This is, instead, a look at the player pool I’ll be fishing.
:: 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”; also, it is highly recommended that you join in our “Bottom-Up Build Challenge” on Twitter // DraftKings! — first prize is 200 Edge Points!!!)
:: these are my “Tier 1” plays: the plays I feel confident leaning into across different types of builds; players who have a high ceiling and a low likelihood of price-considered failure
:: these are games, offenses, situations, or scenarios I’ll be looking to build around across my rosters
:: these are 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; essentially, these are the leftover “Tier 2 // Tier 3” guys from the old Player Grid verbiage; ones who don’t otherwise fit into the Bottom-up Build or a “build-around” spot
Run To Daylight (hosted by TodFromPA || presented by OWS!) will be live at 8 PM Eastern.
Hilow will be on.
Lex will be on.
I’ll be on.
Let’s have some fun!
(Note: the podcast runs live, but it will be archived shortly after it finishes.)
And with that, let’s get to the Player Grid!
I didn’t list Aaron Jones when the Player Grid was first posted, but he has started making his way into some of my builds. He’s not sneaky, obviously (he’s likely to be the second highest-owned running back behind only Mike Davis), but he’s also a sharp play.
To go deeper there: as explored in this week’s Packers writeup (and as you likely know already yourself), the field tends to overstate the case for Jones when Adams is on the field. Sure, Jones can hit for a strong game; but elite games (“have to have it” games) have not been in his normal range of outcomes with Adams healthy. But the deeper I get into this week, the fewer clear opportunities I’m seeing to target elite scores. So basically: if there are spots that have a better shot than the field assumes of turning truly elite, I want to focus on those and avoid the merely adequate (or even the “merely rock-solid”) plays. But on a week like this one — where the “merely rock-solid” may be top-of-slate stuff in a few spots — I’m more willing to go to guys like Keenan Allen and Aaron Jones, who I would normally let the field chase after (guys who are “rock-solid, but can rarely be expected to truly break the slate”). Again: just another unique element to this particular week.
I’ve circled around a few different ways of trying to pin down what it is about this week that I, personally, don’t love (i.e., that doesn’t fit best for my style of play). I’ve talked through this in both the Grid and the Angles Pod, but here’s a cliff-notes version:
One of my edges in DFS is that I’m able to identify “certainty” more clearly than most of my competition can. As such — more weeks than not — I can start my rosters with a sharper foundation than the field will have, which gives me the same upside the field carries, but with fewer things I need to get “right” in order to have a shot at first place (or, that is to say: fewer things that truly have to “break my way,” as a lot of my starting points — often with low ownership already baked into some of those spots — are already stacked in my favor).
It’s not that this week doesn’t set up well for our collective style of play (avoiding poor, point-chasey plays // fading the bulk of the industry noise // thinking about first place when we build // targeting elite scores // giving ourselves fewer things we need to get right // leveraging the mistakes of the field // building our rosters more intelligently than the field is building theirs). It’s simply that my “starting point” — my foundation from which I typically launch — is missing this week.
To put all that another way: In the same way we say a difficult matchup in football lowers floor, but doesn’t necessarily lower ceiling, a week like this lowers my personal floor (simply due to the way I’ve developed my style of play over the years in order to fit my own strengths), but the ceiling remains.
One of the reasons I like to narrow things down to “14 to 19 rosters” most weeks is because I can layer in my “foundation” across these builds with various mixes and matches (or with various sets of “certainty” anchoring various rosters), which creates a very natural build process: typically one or two Blue Chip or Light Blue pieces || one or two (or even three) build-arounds || then close off the roster with an upside piece or two, or with whatever value play I like that works with the roster and helps hold everything together. That’s not EXACTLY what every week looks like, but that’s a good description of my “roster center,” so to speak.
In the past on weeks like this (which, again, doesn’t play to MY greatest strengths as a DFS player — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t play to YOURS), I’ve tried to simulate my typical approach; but because the very nature of a week like this means that my typical approach is far less likely to be the optimal approach, I often emerge from weekends like this one feeling a bit upset (and more often than not, a bit disappointed in my own play).
This week, I’m countering that by approaching things from a totally different angle.
