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
No Run To Daylight Pod this week.
I’m working on some cool stuff for next year’s Player Grid (some of which you heard me talk about in last week’s Angles Pod!); but with that future format on hold and with time short this week (it’s been a crazy week on my end :: Week 17 means extra games and less time, as it takes a few days for news to shake out; then William got sick, then Abby got sick, and I’m now starting to feel the ramp-up of this thing myself (nope :: not on the Covid list; just standard stuff)), so we’ll follow last week’s lead and keep the writeups condensed in this one. We’ll also be using the Angles Pod to walk through some of the Player Grid elements.
Pro tip :: select 1.2x or 1.5x speed on the player
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
I have a hard time imagining that Murray fails to become chalky, but maybe we get lucky here after he disappointed in his start earlier this season (hey, we had Salvon Ahmed as the only top-tier running back a few weeks ago, and he ended up under 2% owned). You can (and should) check out the game writeup for this one; but in back-to-back starts last year, Murray rushed for 100+ and scored two touchdowns in each, while adding 30+ receiving yards in each (with nine catches in one). He’s underpriced for the role, matchup, game environment, and touchdown equity in this one. He should be able to notch 20+ touches, with a heavy green zone role.
Well. You didn’t think they’d make life that easy on us, did you?
Latavius has been placed on the Covid list, and will not be playing. It looks like the Saints will be calling up Ty Montgomery from the practice squad.
The fallout :: the Saints are now likely to shift to a short-area passing attack, which elevates the floor for all of Emmanuel Sanders, Marquez Callaway, and Jared Cook. We should also expect more Taysom Hill involvement, and more shenanigans near the end zone. Given the price tags on Saints pass catchers, they are all very clearly Player Grid material; consider these guys to be slotted into the “Bonus” pool on my end. Payton is unpredictable enough that it’s still no guarantee any of these guys see double-digit targets; but the Saints should run anywhere from 55 to 65 plays here, and it’s likely that only about 20 of those plays come on the ground. That leaves plenty of opportunity for cheap targets to pile up somewhere. I’d be comfortable with Sanders or Callaway in all formats, and with Cook in tourneys.
As we touched on in the writeup for this game, it’s been +EV this year to focus on the Vikings offense every week (with a rule of “at least one core Vikings player on every roster” producing strong results all season), and this week, they are playing one of the most attackable defenses in football in the Lions. I expect the Vikings to go a bit more pass-leaning with Dalvin Cook out (again :: the writeup for this game has you covered, in regards to the full scope of what we should be looking at here), but “starting Vikings running back” is also in the mix for me (either Alexander Mattison or Ameer Abdullah). Marvin Jones is the best bring-back (though T.J. Hockenson is also viable, and a case can be made for the upside of D’Andre Swift) and as explored in the game writeup, it’s not necessary to bring back anyone on this. Through the air, I like any of the following setups on the Vikings ::
Cousins + Thielen
Cousins + Jefferson
Cousins + Irv Smith
More on this below (in the Build-Arounds writeup), but as explored in the writeup for this game, the Titans have one of the highest scoring expectations on the slate, and their concentrated offense (and excellent matchup) make it highly likely that one or two really strong scores emerge from this spot. Ryan Tannehill // Derrick Henry // A.J. Brown // Corey Davis // Jonnu Smith are all in play. My favorite ways to play this are Tannehill + Jonnu (this is lower-likelihood, as Jonnu needs to end up with the touchdowns in order to reach his ceiling; but with Tanny, Henry, and AJB likely to be popular, and with Davis priced high for his expected range, this gets you exposure to Titans upside while smoothing out your chalky Tannehill exposure by bundling him in a lower-owned combo, and while minimizing your risk with the low price tag on Jonnu and the thin position at which he plays (i.e., if Jonnu misses, it hurts you less than a wide receiver missing, as tight end duds will be plentiful among our competition), or Deshaun Watson + Derrick Henry (both players will be popular, but few will play them together; as explored in the writeup for this game, I’m not looking to pair Watson with a wideout, but this combo plays nicely together (if Henry is having a big game, it’s likely forcing Watson into attack mode), and it gets you upside while shaking off some of the ownership). Again :: those are my favorite ways to play this; but all core Titans pieces are in the mix for me here.
I have an almost unfathomably condensed pool of players who stand out to me this week. I always try to remind you that the Player Grid is not a list of all the good plays on the slate, but is instead a look at the pool I’ll be fishing myself; but even with that, I often list (and then explain) a number of players who aren’t necessarily on my list, but who “do belong in the Player Grid” (i.e., “If I don’t list them, people will ask about them; and while I’m not playing them, they’re strong enough plays that I’ll include them anyway and make it clear I won’t be playing them myself”), and then I often find myself with plenty of uncertainty around the fringes of my list (“I’m not sure if I’ll be playing this guy, but I’m including him here”). But this week, I went position by position through the GPP Ceiling Tool and Ownership Projections two times apiece to see if I was missing anything I really liked, and I couldn’t find anything. I happen to have a tight pool this week; and that pool is tight enough (and clear enough to me) that I’m not really seeing the need to expand it. Vikings and Titans are laid out as build-arounds above, and beyond those two, there isn’t really an offense I’m wanting to go out of my way to build around. (And of course, that makes sense. The Titans are tied with the Colts for the highest Vegas-implied team total on the slate, but the Titans have a concentrated attack, while the Colts don’t. The Vikings have the next highest implied team total on the slate (third out of 30 teams), and they also have a concentrated attack. The Ravens, Bucs, Packers, and Saints are next up, in terms of Vegas-implied team totals. The Ravens flow primarily through Lamar; the Bucs spread the ball around; the Packers are priced high for their likeliest ceiling; and the Saints spread the ball around through the air on a low-volume, short-area attack, and tend to spread around touchdowns in an unpredictable manner. The Colts will be represented below by Jonathan Taylor, who is the player likeliest to produce individual upside on their offense. The Ravens and Bucs are represented, below, by Lamar and Tommy. The Saints are represented above by Latavius Murray. The Packers are the only team from that list not represented in the Player Grid; and as I explained in the writeup for that game, “There is nothing wrong with going to this pairing; but taking price and matchup into the equation, I’ll be off it myself.” Put it all together, and I’m drawn to the idea of building around the two high-total teams with a concentrated attack; I have heavy interest in key members from the other high-total teams; and given how large this slate is, I don’t have much interest beyond these teams at the top of the slate. Put it all together, and I end up with a relatively small, high-confidence pool. This is not a complete list of all the good plays on the slate; but it is a look at the pool I’ll be fishing.)
