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
Run To Daylight (hosted by TodFromPA || presented by OWS!) will be live at 8 PM Eastern.
Hilow will be on.
Lex will be on.
ETR’s Mike Leone 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!
DK salary remaining :: $6900
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
We go deep into all of this in the NYG // DAL writeup below, but: Dak is my slight favorite among the high-priced QBs this week. That makes him my Blue Chip piece.
Huge red zone role. Huge pass game role. Almost all the snaps to himself. On a team that should be scoring points. Zeke is obvious, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
Huge red zone role. Huge pass game role. Almost all the snaps to himself. On a team that should be scoring points. Mike Davis is obvious, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
CEH is not quite in the same category as the two guys above, but this Chiefs-lead-RB role is just so capable of producing monster games, and there is so much that has not yet gone right for CEH in the box scores. He’s a near-lock for 19+ touches, and he can easily clear 25+ touches, and he has a pass game role and a red zone role on one of the best offenses in football. CEH is easier chalk to move off of than the other two, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of signs point to this being a high-end game.
It doesn’t get much more obvious than this one, but Zaccheaus is going to be a top five option on an offense that really only uses five options (Ridley // Julio // Gage // Hurst // “RB”), and that throws the ball a ton and almost always puts up points. The Falcons have featured him the last two weeks, and anywhere from five to nine targets can be expected here. By no means does this make him a “lock” for strong production, and there are plenty of viable builds that go a different direction. But he’s a rock-solid play from a process standpoint. If he gets you only seven to nine points, that doesn’t kill your roster at his price. And if he goes for 15+, he’s helping you more than you need him to while opening plenty of salary on your roster. (Olamide is also in the mix on FanDuel, though he’s likely the third option in the pecking order through the air most plays, and there are typically better ways to spend salary on there.)
As noted in the Angles Pod :: Diontae is likely to be carrying a price tag on DK in the low-$7k range within the next couple months (with an equivalent rise on FanDuel). So while the matchup against Darius Slay is non-ideal, I also want to look at this through the psychology of a different price tag. If Diontae had come into this week as a low-$7k or high-$6k receiver and they had bumped down his price this much, would we still be afraid of a matchup with Slay? Diontae’s chances of topping 20 are a bit lower in this spot, but he’s still highly likely to go at least 6-40-0, and he has legitimate slate-breaking upside, with legit-alpha usage in his first two games (as explored in the Edge: he’s been seeing top-five usage, in terms of target share), in an offense that has a strong chance of tilting toward the air given the matchup and the tendencies of their offensive coordinator. I like him as a “solid floor for a wide receiver,” “huge ceiling for the price” piece this week.
This game gave us our lengthiest writeup of the season, and that was certainly not because I sat down and said, “You know what? I want to make this one really long.” There’s plenty to untangle in this game, so I won’t do it injustice by trying to condense things down to blurbs and short explorations. Find the full writeup here.
If Mostert misses, McKinnon is a legitimate “Light Blue” Chip. As explored in the NFL Edge, there are a lot of angles to play with in this game. But if Mostert is out, McKinnon leaps from the “speculative” pile to the “almost rock-solid.”
I’m not prioritizing Lamar this week, but that’s only because there are a couple other expensive quarterbacks I like a little bit more. Lamar is always in the mix, and I actually like the Bengals’ offense a decent amount in this spot and expect them to somewhat keep pace, which would help Lamar even more. I’m highly likely to have some Lamar rosters if I’m putting 14+ rosters in my Roster Block this week.
We hit this in-depth in the NFL Edge, but the Panthers set up well in this spot, and they have a narrow distribution of touches. Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Mike Davis (and Olamide Zaccheaus on the other side) are the obvious plays here, but they’re the obvious plays for a reason. On the Panthers’ side, the offense flows through these guys (70% to 90% of fantasy scoring among Panthers skill position players has come through Moore // Anderson // Panthers lead RB in three of four games), and the matchup is good. If going heavy here, I may end up branching out into additional pieces from the Falcons as well (with Todd Gurley especially interesting as a “not great on paper, but could still score two touchdowns” play in a game stack).
