Underdog released the Thunday Night Knockout contest with a $5 price point, 13,752 entries and $12k 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 Saints traveling to Arizona to take on the Cardinals (-1.5) with a 45.5 o/u on Thursday and the Steelers traveling to Miami to take on the Dolphins (-7) with a 44 o/u on Sunday night.
Let’s dig in.
Draft Strategy for Week 7 Thursday & Sunday 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 then promptly traded for Robbie Anderson and get DeAndre Hopkins returning from suspension which hopefully provides a boost to the offense. Also on the Cardinals side is the health surrounding starting RB, James Conner, who missed week 6. For the Sunday night game, the health of rookie QB Kenny Pickett is imperative after sustaining a concussion on Sunday. On the concussion note, the status of QB Tua Tagovailoa and TE Pat Freiermuth are also in question.
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 (Dolphins 6th and Steelers 13th) and two teams with a negative PROE (Saints 3rd worst and Cardinals 11th worst). The Dolphins have been impressive this year becoming a fan favorite with Head Coach Mike McDaniel. The Steelers are in a transition year but the offense is different with Pickett at the helm. They are more efficient and more pass happy with the rookie. The Cardinals have been a major disappointment and are inconsistent on a weekly basis and the Saints have been hit with a major injury bug increasing their rush rate over the last few weeks.
With the significant change to 3 person drafts, it personally makes me underrate the QB position. Although Kyler Murray has the floor/ceiling combo to break the slate. There are potentials for both Tua, Kenny and Jameis Winston (all 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 a true workhorse running back, which would be Alvin Kamara. Otherwise, Kyler is the only QB on the slate with designed QB runs and a true rushing floor. The injury reports throughout the week will be pivotal in understanding if any (or all) of Pickett, Tua, and Jameis will play. If all three are tending toward out, Kyler becomes the clear 1.01 over Kamara in my eyes.
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, Jarvis Landry, and Marquise Brown are all expected to miss the contest which condenses ownership toward DeAnde Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, Chris Olave, Jaylen Waddle, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens. Outside of them, players are mixing in Rondale Moore and Chase Claypool. 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 Trent Sherfield who is the clear #3 WR for the Dolphins and should be involved if they are playing from behind.
On the RB end, we already touched on Kamara having the best floor/ceiling outcome on the slate. He is heavily involved in the rushing and passing games and in the red zone. James Conner is also 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. Raheem Mostert has slotted in as the RB1 for the Dolphins. His snap rate stayed consistent around 65% last week and even though his batterymate, Chase Edmonds, saw an uptick in snaps (40%), Mostert handled 80% of the opportunities (carries + targets). He is McDaniel’s guy since he followed him from SF. He should be more involved in the scenario that Tua misses the game, but carries significant TD-upside if Tua is healthy. Last year we saw Najee Harris be a volume RB1. He was playing on nearly every snap, however this year, the Steelers are reducing his workload. Rookie Jaylen Warren is rotating in on clear passing downs to help keep Najee fresh. He is just not efficient with his touches (3.2 ypc).
The TE landscape, like most slates, is gross. 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 Dolphins have used Mike Gesicki in more of a “big slot” role. He saw season high in snap rate (64%) routes run (75%) and targets (6) in week 6. 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 and he is going undrafted in most drafts.We touched on Freiermuth earlier. He has sustained 3 concussions in his 2 NFL seasons. He is truly a GTD. In his stead Zach Gentry took on the #1 role playing 65% of snaps and He only saw 1 target.
Top Plays for Drafts
- Kyler Murray – Rushing ceiling is unmatched.
- Alvin Kamara – Highest floor/ceiling combo for the RBs.
- Chris Olave – Should be the only WR healthy for the Saints
- Tyreek Hill – His skillset is QB-averse.
- Taysom Hill – This depends on the health of the receiving core and Jameis. If Jameis is healthy, Hill could be used more
Players That Could Differentiate Your Lineup
- Greg Dortch – Should see an uptick in playing time with Hollywood hurt and Robbie making his debut.
- 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.
- Chase Claypool – Better play if Pickett is trending out.
- Trent Sherfield – Clear #3 for the Dolphins with deep-play ability.