On a typical week, I get about $10k in play — and if I’m building a Roster Block that consists of 19 rosters, nearly $8k gets taken up with just my basic entries on those 19 builds (the Wildcat // the Slant // the Milly // the Dash — which is $402 per roster). The rest then gets taken up with isolated rosters from that group that I want to jam into single-entries and 3-max, or it gets taken up with remaining “large-field” rosters I’ve built throughout the week, which go into the Slant // Milly // Dash ($69 per roster, rather than $402).
This week, I still plan to get about $10k in play…but rather than spending time trying to narrow things down to 19 builds (which my strengths don’t align as well with this week), I’m focusing on simply “building as many +EV rosters as I can build.” In other words: “If we played out this slate 100 times, would this roster be profitable? Okay. Lock it in.” And so on. When I build in this way, some rosters take me two or three minutes to build; some take me 20 or 30 (or even longer). I have about 35 rosters built so far, and I could end up with as many as 75 or as few as 45 or 50. I’ll then fill out my typical buy-in by putting these builds in action (avoiding the Wildcat this week, and instead spreading my investment over a larger pool of rosters). This eliminates the pressure I would otherwise feel to chop down my pool to “the best pool for this week,” and allows me to instead assess each individual roster on its own merits. In other words: instead of a “block of 19 rosters that work as a cohesive unit to try to get one roster to first place,” it will be “45+ rosters that are each +EV on their own, and that have overlap from one to another, but that are ultimately individual units.”
That’s my pivot this week, in order to account for what this slate is throwing at me.
Let’s get to it!
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
I’m dropping the Angles Pod right here, as the first 30 minutes (in particular) of this week’s pod are a direct complement to this week’s Player Grid. This is a unique week for me, as this slate doesn’t line up great for my typical approach. This is going to have me cutting my typical buy-in down by about 30% (I’ll likely roll with 14 rosters instead of my standard 19), and more importantly: it’s going to have me embracing a bit more uncertainty than normal. This is because I feel that the “top pieces” (which will also be the highest-owned pieces) carry more uncertainty than in a normal week…but unlike some glorious weeks when the chalkiest pieces carry more uncertainty than normal and the ancillary games carry more certainty than the field realizes, even the ancillary games this week are full of uncertainty. In order to maneuver around the field, I’ll therefore take on even more uncertainty than the field will (unknowingly) be taking on :: turning this into more of a pure strategy slate for me than a “build more intelligently than the field around the certainty I’m uncovering” type of setup.
There is a “type of DFS player” for whom this is a dream week (a player like CubsFan, for example, loves to play the plays others aren’t on; he doesn’t mind massive amounts of uncertainty; and with the field likely to cling to chalk in spite of the lower-than-normal certainty available on that chalk, his edge on a week like this is increased). But while I’ve certainly had winning weekends myself on weeks like this, this is not a week that plays to the strengths of my style.
Again: I’ll be adapting by chopping down on buy-ins slightly and leaning more into “strategy” than into “research.”
With that: here are the spots I’m looking to fish from this week.
The first 30 minutes come highly recommended if you’re wanting to understand the way I’m seeing this slate.
The “reader perception” of Blue Chip pieces is sometimes, “These must be the pieces JM is most heavily prioritizing.” As such, I want to make it clear in this space that I’m not necessarily “heavily prioritizing” Kyler this week; but on a slate full of uncertainty (Rodgers is dealing with blowout concerns and wind // Watson is dealing with wind // Herbert doesn’t have the best matchup // the expected game environments for Josh Allen and Russell Wilson create clear paths to top scores, but the matchup for each guy also creates potential for a below-expectations score at their price tags // Lock has potential to top the point-per-dollar pile again, but he’s cheap for a reason // etc.), Kyler is the QB who pairs the highest floor with one of the highest ceilings. It won’t (remotely) be a “shock” if someone else is the highest-scoring QB on the slate; but Kyler has as good a shot at the top mark as any other QB, and a “bad game” from Kyler (in most outcomes) is going to be better than a “bad game” from any other QB on the weekend. I like the idea of playing Kyler naked in this one. I also like the idea of bringing back Kyler with a pass game piece from the Bills for a unique, high-upside stack. (Shoutout to Matthew Petrich’s Collective for that one!)
Note :: Drake is expected to play, but Friday reports have him testing things out on Sunday before getting the green light. If Drake misses, Edmonds will be a borderline Blue Chip piece for me this week.
