Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

The Scroll Week 15

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    The DFS Slate

    (In One Central Space)


    Meet The Team


    (Sat) Slate Strategy

    StatATL has a math degree and a background as a financial analyst, and has blended an analytical, numbers-driven approach with an “OWS mindset” to rack up over $100,000 in lifetime DFS profit while maintaining low weekly buy-ins

    Saturday Strategy

    –       On a small slate, like this upcoming three gamer on Saturday, one of the biggest mistakes our competition will make in terms of roster construction will be thinking about certainty or safety (what’s likeliest to happen) first and building around that.

    –       It’s critical to remember that we are not building to maximize points, but instead are constructing each roster with how to maximize our chance to get first place. Wait, what? Are you saying I don’t want to try to score the most points??? While that seems counterintuitive, what I mean is to approach each roster with a certain game script in mind, taking a similar approach to how we think about and build for showdown contests.  

    –       This Saturday slate provides us a unique opportunity unlike almost every other slate, where we can “build the plane as we fly”. This will be further discussed in the strategy section, but as more information becomes available as the games unfold, we can completely change our heading or direction (see what I did there) on where each roster needs to go.-       Finally, keep in mind that you don’t have to be different everywhere; several highly owned players will likely end up in the optimal.

    Let’s Dive In

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    (Sat) Mike’s Player Grid

    Mike Johnson (MJohnson86) has racked up nearly $500,000 in DFS profit as an NFL tournament player with success in all styles of contests


    The Format

    My “Player Grid” for this week’s Saturday slate will take the same format as what I did for the Thanksgiving slate – which has the feel of my usual “Afternoon Only” article that I do every Sunday. A full-fledged Player Grid would involve too many players for a slate with such a limited player pool to begin with. Rather, this slate very closely resembles what we see every Sunday with only three to four games in the late window. The added caveat for these fun slates is that we get time between each game to learn from what has happened already and the ownerships that have flipped over.

    QB Strategy ::

    • Quarterback is always an important position, but that importance goes to another level on these small slates. There are two main reasons for this. First, on average quarterbacks score the most points of any position and we can only start one of them. Second, correlation is even more important as the slates get smaller and there are fewer scoring opportunities to go around. By choosing the right quarterback, you are also increasing the chances that you are right at two other positions. Again, the shorter slate condenses the scoring across all lineups, making each position more vital to separating and giving yourself a chance to win. This is why quarterback strategy has its own section:
      • The interesting thing about the quarterback position on this slate is the fact that there are no true “studs” available. All of these guys come at reasonable price tags and four of the six QBs are not their team’s planned starter. 
      • Jared Goff is probably my favorite QB option on the slate from a strategy perspective. The Denver defense is pretty bad against the run and has been stingy against the pass, but the Lions offense can be really good, especially at home. Goff is the de facto highest-priced QB on the slate and isn’t someone who stands out as “worth it” to most people when considering they can just pay down for players viewed in a similar light. Anyways, despite being the highest-priced QB on the slate he’s still not that expensive and it wouldn’t be surprising for him to lead the slate in scoring at single-digit ownership.
      • Nick Mullens is very interesting to me on this slate as well, with the lowest salary of the bunch and having elite pass catchers at his disposal. We’ve seen good NFL play from Mullens in the past when he was with the 49ers and I think that is very possible again this week against a Bengals defense that tends to give up a lot of yards.
      • In that same game, we have now seen Jake Browning have back-to-back very good games utilizing his elite weaponry. The Vikings defense is solid and just pitched a shutout against the Raiders, but the high blitz rate Minnesota employs could open them up to some explosive plays from Ja’Marr Chase.
      • The Lions pass defense has taken big steps backward in recent weeks and Russell Wilson is quietly having a very nice season as the Broncos sit in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt. 
      • I don’t think I’ll be playing Minshew or Trubisky as that’s not a game I’m overly excited about targeting. 

    My guess on final ownership::

    • Russell Wilson and Jake Browning – 20-30%
    • Nick Mullens and Gardner Minshew – 10-20%
    • Mitchell Trubisky and Jared Goff – 5-8%

    Defense Strategy ::

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    Angles

    Angles hits inboxes on Thursday mornings throughout the regular season; you can also find Angles in The Scroll on Thursday afternoons.

    Week 15 Angles

    OWS Fam!

    Welcome to Week 15 — where things might look the same as always on the surface…but where the story under the hood might actually be a bit different than normal.

    We all have our own opinions and preferences, of course, but I personally prefer smaller Main Slates to full 13-gamers (and from what I have gathered over the years, most of the OWS Fam feels the same way) — and the NFL has done us a favor by giving us our typical island games alongside three games on Saturday, to provide a 10-game Main Slate for DFS on Sunday.

    The island games and Saturday games this week haven’t taken significant upside or excitement off the Main Slate, as we have backup quarterbacks facing off on Thursday night (Chargers // Raiders), backup quarterbacks facing off in each of the first two Saturday games (Vikings // Bengals || Steelers // Colts), and a game between the Broncos and Lions on Saturday night that features a Broncos team that has created muted game environments across the last couple months. The Sunday night game (Ravens // Jags) has a low total (42.5), but plenty of potential, while the Monday night game (Eagles // Seahawks) could produce some fireworks; but given that 12 of 32 teams are missing from the Main Slate, we really aren’t losing nearly as much as we could.

    Somewhat critically, the Main Slate provides us with a VERY clear divide between the early games and the late games, with the seven early games featuring only one contest with a game total over 38.0(!!!!), while the three late games provide us with totals of 48.0, 50.0, and 50.5. (Note: the only game in the early window with a total over 38.0 is Bucs at Packers, which comes in at 41.5).

    While we know that game totals are not the be all and end all of “what we should expect in a game,” it is worth pointing out two important items here:

    1) In the past, we would be almost universally ignoring games with totals below 42 (let alone games of 38 and below!), and in the past, we would also have been giving heavy attention to games with totals of 48.0 and above. (Said differently: 48+ is not just “a good total in the context of 2023”; that would have been an attractive total in past seasons as well — with the difference being that in past seasons, the “clumped together others” would have had totals of, say, 43 to 45, and there would have been only one or two games, at most, with “ignore them” totals of 38.0 and below).

