Before we get into this week’s slate breakdown and tournament strategies, a piece of Week 2 advice:
Don’t overreact to Week 1.
That’s not to say there weren’t tons of actionable takeaways from last week’s games. In fact, quite a few will be mentioned below. Just remember we’re dealing with the smallest possible sample size to draw conclusions from.
Last year at this time, Kenny Golladay was coming off a two-touchdown debut after a buzzy preseason. Many fantasy analysts who touted Golladay were proclaiming certain victory and the DFS hive mind followed along, which elevated his Week 2 ownership. Golladay, you may remember, came crashing down to earth in Week 2 with one catch for eight measly yards.
It’s a long way of saying we still don’t know what we don’t know. Week 1 results have to make up some part of your process as you prepare for Week 2. The entire NFL season is only 16 games, so we’re always making decisions based on relatively small samples. But don’t completely toss aside the research you did all summer in favor of last week’s NFL Red Zone channel highlights. All markets have a way of correcting themselves over time and DFS is no different.
KNOW YOUR ENEMIES
To place near the top of a large field GPP, your roster has to stand out from the crowd in some way. Knowing which players will command the highest ownership is a helpful first step, but without the context of how those players fit together under the salary cap, it’s difficult to project the type of lineups you’ll be up against most frequently.
Sometimes, the clearest path to creating a unique roster is to allocate more of your salary cap to the positions your opponents are not. To gain some insight into how most other entrants are likely to think as they construct their rosters, with the goal of building yours differently, consider these bullets:
- We’re working with a much tighter salary cap than last week. DraftKings had the opportunity to adjust the salaries of several underpriced players. And since so many chalk plays hit in Week 1, many players in the top salary tier have also seen price increases. The result is a tough choice for most entrants on whether to invest more heavily in high-priced running backs or wide receivers.
- Those who choose to jam in both Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley, for example, will find themselves looking at the $4K-$6K group of wide receivers, with Week 1 star Emmanuel Sanders leading the way at the high end of that range, and top dollar-per-target values Quincy Enunwa (mispriced due to pricing being released before he scored 18.6 PPR points on Monday Night Football) and Dante Pettis (with Marquise Goodwin expected to scratch) the most likely options at the lower end.
- Using one of Kamara or Gurley and paying down to the $7K tier at RB2 (James Conner, Melvin Gordon III) will probably be more a popular option than trying to squeeze the two highest-priced backs into the same lineup. Starting a build this way allows for the inclusion of one wide receiver who costs $7,500 or more (Antonio Brown, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, and Julio Jones will be the usual suspects).
- Starting a roster with two of the aforementioned stud wide receivers still leaves room for Conner at RB1, but will usually necessitate using a low-priced RB2 and spending $4K or less to fill the flex position. Tevin Coleman (and possibly James White if Rex Burkhead misses) will appear frequently in these types of builds.
- All of the above roster constructions assume light spending at quarterback and tight end. Many will also be eager to get a piece of Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees -- home quarterbacks attached to the teams with Vegas’ highest implied point totals -- as well as Rob Gronkowski, who remains fairly priced relative to the top wide receivers. Any effort to include these guys along with two high-priced running backs and/or wide receivers results in an all-out stars & scrubs roster construction.
- You can pay up to be contrarian at team defense. Unlike last week, when there was plenty of room to fit the consensus top play (Ravens at $3,800), entrants will look to defense first when they need to cut salary.
- All things considered, building a balanced roster will unquestionably set you apart from the crowd in Week 2, especially since the field is hesitant to fade the chalk after last week’s excellent results. Be sure to mix some rosters based around a core of mid-priced players into your builds for differentiation.
- The last seven bullet points can be thrown out the window depending on injury news leading up to Sunday afternoon. If any of Aaron Rodgers, Leonard Fournette, or Burkhead sit out this week, the dynamic of the entire slate changes. Stay on top of the news cycle and build “contingency plan” rosters so you’re not scrambling to adjust your lineups in the hours leading up to lock.
