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
First off, the chalk this week will quickly demonstrate the fact that field seems to be overweighting the importance of floor on a slate that lacks much certainty (JM spoke to the same point in his Angles email sent out on Thursday). Secondly, the sheer number of games with low game totals seems to be throwing the field off this week. Next, the best expected game environment carries some of the lowest combined ownership of any game on the slate. And finally, over 85% of the rosters in play this week are expected to utilize a tight end priced between $3,500 and $4,300. Yea, I love this slate. The field seems to be painting a very clear picture of how they want to handle this slate, which provides an opportunity to easily generate leverage by both condensing our player pools and embracing additional variance (counterintuitive to the untrained eye). Let’s dive in!
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. Stevenson has put up double-digit fantasy points in seven consecutive contests dating back to Week 3. He has averaged 5.57 targets per game over that same timeframe. All of that means his floor is rock-solid this week. That said, Damien Harris is off the injury report entirely for the first time in a month, Stevenson has seen at most 63% of the offensive snaps this season when Harris was off the injury report, and Stevenson’s running back opportunity totals with a healthy Harris have been 23 (Week 8 against this same Jets team), 19 (Week 4), 17 (Week 3), 11 (Week 2), and 10 (Week 1). That is not something that interests me for a player expected to garner the highest ownership on the slate, particularly considering Stevenson is at his highest salary of the season.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Yes, Pierce’s backfield share is elite for the Texans this season. He also plays for a team implied for under three touchdowns against the second-best run-stopping unit by DVOA and has scored just four touchdowns through nine games played. Another fine floor play.
Restrictive chalk. The Steelers are a clear pass-funnel defense, ranking seventh in DVOA against the run but allowing the most yards per pass in the league. The Bengals have shifted their offensive design and game plan to the most pass-heavy team over the last six weeks (highest pass rate over expectation over that time), but the field just saw Mixon crush souls with five total touchdowns in Week 10. As in, remove the recency bias associated with that game and Mixon would probably garner some of the lowest ownership in the upper echelon of running back pricing. For comparison, Week 10 was the first game in which Mixon crossed the 20 fantasy point threshold since Week 1.
Restrictive chalk. The running back running behind the league’s top run-blocking offensive line that is coming off an eight-target game due to the lack of available receiving options, which is also facing an extreme run-funnel defense. Okay, sign me up for this one. How quickly people forget that Jacobs posted three consecutive games with over 33.3 fantasy points this season.
Restrictive chalk. This feels like clutching for straws, to be honest. As in, the primary value from Kamara with Andy Dalton at quarterback is his recently reignited pass game involvement. His opponent this week, the Los Angeles Rams, have filtered only 55 targets to opposing backs, allow only 21.6 DK points per game to opposing backfields, have held opposing backs to just 4.13 yards per carry, and have allowed only six combined touchdowns to backs this season.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. I think JM summed this play up perfectly in his player grid, saying something to the effect of “David Montgomery might be the only running back on this slate that is underpriced for his expected role this week.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Restrictive chalk. Saquon is objectively overpriced for his role considering the low expected overall team volume and low expected pass game volume, making him closer to a yardage and touchdown back than the field fully realizes this season. That said, this slate is full of errant perceived certainty, particularly so at the running back position. As in, Saquon might not need to throw up 35+ fantasy points to be optimal on this particular slate, even though he may be overpriced relative to his role.
Restrictive chalk. Lamb has exactly four games over 100 yards receiving since the beginning of 2021, he has exactly three games with multiple touchdowns since the beginning of 2021, and he has gone over 100 yards and scored multiple touchdowns exactly twice in his last 25 games played (since the beginning of 2021). It just so happens that the last time he amassed 100+ yards and multiple touchdowns was last weekend against the Packers, likely inflating the field’s infatuation with a wide receiver coming off a season with a 9.4 aDOT (ranked 65th last year) that now holds a 10.4 aDOT (ranks 55th this year) this year. His nine total games of double-digit targets in his last 25 games played highlight just how much has to go right in order for Lamb to provide a GPP-winning score. If playing Lamb, it better be paired with a member of the Vikings as the likeliest avenue to Lamb hitting something you had to have in order to ship GPPs involves the Cowboys being pushed by their opponent.
Expansive chalk. McLaurin has seen eight or more targets in each of quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s four starts this season, averaging nine targets per game during that timeframe. That said, Washington ranks in the bottom 10 in PROE and the Texans have faced the lowest pass rate against this season (47.91%) as teams simply pound the ball on the ground against them. McLaurin has yet to go over 100 yards and score in the same game this year. Another player that appears “safe” on paper that likely doesn’t carry the requisite ceiling to matter much for GPP play.
Restrictive chalk. Look, St. Brown is an absolute stud, having seen nine or more targets in every healthy game played since he took the league by storm starting in Week 12 of his rookie season. That said, his sheepish 6.0 aDOT means he needs that volume even to come close to sniffing the 100-yard receiving bonus and the Giants rank second in the league in red zone touchdown rate allowed this season at just 38.24%. Can St. Brown hit here? Of course he can, he’s a beast! Is he likely to provide a GPP-winning score that we had to have in order to be competitive this weekend? Hell no.
Expansive chalk. Garrett Wilson holds a tidy 27.5% targets per route run rate but is sitting on a gross 8.5 aDOT this season, which ranks 80th in the league at the wide receiver position. His expectation is bolstered by how we expect the Jets to handle a devastating New England pass rush, which should serve to filter additional volume over the short-to-intermediate areas of the field, which are the areas Wilson has thrived this year. Wilson carries one of the top point per dollar floors on the slate at any position, but we have to question his paths (and percentage chance to hit) to a ceiling approaching GPP-winning levels playing for a team implied for just over 17 points on the road.
Expansive chalk. Dalton Schultz ($4,300), Tyler Higbee ($4,000), Greg Dulcich ($3,800), Hayden Hurst ($3,500), and Pat Freiermuth ($4,200) are all expected to garner ownership above 15% this week, with a combined expected ownership total just over 85% (!!!). That is absolutely insane. Not only that but every single one of those players is priced between $3,500 and $4,300, giving us one of the clearest roster construction funnels we will see all season.