With wind concerns in Green Bay and Cleveland, this stack has been climbing the ranks for me. At their Week 10 salaries on DK, Herbert + Keenan need 54.8 points to reach 4x and keep you on a 200-point pace. Their last three games have gone for combined totals of 66.98 // 44.92 // 54.74. The Over/Under in this game is currently sitting at “only” 48.5, but the last five Chargers games have gone for 69 // 57 // 68 // 61 // 57, and the strengths of the Dolphins’ defense don’t overlap with the strengths of the Chargers’ offense.
Bring-back pieces :: Jakeem Grant // DeVante Parker
:: Adding Grant makes this stack significantly cheaper on a per-player basis, and he’s a strong bet for five to eight targets (with the higher end of that range likelier if Herbert/Keenan are posting a slate-winning score). Parker doesn’t line up quite as well against a Chargers defense that takes away what he does best (downfield work), but he’s an alpha who could see seven to 10 looks if everything goes right.
“Rodgers + healthy Adams” have played five games together this year. One of those games came against the Bucs. In three of the other four, they have gone for roughly 4x+ their combined Week 10 salaries on DK. To put that another way: even at the gaudy level at which these two are priced, they’ve kept you on a tourney-winning pace three times in five tries (while only hurting you once: vs the Bucs). Pay attention to weather reports on this one (RG’s Kevin Roth will have you covered on Twitter; also, with “wind” the major factor to think about, Hilow is probably even better-equipped than Roth to drop the knowledge you’ll need, as his military aviation background gives him an ace handle on how wind will affect things on the ground in a spot like this). If the weather clears, game environment is the only concern, and these two would become more Blue Chip than Light Blue. Even if weather holds, however, it’s likely that these two do enough to help your rosters this week.
Bring-back pieces :: James Robinson // “Jax Pass Catcher”
:: Robinson needs this game to remain relatively close; but if it does, he has slate-breaking upside in this matchup, and the Jags will surely try to ride him. “Jax pass catcher” can be Chark, but all the talk this week has been how “Luton went out of his way to get Chark involved and clearly has no chemistry with Keelan Cole.” Okay. Maybe. Or maybe it was one game. Keelan Cole and Laviska fill-in Chris Conley (who should see the high-percentage short-area looks Laviska was soaking up…which makes ceiling more difficult to come by, but should boost floor) are also in the mix. Jaire Alexander is set to miss this one for the Packers, which boosts the matchup for Chark; but one of these other two is likely to see seven or more targets as well, and it won’t be a surprise if both reach that range.
A year ago, Michael Thomas found himself priced at or above “Week 10 Davante Adams” week in and week out…and he regularly drew the highest ownership on the slate in spite of this price tag. This spot is overwhelmingly reminiscent of Christian McCaffrey last week: cheaper than he would have been at any mid-season point in 2019, with the field likely to play things safe by “waiting to see it” before jumping on this spot themselves. As with CMC last week: there’s no guarantee that MT posts a score reminiscent of his glorious 2019 season…but “Mike at low ownership and a bit of uncertainty” is even better than “Mike at high ownership and no uncertainty.” As noted by Lex in his Matchups writeup for this game :: Mike would not be the first elite wide receiver to hit the beat-up 49ers for a big game. Here’s a list of what some other elite alphas have done:
Hopkins :: 14:151 // Metcalf :: 12:161:2 // Adams :: 10:173:1
Bring-back piece :: Brandon Aiyuk
:: Richie James could also be considered here; but the established role and “ball in hands” upside of Aiyuk makes him the player I’m isolating as a bring-back in this spot (though if I end up with enough MT + Aiyuk, I could see myself shifting to a bit of MT + Richie as a hedge).
Let’s have fun with numbers.
Here are some aDOT + recent target counts for some of the more elite/expensive receivers on the slate:
9.9 aDOT :: 10 // 16 // 11 // 12 (49 total targets)
8.7 aDOT :: 7 // 8 // 12 // 3 (30 total targets)
8.2 aDOT :: 11 // 13 // 12 // 11 (47 total targets)
8.3 aDOT :: 15 // 12 // 17 // 9 (53 total targets)
8.5 aDOT :: 10 // 13 // 15 // 10 (48 total targets)
The first player is Davante Adams (target counts in his last four healthy games).
The second player is DeAndre Hopkins (target counts in his last four games).
The third player is Keenan Allen (target counts in his last four healthy games).
The fourth player is Michael Thomas (target counts in his last four games of 2019; 2019 aDOT)
The fifth player is Diontae Johnson (target counts in his last four healthy games).
