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 an Everything NFL bundle!)
:: 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
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And with that, let’s get to the Player Grid!
Not much to update this week, actually; but with my rosters complete, I wanted to lay out my exposures.
See you at the top!
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DK salary remaining :: $9000
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
Let’s take a look at some numbers.
We’ll use DraftKings here; but all of this also applies to FanDuel, where maximizing upside is more important than worrying about salary (and where this remains one of the highest-upside areas on the slate). Not that you aren’t doing so already, but :: pay attention here. This is the slate.
Not that you would be playing all four of these guys together; but if you played all four of these guys together, you would need 77.1 points to stay on track for 150 points across your roster, and you would need 102.8 points to stay on track for 200 points across your roster.
Last week, with only one touchdown from this entire group (and with Dalton Schultz stealing 22.8 points), they scored 70.5.
Last week, the Patriots’ “core four” (a group that includes world-beaters Rex Burkhead, N’Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd) combined for 66.2 against the Seahawks.
Two weeks ago, the Falcons’ “core four” combined for 101.7 against the Seahawks. If the Cowboys’ “core four” matched what the Falcons did in Week 1, you could actually roster all four of these guys together and stay on pace for 200 points across your roster. (More on this in a moment.)
Not that you would be playing all five of these guys together; but if you played all five of these guys together, you would need 98.7 points to stay on track for 150 points across your roster, and you would need 131.6 points to stay on track for 200 points across your roster.
Last week, Dak + the Cowboys’ “core four” scored 113.8. Again, this was with Schultz soaking up 22.8 points. It was also with Dak rushing for three touchdowns (turn two of those into passing touchdowns, for example, and Dak loses four points, but your pass catchers gain 12 points, for a net gain of 8.0; basically, that 113.8 could have been quite a bit higher). At their Week 3 salaries, you could have rostered all five of the Cowboys’ pieces last week and stayed on pace for 172.9 points across your DK roster.
Last week, the Patriots’ “core four” + Cam combined for 104.8.
In Week 1, the Falcons’ “core four” + Matty combined for 129.6. If the Cowboys matched the Falcons’ Week 1 production, you could actually play all five Cowboys together at their Week 3 price tags and stay on pace for 197.0 points across your roster (note: the Falcons scored only 25 points in that game as well; they put up a ton of yards, but it’s worth noting that they still, technically, left points on the field).
We’ve said twice already, ‘Not that you would be playing all of these guys together.’ But first off: you could. In fact, I probably will, on at least one roster. (I’m expecting to roll with around 19 rosters this week; and it’s easy to say that one out of every 19 times in this spot, the Cowboys would actually be able to roll up around 130 total points from these five guys.) But there are some deeper elements to explore here:
It’s likely that not all of these pieces will produce at a 4x level individually (even in the 1-in-19 off chance that this block as a whole goes off for 4x). One or two of these guys are likely to fall shy of price-considered “tourney-winning” expectations. So think about what that means. In fact, let’s create an example to truly show what that means. Let’s say the Cowboys’ five pieces combine for 130 points (or roughly a 200-point salary-considered pace). But then, let’s also say that Amari finishes with “only” 18 points and Zeke finishes with “only” 22. Do you see? You’re now getting 90 points from the remaining three pieces. And because Zeke and Amari, in this example, finished with 40 combined (and needed to finish with closer to 60 combined in order to be at a 4x pace themselves), you’ve guaranteed that the three remaining guys are significantly over-performing their salary-based expectations.
Even if you think the Cowboys’ “core 4 + Dak” combine for “only” around 110 points here (again: this would split the difference between what the Cowboys did last week and what the Patriots’ not-really-core 4 + Cam did a week ago vs Seattle), some combination of two or three players from that group is almost certainly going for 4x or above.
Assuming you think the Cowboys are going to do well in this game, touches on this offense are concentrated enough, and prices are cheap enough on DraftKings (and pricing is loose enough on FanDuel) that every roster you create should either A) have two or more Cowboys pieces on them, at minimum, or B) be built against the backdrop of what the Cowboys could do here.
