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!)
:: 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
Sonic’s ‘Above The Field’ :: The Ballad of rikkidee
Hilow’s ‘End Around’ (must-read for Week 7!)
Saturday evening, 4.56 PM PT
I’m attaching a photo. I’ll be building 19 rosters in my Roster Block this week, built around 4 main spots, with sprinklings of some others.
As noted in the following photo, I expect to be heavy on Hunt and light on Kamara (obviously, there are tremendous cases to be made for Kamara this week; but similar to what I said in the Player Grid about how I’m handling SEA/AZ myself :: if the research says one thing and ownership says something else, I like to side with the research, as this has proven (by far) to be MY most +EV path over time; if curious why I have any concerns about Kamara, read the Grid! — again, he’s a rock-solid play on paper; but he’s a guy I’m comfortable going underweight the field on this week). Jamaal Williams should be expected to handle more than half of the Packers’ carries and the majority of the pass game work out of the backfield, making him an excellent value now that Jones is expected to miss. A.J. Dillon will also be involved (the Packers // LaFleur aren’t typically a spot where we have to worry about totally random, unpredictable usage; but there is an outside shot Dillon plays more than expected and ends up with more touches than Jamaal). Gio is the better value play on paper, but it’s not that far off when we factor in the upside Jamaal has in this offense. I’ll have plenty of both.
Otherwise :: you can see in the photo the players I’m focused on from the games I’m attacking most heavily (you can also see my “build-around” exposure from the two main games I’m targeting — i.e., how many rosters I’m dedicating to each set of “game-focused builds.” Pieces from these games will be mixed and matched elsewhere, of course; and pieces from the “Other” category will be mixed onto my game-focused builds).
Let’s get it!
(Sunday morning note: I sprinkled in three Cobb rosters, given all my Texans // Packers exposure. One Fells roster as well. Those are good ways to hedge for this game “hitting, but differently than expected.” Everything else came together the way you’d expect, assuming you’ve been on the site this week. Let’s have a great week, fam!)
Run To Daylight (hosted by TodFromPA || presented by OWS!) will be live at 8 PM Eastern.
Hilow will be on.
Lex will be on.
I’ll 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!
Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod
Noah Fant (or Hunter Henry)
Noah Fant (or Hunter Henry)
If you usually skip the NFL Edge and jump straight to the Player Grid, I recommend reading the game writeup for this one. (If you do skip the NFL Edge and jump straight to the Player Grid, I expect this is due to time constraints. If that’s the case, my recommendation would be: read the Player Grid, and then read the game writeups that are relevant to what you’re thinking as you head into your builds. I.e., again: read the writeup for this game!) This is a key game on the slate. And Kyler is the most bulletproof piece from this game. I’ll be less heavy on this game than I expected to be before diving into the research; but Kyler has an awesome floor and plenty of ceiling, keeping him very clearly in the mix for my rosters this week.
Davante is set to be one of the most popular players on the slate, so it’s not as if you need much additional information in this space, at this point in the week; but he’s a near-lock for double-digit targets, and the matchup should not present any issues. As explored in the Angles Pod this week, this spot features two quarterbacks who should be able to put up points, and two teams that will be attacking downfield throughout. Davante features excellent floor and ceiling.
I love Rodgers this week.
If Aaron Jones plays (as explored in the NFL Edge), he has very little history of hitting for tourney-winning upside with Adams on the field (which will likely put me underweight his heavy ownership), but he still carries tremendous upside in an excellent matchup. I’ll absolutely have exposure.
If Jones misses, A.J. Dillon will mix in, but Jamaal Williams projects to lead this backfield and will be a rock-solid play himself.
And if I’m building around this game (which I will be), I’ll also want to add some exposure to the “all at once” upside of MVS.
The starting point in all of this for me is Adams (i.e., he’s the player from this game I’ll have the most exposure to outside of builds focused on this game), but this game will probably be my central focus on about 40% of my rosters. I expect to have something like 4/19 Rodgers builds and 4/19 Watson builds, with Texans pass game pieces mixed in across those rosters. Fuller // Cooks probably won’t be on many (if any) rosters away from these game-focused builds of mine; but they’ll function as roster anchors in these spots.
Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are out. The Panthers allowed the most running back yards and touchdowns a year ago. This year, they’ve allowed the most touchdowns, the third most receiving yards, and the ninth most rushing yards. Kamara should be the engine of the offense here, making him a high-floor, high-ceiling piece. He (obviously) has a shot at posting at true “have to have it” score; and even if he misses, he’s unlikely to wreck your roster. He’ll be highly-owned, but he warrants the attention. (Or…does he? More on this below.)
