FanDuel Roundtable #3

Eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics.

This week we discuss the following:


Departing from Vegas script

Sometimes Vegas doesn't know. The Eagles-Cowboys debacle was a prime example. What's one game script you think has a good chance to deviate from the Vegas line in Week 3?

Maurile Tremblay: I think the Seahawks-Bears game and the Falcons-Cowboys game are difficult to predict because unfamiliar quarterbacks (Clausen and Weeden) will get the start. They could be off in either direction. Weeden can get on a hot streak, and Clausen in some ways is more efficient than Cutler—but either of them have the potential to be complete disasters as well. In cash games, I don't try to guess how a game will vary from the Vegas line; I just play it safe and go with Vegas. But in GPPs, I do like to run through various what-if scenarios and take a chance on the unexpected happening. This week, I may indeed play a Clausen-Bennett or Weeden-Williams stack in some lineups while also stacking Lynch with the Seahawks defense or Freeman with the Falcons defensein other lineups. If either game substantially deviates from expectations in either direction, I'll look like an idiot with some of those lineups, but potentially like a genius in others—which is what I'm going for in GPPs.

James Brimacombe: Yes the good old Cowboys-Eagles game that ends up being a fantasy wasteland. Well I have to say I had a few too many shares of that game and hopefully can find ways to avoid those type of games moving forward. This week I think it could be the Steelers-Rams game at 47.5 points that might be lower scoring than what Vegas is predicting. It seems like a game that could be a battle back in forth with a team winning at the end on a field goal with something more like a 20-17 score. It will be hard not to load up on the Steelers after a great display last week on offense but heading on the road against a tough Rams defense it might turn into more of a time possession game that features more running from both teams.

Chad Parsons: I see a lower scoring game between the Jets and Eagles in Week 3. The over-under is 47, a top-5 total this week. The Eagles are on the road (not that a home game would help their lost offense) and the Jets are a stingy run defense (the Eagles bread and butter to get on track). The Eagles are also stout against the run through two weeks, limiting the primary objective for both offenses.

Danny Tuccitto: Vegas currently projects something like a 24-21 Jets win against the Eagles. Given how inept the Eagles offense has looked against mediocre (at best) defenses in their first two games, I can see the much-better-on-defense Jets covering easily in a more low-scoring game.

Andrew Garda: I agree with the sentiment that Jets-Eagles will be low-scoring, though I think the Jets win it handily. The Eagles offense is nothing I am spending money on against this defense, while the Jets offense only has Brandon Marshall as someone I would target because I think he'll get yards and if there is a passing touchdown here, he gets it.

Alex Miglio: What a brutal Week 2 that was. We shall never speak of it again.

Vegas is good, but they get things wrong all the time. You will note the Week 2 NFL meltdown has Vegas reeling a bit—none of the games eclipse 50 points in over-under totals. That makes it seem like fantasy scoring is going to be depressed all around, but there could be plenty of fireworks from unexpected places.

One of those is in South Florida, where the Dolphins take on the Bills in a battle of defenses-that-were-better-on-paper-heading-into-the-season. Miami has been banged up while Buffalo suffered the wrath of Tom Brady last week. Yet the over-under is between 42 and 43 for the game. The two teams have played low-scoring games in recent years, but nascent offenses could lead to a much different game script than we are used to.


Travis Benjamin

Travis Benjamin is only $5,600 next week. Is he a chalk play or a trap?

Maurile Tremblay: I have no real interest in him at $5,600. Through two weeks, he's had seven targets—behind both Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline on the Browns. His $5,600 salary makes him $300 more expensive than Darrius Heyward-Bey (12 targets), and makes him just $300 cheaper than Steve Johnson (12 targets) and Pierre Garcon (15 targets). It's great that Benjamin has been piling up touchdowns like crazy, but it's too late to start him in Week 2. His Week 3 prospects are pretty ordinary, in my opinion. He's not even an attractive GPP play to me because I suspect he'll be over-owned.