The game environment doesn’t pop, as the Steelers should control this one; but the matchup is soft, and Diontae still likely reaches double-digit looks in this one (or at least gets close). Claypool and JuJu are also in the mix, and even Ebron can be considered. If I end up with enough Diontae, I may even embrace some uncertainty in this one by bringing back a few “Bengals Pass Catcher” rosters as well (either Tee or Boyd).
At the front of the week, I expected Miles Sanders to be the most popular running back on the slate; but the absence of Christian McCaffrey and David Johnson seems to be pulling everyone to the cheaper backs, leaving Miles (in the same “coming back from injury/absence” situation as CMC last week and Michael Thomas this week) somehow completely overlooked. In his last eight healthy games, he has opportunity totals (starting with the most recent) of 15 // 17 // 26 // 27 // 26 // 25 // 20 // 22. The fact that I figured he’d be the most popular RB play speaks volumes about his “opportunity + price” blend. In this offense, he’s not quite Blue Chip; but there’s certainly plenty to like from a usage + ceiling perspective.
As explored in the writeup for this game, there are more caution flags in this one than we had in Lock’s setup last week against Atlanta; but with this entire slate essentially falling under that same label, the aggressive, speedy, high-upside, high-risk passing attack of the Broncos makes the cut once again. I won’t be building around this spot heavily; but same as last week, I’ll likely go out of my way to make sure I have some exposure to “Lock + a pass catcher” (or two). (As noted in the Edge writeup for this game: the Raiders heavily filter targets away from wide receivers on the whole; and because of Lock’s accuracy issues, Broncos wide receivers often need volume in order to hit. As such, Fant is the sharpest stacking partner in this one (though obviously, Jeudy // Patrick // Hamler all have paths to hitting as well).)
Bring-backs on Lock-led stacks are headlined by Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. The “research” doesn’t point to either; but Jacobs is a home favorite running back with multi-touchdown upside (albeit with as many as four starting linemen missing in front of him this week), and Waller is going to see heavy volume in almost every spot, making him viable here.
It’s no secret how bad the Seattle pass defense has been. It’s no secret that the Seattle offense has helped to stimulate explosive game environments by being aggressive (and aggressively pass-heavy) themselves. Of course…it’s also no secret that the Rams have been as good as any team in the NFL this year at limiting big plays and limiting passing touchdowns, and that their offense has aimed to win by keeping the ball on the ground. There is a higher-than-the-field-will-assume chance that Jared Goff throws 35 or fewer passes (and that a lot of these passes remain short-area focused). But there is also a chance the Rams open up in this one; and while I’ll probably end up underweight the field’s exposure, I’ll almost certainly have some level of exposure myself. As explored in the Angles Pod this week, Josh Reynolds may actually be my starting point here (Reynolds is sort of the “canary” in the coal mine of this game: if the game is going off, he’s likely hitting, as “this game going off” will mean the Rams are throwing more often and attacking downfield more aggressively, which would boost Reynolds; and if Reynolds is missing, it likely means this game environment is missing, allowing you to take that hit with a low-cost guy instead of a high-cost guy), but I expect to also have some Woods and Kupp; and if I go deep enough here, I could end up with some Goff (and even some “dart throws on tight end upside”) as well.
Hilow put together a tremendous exploration of this game. It’s likely we see Brady putting up points in this one; and while the Bucs spread the ball around enough that you could get by playing Brady naked (in fact, I like this call quite a bit in smaller-field contests), there is also potential for “Brady + the right pass catcher” to create an explosive score that nearly no one will have in large-field play. You have to completely guess on this one; but AB > Godwin > Evans > Gronk is the order in which I would rank these guys…and the idea of Brady once again trying to get things going deep with AB is tantalizing enough that I could end up on one or two “Brady + AB” stacks myself.
As always when we’re dealing with a key game on a slate, it’s recommended that you hit the NFL Edge writeup for this one. If I’m isolating individual Bills pieces, John Brown is the guy I’m going to (and I may not end up with much “isolated” exposure to this offense outside of Brown). But Josh Allen naked is very much in the mix for me here, and if I end up going big enough on this game, I’ll certainly end up with some “Allen + pass catcher” stacks.
The Eagles are not remotely an offense that the research points to…and yet, on a strange week like this one, the Eagles are an offense I’m keeping in mind.