    2) As we have explored a number of times across the last few seasons in the Winner Circle podcast: it’s not unusual on a two- or three-game slate to see DraftKings scores well over 200. Said differently: if the composition of a three-game slate includes games that can produce points, it’s completely possible to score well over 200 DK points within that three-game slate…which also means that on larger slates, it’s possible to score well over 200 DK points without branching outside of three games.

    Hmmmm…

    Now, it’s one thing to illustrate that, “Hey, it’s possible to select players from just three games and score 200+ points, and we also happen to have three games on this slate that have much clearer pathways to being high-scoring,” but what’s especially intriguing is the structure of the slate as a whole, in that these three games are note only separated from the rest in terms of “pathways to being high-scoring,” but are also separated from the rest within the slate itself. Again: all seven low-total games are being played early. All three high-total games are being played late(!). (More on this — and the strategies that might be built around this information — as we move deeper into the week.)

    In terms of the structure of the low-scoring games — and where we might, on the surface, be able to hunt for “game environment upside”…

    The Bucs have allowed point totals of 25 // 27 // 27 // 39 to their last four opponents who were not the Panthers or Titans, and are playing a Packers team that has come on of late, scoring 27+ in two of their last three games. On the season, the Packers have topped 24 points only three times, and have allowed more than 25 points only once, so the 41.5-point total here is not surprising; but there are certainly opportunities for this game to play to the upside, or at least for this game to produce some useful fantasy scores.

    The Dolphins are implied to score only 22.75 against the Jets, and it looks like Tyreek Hill won’t be at full health after missing most of Miami’s game this last week, but “Miami at home” is still an upside setup against any defense.

    The Texans are expected to be without C.J. Stroud this week (concussion), which should allow the Titans to play to their more conservative nature; but when we consider that this game would have had a bit of a different expectation with Stroud under center, we can stretch our imagination far enough to see a scenario in which the Titans are producing some nice fantasy scores.

    The run-heavy Falcons are implied to score only 19.0 on the road against the Panthers, who are one of the worst run defenses in football. The Falcons are also an aggressive defense, taking on Bryce Young and the broken Panthers offense, which opens the door for Atlanta to potentially be working with short fields and allowing Bijan Robinson to rack up a big day.

    The Chiefs haven’t shown us much to be excited about this year, and are taking on a tough Patriots defense in Foxboro, but this is still a team quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes, which means it’s totally possible for good things to happen.

    As for the late games, we have the healthy 49ers (30.75) traveling to take on the attackable defense of the Cardinals (17.25).

    We have the red-hot Rams offense (28.25) hosting the Washington Commanders (21.75) and their unbelievably bad, no good pass defense.

    And we have the game of the week, with the Cowboys (24.0) traveling to take on the Bills (26.5) in a game that could trend low-scoring…but could also develop into a true shootout.

    All in all, we have two teams that stand out (the 49ers and Rams), one game that stands out (Cowboys // Bills), and a bunch of other spots where we are either going to be “hoping for a miracle game environment to develop,” or are going to be hunting around for some one-off plays that are capable of posting separator scores in the midst of mediocre game environments.

    It’s nothing we aren’t used to…

    But it is a bit different from what we’ve had so far this season.

    Should be a fun week to dig into.

    See you at the top of the leaderboards!
    -JM

    The Workbook

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    Around The Industry

    Introduced in 2023, ‘Around The Industry’ provides a snapshot of sentiments from respected voices in the DFS and fantasy spaces.

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    End Around

    Hilow is a game theory expert (courses at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Northwestern) and tournament champion who focuses on mid/high-stakes single-entry/three-entry max

    MACRO SLATE VIEW::

    Last week’s prevailing theoretical governing constraint was information (injuries, weather, etc). This week, it’s time. We have less time to dedicate to the Sunday main slate due to the holidays and the Saturday slate. The major difference between the two slates is that the field has appeared to correctly identify the top on-paper spots on the Week 15 slate after struggling with that process in each of the previous two weeks. The one area that the field appears to be struggling with this week is identifying the value plays to gain access to the top on-paper plays, appearing to elect for the more “projectable” pieces (players with a higher median projection), and neglecting the players priced at $5,000 and below that carry legitimate, tourney-winning upside. Beyond playing the top environments in ways the field is unlikely to, this becomes one of the primary points of leverage on the slate as we hunt for first place finishes.

    RESTRICTIVE CHALK VS EXPANSIVE CHALK::

    Quick explanation :: Restrictive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that restricts the maneuverability of the remainder of your roster while expansive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that allows for higher amounts of maneuverability on the remainder of your roster. Classifying various forms of chalk as either restrictive or expansive allows us to visualize what it means for roster construction on a given slate and how restrictive a certain player might be – meaning more of the field will look similar from a roster construction standpoint with that piece.

    KYREN WILLIAMS

    RESTRICTIVE CHALK. Kyren Williams has the most valuable role of all running backs not named Christian McCaffrey, and now gets a matchup with a Commanders team that has surrendered a top five overall running back score in five consecutive weeks. I can stand behind this one.

    EZEKIEL ELLIOTT

    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. Look, it’s extremely difficult to ignore the fact that Ezekiel Elliott is coming off a game where he saw 30 running back opportunities. We also must understand that Zeke is on the tail end of his career and that extreme workload came in a game where the Patriots controlled the environment throughout. That is extremely unlikely to occur against the Chiefs. Even so, Zeke carries the slate’s highest projected workload-to-price balance and could prove useful on a slate largely lacking projectable value pieces.

    CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY

    RESTRICTIVE CHALK. Christian McCaffrey has the league’s top role on one of the league’s top offenses, playing an opponent that has bled production to opposing backfields both on the ground and through the air. I can stand behind this one.

    JAYDEN REED

    EXPANSIVE CHALK. The injuries in Green Bay are likely to force a higher degree of concentration amongst the primary skill position players that are healthy, in what has consistently been one of the more pass-funnel matchups in the league over the previous three seasons. We don’t expect a ton of volume from the Packers offense, and Reed is highly unlikely to pierce the 100-yard receiving threshold, making him a solid cost-considered, point-per-dollar play that comes with a rather shaky ceiling.

