Hilow is a game theory expert (courses at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Northwestern) and tournament champion who focuses on mid/high-stakes single-entry/three-entry max
YouKnowNothingJonSnow.gif. That should be the resounding theme of the week in our minds. “But Hilow, we know there are three very clear games the field is likeliest to build around,” you say. And you’d be correct! More on that in a minute. From a macro perspective, however, we absolutely must keep this notion of not pretending to know more than we actually do fresh in our minds as we explore the state of the slate for Week 1, the year of our Lord 2022. Show me a team with zero moving pieces from last year and I’ll call you a liar. It does not exist. That said, there are varying degrees of change amongst the teams in the league (which all contributors here at OWS have done our best to relay to you through the many works found around the site this week), meaning we should be varying our levels of trust in what we have taken in over the previous four months of offseason and continue to digest leading up to roster lock come Sunday. Simply put – challenge everything you see, hear, and read regarding Week 1 certainty.
Now, back to those three games the field is likeliest to build around this week. Based on rumblings around the industry (and Vegas implied team totals, and game totals, and projected ownership percentages, and everything else in the Meta), it is clearly evident the vast majority of the focus amongst the field this week is being placed on Kansas City @ Arizona, Philadelphia @ Detroit, and Green Bay @ Minnesota; and even then, expected ownership is highly congregated amongst a few specific players from each of those teams.
If you’re new to OWS (and, more specifically, the End Around), what we’re trying to do with this piece is to identify how the field is likeliest to be looking at a specific slate and how to find a different path to first place, not having to fight against a massive portion of the field to do so. I have developed this process through my journey with and studies in Game Theory, with very specific tenets driving these methodologies. If you’re curious to learn more about the theory behind the practice, or how I developed these processes, I urge you to explore the three different Game Theory courses I have written in the One Week Season Marketplace. This year’s offering, the DFS Game Theory Bible, builds upon the previous two, and without a doubt is my definitive work in this field.
Quick explanation: restrictive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that restricts the maneuverability of the remainder of your roster while expansive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that allows for higher amounts of maneuverability on the remainder of your roster. Classifying various forms of chalk as either restrictive or expansive allows us to visualize what it means for roster construction on a given slate and how restrictive a certain player might be, meaning more of the field will look similar from a roster construction standpoint with that piece.
Restrictive chalk. The quarterback with the expected highest ownership on the slate, which makes sense considering the perception surrounding his game environment paired with the rocket ship expectations from the season-long and Best Ball scenes. From a numbers standpoint, he currently sits third in median projection and top in ceiling projection (85th and 90th percentile projection). I would argue heavily against his distribution being widely spread. As in, his bell curve distribution is probably one of the tighter ranges on the slate. Said another way, he is an excellent floor play.
Restrictive chalk. Hands down the top point-per-dollar range of outcomes on the slate. Not really anything more needs to be said other than weird stuff can happen in the first game of the season and we expect this game to play rather slowly.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Hands down the second point-per-dollar range of outcomes on the slate. I’m personally more inclined to play Saquon over CMC simply due to the price differential but consider these two the top plays at the position from a point-per-dollar perspective (although it is definitely worth noting the increased fragility in projections of Barkley compared to CMC).
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Pittman is the prototypical “Game Theory Level I” play for week one. Allow me to explain. Utilizing Game Theory doctrine, we base our game plan development on three factors: (1) our own knowledge, (2) our assumptions of the field’s knowledge, and (3) leverage potential. Those three things influence our decision-making processes. What we have seen over the previous season or two is the field has become more aware of base form leverage, or “pivots.” So, these ownership expectations on Indianapolis have a lot to do with the field outsmarting themselves, thinking along the lines of “I know Jonathan Taylor is in a great spot, but I also know his projection is fragile due to his low pass game involvement and aerial projection – let me pivot to Michael Pittman. Look at me, I’m being so smart.” The reality of the situation is, yes, I am about as high on Pittman as can be for season-long contests, but he required a very specific game environment to be counted on for any semblance of ceiling from the sample size of one game based on how Frank Reich runs that offense. As in, if Houston isn’t pushing Indianapolis, Pittman’s chances at posting a score you’d be sorry you missed is rather low. Excellent floor play but chances at a “can’t miss game” are likely much lower than his ownership is shaping up to be.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Rondale Moore has been ruled out and DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games, leaving the Arizona wide receiver room in the hands of de facto alpha Marquise Brown, an aging A.J. Green, Greg Dortch, and Andy Isabella. TE Zach Ertz missed the better part of two weeks with a calf strain and the Cardinals are currently six-point underdogs in a game with a 54.0 game total. A lot makes sense with this play, and I will personally have my exposure here. That said, there are some interesting leverage spots to be had. More on that below.
Restrictive chalk. A ton of the ownership on the Chiefs appears likely to flow through Kelce and Mahomes, which makes sense considering the lack of certainty elsewhere. Kelce is without a doubt one of the top two tight end plays on the slate but he’s likely going to need to hit the yardage bonus and score multiple touchdowns in order to provide a score that you can’t win without.
Expansive chalk. If you learned one thing from me last season, please, oh please, let it be not to play chalk pay-down defenses. That’s strike one. Strike two is the state of Washington’s defensive line and linebacker unit, which comes into the season with no less than three impact starters missing. Expanding on that a bit, the primary means of generating points from a defense in fantasy is through pressure in the backfield, which generates sacks, fumbles, and interceptions, all of which generate bulk scoring (and the opportunity for defensive touchdowns). The Jags actually ranked towards the top of the league in adjusted sack rate allowed in 2021 at only 5.6% (that’s a low number), while the Commanders blitzed at a top-five rate. Trevor Lawrence struggled mightily against the blitz last season but was an adept passer against the blitz in college. Basically, if Washington’s blitzes aren’t hitting home due to defensive personnel, the Jags should move the ball extremely well. Or, as Xandamere would say, don’t play middling chalk defenses.