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.
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!
Great family of One Week Season!!!
Every week, when I begin the Player Grid, I make it my goal to “double up” on less information than has become normal. What I mean by this :: The information on the players in the Player Grid is all laid out in the NFL Edge, and much of it is talked about again in the Angles Podcast. Some of you, of course, use other tools on the site throughout the week and then hop into the Player Grid without visiting the Edge or the Angles Pod; but for the rest of you, you end up reading/hearing the same things on these players multiple times, and I end up typing these things multiple times. (Like: what the heck?) In fact, I was talking to Abby yesterday about my time running RotoGrinders Premium, and about one content provider who said to me during MLB season, “There are only so many times I can write up the same things on the same players.”
And yet, every week I end up failing in this regard — typing up many of the same thoughts and numbers that were already covered on the site throughout the week.
I’m putting together the Player Grid on Friday afternoon this week, and once I finish (and record the Angles Pod), I’ll be turning the page to “Christmas.” Tonight, our family of three (three and a half? — Abby is eight months pregnant, so I’m not sure what that makes our head count) is heading out to look at Christmas lights. On Saturday, we are celebrating our “Christmas Eve.” And on Sunday, we are celebrating our “Christmas” (before I dive back into work on Monday!). As such, time is tighter on the back end of this week — which provides a good opportunity for me to try to pull off what I try to pull off every week.
This week, in order to nudge myself in this direction, I’ll be A) using a few more bullet points and B) pulling a few more items directly from the NFL Edge into the Player Grid (funny: I actually did this plenty last year; for some reason, I’ve gotten away from it this year).
With that :: let’s dive in —
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
As we get this deep into the season, pricing becomes tight enough that there are rarely any true Blue Chip plays (i.e., the plays with a high raw floor and ceiling have been priced up enough at this point that they can’t be considered True Blue, as a floor game at their price tags will kill a roster almost as much as a disappointing game would). As such, we’ll be honest about what this week provides :: kicking things off at the Light Blue level.
Myles Gaskin has recent touch counts of 21 // 22 // 21 // 23. Ahmed has recent touch counts of 22 and 17 in games Gaskin missed. The Patriots rank 28th in DVOA against the run and face the highest rush play rate in the NFL on early downs with the score within seven points. Ahmed is cheap; and frankly, with little known on his status throughout the week, he’s likely to also be lower-owned than he should be. If you’re looking for high floor and ceiling from a low-cost running back, Ahmed fits the bill. Keep an eye on news, as he is not yet officially a “Go.” But if he gets the green light, he’s a great way to grab touches in a good spot this week.
In his last five games, Aiyuk has target counts (starting from Week 7) of 7 // 10 // 14 // 9 // 16. With an aDOT of 9.7 and an average yards after catch per reception of 5.3, his floor is locked in and his ceiling is respectable. It never feels great to bet on an erratic backup quarterback for your wide receiver production, but this is a “bet on Shanahan and bet on Aiyuk’s speed and talent” type of play (and it’s a play I like plenty).
Also from that writeup ::
…the Cowboys have less of a “talent” problem on defense than a “scheme and play” problem. This defense is regularly out of position, with players on this defense regularly filling the wrong assignment. Shanahan’s offense is so powerful because of the way he’s able to manipulate and confuse a defense. Add these elements together, and there is a realistic chance the 49ers post some big plays in this one.
I wrote this second part in regards to the San Francisco backfield being a sneaky spot with a low floor (based on the spread-out nature of touches in this backfield), but with a high ceiling (Mostert is now expected to play this week, so he’s the guy you would want to target if going there; it’s an interesting, high-upside bet in large-field tourney play), but this also applies to Aiyuk. The floor has been locked in, and the paths to ceiling are there.
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This should still be enough space for Mahomes to fire off 38+ pass attempts (likely 40+ pass attempts), with this offense running their typical approach of :: “strain the defense horizontally and vertically at all times // design plays around Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce first and foremost // spread the ball around unpredictably from there.” Hill has seven or fewer targets in two of his last seven games; but he has double-digit targets in the other five, including three games of 14+. Kelce has double-digit targets in five of his last six games (with eight looks in the other game in this stretch). Across the Chiefs’ last four games, all other non-running-back pass catchers have been left with an average of 13 targets per game to split among all of them. This is the Hill and Kelce show at the moment, and the Chiefs will be trying to break through with this approach once again.
