The Greatest “Cheat Sheet” In DFS
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.
Our first week of “byes” in the 2022 season, the slate is down to 11 games this week and we also are starting to see injuries pile up around the league. These two factors of a smaller team/player pool and more clear “value” opportunities will likely lead to more “chalk” spots than we’ve seen in the first few weeks of the year.
Adding to that, we are coming off a week with a lot of high scoring and production coming in a lot of ways that we expected. The result of this was a very high rate of “chalk” hitting – with what basically amounted to one of the more popular cash game lineups of the week finishing in a 30+ way tie for 91st place in the Milly Maker and the Milly Maker winner having no players under 7.5% owned, something we rarely ever see. This also isn’t the first time this year we’ve seen a lot of “chalk” hitting, with Week 1 having a lot of chalk hit and Week 4 the super popular Lions pieces all went off, becoming a key to winning GPP’s.
Taking all of that into account, how does it shape your approach to this week in terms of player selection and roster construction?
Personally, it shapes my approach zero-percent. In my show with Overzet on Friday, I described the way I see it as…
Essentially, you should have a style of play that is distinct to you. Every different “style of play” could be envisioned as occupying a space on a wheel, and each new DFS week, the wheel spins and lands on a particular spot on the wheel. Because I know what my “established style of play” is, I’m going to assess the unique components of every week and adapt accordingly, but I’m always going to do so through “what makes this slate unique through the lens of my style of play.” When “the wheel” misses my style of play, that’s fine, because on the weeks when it lands on my style of play, I’ll be there ready to take advantage.
Said differently: I always adapt to the slate, but I never adapt to “what has happened most recently on the wheel.”
Look, we know the field as a whole has gotten better identifying “good chalk.” We’ve also seen the field getting somewhat smarter about building rosters when considering ownership…at least ownership of individual players (we see a lot of players in the mid ot high teens and a few in the low 20s, which is a far cry from Ye Olden Days of DFS when the chalkiest plays would get up to like 35-45% ownership, even in the Milly Maker).
Chalk isn’t necessarily any more likely to hit than it used to be, but subdued ownership of chalk (except for the very “best” on-paper plays) and the infrequency of legitimately “bad” chalk does mean that we should be a little less sensitive to ownership than we should have been a few years ago. The game evolves, folks, and our ability to evolve with it (ideally, ahead of it!) is what makes us long-term profitable players. Ok, broad strokes stuff over.
With regard to this week, lots of strong value at the RB position means a couple of important things: first, that a lot of rosters will look very similar with two or three of the chalk cheap RBs, and second, that because of the prevalence of these cheap chalk RBs, that draws ownership away from other strong plays at the RB position. This to me is the single largest distinguishing feature of the slate – lots of RB value means lots of rosters spending $6k or below on at least one RB spot, if not both. Just be aware of that dynamic, and if you build with 2x cheap RBs, make sure you’re doing different things elsewhere, while if you build without any of the cheap chalk RBs you can basically do whatever you want with your roster without worrying about ownership.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times this season (in various places and forums), the field is much better at identifying good plays compared to even just a couple of years ago. That said, there are still places that the field has gone that I had considered “bad chalk” this season (Jamaal Williams two weeks ago, Jeff Wilson last week, etc etc). So, while we have to acknowledge the fact that the field is better at identifying plays in today’s DFS landscape, we also have to realize that there have been some higher-than-normal levels of variance at play early in the season this year. This has led to a lot of people around the industry generating some pretty knee-jerk (and sweeping) reactions to the chalk and its success rates early in the year, and I’m not convinced it is a sticky trend, rather high levels of variance.
Through the lens of this week, most of the chalk at running back is “better chalk” than the past couple of weeks. Rhamondre Stevenson should see a floor of 22-25 running back opportunities in the nut matchup on the ground, with a legitimate ceiling for much, much more – at a price of “only” $6,000. Eno Benjamin provides a much higher floor than any other player priced below $5,000 and carries legitimate, touchdown-aided upside at cost. Ken Walker and Darrell Handerson are more in the “bad chalk” realm and are easy “if they beat me, so be it” fades to me.
The final piece of this puzzle (and inarguably the most important) is the state of the slate. With only two games with notable game totals on the slate, we can be fairly certain where a good chunk of the ownership will be going – meaning it doesn’t take a whole hell of a lot to build around alternate game environments or do things the field isn’t doing. The decision matrix involves so much more than simply classifying plays as “good chalk” or “bad chalk,” which is why I made the switch from including those classifications in the End Around this year. Basically, on this particular slate, I feel we can make smart decisions elsewhere on rosters and not have to worry as much about differentiating rosters through the use of salary allocation. All of that was a lot of words to say “it depends, but on this slate I don’t see the need to get cute away from cheaper/value running backs.”
My approach doesn’t really change based on those results and recent trends. I believe my greatest strength is in building high upside rosters and understanding range of outcomes for teams and games, as well as identifying spots where players are most likely to hit their ceilings. I build with all of that in mind and ownership/”chalk” as an afterthought. Because of that, some weeks my lineups appear very “chalky” and other weeks they appear wildly “contrarian” – and I’ve had some monster weeks in both scenarios.
Just nine months ago, we were treated to one of the most entertaining football games we will likely ever see with the Bills and Chiefs trading blows in the AFC Divisional Round and combining for 78 points – 47 of which came in the last 21 minutes of the game (from the 2:06 mark in the 3rd quarter until the game ended just over four minutes into OT). Now in Week 6, we get the rematch and the NFL did us a solid by leaving it on the main slate. While these teams are still great offenses and rank 1st and 2nd in the league in scoring, a lot of things have changed since January. The Bills defense is much healthier and in sync than it showed in that meeting, allowing only 61 points through five games this year, and the Chiefs offense is very different due to the loss of Tyreek Hill – Hill had 11 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown in that game, while KC receivers have yet to have a 90+ yard game or catch a touchdown in the 2022 season.
Given the excitement surrounding this game and the fact that it is clearly the highest total game on the slate with only one other game even close to it – BUF // KC has a total of 54, ARI // SEA has a total of 50.5, and every other game on the slate has a total of 45.5 or less – how we approach this game is one of the critical decision points on the slate.
What are your expectations for this game and how do you expect to approach it in your builds?