by Noah Pires
July 23, 2019
Vegas is in business for two reasons: to make money, and to make bettors look foolish in front of their friends. Because of this, they set odds in a way that won't make them go bankrupt, but despite this, there are always a few diamonds in the rough. Last year, on September 4th, before the season began, Patrick Mahomes' odds to win the MVP were set at +3300. Just two weeks later, this spiked to +1200, and seven days after that, surged to +300. Yes, in this case Vegas was wayyyyy off the mark, but who would expect such a season from a relatively unknown commodity? Because of this, we're going to take a look at some odds/lines that could provide Mahomes-esque values heading into 2019, as well as linking what Vegas thinks about certain players to their fantasy football stock.
Let's just take a look at how he did last season. 31 total touchdowns (including five on the ground) and topped 4,700 all-purpose yards all while having Will Fuller for just seven games, Coutee for six, and having suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung after their week five bout with the Cowboys. Having DHop is a godsend, but after him, Watson was left with very little he could rely on in the passing game. Along with his weapons being oft-injured, his own health issues greatly hampered his production. Before week six, he had fallen below 300 passing yards just once and averaged over 38 attempts per game. From week six through 12, he never topped 25 attempts or 250 passing yards, a stretch which greatly impacted his end-of-season numbers (other than TD total due to a 5-score performance). This direct correlation between his injury and a lack of production should bring confidence heading into 2018 because, from what we know, he is entering the season 100%. Coutee will be back and ready to go, and although Will Fuller may be a slow starter, if he's back to start the season he will at least help spread the field for the Texans, allowing Watson to make easier throws underneath when necessary.
Another thing I love about Watson is his team. When's the last time a player won MVP on a squad that won less than 10 games? A long ass time - 1997 to be exact, season where Barry Sanders rushed for over 2,000 yards. Because of this drought, I'd target QBs on teams who will likely surpass that 10-win mark, and Watson fits that mold. A great defense, paired with a high-powered offense (when healthy), coming off an 11-5 year, Deshaun's 2019 outlook is shaping up to be an impressive one.
Would I be surprised if he replicated Cam Newton's 2015 season, totaling 45 touchdowns and over 4,400 total yards? The touchdowns, maybe, but yardage wise, not at all, as he already surpassed that mark in 2018. I wouldn't be shocked if he flirts with 40 total scores, though, as he's had a fairly lofty TD %, so great, in fact, that his rookie year % was nearly halved in 2018, yet still ended the season at 5.1%. If he had kept up his volume from weeks one through five for a full 16 games (614 attempts), with that TD percentage, he would have thrown 31 tuddies. Again, this was behind an awful o-line and without Coutee (Fuller was active over this stretch after week two), and though their offensive line isn't great, they did invest a first and second round pick in two tackles, so atleast there's some hope there will be improvement.
If there's just a sliver of luck on Watson's side, he should easily be a top five MVP candidate by year's end, and if he can bring the Texans to an 11-5 or even 12-4 record, finishing ahead of the Colts, he may easily be the seen as the favorite.
Odds: +10000; 100/1 (The Action Network)
This is a major long shot. A defensive player hasn't won MVP since 1986, a season where LT registered 20.5 sacks, but if there's anyone who could do it, it's Donald. Aaron matched that sack total last season and has topped double digits in that category in three of the past four seasons, so if he hits that mark again, he'll certainly still be viewed as the best defensive player in the league.
This alone likely won't be enough to win the award, as QBs are heavily favored, but after seeing Mahomes go for 50 tugs in 2018, the best QB performance in 2019 will likely pale in comparison to Patty's 2018 campaign. If this recency bias comes to fruition and Donald again dominates on the defensive line, he may finally get the respect he deserves.
There isn't much more to my argument than that. What else can I say? AD is probably the best player in football but unfortunately plays opposite the QB, so will he win MVP? Highly unlikely, but at 100/1, put down $10 and hope you can cash out and order 1,000 double cheeseburgers from BK.
Odds: +2500; 25/1 (Vegas Insider)
They might not look like the best team in the division, but this was a squad projected to win just eight games heading into 2018. They defied all odds, going 10-6, despite losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Doug Baldwin's ACLs. Yes, they did lose Frank Clark and Earl Thomas this season, but their defense isn't completely in shambles, especially since they spent a first and second round pick to replenish these losses (L.J. Collier and Marquise Blair). Along with this, they still have a massive homefield boost that will more than make up for any slight weaknesses on that side of the ball. Okay, maybe that's not 100% true, but it sounds good.