Taking a Stand on the Chalk
These players are the odds-on favorites to score the most fantasy points. Fading them entirely for the sake of differentiating your lineups is rarely the best decision when multi-entering tournaments. Instead, decide how much exposure you are comfortable with for each player in comparison to their ownership projection. Some suggestions on how to treat this week’s most popular plays:
IMPORTANT: All ownership percentages cited below are based on our Steve Buzzard’s projections. Initial projections are posted on Thursdays, refined throughout the week, and updated on Saturdays.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger (vs. KC, $6,900, 9% rostered) - By now, you’re probably bored hearing about Roethlisberger’s famed home/road splits, but just in case, consider this your obligatory reminder he has averaged 28.6 fantasy points per game in 19 home games since the start of 2015. Compared to his 23 games on the road over the same span, that amounts to a 63% increase in fantasy points per game. #BenAtHome narratives aside, Roethlisberger is set up to smash his salary-implied fantasy point projection this week. Kansas City travels to Pittsburgh with 2017’s bottom-ranked defense (DVOA). In Week 1, the Chiefs inexperienced (and/or just plain bad) cornerbacks struggled to contain every single pass-catching option on the LA Chargers, and their competition -- namely Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster -- will be even stiffer this week. Make Roethlisberger one of the quarterbacks you build stacks around.
RB: James Conner (vs. KC $6,700, 34% rostered) - Le'Veon Bell’s surprising holdout enabled Conner to return an 8x multiple of his salary last week. DraftKings raised his price by $2,200 for Week 2, but the increase should have been closer to $4,000. Everything is in place for Conner to once again contend for overall RB1 honors on this slate:
- Implied game script - The Steelers opened as five-point home favorites, with a 28.5-point team total.
- Workload - Conner accounted for a league-high 62% of his team’s total opportunities last week (rush attempts plus receptions). His 36 total touches led the league and it wasn’t close.
- Matchup - In addition to ranking dead-last in overall team defense DVOA last season, Kansas City also ranked 32nd in rush defense.
While there is slight leverage to be had by focusing on the Steelers passing game, fading Conner relative to the field is a bad idea for a second straight week.
WR: Julio Jones (vs. CAR, $8,400, 16% rostered) - At the risk of making this an all Steelers article, Jones gets the mention here over Antonio Brown, who will be the highest-owned receiver on the slate. Jones played like a man possessed at Philadelphia last week, racking up 169 yards on a whopping 19 targets, and almost single-handedly brought the Falcons back from behind for a win against one of the top defenses in the NFL. Atlanta is in a rare spot as an unhyped six-point home favorite, with a solid 25.25-point implied team total. If Vegas has this game pegged correctly, Jones will be the primary reason why. He presents a physical mismatch for most cornerbacks but will have a massive edge when lined up opposite second-round rookie Donte Jackson. Jackson was impressive in his NFL debut against the Cowboys dismal wide receivers, but cedes 40 pounds to Jones and is five inches shorter. In a week with several attractive high-priced wide receivers, Jones is an intriguing pivot in GPPs. Get more exposure than the field.
TE: George Kittle (vs. DET, $3,800, 20% rostered) - Kittle’s price is up $500 from Week 1 due to his 9-5-90-0 boxscore at Minnesota (14 fantasy points). The solid performance came on the heels of rampant off-season industry hype, so it’s a safe bet Kittle’s bandwagon will be plenty full as he faces off with a Detroit defense that looked abysmal in their home opener. With Marquise Goodwin’s status for Sunday shaky at best, it’s easy to make the argument Kittle remains severely underpriced. Imagine his cap number if he had not dropped what would have been a 60-plus yard touchdown in Minnesota, or if Jimmy Garoppolo hadn’t overthrown him in the end zone on another play later in the game. San Francisco opened with an implied team total of nearly 26 points and Kittle remains the only viable red zone target on the team. His matchup and game script provide fertile grounds for tight end fantasy production. The only reason to reign in the Kittle enthusiasm is tight end being an easy position to differentiate your lineups. Keep your exposure to Kittle even with the field.
