FanDuel Roundtable #8

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

This week we discuss the following:


Survivor

In the Survivor contest, entrants who survive one more week are in the money. What strategy have you used so far, and do you plan to change strategies once we get into the money? If so, how?

Alex Miglio: Just. Follow. The Chalk.

Chalk plays have gotten me through, though barely last week. That strategy isn't going to change for me until I'm in the money. I only threw in a few survivor teams, but the four of them have made it all this way. Once they make it through this week, I will begin to take a few more chances because, as the weaker entrants are weeded out, the cut line will grow higher.

Andrew Garda: As Alex said, follow the chalk early on. Once you get to the cash you have to take some chances but I'm a minimal risk guy for these survivor contests. As soon as the cash hits though, play it more like a GPP where you need to differentiate yourself and take a few more chances.

Steve Buzzard: Play your normal cash game lineups this week. Sixty percent of the field will make it through this week so no need to go out on a limb and deviate from your normal plan. If there is anything I would change is maybe pay up for quarterback to guarantee you some extra points but I don’t think that’s even necessary.

Maurile Tremblay: In the first couple weeks, about 75% of the entries advanced. The two weeks after that, 62.5% advanced. This week, 60% will advance—then 53%, then 50%, then 0.25%.

Until we get to the week when 50% advance (from 4,000 down to 2,000), this is essentially a cash-game, only more so. It's a cash game in which you want to play it extra safe because you don't even have to finish in the top half to advance, and there are no bonus points for finishing way above the cut line instead of barely above it. You either advance or you don't; it doesn't matter by how much. In most cash games, I don't go out of my way to stack pairs of players from the same team, but I don't go out of my way to avoid it, either. In the Survivor contest, however, when we don't even have to be in the top half to advance, I am breaking ties in favor of avoiding positively correlated stacks (such as QB-WR or QB-TE).

When we get down to 2,000 people, that's when I'll treat this like a GPP, not before. That's when it finally matters whether you score 160 or 140, because it's no longer a binary "advance or don't advance" situation, but the prize money is graduated based on how high you finish, and it's heavily weighted toward the top.


Exposure to players of similar value

Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton have the same salary ($8,100) and are projected to score a similar number of points. If Palmer is projected to score 0.1 more points, the auto-fill feature in the Interactive Value Chart will always prefer Palmer, and will therefore fill in Dalton zero percent of the time. But when they are so close in expected production, maybe it's correct to choose Dalton over Palmer a few times if you are submitting multiple lineups.

How do you handle situations like that? Do you go with Palmer every time, or do you choose Dalton around half the time, or do you have some other approach to this kind of situation?

Alex Miglio: Unless ownership percentages are going to be ridiculously disparate, I would absolutely use both in lineups. At this point, Palmer and Dalton are both cash-game options this week, and using both us a good way to hedge in case something goes wrong with one.

Andrew Garda: That's a good question. A lot of those situations are about feel and matchup for me. Who has the matchup I like better? I know the projections take it into account, but at the end of the day it comes down to how you feel about the matchup. The IVC isn't a failsafe nor should it be used as your only way of putting a lineup together. Like anything in fantasy, it comes down to your own choice.

For myself, I might vary a little bit if I like both matchups or I feel strongly about a stack (Dalton-Green, Dalton-Jones or Palmer-Floyd this week). I do like to vary my entries because I feel like I'm guarding myself against having one guy with a bad day sink all my lineups. But I don't always go out of my way to do it and in this case if I like one or the other, then I'm happy to roll with him and vary other positions.

Mark Wimer: As I write about and read about the NFL and fantasy football during the week, I always keep a notebook document marked DFS Prospects open on my desktop. Then, as I find nuggets of relevant information I ether jot down a note or clip the interesting item that I have just run across into the document, which I organize by team. This week, for example, my nuggets include the fact that the Browns have allowed at least 100 total yards to one running back in every game this season. Another is that Dalton and company are in a great matchup against Pittsburgh. Taken together, those notes might cause me to lean toward Dalton over Palmer (as the Cardinals may emphasize the run).

Then, as I employ the various tools here at Footballguys.com, I cross-check against this document and have a "foil" against the recommendations to help me keep my lineups diversified. You can be sure that I will have at least as many lineups with Dalton in them as I do Palmer, and likely actually more Dalton than Palmer as neither CIN nor PIT has an overwhelming defense and that game could be high scoring. Meanwhile, I can see a likely scenario where ARI is up by a comfortable margin in the second half against Cleveland, and the Cardinals therefore pull their starters for rest and precautionary reasons.

Steve Buzzard: Tools like the IVC are very handy and make our lives a lot easier. But this is where tools can go wrong and why it is important to understand the projections and players themselves.

Our tools and projections are the best in the industry, but even they have flaws. If you are blindly following a tool that says always play Palmer 100% in this situation, the tool and your process is flawed and needs to be more flexible. But even more importantly, you need to understand these flaws and weaknesses. I see a lot of people blindly playing with projections and tools that are available to the public without really understanding what they are doing. You may have some short-term success with this but in the long run you are going to run into trouble as DFS is a net negative game due to rake. If everyone has access to that same data you need to have a way to differentiate yourself from the general public and making simple mistakes like this isn’t going to get you there.