We dive deep into this in the NFL Edge, but this is not a trap game. The Cowboys want to play fast. They want to throw the ball. They want to be the team that scores 30+ points every week, regardless of game flow or matchup. Could the foot come off the gas in this one? Of course. But likely not until the Cowboys have cracked 30. (Also: the Giants’ defense has shown some signs of life this year, and the Cowboys may in fact have to battle for their 30; but if that’s not the case, there’s no real reason the Cowboys wouldn’t keep trying to score until we hit about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. In other words: if the Cowboys do find the path easy in this one, they aren’t capped in the low-30s, even if this game isn’t competitive. They would love for their score at the end of this one to look like a Ravens score.)
This is why I like Dak slightly over Lamar and Mahomes this week. The Cowboys and Giants are passing at the top two rates in the league, and when you combine their average time of possession, there are over seven minutes of available play/volume added to what these two offenses have seen so far. Cowboys games so far have featured almost 150 total plays per games; and while this game won’t get there if the Cowboys take a huge lead…well, the average NFL game has closer to 120 plays. So you’re still adding a lot of valuable volume along the way in this one, even if this game slows down. (Also, as noted in the NFL Edge: the Cowboys have been attacked heavily on the ground this year, which cuts off some of the play volume for the opponent. The Giants will be passing far more often. Again: there will be plenty of plays in this game.)
But I also, of course, like Daniel Jones as a way to save salary. There are ways for Dak to score 27+ points with Jones bombing, so Dak is the starting point for me, but there are absolutely scenarios in which Jones posts the top quarterback score on the slate (he’s hit that sort of score in a full 25% of his career starts, which is incredible for a guy priced where he’s priced; but of course, as noted in the NFL Edge: the other 75% of the time, he tends to miss pretty hard, which is where the risk is introduced).
Slayton and Tate are both highly viable (as explored in the Edge). Slayton is the piece likelier to post a tourney-winning score; but Tate may be the piece likelier to win you a tourney. (Translation :: Slayton would post a tourney-winning score more often. But if Slayton’s ownership, for example, were 15% and Tate’s ownership were 5%, is Slayton three times more likely to post a tourney-winning score? I think I’d give Slayton a 2.5x to 3x shot at outscoring Tate, so if Tate’s ownership is coming in at a much lower level, he becomes worth going a bit overweight on in tourneys.) Engram is also in play for his high volume count. He has looked slow coming off foot surgery, but at a thin tight end position, “a slower Engram who has a shot at eight to 10 targets” still projects better than all the “slow tight ends likely to see four to seven targets.” He’s a cut below the Waller // Kelce // Kittle tier (Ebron, below, is in a different category altogether, given his barbell distribution; you’re rostering him to take on a bit of risk and hope he can win you a tourney), but he’s a cut above almost all the other pieces in the tight end junk pool this week.
Finally: I’m comfortable using Dak without a stacking partner, as long as I’m rostering Zeke with him (as explored in the Angles Pod; also, Tin8shusD posted an awesome writeup on this angle in his Collective :: read, upvote, and follow!). But if branching outward, Michael Gallup is the play likeliest to win you a tourney, as he’ll go the most overlooked (of course, he’s also the player likeliest to crater your roster), while Lamb and Amari are obviously in play. I’m not prioritizing these guys this week, as I’m approaching things from a Dak // Zeke angle in smaller-field stuff and even a bit of moderate-field stuff (10k entries and below), but they’re obviously very much attached to this high-powered offense.
We went in-depth on this here, but there is plenty to like and plenty to be wary about in this game. Stacks of this game (beginning at Deshaun Watson, and moving out into Will Fuller and Jaguars pieces from there) are very much in play, and Will Fuller himself is always in play in tourneys. But this setup hasn’t quite been able to crack my tighter builds just yet.
I explored four tourney angles I like in this week’s Angles Pod ::
If I build nine to 12 lineups this week, there’s a chance I end up with none of these.