The reason I have any semblance of confidence in this selection is because of the QB and coach pairing in Seattle. Simply put, they have experience. Look at other SB favorites around the league and only a handful have even made the trip to the big game. Patrick Mahomes? Nada. Andrew Luck? Nope. Carson Wentz? Technically, yes, but really, no. Wilson's been there (and done that) and has had Pete Carroll on his side in those big games, and now, boasting one of the league's best rushing attacks behind a much improved offensive line, things are shaping up nicely in Seattle.
Odds: +3000; 30/1 (Vegas Insider)
I already touched a bit on the Texans in Deshaun Watson's section, so I'll keep it short. How many teams have a top 10 offense and defense? Maybe four or five. Off the top of my head, let's see: The Chargers, Houston, Indianapolis, Philly, and maybe the Browns. The Texans are in that bunch, and although they don't have much experience in the playoffs, led by third year QB Deshaun Watson, they have enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to make a deep run in the playoffs.
They did lose in the wildcard round to the division rival Colts by 14 points, but I'm not all too concerned that this performance is a sign of things to come. As the team matures, they should have no issue repeating an 11-5 performance and taking that momentum into the playoffs.
Passing TD Leader Odds: +2000; 20/1 (Odds Shark)
Wentz is #good; you don't just let BDN walk without having a competent QB in the arsenal. How good, you may ask? Well, in my opinion, I not only think he has a chance at leading the league in passing scores, I believe it's well within the range of outcomes. If you look at his paces over the past two seasons, in his sophomore campaign, he was well on his way to 41 passing tugs before tearing his ACL, and in 2018, despite playing through a back injury and a short return off his busted knee, was set to throw 31 tuddies. Now, heading into 2019 with what finally seems like a clean bill of health, he has the best weapons group of his career with DJax now in town and a few young studs.
Wherever DeSean Jackson goes, he makes the offense around him better, and on top of this, will give Wentz something he's never really had: a deep threat. He's had to rely on the slippery hands of Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor in the deep game thus far, so Jackson will inevitably be an improvement. Wentz has shown consistency in pushing the ball downfield, posting a 44.4% adjusted deep ball accuracy in 2018, and a year prior, hitting 44.6%. On top of Jackson providing the ability to open up long TDs, the Eagles also bring in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside through the draft, a player who dominated in contested catch situations, especially in the endzone. Sophomore tight end Dallas Goedart also provides a similar value to JJAW as both can be used as depth pieces behind the team's top two receiving weapons, or all four can get tossed out their in red zone situations, making it extremely hard for defenses to lock down.
As for what Wentz would need to achieve this feat, we can look at how the passing TD leaders have finished over the past ten seasons. Exluding Mahomes and Manning, both of which topped 50 scores (and replacing them with the 2nd highest total in that respective year), the average leader finished with 38.7 tugaroos. As said earlier, Wentz was already well on his way to topping this average in his second year, and just a year ago, battling with a myriad of injuries, fell just seven tuddies short (in his extrapolated season).
His weapons group is just too good, and Wentz has done nothing but prove he is dominant in putting the ball in the final ten yards of the field, so at 20:1 odds, there is a good chance he returns value.
Over/Under Passing Yards: 4000.5 (MyBookie)
Scream it from the hilltops: RECENCY BIAS!
Let me throw a little trivia at you. Since 2011 (the first time Staff played a full season), guess how many times Matty Franchise fell short of 4,000 passing yards? Okay, what about < 4,200 yards? The answer to both? ONE. UNO. Thassit. Both seasons, which is just one season, came...last year...shocker. A season where he got banged up week one, lost Golden Tate in a trade, had to rely on LaGarrette "Brick Hands" Blount on first and second downs for their final six games, and was without Marvin Jones for seven contests due to a knee injury. Brutal. Stafford goes from this abysmal situation to quite possibly the best of his career.
Not only will Kerryon Johnson be in the backfield, a player who can actually catch the ball, but he has two legitimate perimeter receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, a slot presence in Danny Amendola, and a young, promising tight end in T.J. Hockenson. So long as Matthew throws more than 200 times this season, 4,000 passing yards is honestly his absolute floor.
