer while tossing nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. His best success over this span came against the Jets (369/2) and Saints (303/4). Due to heavy winds, Allen had a throwaway game (184/1) against the Patriots on Monday night. Over his six starts on the road, he gained 1,953 combined yards with 15 touchdowns while gaining 8.3 yards per pass attempt.
Tampa Bay improved to 21st in quarterback defense (21.47 FPPG) after holding opponents to fewer than 20 fantasy points in five of their previous eight contests. However, their pass defense failed in four games (DAL – 403/3, ATL – 400/3, LAR – 343/4, IND – 306/3) on the year. The Bucs will pressure the quarterback (34 sacks), but they will give up some damage in the run game to quarterbacks (48/213/3).
SI Sportsbook placed the highest over/under (52.5) of the week in this matchup. Buffalo lost its top CB, Tre’Davious White, in Week 12, but New England never tested their secondary on Monday night. The Bills have the top pass defense in the league, but they have only faced one other top-tier quarterback (Patrick Mahomes – 333/2). Tom Brady has plenty of experience and success against Buffalo, and the Bucs should find a way to score points. Allen led the Bills to 30 or more points in seven games. I have him projected at 332 combined yards with three-plus touchdowns.
More: Tom Brady – 26.65 fantasy points
Value: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys ($6,700/$8,100)
Over the last three weeks, Dallas threw the ball 130 times, but Prescott delivered only three touchdowns with no rushing yards. He only has eight touchdowns over his last five games. His season started with three or more touchdowns in five games over six weeks. In 2020, Prescott missed both games against Washington. In 2019, he gained 338 combined yards in each matchup with seven touchdowns.
Washington remains last in the league defending quarterbacks (25.96 FPPG), but they played much better in four of their past five matchups (DEN – 213/1, TB – 220/2, CAR – 235 combined yards with two scores, and LV – 249/0). Their success on defense has been helped by a ball-control offense that has dominated time of possession over the past four weeks (39:08, 35:53, 41:40, 33:43). On their down days vs. quarterbacks earlier in the season, Washington struggled over a five-game stretch (BUF – 387/5, ATL – 303/4, NO – 305/4, KC – 428/2, GB – 291/3).
Prescott has thrown the ball well on the road (70.8 percent completion rate), but he delivered only seven of his 23 passing touchdowns over five games. With 300 yards and two scores, Prescott would be in range to fill his salary bucket while also offering a much higher ceiling.
More: Justin Herbert – 25.62 fantasy points
Top Tier: Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay ($7,400/$7,600)
Over the last four weeks, the Bucs have upped the value of Fournette in the passing game (28/163/2), leading to him pushing to fourth in running back scoring (18.23 FPPG). Tampa had him on the field for 81 and 87 percent of their plays over the past two weeks. Surprisingly, Fournette only has two touchdowns at home while averaging 14.78 fantasy points in PPR leagues. He averages 19 touches while gaining 100 rushing yards in one matchup.
Running backs beat the Bills' defense in four of their previous seven contests (35.60, 32.30, 57.70, 31.40 fantasy points). Those failures came against Derrick Henry (156 yards with three touchdowns and two catches), Jonathan Taylor (204 yards with five touchdowns and three catches), and a weather-provoked run game by New England (46/222/1). Despite their recent struggles, Buffalo sits ninth defending running backs (21.72 FPPG).
For Fournette to hold his fantasy value this week, he must remain active in the passing game while finding the end zone at least one time. I have him on a path for 109 combined yards with 1.25 touchdowns and six catches.
More: Alexander Mattison – 24.38 fantasy points
Value: Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders ($6,200/$7,100)
An injury to Kenyan Drake and a COVID-19 issue for Jalen Richard led to Jacobs being on the field for a season-high 85% of the Raiders’ plays against Washington. He finished career-best in catches (9) with 90 yards and a touchdown. Over the past two games, Jacobs has averaged 23 touches while scoring 43.20 fantasy points in PPR leagues. In Week 10, the Chiefs held him to 36 yards and five catches. Last year, he scored twice in his matchup against Kansas City (23/77/2 with two catches for eight yards).
