JMToWin is a high-stakes tournament champion (Thunderdome, Luxury Box, Game Changer, Wildcat) who is focusing this year on single-entry/three-entry max; this is his Player Pool for the Week 4 slate
This is, instead, a look at the player pool I’ll be fishing
:: my “Tier 1” plays: the plays I feel confident leaning into across different types of builds; these players have a high ceiling and a low likelihood of price-considered failure
:: games, offenses, situations, or scenarios I’ll be looking to build around across my rosters
:: unique player pairings that can be used as foundational building blocks for tournament rosters
:: players who don’t fit into the categories above — either Upside pieces who don’t have the floor to be Blue Chips (and are not being focused on within my game-focused builds) or players who may not have a strong shot at ceiling, but are worth keeping in mind from a “role” perspective
If we take away the carries that James Cook banked in the Bills’ blowout win over the Titans, Bills running backs are averaging under 13 carries per game. Said differently: Josh Allen is essentially “the entire offense” for the Bills, and any upside that this offense generates is typically attached to him. The only way Josh Allen “fails” is if the Bills just have an awful offensive showing, and every time they have a big game, this is likely to correlate with a big game from Allen as well. We often talk about giving ourselves fewer things we need to get right in order to win a tourney — and when we talk about this, it’s often in the context of “betting on multiple players from a single offense so that we capture the available upside if that offense hits.” Another way to give ourselves “fewer things we need to get right,” however, is by simply betting on players who have an ultra-high probability of success. If these players land on the positive side of their range of outcomes, that’s one (easy) spot on our roster taken care of, leaving us with fewer things we need to get right from there.
From Hilow’s NFL Edge writeup for this game ::
“Jonathan Taylor has played 74% or more of the offensive snaps in each game thus far, has been responsible for 91.2% of the team’s running back carries (64 of 68), and has increased his route participation rate to boot this season (checks in fourth in the league in total routes run at 81).”
In other words: JT is seeing not only “elite usage,” but “more elite usage than he was seeing last season.” With only 19.4 combined DraftKings points over his last two contests, people are less likely to flock to him this week, but the underlying metrics tell us there is no reason to be afraid. JT always has a lower floor than people give him credit for (he had four games last season under 14.0 DK points, and 10 games under 24.0), but the ceiling remains elite, and it seems unlikely that he becomes particularly popular this week.
Saquon Barkley is Option 1, 2, and 3 for this Giants offense — and while this doesn’t change the fact that we are talking about the Giants’ offense (i.e., they aren’t very good, and they aren’t particularly likely to score a ton of points in just about any week), the “talent + volume” equation works strongly in his favor. Saquon has touched the ball 24 // 24 // 18 times to start the year, and he matches up this week against a Chicago team that currently ranks 10th in DVOA against the pass but 22nd against the run. Will he bury you for not playing him? Probably not. Can he disappoint in this game environment? Absolutely. But given what else is available on this slate, Saquon’s range of outcomes is definitely attractive. He’s not a priority for me in terms of “where I’m starting my builds,” as I’ll generally be starting at the QB and pass catcher positions before determining my path at RB; but in terms of “individual plays,” he definitely falls into the Light Blue category for me.
AJB ranks 12th in the NFL in total targets and fifth in percentage share of team air yards, on a team that currently ranks 11th in the NFL in pass rate over expectation (i.e., this is not the “run the ball first, second, and third” offense we saw last year down the stretch; this is a pass-balanced offense in 2022); and yet, people are still treating AJB like a player “who moved from one run-heavy offense to another.” AJB’s floor technically makes him “Light Blue,” but his ceiling is “Bluest of Blue.” It would be a zero-percent surprise if AJB ended up posting the top skill position score of the weekend. I’ll cover this offense further in the Build-Arounds and the Building Blocks, but I wanted to isolate AJB as a very strong individual play as well.
The Bills have a similar matchup this week to what they had last week vs the Dolphins, as the Ravens are going to send plenty of blitz-heavy pressure while playing plenty of man coverage. The question with the Bills is really never, “Can they have a game that tops the slate?” but is instead, “If they do top the slate, who is the best player to pair with Josh Allen?”
Man coverage sets up well for Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, whereas the blitz-heavy pressure from the Ravens could once again tilt the Bills toward a ball-out-quick approach in which they aim to get the ball to Devin Singletary and Isaiah McKenzie with room to work in space.
