JMToWin is a high-stakes tournament champion (Thunderdome, Luxury Box, Game Changer, Wildcat) who is focusing this year on single-entry/three-entry max
This is, instead, a look at the player pool I’ll be fishing
:: covered in-depth in the Angles Pod (it’s highly recommended that you listen to the breakdown of the roster in order to see the thinking behind it, and in order to understand what we’re talking about when we look at a “bottom-up build”)
:: my “Tier 1” plays: the plays I feel confident leaning into across different types of builds; these players have a high ceiling and a low likelihood of price-considered failure
:: games, offenses, situations, or scenarios I’ll be looking to build around across my rosters
:: unique player pairings that can be used as foundational building blocks for tournament rosters
:: players who don’t fit into the categories above — either Upside pieces who don’t have the floor to be Blue Chips (and are not being focused on within my game-focused builds) or players who may not have a strong shot at ceiling, but are worth keeping in mind from a “role” perspective
The Week 1 Angles Pod can be found on the One Week Season podcast feed
(Search “One Week Season” on your favorite podcast player)
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod (above)
We should expect Baltimore to run the ball more often this season, but they enter Week 1 without Gus Edwards, and with J.K. Dobbins either banged up or not yet ready to go (we’re hearing he’s still a couple weeks away, but he’s definitely pushing to get back on the field). Sure, the Ravens are likely to eventually be in control of this game; but for the first three-plus quarters, we should see them throwing a bit more often than they will deeper into the season, creating an opportunity for Andrews to pop off for a big game. Even if he sees “only” six or seven targets, he’s not likely to hurt your roster on a week when it’s easy to find extra salary for TE; and if he sees nine or more targets, he could find his way to one of the top scores on the slate.
Worth noting: Lamar + Andrews stacks tend to work best in competitive games in which Lamar is under pressure, or getting designed runs called for him, or “making things happen” from minute One to minute Sixty. I’m coming into this game expecting that if we compare his Week 1 carries to his end-of-season, 2022 average carries per game, this week will prove to be on the lower end. I know Lamar is expected to be somewhat popular this week, so take that as one opinion of how this one is likeliest to play out; but also, if you’ve been scared to not play him, there’s a bit of ammo for you.
McCaffrey is the king of pre-touchdown fantasy scoring (i.e., points per game if we filter out touchdowns, which gives us a really great usage/floor/role snapshot for a player) — and somewhat counterintuitively, his edge in pre-TD PPG over everyone else is even higher on FanDuel (with half-PPR scoring) than on DK (full-PPR). This is because there are wideouts who can close the gap on him on DK, whereas his massive usage just sets him apart from everyone on FanDuel.
The usage/role sets the floor higher than anyone else in football; and when it comes to CMC, I don’t worry too much about “predicting if touchdowns will pile up in this particular game or not.” He has proven in the past that he can put up a big game anywhere, which will always keep him in the Blue Chip convo.
Elijah Moore played four games last season without Zach Wilson under center. In those games, his average line was 6-84-1 (20.4 DK points; 17.4 FD points). That includes an 8-141-1 in the game he played with Joe Flacco. Moore costs only 10% of the salary cap on FanDuel and 10.2% on DraftKings. Not only does his average line from non-Wilson games equal exactly 4x his Week 1 salary (note: if you got 4x your salary across the board, you would score 200 points), but even if we take his full-season stats from last year, he’s one of the most underpriced players on the slate when comparing 2021 per-game scoring to Week 1 salary. The Jets should eventually have to pass the ball a decent amount, and Moore should be a focal point.
If you’ve read the NFL Edge or listened to the Angles Pod or read The Oracle (etc., etc.), you know I like this play this week. But I like this play this week.
Mitchell ranked 10th among running backs last season in pre-TD PPG on DraftKings. He’s priced at $5.4k. David Montgomery was also in the top-10, and is priced at $6k. Najee Harris was also in the top 10, and is priced at $6.4k. Every other running back on that list is priced at $7.1k or higher.
Mitchell ranked 9th among running backs last season in pre-TD PPG on FanDuel. He’s priced at $6.7k. Every other running back on the list is priced $1.1k or more above him.
Do we not think the 49ers will score some touchdowns against the Bears?
He’s one of those “screaming values // excellent plays that apparently no one is playing.” Regardless of how things play out in the small sample size of one week, you can feel good about Mitchell on either site, on any style of tournament roster.
