Thursday, Sep 8th
Monday, Sep 12th

End Around :: Week 9

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

Mark “Hilow” Garcia

@HilowFF

MACRO SLATE VIEW::

This week should be one of the more chalky weeks all season, with not just specific players being chalk, but also lineups as a whole. There is a very clear avenue for roster construction chalk to develop. This is the type of slate that correlation, sound DFS theory and Game Theory provide the largest edge on the field. As we’ll discuss in a few places below, there will be a lot of rosters that are dead money that don’t take these things into consideration.

GOOD CHALK VS BAD CHALK::

DALVIN COOK:

Dalvin chalk week is never a comfortable spot, particularly in 2020 where we’ve seen his passing game involvement take a slight hit (you’re either sweating him hitting his lofty multiplier or you’re sweating every snap hoping he doesn’t take a 60 yarder to the house). The matchup is pristine (4.775 net-adjusted line yards metric, second highest on the slate), with the Lions having allowed the second most fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, but realize Dalvin is closer to a yardage and touchdown back than he is to a true workhorse (typically in the 70-75% snap rate range in everything but extremely positive game scripts, which shakes out to top five in the league, but considering the price you’d be left wanting more should he fail to score multiple touchdowns).

(Neither GOOD CHALK or BAD CHALK, but he sure as hell will be chalk so utilize sound Game Theory if you play him, and know what you’re fading if you fade him; leverage to be covered below)

CHASE EDMONDS:

I’ve done about a complete 180 on Edmonds this week. After writing up this game I figured I’d be overweight on the field, but after having time to process what the numbers were telling me, I’m not so sure anymore. Because his price was so aggressively elevated on Draftkings (honestly, kudos to them, I much prefer tighter pricing!), he’s going to need to reach the higher end of his expected touch range and continue to be extremely efficient with those touches in order to reach a score you’d be worried about not having this week. The same touchdown equity concerns we had with Kenyan Drake haven’t changed here, as we should still expect Kyler Murray to be heavily involved in the green zone, slightly denting Chase’s expected range of outcomes with respect to floor and ceiling. Although Miami is ranked dead last in the league in defensive rush DVOA, they are ranked first in the league in points allowed per game at 18.6, leading me to believe that this game has a higher percentage chance at underwhelming than it does at hitting the over, which would be another dent to the expected touchdown equity for Edmonds. All of this to say, I’d put 3x salary multiplier at -115 odds, but would have 4x multiplier somewhere around +210 odds, meaning he brings a rock-solid floor to the table with lower than perceived chances of crushing a ceiling.

(Because of the floor, I can’t label him as bad chalk, but temper expectations and know what you’re getting if you play him)

JAMES ROBINSON:

There are going to be a large portion of dead money James Robinson lineups this week. The Jaguars are expecting change of pace/third-down back Chris Thompson back from the COVID list for this game, meaning the only scenario in which we see a high touch total from Robinson is if the Jaguars are able to control the game (they’ve allowed the second-most points per game in the league at 31.4, with DeShaun Watson on the other side, with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start), which isn’t impossible, but highly unlikely. All of that should be read as “if you play Robinson, you’re saying you think the Jags control the game, so you better be playing a member of the Houston pass-catching corps on the same lineup.” Not many will do that, hence the “dead Robinson lineups” comment to lead this segment.

(BAD CHALK unless you play him correctly!)

SEA/BUF:

I’d expect this game to carry the highest combined ownership of any game this week. A large portion of that ownership is going to be concentrated on the passing offenses from both sides, with emphasis on the quarterbacks, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Stefon Diggs. None of those are poor plays in a vacuum, but we can gain some solid leverage by playing either the Seattle run game (DeeJay Dallas) or the secondary/tertiary pieces from the Bills’ passing game (John “Smokey” Brown, Gabriel Davis, Cole Beasley).

(Neither GOOD CHALK or BAD CHALK, but make sure we’re correlating correctly and utilizing some leverage through Game Theory here)

CHALK BUILD::

Let’s get deep into the nitty-gritty of analyzing DFS with Game Theory in mind. From my course:

“Fantasy Football itself can be further broken down into three different areas of Game Theory: Non-Cooperative Game Theory, Asymmetric Game Theory, and Non-Zero-Sum Game Theory. Non-Cooperative Game Theory is a method of predicting players’ actions and payoffs through analyzing Nash (John Forbes Nash, Jr.) Equilibria, a term the poker players in the room should be familiar with… Boiled down further, it is a decision-making matrix used in an attempt to become “unexploitable” to your opponents using mathematical derivatives for each unique decision set (making mathematically-backed “optimal” decisions for each unique scenario). In its purest form, Non-Cooperative Game Theory describes the elements of thinking when two or more players are playing the same game, by the same rules, but do not know fully the decisions the other players will make. Asymmetric Game Theory simply means strategy sets for all players are not identical and can vary (ie every player has developed his or her own strategy for a given game). Non-Zero-Sum Game Theory simply means a gain by one player does not necessarily correspond to a loss by another… In DFS, we operate in the Simultaneous areas of these methodologies, in that we have no prior knowledge of opponents’ decisions, there is no time axis (where we can gain information from previous decisions), and can be defined as a strategy game. We also assume every player has Complete Information, where players know the strategies and payoffs available to the other players, but not necessarily their actions taken in each instance.”