The Saints’ offense has been scoring around 81 DK points per game before QB scoring is factored in (a huge shoutout to 2Spoons for tracking this for each team in his Collective!), and while Sean Payton likes to get creative in how he uses his chess pieces (especially, maddeningly, near the goal line), most of the action on this offense should flow through Kamara, Latavius, Tre’Quan, and Cook. I’ll be heaviest on Kamara this week, but I’ll also want Saints exposure on some of my non-Kamara rosters, as this offense (as explored in the Angles Pod) should be able to figure out a way to maneuver up and down the field and score points one way or another; and if my Kamara rosters end up disappointing, that almost certainly means one (or more) of these other three pieces is posting a really nice game. I can see a very clear scenario in which the Saints find they are having success on the ground and decide to just keep pounding the rock. Latavius could see 15+ carries and multiple scoring opportunities in this setup, and could be the direct reason Kamara comes in under expectations. If I have something like 11 Kamara rosters, I may have two or three Latavius rosters as a hedge against Kamara’s worst-case scenario.
Of course, chances are pretty good that Kamara’s “worst-case scenario” doesn’t manifest. This would directly impact expectations for Latavius (if Kamara is hitting, Latavius likely isn’t), but one of these two pass catchers could easily hit alongside Kamara. Now…we should note that Brees has a game this year of 30 pass attempts and a game of 25 pass attempts. In 10 full games last year, he had another three games of 30 pass attempts; and that was with Michael Thomas on the field. In four of these five games, Brees has thrown the ball to nine different players on these 30 (or fewer) attempts. The Panthers rank 13th in DVOA vs the pass, but 26th against the run, which increases the likelihood of a low-volume game for Brees (especially with his best pass game weapons out). And the chances of those pass attempts being spread out are high. This means there’s no guarantee that these “Saints team points” concentrate the way we’d like them to. But even with all that: it’s likely that one of Cook/Tre’Quan (and possibly both) produce at their price. They’re candidates to go over-owned due to the auto-play mentality the DFS community has when injuries open opportunities on a team; but they’re nevertheless solid options on paper, with yardage-and-touchdown upside.
I expect to have one Teddy + Robby + Moore stack on my 19 builds, hoping to take advantage of A) the upside of this game environment, B) the concentrated distribution of touches on the Panthers, and C) the fact that Teddy has an outside shot at one of the top scores on the slate if the Saints are scoring points and stopping the Panthers on the ground. This isn’t a “circle the spot” type of play, but it does have clear paths to working out nicely this week.
We’re conditioned to play Kamara when Michael Thomas is out. And we’re conditioned to play running backs vs Panthers. Kamara, on paper, is an excellent play; so if you don’t want additional information/angles to have to consider, skip this portion of the Player Grid…
But if you do want another angle, ask yourself how you expect the Saints to try to win this game on offense.
In five of Brees’ last 15 games (as noted above), he has thrown the ball 30 or fewer times. And if you’re Sean Payton, without Thomas and Sanders, against a Panthers team that is easy to attack on the ground, there’s a good chance you’re entering this game with a plan of keeping pass attempts in that range once again.
In digging through box scores in those five games, and being reminded of how much the Saints spread the ball around even in those games, I also realized that Kamara’s value as a pass catcher (and thus his value in DFS) take a big dent in those games. So I tallied up Kamara’s fantasy output in those five games, and here’s what we have (DK scoring) ::
In the five games over the last two years in which Brees threw 30 or fewer times, Kamara has failed to crack 24 points all five times. Now, only one of those games (20.9) came without Thomas. But those are jarring numbers, given Kamara’s price. Kamara is highly unlikely to hurt you, no matter what happens here (those 20 point games are fine). But he may not be quite the “30-40-point smash play” that the auto-play mentality would lead one to believe.
On paper, Kamara is a Blue Chip play. But if you dig into thoughts beyond just “matchup” and start thinking about “how the Saints will try to win this game,” we run into some interesting elements. Since I’m aiming for first place in tourneys, I may actually use this information to go underweight the field on Kamara this week, hoping we see these numbers play out like this a sixth time (while still giving myself some outs by having Kamara exposure on a handful of my rosters).