If I build 19 to 26 lineups this week, there’s a chance I end up with all of these.
We’ve talked about this offense at length this year; but given everything we know, Kyler is an underdog this week to emerge as the points leader from the pack of Dak // Mahomes // Lamar (+ Josh Allen :: tear drop for him leaving the Main Slate), but he’s not a massive underdog, and he seems to be going overlooked this week. He’s a player I would “consider, but probably not end up playing” on single-entry // three-entry setups, and he’s a guy who will flirt with exposure on my Roster Block this week.
Game script is the only concern here (as explored in the NFL Edge this year, Robinson is getting pass game usage, but he’s coming off the field in most obvious passing situations), but the matchup is excellent against the Texans’ run defense, and he can take off in this game if the Jags are playing close throughout. At his price tag, he’s a lower-floor option than some of the guys around him, as a Texans Takeoff would leave him spending a larger chunk of the second half on the sidelines; but if the Jags are competitive here, Robinson has a shot at outscoring guys like CEH and Mike Davis; and if the Jags are playing this game with a lead, he may actually be favored in that group. He’s a stay-away for me in cash, but he’s a strong alternative in tourneys to the safer-feeling guys.
This play feels extremely thin; and it may be. But the actual truth is: we don’t know. Sure, Jeff Smith was a quarterback in college (though: he wouldn’t be the first player to make a successful transition), and he’s been on the practice squad for the Jets. Those are signs that his really nice game in Week 4 (driven by really nice usage) won’t happen again, especially with Joe Flacco under center. He is objectively a lesser play than Olamide. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t scenarios in which he outscores Olamide (with room for him to outscore Olamide by a sizable margin; Olamide’s 20th percentile floor is around 7.5 points (with the slowed-down pace of the Panthers, it wouldn’t be a shock for Matt Ryan to throw “only” 35 times, which might leave Olamide with six targets, opening pathways to something like a 3-45-0 or 4-35-0 game), and Smith is coming off a 7-81-0 game that could easily turn into 7-100-1 if everything breaks the right way). He’s a speedy player on a receiver-starved team that is playing the fast-paced and borderline-attackable Cardinals. If Olamide is 30% owned and Smith is 1% owned, the leverage in tourneys is massive (Smith probably posts a higher score than Olamide 20% to 25% of the time if we could play out this slate over and over again; he’ll be on the field plenty, after playing 73/77 snaps last week, and performing well, and seeing nothing change this week with the health of Mims and Perriman, and four or five targets should be a given, with 7+ targets entirely possible). Smith has the wheels (4.36 40) to hit for big plays, and Gase was able to use his speed last week to get him open on underneath crossers that should play well in this spot.
This one will feel like a thin play as well (I even had to give Sonic the reasons I like him, and you know Sonic is always up for a wild play!), but at some point this season, Higgins is going to be priced over $6k on DraftKings (with an equivalent rise on FanDuel), and I want to be there on the games that are pushing up his price. The Bengals are scheming him looks all over the field, and with Marlon Humphrey likely attached to Boyd, there’s no one who scares me in coverage against Higgins. I talked about the Burrow stack once again on the Angles Pod this week, and I don’t even mind isolating Higgins on a tighter tourney build. The usage is high enough that he won’t crater a roster even if he misses (a 4-50-0 line is the realistic lower end of his range here), and he’s going to keep scoring touchdowns and putting up big yardage games in different spots this year. The matchup with Baltimore’s very aggressive, veteran, blitz-heavy defense introduces obvious risk (Burrow has looked excellent this year; but he’s still, for whatever it’s worth, a rookie), but this play is on the fringe of my tighter builds this week, and I definitely like it in large-field play.
