Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

End Around :: Week 11

Hilow’s End Around: Game Theory Training for DFS Play

Mark “Hilow” Garcia



What a week! I’d have to double-check, but I think this is the lowest overall projected scoring week of 2020 from a game totals perspective. It’s also a week where we’re going to see a lot of “bad chalk” as the groupthink mentality takes over (the perfect week for the field to struggle and for us to benefit through Game Theory!!!) The slate as a whole has but one single game with a total north of 50 points at the time of this writing (Green Bay/Indianapolis), meaning we’re likely to see ownership congregate in a few perceived smash spots when the truth is those spots don’t hold much of a percentage advantage in their chances of producing slate-breaking fantasy scores. The leverage is ripe for the picking ladies and gentlemen!



Recency bias, groupthink, unexploited tendencies, yardage-and-touchdown back… it’s all here for Dalvin this week. It’s tough to label one of the highest ceiling plays on the slate as “bad chalk,” but we’re approaching that threshold this week with Dalvin. Dalvin Cook finally had a game where he did not find paint in Week 10, a game where he produced only 15.2 PPR fantasy points (of course it was an island game!). Dalvin is going to need to score multiple touchdowns and rush for over 100 yards to even come close to paying off his elevated price tag, and even then a 100/2 game on the ground is only 25 Draftkings points. Realistically, he needs 100 yards rushing, four receptions for 40 yards and two total touchdowns to pay off a price tag of $9,000 (or reach a score you’d be upset about not having). The ceiling is high, but the chances of hitting said ceiling this week are lower than public perception. Dalvin is an underweight to full fade asset for me this week.

(Borderline BAD CHALK when considering Dalvin’s expected fantasy points versus ownership if this slate were played out 100 times) 

DUKE JOHNSON: See Week 10 End Around. Seriously, I don’t understand the allure here.



Both JM and I covered our thoughts on Keenan pretty heavily in the Edge breakdown. To summarize, a low aDOT player needs volume to reach ceiling, volume that is unlikely to materialize based on the coaching tendencies of both play-callers in this game.

(BAD CHALK when taking game environment and coaching tendencies into account)


For me, the Patriots are likely to control this game from the start through sustained drives and a massive average time of possession edge (over five minutes in average time of possession advantage). Realistically, the fantasy prospectus for Jakobi comes down to the Patriots’ ability to limit turnovers, as they’ve been fairly turnover prone so far this season. The glaring statistic that points me to Jakobi as a bust is the fact that Houston does not generate turnovers on defense. The Patriots sustain drives, control the ball and control the game for as long as they limit turnovers, an area that is lessened based on the matchup. Look for majority of the volume from the Patriots to flow to the run game here, with six to eight targets being the likeliest outcome for Meyers. In his possession-style role, ceiling will be hard to come by on that volume.

(Borderline BAD CHALK for likeliest game flow, with the only saving grace being his price)


F1 is probably the closest to “good chalk” I’ll label a player this week (as uncovered both in the Edge breakdown and below, we should expect heavy volume from this game). His price has come up to a level that gives at least some pause, as his likeliest scenario has him landing around 3x his inflated price, but the floor is about as solid as they come on this slate. The ceiling is a little less provocative with Alex Smith at quarterback, so he’s more of a high floor/moderate ceiling play for me this week.

(Neither GOOD CHALK or BAD CHALK, but realize he’s more of a floor play rather than a ceiling play this week)


I’ve come to like highlighting a portion of my marketplace course in this section to get a bit of additional teaching in each week. Let me know on Twitter (@HilowFF) whether or not you’ve enjoyed the shift in focus of this section over the previous few weeks! From my course:

“It is far too common in the fantasy football provider scene to simply talk about a solid play, and then talk about where we can go to differentiate ourselves from that specific play. This is all wrong in my opinion. By playing a player-to-player pivot, we’re simply introducing a less-than-optimal play into our rosters (the entire mindset of Game Theory is to make optimal decisions in each decision-set)… The goal is to understand what “chalk builds” will look like on a given slate, and leverage those findings, using Game Theory, to differentiate ourselves from the masses, not to find a similar player in the same price range to shift to.”

Consider the commonly accepted practice of “pivots.” It goes something like this: “player X” is one of the top point-per-dollar options on the slate but is expected to see “Y ownership.” Instead, look to “player Z” to provide slightly lower point-per-dollar expectation but at half the ownership. Why would I willingly choose cubic zirconia over a diamond if they were priced similarly? Instead of searching for a “pivot,” Game Theory mandates we erase less-than-optimal plays from our bag of tricks and instead look to leverage the field by finding the roster constructions that are likely to be under-owned. This idea brings us to game environments and positively correlated plays. By redirecting our focus to game environments and correlation, we reduce the number of things that have to go right for our roster to exceed expectations. Sure, once or twice a year a “Week 5 Chase Claypool” score will emerge (a “where the hell did that come from” score), but the profits made by sound DFS theory and Game Theory over the remaining 95% of slates far outweigh the possible money missed by playing suboptimal plays regularly.

This week, a large number of rosters will lock in Dalvin Cook, a mid-to-low priced second running back, two mid-priced wide receivers and a salary saving wide receiver, a low priced tight end and a spend up defense. The best micro leverage spots can be found below, but the macro leverage is to utilize two mid-priced running backs, immediately differentiating where salary is allocated (remember, a vast majority of players will look for a “pivot” off Dalvin Cook without realizing the rest of their roster will be constructed similarly to the chalk build). 