    ANTONIO GIBSON

    EXPANSIVE CHALK. Antonio Gibson is an objectively a worse on-paper play than Ezekiel Elliott and is likely gaining steam due to the field’s interest in the Rams on this slate, a product of the hangover effect of forcing a bring-back (which, as we’ve proven this season, is a dying technique). I won’t be going here, personally.

    CHIGOZIEM OKONKWO

    EXPANSIVE CHALK. Chigoziem Okonkwo has a modest 74 percent route participation rate, a meager 16.3 percent target share, and a gross 10.0 percent red zone target share. Yeah, we need value on this slate, but this ain’t it (for me). 

    WAN’DALE ROBINSON

    EXPANSIVE CHALK. Wan’Dale Robinson is coming off his best fantasy performance of the season, which was buoyed by a late 32-yard catch against the Packers. This feels more “Nationally televised game boost” than top on-paper play. I don’t want any part of Robinson on a slate we’re likely to need to score 230-245 points to ship GPPs.

    TREY McCBRIDE

    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. Is there going to be a slate where Trey McBride isn’t chalk for the remainder of the season? Good Lord, man, this dude just always garners ownership. He’s now at his most expensive salary of the season and is in the nut-worst matchup for tight end production. No, thank you.

    RASHEE RICE

    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. Rashee Rice continues to be an objectively strong on-paper play in an expanding role, coming off a three-game stretch of 10, nine, and 10 targets. The matchup is not ideal, but we can comfortably expect eight to 12 targets for the emerging rookie.

    MATTHEW STAFFORD

    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. We kept talking about Matthew Stafford’s impending touchdown regression after he threw for multiple touchdowns just once in his first nine games. He has now thrown 10 touchdown passes in his previous three games and gets a Commanders defense that has bled production through the air all season. One major change with that defense was a shift away from their previously high man-heavy tendencies in favor of extreme rates of Cover-2 (71 percent) and zone (94 percent) in their first game with head coach Ron Rivera calling defensive plays. That doesn’t appreciably affect Stafford’s expectation here more than it alters the likeliest path for the production to flow.

    CHALK BUILD::

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    JM’s Player Grid

    JMToWin is a high-stakes tournament champion (Thunderdome, Luxury Box, Game Changer, Wildcat, King of the Hill/Beach, Spy, etc.) who focuses on the DraftKings Main Slate


    OWS Fam ::

    This is not a complete list of all the good plays on the slate

    This is, instead, a look at the player pool I’ll be fishing


    The Grid ::

    Bottom-Up Build

    :: covered in-depth in the Angles Pod (it’s highly recommended that you listen to the breakdown of the roster in order to see the thinking behind it, and in order to understand what we’re talking about when we look at a “bottom-up build”)

    Blue Chips

    :: my “Tier 1” plays: the plays I feel confident leaning into across different types of builds; these players have a high ceiling and a low likelihood of price-considered failure

    Build-Arounds

    :: games, offenses, situations, or scenarios I’ll be looking to build around across my rosters

    Building Blocks

    :: unique player pairings that can be used as foundational building blocks for tournament rosters

    Bonuses

    :: players who don’t fit into the categories above — either Upside pieces who don’t have the floor to be Blue Chips (and are not being focused on within my game-focused builds) or players who may not have a strong shot at ceiling, but are worth keeping in mind from a “role” perspective

    Sunday Morning Update:

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    Bottom-Up Build

    Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod (on the One Week Season podcast feed).

    Bottom-Up Build
    DK Salary Remaining :: $6.4K

    Sam Howell
    Ezekiel Elliott
    Kyren Williams
    Noah Brown
    Demario Douglas
    Rashid Shaheed
    Darren Waller
    Logan Thomas
    Giants

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    Blue Chips

    Rams

    There won’t be many players on this slate scoring 25+ DK points…and it’s highly likely that the Rams produce one or two such scores. This makes me massively interested in this offense.

    Matthew Stafford is clearly in play here (as is Sam Howell), and Kyren // Puka // Kupp will be rotated heavily through my builds. I may take a few swings on Demarcus Robinson and Tyler Higbee as well, and I’ll allocate some portion of my builds to Washington bring-backs, with Antonio Gibson my favorite option of the bunch, but with all of McLaurin // Dotson // Samuel // Thomas very much in the mix.

    Here are some additional notes from my DFS Interpretations for this game:

    • Washington has played 13 games this year, and eight of those games have had point totals of 50 or higher, while their opponent has scored 29 or more points in a stunning nine out of 13 games. NFL tape-grinders talked consistently throughout the first half of this season about how this was perhaps the best season of Stafford’s career, and how crazy it was that the stats didn’t tell this story — which is something we’ve been paying attention to on our end. Over the last few weeks, the stats have finally caught up, with Stafford throwing 10 touchdown passes across his last three games(!), including contests against the Ravens and the Browns. In case you’re looking at those numbers and worrying they might be fluky, they aren’t. Obviously, three to four touchdowns per game is outlandish, and won’t keep going forever; but for whatever it’s worth, it’s Stafford’s early-season numbers that are fluky, given how well he has been playing this year. This is a pristine spot for him and the Rams passing attack. Stafford-led stacks are fully in play, as are one-offs of Kyren, Puka, and Kupp. In fact, you could go so far as to say that it’s highly likely one of those three is on tourney-winning rosters this week, making a “mix and match” approach of these guys highly viable. I also like the idea of playing two guys from that pool, understanding that Rams skill position players could easily combine for 80+ DK points this week, which would create clear pathways for two of these guys to combine for 55+. I expect to have at least one Rams piece on every roster this week, with plenty of rosters that have two Rams pieces even without Stafford.
    • The other side of this game is interesting, in that we can’t predict where the strong score will come from on the Washington side…but unlike the Rams wide receiver split or the 49ers pass catcher split, it’s not as if “the Washington piece that hits” is LIKELY to be a true “had to have it.” I put “likely” in caps because it is, of course, possible that a Washington piece posts a had-to-have-it, but they aren’t an offense that sets up in such a way that “mixing and matching across all our rosters” makes sense.
    • That said, I’ll absolutely have some Howell rosters this week, and as we have explored in the past: when Howell hits, it’s often the case that two Washington pieces hit with him (in a price-considered manner). I probably won’t have many Washington one-offs, but I will have some Washington pieces opposite my Stafford builds, and I’ll have some Washington singles and doubles alongside my Howell.
    49ers

    There won’t be many players on this slate scoring 25+ DK points…and it’s highly likely that the 49ers produce one or two such scores. This makes me massively interested in this offense.

