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
Below :: breaking down key components on Min/TN offenses (and how they should be factored and built around) // hitting on some GPP separators // laying out my final player pool
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And with that, let’s get to the Player Grid!
DK salary remaining :: $3000
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
On FanDuel, where the automatic points that come from a running back who sees so much pass game work are cut in half, and where Mattison and Robinson are both underpriced (Mattison in particular), these guys don’t pop quite as much. But they’re both rock solid on DraftKings; and given what you’re rostering them for, they can be played on a roster together. (Note: Mike was more Light Blue for me when I added my thoughts in the NFL Edge; but after getting deeper into what’s available on this slate as a whole, Mike’s high floor and clear paths to ceiling shifted him over to this prestigious side.)
Since Ryan Tannehill took over for the Titans in Week 7 last year, he and A.J. Brown have played 14 games together. On DK, they cost $11.5k in combined salary (which means you’d be rostering this pair hoping for at least 45 points — and hoping for upside for more). Here’s what their combined scores have looked like in those 14 games (Derrick Henry score after double-slash)
35.38 // 16.8
28.52 // 6.3
40.14 // 21.9
22.64 // 31.1
59.86 // 27.5
22.28 // 20.6
68.14 // 22.9
53.56 // 8.6 (v Houston)
38.98 // DNP
43.32 // 39.1 (v Houston)
28.26 // 13.1
51.2 // 18.3
These two have gone for about 2.5x or worse in four or 14 games, but they have also gone for 4.5x or better four times. Henry, meanwhile, has gone for 4x+ three times and 2.5x or worse five times — with one “had to have it” score (vs Houston), compared to two “had to have it” scores from Tanny/Brown (one of which came against Houston). Tanny was likelier to carry this “Tanny/Brown” pairing than was Brown. Brown has “hit” (4x or better his Week 6 salary) five times in this 14-game stretch (this is an excellent pace; typically, we’re looking for at least 1/4 — which is why Brown pops as so underpriced this week), including four games of about 5x or better. Tanny went 4x or better his Week 6 salary in four of the five games in which Brown hit (and went 5x or better in three). On the flip side, Tanny had another three strong-to-elite games without Brown hitting.
All that to say: Tanny can be rostered without Brown. But Brown rosters should also roster Tanny — or at the very least, most of your Brown rosters should roster Tanny. If you’re rostering Brown, you’re saying on that roster that you expect him to hit a tourney-winning score. If he does, Tanny is highly likely to also be posting a tourney-winning score, so you may as well go ahead and take all the points. Brown will be popular, and Tanny, apparently, won’t go “overlooked”; but by setting a rule for your rosters of “Tanny goes on almost all my Brown builds,” you position yourself to play this from a different angle than the field. (Jonnu Smith is also viable in all this. I’m not isolating him outside of Titans-focused builds, but he’s in the mix at tight end. Adam Humphries, as noted a couple times this week, has “on the field all the time for a team that will score points” justification behind him as cheap tourney exposure to this offense.)
This is not accidental usage:
Claypool was heavily schemed work last week, and he took advantage. With Diontae Johnson out, and the Steelers playing a Browns team allowing a high target rate to wideouts, there is plenty to like here again.
With that said: Claypool is light-blue, not true blue. He is, very noticeably, a body catcher (i.e., he lets the ball come to him instead of grabbing the ball out of the air with his hands). He has some nasty moves as a route-runner; and last week, he got to deal with an Eagles team that plays man coverage at one of the highest rates in the league. This gave him plenty of opportunities to create separation and catch the ball however he wanted. But against the Browns (who have played zone at one of the highest rates in the league), Claypool will have to do more “settling in a spot and catching the ball,” which doesn’t fit quite as well with what makes him special right now. With that, a slim path for a dud opens up; but more importantly, his chances of a tourney-winning game go down. I like Claypool from a strategy perspective, as DFS players tend to be scared of looking/feeling like a “fish,” and playing a rookie wideout after an unusually elite game always feels like a fish move. The role for Claypool, however, is very real. The only concern is that this matchup doesn’t quite work in his favor the way last week’s did; though Fichtner is adaptable/creative enough that he’ll still find ways to use Claypool’s gamebreaking skills.
The thinking behind my rare prioritization of Andrews is covered extensively in the Edge writeup for this game, and in the Angles Pod (he’s in the Bottom-Up Build, for goodness sake), but in a nutshell: the Ravens should tilt slightly more pass-heavy, and the Eagles have had a lot of trouble with tight ends. This elevates the chances of an eight or nine target game for Andrews, and he typically finds his way to production when the targets are there. The two reasons I don’t often prioritize Andrews are 1) the targets are inconsistent, and 2) even when he hits, he’s not going to hit like a running back or wide receiver in his price range can hit (making that salary more valuable elsewhere). But there is little enough to like at tight end this week that a good 90% of rosters that don’t have Andrews could be scoring under 11 or 12 points at the position (this would require Jonnu and possibly Hockenson failing to top 11, and all the cheap darts doing what they’ve been doing all season), gaining positional leverage for you if Andrews posts his high-probability higher-end game (18+ points, with potential for the mid-low 20s). This tightens up salary in other spots, but if you’re able to hit on the right midrange guys (or the right cheap play), it works out as a pretty sizable edge gained on the field. (On FanDuel, of course, it’s all a lot simpler. Andrews pops in this one, so he’s a really strong play.) With how packed this week has been for me (I’m on three hours of sleep in the last 36 as I type this, and I still have another seven or eight hours before I’ll be going down for a day of sleep, into overnight building), I don’t yet have a deep feel for how my builds will come together. But I’m planning to prioritize Andrews on a chunk of my rosters this week.
