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
The talk around the industry is how disgusting this slate is. My view is the polar opposite as there are so many fun things you can do differently than the field this week. From a macro perspective, there is a higher number of chalk running backs this week than on any other slate this year, which means I’m immediately trying to find other areas of certainty. Are there other areas of certainty available this week? The other thing to immediately notice is that the field appears completely lost as far as game environment goes, with no true standout games available and no true high likelihood smash spots immediately jumping out. I will personally be looking to embrace a little additional variance in the areas the field seems to be looking for certainty, which for this week means getting a little weird at running back. There’s almost no way every single piece of running back chalk fails this week, but I would go out on a limb and say that every single piece of running back chalk is more fragile this week that in any other week this season. There are a couple of different ways to handle the position on a week like this – reserve exposure to only the players that carry the highest top-end ceiling (Kamara, Barkley, Jacobs, Taylor, Etienne, Pierce) or get creative with variance with lower-owned plays that can match the top-tier players (Miami backs, Chicago backs, Jamaal Williams, CEH with a banged up McKinnon, Najee Harris (yuck, but seriously). I will be looking to get creative at the position this week as I flip the script on the chalk build (covered below).
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.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. The field(s) didn’t know – now they know. I got a lot of flak this offseason for saying the Fields possessed a similar skillset to Josh Allen before Allen made the leaps he did in pocket presence and reading defenses. Now, I’m not calling Justin Fields Josh Allen, I’m stating that Fields has the tools to develop into one of the elites at the position. Now that we’re starting to see the Bears lean into developing those skills – wheels up baby. Justin Fields is a simple and natural way to cover the quarterback position this week, with a range of outcomes that rivals those of the top players at the position.
Restrictive chalk. Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 400+ yards nine times in his career. Two of those times have come in the previous two games. There is no denying the fact that Mahomes can put the slate out of reach every time he takes to the field(s). Okay, subliminal Fields shots done (maybe).
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. I was absolutely giddy at the potential to get Dameon Pierce at low ownership (before I looked at expected ownership this week) as the clear option priced under $7,000 with the best on-paper expectation. Then my dreams were crushed by Mike when he brought up the fact that Pierce was expected to be the highest-owned running back on the slate. There are some super interesting ways to leverage this chalk this week, with my personal primary means likely to be to pair Pierce with another low-priced running back to unlock the upper echelon of wide receivers.
Restrictive chalk. I will likely only play Kamara on rosters that leverage this game environment this week, which is likeliest to come through Kenny Pickett + Diontae Johnson + George Pickens stacks. Extremely solid on-paper play, but New Orleans can crater any upside that Kamara possesses.
Restrictive chalk. King Henry is in a matchup where the Titans should be able to control the game on the ground, which plays directly into his skillset. That said, The Titans are allergic to scoring in the second half and have proven time and time again that they will take their proverbial foot off the gas when controlling a game.
Restrictive chalk. Etienne probably ranks second in the price-to-expected-volume matrix this week, just behind Dameon Pierce. Extremely solid on-paper play, albeit with some legitimate uncertainty due to their opponent (Chiefs), the relatively low receiving floor, and the potential game script.
Restrictive chalk. Man, more chalk running backs. There is no denying the fact that Jacobs has exhibited an elite ceiling this season and we’re expecting the Raiders offense to be a highly concentrated unit this week with both Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow on IR.
Restrictive chalk. It’s interesting to me that Saquon is this far down the list of expected chalk running backs this week, playing in the top on-paper rushing matchup of the week. Maybe the field is acceptant of the fact that Saquon’s pass game usage has taken a massive hit in a low-volume offense.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. The two wide receivers on this list are on the fringes of chalk consideration, as both St. Brown and Kupp have been hovering around my personal 20% expected ownership cutoff the entire week. I honestly don’t expect either of these players to garner prohibitive ownership, and the rosters that do contain them are highly likely to be rather predictable. As in, St. Brown paired with Fields and Kupp likely paired with either DeAndre Hopkins or Rondale Moore.
Expansive chalk. 20%+ expected ownership on a rookie tight end playing in his fourth NFL game. Let that sink in real quick. Yes, Dulcich has established an instant rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson, but I’ll take my chances elsewhere with so many rosters expected to be built so similarly this week.