Mark “Hilow” Garcia
Let’s first clear something up for this article, as there were a lot of questions last week on how to handle some of the ideas set forth here. I write this article before ever looking at ownership projections – what this does for me is gives me an unbiased view of the slate as a whole at the beginning of my own process. I can then formulate what we’ll call “Game Theory Conclusions,” which were referenced and taught in my Game Theory course in the Marketplace (Note from JM: The first five lessons are free! It’s an awesome opportunity to sharpen your play). Last week, my conclusions were swapped on a few key decisions (Ertz vs. DJax the obvious one – how I chose to handle that situation was to mostly fade PHI skill position players, taking shots with Reagor in a few spots and landing heavily on the side of WFT D). All that to say, this article is meant to alter the way we view the slate as a whole, our roster as a whole, and the likeliest scenarios for which a majority of the field views a slate and how to capitalize on those notions.
In what should be more or less the norm this year, what we’re seeing is a higher number of injuries per week than a standard NFL season, as well as numerous late-week injury updates. What this should do from a macro perspective is create heavier chalk in certain areas (RB/WR) as well as hurt the field’s ability to maintain sound roster construction. It’s also going to open up some clear value plays throughout the year at the WR position, more so than a typical NFL season.
For Week 2, we have some very clear chalk building in a few key spots, which is going to influence a lot of what we’re going to talk about. We also have two games with game totals over 50 points (ATL/DAL 54, BAL/HOU 50) where a good chunk of ownership is going to fall. The biggest areas we need to focus on this week (and moving forward) are the Game Theory Psychology pieces that we covered in the course. Recency bias, roster construction errors, and contrarianism are areas where vast majorities of the field are going to struggle week in and week out. Let’s dig in!
(I’m going to start this off by upsetting people, so apologies in advance)
Priced at only $5700, paired with his offseason hype, people are going to be searching for ways to talk themselves into playing Taylor this week after the season-ending injury to Mack (if I were to guess, again without having looked at ownership thus far, I’d put his expected ownership around 35% this week!). His salary is low, the matchup isn’t terrible, and he’ll see workhorse usage, right? RIGHT? Wrong, in my opinion. The Colts ran 69 offensive plays from scrimmage in Week 1, which was about six more than they averaged a year ago, and JT played 26 (35%) of those snaps (while Hines saw 39, or 53%). While I expect that snap rate to increase, it won’t all of a sudden jump to the 60%+ we need to bank any tangible floor. Hines is going to be involved. Jordan Wilkins is going to be involved (gross, but he will). Reich has made it abundantly clear that he wants to rotate running backs through that offense in an attempt to keep fresh legs on the field as they pace-up their game. Look no further than Reich’s own words on drafting JT: “When you look at good teams over the years, it’s a long season. It’s a grind, and when you run the ball as much as we run it, it’s really good to be able to change that up…” The ceiling is there, don’t get me wrong, but the people writing JT’s name in ink in their rosters are missing the big picture fact that his likeliest scenario has him landing between 14-16 touches this week, and the floor is very low on that amount of touches.
(BAD CHALK for GPP and cash alike!)
Floor of 20-22 touches as a home favorite with one of the highest team totals on the board. Likeliest scenario has him landing in the 4-6 target range. The floor and ceiling you get by rostering Zeke this week are tough to pass on.
(GOOD CHALK with tangible floor plus ceiling mix)
Likeliest scenario has King Henry landing in the 20-22 touch range, but he carries a lower expected pass game involvement when compared to Zeke. Let’s dig deeper, shall we? Jack Conklin, widely regarded as one of the best run-blocking offensive linemen in the game, left for Cleveland this offseason and Taylor Lewan (another highly rated run-blocking OL) injured his knee in Week 1 (likely to play, but notable). Furthermore, Jacksonville’s defensive line just held the best offensive line in football (Indy) to 3.5 adjusted line yards and only 3.8 yards per carry. Further furthermore, AJB was ruled out as I’m writing this. We know TEN utilizes the power run game to set up their deep looks via play action, but what happens when the team is now relying solely on Kalif Raymond to stretch the defense? All of Davis, Smith, and Humphries work the short-intermediate areas of the field. What AJB being ruled out should do is allow Jacksonville’s safeties and linebackers to creep up toward the line of scrimmage until Tennessee/Raymond prove they can hurt them deep. All of this sets up to put a dent in the expected outcome for Derrick Henry, particularly with limited pass game involvement. 22 touches is all but locked in, but we have to question the floor AND ceiling at a hefty price of $7900.
(borderline BAD CHALK with legitimate areas of concern)
Fight the recency bias. Everyone say it with me, FIGHT THE RECENCY BIAS! Using the Game Theory course as our guide, one of the biggest single mistakes fantasy footballers make is giving in to recency bias. As for the matchup itself, what we have is a game in which we have the highest net adjusted line yards on the slate, as GB’s third-ranked 5.19 adjusted line yards matches up with DET’s 31st-ranked 5.38 allowed. We know Adams is Rodgers’ most trusted target, but we have to question the expected volume in a likely extremely positive game script. Can Adams reach 4x on a salary of $8100 on 8-10 targets? Of course he can! Is it the likeliest scenario? Not in my opinion. He’ll need another two TD game in order to pay that off, in a game where I expect the Packers to throw approximately 32-34 times based on their historical pass rate numbers under LaFleur.
(Borderline BAD CHALK when we weigh likeliest scenario versus expected ownership)
How many people started their week with a roster core looking like this? From there, “pivots” are introduced as we desperately try and differentiate ourselves from the field. Sound familiar? Our goal here is to turn that process on its head (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read the free lessons of my course in the Marketplace!!!).
