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:
- 49ers at Chiefs has a season-high 56-point game total and Patrick Mahomes II has thrown for 582 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two games. There’s no doubt the crowd will be on Mahomes and the Kansas City pass-catchers, the only question is how they’ll try to squeeze their Chiefs stacks under a tight salary cap along with this week’s other popular plays.
- Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara are once again the leading projected scorers at running back, however, they also remain the two most expensive players on the board. Fitting either of Gurley or Kamara with Mahomes and any Kansas City pass-catcher besides Sammy Watkins requires punting RB2 and playing two wide receivers and a flex in the $5K and under range.
- To pair Mahomes with his most obvious stacking partner --Tyreek Hill -- and include another pass-catcher priced above $8K, sacrificing at running back is a requirement. Expect to see lots of Giovani Bernard, Tevin Coleman, and Corey Clement (if Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are both out) in lineups with two expensive receivers.
- Travis Kelce is $1,800 less than Tyreek Hill and coming off a multi-touchdown effort in Week 2. He’ll appear often in Mahomes stacks. Zach Ertz might get some love at about the same price, but the majority of entrants will look to spend $4K or less at tight end in an effort to improve their running backs and wide receivers.
- Three of the premier defenses in fantasy football -- the Vikings, Jaguars, and Bears -- are in dream matchups. There will be no spending up to be contrarian at defense/special teams this week.
- Friday injury update - Dalvin Cook, Jay Ajayi, and Jack Doyle have been declared out, opening up the value needed to slide players like Gurley and Kamara into Mahomes-Tyreek Hill stacks without punting more than one position. Latavius Murray, Corey Clement, and Eric Ebron will be among the most popular players on the slate.
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: Patrick Mahomes II II (vs. SF, $7,000, 14% rostered) - Fading Mahomes entirely this week feels like burning money. Not only has he proven to have the highest ceiling at the quarterback position, his opponent this week, the 49ers, have allowed more air yards than only three other teams through two games. If he’s capable of shredding the Steelers on the road, Mahomes should be able to do whatever he wants against San Francisco. The problems in GPPs are his projected percent rostered (high for any quarterback) and his price relative to potential bargains like Cam Newton and Matt Ryan. Make Mahomes one of the quarterbacks you build stacks around this week, but don’t raise your exposure higher than the field. There is leverage to be gained by starting builds with one of several lower-priced quarterbacks.
RB: Todd Gurley (vs. LAC, $9,200, 27% rostered) - The Rams were heavily favored in both their games this season, and Gurley predictably excelled, hanging 26.7 fantasy points on the Raiders in Week 1 and 32.3 on the Cardinals last week. LA’s other team “visits” the Rams as seven-point underdogs, which points to a third-straight positive game script for Gurley to exploit this week. While the Chargers look better statistically stopping the run than they did last year, they’ve faced Kansas City -- the most efficient passing offense in the league -- and Buffalo, who might not get a chance to establish the run in a game all season. Despite their opposition, the Chargers still rank as a bottom-10 unit in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The only thing not to like about Gurley is his price, but his upside in this spot warrants heavy exposure.
WR: Michael Thomas (@ATL, $8,900, 24% rostered) - Thomas is the top-scoring wide receiver on DraftKings through two games, on the strength of a whopping 30 total targets and league-leading 3.5 red zone targets per game. He has saved some of his best performances for Atlanta, with an average of 102.5 yards per game in four career games against the Falcons, to go along with three touchdowns. It’s undeniable Thomas has earned his WR1 price tag, but he’s better suited for cash games this week. The two meetings between Atlanta and New Orleans resulted in disappointing game totals of 46 and 37 points last season. A second straight multi-touchdown game remains in his range of outcomes but is unlikely barring a shootout. At his increased salary, Thomas needs to exceed his baseline projections to be a worthy anchor for your lineups. If you want to pay up for a Saints player, spend the extra $600 for Alvin Kamara against a banged up defense that just allowed Christian McCaffrey to reach his ceiling. Roster less Thomas than the field.