This is why I say that “this is the slate.”
There are going to be rosters you are competing against this week that take Dak + Amari + Gallup. There are going to be rosters that take Dak + Amari + Lamb, and rosters that take Dak + Gallup + Lamb, and rosters that take Dak + all 3, and that take Dak + Zeke + a wideout, or Zeke + a wideout, or Dak + Zeke, or four of these guys together, or five of these guys together (and so on). This is a high-powered offense with a narrow distribution of touches in a game environment that should produce points if early-season trends hold. It’s okay to fade this game entirely if you don’t think it will live up to expectations (just because the signs point to this game popping off does not mean it definitely will!); but even if you build without this game, you have to build assuming that this game does go off. And if this game does go off, there are going to be plenty of people who, at worst, keep themselves on pace for at least 175 from these spots, with a strong chance that, one way or another, rosters that build around this game will end up with a 200+ point pace from at least two or three spots. In other words: when you assess other spots on the slate, you should do so through the lens of “needing a spot that can top the Cowboys.” If you build with this in mind and the Cowboys miss, great! You’ve cut out a huge chunk of the field and positioned yourself really nicely. But if the Cowboys game hits at all, and that isn’t where you’re going yourself, the places where you are going have to be able to produce at a commensurate level.
This ties together a lot of the things we talk about. You need to build with first place in mind. You need to build, on DraftKings, with 200+ points in mind. And you need to build with an eye toward strategy, as it accounts for the state of the slate at hand. (Also, a bonus item that we talk about :: finding a concentrated distribution of touches on a fast-paced, pass-heavy team in a good scoring environment is extremely valuable.)
Again: nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. We’ve explored this week the reasons why this Cowboys // Seahawks game is not the slam-dunk that Cowboys // Falcons was last week. This spot could definitely disappoint. (I don’t expect it to disappoint, and I won’t be approaching my rosters as if it will disappoint; but Dallas could come out flat, or the Seahawks could try to pound the rock, or we could just get unlucky with a bunch of field goals.) But even if you avoid this game, you have to build the rest of your roster(s) as if this game will hit, and as if you’ll have a chunk of 200-point-pace rosters that you have to be able to beat. Don’t just look for “good plays” on this slate. Look for plays that can win you a tourney. And if you’re fading this spot :: look for plays that can top this spot even if it hits.
As I talked about on the Angles Pod this week :: we enter our focus on an offense from different angles, depending on a variety of factors. The angle from which I’ll be approaching this one :: Some of the field will be scared off this spot by the fact that they can’t guess which player will hit and which won’t. I’ll be approaching this spot by saying I don’t care about that. I care that touches are concentrated, and that this offense as a whole is highly likely to produce. As such, I’ll get exposure here, mixing and matching pieces across a large number of my builds.
If you want to isolate an individual play, I’ll note that Amari has the best blend of floor/ceiling among the pass catchers. He’s posted what would be back-to-back ceiling games for some NFL wideouts…and he has done so without the benefit of a touchdown. I’ll also note that running back is a bit thin (it’s unlikely we see more than one or two 30-point games this week (24/25 points on FD); and we’ll see a lot more scores below 20ish this week than we typically see), and there are enough mid-priced guys with upside that salary isn’t all that tight. I like Zeke even if he doesn’t get the huge score you’re optimally targeting at his salary, as a mid-range Zeke game could still provide a lot of value if running back scoring is scaled back this week on the whole.
If you want a sneaky angle to play, I’ll also note that there is a way this game could play out in which Russell Wilson outscores Dak, while the Cowboys wideouts end up being more valuable than the Seattle wideouts. Russ + Cowboys wideouts would be a unique angle.
Finally, I’ll note that it’s likely that one of the Seattle wideouts outscores one of the Cowboys wideouts (while it’s also likely (though less certain) that two of the Cowboys wideouts outscore both of the Seattle wideouts; in other words, something like Amari > Gallup > Metcalf > Lamb > Lockett). A Russ + 2 Cowboys + 1 Seattle wideout roster could also prove to be the angle it takes to win.