Ownership on all of Mahomes // Kelce // Hill is likely to be quite a bit higher than it should be in this matchup, at these price tags; but that statement (“quite a bit higher than it should be”) refers to the scoring range for these players. If these guys hit their ceiling, no one who rosters them will care what they paid, as these guys can outscore anyone on the slate at their respective positions. There is a strong strategy case to be made on any given roster for either A) avoiding this spot altogether, or B) going heavier on this spot than others will (i.e., building a mega-Chiefs stack with all three guys, or bringing back a Chiefs stack with a piece from the Saints), but purely in terms of raw ceiling, it’s tough to top what the Chiefs can do.
I don’t LOVE this one…but I like it enough to keep toying around with it in my mind.
Target counts for the Buccaneers since Antonio Brown’s arrival ::
AB :: 5 // 8 // 13 // 3 // 5
Evans :: 6 // 11 // 9 // 9 // 5
Godwin :: 6 // 6 // 10 // 9 // 3
Gronk :: 6 // 3 // 6 // 7 // 2
During the first four games listed, Brady had pass attempt totals of 38 // 39 // 48 // 41 — which is closer to what we should expect in this one than the 23 attempts he had last week, giving us a good sense of how targets are likeliest to be distributed for this squad, with Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans all very much in the “six to 10 target” range, and with Rob Gronkowski likelier to end up around five or six or seven. This is enough to make all of these guys tourney-viable, without any of them standing out. One way to consider targeting exposure here is through Brady naked (understanding that he can hit for an elite score without bringing any of his pass catchers with him). With that said, pairing Brady with one of these four creates the best overall shot at landing a first-place finish (albeit with more that you “need to break your way” than we would typically prefer to take on at the associated price tags). All of these guys are in the mix; none of them truly pop. Atlanta is best attacked in the short areas of the field (where AB gets the most work) and downfield on the perimeter (where Evans theoretically does most of his damage), if you want to try to isolate one play as “the best of the bunch” — though realistically, this is a “bet on offense” spot, and any of these guys could end up on top.
Watson is viable for tournaments, and is especially interesting in a stack with one (or two) of his receivers in large-field play. (This setup can be played with or without pieces from the Colts — though if these guys do hit, the Colts are almost certainly keeping pace, which almost certainly means someone from the Colts will be hitting as well. In order to tell the whole story with a Watson roster, you’d optimally bring it back with an Indy piece.) But even beyond this avenue for potentially climbing over the groupthink of the field, these pass catchers are cheap enough that they can be used as iffy-floor, high-upside pieces in a tough matchup for the fact that Watson is their quarterback.
This is a Tributary play (I recommend reading this game writeup for the full picture on this one). But if this Tributary hits, it will be massively valuable. Brandin Cooks now appears set to play, making Cooks and Coutee interesting in Watson-led rosters.
If Stafford plays, on the other hand, all of Stafford // Jones // Hockenson become strong raw-projected plays — and given the expected uncertainty surrounding Stafford’s status (again: it’s likely we see the Lions take his status up to Sunday), all three would also have elite cases to be made for them in DFS due to the strong raw projections and the likely low ownership. As always, we’re not trying to “predict what will happen in the small sample size of a single game” so much as we’re trying to A) gain an understanding of a player’s likeliest range in a given matchup and game environment, and B) position ourselves for plays that will make us a lot of money when they do hit. These pieces would all land in both categories — especially if Stafford’s status remains a question mark, only for him to take the field on Sunday.
Stafford is set to travel with the team, and barring a Schefter news drop late Saturday night, we’re unlikely to know his status until Sunday morning. We know how easy it will be for the Titans to score points vs the Lions. We know how soft this Tennessee pass defense is. We know that Detroit wants to attack downfield when they throw. And we know that ownership will be low. If Stafford is playing, I like Stafford // Jones // Hockenson quite a bit. This is the type of setup (Stafford + one of those two) that would make you a lot more money over time than most other spots would.
Recency bias is likely to have Lamar’s ownership skyrocketing (the field is quick to forget the bad games if they start getting scared to miss out on a good one), but there’s also very little the Jags can do to stop him on the ground.
Because Lamar’s big game came in a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair vs the Browns (as always: game environment is hugely important to keep in mind), I won’t be paying up for Lamar myself; but the floor and ceiling are locked in, and there are plenty of indicators that point to this being a strong play once again.
On the Eagles’ side :: the GPP Ceiling Tool has Hurts’ 50th percentile projection (DK) at 19.53, with (more importantly) an 80th percentile projection at 32.18 (which keeps him in range of a lot of QBs who are priced higher). If he ends up with one of those 19ish-point scores, those who rostered him will wonder how they got things so wrong; but any quarterback with rushing upside and the potential for 18+ carries can post a big game. The game environment and the Eagles’ Vegas-implied total (21.75) are “stay away” indicators, while the rushing upside is a “keep it in mind” indicator.