The player expected to garner the most ownership on the slate is Dalvin Cook, who could approach 40-50% ownership in both high dollar and SE/3-Max contests this week. Yes, we all understand that the likeliest game flow sets up well for Dalvin Cook, but (and hear me out here) what if one of the top offensive minds in the game (Kellen Moore) takes advantage of a bye week to design an offense that is constantly putting the opposition on their heels (oh not to mention Andy Dalton is due back for the Cowboys and the Vikings are best attacked over the middle and deep middle of the field; the Vikings have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers at 44.8)? What if I told you the Cowboys have surrendered the 18th most fantasy points per game to opposing backfields on the third most rush attempts against in the league? On the other side of that coin, the Cowboys are also best attacked through the air (except for them it’s the intermediate to deep perimeter, hello Justin Jefferson). What if this game turns into a back and forth affair as the game moves on and both teams are forced to tilt pass-heavy? I talk a lot about recency bias, the indelible human urge to seek the known, to seek comfort. Take a step back and look at the Cowboys from a macro perspective. We’ve seen just over one game’s worth of work from Dalton, who we know is an above-average NFL quarterback and now has an additional two weeks worth of practice reps as the starter under Moore’s tutelage, but the perception is that this Cowboys team cannot succeed with him as their quarterback. If we take away the names and the teams and purely look at the numbers, defensive tendencies, and offensive tendencies, the two players likeliest to succeed if Dalvin does not are Justin Jefferson and Amari Cooper (Amari can succeed with Dalvin succeeding as well, or so too can any of the Dallas pass-catchers for that matter, but the leverage gained by betting on the entire game environment being different than public perception leads us to the pairing of JJ and Amari; additional side note: rostering any Dallas pass-catcher at their currently projected ownership and price is +EV!!!).


This New England/Houston game is likely to draw attention this week, but for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend, ownership is likely to congregate around the passing attack of New England and the run game of Houston, which is ass-backward in my humble opinion. We explored how both teams are likeliest to attack in the Edge breakdown (New England on the ground and Houston through the air), so why are a New England pass-catcher and a Houston running back expected to see the most ownership from this game? The likeliest scenario has Damien Harris landing in the 20-22 running back opportunity range when considering New England’s offensive tendencies this year and the matchup. The red zone role is lower than we’d like here, but the point per dollar upside is massive on that projected workload in this matchup. Add in the low expected ownership and the macro leverage he provides from a roster construction standpoint and Harris becomes my favorite running back play on the slate! Additional leverage can be gained by a correlated pairing of Harris + Brandin Cooks or Harris + Will Fuller V, but it quite honestly isn’t the most +EV endeavor, as Damien Harris succeeding does not directly correlate to one of the Houston pass-catchers succeeding due to the way New England is likeliest to try and win this game (winning the time of possession battle through sustained drives and limiting turnovers, keeping the ball away from the Texans (who rank 31st in the league in average time of possession at 26:55)).


The Dolphins defense is expected to be the highest owned defensive unit (and for good reason, as I have them as my top unit on the week), but people will leave it at that. Defenses score points through sacks, turnovers, and defensive touchdowns, all of which directly correlate to increased pass volume for the opposing team. It’s unlikely Drew Lock or Brett Rypien succeed based on the matchup, but there should be plenty of volume for the Broncos’ pass game, and Hamler is the likeliest beneficiary playing the majority of his snaps in the slot (opposite Nik Needham). He’s priced at $3,600 and expected to come in between one and three percent ownership!


I know what you’re thinking… “Hilow, how can a wide receiver projected for top five ownership numbers be considered leverage?” It’s quite simple really. It is virtually impossible to fit both Dalvin Cook and Davante Adams on the same roster this week, with the two combining for $17,800 in salary (or 35.6% of the salary cap spent on 22.2%, or two of nine, of the positions on a roster). Furthermore, Dalvin is projected to see at least double the ownership of Adams. Breaking this down a little further, let me pose this question: if this slate were played 100 times, does Dalvin Cook outscore Davante Adams 66% of the time? What if Dalvin checks in triple Adams’ ownership (which would mean he would have to outscore him 75% of the time)? Because that’s what he’d need to do to justify being double (or triple) his ownership here. I’m not saying you must play one of Dalvin or Adams, I’m just saying that utilizing Game Theory and range of outcomes, Adams is the far superior play this week, and carries some of the highest leverage on the slate. To increase the leverage, bring back a piece of the Colts offense (my two favorite are Michael Pittman, Jr. and Nyheim Hines, because if Adams puts up a slate-breaking score, the pass volume for the Colts is likely to increase, meaning Hines is the likeliest back to be on the field the most for the Colts and Pittman is the likeliest to see a target jump of the wide receivers).


As we uncovered in the Edge breakdown, this game is likely to see the most offensive plays run from scrimmage on the main slate, yet players from this game aren’t expected to see ownership. The highest-priced offensive skill position player from this game is Terry McLaurin, and outside of him every single player checks in below $5,800 (Antonio Gibson). The price-to-volume scale is tilted about as far to the “volume” side as possible, meaning we’re likely to see two to three players from this game end the week with the highest opportunity-to-price values on the slate (most touches/opportunities for the price).

Want More Hilow?

You can catch Hilow (and Sonic, and Xandamere, and JM) on the OWS Discord server…

You can get inside Hilow’s DFS mind here.

You can also grab the first five lessons of Hilow’s Game Theory course for FREE.

You can listen to Hilow and Lex on Run To Daylight (hosted by TodFromPA || presented by OWS!), live at 8 PM Eastern this Saturday. (Note: the podcast runs live, but it will be archived shortly after it finishes.)

Collective Contest!

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