Maurile Tremblay: If I have two players projected to score around the same number of points and they have the same salary, I want roughly equal exposure to both of them. More generally, if two players at the same position present roughly equal value (even if they are priced and projected differently), I want roughly equal exposure to both of them. Even more generally than that, I want my exposure to different players to be proportional to their respective likelihoods of finishing with better values (specifically, h-values) than each other. I'm still figuring out the right way to quantify that, but it's easy in the case of Palmer and Dalton this week. I like them about equally, so I'll want to roster them about equally.


Paying up

Which positions are you paying up for this week?

Alex Miglio: I suppose that would be tight end, relatively speaking. I love Tyler Eifert as a chalk play, and Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen will find their way into some lineups as well. Though it may seem like a waste, defense is the other position—the Rams are just about a chalk play despite being over $5,000.

Andrew Garda: I feel like there are a lot of values at the three main positions—RB/WR/QB—though I usually pay up for a stud in one or two of those categories anyway. I might add a little extra sauce at running back this week though as I feel like the top guys have some of the best matchups. I might actually pay up a bit for tight end as well.

To Alex's point about how defense might seem like a waste, I really think it isn't, especially in GPPs when every point counts. I won some money because I rolled with Denver for most of the first half of the season—their 17 point average has made a difference. Of course, matchups matter here too, and if you can pay for a cheaper team that faces a turnover-prone offense, well that is just as good.

Mark Wimer: My contrarian lineup this week at FanDuel has Zach Mettenberger and Kendall Wright stacked—the matchup against the suddenly-Arian-Foster-less Texans and their league-leading 16 passing TDs allowed by the secondary and the modest salaries of Mettenberger ($6,000) and Wright ($5,900) affords me the opportunity to play Devonta Freeman ($9,100) against Tampa and Todd Gurley ($8,100) at home against San Francisco. So there I am paying up for top running backs. This lineup also has Odell Beckham Jr Jr. ($8,700) against the Saints' poor pass defense.

In other lineups I've got Antonio Brown ($8,400) and A.J. Green ($8,200)—as I've noted I like the CIN-PIT game to be close and fairly high scoring. Having the top receivers for both teams makes sense, especially with Ben Roethlisberger fully practicing Wednesday and Thursday. I am stacking Dalton ($8,100) with Green in that lineup.

Steve Buzzard: I don’t tend to pay up for a specific position but simply follow my projections. I feel like if you start getting into the mindset of paying for a specific position in a given week, you are backing yourself into a corner. As I mentioned when discussing exposure, you need to stay flexible.

Maurile Tremblay: I am going to keep paying up for Devonta Freeman ($9,100) at running back and DeAndre Hopkins ($9,000) at wide receiver, as I have been pretty much every week. (I also like Cam Newton at quarterback, if $8,000 counts as paying up.) I think there are some pretty good bargains at other positions (specifically Ladarius Green at tight end for $5,300 if Gates doesn't play, along with some sub-$5,000 options at kicker and defense). I think Hopkins is going to be even more heavily relied on with Arian Foster out, and Devonta Freeman is the most reliable fantasy player in the league right now.


Cheap wide receivers with upside

Every week a few cheap WRs with low ownership percentages put up good fantasy numbers. Robert Woods and Nate Washington last week seem kind of obvious in hindsight, but they ended up in very few lineups. Who are some bargain WRs this week with a good shot of performing well?

Alex Miglio: Mike Wallace strikes me as a guy who is due for a big week. He has a nice matchup, and Stefon Diggs has done enough to capture the attention of fantasy owners and opposing defenses alike. Tavon Austin is also a nice deal in a great matchup against the 49ers.

Andrew Garda: With John Brown likely out, Michael Floyd could be a nice play and I suspect ownership percentage won't be too outrageous. If Stevie Johnson is healthy—and it seems he is—he could be in for strong day with Keenan Allen getting a ton of attention from Baltimore, and with Antonio Gates probably out.

Mark Wimer: I like Marvin Jones Jr ($5,400) for the reasons I've already detailed about the Bengals-Steelers matchup. Kendall Wright is another ($5,900) I've already explained about. Also, though he isn't exactly cheap at $6,400 Eric Decker is a value-priced play against the woeful Oakland secondary.

Steve Buzzard: I will go with Michael Crabtree who has been a frequent target of Carr so far this season at 9.3 targets per game. He hasn’t really been a difference-maker on the season but his price has stayed low and is an attractive option for cash games.

Maurile Tremblay: I like Nate Washington ($5,400) again even if Cecil Shorts plays, but especially if he doesn't. I also like Michael Crabtree ($5,700) with Darrelle Revis likely occupying Amari Cooper. And for an even cheaper option, I second Andrew's mention of Michael Floyd. It's not often you find a sub-$5,000 receiver with his upside potential if John Brown is out.

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


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