I came into this writeup thinking I’d have Kamara on over half my rosters. Even in light of the numbers above, I firmly believe that’s a defensible stance. But I also see more paths to a Kamara “fade/underweight” than I would have expected. As with Cardinals/Seahawks (below), my tendency in spots like that is to remind myself that it’s okay to lose if I’m losing because I’m trusting the research and giving myself clear shots at first place (and conversely: it’s not okay to lose because I’m simply “siding with the field, out of fear of missing out on a big game”).
We’ll move on; but before we do, we’ll summarize the Saints as follows:
>> There are clear cases to be made that Kamara is the top play on the slate, and that Cook/Tre’Quan are among the best values
>> There are also clear cases to be made that the Saints will try to win this game in a way that limits the upside on all these guys: throwing 30 or fewer times // spreading the ball around to nine guys // and making it difficult for any individual piece to post a “have to have it” score.
>> From a pure “matchup” // “on-paper” standpoint, this is a Blue Chip spot.
>> But from a “strategy” standpoint (and given what could happen if the Saints throw only 30 times), I may not quite be treating it like a Blue Chip spot on my own rosters this week. Do with that what you will. I’ll definitely have exposure; but (surprisingly, as this was not my intention when I began writing up the Grid) it’s looking somewhat likely that I’ll actually be underweight.
Everything lines up really well for Hunt in this game (almost too well, in fact; truthfully, he belongs in the True Blue category instead of “Light Blue,” but while I’ll be able to pull the trigger on my own rosters, in terms of treating him as such, I couldn’t quite pull that trigger in the Player Grid), with the Browns’ number two adjusted line yards offense taking on the Bengals’ 25th-ranked adjusted line yards defense. The Bengals are especially susceptible to runs to the edges, where Hunt excels. And Hunt should be involved in the run game, the pass game, and the red zone. I expect to have heavy exposure to Hunt this week.
As noted in the Angles Pod :: Gio’s range on DraftKings in his last four fill-in starts has been about 15 to 25 points (with one game apiece on those outer edges, and with another two games around 20). When you think about what $4500 buys you elsewhere (again: we dove deep into this in the Angles Pod, including an exploration of how DK handles pricing in this price range, and what types of players you can almost always expect to find here), this is an excellent range. If Gio gets only 15, and you’re able to build without him in such a way that you are securing more upside than the field, you’ll be in good shape in tourneys…but if you roster Gio and he gets you “only 15,” you’re still in good shape in tourneys (and if he gets you 25, you’re sitting pretty). Add it all up, and Gio isn’t a “must play”…but he’s certainly “good chalk.” I’ll have plenty of him this week. (On FanDuel, he’s a bit less attractive, as there are other ways to find in all the pieces you want, and Gio isn’t the best bet for yardage and touchdowns. He’s still very much in play there; but he’s less of a priority.)
At this wasteland of a position, on a week with plenty to like in terms of value, Kelce is very much in play. On FanDuel, as always, the gap between “cheap tight end” and “expensive tight end” is small enough that Kelce is a rock-solid option. And on DraftKings, while Kelce is the second highest-priced tight end, he’s also one of only three tight ends on this slate averaging more than 3x their Week 7 salary (the other two are Kittle and Jonnu; Jonnu has Pittsburgh, and Kittle has Belichick). Kelce has scored five touchdowns to produce at that level (and with touchdowns being higher-variance, we certainly can’t just “bank on those showing up here”), but the fact that he has scored five touchdowns already also reminds us of just how real his role is in this Chiefs offense. Kelce isn’t a “first priority on the slate” type of guy; but he is rock solid this week.
The only concern here is game flow, as the Bills could jump out to a lead and ease off the gas(e). But Josh Allen // Stefon Diggs // Gabriel Davis all jump off the page in this spot if the volume cooperates, and I even like Breshad Perriman (eight targets last week; gets Sam Darnold back) and Jamison Crowder as bring-back pieces. Davis is the play likeliest to show up in builds of mine that are not focused on this game (he’s been covered at length this week in both the NFL Edge and the Angles Pod; but the Bills love him, and he’ll be a full-time player with John Brown on the sidelines); but even Diggs and Perriman may sneak onto one or two rosters away from Allen. I’ll likely have two or three Allen rosters this week. (With a narrow core at running back and lots of passing offenses I like, that’s how I expect to play things: build around a tight set of running backs, then mix and match different stacks, with my heaviest focus on Packers // Texans, my next-heaviest focus on the game we’re looking at next, and then some mixes and matches of the remaining QB/passing-attack pieces mentioned.)