While the “typical DFS player” approach is to dig deeper into the numbers from here and “try to predict what we’ll see this week,” the “sharp DFS player” approach would be to recognize that A) we probably can’t predict this spot with a high degree of accuracy, but that B) we can predict what the field is going to do. As of right now Stefon Diggs is projecting as one of the highest-owned players on the slate, which makes Gabe Davis and Isaiah McKenzie particularly interesting to me in tourneys this week.
I’m leaning Josh Allen over Lamar Jackson in this spot (the Bills’ defense will aim to take away downfield shots and rushing lanes, while forcing Lamar to march the field on short and intermediate passes — which is absolutely something he can do, but is also something that will make it tougher for him to break the slate), and I’m also fine building around this game environment in such a way that I essentially say, “upside congregates on Josh Allen and one Bills target, while no one on the Ravens becomes a must-play at salary.” That said :: it’s easy to paint this game a variety of other ways, and to build around this in any number of +EV manners.
My general approach for this game (neither “right nor wrong” — just a look at how I’m planning to play things myself) is to bet on an “Eagles Smash” environment. This would be a setup in which I’m not relying on any individual player from the Jaguars putting up a “had to have it” score on the other side of the ball, but am instead betting on Philly A) having yet another strong game, while B) finally putting things together in the second half. As noted multiple times this week across multiple places on the site: Philly remained aggressive in the second half last week, and their lack of scoring shouldn’t fool us into thinking they’re a team that “takes their foot off the gas when they have a lead.” (They have also talked repeatedly over the last couple weeks about how important it is to them to be a team that keeps scoring all game.) Pass catchers from the Eagles are already lining up to go somewhat overlooked this week, and those who play these pass catchers in conjunction with Hurts are likely to bring back someone from the other side of the ball, making “Eagles smash” lineups very unique.
Hurts // AJB // Devonta // Goedert is my list from this game.
New this year: these are unique player pairings that can be used as foundational building blocks for tournament rosters
“Davante beats the Broncos’ secondary and forces the Denver offense to get aggressive early,” OR “The Broncos’ offense finally gets things going, and Davante is able to beat the Broncos’ secondary in response”
Russ is coming in around 1% to 2% ownership, Jeudy is coming in under 5% ownership, and Davante is currently (Friday evening) projected for 6.5% ownership; if you start your roster here and this one hits, you’re practically in the money already, and you don’t have to worry too deeply about strategy on the rest of your roster.
Look. I get it. The Broncos have been highly disappointing so far this year. But do we believe there will be games this season in which the Broncos score 30+ points? In fact…do we believe that if we played this season four or five times, there would be games in which the Broncos would score 30+ points? Given the massive ownership discount we are seeing here, this play is very obviously +EV (that is to say: if we could play out this slate over and over again with these ownership numbers, there would be enough times in which the Broncos would be the “had to have it” offense — or better yet, enough times in which Russ + Jeudy would score 60+ combined points — that you would make money over time with this setup). The difficult part about pulling the trigger here, of course, is that it’s still a lower-percentage bet than some of the other bets you can make this week. Given where ownership is likely to flow, however, this one stands out as incredibly sharp in tourneys of all sizes — assuming you can stomach the uncertainty that comes with this play.
Note: Darren Waller also works nicely here, if you want to swap him in for Davante Adams.
The story plays out differently, and you don’t get first place — which is really all that matters.
“The Eagles keep doing what they have been doing already, and the touchdowns come through the air”
Hurts is shaping up as a popular play this week, but somehow his pass catchers are all going somewhat overlooked. “Hurts + AJB” or “Hurts + Devonta” (same with “Hurts + Goedert”) immediately sets you apart from the people who attempt to thread the thin needle of “Hurts wins me a tourney without any of his pass catchers,” and if you play Hurts plus two of his pass catchers, you become that much more differentiated from the field.
Hurts + AJB + Devonta costs $21.4k in DK salary — and incredibly, this pairing has averaged 67.1 points per game on the season (over 3x their combined salary; deeper into the season, individual players are typically priced at around 2.25x to 2.5x their per-game production, which makes a $21.4k block of salary that’s averaging over 3x really stand out), and last week, with the passing touchdowns coming through the air for Philly, these three combined for 84 DraftKings points (keeping you roughly on a 200-point pace). In order for this stack to “be the reason you win a tourney,” you’ll likely need Devonta/AJB to combine for at least two touchdowns…but compared to the bets we have to place in other spots in order to “get three spots on our roster correct at once,” that’s not such a tremendously high bar to clear. The only real concern here is “How good is the Jaguars defense, really?” If Philly is able to break through against the upstart Jags, this block could have you sitting pretty.