Now, the main counterargument would be the presence of Darrell Bevell, a well-known run heavy coach. Welllllll, during his time with the Vikings and Seahawks, he was blessed with having Tarvaris Jackson at the helm in both situations, so of course he wasn't going to throw. Then, at the end of his tenure with Minnesota, Brett Favre came into town and threw the ball 534 times, the 8th most attempts that season, and during his second season, got injured, yet the team topped 500 tosses once again. Even in Seattle, over his final two years, Russell Wilson averaged 549.5 attempts, so would I say Bevell being a run-first coach is just a tired narrative? Not necessarily, but I don't think it's a valid reason to believe Stafford will be a perennial sub-4,000 yard passer. It's not gonna happen, so put your house, your 401k, your left foot - pretty much anything you got - on this line. If he gets hurt, or finishes with 3,997 passing yards, then I'll be out of the country, nowhere to be found, so in advance, I send my condolences.
Receiving Yards Leader: +1500; 15/1 (Odds Shark)
Okay, let's get the numbers out of the way. Derek Carr has been top-12 in pass attempts in all but one year, and the season where he fell out of that range he only played 15 games. He's averaged 560 pass attempts throughout his career, adn on a 28% target share, a reasonable mark for AB, that would translate to 157 targets. As we all know, Brown doesn't need 200 targets to produce, as just two seasons ago, in 14 games, led the league in receiving yards on 163 targets. Sure, Carr is a bit of a downgrade, but he's been impressive on deep balls, where Brown eats, ranking in the top-6 in adjusted deep accuracy in three of his five seasons. When you consider everything, it's hard to deny the volume will be there, and for a player with his skills, no matter who is throwing him the ball, if he sees 160+ looks, he's going to top 1,300 yards. Where did I get that number? I made it up, but if you take his 8.8 career yards per target, on that volume, it works out to > 1,400 yards.
As for why I'm all in on this bet? Just one month ago, Brown had the second highest odds at +600. Now, he is 7th, despite ZERO news suggesting his production will dip. The QB situation is the same, no new weapons have been acquired, and Mr. Big Chest is as healthy as could be. This movement suggests the public is moving off of him, and what do we do around here? We fade the MF'N public. Chase volume, and you'll find value.
Over the past 10 seasons, every MVP winner has been an elite fantasy producer. Shocker, right? The lowest finish came in 2017 where Tom Brady ended the year as the QB3, still, nothing to scoff at. What intrigues me about this trend is that there is one QB in particular with fairly high odds to win the award, yet is still being overlooked by many fantasy players.
This player is someone we've already covered in this article, and he goes by the name of Carson Wentz. He currently has the 7th best odds to win MVP, set at +1500, yet is the 10th QB off the board in drafts thus far behind guys like Cam Newton and Drew Brees. Why? We have already established he is one of the best at getting the ball into the endzone, and with the best weapons group of his young career, he could easily flirt with 40 tugs, a number that will likely land him inside the top five by year's end. There's just too much to like out of the guy to pass at his current price, and Vegas is trying to tell you this. The only thing that's held him back have been injuries, so heading into 2019 at 100% should inspire confidence that he will do nothing other than return value as the 10th QB selected.
DJ is quietly making his way into the top-four conversation, but should he be? The talk around town is that the Cardinals are going to run 90+ plays per game, a preposterous number, but what evidence is there for us to believe them? Because Kingsbury had a high-powered air raid offense in college, one that helped net a 5-7 record in 2018 and just two winning seasons during his six years at Texas Tech? Sure, maybe that's it, but what if it doesn't translate. What if we see the 2018 Cardinals all over again. All we have to work off of right now is coachspeak, and Kliff isn't going to get a job and say "well, to be honest, I'm shooting for 55 plays a game and hope to lean on my defense a bit". I think the community as a whole is overly optimistic about this offense and until we see a glimpse of what they're capable of in preseason, I'm not buying it.
It seems like Vegas is on the same page as me. As it stands, Johnson's odds to lead the league in rushing TDs is set at +4000, not terrible, but not great. What concerns me, though, is that his own teammate, Kyler Murray, HAS BETTER ODDS, set at +3300. The year DJ completely broke out, he scored on the ground a ridiculous 16 times, so if doesn't match this number, or come within a handful of that total, I'm not sure he will have top five upside. Along with this, his rushing yardage over/under is set at 1,000.5. He has never been the most efficient back in the league, boasting a career average 4.1 yards per carry, meaning, to surpass 1,000 yards, he will likely need to end the year in the vicinity of 250 carries. Yes, it's possible, and probably likely, but his line being set so low brings concerns that maybe Kyler will steal a good bit of attempts, even inside the red zone, where DJ needs volume to produce.