With this in mind, we can begin to understand why analyzing chalk, and how those parts fit together in a salary-based lineup, becomes so important. If we can predict where our opponents are likely to allocate salary and on which players they are likely to do so, we can create a roadmap (GPS, per one of our previous week’s article) to exploit those decisions, without making –EV decisions in our own rosters.

Week 9’s “chalk build” is likely to have a pay-up quarterback (one of Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, or DeShaun Watson), two pay-up running backs (Dalvin Cook, James Robinson, Chase Edmonds, with people who try and “pivot” adding James Conner to that list), one pay-up wide receiver (DK Metcalf, Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen, Julio Jones, Tyler Lockett, Will Fuller who are likely to be mini-stacked with one of the pay-up quarterbacks), one mid-priced wide receiver, one pay-down wide receiver, a pay-down tight end, and a value defense.

There is not ever one correct way to build a lineup in a given week, but there is always one clear path the field will take!

LEVERAGE SPOTS::

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY:

Depressed cost and depressed ownership on one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game. Sometimes, it’s just not that difficult. Realize if you utilize a traditional “pivot” and move from Dalvin to CMC, the rest of your roster will be built similarly to the field. If playing CMC this week, the highest leverage is to pair him with Dalvin, as you’re now shifting the focus from “I’m betting on CMC to outscore Dalvin” to “I’m betting on CMC and Dalvin to be the highest scoring running backs on the week, and for CMC to outscore James Robinson and Chase Edmonds.” To add more leverage, play Travis Kelce any time you play CMC, as CMC’s success directly correlates to a heightened floor and ceiling for Kelce. 

DAVID JOHNSON / DEEJAY DALLAS / DAVID MONTGOMERY:

I listed these three together on purpose. There is high leverage in playing one of them paired with Dalvin as we explored earlier, as it goes against the “chalk build.” But what if we take it one step further? What if two are played together? The logic behind this type of roster differentiator becomes “I am betting on two of these running backs to be the highest point per dollar running backs on the slate, and I will leverage that by being able to pay up for ceiling wide receivers.” You can also play one of these three with one of the chalk pay-up running backs not named Dalvin, lowering the variance associated with mid-priced backs while gaining the leverage off both the high expected ownership of Dalvin and the chalk build. 

David Johnson and the Texans hold the week’s third highest implied team total at 28.75 (behind only the Chiefs and Seahawks) and likeliest scenario has the Jags struggling to keep up in this game. Priced at only $5,600, it’s not going to take a large leap of faith to see David Johnson end the week as one of the highest point per dollar running backs.

DeeJay Dallas should again see a commanding share of the running back opportunities for Seattle after both Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were ruled out, on a team with the second highest implied team total on the slate.

David Montgomery is going to play 85%+ of the offensive snaps for the Bears against a team that struggles to contain opposing backfields both on the ground and through the air (Titans have allowed 26.1 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, 10th in the league and 0.2 points per game behind Miami!).

Again, there is not ever one correct way to build a lineup in a given week, but there is always one clear path the field will take!


DENVER PASSING GAME:

If we expect Atlanta to control this game (likeliest scenario), then it goes to reason we should expect another 40+ pass attempts from Drew Lock (has surpassed that mark each of the last two games). If Lock is throwing the football 40+ times against the Falcons, there is tangible ceiling in one of the softest matchups in the league. The ceiling here is elevated by the likely return of Tim Patrick, who has been the deep threat in this offense (16.4 aDOT, 90.3 air yards per game). Furthermore, stacking three members of this offense at their bargain prices allows you to have some fun with the rest of your lineup (Lock: $5,200; Patrick: $4,900; Jeudy: $4,700, Fant: $4,600), and 4x on a three person stack is under 60 points, or about 20 per player. Should Calvin Ridley miss, bringing this team stack back with Julio Jones to form a game stack provides solid leverage off a likely chalky Julio.

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, and Jordan Cooper) 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!

Drop Your Leverage Angles!

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!!!

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