Note :: ownership on this block will be low, but not quite so low that your strategy thoughts are completely over after putting this one on a build. I would look to add at least one more piece of leverage, or one more “low-owned piece with mega upside,” on a “Hurts+” build.
The story plays out differently, and you don’t get first place — which is really all that matters.
“Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift miss this game (check!), and these teams play the way we should expect them to play”
Neither player is likely to “go super overlooked,” but most people will be drawn to other ways to build around this game (with Jamaal Williams likely to dominate ownership, Josh Reynolds potentially more popular than Hockenson, Tyler Lockett definitely more popular than Penny, and possibly even Geno Smith more popular than Penny), which should leave this “fairly obvious pairing” relatively low-owned.
As explored more deeply in the NFL Edge writeup for this game, it makes sense (for a variety of reasons) to expect Hockenson to see an uptick in targets, as he is the player best-suited to some of the work ARSB typically dominates — and it also makes sense to expect the Lions to tilt a bit more run-heavy in this spot, thus setting up Seattle to play Pete Carroll’s preferred “keep the game close and win in the fourth quarter” brand of football. With Swift and “Saint” set to miss, it becomes less likely that Detroit pulls away, which makes it more likely that Penny (69% snap rate last week!) sees 14 to 18 touches. There are a lot of ways to build around this game, and most of those “other ways” make sense; but this way makes as much sense as any other (in some cases, it makes quite a bit more sense), and given that it will be a lower-owned approach, it becomes much more +EV.
The story plays out differently, and you don’t get first place — which is really all that matters.
This might be the first time CMC has ever made an appearance on the Player Grid and not been featured in the “Blue” section. Blame it on the thigh.
CMC missed two practices this week, and news out of Carolina has been vague. That said: 1) CMC appears to be trending toward playing this week, and 2) the uncertainty around his health is sure to lower his ownership. While his pass game work has not been what we have been used to in the past (14 total targets through three games), he’s coming off a game in which he touched the ball 27 times, and last year he had a three-game stretch in which he compiled only 13 total targets, with those three games sandwiched by target counts of 9 // 10 // 8 (across these three games, he caught 26 passes for 215 yards, for an average of 15.8 aerial points per game on DK — before any points added from rushing yards or touchdowns). The field is looking only at the sample size we have this year, but it shouldn’t surprise us if CMC comes out of Week 4 with a high-target game. The risk is obviously somewhat high on this play, but the ceiling is also sweet, and we should get relatively low ownership to boot. (Note: if we’re nearing Sunday and CMC is still projecting for relatively high ownership, I’ll be less interested, as the strategy angle would swing toward betting on the injury being more significant than the field is giving it credit for.)
People just don’t want to play this guy. C-Patt has touch counts of 25 // 10 // 18 to begin the year — and all anyone focuses on is that 10-touch game in the middle. Atlanta and Cleveland both rank bottom five in pass rate over expectation, while both defenses rank bottom eight in run defense DVOA. As long as everyone keeps undervaluing this play, I’ll keep having interest here.
Dillon currently projects for 9% ownership on DraftKings (Friday evening), while Jamaal Williams — priced $100 above him — projects for 27.5%. The Lions currently project to score 25.75 points in a close contest, while the Packers project to score 25.0 points as 9.5 point favorites. When Williams had this role last season, he failed to top 50% of the snaps in both games, while seeing 18 and 19 touches. Dillon has touch counts on the year of 15 // 19 // 14, and projects for 15 to 18 touches in his matchup against the Patriots this week. Is Jamaal Williams a better play in a vacuum? Absolutely — and if you’re playing cash games, you shouldn’t overthink things here. But is Jamaal going to outscore a (substantially) more talented Dillon three out of four times in this setup, as the ownership delta implies? Um — no.
I do want to make it clear :: I have nothing against the Jamaal Williams play. If we played out this slate a hundred times, his average output would be somewhere in the 15 to 23 point range, and he would have some spiked weeks mixed in. But from a strategic, “playing for first place” standpoint, I’ll likely be avoiding him this week — looking to leverage the over-certainty of the field to gain an edge at the running back position.
Unlike the Lions, the Bears are very willing to concentrate all their touches on one back — and with David Montgomery set to miss this week, that “one back” will be Khalil Herbert. As I’ve noted many times this week, Herbert produced scores of 7.5 // 19.2 // 21.3 // 8.8 in his “lead back cameo” stretch last season, and the field is likely to have last week’s 33.9 score at the tops of their minds, leading to ownership getting out of hand here. The game environment is ugly, and the offense around Herbert is ugly as well. But if ownership stays somewhat in check (say under 20%), Herbert makes sense in tourneys for the salary relief he provides with a bankable role and clear paths to ceiling.