If you have any interest here, this is a game writeup worth reading (well…they’re all worth reading; but that one in particular is important to understand if you have interest in this game), but Brady naked // Brady + Gronk // Brady + Gage // Brady + Ridley (the only way I would be looking to play Ridley this week) are all in consideration for me, while Brady + Evans is viable as well.
I don’t love the price on Lamar, but I do love the spot. This is a must-win spot for Baltimore, and they’ll be looking to ride Lamar to the finish line.
After burning a chunk of the field last week, Gordon is back in the same role, in a tremendous matchup against the Raiders. Gordon has back-breaking floor; but at his price, with his touchdown equity, he also has slate-breaking ceiling.
The price is finally catching up with the role in this Dolphins backfield (and it’s a funny thing we see in DFS: as the price goes up, ownership tends to go up as well), but this is still a player likely to see 20+ touches, with a large role inside the 10 and strong pass game involvement. There have been enough shifts in the Dolphins’ backfield throughout the season that this spot has never quite picked up ownership momentum, adding to the value Gaskin can provide this week. (As noted in the Edge writeup for this game :: Gaskin’s value increases further if it begins to appear likely that the Bills will be resting starters.)
The Patriots quietly rank 32nd in DVOA against the run // the Jets have called a run play on early downs with the score within seven points at the second highest rate in the NFL during the second half of the season // and recent running back usage on the Jets suggests Johnson will see 22+ touches as long as the Jets don’t tumble out of this one. Touchdown likelihood isn’t high; but ownership should be low with Malcolm Brown priced beside him (the Jets are implied for 18.25 points; the Rams are implied for 18.75 points), and the matchup sets up in his favor.
The Jags aren’t as awful against the run as everyone seems to think…but they’re also not good. An understanding of this game as a whole is worth scooping up if you are interested in Taylor this week; but the key metric to note is that the Colts are tied with the Titans for the highest Vegas-implied team total on the slate, and Taylor has the highest touchdown equity on this squad.
Plenty of passing is expected in this game, and Gage (as noted over the last couple weeks) has moved to the outside of the formation in the absence of Julio Jones. Carlton Davis is expected to miss, which softens the matchup for the Falcons passing attack. Regardless of outcome, Gage is mispriced this week (while he provides nice leverage on DK, being priced right next to a likely-popular Marvin Jones).
We already mentioned Gronk, Jonnu, and Irv above, but if branching away from those game environments, you could do worse than Engram, who has seven or more targets in four of his last five games, with a great matchup on tap this week vs the banged-up Cowboys. We’ve been talking all year about how his role in this new offense doesn’t give him as much upside, but his price has finally dropped to a point where this is accounted for, and his high target expectation gives him more clear paths to a fluky-big game than most other cheap tight ends.
Tua has locked onto Gesicki plenty of late, and this passing attack is still short some bodies in a must-win spot. As with all tight ends, the floor is insecure; but there’s enough potential ceiling here to justify the play.
As always, any cheap tight end who can see four to seven targets with potential for a touchdown or two can be considered viable.
The Browns, Cardinals, and Dolphins (likely) all stand out for being above-average on defense and taking on a backup quarterback this week (“likely” on the Dolphins, as we don’t yet know anything here; but even if Josh Allen “starts,” he’s likely to play only one or two series). The Browns are the best play of the bunch, as the Steelers should still be somewhat pass-heavy, creating increased opportunities for sacks and turnovers (the Rams will likely be much more conservative with Wolford, in a must-win game :: calling a game that minimizes opportunities for mistakes), and while all will be popular, they certainly make the “consideration cut” for me.
The Patriots don’t have much to work with on the field; but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ll try to come after Sam Darnold all game in an effort to force mistakes. If the Patriots can make the Jets throw, they can force Darnold to do mental gymnastics he isn’t equipped to do, opening the door for a big game from New England. (In that same game, the Jets are also viable against the shell of Cam Newton.)
The Bucs, Steelers, and Colts are all good defenses that should be low-owned (with the Steelers and Bucs likely coming in much lower than the Colts, but with the Colts having the best matchup vs the Jags).
There are 30 teams playing; so if you find a spot where you think a defense has a good shot at forcing multiple mistakes from the opponent, feel free to jump on board.
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:
Kirk Cousins || Ryan Tannehill || Tom Brady || Lamar Jackson
Latavius Murray || Melvin Gordon || Myles Gaskin || Jonathan Taylor || (Ty Johnson?)
Vikings || Titans || Russell Gage || (obviously, I would have to fill in some gaps from there; but that’s truly the extent of what really stands out to me here)
Jonnu Smith || Irv Smith || Rob Gronkowski || Evan Engram || Mike Gesicki
Browns || Patriots || Colts