James Brimacombe: Travis Benjamin has a connection with Johnny Manziel right now and if Manziel were still under center, you'd have to like Benjamin to see a few targets down the field. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll get McCown at quarterback this week instead of Manziel; but still, Benjamin has speed to make plays and one of his big catches can be more valuable than someone that catches five passes. At $5,600 I like Benjamin as a WR3 to save some salary and load up elsewhere. It really helps that he is playing the Oakland Raiders as well and should be able to continue his success this week. Another plus for Benjamin is that he returns kicks and can always break one for you and give you six bonus points like what he did last week.

Chad Parsons: While an upside play, I will be fading Benjamin and pass-catchers in Cleveland as a rule due to their quarterback situation and relying on a single big play or two in order to justify their salary.

Danny Tuccitto: It's a trap. The vast majority of Benjamin's FanDuel scoring has come from three long receiving touchdowns and a punt return touchdown. If you look up "unsustainable" in the football statistics dictionary, this kind of performance is what you'll find as a definition.

Andrew Garda: As Admiral Akbar would say, it's a trap. He isn't getting enough consistent targets for me to spend that money on him plus with the change back to Josh McCown, we have no idea if he'll even get those.

Alex Miglio: We all know what Admiral Ackbar would say here. But would he be right?

I think the biggest issue with Benjamin here is the fact Josh McCown is the starter again. Mike Pettine did say that fantasy football owners will probably hate him this season, and that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Benjamin exploded as soon as Manziel came into the game in Week 1, scoring a long touchdown he replicated in his Week 2 supernova. He gets a soft Oakland defense at home this week, and his price has remained low for some reason. That's going to draw DFS players to him like flies to honey.


Varying GPP lineups

How much do you vary your lineups across GPPs?

Maurile Tremblay: A lot. My favorite part of season-long fantasy, by far, is the draft. Similarly, my favorite part of DFS is crafting lineups. So I craft a lot of them and enter them into GPPs. With cash games, I try to have my lineups stick to the Vegas script, which means that my cash-games don't vary much. But with GPPs, I'm happy to vary from the Vegas script in different ways with each lineup I create. Last year there were a few weeks in which I created about 50 unique GPP lineups just at FanDuel. (And I play at 14 different sites.) That sounds like a lot, but it's really just a very tiny subset of all the reasonable GPP lineups possible in a given week. If you take your ten favorite QB-REC stacks and create a core of 7-8 players for each one, varying only the final 1-2 spots with five different combinations ... you're still just scratching the surface of what you could reasonably do, but that's 50 lineups right there.

It takes a lot of time for me to create and enter that many lineups, but like I said, that's my favorite part of the hobby, so it doesn't feel like work. It's fun.

James Brimacombe: I don't tend to vary my lineups across GPPs that often as I like to have a core set of players that I am targeting each week and I play it pretty close to those guys. I like to pick two or quarterbacks, 3-4 running backs, 5-6 wide receivers, and 2-3 of each TE, K, DEF and just mix and match everywhere hoping to hit the right combo in one of the lineups.

Chad Parsons: I create a few different 'stacks' for weekly GPP tournaments. They center around one game and one stack hitting to pay off. There are likely a few similar value plays across those lineups, but creating a two or three player stack for maximum upside is the centerpiece to my lineups. This week Tom Brady-Julian Edelman is one option with a team total of 30.5, even adding Rob Gronkowski as a triple stack. Another option is the far cheaper Carson Palmer-Larry Fitzgerald-John Brown stack.

Andrew Garda: Very little. If I like a roster, I stick with it. the only thing I do is occasionally vary which position I chase value on, running an upside low-cost receiver in one GPP and a running back in another. But I generally stick to my script.

Alex Miglio: Keeping an eye on exposure is key to not taking a bath, but too much variance can really limit your upside. You don't want to have 20 entirely different lineups because your ROI is going to be short-circuited unless you are really lucky. That said, I tend to identify a crop of really good GPP plays to pair with great cash game options and rotate them through lineups. For example, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles are really nice GPP options this week that allow me to stick high-floor, high-ceiling guys like Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas into lineups.


Tight ends

Rob Gronkowski is $2,000 more expensive than the next guy. Is he still a must-roster in cash games?