Mattison is closer to a True Blue Chip on FanDuel, where he’s just really underpriced; but on DraftKings, this summary from the NFL Edge pretty perfectly nails my thoughts:
At his price tag on DraftKings, you’re really needing A) for Mattison to go for close to 30, and/or B) for Mattison to outscore most or all of the other high-priced backs. Dalvin Cook has gone for 27+ DK points in an awesome nine of his last 19 games; but because of how touchdown-dependent those spiked weeks have been, in nine of the 10 games in which he fell shy of 27, he scored under 20. In other words: there’s at least a 50/50 chance that Mattison scores under 20. And even Dalvin himself has no track record in this offense of putting up a “have to have it” score — that is, the sort of 6x (or even 5x) score that you can’t win a tourney without. To say all that another way: Mattison’s range is roughly “mid-to-high teens half the time, and exactly the sort of score you need at his price the other half of the time.” These are excellent odds, if you want to play them. But there are clear cases for not playing Mattison; and even if you fade him and he “hits,” it’s highly unlikely to be for the sort of score you “had to have” that weekend.
As noted in the writeup for this game, I like the Texans’ offense more for build-arounds (and/or more for bring-backs on Titans-led rosters) than for individual pieces. But if I end up heavy on the Titans’ side of the ball, I’ll allow that to dictate some Texans exposure for me as well: likely building a small percentage of David Johnson + Titans rosters (again: explored in the game writeup in the Edge) and a few Watson-led Texans stacks. Titans players can be rostered without rostering Houston players (this team spreads the ball around enough and has a couple pieces priced high enough that “Titans hitting” doesn’t mean the Texans necessarily have to hit also), but even if I’m not isolating the Texans individually, I like the game environment enough (and may end up with enough Tennessee exposure) that some hedges // leverage plays // “bet on a true shootout” bets might be in order on the other side of the ball.
The Packers popped off the page in this spot a bit more than expected, as the strengths of the Bucs’ defense (sacks and turnovers) match up with strengths of the Packers’ offense (they’re top of the league in limiting sacks and limiting turnovers), which could leave the Pack with an otherwise-middling matchup, against a Bucs team that has faced the fourth highest opponent pass play rate in the league. The Bucs are still, undoubtedly, a good pass defense, and the Packers have had a soft pass defense schedule to begin the year. The price tags on these guys (Rodgers and Davante) are also too high. But there are also clear scenarios in which Rodgers + Adams is the highest-scoring stack on the slate; so while I won’t be spreading this spot across my builds, I probably will be looking to isolate it on one or two of my likely-12 rosters.
I wouldn’t play one without the other (unless I were going heavy and wanted to start hedging with some Marvin Jones rosters mixed in), as Stafford will likely need Golladay to hit in order to hit himself, and Golladay (as explored in-depth a couple weeks ago) has consistently carried Stafford with him on the weeks he has hit. In other words: “If you’re getting one right, you’re likely getting the other right; so it makes sense to take advantage.” This pairing won’t go overlooked on this slate, but there’s plenty to like.
As we’ve explored over the last couple weeks: the Dolphins spread the ball around so much that Fitzpatrick regularly posts high-end games without bringing any individual pass catcher with him. The Jets don’t project to keep pace, which could lead to Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins taking their foot off the gas in the passing attack as this game moves along (same as other Jets opponents have done this year). But the matchup is still excellent, and Fitz is unlikely to dud even if he doesn’t pop for a big game. I like him as a viable tourney piece this week.
Cam doesn’t pop in the research, by any means, as this Patriots offense is so multi-dimensional and adaptable, Cam will always be at risk of a total usage-based dud. But without any quarterbacks on this slate carrying a clear path to a slate-winning game, Cam could end up posting the top QB score on the slate if things come together the right way.
Speaking of no quarterbacks carrying a clear path to a slate-winning game: Lamar always has that type of upside. He belongs in the mix this week.
We know the good here; we know the bad. If Henry scores a touchdown, he posts a solid score but falls shy of price-considered expectations. If he scores two touchdowns, he’s posting the sort of score you’re rostering him for. If he doesn’t score, he hurts you a decent amount at his price. All sorts of game theory elements come into play when Henry is in a smash spot (as explored here, here, and here), but in a vacuum: the matchup is excellent, and Henry will certainly be in position for a multi-touchdown day.