Hurts is a modest-floor, high-ceiling play, with enough upside to keep him in the mix for my builds this week.
Miami faces the sixth highest opponent rush play rate on early downs with the score within seven points, and a Cam-leaning game will be the Patriots’ best path to victory. Because of how Brutal Cam’s duds tend to be (three games this year under six fantasy points!), his price has been lowered, and his ownership will plunge. But Cam also has 20+ points in six of his 12 games, with four games of 22+ and two games of 25+. He also has 30-point range, making him an interesting strategy piece this week in tourneys, on a week in which no one will use him.
You know he’s a top play. The only question here is how you want to play the strategy angle at his price. With only one game all season of more than 15 receiving yards, Henry needs about 170 yards and three touchdowns to pay off his salary, and he needs more than that to truly hurt you for not having rostered him. On the flip side: if he ends up with something like 130 yards and one touchdown, he’ll be actively hurting everyone who rostered him at his sky-high price. As always in these “high-owned Henry smash spots,” you have to acknowledge that he’s a good play in a vacuum; and then, you have to determine how you want to play the strategy yourself.
After Dalvin managed 102 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Bucs’ run defense, anything is possible. Personally, I won’t be paying this price tag in a fundamentally difficult spot; but that doesn’t change the fact that Dalvin’s role and talent keep him in the mix.
When was the last time you saw me truly lean toward Alvin Kamara?
I’ve made a lot of money over the years by not playing Kamara (he’s priced for his ceiling, which he rarely reaches…and his price remains high because there are, somehow, always enough people who are happy with Kamara’s high-priced 16 to 23 points that DK has no reason to price him down), but that’s obviously a lot more about Kamara’s role and range than about the player himself. This week, however…well, we should have people paying up for Henry and Dalvin and ignoring Kamara, while multiple things are working in Kamara’s favor ::
Emmanuel Sanders and even Tre’Quan Smith are absolutely in play with Thomas out; but with those guys likely to draw ownership (Sanders in particular) and the Chiefs performing at the top of the league vs wideouts all season long, Kamara makes for a very interesting, high-upside pivot. As always, we can only bank on a range of 16 to 22 touches (Kamara hasn’t topped 22 touches a single time this year); but if we played out this slate a hundred times, he would post a smash score for his price a good 25% of the time (the GPP Ceiling Tool, in fact, has Kamara’s 75th percentile score in the same range as the 75th percentile output for Henry and Dalvin), and ownership is unlikely to tell that story this week.
From the Houston // Indy game writeup ::
The matchup, of course, is tremendous. As long as the workload remains in place, Taylor carries a high floor and a high ceiling into this one.
From the NYJ // LAR game writeup ::
Cam Akers has played 102 of a possible 145 snaps over the Rams’ last two games (70.3%), while handling a monstrous 50 carries and three receptions. It’s funny how this works, actually. At the start of the season, I compared my 2020 love for Akers to my 2018 love for Sutton. If you’ll recall, however, Sutton ended up mostly disappointing that season, and it was not until last year that he began truly establishing himself as one of the best young wideouts in football. After a mostly-lost season, Akers is finally breaking out, and another 20+ touches appear highly likely in this one. The matchup isn’t great, of course (only six teams have faced more running back rush attempts than the Jets, but 14 teams have allowed more running back rushing yards, and 18 teams have allowed more touchdowns to the position), which puts Akers in a position where a multi-touchdown game will likely be necessary in order for him to return value. He’s a “bet on workload and offensive scoring” piece, rather than a piece who stands out in any sort of isolated way.
With Akers priced up and likely to draw a decent amount of ownership, this is not a spot I’m likely to lean on in my builds; but from an “isolated play” standpoint, there are certainly clear paths to a multi-touchdown game for Akers.
If Chase Edmonds misses.
Drake and Edmonds have recently combined for touch counts of ::
In the game Drake missed before that stretch, Edmonds himself had 28 touches.
The matchup isn’t great; but I care about matchup quite a bit less than I otherwise would if I’m able to grab a potential 25 to 30 running back touches at a cheap price. The matchup keeps the floor low enough that Drake isn’t quite a Light Blue Chip even if Edmonds misses; but the touches, touchdown equity (Drake has the most carries inside the 10 and the fourth most carries inside the 5 in the NFL), and offense keep his ceiling elevated, and keep this play very much in the mix.
If Ronald Jones misses.