Maurile Tremblay: Gronkowski is still an excellent value. He will certainly be in a number of my cash-game lineups. There's nothing wrong with looking at cheaper options as well, though. Jordan Reed (on Thursday), Kyle Rudolph, and Jared Cook are all at least $3,000 cheaper, which is about the difference between Lorenzo Taliaferro and Marshawn Lynch, or between Jeremy Maclin and Antonio Brown. If you're going to pay up for a tight end, Gronkowski is a very attractive option; but there's more than one way to build a lineup, so I wouldn't call him a must-roster.

James Brimacombe: Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the game no questions asked and he does happen to have a cake walk of a matchup this week against the Jaguars at home but through two weeks of the season so far the tight end position has been producing values everywhere. Tyler Eifert for example is $2,500 less and has been just as dominant and has a good chance to equal Gronkowski's production this week. In cash games Gronkowski feels like the safest option but the high cost will likely make you miss on taking a couple of studs at running back or wide receiver.

Chad Parsons: Without Austin Seferian-Jenkins healthy this week, Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed (Thursday Night) are the only other non-Gronk options I am considering in Week 3. I will have an exposure of 35%-45% of Rob Gronkowski.

Danny Tuccitto: The highest-salaried tight end—regardless of how much more expensive he is than the second-highest—is rarely, if ever, a must-roster in any game. You're better off relying on a value-based option at tight end and allocating a larger relative percentage of the salary cap on quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

Andrew Garda: I really like some of the plays Maurile mentioned and many of those are where I went instead of Gronkowski. While you're pretty sure he will do well, so is everyone else. So ultimately, if I can find a value (like Josh Reed Thursday night) and use the money to prop up another position, that's what I'd do.

Sorry Gronk.

Alex Miglio: Never fade Gronkowski, right? Danny is probably right, but it's been tough keeping Gronkowski out of lineups even at his high salary. At such a premium this week, though, there is just too much you are giving up elsewhere to use him in more than a relative handful of lineups. Not when guys like Greg Olsen and Tyler Eifert are $2,500 cheaper or Kyle Rudolph is over $3,000 less expensive. Gronkowski still might score the most fantasy points this week, but those salary multipliers are far more difficult to hit at $8,400.


Emerging trends

Have you noticed any emerging trends over the first two weeks that you can either exploit or avoid for contests on FanDuel?

Maurile Tremblay: It's not specific to FanDuel, but one thing I've noticed is that Antonio Brown is really good. In fact, I'd say that the top pass-receivers in general have been very worth paying up for—more so than the top quarterbacks or running backs. A two-week trend doesn't say very much, but I believe that Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Rob Gronkowski will continue to be solid plays in both cash games and tournaments in the immediately foreseeable future.

James Brimacombe: There have been a few trends with stacking returners with their team defenses that I have liked for GPPs. In Week 1 Tyler Lockett and the Seattle defense hit along with Jarvis Landry and the Dolphins defense. Last week it was Travis Benjamin and the Browns defense. This week could be another good one to use Tyler Lockett and Seattle Defense with a great home matchup against the Chicago Bears.

Chad Parsons: The Arizona passing game is still a quality value and Austin Seferian-Jenkins is poised to be a weekly value when he returns. With the clustered pricing at kicker, I am more likely to pay a hundred more for a top offense and/or ideal matchup. Low-cost defenses are still easy to target weekly based on two weeks of FanDuel pricing.

Alex Miglio: Expect the unexpected?

The shocking ineptitude of would-be high-powered offenses is certainly something to note thus far. The Philadelphia Eagles looked fine in Week 1, but they have hardly been the balefire unit we expected with a supposedly improved quarterback situation. The Indianapolis Colts have been just awful, though they have had a tough couple of defensive matchups.

Last year was huge for small receivers, and we're seeing more of that emerge in 2015. Guys like Odell Beckham Jr Jr, Antonio Brown and Travis Benjamin are scoring fantasy points in oodles, perhaps a correction of the fantasy stock market after years of dominance from big men. That isn't to say Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall are obsolete—they're scoring plenty, too—but the little guys are getting into the end zone, not just catching passes between the 20s.

That will do it for this edition of the FanDuel Roundtable. Please join us again next week.


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