Henry is the second most underpriced running back on DraftKings by “Week 1 price against 2021 per-game production” (behind only Eli Mitchell…), and he’s the most underpriced back on FanDuel by this metric (by a large margin). The Titans are 5.5 point home favorites against a Giants defense that ranked 32nd in DVOA against the run last year. In fact, Henry should be such an obviously “good play” to us that the real question is, “Why only Light Blue?”
Blue Chips are guys who have a low likelihood of price-considered failure; and because Henry is somewhat touchdown-heavy in his scoring, his “down” games can land farther down than the “down” games for someone like Christian McCaffrey (a pretty much perpetual Blue Chip).
To illustrate this (and to go a layer deeper), Henry — starting with 2021, and moving back — has ranked 2nd // 4th // 11th in pre-touchdown fantasy points per game for half-PPR scoring. He has ranked 5th // 11th // 23rd in pre-TD PPG for full-PPR scoring.
This does mean he becomes much closer to a True Blue Chip on FanDuel, where he’s even more underpriced relative to others at his position, and where his skill set has a higher floor.
On DraftKings, he has one of the highest ceilings on the slate; so while we have to acknowledge that his floor in a “down” game will be lower than some others, we’re also chasing first place in tourneys, making him an excellent guy to consider.
I was initially eyeing Mixon as a guy in the sort of “in between” range of pricing on DraftKings who most people wouldn’t gravitate toward, and who would therefore carry lower-than-it-should-be ownership. As we move deeper into the week, it actually looks like Mixon will be more in that “in between” range of ownership as well. While this doesn’t quite give him the power I expected him to have as a strategic piece (a low-owned play who also changes the salary structure on your team from what most people will have), he is still a strong play. If the game is competitive, he’s always a threat for receptions; if it’s not competitive, he’s a threat for a smash day on the ground.
Jonathan Taylor is essentially exactly as strong of an “in a vacuum” play as Henry. He’s not in my player pool, but that has nothing to do with the play itself; it’s simply the way I’m approaching things this weekend from a strategy perspective. (See the Bonus plays below for some insight into one way I might be handling this.)
I need no analysis on this one.
Here’s what I mean:
This game can obviously hit. It can go nuclear. It can be one of the top games of the season. The Chargers were Coors Field last year (for my MLB DFS crowd!). Seven of their last 13 games went for 58+ combined points. That included games of 89 // 78 // 70 // 67. The game of 89 points came against the Browns — a spot most people would not have pegged as a potential “top game of the year.”
This game can also disappoint. Any game can.
I don’t need to spend any of my time trying to figure out if I “think this game is going to hit this week.” That’s incorrect DFS thinking. It pulls me away from what does matter: “If it goes off, what are some of the ways that can happen?” In a game like this, I want to build for scenarios in which the game goes nuclear. Or I want to build rosters without this game, assuming it finishes at or below expectations (ideally finding some leverage for that scenario). I don’t mind one-offs from this game, but this is a “scenario game” for me. I’m focused on game-focused builds.
Players I’ll comfortably play from this game:
Justin Herbert || Austin Ekeler || Wideouts (though I never play Keenan Allen — as most of you know; I’m looking for price-considered slate-winning ceiling) || Gerald Everett
Derek Carr || Josh Jacobs || Davante Adams || probably Hunter Renfrow (though only if stacking this game multiple ways; not on my tighter builds — which obviously isn’t to say he can’t hit, but is instead to say it’s less likely, and thus not part of my tight-build pool) || Darren Waller (a great way to play tight end differently this week)
I don’t need analysis on this one, either.
Same thoughts as above apply — though I will note that I’ve definitely made money over the last couple years letting the field chase the Cardinals’ offense. It will look funny to the field, but I’m playing around with scenarios in which this game plays out…well, pretty much the way Vegas is saying: Arizona scores three touchdowns and a field goal; KC scores four touchdowns. Given price tags and offensive philosophy for Arizona pieces, a three-touchdown game for the team probably wouldn’t generate a had-to-have-it score from anyone. Whereas a four-touchdown game from Kansas City (given price tags and offensive philosophy) likely would post a Mahomes + pass catcher score that could find its way onto a tourney winner.
It’s worth laying out that thought; otherwise, this pool will look pretty funny…
The players I’m currently considering from this game:
Mahomes || Clyde Edwards-Helaire || JuJu Smith-Schuster || Marquez Valdes-Scantling || Travis Kelce
These teams played one game last year with main pieces at full health, and in that game, the Core 4 on the Vikings (Cousins // Dalvin // Jefferson // Thielen) combined for 113 DraftKings points. Are you kidding me? — that’s an average of 28.25 per player. I almost don’t even care what the cost would have been for that many points, as 28.25 per player across a four-player block will almost always keep you on a great track in tourney play. (For the record: they cost $27.2k — or 4.15x salary on over half your salary. Incredible.) Throw in Davante Adams, and we climb to 146 points, at 29.2 points per player.