As explored in the Edge writeup for this game, the Raiders have been a top-five offense this year, and it shouldn’t be assumed that the Chiefs will just dominate this game (since the Edge went up, the line has moved 1.5 points in the Raiders’ favor; albeit with the Raiders still 11.5 point dogs). And if the Raiders have the ball enough to run their offense, they’ll be running it through Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. MME players should note that Jacobs still has tremendous upside and is going overlooked in a great matchup (i.e., game flow is unlikely to work in his favor, and he’s therefore unlikely to post a monster game, and this is why he’s going overlooked; but if game flow unexpectedly ends up going the other way, Jacobs would have a clear path to a tourney-winning score, with only a small sliver of the field actually on him), but Waller is the guy who is likeliest to benefit if the Raiders “lose, but are playing well enough to still be able to run their offense.” Waller could easily see 10+ targets; and while he’s unlikely to post the sort of score you’re really looking for at his price on DK, salary is loose enough this week that you can definitely justify the spend-up. On FD, of course :: play the best players you can play. And Waller is in that mix.
Ebron’s floor is always rickety, but it’s because of this that his ceiling is so high. Ebron tends to draw his targets deeper downfield than most tight ends (only Mark Andrews, Mike Gesicki, and Jared Cook are seeing their average target deeper downfield than Ebron, and most other tight ends are clustered together quite a ways below these guys), which is great for his upside, but bad for his floor when he’s only likely to see three to seven targets in any given game. But this matchup sets up well for the Steelers to be passing, and the matchup sets up really well at tight end. Especially with Ebron’s mismatch presence in the red zone (a big part of the reason the Steelers brought him in), the upside is definitely “more likely than normal” in this spot, even if that comes with a still-rickety floor.
Still here. Just waiting around for the athleticism and the targets to turn into something. Is this how the Njoku truthers felt a few years ago? I (finally) ended up with very little exposure to Thomas last week, and that will likely be the same this week. But I do still want some exposure if I’m building more than just a few lineups. The scoring ceiling in this offense isn’t all that high in this game, so this likely isn’t the week even with the quarterback change; but the usage will still be there, and the Rams are best attacked with tight ends.
This is my favorite unit, given what the Steelers can do in the “sacks and turnovers” department, and given the offensive line and recently-mistake-prone QB they’re playing. But: it’s defense. There’s a lot of variance. So I’ll likely end up heavy here, but I’ll also potentially be betting on these ones:
We hit on this matchup in the writeup for this game.
A really good pass defense; and if the Chiefs take a big lead, Derek Carr will have to be passing. It’s a game flow-dependent play, but it’s the likeliest game flow.
The Rams have looked vicious this season, and Kyle Allen has been turnover-prone early in his career. It won’t be difficult for things to break the Rams’ way in this spot.
With the other defenses carrying high price tags, the Eagles are viable with their interior pass rush and Big Ben’s established tendency toward turnovers. This one is less likely to truly hit, but it can certainly get there.
Chase Young is back. The Rams won’t be throwing a ton in the likeliest game script, but Washington will still have opportunities to make things happen.
Everyone will likely forget about the Colts with the Browns up next; but Baker Mayfield is still prone to boneheaded decisions and vanishing accuracy, and the Colts have been aggressive and opportunistic in the secondary this year. If Darius Leonard misses, the Browns will have an easier time on the ground. But if Leonard plays, the Colts could have enough opportunities vs Baker to pile up some points.
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 || Jones || Lamar || (Kyler) || Panthers Passing Stack (i.e., I wouldn’t isolate Teddy on an SE/3-Max build; but if playing two Carolina pass catchers and a piece or two from the Falcons, Teddy is a great way to ride the wave and hope the game breaks into tourney-winning territory)
Zeke || Mike Davis || CEH || (James Robinson) || (David Johnson?)
Panthers || Diontae || Slayton (& Tate, and Cowboys; but my entry point would be Slayton, so I would only be moving to the others in a three-entry setup where I maybe could have two Slayton, with one Tate as a decent-floor, high-ceiling hedge; and then I could bring back all three rosters with Cowboys pass game pieces) || Higgins || Olamide || Jeff Smith (as leverage off Olamide)
Ebron || Engram || Waller || Kelce
Steelers || 49ers
Remember to check out the Run To Daylight Pod to hang out with Tod, Hilow, Lex, and ETR’s Mike Leone 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!