DST: LA Rams (vs. ARI, $3,700, 8% rostered) - As previously mentioned, the top-priced defenses will not see 20+ percent ownership like they did last week, making it safe (and perhaps preferable) to pay up for the chalk. More entrants will look to the Chargers, who have an obvious matchup advantage against Josh Allen in his first career start, but the Rams don’t have to travel cross country for a 1 p.m. game, their defense isn’t extremely banged up, and they have a juicy matchup in their own right against Arizona. The Cardinals offense looked as though Week 1 was their first time ever playing a snap together. Even if offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was able to whip his group into shape over the last week, the team’s offensive line is completely overmatched against Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald. If LA’s ownership projection holds, double your exposure in comparison to the field.
MORE CHALK PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Drew Brees||QB||CLE||$7,200||10%||Couldn't ask for a better matchup. Will game script require enough attempts?|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||CLE||$9,500||23%||Pass catching + goal-line role in NO is best in all of fantasy football.|
|Todd Gurley||RB||ARI||$9,200||23%||Tough matchup but game script sets him up for 2nd-straight big week.|
|Antonio Brown||WR||KC||$8,800||31%||Nightmare for Kansas City's perimeter defense. Heavy exposure play.|
|Michael Thomas||WR||CLE||$8,600||18%||Target hog. Hard to argue with his percent rostered.|
|Tyreek Hill||WR||@PIT||$7,600||16%||Never fade Hill entirely in GPPs. Never.|
|Jack Doyle||TE||@WAS||$4,000||12%||WAS vulnerable over the middle. Doyle will be Luck's top target.|
|LA Chargers||D/ST||@BUF||$3,600||12%||Not a great spot for the banged up Chargers defense, but top matchup play.|
For the most part, you won’t be sneaking these players past your opponents. But their projected ownership percentage is lower than the probability they will score more fantasy points than their salary implies. If you are multi-entering tournaments, raise your exposure higher than their ownership projection.
QB: Deshaun Watson (@ TEN, $6,300, 5% rostered) - Substantial decreases in salary are usually indicative of low ownership and Watson’s price is down $400 from Week 1. Many will be off him due to a rough Week 1 performance in Foxborough, but he was set up to fail. Playing on the road as a big underdog in New England, without his top field-stretcher (Will Fuller V), in his first game back from knee surgery was hardly an ideal spot. Fuller is back to practice this week, and not only will his presence unlock Watson’s downfield playmaking ability, it will divert defensive attention from DeAndre Hopkins. As a result, Hopkins will be in better position to beat cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was burned by Kenny Stills for a 75-yard touchdown last week. Throw in the extra 4-6 fantasy points Watson will generate with his legs, and a 25-point game is well within his range of possible outcomes.
RB: Christian McCaffrey (@ ATL, $7,000, 14% rostered) - Our Ryan Zamichieli already highlighted McCaffrey as a high-exposure play in his Week 2 Sharp Report and he was spot on for three important reasons:
- Workload - Many came away from Week 1 disappointed in McCaffrey’s 16 total touches, but his workhorse status was masked by the terribly slow pace of the game against Dallas. McCaffrey was on the field for 85% of the team’s snaps, saw nine targets out of the backfield, and should now see even more opportunity with Greg Olsen out. As Zamichieli noted, McCaffrey averaged two more targets per game without Olsen in the lineup last year.
- Game script - As if he needed more opportunity, McCaffrey will benefit from additional looks in the passing game if Atlanta forces Carolina into comeback mode, as the 5.5-point spread implies.
- Matchup - Safety Keanu Neal and inside linebacker Deion Jones are out for the Falcons. Per Pro Football Focus’ Scott Barrett, Neal or Jones was the primary defender on 47% of every running back target against Atlanta last year -- bad news for a team that perennially struggles to defend pass-catching running backs, to begin with.