This is not to say that this is what’s going to happen this year. Instead, it’s to illustrate what can happen in games between these two teams. (You can flip back through the last few years, and we see it all the time.)
This is similar to the games above, in that I don’t need to go much deeper for my style of tourney play than “knowing this game can pop off.” If it does, how might I be able to benefit?
Players I’m interested in from this one:
Any starter. Any starter on either team could soak up multiple touchdowns and/or be part of this game going off.
Things we don’t know in this one? Pretty much everything. But within the reasonable range of outcomes is Jameis, Kamara, #Can’tGuardMike, and Olave being priced much higher a few weeks from now than they are right now. I’d rather be early than late; and if they are going to be a fun offense this season, this will be a good first opportunity for them to show that off.
I like Jahan Dotson and Christian Kirk as one-off pieces or together as somewhat correlated pieces (“somewhat correlated” because each is priced low enough that you don’t really need a particular game environment to hit in order for them to become one of the more valuable plays on the slate; you just need to be right about their role leading to them being more expensive a few weeks from now than they are right now; a note on that: Dotson is less valuable on FanDuel, where he costs 8.2% of the salary cap compared to $6.8% on DK; Kirk is underpriced-for-role on both).
But extending beyond those two, I see this as one of the games that could surprise us, not so much because I’m “predicting that” as because there are so many unknown factors in play for both of these offenses, and neither defense has an imposing secondary. What if Trevor Lawrence looks really good? What if Travis Etienne is awesome? What if Even Engram flourishes under a coach who knows how to use athletic tight ends? What if Wentz plays like the best version of himself against a coach (Pederson) from whom he had a messy/acrimonious split? I’m forcing myself to not build around this game in small-field play (as the EV is higher in other spots for that style of play), but the larger the tourney field, the more valuable it becomes to think about games like this: games others aren’t seeing as potential shootouts, where potential shootouts could be hiding.
If building around this game in large-field play, literally any starter — plus J.D. McKissic — would be in play for me.
New this year: these are unique player pairings that can be used as foundational building blocks for tournament rosters
*best in smaller-field play
“49ers control this game, but Bears are competitive enough that SF continues to run their offense somewhat deep into the game”
Immediate differentiation. You get a pairing that won’t make sense to most people, and therefore won’t be owned. You also start your roster with a unique salary allocation, as most of our competition will be looking to pay down at wide receiver in order to pay up at running back.
In the “story” above, we can look at Lance/Mitchell as if they are one running back who is likely to see 27 to 33 carries. Now, I wouldn’t pay $11.4k in salary for “that running back” (that’s Derrick Henry usage, and he’s $2.8k cheaper), but here’s where things get fun:
What if we just look at their “ground work + Mitchell receiving work (likely negligible in this story — just as Henry’s typically is)” as $8.6k in salary (or rather: what Henry actually costs). Would you pay $8.6k for Henry against the Bears if you felt confident he would get 27 to 33 carries?
If the answer is Yes, then the next question is: “What are we buying with that other $2.8k?”
For that other $2.8k, you’re buying somewhere around eight or nine passing points from Lance (200 to 225 yards, in this “story”), and you’re buying an 80% to 85% chance of capturing every touchdown this team scores(!!!). The only way a touchdown isn’t coming through these two is if Deebo runs one in, or if Jeff Wilson (or another back) subs in when Mitchell needs a breather and happens to score.
Mitchell + Lance rushing this year should have a YPC somewhere in line with Henry’s YPC, which means that if you would play Henry in this matchup, you can almost boil this one down to that final $2.8k in salary, and to whether or not you think that’s worth Lance’s passing points and “probably all the touchdowns.”
The floor is high on this combo; the path to 4x is clear (170ish rushing yards, a 100-yard bonus, one or two receptions, two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown — or better yet, a passing touchdown and two on the ground), and 5x is in play if the 49ers score four touchdowns and pick up some extra yards. Will these be the guys who “win you the tourney”? Probably not. But in contests of 2kish or fewer entries, I love this starting point for what we call “a block of guaranteed points.”
The story plays out differently, and you don’t get first place — which is really all that matters.