Just when I thought we were starting to get into a routine, Underdog changes it up on me. Underdog released the MNFxTNF Melee contest with a $5 price point, 11,304 entries and $100k top prize. It is the same format as the Main Slate contest but with only 3 drafters instead of 6 (it has been 4 in the past). For this week, we get the Broncos traveling to Los Angeles to face their division foe, Chargers (-4) with a 45.5 o/u on Monday Night and the Saints traveling to Arizona to take on the Cardinals (-1.5) with a 45.5 o/u on Thursday.
Let’s dig in.
Draft Strategy for Week 6 + 7 Monday & Thursday Night Football Draft Strategy
The main takeaway from looking at this slate is to win you will need to navigate the injuries, primarily on Thursday Night. All 3 of the Saints starting WRs (Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry) missed last week and will remain on the injury report this week. Marquise Brown injured his foot yesterday and left the building in a cast (although X-Rays were negative but reports are potentially season-ending). The Cardinals promptly traded for Robbie Anderson today (not on the slate). The Cardinals also get DeAndre Hopkins returning from suspension which hopefully provides a boost. Also on the Cardinals side is the health surrounding starting RB, James Conner, who missed week 6. For the Sunday Night game, Keenan Allen is listed as doubtful and Melvin Gordon is questionable after limited practices all week (expectation is he plays).
Underdog decided to throw a wrinkle in for drafters REDUCING the contest size from 4 drafters to 3 drafters. At first glance, this should make it a bit easier to get different but you will be sacrificing points from a projection standpoint. This can get tricky as you need to navigate drafts without providing unique & optimal combinations to your opposition.
Through 6 weeks (minus the MNF game), we have two teams with a positive PROE (Chargers 4th and Broncos 10th) and two teams with a negative PROE (Saints 3rd worst and Cardinals 11th worst). One can easily argue that all 4 of these teams have been extremely disappointing this season and have had inconsistent results week to week.
With the significant change to 3 person drafts, it personally makes me underrate the QB position. Although there are Qbs who could break the slate due to their ceiling (Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray), there are potentials for both Russell Wilson and Jameis Winston (if healthy) to have ceiling outcome performances and allow you to climb up the leaderboard. Due to that, I tend to prioritize the skill position players, especially the workhorse running backs in Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler. It is important to note that Herbert and Wilson don’t really run. They aren’t averse to running, but do not have designed runs, meanwhile Kyler could break the slate due to his rushing upside. I would mix in a few Jameis shares as he will be nearly unowned in the contest.
I will continue to hound on the fact that the reduction to 3 drafters really limits the player pool in terms of roster percentage. This is truly important in terms of pass catchers. As I stated earlier, injury concerns are the skeleton key to the slate. Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry, and Marquise Brown are all expected to miss the contest which condenses ownership toward Courtland Sutton, Mike Williams, DeAnde Hopkins, and Jerry Jeudy. Outside of them, players are mixing in Rondale Moore and Joshua Palmer. Based on the injuries, AJ Green, Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, and possibly Greg Dortch become viable players that could be main differentiators. Callaway, Smith and Green all saw 65% of snaps last week and could maintain those roles with the injuries. Another interesting player is DeAndre Carter who is the clear #3 WR for the Chargers and should be involved if the Chargers are playing from behind.
On the RB end, we already touched on Ekeler and Kamara having the best floor/ceiling outcomes on the slate. The both are heavily involved in the rushing and passing games and in the red zone. James Conner is used in a similar light, however since he missed week 6, you will be getting him at a discount. There is an easy swap to Eno Benjamin if he’s ruled out. Eno played on 87% of snaps and took over the Conner role with him being out. With the season-ending injury to Javonte Williams last week. Mike Boone played on 41% of snaps last week but looked far more effective & efficient than Gordon. Melvin is being drafted as the primary ball carrier (and projected) but is nursing a neck injury and has had fumbling issues this year. There is also a potential that Latavius Murray is involved after signing last week and steps into a role. He is currently barely being drafted and is an interesting dart throw.
The TE landscape is better than most other slates. With Keenan Allen doubtful, Gerald Everett should be involved heavily in the pass game. Zach Ertz is as consistent as you can be at the TE position and saw another 10 targets this week (averages 8.5 targets/game). The biggest question mark is the Broncos TE. We have already seen Albert Okwuegbunam be phased out of the offense with Eric Saubert and Eric Tomlinson playing the majority of snaps, however 3rd round rookie, Greg Dulcich, was activated off IR and will make his NFL debut. Due to projection, people will gravitate to Saubert, but Dulcich is a great leverage if you get squeezed on TEs. Another interest note is on the Saints’ side. Taysom Hill has TE eligibility on Underdog however only played 21% of snaps this week after 30% last week. He has a highly valuable role as the wildcat QB in the red zone and could see an increase in snaps with the receivers hurt. Juwan Johnson is the primary TE though, playing 78% of snaps. That could expand with Adam Trautman getting hurt and expected to miss next week. The Cardinals are more of a pass-funnel to the TE position. He is going undrafted in most drafts.
Top Plays for Drafts
- Mike Williams – No Keenan Allen, remains the #1 target for Herbert
- Austin Ekeler – High ceiling due to usage
- Alvin Kamara – High ceiling due to usage
- Kyler Murray – Rushing ceiling is unmatched.
- Chris Olave – Should be the only WR healthy for the Saints
Players That Could Differentiate Your Lineup
- Greg Dulcich – Will make his NFL debut, could lead the Broncos TEs in snaps/routes run
- KJ Hamler – He will hit the long TD on one of these slates…
- Latavius Murray – Recently signed and should be active, he could be the RB instead of Boone/Gordon.
- Joshua Kelley – The primary back-up to Ekeler, will be involved in Ekeler gets hurt.
- Juwan Johnson – Real #1 TE for the Saints with a depleted WR core and the Cardinals are a TE-funnel
- Marquez Callaway – Leading target earner last week