Larejo123 takes a look at some of the overlooked plays and “missed opportunities” from the week behind us, identifying the thought processes and approaches that could have led us to those plays.
“Would you rather hunt, or be hunted?”
I tweeted this out sometime earlier this season in describing a style of DFS play. We all know the feeling. You lean into a lineup that has mostly early game players, and you’re sitting somewhat comfortably above the cash line after the first round of games concludes. And then, you only have a few players left to play in your lineups as you watch the 4 pm Eastern games keep going and going and going. Slowly, your lineups take on water. With every completion (seemingly always by Tom Brady), you keep dropping and dropping until you finally kick outside the money and take home nothing. It’s a helpless feeling, and one we don’t always keep in mind as we set our rosters. I’m sure there is data out there that can prove there may not be any skew in how often the early games hit the over vs. the later games on main slates. But I will tell you one thing, doesn’t it feel a lot better to be moving up the scoreboards in the later afternoon/early evening than the opposite?
This Sunday validated all those feels as we had the latest two games on the slate not only go into overtime but also both end in ‘walk-off’ touchdowns. And even though I had minimal money in play this weekend (in the Play-Action on DK, I had a few CIN/SF game stacks), it’s a wonderful feeling to keep climbing with all the late scoring, especially when there are so many lineups with no players left in play. We typically see the later games carry higher over/unders because they draw the number one team national broadcasts and because they draw higher ratings. It’s why the Brady-led Patriots and now the Bucs, and the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers, and any other high profile QB almost always draw those slots (if they aren’t already playing in Primetime on SNF or MNF). This is a common practice for the networks to drive ratings, and while DFS players will always follow Vegas totals, it’s not necessarily a common adoption to always stack those late games, which should have some more skilled offensive players. In many forums before, we’ve talked about how there are psychological connections between having players kickoff in the early games, as we build up adrenaline watching NFL RedZone or tailgating at our favorite stadiums, and once those games start, we want some action. But is it generally plus expected value to wait and stack late? The numbers may not be overwhelming but I can tell you, I mostly play this style because it’s way more fun to be out there hunting, rather than clinging onto the leaderboards while others hunt you down.
The running back position has been a new challenge each week, and we’ve seen this especially come to life the last three weeks. In Week 12, we had the Ingram/D’Ernest chalk week, where a third RB value, Rhamondre Stevenson broke the slate. Last week, we had an overwhelming amount of excellent point-per-dollar RB plays, and picking two or three of those guys while loading up on top-tier WR was the move. We also had the Sony Michel news (with his lead back dressed and active) which broke over that weekend, and he too proved to be an immense value that having 100% of would have done wonders for your bankroll.
This past week, we had some guy named Rashaad Penny (he’s not some guy, he was drafted ahead of Nick Chubb and Seattle expected great things out of him), posting a career line, proving to be the RB value pivot that you needed in order to take down a GPP. The SF running backs, namely Jeff Wilson Jr., were looking like the value plays of the slate. It did not seem like ownership would get outlandish on Wilson, but if we coupled him with Javonte Williams (the more expensive, clearly underpriced RB of the slate), DFS players trips to value-town in RB’ville were likely going to end with one of these guys. Enter Penny, who is on a run-first football team, in a crowded but injured backfield (as is often the case when these breakouts happen, see Carter, Michael) against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL (Texans 28th DVOA, 32nd in yards per carry allowed). We also had a small tidbit coming out of Seahawks camp with HC Pete Carroll saying he wanted to get him going, but we’ve heard this before and coaches also lie all the time, so suffice it say with his cheap price and role, it made some sense to play Penny. And if you leaned into him this weekend, congrats. That was a very nice move on your part. As I say all the time, don’t look for the perfect setup, look for the one that’s just good enough (bad defense, good opportunity, excellent price, coachspeak).
I always chuckle when we argue floor versus ceiling on DFS rosters. Part of this is due to my tendency to over-stack DFS games (four+ players from one game), and part of this is due to my general skepticism of labeling past performances to future ranges of outcomes. We don’t know how many fantasy points Player X is going to put up in his next game, so while we do have box score history to fall back on for some grounding, we have to be careful not to anchor too much on those numbers. George Kittle put up one catch for thirteen yards three weeks ago, then he went for 42 and 37 DK points in his last two games. Similarly, as we cannot predict player performance, we cannot predict where touchdowns will come from and who will score them. So playing a QB, RB, and WR on the same team may have some negative correlation over time, but if the touchdowns are concentrated enough, that could be a team that scores 35 points and exposes you to seven TDs (i.e. three passing, two rushing, two receiving).
When you see a clear and obvious strength vs. weakness emerging, how can we effectively profit and even double down on this opportunity? I’ll tell you one spot where there was some conviction to be had on Sunday. How about the Saints? Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara against the horrid rushing defense of the New York Jets (30th DVOA). There was much discussion throughout the week and over the weekend of being careful about the lack of correlation between these two. If Taysom scored a rushing TD, which we knew he had a chance of doing, that would negatively affect Kamara. But so what? What if Kamara got one and Taysom got two, or vice versa? These two combined for 54 DK points (which is exactly the total that Hilow highlighted in his End Around column on Saturday).
Another place we saw this Sunday was in the Denver backfield. Coming off their Super Bowl, it was obvious to see the Detroit Lions not put up much of a fight in the altitude in Denver. And with their sieve of a defense (the theme this week must really have been picking on terrible rush defenses) which ranked 28th in yards per carry allowed, and the Broncos propensity to win (or try to) by rushing first, and letting their QB work off that, this was a focus for many DFS players. And the focus came in the form of Javonte Williams. But what about those who went in and played Melvin Gordon alongside Javonte (I can’t recall who said it, but pretty sure this came up in the OWS Discord last week, kudos!)? Well, they took home 48 DK points with just two roster spots. When it gets late in the NFL season and when some teams literally stop trying to win, we can take our confidence, turn it into overconfidence, and double down on clear and obvious spots. It differentiates us from the field, plays to a very specific game script, and counterintuitively keeps our roster ceilings intact.