The late-breaking news that Trey Sermon was inactive changed a lot of things for the slate. Upon hearing the news, I (like most others) went into adjustment mode and added exposure to Raheem Mostert. He was in a great matchup and game environment against the Lions and was very reasonably priced for what was now set up to be a heavy workload (the only knock on him to begin with was the expected sharing of the backfield with Sermon). Mostert ended up hurting his knee on his second carry and leaving the game with two carries for 20 yards…but, honestly, I’m still okay with my decision to add him to my player pool and use him somewhat heavily. While he did end up with fairly heavy ownership (20-35% depending on the contest), he “checked all the boxes” for someone that I would be okay with taking on at heavy ownership. Injuries happen in the NFL and trying to predict them is a fool’s errand — regretting a play because of an injury is a results-based way of thinking. The 49ers smashed, scoring 41 points, and their backfield accounted for 30.2 DK fantasy points. Had Mostert played the entire game, he likely would have accounted for the majority of those points and been a more than fine play. All that being said, I can live with playing Mostert — so just move on to Week 2 and chalk it up to variance, right? Wrong.
What I failed to recognize and adjust to in my lineups that cost me this week was how the Mostert news and reaction would change the ownership of other players on the slate. Usually, when there is late-breaking news like this, it is a noteworthy player being ruled out and their cheap backup gains a lot of ownership at the last minute. In that case, the ownership is taken away from other players somewhat evenly across the position and then causes the top-end players at other positions to add a little ownership as well because the field now has more salary to work with. This situation was different because Mostert’s pricing was such that his momentum was going to come at the expense of a very specific segment of the RB player pool.
Najee Harris and Joe Mixon were plays I thought were clearly under-priced for weeks leading up to Week 1. However, their projected ownership and some strategy/roster construction thoughts had me somewhat limiting my exposure to them and mixing in some other RBs in similar or slightly worse situations (CEH, Aaron Jones, Gibson). When making my decisions for the week, I was focused on the late-week ownership projections as I built my rosters. Harris and Mixon were players I expected to end up with 18-25% ownership in the main contests for the week (possibly higher in the high stakes stuff), so that weighed into how I approached them. I was heavy on Kyle Pitts and Alvin Kamara while also having a decent amount of Elijah Moore. Because of this, I was focusing on making sure the rest of the lineups were not taking on too much ownership or having similarly structured rosters to the majority of the field. However, what I failed to account for was how the Mostert ownership flood would take away ownership from them. On Saturday when I was making my lineups, if I had known Harris would be 10-12% owned and Mixon around 15%, I would have had a VERY healthy amount of both (and likely cut out the other RBs in that price range listed above altogether). When I went through my “Checking the Boxes” process for figuring out my player pool, the highest rated RBs were: Kamara, Chubb, Najee, CMC, and Mixon. Most of my Chubb exposure was on the afternoon slate and the other four players were what I expected to be the top four RBs in terms of ownership — which is why I mixed in those other RBs (when doing so I tried to make sure they were correlated to another piece of my lineup as well).
As I said earlier, I am good with the decision to play Mostert, but his addition to the player pool should have been accompanied by me removing all of the other RBs from my rosters except Kamara, Najee, CMC, and Mixon. Their respective ownerships coming down so much eliminated the only reason I had for “getting fancy” and playing other guys at those spots. You should also note that I am referring to not having more Najee exposure as a mistake, even though he “failed” in this spot. He saw 100% of the RB touches in a game against a high-powered offense and was underpriced for that role. Regardless of the outcome, I want a lot of exposure to a situation like that at roughly 10% ownership.
As outlined in my +EV Primer course (you can find in the Marketplace — either by itself or in the bundle with my “Checking The Boxes” 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. Sometimes DK changes up their tournaments, but most weeks there are five tournaments in that range resulting in 11 total entries: $20 5-max, $27 SE, $50 SE, $100 SE, $150 3-max. That is a $727 weekly investment or roughly $13,000 over the course of an 18-week season. 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.
I build a player pool and build these 11 lineups together in a “Roster Block” that works together. The theory behind this is that in these limited entry tournaments, most players are making smaller (1, 3, or 5 lineup) roster blocks that limit how creative they get and ultimately limit their ability to get to the top of the leaderboard. A large portion of the field in these tournaments build their rosters closer to a cash game lineup than a GPP lineup because of the limited entries — despite the fact that all of these tournaments still have 4,000+ entries in them. By building the rosters together across these contests, I have a tangible edge in how my rosters are built relative to the field.
Looking back at 2020 results, the difference in the average score of the 1st place lineup in the $9 slant (150-max, 40-60k entries) was just over 10 points higher than the 1st place lineup of the $150 PowerSweep (3-max, 4k entries) and $100 Spy (SE, 5k entries). This means that the score we need to WIN these tournaments is not drastically different from what we need to win the larger (non-milly maker) tournaments…so why should our approach or lineups look that much different? Another benefit to this approach is that these tournaments have better payout structures at the top. Because of the way most of the field builds lineups, if we don’t hit it just right to take 1st place, there are fewer lineups to compete with at the top and it will still be a fairly significant score (as opposed to the top-heavy tournaments where 1st place often pays 100x what 10th place pays).
Each week I will review the best and worst of my 11 lineups from my “Roster Block”
The “story” I was telling: Josh Allen double stack and brought back with opposing pass catcher. The Bills showed last season and into the pre-season that they intend to throw, throw, throw. The story here was that they would do just that “successfully” and force the Steelers to respond in kind — with Diontae as the most likely PIT WR to benefit from heavy volume. The game stack did not have extreme ownership, but when building the lineup, we want the story it tells to be one that would result in a top-end finish…that is how I arrived at my two leverage points for the lineup: CEH and ARI D. Along with Allen, Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes were the top QB options on the slate. For this lineup to separate itself, it would likely take my game stack smashing AND those other two games “failing” relative to expectations. The story here was that CEH put up a lot of yards and 2+ TDs (taking away from Mahomes’ ceiling) and that ARI D limited Kyler from matching Allen (their defensive success actually did keep Kyler from having a truly “nuclear” game as Arizona took the foot off the gas and Murray only had one 2nd half rush and failed to get the 300-yard passing bonus). Kamara and Pitts were conviction plays that I had a ton of for their talent and roles in good game environments. I could easily afford to have them in the lineup with all of the other leverage points I just outlined. Waddle was a play I was on as a pivot off of the other 3k WRs and a situation where I wanted to “be ahead of the field on an elite talent.”
The “story” I was telling: Same idea as the first lineup with the Josh Allen double stack, this time with Najee as the PIT benefactor and taking the TDs. Again, CEH provided leverage off the KC passing game. Green Bay D was leverage off Kamara and the other high-owned offensive pieces in that game. Rondale/AJ Brown mini-correlation that allowed me to tap into BOTH the Arizona and Buffalo games in the same lineup.
I didn’t cash in any of my 11 lineups (sigh), but after reviewing the lineups, I feel better about it and am confident going forward. The “stories” my lineups told made sense and were realistic ways for me to get to 1st place. As noted in the first section there are definitely some areas I can improve in and tighten up (not going to review all 11 lineups but my player pool did end up a little bigger than I like), but no need to panic at this point. We’re on to Week 2!!
Week 1 Investment: $702
Week 1 Winnings: $0
Yearly Projected Investment: $13,086 ($727 x 18)
Yearly Winnings: $0