There are plenty of ways to stack this game :: not worrying about “trying to isolate where the production will come from,” but instead positioning yourself to capture as much of the production as you can. And if you want to bet that the production won’t hit in this spot, and you want to build elsewhere: make sure those “elsewhere” builds are built against the backdrop of this game existing :: only going to spots that you think can keep pace (from both a salary-based perspective and a raw-points perspective) if this Cowboys offense hits.
Sanders is not nearly as “can’t miss” as his chalk status will make him feel; but he’s still the best on-paper, price-considered running back play on this slate.
Last week, when we liked Sanders in this space more than Taylor, we noted that his last five full games as the lead back for this offense had yielded carry + target counts of ::
17 + 5
15 + 5
19 + 6
20 + 6
14 + 5
He proceeded to add 20 + 7 last week, and now he takes on one of the softest running back matchups in the league. (If you’re wondering what some of the other softest matchups are: stick around!)
He has four touchdowns in these three games (solid, but not elite production), and he has topped 100 yards only once on the ground. With his pass game role also providing a chunk of his value, these items add up to make Sanders more “light blue” than true blue chip on FanDuel; and even on DraftKings, he had a game in this stretch of 10.9 points and another game of 10.7. He’s not a “must-play, or pay for it” type of guy (“only” two of his six games in this true-lead role yielded 4x+ his Week 3 salary (“only” in parentheses because typically the most you get out of a player is 4x in a quarter of their games: which basically serves as a reminder that Sanders is underpriced), while another two games in here went for a little over 3x), but especially in this matchup, most signs point to a solid game, and an elite game is very much in the cards.
Last week, we had a “light blue” back in Derrick Henry whom I didn’t roster myself (as explored throughout the site during the second half of last week). This week, I have a couple light-blue running backs (well…three light-blue running backs) on whom I expect to have exposure.
We looked at carries + targets for Sanders above. Let’s look at carries + targets for Kenyan Drake since he joined the Cardinals:
15 + 4
10 + 7
16 + 7
13 + 5
11 + 3
22 + 1
24 + 4
12 + 4
16 + 2
20 + 2
As you can see, Drake does not quite have the Miles Sanders role. The targets fluctuate quite a bit more, and they tend to only spike when the carries fall. But the usage is still solid for Drake, and he’s taking on a Lions defense that ranks dead last in adjusted line yards and 31st in yards allowed to running backs. On a week without a lot of lock-and-load backs, Drake provides a relatively strong floor with clear paths to upside.
Last week, the Chargers called on Justin Herbert to throw 33 times, and they called on Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley to run 39 times. This week, they are taking on a Carolina team that ranks 20th in adjusted line yards and 28th in open field rank. Furthermore, after digging a bit deeper on Friday, I found it noteworthy that Las Vegas pass catchers combined for 36.4 DraftKings points in this matchup, while Las Vegas running backs combined for 46.6. I also found it noteworthy that Tampa pass catchers combined for 38.5 points while Tampa running backs combined for 48.4. I also found it noteworthy that Carolina has faced the most running back targets in the NFL (which is almost always a function of defensive scheme).
Realistically, Ekeler and Kelley aren’t “likely” to combine for 46 or more points, as the Panthers aren’t likely to keep giving up three touchdowns per game to running backs. But if they did combine for 47+, you could actually play them together ($11.8k in DK salary) and stay above-pace for a 200+ point weekend. On a weekend without a ton to just fall in love with at running back, grabbing a pair of 20+ point games would put you in great shape; but the bigger takeaway is similar to the takeaway with the Cowboys above: it’s likely that one outperforms the other, in terms of salary-based expectations. So if they combine for 41 points (175-point pace), it’s likely one of them is keeping you on pace for 200+. Given everything we know about Anthony Lynn and everything we have seen from these two teams so far, 41 points combined from these two is very much a 50th percentile projection (i.e., something that would happen at least half the time in this spot), and that means you’re looking at a solid shot that one or the other of them is posting a really nice price-considered game. The price tags and uncertainty are going to keep people off these two, creating really interesting leverage in tourneys. Across 19 builds, I could see myself with one or two rosters that play these two together, with another three that include one and another three that include the other.