The Chiefs slipped to 21st defending running backs (24.38 FPPG) after struggling to shut down Javonte Williams (188 combined yards with one touchdown and six catches) in Week 13. Kansas City allows 4.5 yards per rush to backs, leading to 1,759 yards with eight touchdowns and 78 catches.
The Raiders may have Jalen Richard back this week, which would lead to fewer chances in the passing game. At the very least, Peyton Barber should be active. With a full snap ride in Week 14, Jacobs looks to be a viable value at running back. He needs 100-plus yards with one score and at least four catches to pay off.
More: Javonte Williams – 22.48 fantasy points
Top Tier: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs ($8,500/$8,700)
Hill finished with his worst game of the season against the Broncos (2/22 on five targets). Over his previous eight contests, he had double-digit targets seven times, but Hill only had one impact game (11/186/3). However, he played well against the Raiders in Week 10 (7/83/2) while having two other playable games (11/197/1 and 12/94/1) on the year.
Las Vegas ranks sixth defending wide receivers (151/1,611/8 on 227 targets). Three wideouts gained over 100 yards (Diontae Johnson – 9/105, Michael Gallup – 5/106, Cedrick Wilson – 7/104). The Raiders’ secondary wants to keep wide receivers in front of them, leading to a high catch rate (66.5) and low yards per catch (10.7).
Much of the fantasy talk this week has been about the emptiness in the passing game of Patrick Mahomes over the previous six weeks (five games with one touchdown or fewer). Hill should regain the bounce in his step this week, but he’ll need a long score to set up an impact day. Mahomes beat the Raiders’ secondary for 406 yards and five scores in Week 10.
More: Davante Adams – 27.92 fantasy points
Value: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,600/$7,200)
Over five games at home, Evans has 26 catches for 361 yards and eight touchdowns on 44 targets. His best success came in three matchups (5/75/2, 6/113/2, 6/76/3). He needs 206 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the eighth straight year. Over his 28 starts with Tom Brady, Evans scored 23 touchdowns while averaging 16.25 fantasy points.
The Bills lead the NFL defending wide receivers (128/1,282/3 on 225 targets). Last week, New England only attempted three passes, with one incompletion going to a wide receiver. They’ve allowed only one touchdown to a wideout over the past seven weeks. No wide receiver gained over 100 yards.
Evans looks to be against the grain by his matchup, but the loss of CB Tre’Davious White should make the Bills’ defense exposed in this contest. I have him projected for seven catches for 102 yards and one touchdown.
More: Odell Beckham Jr. – 17.47 fantasy points
Top Tier: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,400/$7,500)
Kelce only had two touchdowns over his past 10 starts, leading to only one playable game (8/119 against the Raiders) in the daily space. Three times (4/23, 4/27, 3/27) over this stretch, he posted an empty stat line while seeing double-digit targets in four games. Kelce started the year in top form (6/76/2, 7/109/1, 7/104).
The Raiders have the second-worst defense against tight ends (73/813/8). They’ve allowed all eight of their touchdowns over the past nine games. Three offenses (LAC – 9/121/2, DEN – 12/120/1, KC – 9/120/1) posted impact scores from their tight ends.
One of the Chiefs’ top receiving options should come in this week. Kelce has the better matchup, but he still needs to score over 30.00 fantasy points to be viable based on his higher salary.
More: Rob Gronkowski – 18.21 fantasy points
Value: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills ($5,000/$6,000)
After two productive games (6/80 and 3/32/2), Knox only caught two of his six targets for 14 yards in a wind-challenged passing attack against the Patriots. From Weeks 2-5, he scored five touchdowns in four games, highlighted by two games (5/37/2 and 3/117/1). Over his 10 starts, Knox averaged only 4.7 targets.
Tampa Bay allowed over 15 fantasy points to tight ends in half of its games. The Buccaneer]s rank 24th vs. the position (75/706/5 on 101 targets), with their biggest failure coming in Week 12 (9/111/1).
A high-scoring pace against the Bucs points to more chances for Buffalo’s receiving options. Knox isn’t a layup, but game flow gives him a reasonable chance at five catches for 55 yards with a 75 percent chance of scoring.
More: Cole Kmet – 11.50 fantasy points
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