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.
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Lex will be on.
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(Note: the podcast runs live, but it will be archived shortly after it finishes.)
And with that, let’s get to the Player Grid!
Wow! What a week.
As noted in the Angles Pod (listen to the first 15 or 20 minutes for a full exploration of what I’m talking about here, and how we can use this to our advantage), our standard advantage in DFS (i.e., beginning our rosters from a foundation of possessing a better sense than the field of who the top plays on the slate truly are) is largely missing this week. There are almost no plays this week that would make our list on a standard week; and as such, there are almost no plays that are appreciably better than others in such a way that we can “stack those high-certainty plays” while avoiding lesser chalk. This week, it’s all “lesser chalk,” and the plays below the chalk are not appreciably better (and, in many cases, are clearly worse :: leaving us with a setup where our pivots off “bad chalk” end up being plays that are even worse).
Again, as explored at the front end of the Angles Pod, this opens the door for us to treat this as more of a “straight strategy” week than as a week to try to outsmart the field with our NFL knowledge. This is a good week to let go of your NFL knowledge (to not try to “predict what will happen”), and to instead embrace some uncertainty on your way to intelligent rosters that take a different approach than the field. This is a good week to take what you’ve learned during your time on the site about the strategy behind DFS, and to put some of that into action.
To put all that another way ::
It’s a great week to build the sorts of rosters that might “cash less often,” but that would finish far higher in the standings when they do cash, thus making you far more money over time.
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There are no Blue Chip plays this week. As such, I’m bumping a Light Blue play up to Blue, and I’m moving a Bonus play up to Light Blue (and so on). It’s just that sort of week.
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
A-A-ron is taking on a Philly pass defense that has faced the third highest rush play rate in the league. Is Philly (who has finished bottom three in opponent rush play rate for nearly half a decade) now a run-funnel? Or have they played a relatively run-leaning schedule (Cleveland // Baltimore // San Fran // the Giants twice // late-season Seattle // Dallas without Dak or Dalton // the Rams // “Washington with a lead”), with only a couple of pass-heavy teams sprinkled in? Because of the low passing volume the Eagles have faced (not to mention the QBs they have faced), passing numbers against the Eagles don’t look all that great (in fact, Philly has allowed the third fewest passing touchdowns in the league). But Philly ranks 20th in DVOA against the pass, and Green Bay ranks third (Green Bay will also be only the second team in the top 11 that Philly has faced, with Seattle representing the other). Put it all together, and Rodgers (who has the most passing touchdowns in the NFL, with 33) looks primed to put a dent into those season-long numbers for the Eagles.
Because of the price tag on Davante and the fact that he can A) soak up enough production to hurt his fellow pass-catchers while B) not scoring enough to justify his salary and still C) allowing Rodgers to score enough to be the top quarterback on this ugly slate, I actually don’t mind running Rodgers out there naked this week (especially in single-entry and/or smaller-field tourneys). With that said, I also like Davante as a stacking partner (I’ll like him more if Darius Slay misses; Slay can’t hold Davante down, but he does lower the chances of a had-to-have-it score), and I like Allen Lazard to keep working into his old role as he recovers from his core muscle injury (he played fewer snaps than Equanimeous St. Brown this last week, but he has 10 targets since returning and ESB has three), making him an interesting, lower-owned stacking partner with upside (and with an elevated opportunity to hit if Adams has to do battle with Slay, as this could filter an extra couple targets Lazard’s way). Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the most volatile of the bunch, but the upside on his downfield role is very real as well, especially given the amount of man coverage Jim Schwartz is typically willing to play.
There are really no negatives on this play. The role is secure // a pass game role is locked in // the player is explosive // the matchup is not a drawback. Ekeler could easily “disappoint” with 14 or 15 DK points (10 or 11 FD points), but his chances of a true dud are low; and his ceiling can match any running back on this slate outside Dalvin and Henry. With healthy touch counts on the season of 20 // 20 // 23 // 25, and with 11 catches in two of his three games with Herbert, he has the lowest chance of a price-considered dud of any running back and a ceiling worth considering. He’s not a “priority” for me this week (this is such a strange, strategy-dominant week, in terms of what would make the most money over time on a slate like this, that I want to make sure I don’t prematurely lock myself into any particular type of roster construction), but regardless of how Ekeler works out in the small sample size of this weekend’s slate, I’ll be happy if I end up with him on my main build this week.