He is, though, an elite pass catcher, an aspect of his game that wasn't put on display in 2018. I couldn't find any odds on his receiving yardage over/under, but if we don't see either he or Edmonds involved through the air in the preseason, there will be a legit concern that DJ may not have that RB1 overall upside, and for where he's being drafted, that range of outcomes is a must.
Odds: +1800 to lead in Rushing Yards (6th highest)
I love this line for two reasons: One, it shows that Chubb is still a very likely candidate to be an elite producer in 2019, and two, the public is fading him. My first point is obvious, as anybody in/around the top-five (odds-wise) is likely viewed as one of the league's best in that category, but my second one isn't as clear.
What you need to know is that just one month ago (6/22), Chubbs odds were set at +600, the second highest, coming in just behind Zeke and tied with Saquon Barkley. You may be asking yourself, then, why has the line changed so drastically? Simply put, the public. There has been no news suggesting Chubb's workload will be cut, or that Kareem is guaranteed 15 touches a game upon return. All we know is all we've ever known about the situation: Chubb is going to be the guy. Just think logically. I know Kareem Hunt is good, but he is going to a brand new team, has to sit for 10 weeks, and then needs to compete with one of the league's best backs to get a chance at commanding double digit touches. How likely is it that with everything stacked against him, Hunt will defy all odds and win out, or even just earn 10 touches? In my opinion, not very. KH is on a one year deal, whereas Chubb is on his rookie deal through 2021, so who do you think the organization has greater ties to? They aren't going to give away their starting runningback's job to a newcomer unless he is seriously hobbled down the stretch, so this line movement provides great value.
Now, how this relates to fantasy football. As for the Hunt situation, think of it this way. If you take Chubb in the second round, you obviously believe he will have a really good season. You don't spend that kind of capital on a player you have no faith in. If this is the case and NC lives up to expectation, then when Week 10 rolls around, when Hunt can return, he won't be replaced, or lose a significant amount of touches. No coach is going to throw an elite producer to the wayside that late in the season just to see what they have in a one-year backup. Now, if he does get replaced or loses a ton of work when Hunt returns, it's likely because Chubb had been terrible, or simply not very good, and by that point in the season, your second round pick would have already busted. In essence, if you are willing to pick Chubb round two, then you should have ZERO concerns about his workload down the stretch.
This line movement also relates to FF because it shows the public is falling out of love with Chubb for no good reason. He is already a mid 2nd round pick, and I wouldn't be surprised that as draft season approaches, he makes his way into the early third. If this happens, count your blessings. How often can you draft a PROVEN starting runningback, one who will likely see 20+ touches per week, on a seemingly elite offense, in the third round? Not very often, I'll tell you that. Sure, his receiving upside may not be great, but the guy averaged 0.9 goal line rushes per game once taking over the starting job, and with OBJ now in town, the Browns will likely be in that area of the field a bit more often. His touchdown numbers will likely outweigh the lack of pass catching usage, a situation we saw bring value to Leonard Fournette as a rookie. Let people pass on Chubb and be the lucky one to grab an elite workhorse back with your third selection, it really doesn't have to be so hard.
Odds: Passing Yards O/U set at 4350.5 (7th highest)
Another quick one. Where does Drew Brees garner his fantasy production from? His arm, like many quarterbacks, but this worries me a bit. He has led the league in passing yards seven times, topped the 5,000 mark in five separate seasons, but now, after failing to hit 4,350, where his line is set at, in two straight years, I'm not convinced his upside is anywhere near where it used to be. He isn't going to bring any value on the ground, where a QB like Mitchell Trubisky makes up for a lack of passing production, so in those weeks where DB throws just one tug, he will be relatively useless. Yes, this could be said about many QBs with a lack of mobility, but guys like Matt Ryan, Big Ben, and Aaron Rodgers are on teams who pass the ball over 65% of the time, while Brees only did so on 54% of their plays. The volume scaled back last year, and because they replaced Ingram with a competent back in Latavius Murray, along with having an improving defense, I expect this trend of making Brees more of a game-manager to continue.
In real life, being a game-manager isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in FF, I'm not touching someone with that outlook as high as Brees is going. Currently the QB7 ahead of guys like Wentz, Winston, and Kyler, I'm just not touching him. Sure, he'll have a handful of awesome games, but outside of those, he will provide nothing more than floor performances, ones which can be had from a guy like Kirk Cousins, currently the QB21.
This yardage over/under is signaling what may be the end for Drew being a perennial top-five fantasy option, so jump before it's too late and do not, I repeat, DO NOT, spend your 7th round pick on a QB who had these kinds of splits last season.
by Noah Pires
November 14, 2019
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