    I’ll probably have a little more interest in Stafford than I’ll have in Purdy, as the Rams and Commanders have a higher chance of becoming an actual back-and-forth affair, thus increasing the highest end of Stafford’s ceiling (it’s also worth pointing out that if we played out this slate 100 times, Purdy would probably outscore Stafford more times than not; i.e., “Stafford’s absolute best games would probably be better than Purdy’s absolute best games, but Purdy would probably outscore Stafford more times than not”; do with that thought what you will), and unlike the Rams’ game, I won’t have much interest in the other side of the ball in this one. But same as the game listed above: “Mixing and matching” makes a lot of sense. I’ll be heavy 49ers this week.

    Here are some additional notes from my DFS Interpretations for this game:

    • To revisit what we laid out last week, with updated numbers…Here are the top scores, by week (starting from Week 1) for the 49ers’ three pass catchers:
      • 35.9 // 22.1 // 28.1 // 23.8 // 27.7 // 11.6 (CLE) // 13.0 (offensive dud v MIN) // 26.9 // 23.6 // 29.6 // 22.4 // 38.8 // 37.0
    • Throw out that two-game blip, and “selecting the correct pass catcher from San Francisco” has gotten you a WORST score of 22.1, with a remarkable seven games of 26.9 or more points, and three games of 35+. Chances are, one of these three pass catchers (Deebo // Aiyuk // Kittle) is going to post a really strong score, and it won’t be surprising — on a thin slate like this — if “nailing the right pass catcher from the 49ers” is required to win a tourney.
    • While it’s always dangerous to “try to predict who will hit from this offense” (the week Kittle went 3-67-3, he was the worst play of the bunch on paper), we can note that the Cardinals don’t face a ton of tight end targets, as they are so bad against wide receivers that teams attack in that way instead. This makes “Aiyuk or Deebo” the likelier pathway to the top, though I’ll continue to mix and match these three guys across my builds as I’ve been doing for weeks.
    • CMC, of course, is overpriced for his role (as we’ve discussed: he no longer sees a dramatically bigger workload and pass game role than other running backs in the league, and is instead valuable because of how efficient he is in this offense), but is NOT overpriced for his ceiling, as he showed the last time these teams met when he put up 51.7 DK points. The Cardinals have allowed the second most RB rushing yards and the second most RB touchdowns in the league. CMC is highly unlikely to “fail” in this spot, and his high end is a true “had to have it” game.
    • I’ll have interest in playing CMC solo, CMC plus a pass catcher, a pass catcher solo, and Purdy with any of those combinations.
    • I’ll probably largely avoid the Cardinals, even on builds that lean heavily on the 49ers.
    “Light Blue” Chips

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    Build-Arounds

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    Building Blocks

    “Pass Smash,” Volume I
    Stafford + Puka + Kupp + Antonio Gibson
    Story:

    “The Rams score a lot of points…and score their points through the air.”

    Why It Works:

    The Rams will be popular, but Kyren Williams could easily have more ownership than Puka and Kupp combined, and very few rosters will have these two together. If the Rams score 80 to 90 DK points from their skill position players and Kyren finds his way to only about 15 of those, there’s a good chance we see 55 to 65 DK points from these two pass catchers, creating nice points and nice leverage. Antonio Gibson would likely see more work through the air for the Commanders if both Kupp and Puka are hitting, giving us a nice all-around setup.

    How It Works:

    If this play hits, you’re likely to be far enough ahead of the field that you won’t have to worry too heavily about strategy across other spots on your roster.

    POTENTIAL DOWNSIDE:

    The story plays out differently, and you don’t get first place — which is really all that matters.

    “Pass Smash,” Volume II

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    Bink Machine

    A look at some of the rules I’ll be applying in the Bink Machine this week.

    “Not Tyreek”

    Demario Douglas and Ezekiel Elliott are not Tyreek Hill…but they do cost $9.7k in combined salary ($200 behind Tyreek), and they should combine for 14+ carries and 13+ targets, which is a tremendous workload for that salary spent. Both players are going to be popular this week, and both players have clear paths to failure (you know — something about being in a bad offense and playing a good defense), but one of the ways to maximize the payoff if things go well is to play these two together. Lots of rosters will have one. Lots of rosters will have the other. Not many rosters will have the two together. This rule says, “On at least 8% of rosters, play these two players together.”

    “At Least One Ram”

    We probably won’t get many 20+ point DK scores from this slate…and it’s almost certain that the Rams will produce at least one such score, with a pretty good shot at them producing two such scores. (We also probably won’t get many 25+ point DK scores from this slate…and it’s highly likely that the Rams produce at least one of these.) With this in mind, I like a rule of rostering at least one Rams piece on every roster this week.

    This rule says, “On 100% of rosters, play at least one and as many as two players from this pool.”

    “At Least One 49er”

    We probably won’t get many 20+ point DK scores from this slate…and it’s almost certain that the 49ers will produce at least one such score, with a pretty good shot at them producing two such scores. (We also probably won’t get many 25+ point DK scores from this slate…and it’s highly likely that the 49ers produce at least one of these.) With this in mind, I like a rule of rostering at least one 49ers piece on every roster this week.

    This rule says, “On 100% of rosters, play at least one and as many as two players from this pool.”

    Bonuses

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    If Building For Single-Entry // Three-Entry Max

    This is my narrowest pool, which means it’s the pool likeliest to change a bit as I move deeper into builds. If it changes throughout Saturday night, I’ll add an update in this space.

    If I were building for single-entry // three-entry Max, my tightened-up player pool would be:

    QB ::

    (Double-double lines (“|| ||”) signify a tier shift for me, in terms of my level of interest)

    Stafford || Howell || || Purdy || || Love || Josh Allen || || Dak

    RB ::

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    A Wrap ::

    I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend!

    -JM

    Mike’s Player Grid

    Mike Johnson (MJohnson86) has racked up nearly $500,000 in DFS profit as an NFL tournament player with success in all styles of contests


    Welcome back to my (Mjohnson86) Player Grid. The format will vary slightly from JM’s Player Grid, as we each see things slightly differently and play in slightly different contests, but should complement his thoughts and content very well for those looking to build their lineups for the week. The format of this article will likely evolve as the season progresses but should provide a lot of value. Enjoy!!


    The Core

    This is a list of players that stand out to me at each position from using my “Checking the Boxes” criteria outlined in my Checking The Boxes course. This list is a starting point, from which I build out lineups using game theory and roster construction concepts (which we will also touch on) with the mindset being to find the best plays with big ceilings. Low ownership is a bonus, but not a must. This section will focus primarily on three positions – running back, tight end, and defense – as the other two positions (quarterback and wide receiver) tend to have more dependent tendencies which I try to attack from other angles (which we will get into in the other sections). I like all of these plays on all sites, unless otherwise noted:

    Running Back ::

    Tier 1
    • Kyren Williams – Elite volume. Involved in the receiving game and at the goal line. The team is likely to score upwards of 30 points. Elite matchup against a reeling defense.
    • Christian McCaffrey – Same as Williams. Higher price tag but the same situation.
    • James Cook – This guy just keeps balling out and his role should continue to grow. I would expect the Bills coaches to recognize that their offense stalled last week when they stopped getting the ball to Cook.
    • Tony Pollard – I absolutely loved what I saw from Pollard in last week’s win over the Eagles as Dallas used him more in the passing game and in space. Some will see Rico Dowdle’s increased involvement as a negative, but I think keeping Pollard fresh and using him in space will open up clearer paths to “ceiling” games from him.
    tier 2
    • Rachaad White – Elite role and matchup. This game has sneaky shootout potential. Would be a “Tier 1” guy if he wasn’t priced so close to Williams.
    • Antonio Gibson – Terrific price for a guy with a lot of talent in the game with the highest over/under of the week. Should be on the field 60-70% of the snaps and has a terrific skillset for this matchup.
    • Aaron Jones – It is hard to put Jones in the “circle of trust” as he has let us down and battled injuries so many times this year and in the past. However, AJ Dillon’s availability is in question and even if Dillon is active there is a chance he isn’t able to do much due to his broken thumb. Jones has a ton of talent for his price tag and low ownership projection.
    • Raheem Mostert – Despite the tough on-paper matchup, Mostert profiles as a great play due to questions about De’Von Achane’s health.

    Tight End ::

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    Papy’s Pieces

    Papy is a full-time DFS player, with a focus on high-stakes tourneys, and with hundreds of thousands in lifetime profit

    The Board
    • This slate brings us two stand-out totals in Wash // LAR (50.5) and Dal // Buf (50). It feels like a while since we’ve had two totals north of 50 on a main slate, both with under a touchdown spread.
    • The third most desirable total is SF // AZ (48). This game might go overlooked because of how it’s positioned on the slate. It’s also not expected to be competitive, with SF installed as large (12.5) favorites.
    • TB // GB (42) is the only other game on the slate with a total north of 40. 
    • Five of the six other games include at least one QB who was not the planned starter at the beginning of the season.
    • The only game of the six with two preseason starters is Atl // Car (33) which has the lowest total of the group and will feature Desmond Ridder against Bryce Young.
    Pawn – QB Davis Mills ($4,900)

    This play is not for the faint of heart, but hear me out, “Play passing game pieces against the Titans!” I know, it can’t be that easy but sometimes it feels that easy. The Titans have been the league’s premier pass funnel for the past few seasons and this year is no different. Davis Mills isn’t a world-beater, but he has shown aggressive tendencies in the past and has enough talent that he can take advantage of weaker defenses. The Texans are going to be without Tank Dell, and as of this writing, probably Nico Collins as well. Being without your top two receivers doesn’t scream play the QB, but I don’t care, I’ll trust in the matchup to produce a solid box score for a player who is priced like a punt. A 20-point game at a cheap price is valuable, and it’s well within his range of outcomes. He could post a dud, but he also might drop a nice price considered score that opens salary for the rest of your roster at negligible ownership.

    Knight – WR Jayden Reed ($4,900)

    Christian Watson is going to miss another game with his string cheese hammy and that opens the door for Reed to continue seeing heavy usage.  A mini Deebo Samuel, Reed saw four carries last week to go along with 10 targets. He has at least two carries in three of his last four games, so being used on the ground looks like it’s going to be a part of his profile every week. Reed also has 10 // 5 // 8 // 6 targets in his past four games and is being used creatively all over the field. He’s getting more usage than on paper WR1 Romeo Doubs, which effectively makes him the Packers top option when Watson sits. Paying under $5,000 for a guy functioning as his team’s WR1 is always desirable, and when you factor in a handful of carries, Reed feels like a steal. I’ll be using him on my tighter builds as a one-off and possibly paired with Love.

    Bishop – TE Trey McBride ($5,200)

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    Sonic’s MME Pool

    Sonic is a Milly Maker winner and large-field tournament mastermind who focuses on mass-multi-entry play

    A Symphonic Crescendo

    Musical masterpieces take us on a winding journey with various subplots as they gradually build to a furious climax. That appears to be the case with Week 15’s NFL slate. With Vegas’ high total games all beginning in the late window, this Sunday feels like a Thanksgiving turkey, all the good stuff got crammed into the end. 

    This is my way of saying to prepare for late swap madness. Read StatATL’s stuff and make some roster clones will the sole purpose of roster tweaking during the 4th quarter of the early games. Gotta grab any little edge we can!

    Secondary Core-Relations

    We’re always hunting for those high-ceiling combinations to add to our existing game stacks. It’s better to aim at getting four things right instead of trying to hit a nine-way parlay. I’ll lean on a handful of core secondary stacks that will be finessed into lineups whenever feasible.

    Jake Ferguson/James Cook 

    I have a feeling these guys are both going to get steamed before lock but Cook at 4.9% and Ferguson at 5.2% feels like a great way to get correlative pieces from this game environment, with touchdown equity, without blowing your wad.  

    WHAT IF the touchdowns come through these dudes? This duo could factor into optimal lineups without their expensive quarterbacks necessarily qualifying.

    If you are really feeling frisky, we could swap out Cook for Gabe Davis and hope for one of Gabe’s unpredictable blowup games. 

    On FanDuel, Ferguson will be more popular, so I’ll look at replacing him with Brandin Cooks (1.9%) if he’s healthy.

    Mike Evans/Romeo Doubs

    Mike Evans has performed way too well to be projected at only 3.7% ownership. If we think Jordan Love stacks are going to pose any type of threat to those in the afternoon games, they’ll need Tampa Bay’s offense to push them to play with a bit more urgency. The Bucs offense is very concentrated on Rachaad White and Evans, especially with Chris Godwin dinged. White has a nice expected median outcome due to his voluminous role, but Evans is the one who can blow the lid off any given game. 

    Jayden Reed is expected to have a featured role in this one and he’ll be utilized in a variety of ways. He’s also $400 cheaper than teammate Romeo Doubs. However, the ownership difference (Reed 30%, Doubs 2.5%) does not reflect the probability of each of these players finding their ceiling. Reed has been awesome, and I’ll be playing him plenty, but football is weird, and touchdowns are extremely volatile. If we need a contrarian addition in a certain build, Doubs is a classic leverage piece. 

    WHAT IF this game shoots out but the end zone targets vacated by Christian Watson go to Romeo Doubs?

    Derrick Henry/Dalton Schultz 

    This pairing is aimed more at FanDuel where these players are both micro-owned and touchdown hunting is of the highest priority. 

    It’s Henry’s time of year and he’s playing the one team he seems to destroy annually. At 3% projected ownership, I’ll be eating some salary to be contrarian. 

    If Houston is going to be productive, they’ll likely need players like Schultz to step up with Tank Dell out, Nico Collins unlikely to suit up, and Noah Brown questionable. 

    The Titans are vulnerable against the pass (29th DVOA). Texans have injuries everywhere and a backup quarterback. We could expect some short fields and increased play volume for Tennessee, and some early desperation for Houston. 

    LOWER-OWNED TREASURES

    Running Back

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    Willing To Lose

    Larejo is a mid-stakes tournament mastermind who specializes in outmaneuvering 150-max players with a small number of entries

    “Some guy is going to win a million dollars on Sunday. I could be that mistake!”

    For anyone who knows me, this was my weekly statement, basically every NFL Sunday from 2013 to 2021 or so. The quote was obviously inspired by the movie, Superbad, for all the movie buffs out there. But the truth is, all it takes is one time. Overall, people choose to waste their money on silly things, including low probability outcomes like the lottery. Yet, every day, every week, of every year, people pour their money into the thrill of winning life-changing amounts. 

    The non-Attorney Generals out there know that winning DFS tournaments requires more than just a great deal of luck. There is a sizable amount of strategy and skill, along with the stomach to embrace risk and do so in a confident way. But luck is still present, no matter where we turn, and that’s a good thing. It’s Week 15, and as I was sitting thinking about what to write this week, it’s the element of embracing luck. We all have strategies and skill in building our lineups on every slate, but we need variance (and luck) to swing our way as well. We need to outsmart our opponents but also keep our lineups relevant to make it to the top of the leaderboards.

    If you haven’t won by Week 15, don’t worry about it. It’s easy to question your strategy and move away from what you’ve historically done well. But think about how you’ll feel when you played the guy last week who didn’t perform and this week tops the slate in points? Think about how you’ll feel when the defense you targeted to stack against allows 35 points this week after holding last week’s opponent under 20. Constantly altering strategy is called flailing. We don’t like flailing here! We talk a whole bunch about sticking to the process. The 76ers even went so far as to brand the team for multiple seasons under “Trust the Process.” If they can do it for a couple of real NBA seasons, you can do it for a few short NFL weeks.

    Try to get better each week, don’t try to redefine your strategy. Think about how when luck didn’t swing your way over the last few weeks, that simply means it’s coming soon. Best Ball playoffs are upon us, and pool advancements require significant luck as none of us have touched those rosters since more than four months ago, but nonetheless, we will watch and track. In the Best Ball streets, we’re forced to embrace the variance and go with it. We have no other choice. Kickoff the games on Sunday and let’s see what happens. DFS is the same, build like you always do and see what happens.

    Patrick Mahomes + Jerick McKinnon + Travis Kelce

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    The Oracle

    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.

    Week 15 Topics

    1. Cool Kids Club

    2. Hail To The Kings

    3. Value Plays

    4. Floating Plays

    5. “That was so obvious, how did I not see it?”


    1. Cool Kids Club

    The Question ::

    This week we have a bit of a “Cool Kids Club” in the afternoon slate, with three spots standing out::

    • The Rams seem highly likely to post a big number against a Commanders team that has given up 29+ points in nine of 13 games.
    • The 49ers have scored 27+ points in every game where they had all their key players healthy and face the league’s #31 defense in Arizona.
    • The DAL/BUF game stands out as two elite offenses/QBs facing off and while it is not a lock to shootout, has “game of the year” potential if things break a certain way.

    With all of that in mind, are there any other teams or games that stand out to you as most likely to join the “Cool Kids Club” by the time the games are over on Sunday?

    The Answers ::
    JM >>

    Man, I wish!

    There is definitely room for the Dallas // Buffalo to finish in the mid- to high-40s, and for a game from the early slate to match that. In fact, it’s possible for Commanders // Rams and/or Cardinals // 49ers to finish in the mid- to high-40s in blowout style (49ers, in particular, or Rams running away with their game and scoring a bunch of points while the overall scoring stays down), but what’s difficult to see is A) a scenario in which ALL those late spots fail, or B) a scenario in which one of the early games develops into a true shootout.

    As I’ve explored in this space and in the Winner Circle pod this year, we have a big edge in DFS through the lens of strategy, roster construction, game theory, etc., but we also have a big edge in DFS through our ability to better understand the matchups, game environments, etc. than the field is able to understand them. I bring that up here because it’s easy, on a slate like this, to fall into a trap of saying, “Everyone is expecting these late games to be so much better, but what if that doesn’t end up being the case? What if, instead, multiple games in the early window shoot out, and all the late-slate players underwhelm?” And yes, if that were to happen, this would provide a clear path to first place…but the chances of it happening are too slim for me to consider this to be a +EV approach (especially as I still expect a lot of scattered attention from the field on early-game players).