Only the Vikings have a higher Vegas-implied team total than the Titans. If I were mini-multi-entering this week, I would probably build four to eight rosters around this offense: betting on Tannehill plus a pass catcher on the majority of those rosters (A.J. Brown has been remarkably consistent this season, and while his raw upside isn’t enormous, a plain old high-end score has a ton of value this week || Corey Davis has hit for a solid to elite score three times, and Brown disappointed all three times, making Davis a really nice pivot off Brown (Brown isn’t likely to be “popular,” but he’ll be far more popular than Davis) || Firkser is a minimum-priced starter with a legitimate role (likely three to six targets) at a position where simply getting some points while not spending a lot of salary has plenty of value), and hedging with Derrick Henry on the others (while potentially going with the full three-man, Henry-included Titans stack on one or two). It’s not that I love the Titans so much this week so much as there isn’t a whole lot to love, and the Titans are one of the few teams that offers fairly guaranteed points. Even if the Titans don’t turn out to be the reason I win a tourney, they’re unlikely to be the reason I lose. That type of setup has value on a week like this, making this a team I’ll be keeping in mind for my single-entry build.
It’s strange how popular this one is likely to be. A team loses its number one receiver and takes on the number six pass defense (DVOA), on a slate in which 10 other teams have a higher Vegas-implied team total…and they project to be chalk. With all my talk about what a “strategy” week this one is, I almost feel forced to not play Texans pieces after laying things out like that. But the fact remains that there are signs that point to the Colts’ pass defense being not quite as stellar as the numbers indicate, and Watson is playing at an MVP level, and the Texans still have quality (underpriced, speedy) weapons in Cooks and Coutee. If I were mini-multi-entering, I would almost certainly still have some Texans. With single-entry, I may move off them simply from a strategy perspective (if we want to trust Vegas rather than trying to overstate what we know ourselves, it does stand out that 10 teams have a higher Vegas-implied total), but I like this group of players nevertheless. I’d prefer to play Coutee, Cooks, and Watson together than to just play one or two from that group. I also like the strategy angle of betting on David Johnson while the field bets on the passing attack (though I don’t actually expect Johnson to do well; you would simply be playing into the fact that any running back with his role eventually trips into a big game here and there, and a big game from him would hurt a large chunk of rosters that will be betting on the Texans’ pass).
If I’m not on the obvious plays, I want to look for a low-owned play that could go for 30. The Chargers have a bad run defense (which helps Cam), and there’s a chance this game (which is one of the few games on the slate that projects to be competitive) could turn out to be a bit higher-scoring than anticipated. Cam is in the mix as a guy who provides a different way to build with potential paths to slate-winning upside.
Flipping around this game: Herbert has been a DFS darling this year, and he’s going to go overlooked on one of the ugliest weekends of the season, against a Patriots pass defense that ranks 30th in DVOA. As explored in the writeup for this game, play volume expectations are not high for the Chargers; but just because Herbert is “less likely to hit” in this one doesn’t mean he can’t hit. He’s on the fringe of the mix for me this week.
The projected highest-owned running back plays this week are the best running back plays; however, they are lesser plays than “the best running back plays” on most weeks. In other words: the players at the top this week might not be at the top on other weeks. Because of this, there is a greater-than-normal chance that all of the top running back plays fail to break out of the 3x-salary range (DK), creating opportunity for lower-owned running backs to soar past the field. I’ll lay out five of the chalkier running backs I like, and two of the less-obvious running backs I like as potential pivots this week.
The touches should be there, and the matchup is excellent. He’s also David Montgomery, and his quarterback is Mitchell Trubisky. Montgomery is the definition of the type of play that wouldn’t draw nearly as much attention on a better week, which makes him a clear candidate for a player to strategically fade, with the thinking being: “If he hits this week, well, good for everyone who rostered him; but if he misses, he can miss hard enough to leave all these people wondering why they fell for David Montgomery chalk.” To say all that another way: Montgomery actually is one of the better plays on this slate. But he’s still David Montgomery, in the same role he’s had for nearly two months. The matchup is good this week, but from a strategy standpoint, I’ll likely aim to take down first place without Montgomery, recognizing that all the “bad weeks” he’s capable of in a spot like this can potentially give me a nice leg up on the field.