This is the chalk build core for week two. Insert whatever combination of the varying low-cost WRs from here (Corey Davis, Quintez Cephus, Russell Gage, Parris Campbell, Breshad Perriman, etc etc), and Chris Herndon and Logan Thomas are basically interchangeable. Based on our knowledge of Game Theory, and where our research has taken us throughout the week, we can be all but certain 20%+ of rosters in GPPs will look like this. Insane, right? So instead of competing with the 20%+ of rosters that will look EXACTLY like that, we find a way to differentiate our LINEUP AS A WHOLE, while not introducing the variance that comes with using less-than-optimal individual plays, in an attempt to shrink the field against which we’re competing from 100% to 80%, before games have even started! A couple of the easy ways to do this are to pay up times three at RB (my favorite) or to look at some of the mid-priced RBs with upside.
I would put CMC’s expected ownership at something around 5% this week, which shouldn’t happen again the entire year. It’s a VERY difficult matchup on the ground, as TB was a top three defense versus opposing RBs in 2019 from an efficiency standpoint. This is purely a leverage play on the unknowns, in that we’re not quite sure if CMC’s pass-game usage in negative game scripts will mimic last week (4 targets) or if it will return to 2019 levels (8-12) under the new regime. If we see 2019 usage (15-18 carries with 8-12 targets), he has a legitimate chance to be the highest scoring RB on the slate. Realize the floor is lower than it will be in any other matchup for the rest of the year, but the ceiling remains.
The field is likely to ignore this side of the ball, with a perceived difficult matchup on deck with the Niners. Similar to last week, we have a concentrated passing offense (now missing Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell) on a team in a likely negative game script throughout. We’re left with Chris Herndon, Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan and Braxton Berrios as viable pass-catchers, with the latter two not able to stick on the same NFL roster longer than two years. SF will also be without CB Richard Sherman, while CB Jason Verrett did not practice again on Thursday, putting his game-day status in question, CB Ahkello Witherspoon returned to practice in a non-contact jersey Thursday after being place in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and CB Tim Harris Jr. hit the practice squad IR. To say they are thin in the secondary is an understatement. Additionally, star TE George Kittle will miss, which is a massive hit to the 49ers offense, as he is their highest graded run-blocker in addition to what he brings to the team with his pass game role. All that to say, the likelihood of the Niners sustaining drives goes down, which lowers their expected time of possession, which, when paired with likely negative game scripts for NYJ, leads to additional passing volume. Whew, that was long-winded. In summary, Herndon and Perriman both bring volume-boosted tangible floor and ceiling to the mix this week, at likely lower-than-should-be ownership. We can also introduce the idea of a full stack (Darnold+Perriman+Herndon) as a “team block” based on the expected narrow distribution of volume and the fact that SF is: (1) overrated on defense, (2) extremely banged up in the secondary at the moment. This “team block” costs only $12300 in salary, which at 4x salary multiplier needs a score of only 49.2 between the three, or 16.4 points per player!
Kenyan played on 71% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps in Week 1, but what people will home in on is the fact that Chase Edmonds found paint. As we remember from my write-up last week, WAS boast a top three defensive line, but while they’re strong up front, they’re weak in the second level. Starting MLB Jon Bostic runs a 4.61 40, while Kevin Pierre-Lewis and Shaun Dion Hamilton are more suited to stop runs up the gut. We know the spread offense of the Cardinals will look to get Kenyan the ball in space as well as off the edges, an area where WAS is best attacked. The cherry on top is the pure leverage you get from playing Kenyan over JT, where you’re likely to see an additional 4-6 touches. Just realize if we run a pure pivot, the rest of our roster will look similar to those that also use Zeke/Henry!
Recency bias is going to bite hard on this one, with Corey Davis breaking 100 yards last week. We talked about the “tributary” game script of TEN not being able to assert themselves on the ground as much as they’d like in the Derrick Henry write-up, and the fact that TEN is likely to not be able to stretch the field with solely Kalif Raymond (who had two drops on two targets in Week 1!). Even with the hits the Jags’ secondary has taken this offseason, the avenue of least resistance on this defense is through the middle of the field.
The game with the highest total on the board is sure to garner ownership, but it’s likely to be concentrated on the primary options on each side (Amari/Zeke for DAL and Julio/Calvin for ATL). The game environment overall should be conducive to additional offensive plays on both sides, as two of the top six situation-neutral pass offenses meet. The leverage here is the idea that Gallup/Amari (the subtleness of listing Gallup first there must not be lost!) are legitimately 1A/1B as opposed to WR1/WR2 for the Cowboys (a notion which should be backed up by Gallup repeatedly roasting Jalen Ramsey last week). The ownership that Gage will carry is likeliest to be on those chalk roster builds we spoke to earlier, where we already know what they’ll look like and can leverage that elsewhere (as he’s the cheapest of the bunch for ATL). Specifically for Gage and his matchup with DAL, we have a defense that looks to force the ball short-intermediate in an attempt to keep the game in front of them. With 40+ pass attempts being the likeliest scenario for Ryan, and a concentrated offense for touches, likeliest scenario has Gage seeing 8-10 targets with the ever-present possibility for 12+ looks once again.
You can catch Hilow (and Sonic, and Xandamere, and JM) on the OWS Discord server…
You can also grab the first five lessons of Hilow’s Game Theory course for FREE.
We’re looking for the best game theory // leverage angles on the slate! Drop your thoughts below, and let’s see where we end up!!!
Edge Points won’t be live on the site until Week 3 or Week 4, but we’re going to make this the first official Edge Points opportunity on the site! We’re going to go hard here.
(enough to buy any $39 Marketplace item, or to pay for your next year of OWS Annual if you entered the site in 2018!)
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