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
Another week, another slate where the field appears to be picking out the top on-paper plays. I have theorized that player selection is rapidly approaching Nash equilibrium in my work this season, a state of the game where no one member (player or roster) can gain an edge on another through the use of varying principles, doctrine, or techniques. The use of improved projection systems and technology has made that part of the game we hold so dear a level playing field, meaning we have to hunt vigorously for other ways to generate an edge. And this is nothing new to us at OWS as we’ve been talking about it the past two seasons, but that idea bears repeating on a slate like this one, where there is one clear top expected game environment and most of the top one-off plays have been identified correctly by the field (via expected ownership). That said, there are some pieces of chalk this week that are more fragile than others (and we’ll cover that more in-depth below), but the macro trend is that the field has done well to identify the top range of outcomes plays here.
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.
Expansive chalk. Quarterback for the team with the second highest Vegas implied team total in the top expected game environment. Makes sense to me, although I was shocked to see Goff with this level of ownership considering the Lions propensity to run the football in the red zone.
Restrictive chalk. The Jags are #notbad against the run this year, ranking 11th in adjusted line yards allowed and eighth in yards allowed per running back carry. Henry is priced at $7,900 and has returned a 4x salary multiplier on that salary just twice in 12 games played.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. If we removed Mixon’s five-touchdown game from five weeks ago, would the talking heads of the industry be hyping him up as much? I think not. Mixon is priced at $6,900 for Week 14 and has only hit a 3x salary multiplier of that salary twice all season (Week 1 when he barely did it and his historic output in Week 9). In fact, Mixon has been priced at $6,700 or higher in every game played this year despite the muted production, which means the field continues to roster him. And sure, reason away his massive output in Week 9 by pointing to the gap in expected fantasy points per game and actual fantasy points per game, but at some point, we have to call a spade a spade. Mixon currently has four total breakaway runs this season, two of which came in that Week 9 game. His laughably low 2.5% breakaway run rate ranks 45th in the league. His 22 evaded tackles rank 44th in the league. His 11.1% juke rate ranks 52nd in the league. His 4.6 yards per touch ranks 36th in the league. Yea, he’s tied to a top offense, but that’s about it from his profile that is a positive.
Expansive chalk. Christian McCaffrey has averaged 7.6 targets and 13.4 rush attempts per game in his five games with the 49ers when he has played more than 28% of the offensive snaps. D’Andre Swift has averaged 6.5 targets per game and 15 rush attempts in games he has been off the Lions final injury report over the last two seasons. Swift is off the team’s final injury report again this week and is priced at $2,700 less than CMC. Just saying.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. No explanation required.
Expansive chalk. No further explanation required.
Restrictive chalk. No further explanation required.
Expansive chalk. I mean, sure. Dulcich has a more than solid 19.4% targets per route run rate and elite 12.1 aDOT in Denver, but his offense is averaging a league-low 13.8 points per game and the Chiefs allow a below average 10.7 DK points per game to opposing tight ends. Courtland Sutton being out theoretically boosts his expected range of outcomes. Fine on-paper play unlikely to sink you for not playing him.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. I’ll put it like this – Hockenson has surpassed a 3x salary multiplier on his current $5,300 salary three times in 12 games played, two of which have come in the five games he has played with his new team. Additionally, he is operating in a low aDOT role in Minnesota and has yet to surpass 16.0 fantasy points while competing with Adam Thielen for a secondary role in the offense. Another fine on-paper play unlikely to sink you for not playing him.
Restrictive chalk. The unquestioned top on-paper play at the defense position on this slate.
Expansive chalk. The Ravens have a wide range of potential outcomes regarding how they are likeliest to attack here, which means the Steelers defense carries a wide range of potential outcomes as far as their opportunities to amass fantasy points go. If playing the “defense against a backup quarterback” card, why not shift to the now-healthier Buccaneers against a third-string, seventh-round rookie quarterback at half the expected ownership?