Another way to bet on this offense (assuming Jones misses) is through Fournette, who has three games this year of 15 to 18 touches and should get into that range once again in this one. Keep in mind, of course, that the Falcons have been excellent against the run, which leaves you primarily betting on Fournette for touchdown upside and his pass game role; with that said, he’s cheap enough to be considered a strong piece here. Even after being healthy-scratched last week, he projects to play ahead of McCoy and Vaughn, with likely 60% to 70% of the snaps flowing his way.
Fournette is by no means a “smash play.” But he can smash; and he’s cheap enough that a big game from him could set you far above the field.
The insertion of Alex Smith has raised McLaurin’s floor, but it has also cut off some of his paths to ceiling. Enter Dwayne Haskins, who lowers McLaurin’s floor…but increases his paths to ceiling. Seattle has allowed the most wide receiver receptions, the most wide receiver yards, and the third most pass plays of 20+ yards. If the Seattle offense is able to put up points in this one, McLaurin will be given opportunities to respond.
As explored in the Angles Pod :: Haskins and Cam Sims can also be considered here as higher-risk, higher-payoff bets that could win you a tourney while everyone else is looking the other way.
From the TB // ATL game writeup ::
Russell Gage (seven targets last week) actually kicked out to the perimeter last week, giving him more upside than he carries in the slot. (Of his seven targets last week, four came more than 10 yards downfield…and three came more than 20 yards downfield. This is basically Julio’s routes at Gage’s price. Gage doesn’t have Julio’s talent…but he does have quite a bit more talent than his slot price tag indicates. He has a solid price-considered floor here and a higher ceiling than his typical role carries.)
We know the Bucs face the highest early-down pass play rate in the NFL with the score within seven points. Julio is set to miss, and Gage should see anywhere from six to 11 targets in this one. At his price, he’s very nearly Light Blue, with only the Falcons’ inefficiency on offense holding him out of this week’s highest tier.
The best way to attack Chicago through the air is with the tight end (no team is facing a higher tight end target rate), and Kyle Rudolph is set to miss another game. Four to five targets is likely for Smith in this one.
Deebo is out. Kittle is out. Reed has recent target counts of 6 // 6 // 4 // 5, keeping him very much in the cheap tight end mix.
We know about how strong the Chiefs are vs wideouts. But the Chiefs have allowed the fourth most yards, the eighth most touchdowns, and the 11th highest success rate to tight ends. Thomas is set to miss, and Brees is set to return, making Cook a viable cheap play this week.
A touchdown. A busted play. A handful of targets. Any tight end at the lower end of the price range who could see one of those go their way is worth considering at the thinnest fantasy position.
The Ravens’ blitz should create enough trouble for the Jaguars in this one to post one of the stronger DST scores on the slate.
The Rams might be the best defense in the NFL…and they’re playing the Jets, who are most definitely the worst offense in the NFL.
Tampa continues to go overlooked on defense lately in spite of ranking top eight in opponent drive success rate, points allowed per drive, yards allowed per drive, turnovers forced per drive, and sacks. With Julio out, the Bucs have a good shot at creating trouble for the Atlanta offense.
This will likely be the most popular defense of the week. Seattle is playing much better on defense of late, and we know Haskins is good for some mistakes.
Only two teams have allowed more sacks than Seattle. Only three teams have notched more sacks than Washington. There is risk involved here, but there is also upside; and ownership on that upside will be very low.
The only way the Dolphins don’t scoop up points here is if the Patriots are able to lean on the run throughout. If the Pats are stuck passing, the Miami defense should once again perform well.
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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:
Patrick Mahomes || Lamar Jackson || Jalen Hurts || (Watson // Stafford // Haskins // Cam all carry higher risk; but all are players I would be comfortable targeting in single-entry/3-entry-max as well, for the much clearer paths they provide to first place (as detailed in the NFL Edge, the Angles Pod, and the writeups above))
Salvon Ahmed || Leonard Fournette || Alvin Kamara || Jonathan Taylor || Kenyan Drake || Dalvin/Henry (duh; though it likely goes without saying that my personal DFS approach will have me off these guys at their price tags // high expected ownership, as the benefits gained by fading them on the 75% of weekends when they would post a salary-considered disappointment would outweigh the benefits lost on the 25% of weekends when they would come close to the score they need)
Brandon Aiyuk || Terry McLaurin || Russell Gage || Chiefs Pass || Texans Pass || (Marvin Jones if Stafford plays)
Travis Kelce || Jordan Reed || Irv Smith || Jared Cook || (T.J. Hockenson if Stafford plays)
Baltimore || Rams || Tampa || Seattle
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!