    As we’ve discussed this week in the Angles Pod, my Player Grid, etc., there are certainly ways this weekend could play out that would lead to “completely avoiding the early games” being a failed approach, but I also want to acknowledge that it’s HIGHLY probable that a piece from both the Rams and the 49ers will belong on tourney-winning lineups (if not being downright necessary for tourney-winning lineups), and it’s “likelier than not” that the late games will provide more valuable DFS scores than all the early games put together. There are still ways to maneuver to the top of the leaderboards this week; but in my eyes, “building around totally different scenarios for these games” is not the most +EV way to get there.

    Xandamere >>

    Not really. There are a couple of spots you could make cases for having some upside – the Dolphins are a ridiculously good offense that could find ceiling even in a tough matchup, the Packers are looking better of late and are in a matchup that gives us a lot of confidence in where the ball is going, HOU/TEN has some good pieces in good matchups, but overall the lowest total afternoon game is 48 while the highest total morning game is just 42.5 (and every other morning game is under 40). You can take some shots at the morning game environments and hope to find a low-owned shootout, but in all likelihood the best game to stack around will be one of the three afternoon games.

    Hilow >>

    Honestly, no. There are other spots for individual pieces but my primary focus is on those three games this week. And that’s okay, because we have a very clear picture of how the field is handling those situations, making it relatively easy to differentiate from the field.

    Mike >>

    TB/GB stands out to me as the spot with the most potential for a shootout. We have seen the Bucs defense be shredded several times this season and even pulled the usually mundane Falcons into a fun game environment in Week 14. The Bucs defense is battling a ton of injuries and Jordan Love is coming off a game in which he struggled against Wink Martindale’s Giants defense, and this would be a perfect spot for him to get back on track. The Bucs offense also has some guys who can make plays and this is a Packers defense that just made Tommy DeVito look like a world beater. This game has all the ingredients for a high scoring affair at reasonable salaries compared to the “Cool Kids Club”.


    2. Hail To The Kings

    The Question ::

    Running back has become an interesting position in DFS as spending up at the position can often make it difficult to fill out a winning lineup due to the constraints it puts on the rest of your lineup. This week we have two of the three highest salary RB’s (CMC and Kyren Williams) projecting for over 30% ownership. However, the spots they are in truly do seem to be elite. CMC dropped a 50-burger in his matchup with the Cardinals earlier this year and Kyren Williams has possibly the best RB role in the league and his team has a high chance of scoring 30+ points. 

    How are you handling the RB position this week and specifically what are your thoughts on the spots for those two?

    The Answers ::

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    Thanks for hanging out with us in The Oracle this week

    We’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend!

    Afternoon-Only

    Mike Johnson (MJohnson86) has racked up nearly $500,000 in DFS profit as an NFL tournament player with success in all styles of contests

    FINDING AN EDGE

    The whole idea behind this piece of content is that it is unique. Specific content and strategies for the “non-main slate” contests are very rare in the DFS industry and most players who enter them are casual players or doing so on a whim after their main slate entries had things go wrong, and they want something to root for or to chase their losses during the late games. Edges are getting harder and harder to find in DFS as information gets better, projections get sharper, and the field gets more experienced. These smaller slates present a clear opportunity and advantage for those that focus on them, as most players will just take their thoughts from the main slate and approach these lineups the same way without considering how much having seven to nine fewer games (depending on the week) changes the strategy. The biggest win of my career came on an “Afternoon Only” slate in January of 2021, and I hope to share some of my insights on the format to help you attack this niche corner of NFL DFS.

    Week 15 Slate
    • Only three games on this week’s slate, but wow are they good ones. 
    • The Rams and 49ers are in such elite spots as offenses that I’m likely to have at least one player from each team on every roster that I make for the Main Slate, so suffice it to say that I’ll be loading up on them on this slate as well.
    • DAL/BUF is the game that could go a lot of different directions and has the most uncertainty around it. It could be a low-scoring close game, as both defenses are solid and the weather will be cold. It could be a high-scoring close game, as we know both offenses can be explosive and they could push each other. It could also be a bit of a “blowout” in either direction, as we have seen each of these teams and QBs fail in big games at various points over the last couple of years. 
    • Ultimately, how that DAL/BUF game plays out, and which cheaper players from ARI and/or WAS put up usable scores are likely to be the variables that determine the winners on this slate.
    Ownership Strategy
    • Ownership will be higher for pretty much every player on “short slates” just because there are fewer players to choose from. This will be especially true for “chalky” players from the main slate.
    • This means getting these players right is even more vital than on a main slate. There are fewer alternatives to choose from so if they have a big game and you aren’t on them it is much harder to find other ways to make up those points.
    • This also means it is easier for lower owned players to pay off, as there are fewer players at their position that they need to have “fail” for them to be worth the risk.
    • Correlation is even more important than on the main slate because the useful fantasy games that pay off for the slate are likely to be clumped up from the same games. I always make lineups with a game stack (QB + at least one pass catcher + at least one opponent) and then one or two “mini-correlations” from other games.
    QB Strategy

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    Late Swap

    StatATL has a math degree and a background as a financial analyst, and has blended an analytical, numbers-driven approach with an “OWS mindset” to rack up over $100,000 in lifetime DFS profit while maintaining low weekly buy-ins

    Need more late swap education? Read this free educational article on Late Swap

    Outlook – Late Games:

    Week 15 offers us a slate unlike any other this season, most notably with all 7 games in the early window presenting inferior on-paper game environments in comparison to all 3 of the afternoon matchups. However, The field recognizes this and feels they can accurately predict where the scoring will come from, with extreme ownership on the CMC and Kyren Williams. We’ll discuss the early game situations to monitor and how we can exploit the field’s perceived certainty below.