Copy/Paste. Samuel is averaging 10 targets per game (with a season-low of nine looks), and has banked eight carries to boot. Most of his action comes in the short areas of the field, and the matchup is not great on the road at Dallas. But in PPR scoring, you can sure do a whole lot worse than a guy who is getting around 10 high-percentage targets every week. The floor on Samuel is still much higher than the price tag indicates, and he has enough “ball in his hands” upside to carry ceiling as well.
We’re getting into the chalky portion of the Player Grid, apparently, where you probably don’t me to tell you that this is a good on-paper play; but Cooks has 29 targets through three games, after seeing double-digit targets seven times last year. At chalk, it’s probably worth noting that Cooks topped 23.7 DK points only once last year; though if we’re going to note that, we should also note that he went for 19.6+ points in five of Mills’ 11 starts last season. He’s more “rock-solid production” than “elite tourney ceiling,” but there is still plenty of space for a player like this on a tournament roster.
Diontae is similar to Cooks, in that he scored double-digit DK points in all but one game last season, but somehow managed to top 20 points only four times all season. He’s the kind of player I prefer to play at low ownership (i.e., let the field try to “guess right” on ceiling plays, while I take the guaranteed points on Diontae), while I’m more likely to avoid him when he’s high-owned, as he isn’t a player who is likely to bury me for not having him, and if he performs in his typical 14 to 18 point range, I can potentially move past a large chunk of the field by building differently.
This week, I also like the idea of “being willing to be early” on the George Pickens breakout, as his downfield role and elite per-touch upside make him excellent leverage off a chalky Diontae.
Having said all that, however, Diontae very much stands out on paper, and is a perfectly sharp play — as long as you are differentiating from the field in other spots on your roster.
As I’ve mentioned many times this week :: Pittsburgh has averaged only 24.15 in time of possession so far this year, and they are set to play a Jets team that is also under 30 minutes TOP. Given the pace of play and the elevated pass rates we see from the Steelers, they can easily bank 10 to 12 plays above their average with just 30 minutes in time of possession (which should be easier for them to reach against the Jets than in other matchups). Because of their pass-leaning nature, this is likeliest to lead to a couple extra targets for someone like Freiermuth, who has seen 10 // 7 // 4 targets through the first three weeks, and who is averaging an elite-for-tight-ends 12.5 yards per reception. A line of 5-60-1 is very much within range for Freiermuth, and while he’ll likely be popular, he’s at a thin position with a nice floor/ceiling range. He’s very much in the mix for me.
Help explain this one to me. The Giants are $3.1k on DraftKings, and project as the highest-owned defense. They are playing a Bears team that has the NFL’s worst adjusted sack rate on offense (hurrah!)…but Fields has attempted only 45 passes through three games, and the Giants’ defense ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate themselves. Meanwhile…$400 extra in salary gets you the Cowboys, who A) are projected for less than half the ownership, while B) facing a Washington team that ranks third worst in adjusted sack rate on offense, with C) 130 pass attempts on the season, while D) the Cowboys’ defense ranks first in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. Um. Okay. Thanks? There really aren’t any particularly attractive “upside” options at DST under $2.7k, but the field is so conditioned to “paying down at the position” that they are getting hung up on the Giants without seeing the Cowboys priced right above them. I’m planning to lock-button Dallas this week — which, obviously, doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to hit, or that the Giants can’t hit, or that some cheaper defense can’t/won’t hit as well; but if we were to play out this slate a hundred times with this ownership data holding, this would be very +EV, allowing me to simplify my search this week. DST is also a great place to get weird if you see a matchup angle or strategy angle the field is overlooking.
This is my narrowest pool, which means it’s the pool likeliest to change a bit as I move deeper into builds. If it changes throughout Saturday night, I’ll add an update in this space.
If I were building for single-entry // three-entry Max, my tightened-up player pool would be:
Josh Allen || Jalen Hurts || Russell Wilson
Jonathan Taylor || Saquon Barkley || Christian McCaffrey || Rashaad Penny || Cordarrelle Patterson || A.J. Dillon || Khalil Herbert
Bills || Eagles || Lions || Tyler Lockett || Broncos || Curtis Samuel || Brandin Cooks || Diontae Johnson
Dallas Goedert || T.J. Hockenson || Darren Waller || Pat Friermuth
I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend!