Thursday, Sep 8th
Monday, Sep 12th

Process Points. 14.21.

Lesson of the Week: Talent Matters

This week’s lesson will be relatively short, but it is extremely important to think about and be constantly aware of it. In DFS, we are constantly evaluating matchups, looking for tendencies, finding changes in opportunity, and gaining an edge in each particular week. However, I think that the focus on all of those things can very easily take you away from an important and fairly obvious concept of being successful. That concept is playing very good players. I dive deeper into some of these concepts in the “Talent” lesson of my Player Pool course in the Marketplace, but the idea is that we can’t get blinded by on paper things that may or may not actually influence things on the field. There are two places from this week that I want to highlight as prime examples of this:

  • Jamaal Williams — Williams saw a huge workload on Thanksgiving after D’Andre Swift went down. The Vikings had given up a huge game to Eli Mitchell in Week 12 as their run defense is usually the more vulnerable part of their defense and they had several injuries, many of which they were still dealing with in Week 13. These factors made Williams a very popular play this week. However, there was a TON of risk for Williams in this spot. First of all, the Lions were a winless team who had only scored 20 points three times all season. This meant his TD equity, and therefore ceiling was relatively low. Also, when Williams himself had missed time, the Lions had two other younger running backs flash some talent and make big plays in limited opportunities next to Swift. As a winless team with only the future to play for and Williams equating to an above-average back-up in terms of talent, there was a good chance that Williams would not see that monster workload that many were expecting (and he didn’t, as he played only 47% of snaps and gave up 35% of the RB opportunities to the other two backs). Williams was clearly going to be over 20% owned and had such a low floor and ceiling relative to the other RBs in his price range, making him an easy fade for me. I understand all of the positives that people saw, but I think this was a case of zooming in too far and trying to make a case for a play rather than zooming out and evaluating all of the factors at play and what you were really betting on in the context of the slate and team situation.
  • Raiders passing game — On DraftKings, the Raiders had the 4th most popular QB, the 3rd most popular WR, and the highest owned TE on the slate. A lot of opportunities had opened up on the team with Darren Waller out (and Henry Ruggs already gone), and they were playing a Washington defense whose pass defense we have picked on throughout the season. However, this is again a situation where talent matters!! A team that has been inconsistent offensively (and struggled mightily in three games before a good Thanksgiving showing) was without, by far, what were its two most dynamic playmakers in the passing game when the season started. Losing that much talent is going to hurt an offense a lot, especially when someone like Waller is such a centerpiece in volume and for drawing defensive attention. Passing games are not like running backs where it is often just a plug-and-play situation where the team doesn’t really change their approach based on the personnel. The passing game relies on talent to get open and make plays while the ball is in the air, as well as chemistry and timing. Taking it a step further, the Washington defense had been very good in recent weeks, and their offense was battling injuries of their own and traveling across the country on a short week. That made it likely Washington’s defense would hold their own, and their offense would not be pushing the Raiders into a pass-heavy game script. If the Raiders passing game was going to be overlooked and everyone would have single-digit ownership, sure, I would have looked to attack this spot….but as the most popular team on the slate?? I’ll pass on that every time.

A bigger picture lesson to take away from this is to check out your exposures across your lineups every Sunday morning, especially if you are playing a decent number of lineups, and make a list of what percentage of each player you have. Look at your top tier of most owned players and evaluate them strictly on the basis of talent and how critical they are to their team’s offensive success (forget about the defensive injuries, DVOA, narratives, etc.). Sometimes those secondary types of players will work out, but over the long-term, if your top-owned players are not very talented or critical to their team, you are likely going to be fighting an uphill battle. 

Lineup Reviews 

As outlined in my +EV Primer course (you can find in the Marketplace – either by itself or in the bundle with my player pool course), one of my approaches that keeps me from getting too high or low week-to-week is playing consistent contests and approaching them from a season-long perspective and using that to evaluate my play and ROI. This season, in this article, I will be tracking my progress on a weekly basis as I play the Single Entry (SE), 3-max, and 5-max tournaments in the $20 to $150 price range on DraftKings main slate for all 18 weeks. Rather than sweating or worrying about my ROI every week and “hoping to cash,” – my goal for the season is to maximize profit relative to that long-term investment total. The results of a given week are irrelevant.  

Each week I will review the best and worst of my 11 lineups from my “Roster Block” of SE/3-Max/5-Max. Below are this week’s results, and you can find more information about my process/theory for this in my Week 1 Process Points article

Best Lineup ($300k Red Zone, Single Entry, $50)

The “story” I was telling: I was very high on the LAC/CIN game for this week as it was the 2nd highest total game on the slate and also the 2nd closest spread, something I pointed out in my Sunday morning thoughts in the Inner Circle Channel of the OWS Discord. Getting those three pieces at such crazy low ownership in this spot was outstanding, and frankly, could have been a lot bigger if a couple of fluky things hadn’t happened in the late 3rd to early 4th quarter. Next, I went with a Godwin-Pitts stack as I loved Godwin this week, and Pitts gave me a high-upside way of playing Godwin differently than most of the field would be while allowing my TE position to be correlated. I played Sony Michel in most lineups as I felt great about his spot and usage, and he just opened so much else up for your roster. The final three pieces of this lineup were made in conjunction with each other. Another thing I mentioned in the IC Discord channel was that I liked playing Eli Mitchell with a SEA passing game piece because a scenario where he has a good game (getting a lot of scoring opportunities and still being used late in the game) would be a scenario where the Seahawks were scoring points, and the Seahawks were almost guaranteed to not have success running the ball here which meant that would have to come through the air. (Note that if you take away the 73 yard TD run on a fake punt, the Seahawks RBs had 58 yards on 23 carries). Therefore, I went with DK Metcalf as a correlation play with Mitchell, hoping to leverage the two off each other. The Washington defense plays into that strategy as well, as playing Mitchell instead of Gibson was a bet that Mitchell is going to outscore him, and part of that would/could be that Gibson fails, or at least is substantially outscored by Mitchell. One scenario for that happening was a low-scoring game and/or WFT defense dominating and maybe taking away some of Gibson’s ceilings with a defensive touchdown. While it didn’t work out or pay off here, that’s a play I really like to make where multiple roster spots are betting on outcomes of not only their specific games but also in the context of the whole slate.

Worst Lineup ($400k Spy, Single Entry, $100):

The “story” I was telling: I played a lot of Gardner Minshew as a min-price QB who has proven to be decent in the past and is playing the Jets was just a straight process play for me. Most of my Minshew lineups had Goedert as the stacking partner, but I went with Quez Watkins here to leverage his huge snap share and explosive abilities in a unique way that few people would be using for Minshew. Next, there was a couple of familiar correlation plays as I had Godwin-Pitts again and played Mixon with Mike Williams as another way to be exposed to that LAC/CIN game. I decided to go again with WFT defense (I really liked them this week because the Raiders passing game was so popular, and I thought they had a high chance of failure due to their personnel’s talent being so depleted). I had two options with how to use my last two roster spots…..I could use Antonio Gibson as a correlation with WFT, which would leave me with $8,200 for Justin Jefferson, or I could play JT with Marvin Jones. I chose wrong. In hindsight, the answer looks obvious, but my thought process was that Jones would be played mostly in Kupp lineups, and Kupp lineups wouldn’t have JT, so that would be super unique to play Jones and hope his big game comes with the Rams spreading out the production while JT has a ceiling game and dwarfs Kupp’s score. Regardless of how well-intended my thought process was, that’s about three levels too deep for the contest I was in and all of the other differentiation I had already put on the roster. Watkins, Pitts, and Jones were all relatively thin plays “in a vacuum,” and I could have had just one of them and been plenty unique for this lineup/contest.

Week 13 Results: I only played eight lineups this week, instead of eleven, as I put an entry in the $555 Milly instead and didn’t want to overextend how much I was playing for the week. Of those eight lineups, four of them finished in the money. My player pool was very good this week, and I was targeting the right spots, but I was on the wrong side of a couple of plays and was hurt by the TE position as I played mostly Goedert (which looked great until Kittle dwarfed him) and had some Pitts with TB WRs, which I love in hindsight with sub-5% ownership but obviously hurt me with how things played out.

Week 13 Investment: $582

Week 13 Winnings: $450

Estimated Yearly Investment:  $14,000 

Yearly Winnings: $5,075