On FanDuel this week, Dalvin Cook and Josh Jacobs are the most overpriced relative to expectations, while Jonathan Taylor is the most underpriced. Derrick Henry is not as good of a play as Zeke, but he certainly gains value given the touchdown-heavy format. Sanders is in play, but becomes more “light blue,” while Drake is in play but would drop from “light blue” to the “bonus” section. I would avoid the Chargers running backs on there (try to build an All Star roster!), and I would also avoid the salary-conscious plays we’ll hit on below.
This game doesn’t hit the DFS sweet spots quite the way Dallas // Seattle does, but we should nevertheless see points in this game, and I’ll have a few rosters that start here (likely looping in Dallas pieces around it, rather than starting the roster with Dallas).
Kyler naked and Kyler + DeAndre Hopkins are both very much in play
Stafford + Golladay (if you want to fade the news, re: Golladay likely to play but not yet 100%) or Stafford + Marvin Jones are very much in play. Some rules here:
I’m not sure yet if I’ll have Kyler rosters away from this game, but that’s obviously very viable (i.e., taking the upside of Kyler on a roster that otherwise has nothing to do with this game). I also like Hopkins as a piece to be played away from this game. But here’s the important thing to keep in mind with Hopkins:
Hopkins is playing very close to the line of scrimmage. As such, he needs heavy volume in order to hit, as he’s unlikely to pop off for many big plays. This creates a some extra opportunities for things to go wrong, as a strong real-life game of something like 8-90-0 on 11 targets would still leave you a bit empty-handed at his salary (whereas eight catches from a guy like Calvin Ridley, for example, is likely getting you 110 yards and the three point bonus on DraftKings). And yet: Hopkins’ chances of falling significantly shy of 20 points are low, and salary is still loose enough that you can get up to Hopkins without necessarily hurting your roster. As such, here are my Hopkins rules:
The Browns’ five main pieces (such as they are :: the running backs + OBJ + Landry + Hooper) combined for 82.6 DraftKings points against the Bengals last week. This was with the benefit of five touchdowns (which cannot be relied on here; Philly projects for three touchdowns, with a shot at four; anything over that is bonus), but this was also with the Browns throwing only 23 times and generating only 16 PPR points (and 8 half-PPR points) from receptions. The Eagles, meanwhile, have thrown the ball 42.5 times per game to begin the year. 80+ DraftKings points is very much in play for this offense as a whole; and if “Eagles backfield” accounts for a reasonable 25 of these points, this leaves 55+ potentially available for pass catchers, from which Ertz // Goedert // DJax will be able to pull. I wouldn’t play multiples of these guys together, as we’re ultimately targeting a 25+ point game here (and it will be difficult for two of these guys to reach such a score); but I would feel comfortable dipping into this pool throughout rosters, and there’s always a chance (given how downfield-focused they are) that I’ll end up with a couple Wentz rosters on any given week at the moment.
In the two games last year in which Sanders hit for a tourney-winning pace, Goedert also would have helped you toward a tourney win in one (9-91-1), while Ertz and Greg Ward both produced solid games in the other (17.1 and 19.1 DK points, respectively). In Sanders’ “solid but unspectacular” game last year (19.0 on FD // 21.5 on DK), Alshon Jeffery went 9-137-1. Sanders + DJax or Sanders + TE absolutely works.
Cam is a rock-solid play every week right now. Projections should have him a little lower than Dak and Russ (it’s closer for me on Kyler, but I’m comfortable with either side of that argument), but he certainly has paths to the highest score of the bunch; and if he hits, he gains nice leverage on the field. Cam can be played naked, or with one of his three main wideouts (Edelman // Harry // Byrd).