There are more negative points in this one than in Packers // Texans. The Lions are more easily attacked on the ground, and the Lions’ offense can’t be counted on to drive this game forward themselves (requiring the Falcons to come out clicking for this game to turn into what we want). But while the Lions rank 12th in DVOA against the pass, they are also one of the man-heaviest teams in football, and they have faced the third-deepest aDOT in football. Detroit has not yet had to deal with a team that can send two weapons downfield the way the Falcons can with Ridley and Julio, which should strain Duron Harmon’s ability to make up for any man-coverage mistakes his corners are making. Incredibly, Matt Ryan, Julio, and Ridley have combined for 90+ DraftKings points in both of Julio’s healthy games. If you’re not buying the Lions’ pass defense as one to avoid, these three have a shot to reach that mark again; and even if the Lions hold up fairly well here, Matt Ryan + one wideout is a solid bet to hit.
I’ll also have some Stafford + Golladay action here. I expect to have 4/19 builds that are focused around this game; and right now, I’m leaning toward the idea of three Matty rosters and one Stafford roster (as this would allow me to go Matty + Julio // Matty + Ridley // Matty + Julio + Ridley), but I’ve also been back-and-forth between that approach and a “two Stafford // two Matty” approach. Either way, I’m eyeing this game environment. And if this game environment pops, Stafford and Golladay will almost certainly be a part of it.
This one was covered pretty extensively in the NFL Edge and in the Angles Pod; but Burrow plus two pass catchers (or Burrow + Gio + a pass catcher) has a really solid shot at paying off this week. We found in the Contributor Channel on Discord that all of us liked this as a “sneaky spot” (Dustin brought it up // I mentioned that it was the foundation of my Bottom-up Build // Sonic and Xandamere chimed in with love for this stack // then Scott came on late and brought up this stack independent of the first conversation), which leads me to believe it won’t, ultimately, be that sneaky come Sunday. I’ve seen ownership projections as high as 7% on Burrow, and while that would surprise me in the Milly Maker, it wouldn’t surprise me in high-dollar tourneys. Still :: this is a sharp spot; and it’s a spot to go all-in on if building here, with multiple pieces from the Bengals and with Hunt (or Hunt + a Browns tight end) on the other side. I don’t have this one listed in the Single-Entry/3-Max pool below…but if I were actually building for 3-Max myself, this one would certainly still be in my ear, as it is a play that doesn’t carry all that much risk, and that could create a clear path to first place in tourneys if things go the way they project to go.
Justin Jackson :: I love the matchup for Herbert // Keenan // Henry, etc…and yet, I’m not heavy on that group. When I realized this, I had to ask myself, “Why?” And the answer, of course, is that I expect the Chargers to control this game, which makes passing volume a slight concern on this team that would prefer to lean on the run. Add it all together, and “whoever is the lead back for the Chargers” has a shot at a big game; and Jackson is likeliest to be the lead back here. There’s some guesswork involved; but there’s also enough potential upside to justify the guesswork. Jackson won’t be a focus for me, but I may use him as a “change of pace” on two to four of my (likely) 19 builds.
Todd Gurley :: Same as last week: No one wants to roster Gurley, because he’s priced too close to true workhorse backs. (Also: since Gurley is a former fantasy superstar, and is no longer the player he once was, it naturally feels like a “fish move” to roster him.) But Gurley has the second most red zone carries in the NFL, and this matchup sets up in his favor. A classic “Gurley multi-touchdown game” is very much in the mix here; and if he cracks 100 yards in the process, Gurley rosters could separate from the field at his low expected ownership. He should see 18+ touches…which is closer to what some of these other “workhorse” backs are seeing than one might assume on the surface.
James Conner :: I may end up with no Conner myself (as explored in the NFL Edge this week: slate-breakers haven’t shown up in his range for quite a while); but there’s no denying that taking one of these “70% backs with a pass game and red zone role” at low ownership is a viable strategy in good matchups; and against a Tennessee team that can’t stop a thing in the red zone, Conner certainly has paths to a multi-touchdown game.