TE: Travis Kelce (vs. SF, $6,800, 14% rostered) - As mentioned in this space last week, it was only a matter of time before Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins opened up the middle of the field for Kelce, who rebounded from an invisible Week 1 to drop 33 fantasy points on Pittsburgh. San Francisco has allowed touchdowns to tight ends in consecutive games to open the season and currently lead the league in pass success rate allowed to the position at 83%. The matchup and game script favor at least one trip to the end zone for Kelce, but there are reasons to fade him relative to his percent rostered. His price is up $800 from Week 2, the Chiefs have a surplus of offensive weapons to spread the ball around to, and tight end is an inherently volatile position. Keep your exposure to Kelce even with his ownership projection.
DST: Minnesota Vikings (vs. BUF, $4,300, 12% rostered) - The Bills are just the 81st team in the history of the NFL to enter a game as an underdog of more than 16 points. Considering the Vikings dominated Jimmy Garoppolo to the tune of three sacks, three interceptions, and 18 fantasy points in their only home game this season, the huge number they need to cover the spread this week is justified. Josh Allen has been sacked on an average of 16.7% of his dropbacks this season, which trails only DeShone Kizer through two games. He will almost assuredly turn the ball over more than once when Buffalo is forced to keep pace with Kirk Cousins. Minnesota should be one of the three or four defenses you mix into your lineups this week.
More Chalk Plays:
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Matt Ryan||QB||NO||$5,700||9%||Two rushing TDs last week were fluky but price is right.|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||@ATL||$9,500||21%||No Neal and Jones for Falcons good news for pass-catching RBs.|
|Tevin Coleman||RB||NO||$6,400||25%||Market share of team rush attempts didn't change without Freeman.|
|Julio Jones||WR||NO||$7,900||32%||WRs wrecking NO downfield. Keep an eye on his calf injury.|
|Tyreek Hill||WR||SF||$8,500||20%||Obvious stacking partner for Mahomes should never be faded in GPPs.|
|Eric Ebron||TE||@PHI||$3,500||17%||Top point per dollar play at TE with Doyle out.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||D/ST||TEN||$4,000||8%||Best defense in the league vs. Gabbert or injured Mariota.|
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: Cam Newton (vs. CIN, $6,000, 10% rostered) - Don’t bother trying to figure out why Newton’s cap number dropped by $600 following a stellar 30+ point performance in Week 2, just take the savings and play him. The visiting Bengals gave up at least 300 yards and two touchdowns to both Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco in each of their first two games. With linebacker Vontaze Burfict suspended, Cincinnati has allowed the sixth-most targets to opposing running backs, which should enable Newton to pad his stats on short dump-offs to Christian McCaffrey for a second straight week. In the least startling development of the young season, Newton once again leads all quarterbacks in rush attempts and is tacking on an additional 50 yards per game on the ground. In a matchup with sneaky shootout potential (both Bengals games have totaled 57 points), Newton has the highest ceiling of any quarterback on the slate not named Patrick Mahomes II.
RB: Kenyan Drake (vs. OAK, $5,600, 11% rostered) - Many entrants will be leery of Drake due to the threat of Frank Gore cutting into his workload, but those worries seem baseless. Drake has handled about two-thirds of the Dolphins touches out of the backfield through two games. His 16 touches per game rank top-20 at running back and he has out-carried Gore two-to-one when Miami has gotten inside their opponent’s 10-yard line. The only thing missing so far has been the explosive plays we saw from Drake last season, but Oakland’s rush defense should help bring them to fruition. The Raiders feature nothing but plodders on the defensive line and at linebacker, which has resulted in back-to-back games with at least 100 rushing yards allowed to Todd Gurley and Phillip Lindsay. Drake’s 4.45-speed figures to give the Raiders fits, putting him in line for his first 20+ point performance of the season.