With how inconsistent the Eagles’ offense has been, I’ll likely approach this game uniquely: playing Wentz without pass catchers where I play him (Wentz’ value this year has largely come from his regular end zone visits on the ground), and playing pass catchers without Wentz where I play them. But Wentz certainly has an outside shot at the top QB score on the slate, and he has a “less outside” shot at the top point-per-dollar score // Dallas Goedert has clear paths to posting the top tight end score on the slate // and Jalen Reagor is going to be completely overlooked as a guy who could catch only three or four passes…but who also has legitimate potential to go for 100+ yards on only three or four receptions.
Bring-back piece :: Evan Engram
If not for the weather concerns, this would be a Blue Chip spot for me, and would be my highest-owned stack on the slate. I would have Watson + Cooks // Watson + Fuller // Watson + Cooks + Fuller, and potentially a few other combos (including potential for Watson + Duke stacks). But with the weather potentially laying waste to our well-laid plans, I could end up being a bit more cautious in this spot. As explored in the Edge writeup for this game, the setup is excellent. The only drawback is the fact that the Over/Under in this game has plunged nearly 10 points already (with room for it to fall further).
Bring-back pieces :: Nick Chubb // Austin Hooper
Note :: Chubb is expected to play. But if Chubb misses, Hunt will be a borderline Light Blue Chip for me this week.
Not much more needs to be said about Mike Davis at this point. We know from the NFL Edge writeup for this game and from the Angles Pod both the good and bad on this play. Mike could be as high as 50% owned in the Milly, and as high as 70% to 80% owned in cash games and higher-dollar and/or single-entry tourneys. The matchup is atrocious, but the role is excellent. He’s unlikely to break the slate…but he’s cheap enough that he doesn’t have to. It will be hard for him to “fail,” and he has a strong shot at posting one of the better salary multipliers this weekend.
Detroit // Washington was one of the first games I contributed to in the NFL Edge, and I expected to have little interest on the Washington side of the ball. But after wrapping all research for the slate, I started coming around on this one a bit more. If Detroit controls this game, Gibson could be in trouble; but the Lions aren’t such a better team than Washington that “Detroit controlling this game” is a foregone conclusion. And if the Football Team is able to keep this one close (and especially if they’re able to play this one from in front!), Gibson has a tremendous matchup and has potential to post one of the better running back scores on the slate. Gibson is the guy Washington leans on inside the 10, and the Lions have allowed the most running back touchdowns in the league this year. Game flow can obviously work against Gibson (which is the risk that will drive ownership away). But if game flow works in his favor, he carries potential to break open the slate at near-zero ownership.
With Golladay out, Hockenson’s targets are even more locked-in. Washington has been attackable with tight ends. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.
Dallas Goedert || Evan Engram || Noah Fant || Austin Hooper || Eric Ebron
Solid defense against a turnover-prone and sack-prone offense in the Eagles.
Solid defense against a turnover-prone and sack-prone offense in the Giants.
Jake Luton looked good against Houston. Let’s see how he looks at Lambeau, with weather. He had a number of throws last week that could easily have been picked. The Packers play heavy zone coverage, and those “throws that could easily have been picked” could easily turn into a pick-six in a spot like this.
The Steelers’ pass rush against the Bengals’ offensive line is a mega mismatch. DST is volatile; but the floor on this play is relatively high, and the upside is obviously in place.
New Orleans is one of the more inconsistent defenses in the NFL; but Nick Mullens can be had for sacks and turnovers, and if the Saints jump out to a lead, “aggressive Nick Mullens” is even likelier to make some defense-benefitting mistakes.
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:
Kyler || Herbert || Watson || Rodgers || (Lock?) || (Tommy?)
Miles || Mike Davis || Duke || (Robinson) || (Gibson?)
Davante (+ Jags?) || Keenan (+ Dolphins?) || Michael Thomas (+ Aiyuk?) || Diontae || Cooks || Rams || (John Brown)
Goedert || Engram || Hockenson || Fant
NYG || PHI || GB || PIT || NO
Remember to check out the Run To Daylight Pod to hang out with Tod, Hilow, Lex, and me from 8 PM to 10 PM Eastern.
And remember to check back on the Player Grid on Sunday morning. (Probably eight or nine weeks out of the season, we add late-Saturday-night/early-Sunday-morning notes to the top!)
I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend!