Daily Fantasy NFL: Is James White a Top Play in Week 16?
Against the Titans last week in the 4th quarter, James White caught a quick pass on a short out route. He cut up field, dodged a few tackles, and managed to out run everyone for 70 yards until finally getting caught just yards from the goal line. The big reception capped off what would have been an 8 catch, 141 yard, one TD performance, against a Titans team that has allowed the least receptions to RBs this season. But the play was called back. A questionable offensive pass interference call erased his long catch and run from the stat line. He ended the day with 7 receptions for 71 yards and a TD, not bad production for a low priced player in a tough matchup.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how some teams have more variable offensive strategies than others. In 2014, the Patriots changed their offensive strategy a lot week to week, vacillating between extremely pass heavy and neutral. This year hasn’t been much different. Our Sportsbook projection tool estimates that the Patriots will have a 77.73% pass percentage, the highest estimate we have had for any team this season. This number seems improbable for any team.
However, if we look at the Patriots’ last matchup against the Jets, there are lots of reasons to think that this estimate is not only probable, but possibly on the low side. Because the Jets run defense is so good (at this point in the season, they are the number one ranked rush defense according to Football Outsiders by a wide margin), the Patriots adopted a strategy of passing almost exclusively. The Patriots called a passing play 61 out of 67 snaps, or 91% of the time, the highest of any team this season, even though the Patriots led for most of the game.
Is there reason to believe the Patriots won’t play similarly this week? If anything, we could expect them to be more pass heavy. The Patriots won their last matchup against the Jets, but as only 3 point favorites, New England could easily fall behind and be forced to pass even more. Without Legarrette Blount at RB, it seems even less likely that the Patriots could run effectively against such a good defense. The Patriots could “surprise” the Jets, and adopt a more run heavy strategy, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots running the ball well even in the most unexpected rushing situations.
Given the Patriots average nearly 68 plays a game, we could easily see 60+ pass attempts from Brady. There should be plenty of receptions and passing yards to go around, so I like Patriots receivers this week like Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell. But RB James White may be the best play of them all.
Up until that Week 7 matchup against the Jets, The Patriots had been playing Dion Lewis as their primary pass catching RB. Lewis was out with an abdominal injury, so backup James White filled in, despite having only played 21 snaps the entire season in six games. Because of the Patriots pass heavy strategy, White played twice as much that week as he had the entire season, playing 43 out of the teams 67 total snaps, a season high.
The Patriots had a similar strategy with passing down RBs last season against the Jets. In their first matchup, passing down specialist Shane Vereen played 48 out of 60 total snaps. Vereen’s 5 receptions for 71 yards and 2 TDs made him one of the top daily fantasy RBs that week. Vereen followed that up with 43 out of 65 snaps in their next matchup as well. Given this history and White’s improved experience, it seems sensible to estimate White will get 70-80% of snaps this week, but it would not be surprising if it was higher.
This is a huge boost considering White’s per snap production the past few weeks. After White stepped in as the starting passing down back in Week 10, he struggled to be a factor in the Patriots offense. In his first 3 games, he only averaged 1.67 receptions and 21 yards per game, and his 2 TDs in that span seemed lucky given those paltry numbers. But White and Brady had fantastic rapport next week against the Eagles, and White ended up with his best game to date, 10 catches for 115 yards and a TD, making him 2nd highest in RB fantasy points in Week 13. White cooled down next week against the Texans, but returned for a solid game against the Titans I mentioned earlier, despite only playing 23 out of 67 snaps. Since Week 13, White’s fantasy points per snap on DraftKings has been 0.65, which leads all RBs over that period.
The Patriots passing game seems great this week given their projection to pass 77% of the time and their history against the Jets. While Brady and Gronkowski are obvious strong plays, the biggest production boost will likely come from White, who should benefit from a lot more playing time. With Brady and White starting to build rapport, and White’s amazing efficiency over the past few weeks, it does not sound far fetched to predict White will be one of the highest scoring RBs in Week 16.
View all posts by Daniel Steinberg