Dalvin could actually be another running back I’ll be looking for ways to not play this week (I say “looking for ways to not play” because high-salaried players aren’t as locked-in for production this week as they are in most others, which could randomly leave me with enough salary left over that it only makes sense to consider taking the safety and upside of Dalvin), and this is purely because A) I’m looking for strategy angles on a slate like this, and B) I don’t think Dalvin is healthy. If you watched that game last week, you were surprised he came back; and after he came back, he was hardly involved. If I’m paying sticker price for a Ferrari, I’d rather know for sure that the suspension is properly aligned. In other words: at his price tag, it will be difficult for him to post a score that would put the slate out of reach (on DK, he needs at least 35 to justify the price tag, and he’d need a good 42+ to truly put the slate out of reach), and it’s quite a bit more likely that he scores 24 or fewer points than that he’ll score 35+ (this not like $10k CMC last year, when he almost never fell below 30 and was a frequent visitor of 35+; Dalvin has two games in his career above 33 DraftKings points, and he as five games this season of fewer than 22 points). The spot is great, but the price tag is one I don’t mind avoiding on a week in which strategy is more important to me than trying to figure out which of these “perfectly fine” plays are marginally better than the others.
I wouldn’t mind finding Robinson on my roster this week, though it would have to be a roster that does a few other things differently than the field, as Robinson will be relatively popular once again. The touches are incredible (25+ in four of five; 19 in the other), with the only concern being the Jags’ ability to complete enough drives in the end zone for Robinson to find his way onto a tourney-winning roster. To be fair, this was my same concern last week, and Robinson managed to post his third elite score of the year. Robinson’s floor is as high as Ekeler’s. His ceiling is as high as Ekeler’s. His chances of reaching that ceiling are a little bit lower, but he’s certainly on the borderline of the Light Blue Chip range.
Booker should see 20+ touches, in the same role that has led to nine games of double-digit points (DK) in 10 healthy tries for Josh Jacobs. Of course, this role has also yielded A) seven healthy games of under 16 fantasy points, and B) two games of 30+. With the true upside for this role heavily dependent on touchdowns, Booker has a broad range as a chalky piece. If he fails to score, rosters without him are probably gaining some points. If he scores twice (which seems almost more likely than a one-score game, given the way Jacobs’ scoring has tracked throughout his career, with 16 career touchdowns…and with 13 of them coming in only six games), he’ll be one of the more important pieces on this fairly ugly slate. And anything in between makes him something of a wash. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell us what will happen. Booker is a 20-touch running back who should see a few targets and is playing for a large favorite against a fairly solid run defense. The Raiders should score touchdowns, and the separator on this play will be whether those touchdowns go through Booker or someone else. (We can’t even gain leverage by “betting on where those touchdowns might come from if it’s not Booker,” as the Raiders spread their touchdowns around.) This play is basically as simple as picking which side you want to be on: “Booker scores twice” or “Booker doesn’t score.” (Again: anything in-between is likely a wash.) If building multiple rosters, I’d likely take some with Booker and leave him off of others (likely at a 1:5 ratio, as that’s about the ratio of games in which I’d expect him to score twice in this role vs games when he wouldn’t score at all). If playing single-entry this week (which I expect to do), I’ll likely allow the rest of my roster to dictate whether I’m taking Booker or not.
Carson has clear 100-yard, two-touchdown upside, but he’s also likelier-than-not to be capped at around 20 touches, as the Seahawks have been unwilling to fully lean on him this year. I expect him to be around 10% owned, which is about right for this play. I like Carson, but am also cognizant of the fact that the Seahawks like to throw the ball close to the goal line even if they are running more often between the 20s, and Carson is no sure thing. He’s a player I won’t feel scared to fade, but who I also like enough to potentially end up with him myself.
Leverage off similarly-priced running backs in Montgomery and Booker. Leverage off a higher-owned Nyheim Hines // Michael Pittman. Also creates an interesting, unique pairing with Houston pass game pieces. The lead back on the Colts has gone for 95+ yards in four of five games. The Colts leaned on Wilkins vs Detroit and Taylor vs Green Bay; Houston is a similar setup (highly attackable run defense that can be attacked with a classic between-the-tackles back). The Colts will ride the hot hand, but Taylor is likeliest to be given the first crack at things, and he would provide a lot of valuable angles if he hits.
Gaskin won’t go low-owned, but he’ll likely go lower-owned than Booker and Montgomery if he returns, and he’s the better player, with a role similar to Montgomery’s and better than Booker’s. If Gaskin is active, a Gaskin // Taylor pairing would be unique in this price range, and would open the doors for a very different roster construction than the field (where most people will be looking to pay up at one running back spot).
If Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting
In seven of his nine games without Preston Williams and with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Parker has seen 10 or more targets. That’s extraordinary volume for a player in a good matchup at his price tag. He has a better shot at a big game than players priced around him. If Gaskin misses and puts the Dolphins in a pass-dominant setup again, Parker will go from “having a better shot at a big game than the players priced around him” to “one of the more underpriced plays on the slate for expected role and volume.” I’m not “locking him in,” but if Fitz is starting and Gaskin is out, I’ll almost certainly end up with him this week.
As noted in the Angles Pod: Mims basically has Kenny Golladay’s role (seven to eight targets per game, roughly 15 to 16 yards downfield on average), but without Golladay’s quarterback. The quarterback situation certainly lowers the fair price on Mims, but not quite all the way down to where the price sits at present. Crowder has three touchdowns on the year. Perriman has three touchdowns on the year. Mims has none. Once a couple of those scores hit, his price and ownership will go up, even though nothing will have changed. I don’t mind trying to get him here, in time for the touchdowns to arrive. (Perriman is also in play, albeit with targets that have been less consistent.)
He’s really the only guy Taysom wants to throw to, and the Saints are likelier to have to throw this week than they were last week vs the quarterback-less Broncos. Thomas saw 12 targets in this matchup two weeks ago, and Taysom threw only 23 times. If this game tilts in such a way that Taysom is throwing 30, Thomas could be one of those plays that leaves people wondering how they didn’t see it coming. Two weeks ago: 9-104-0. He could easily land lower than that; but he could also land higher.
On a week like this (a week in which there is little to love from a certainty perspective), one thing I want to do is look for the players who have the ability to put the slate out of reach. DK doesn’t “project as a top play” this week; but he is the type of player who can score 40 points out of nowhere, leaving all other rosters behind. DK would be a better play if A) this game projected to be competitive, and B) he weren’t set to face off with James Bradberry. But those erosions to his floor don’t affect his raw ceiling. DK will float around the fringes of my list this week.
With everyone betting on the Vikings on the other side of this game, Chark will go overlooked. We should expect the Jags to be passing as this game moves along. We know that Chark can disappoint at a roster-cratering level; but we also know he can put slates out of reach. Against a Vikings team that’s been hit for the fifth most pass plays of 20+ yards, he has a chance in this one.
At a position where every player is technically overpriced, compared to what that salary will buy you elsewhere on your roster, there is a lot of merit to the idea of just locking in Anthony Firkser at min-price. He’ll be very chalky, and he could easily end up with just five to seven points; but when everything else is a guessing game as well, it’s not difficult to justify siding with the cheap chalk and then moving onto other spots. However, if you’re wanting to do something different, here are a few other tight ends I wouldn’t mind this week ::
(He plays off of Firkser ownership somewhat, as a lower passing volume game for the Titans would likely mean higher passing volume for the Browns. This would hurt Firkser and help Hooper. That’s really the only reason Hooper is on my list.)
The Bears have allowed the sixth most yards and the fourth most touchdowns to tight ends. Golladay is out. Hockenson should see six to eight looks, with slim upside for more.
The role provides upside. And while he’ll have to deal with some Jamal Adams coverage, there should be enough soft looks against the Giants for Engram to rack up some production.
Seattle’s pass rush has been beastly since Carlos Dunlap was added (note: he’s questionable this week, so keep an eye on that), and the Giants are starting Colt McCoy. It’s a good spot for the Seattle defense.
This is a strategy play. Detroit has been very mediocre; but Trubisky is coming off a game in which he threw two picks and fumbled three times…and now he’s expected to be somewhat chalky. If Trubisky makes enough of his typical mistakes here, this could create nice leverage on the field.
Carson Wentz has been incredibly mistake-prone this season.
Pretty much any defense that’s facing a mediocre or bad quarterback this week and/or is projected to win by a decent amount and/or is cheap and expected to be low-owned can be considered this week. Seattle stands out the most, but they’ll also be higher-owned than they would be on a typical week, as they wouldn’t be a standout play most weeks. As such, there’s a higher-than-normal chance that the field ends up holding a modest DST score, which increases the value of finding a low-owned Elite Score.
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:
Aaron Rodgers || Ryan Tannehill || Deshaun Watson || (Cam // Herbert)
Austin Ekeler || James Robinson || Devontae Booker || Chris Carson || Jonathan Taylor || Myles Gaskin
Texans || Titans || Packers || Parker || Mims || Michael Thomas || DK
Firkser || Hockenson || Hooper
Seattle || Detroit || Green Bay || (etc.)
Remember to check out the Run To Daylight Pod to hang out with Tod, Hilow, and Lex from 8 PM to 9 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!