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Each week in The Oracle, OWS team members will take on the key strategy questions from that week’s slate :: sharing their thoughts on how they plan to approach these critical elements from a roster-construction, game theory, and leverage perspective.
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When a one-game sample size is all we have, that one game can be both powerfully persuasive and massively misleading. It’s likely that the field overrates the reliability of what they saw in Week 1 — both in terms of players/teams/games they gravitate toward, and in terms of players/teams/games they shy away from. Do you have one or two players/teams/games you think the field will shy away from based on Week 1 results, and that you’re instead interested in gravitating toward?
What I like to look for in spots like this is, essentially, “Who would be highly-owned this week if their Week 1 results had been different?” So…really, JM? — you asked for “one or two”?
The “Arthur Smith spots” are the ones that stand out the most from a team/game standpoint. If the Falcons had put up 27 points last week, the field would be keeping them in consideration deep into the week. If the Titans had looked better against a better-than-expected Arizona defense, they’d be popular this week as well.
As for players: Week 2 ownership — more than any other week in the season — tends to favor players who did well the week before, as that’s all the sample size the field is working with in their minds. It’s rarely profitable during the season to target players who stand out simply because they had a big game the week before, and this is even more true on a week in which everyone else is even more likely to follow that path. Players who performed well last week because their team performed well — and who are in a spot this week in which their team is again expected to perform well — are very much in play for me; but players who simply performed well individually and are likely to draw higher ownership as a result are probably not going to make my list this week, and will be replaced with any player from the long list of guys who “would be popular this week if they’d hit last week.”
The Falcons and the Titans are the two teams that stand out to me. Both had high team totals in what were expected to be good game environments in Week 1, and failed. Both teams have pretty narrow distributions of volume, which is what I love to target. Both teams failed miserably in Week 1. We’ll have to see where ownership settles, but those are two teams that, if they come in low-owned, I want to be heavily exposed to.
I will also second what JM said about the field favoring players who did well the week before. Week 2 is when we know the least. We know even less than Week 1, because we still have all of the same uncertainty of Week 1 except now with an incredibly small sample of data that we can overreact to. There are two areas of “unknown” that we need to consider:
The first is box score results vs. underlying usage. Najae Harris had a bad game against Buffalo, but played every offensive snap and saw every RB touch. Marquez Callaway played 84% of the snaps but only saw two targets. On the flip side, Melvin Gordon scored 23.8 Draftkings points on just 14 touches; Gordon had 10 carries for 31 yards before a 4th quarter 70 yard touchdown run. Sharp players will dig into the underlying usage and see these things, but I would bet any amount of money that while Harris is likely to be popular this week at home against the Raiders, Callaway’s ownership is going to be MUCH lower than it was in Week 1 despite a more favorable matchup.
The second “unknown” area is overconfidence in underlying usage. While I believe we can be confident in Harris’s role (the Steelers have a long history of favoring one bellcow RB over a committee approach), there are other areas where we need to recognize that we don’t know as much as we think we do. Some Week 1 usage is going to be pure variance, or based on matchup (i.e. a receiver consistently beating coverage), or opponent-specific game planning. Or, a player might have been given a lot of opportunity but done nothing with it, and that opportunity could be reduced (Donovan Peoples-Jones played 80% of the snaps in week 1 but Anthony Schwartz outperformed him, so will DPJ’s underlying usage continue or not?).
When we know very little, what makes sense over time is to:
You can’t make me fade Deebo!
Derrick Henry is currently looking like <3% ownership and we all know what he’s capable of. Seattle’s front 7 looks long and fast, but game script could tilt in his favor. I’ll make sure I have one Henry roster blended in with each game stack I explore this week. 8-10% feels like a sweet spot.
There’s also a few wideouts that I’ll want exposure to in GPP this week. Courtland Sutton, Tyler Boyd, and Marquez Callaway all could get the volume we expected in Week 1.
Wait…Justin Jefferson’s current ownership projection is below 4% on three different sites? LFG!
First off, to combat just that, I weigh the macro more than the micro early in the season. I typically like to have at least four data points before calling a piece of data a trend. As for the actual question, there are numerous teams that fall under this premise this week: glaring ones like Atlanta and Tennessee that I refuse to believe are as bad as they looked in Week 1, and then individual players like Najee Harris, Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson, etc etc. Basically, fight the urge to box score watch and instead look to underlying metrics that tell a more complete story.
I was traveling last week, and this being my first week giving complete Oracle answers, I hotly debated reading the other OWS contributors’ insights before providing my own. I’ve decided to write my response before reading anyone else’s answers, as to give my own opinion before being influenced by other excellent takes.
One of the biggest edges you can gain early in the season is not overrating a small sample size. Human psychology tends to believe things will continue to happen in a predictable manner. That makes us trust what we’ve seen most recently more than we should. This is a good survival instinct, and a bad DFS instinct.
My two favorite plays that might be underrated because of Week 1 are Najee Harris and Mike Evans. Najee had a rough game where he was bottled up on the road against what might be an underrated Bills front seven. This week he’s at home, in a friendlier matchup, with an expected heavy workload. Despite these advantages, Najee’s price didn’t move from a reasonable $6,300. I will be attending this game, and I expect the Steelers to try and get Najee into the end zone in his first home game.
Mike Evans was the odd man out in Tampa’s passing attack Week 1. While Godwin, Brown, and Gronk all registered solid stat lines, Evans disappointed with three catches for 24 yards on only six targets (the fewest of all the players just mentioned). Evans was the most expensive of the Bucs top three WRs and was routinely drafted first in yearly/best ball drafts. This week, he’s $500 cheaper than Godwin, and only $100 more than Brown. Ask yourself, what changed? Nothing. In fact, Evans is in the best position of all the Bucs WRs Week 2, because Brady is good/smart enough to keep everyone involved on a team stocked with superstars. The Bucs should be able to attack the Falcons D however they choose, and I expect that choice to be feeding Evans to balance out the stat book after Week 1.
The Titans. They still have the same condensed offense and target tree. I’m willing to say their new offensive coordinator, Todd Downing, came into last week determined to not be Arthur Smith. But he surely must realize now there was a reason why Smith called the plays he did, to maximize talent. Expect them to come out differently this week. Side note: I’m not giving up on Anthony Firkser yet. I know he only played 48% of the snaps and it seems like his role is the same as it was in 2020 with Jonnu Smith there, but it’s only one week. And Geoff Swaim had a major drop in the end zone last week. I can see them going back to “Firkdaddy” against the perennial TE-sieve Cardinals.
Bills/Dolphins are both coming off tough Week 1 matchups against opponents who slowed things down dramatically while these teams combined for 141 points in two meetings last season and have since added playmakers on both sides. I think this game has intriguing shootout potential as an off the radar game due to all of the attention some higher profile games are getting.
Cowboys/Chargers…now stay with me here. I’m well aware this is likely the most popular game on the slate, so it doesn’t necessarily fit here on first look. The reason I mention this game as one people will shy away from is because of the exact nature of this question. This game is a unique set-up we rarely see (55+ point total and spread within 4 points) that is capable of providing a truly nuclear game in the box score. Due to it being Week 2 with such a large slate of games and so much “momentum trading” (i.e., people wanting to use players coming off a big opening week or finding Week 1 disappointments who will “bounce back”), this game is going to be underowned relative to the upside it provides. If this game were happening in Week 6 or 7, all the players involved would likely have 1.5x the ownership they will see this week. We don’t have to look far for examples of this. Last year before Dak’s injury the Cowboys had games in Weeks 2-4 against the Falcons, Seahawks, and Browns that averaged 78.3 points scored and were pretty much a requirement to have some exposure to in your lineups to compete for 1st in a tournament. In hindsight, those spots were so obvious and most people just outsmarted themselves.
We are always looking for ways to be different in DFS, but we should also remind ourselves that sometimes just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
As I wrote in this space last week, I was not a fan of playing Kyle Pitts against the Philly defense who can cover TEs well. While Pitts’ fantasy score may have disappointed those who rostered him, his usage was encouraging. Going back to last year, eight targets would have edged out George Kittle for third-place among TEs if Pitts finishes with that as his average. Aside from Waller and Hockenson, eight targets was good for the third-most in Week 1 of this year, and Pitts might go a bit under-looked by the field because he didn’t score enough points to warrant the price increase. Tampa Bay funneled 8.1 targets per game to TEs last year (second-most) and Pitts saw eight targets last week. That might be his mean target range for this year by the time all the games have been played. The matchup and game environment should ensure a similar amount of targets and hopefully a score.
A game environment I see that may go a bit overlooked is the Bengals at Bears game. Plenty of weapons on both sides and both teams, especially the Bears, are coming off of games where they faced good defenses. Mixon and a Chicago WR or Kmet might be a nice correlation play for this slate.
As noted in this week’s Angles email, there are 11 teams(!) with a Vegas-implied team total of 25.0 or higher. The game between the Cowboys and Chargers is the only game in which both teams clear that number, but it’s by no means the only game with shootout potential (and while it’s “the likeliest game” to be the highest-scoring on the slate, well…if we don’t know by now that whatever is “likeliest” to happen isn’t exactly guaranteed to happen, we’re in the wrong business!). While it’s certainly possible to build more intelligently around that game than the field is building, a much easier way to separate our rosters this week is to hope that this game disappoints (note: while a high-scoring game is “likeliest” here, I could also fill up 10 paragraphs with scenarios that lead to that game coming in under its total — which it would probably do a good 40% of the time, as that’s simply the nature of the NFL), and to instead load up on overlooked spots. Through a strategic lens, how are you viewing this spot this week?
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