Chris Carson :: This week’s Player Grid is conspicuous for the lack of Seattle // Arizona pieces. I like that game. I think points will be scored. But given what I was coming across in the research for this game…well, I said it like this on Discord: “Points will obviously be scored there. I just don’t think ‘first place’ is coming from that game this week. Could be totally wrong, of course. But if the research is saying one thing and the ownership is saying something totally different, I just simplify by siding with the research. The weeks this doesn’t work are more than made up for by the weeks when it does.” So basically: If you like AZ/SEA this week, I’m not going to work to talk you off it. But if you’re iffy on that game (or if you’re “just playing it because you’re scared to miss out on the big games”), realize that there are certainly paths to the game being “perfectly great, but not good enough to win anyone a tourney.” Kyler is the one piece I’m isolating from that game and likely looking to roster; but if I’m adding another piece, taking the touchdown equity of Carson while creating some ownership variation against my higher-owned backs is a good way for me to get a bit of extra exposure to that game. I won’t be prioritizing Carson, but I likely will end up with him on two to four rosters.
Kyle Allen has been pretty awful at deep passing, which takes away the best thing about McLaurin; but McLaurin’s “best thing” is not his “only thing,” as he is also able to get open at all levels of the field, and he is locked into heavy volume in this offense. McLaurin has a difficult time “failing,” given his role here; and the matchup vs Dallas does him plenty of favors. His chances of posting a true slate-breaker are low in this offense; but his range is still excellent, as he can go for double-digits when he misses and for 20+ when he hits. (Note, McLaurin is priced a bit high on FanDuel, and his “multi-touchdown” upside is low in this offense, making him thinner on there.)
We dove into Diontae in the NFL Edge (after diving into him, like, three other times already this season), and hit on him again in the Angles Pod. The short of it is: if he has the role he entered the season with (and if he finally stays healthy), he projects to see his price rise by about 70% on DK within the next couple months (he’s also extremely underpriced on FanDuel), making him one of the best values on the slate. And even if Chase Claypool has unexpectedly unseated Diontae, he’s cheap enough that his “new role” would still have him slightly underpriced. Just because a player is significantly underpriced doesn’t guarantee he’ll hit (it’s not unusual to see $7k wide receivers score in the single-digits on a disappointing week), but he’s a rock-solid option this week.
The Chiefs could completely dominate this game and leave the Broncos with absolutely nothing on offense. But if the Broncos are able to get anything going, it will be through the backfield and through Fant. Fant is being used downfield, and he has explosive ball-in-his-hands upside. He’s an interesting, likely-to-go-overlooked tourney option at tight end this week.
As noted above: I have slight “passing volume” concerns for the Chargers; but this offense maintains such a tight distribution of targets, Henry should still be able to notch six to eight looks regardless. Jacksonville ranks 24th in success rate allowed to tight ends. Henry carries pretty bankable floor this week, and his ceiling gives him tourney-winning potential.
This will likely be the chalkiest defense of the week, which creates clear discussions about simply going elsewhere at a high-variance position (it’s not as if there aren’t savings available in other spots as well). But we also have a stout Washington pass rush and pass defense taking on a Cowboys team that is working with a makeshift offensive line at the moment. Andy Dalton is surely going to look better this week than he did on Monday night; but the price tag is attractive on Washington as a home defense in a low-total game with a good pass rush, against a quarterback who can occasionally make defense-favoring mistakes. There are no matchups that stand out this week in terms of true “pass rush // pass blocking mismatches against a bad quarterback,” so paying down makes plenty of sense.
Ownership projections are currently landing all over the place on Tampa across different sites; but it’s seeming likely that this defense carries relatively low ownership. As explored in the NFL Edge this week: this matchup favors the Bucs. This defense falls into a similar category to the one in which the Steelers fell last week (before scoring 18 points) :: “Always consider”…especially when ownership projects to be low.
Joey Bosa played only 37% of the Chargers’ snaps in his last start; but reports have him healthy coming off the bye, and Melvin Ingram has a shot at returning for limited snaps this week as well. This should juice up the Chargers’ pass rush, and we know Minshew is good for a few mistakes each week. LAC isn’t flashy, but they have a good chance at getting the job done.
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:
Rodgers || Watson || Kyler || (Matty // Stafford)
Kamara || Hunt || Gio || (Latavius) || (Gurley? Carson?)
Davante(+) || Texans || Falcons || Golladay || Diontae || Tre’Quan || Gabriel Davis
Kelce || Fant || Henry || Cook
Bucs || Chargers || WAS
Remember to check out the Run To Daylight Pod to hang out with Tod, Hilow, Lex, and me 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!