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. KC, $6,400, 13% rostered) - Expect Smith-Schuster to occupy residence in this space all season. He is one of a small handful of big-play wide receivers you should have GPP exposure to every week, regardless of matchup, and he’ll almost always be a lower-owned leverage play on Antonio Brown chalk weeks. Not only does Smith-Schuster check those boxes in Week 2, he also provides a relatively inexpensive way to buy into Pittsburgh’s potential shootout with Kansas City. Smith-Schuster will run about 60% of his routes against the Chiefs lone adequate cornerback, Kendall Fuller, but it’s Fuller who should be worried, not the other way around. Dating back to last season (playoffs included), Smith-Schuster has cleared 100 receiving yards, scored a touchdown, or both in five straight games. He warrants at least double his current ownership projection.
TE: Travis Kelce (@PIT, $5,900, 8% rostered) - Kelce is another comparatively cheap way to buy some shares of the high Pittsburgh-Kansas City game total. His ownership will be somewhat depressed due to last week’s stinker (1.6 fantasy points) but it’s not nearly time to panic. Patrick Mahomes targeted Kelce six times in Week 1, which amounted to a healthy 24% market share. And per Airyards.com, Kelce’s 92 air yards trailed only Jared Cook, Rob Gronkowski, and Kittle -- last week’s TE1, TE2, and TE6, respectively. With Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins opening up the middle of the field, it’s a matter of if, not when, Kelce erupts for a huge game. The Steelers, without Ryan Shazier at linebacker, are not an imposing matchup for a tight end with Kelce’s size/speed/athleticism profile, as evidenced by Rob Gronkowski’s 30.8 fantasy points against Pittsburgh in Week 15 last season.
DST: Houston Texans (@TEN $2,600, 8% rostered) - Perhaps numerous weather delays didn’t help Marcus Mariota in the Titans opener, but he looked truly horrendous, completing only 56% of his passes while getting intercepted twice. Now Mariota is dealing with an injury to his throwing elbow and he’ll be without left tackle Taylor Lewan (concussion) to protect his blind side. That sound you hear is Mariota’s knees knocking together at the thought of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus coming at him in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s exotic blitz packages.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Jared Goff||QB||ARI||$6,300||2%||Rams passing game going overlooked. QB-WR stack leverage on Gurley.|
|Kareem Hunt||RB||@PIT||$6,200||7%||Everyone is on the KC-PIT passing games and Conner and forgot Hunt.|
|Chris Thompson||RB||IND||$5,900||5%||Mixon carved up IND through the air. Thompson looks like last year's version.|
|Royce Freeman||RB||OAK||$4,300||5%||Needs TDs but has the matchup/game script to get them.|
|Jarvis Landry||WR||@NO||$6,300||8%||Targets are safe in any game script. No longer strictly a possession receiver.|
|Cooper Kupp||WR||ARI||$5,500||7%||High-floor glue guys are still useful in GPPs. Will avoid Peterson in the slot.|
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR||@TEN||$8,000||8%||No one should be more excited Will Fuller V is back. Titans killer.|
|Rob Gronkowski||TE||@JAX||$7,000||10%||Price equivalent to WR9 makes him a bargain. Use two TEs to fit him in.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||D/ST||@TAM||$3,400||4%||Best pass rush in the game. At least Fitzmagic will always have last week.|
Hitting on one or more of these players will gain you massive leverage on the field. Due to their low ownership, the better they perform, the faster your roster separates in the standings. Keep in mind, using a 5%-owned player in only 2-out-of-10 lineups gains you four times more exposure than the field. When multi-entering a GPP, make sure you have strong conviction on a contrarian play before over-investing in their low-probability outcome.
QB: Matt Ryan (vs. CAR, $5,700, 4% rostered) - Ryan bombed with a sub-50% completion rate and 9.84 fantasy points in the NFL’s first nationally televised island game of the season, making him toxic to casual entrants. While the Falcons inability to score red zone touchdowns under embattled second-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has become the stuff of legend, Atlanta’s offense is going overlooked this week. Ryan faced pressure on 36% of his dropbacks against the Eagles elite defensive line, the third-highest rate of any quarterback in Week 1. He may have been the first, but definitely won’t be the last, passer to fall on his face in Philadelphia this season. Carolina’s pass rush isn’t nearly as fierce, which should allow Ryan enough time to find his receivers downfield. If you like Julio Jones’ prospects against the Panthers secondary, you can gain leverage by pairing him with Ryan for a low-owned stack.