Trubisky probably won’t be sneaky this week against the Falcons (and floor is never guaranteed), but he has price-considered upside, and he’s always a candidate for a legitimate slate-winning score. Trubisky can be played naked, or with Allen Robinson. (If going heavy here, a few hedge rosters with Darnell Mooney or Anthony Miller could also be justified; and if going really heavy, a few hedge rosters with David Montgomery are practically a must.)
In the NFL Edge writeup for this game, we hit on the reasons why this isn’t a slam-dunk; but there is certainly plenty to like about this play on DraftKings, given the price-considered upside you gain access to, and the salary this play opens up if it hits. The matchup works in Singletary’s favor and the play-calling should tilt his way.
I may not end up with exposure here, but I also like Antonio Gibson (as explored here), Dalvin Cook, and Jonathan Taylor. The Vikings offense is tough to trust right now, and Cook has barely secured roster-worthy scores so far at his price tag in spite of scoring three touchdowns already (his targets have plunged as the Vikings’ passing attack has gone in the tank). But the blowup game is surely coming, and scoring is expected in this spot. As for Taylor: the matchup on the ground is not great against the Jets, but Taylor should be locked in as a 65% to 70% running back, on a good offense, with a ground-and-air role. As noted above: he’s a stronger play on FanDuel than he is on DraftKings, given FD’s slower-moving pricing. Finally, James Conner has not looked good this year outside of one run; but Houston has gotten absolutely plastered by running backs, ranking 30th in adjusted line yards and giving up the third most yards to enemy backs. Conner should be locked into around 20 touches (with upside for more) behind a good line, on an offense that should put up points. If he were expected to be popular, he’d be a fade candidate; but with everyone looking the other way, he’s an intriguing leverage play.
If you read the NFL Edge this week, none of these names will surprise you. No one on that list should fall below seven targets; and all five guys can go for 10+.
Hilton is the guy I expect to have the most exposure to.
Diontae is the next safest, though he has fewer paths to upside with his limited downfield role.
McLaurin is the best floor + upside blend behind Hilton (though his floor is lower than Diontae’s, given his attachment to Haskins and the Washington offense), and if Denzel Ward misses this game, McLaurin’s floor goes up.
Green is a “what the heck is going on?” risk, in a non-ideal matchup against Darius Slay. Green has gotten nothing going; but as explored here, his usage has been as elite as you could ask for.
Slayton is the only guy on this list at serious risk of just not seeing as many targets as he needs to see; but most signs in this spot point to him being heavily involved, while the upside can be slate-breaking and the ownership should be low. Slayton has the lowest floor on this list, but his ceiling is as high as any of these guys, and he has particular value if he hits given how overlooked he’s likely to be.
I don’t feel great about tight end this week (and I may account for the lack of certainty at the position by simply playing some different angles across my rosters). But these are the players (in the order listed) I would be likeliest to isolate, with Thomas the player likeliest to end up on a heavy percentage of my builds, and with Hurst the only other one guaranteed to see some space on my builds.
Cheap defense is thin this week, so I’m likely to mix and match defenses from that list. The Steelers are the best of the bunch, and they’re always in play; but the Bucs are a solid consolation prize, and they get Jeff Driskel instead of Deshaun Watson. The Chargers get a discombobulated Panthers attack, while Cleveland and Washington get each other (with Haskins and Baker; Cleveland sets up well to go run-heavy on offense, so they’re less likely to take sacks and throw interceptions than Washington). The 49ers are injured at every level, but they still get a potential turnover-producer in Daniel Jones, they’re still well-coached, and they should come at low ownership this week.
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:
Dak || Russ || Cam || (Trubisky?)
Sanders || Drake || Zeke || Singletary || (Chargers?)
Amari || CeeDee || Gallup || Nuk || DJax || Hilton || Diontae || McLaurin || Slayton || (Green?)
Ertz || Thomas || Hurst ||
Steelers || Browns || Bucs || Chargers || (Washington?)
Remember to check out the Run To Daylight Pod to hang out with Tod, Hilow, Lex, and Xandamere 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!