It feels terrible to lock in a Gurley roster knowing what we know about his usage (on DK, he’s just $1k away from true 85% backs, while he’s playing around 60% of the snaps himself and regularly seeing 14 carries and only a couple targets), but a lot of things line up really nicely in this matchup, in a game where the Falcons should tilt slightly toward the run; if Gurley cracks 100 yards and scores once or twice, he’d be a nice separator from the field.
Robinson needs game flow to work in his favor, but this spot sets up well for game flow to work in his favor. As noted in the NFL Edge, there is the final concern that Minshew has 16 pass attempts inside the 10 while Robinson has only two carries; but Robinson gives us a talented back with a multi-dimensional role in a matchup that plays to his favor. And while he clearly isn’t the “optimal” play, from a research perspective, he creates enough leverage off the optimal plays to be worth a look in tourneys.
McLaurin is truly as simple as, “Given all the factors that go into who this player is and how this player is used, he’s very underpriced (on both DK and FD).” This doesn’t guarantee he’ll hit in this particular spot; but you’re getting tremendous value by rostering McLaurin. You wouldn’t get many arguments from “NFL experts” if you claimed McLaurin as a top 10 wide receiver in the league (in no particular order, here’s a top 16 :: Beckham // McLaurin // Ridley // Julio? // Thielen // Diggs // Hopkins // Davante Adams // Allen Robinson // Evans // Godwin // Tyreek // Amari // DK // Keenan // Mike Thomas; and if I’m allowed to go a step further, Edelman and Kupp can both make non-elite corners (and sometimes elite corners) look absolutely foolish), and McLaurin is priced like a midrange guy. The QB situation is non-ideal, but McLaurin is still shining in this offense.
Thielen can be scooped off the Bonus list and added to the Light Blue list if that will make you feel better about him; he’s right in the middle for me. I expect Minnesota to control their game against the Falcons, and I expect Thielen to therefore still land at around eight targets in this one. But even at eight targets, in this matchup, with the sort of downfield work and red zone work he’s seeing, he could outscore the running backs priced in his range; and if the Falcons do well enough to keep this game tight throughout (or if they do enough to tilt the Vikings more heavily to the pass), he’ll have a shot at a monster day. There is some downside here, but the risk is relatively low. And he has upside to spare. (Jefferson and the Atlanta passing attack are in the mix as well, but for me they would be “hedge off my Thielen exposure” // “build around my Thielen exposure” instead of pieces I would be prioritizing in this one.)
We dove deep into these two in the Angles Pod this week, but both guys are quality ways to save salary and expose yourself to upside. This is assuming Chark misses; but if he does end up being out, Conley’s track record over the last couple years when seeing the field has been “eight to 10 DK points, with the occasional 20-pointer thrown in.” At only $3600, that’s not a bad bet to take.
As noted in the NFL Edge: Ebron doesn’t give you much in the way of projectable production; but when he hits, he can hit with yardage and touchdown upside, which can be good enough at the tight end position to remain in the mix.
Engram still looks a step slow. But in this overlooked game, in a matchup that sets up well (see both Miraglia’s Matchups for this one and the Collective for this one), he has a shot to be a difference-maker if things suddenly click.
I’d rather spend up for Mark Andrews than for the Ravens (i.e., Andrews is likelier to create a positive gap between your roster and “cheap tight end hunters” than are the Ravens between your roster and “cheap DST hunters”), but I still really like this defense. They should give Wentz plenty of trouble. Sacks and turnovers are high-probability events.
Both of these defenses are in a great spot this week. Washington is the preferred play (they’re the better defense, and Jones is a slightly better target for a defense than Kyle Allen), but both are in the mix.
The Vikings don’t line up for some sort of fire-catching day on defense; but given what we know about the Vikings’ defense and the Falcons’ offense, Minnesota should be priced at more like $3k than $2300 on DK. This is a quality place to grab some savings, with a clear shot at four to eight points.
The Bengals are another salary-saver to consider against pick-prone Philip Rivers. The Bengals are likelier to end up with zero points than the Vikings are; but they may also be likelier to end up with 10+ points, as their man-heavy, ninth-in-DVOA coverage scheme could have some pick-six opportunities in this one. Game flow is likely to work against the Bengals’ D, but they’re still an interesting salary-saver piece.
Always consider the Steelers.
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:
Tanny + A.J. || Stafford + Golladay || (Fitzpatrick naked?) || (Cam Naked?)
David Montgomery || Mike Davis || Alexander Mattison || (Derrick Henry)
Claypool || McLaurin || Thielen || Laviska // Conley || (+ A.J. Brown & Golladay, above)
Mark Andrews || (Evan Engram) || (Eric Ebron)
Ravens || Washington || NYG || (Vikings // Bengals)
Remember to check out the Run To Daylight Pod to hang out with Tod, Hilow, and Lex 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!