RB: Lamar Miller (@ TEN, $5,400, 4% rostered) - Miller is the only running back under $5,500 with a baseline projection of 20+ total touches. He looked great last week in a tough spot at New England, where he gained 109 yards on 21 touches, but the masses are viewing him as a low-ceiling option because Alfred Blue vultured a goal-line touchdown. Nonsense. Miller handled 41% of the Texans offensive opportunities last week, which was the 11th-highest rate in the league. And despite losing out to Blue on the one-yard-line, he carried the ball inside the 10-yard line seven times against the Patriots. Only Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley had more carries from inside their opponent’s 10 in Week 1. When you combine his clear dollar-per-touch value with his shaded touchdown upside, Miller looks like one of the better running back options on the slate for GPPs and cash games alike.
WR: Robert Woods (vs. ARI, $5,700, 3% rostered) - Brandin Cooks got the yardage, Cooper Kupp got the touchdown, and Woods got squadoosh in Week 1, setting the latter up as a contrarian option in a matchup with Arizona. Woods may have been the only LA Rams receiver to disappoint in their opener, but his peripherals were sparkling. He led the team with nine targets, accounting for a 27.3% market share, and many of those looks were of the fantasy-friendly variety. Per Airyards.com, Woods’ nine targets traveled 161 yards through the air, which placed him fifth among all pass-catchers. Woods will run some of his routes into cornerback Patrick Peterson’s smothering coverage, but Arizona head coach Steve Wilks is playing Peterson off the ball more rather than having him shadow the opposition’s top receiver. If we follow the volume, average target depth, and Vegas (LA is implied to score 28 points), all paths lead to Woods clearing 20 fantasy points.
TE: Ben Watson (vs. CLE, $3,400, 5% rostered) - Watson played on 80% of the Saints offensive snaps last week, making the justification here simple -- he’s a guy who will be on the field a lot and his quarterback is Drew Brees. The fact his opponent is the Browns, who allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2017, is merely the cherry on top. Last week, Jesse James, despite his 4.83 speed, broke a 37-yard catch and run against Cleveland. We should always be looking for exposure to tight ends in high-scoring offenses when they’re at home and heavily favored. The Saints fit the bill and Watson is cheap.
DST: New Orleans Saints (vs. CLE, $3,200, 4% rostered) - The Saints defense was the lowest-scoring entity on DraftKings last week. If you paid up to roster them at $3,600, you were rewarded with negative four fantasy points. Recency bias will keep the crowd off New Orleans despite the fact they were regarded as one of the top defenses in the league at this time only one week ago. Tyrod Taylor faced pressure on 33% of his dropbacks last week and was sacked seven times by the Steelers. The potential for sacks not only gives the Saints a high-floor but opens the door for turnovers and the possibility of defensive touchdowns.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Nick Foles||QB||@TB||$5,700||1%||Foles can be trick-or-treat in any given week. TB pass D is the worst.|
|Alfred Morris||RB||DET||$3,600||6%||Leverage play on SF passing game if he can get in the end zone.|
|Kenyan Drake||RB||@NYJ||$5,800||3%||Quiet 17 touches, 4 targets last week. Enough workload for explosive player.|
|Courtland Sutton||WR||OAK||$3,500||2%||Weekly big play and long TD threat in great matchup.|
|Mohamed Sanu||WR||CAR||$4,000||5%||If you want to go completely off the grid with a Ryan stack.|
|Ricky Seals-Jones||TE||@LAR||$2,900||4%||If LB Barron sits again, Rams D will struggle to defend TEs.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||D/ST||NE||$2,800||3%||Best defense in fantasy at a discount and low ownership? Yes, please.|