    Important Early Outcomes to Watch:
    • Ezekiel Elliott – With Rhamondre Stevenson out last week, Zeke saw 30 opportunities and turned it into a season-high 27 DK points, which was more than double his previous best (13.2). Elliott is projecting for more than 30% ownership and should be in line for a heavy workload again this week.
    • Wan’Dale Robinson – On a slate starved for value with a majority of the field wanting to pay up for Christian McCaffrey and Kyren Williams (or both), Robinson is catching steam coming off his best game of the season. He is projecting for over 20% ownership.
    • Demario Douglas – Like Wan’Dale, Douglas is projecting for close to 20% ownership as the field struggles to find value. Douglas has back-to-back 9 target games and will likely be in a negative game script situation as New England takes on Kansas City this week.   
    • Jayden Reed – With Christian Watson likely to be sidelined again, Reed has seen his role in the offense grow and is projected as the highest-owned WR on the slate at close to 30%.
    • Slate Breakers – Such as Ja’Marr Chase’s 55 DK point performance in week 5 or CJ Stroud’s 46 points in week 9.
    Price Range Breakdowns (Late Games):

    $7,100 and up:

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    Battle Royale

    Lex is a matchup researcher who focuses his play on Underdog’s Battle Royale contest

    Welcome to Week 15!

    If you are new to this contest or just want to get a bigger picture of the first two years of the contest, here is my review of the top Battle Royale rosters in 2021 and 2022.

    Keeping with the new format change, I am highlighting the stacks I will be targeting this week in drafts, as that is arguably the most important decision for each roster. I’ll also provide some thoughts on other players I’m interested in, and then finish by updating some trending stats for the main contest. Let’s get started!

    The reason we are always preaching “scroll down” is because once ADP forms early in the week, not much changes outside of a couple of guys that are usually related to midweek injury/role news. So, that means many people are drafting the “same way,” falling into similar buckets of player combinations, leaving guys outside that top 36 far less owned relative to those above them for not much more reason than a slightly higher projection. Every week there are some underowned guys that are available at the end of drafts that can help you win a tournament, as the 6-person drafting means you aren’t having to find $3k DraftKings priced players just to be unique.

    Looking at Week 15

    With the three Saturday games this week, and lots of QB injuries going around, there are some offenses that stand significantly above the rest on this slate. SF and LAR players should be targeted on every team in their smash matchups, MIA’s offense might get even more concentrated due to injuries, and DAL @ BUF carries the highest total of the slate. WR has a much more significant drop off this week compared to RB, so I will be prioritizing the elite WRs over the highly drafted RBs in most drafts.

    Stacks I’m Targeting:

    Matthew Stafford + Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Kyren Williams:

    • One of the more concentrated offenses in the league in terms of knowing where the fantasy points are going to be scored, and they get a dream matchup this week against a reeling defense. All three are taken in the first two rounds, with Kupp and Williams going in the first, which means this offense is far from overlooked. However, Stafford is still carrying a 5th-round ADP, making stacks with these players very achievable and with significant upside. Now that the TD variance is finally going in Stafford’s favor, he’s scored 23+ fantasy points in three straight games. While the pairing makes more sense with the receivers, stacking him with Williams is something fewer people will do and yet has still shown big success as recently as two weeks ago; trying to capture all the touchdowns and hope one or multiple come through the air. WAS has allowed 8 teams to score over 30 points against them, and this Rams offense is healthy and humming.

    Brock Purdy + 49ers:

    • Once again, this offense churns out fantasy production like none other and now faces an extremely vulnerable Cardinals defense that they already put up a big score on earlier this year. SF has scored 35+ points on the Cardinals in three straight games, and they‘ve scored 27+ points in the 5 games since their Bye. The ADP has caught up, as all four of the 49ers skill players are taken in the top 13 skill players. Deebo Samuel is coming off back-to-back 30-point scores, but the matchup is great for everyone here and I want exposure to all four of them, sometimes even together. Another offense that’s not going overlooked at all, but can still be part of a unique roster by how you draft at the other spots. Purdy can be stacked with all four guys comfortably, but he’s not as cheap as the QB2 on the week.

    Others to Target:

    Alvin Kamara vs NYG:

    • The Giants have been generous to opposing backfields all year, and Chris Olave is currently questionable with an ankle injury. Carr is already prone to dropping it off frequently to AK, and without Olave he would be expected to see even more targets than usual given the state of the NOR WR room. Taysom Hill missing would make this play stronger due to TD expectation, but with so few weapons left healthy on this offense, AK’s volume in a positive matchup makes him a really strong play after all the elite WRs come off the board.

    Derrick Henry vs HOU:

    • HOU is tracking to be without their starting QB and WRs on the road, and Henry’s best games almost always come in games TEN is able to control and hand him the ball 25+ times. The matchup is neutral, but the volume expectation is large and he comes heavily discounted in just the 4th round of drafts right now. Shooting for upside and taking him across a Stroud stack is viable, as Henry has had many big games in HOU-TEN shootouts during the Watson days, but Stroud appears more doubtful than questionable at this point, leaning me to target him as more of a one-off.

    Jaylen Waddle vs NYJ:

    • Waddle has seen a usage bump this year in the games in which Achane has not played, especially because Mike McDaniel makes a concerted effort to engineer touches for his best players. Tyreek Hill is expected to play on a hurt ankle but will still likely see more primary attention from the Jets best coverage players. Waddle hit this defense for 8 receptions for 114 yards a couple of weeks ago and now gets the Jets defense traveling down to warmer Miami for a chance to burn them again. Waddle has fallen all the way to the end of drafts on a slate in which WR depth takes a major hit after the top-level guys, making him a guy I will look to add more of as the week progresses.

    Notable Stats

    These are some notable stats from rosters appearing in the top 5 of the contest so far this season.

    1st place performance:

    • 35 of the 50 teams had at least one flex player score 30+ half-PPR fantasy points
    • 21 of the 50 teams had all flex players score at least 20+ half-PPR fantasy points
    • 46 of the 50 teams had all flex players score at least 15+ half-PPR fantasy points

    Stacking and Correlation:

    • 29 of 50 had a QB paired with just one teammate
      • WR (22), TE (5), RB (2)
    • 7 of 50 had a QB stacked with two teammates
      • WR-RB (4), WR-WR (2), WR-TE (1)
    • 5 of those 36 QB stacks had a runback (Opposing player)
    • 49 of 50 had at least one game correlation
    • 15 of 50 had two different game correlations

    FLEX usage:

    • 164 of 250 top-5 rosters have had two RBs, meaning they chose RB at FLEX over WR and TE.
    • 85 of the other top 5 rosters all used WR at FLEX, meaning there’s only been one instance of double-TE to ever finish top-5 (2023 W7: Kelce/Andrews). 

    Hope this helps you get started with the contest and ship that first place! Good luck everyone!