WR: Robert Woods (vs. LAC, $5,100, 13% rostered) - Woods’ price is down $1,300 since Week 1 due to a pair of pedestrian performances, but his peripheral stats point to a positive adjustment in the near future. Jared Goff has targeted Woods nine times in each game, which is good for an average market share of over 27%. Those targets have also been of the fantasy-friendly variety. Wood’s 268 air yards not only lead the Rams but rank 10th-best in the entire league. If Goff hadn’t overthrown Woods on a deep ball in Week 1 or a wide-open red zone target in Week 2, the DFS community would be valuing him much differently against a Chargers defense that was annihilated downfield by Tyreek Hill in Week 1.
TE: Kyle Rudolph (vs. BUF, $4,100, 6% rostered) - Rudolph checks the boxes we should always be looking for in a GPP tight end:
- Big home favorite - Anything but a dominant Vikings win this week would qualify as shocking and their implied team-total is nearly 29 points. The pie is bigger for the entire Minnesota offense in this game, which bodes well for Rudolph to see more opportunities to produce fantasy points than usual.
- Red zone target - Rudolph is a perennial red zone target hog and it’s been no different with Kirk Cousins at the helm for the Vikings. So far, Rudolph has accounted for a team-high 25% average red zone target market share. His touchdown potential in this game script trails only Kelce’s at tight end, yet he’s available at a fraction of the price, providing much-needed cap relief.
- Flying below the radar - If his projected percent rostered holds, Rudolph will qualify as a near-contrarian play. Don’t be afraid to push your exposure three times above the field. A single touchdown catch is all it takes at his salary for him not to crush your lineup, and a very attainable 5-50-1 receiving line gets him to roughly 4x his salary.
DST: Chicago Bears (@ ARI, $3,500, 9% rostered) - As every national television analyst has made you painfully aware of by now, the addition of Khalil Mack has made the Bears defensive line lethal. Through two games, including one against God-mode Aaron Rodgers, Chicago has totaled 10 sacks, four turnovers, and two defensive touchdowns. The Cardinals have scored six points in eight quarters this season, have a dismal offensive line, no clue how to deploy their best offensive weapon (David Johnson), and turned the ball over 1.5 times per game. Even if Mitchell Trubisky on the road makes you leery of a wonky game script, this is as good as it gets from a matchup perspective for the Bears defense. They deserve to cost $4K or more like Minnesota and Jacksonville.
More Core Plays
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Andrew Luck||QB||@PHI||$5,600||3%||Might have to throw 50 passes in this matchup.|
|Kareem Hunt||RB||SF||$6,000||22%||Eventually he's got to pay off as a leverage play. Lack of catches worrisome.|
|Corey Clement||RB||IND||$4,300||9%||Ownership will triple with Ajayi, Sproles are ruled out. Chalk.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||@HOU||$7,600||7%||Terrible o-line actually a boon for his PPR upside.|
|Allen Robinson||WR||@ARI||$5,400||8%||Price tag doesn't reflect 14 targets on Monday Night Football.|
|Sammy Watkins||WR||SF||$5,100||10%||Excellent matchup/leverage play for second straight week.|
|Adam Thielen||WR||BUF||$7,800||9%||Play Cousins super stacks. Targets are concentrated in MIN.|
|George Kittle||TE||@KC||$4,500||8%||Letdown last week, but worth another shot in great matchup.|
|Houston Texans||D/ST||NYG||$2,800||7%||Sacks abound for NYG opponents.|
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 a strong conviction on a contrarian play before over-investing in their low-probability outcome.
QB: Jared Goff (vs. LAC, $5,900, 2% rostered) - Goff continues to be ignored by the masses despite his efficient production and potential for positive game scripts. With the Rams favored by seven points at home and implied to score 27.5 points, there is certainly greater than a 2% chance Goff accounts for the touchdowns everyone assumes will go to Todd Gurley. The Chargers might be easier to beat on the ground than through the air, but they have allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt this year -- the seventh-highest rate in the league -- despite drawing Josh Allen in his first career start last week. With Gurley expected to be one of the two most popular plays on the slate, stacking Goff with one or more of Woods, Brandin Cooks, or Cooper Kupp provides significant leverage.
RB: David Johnson (vs. CHI, $7,200, 11% rostered) - Johnson’s early-week percent rostered projection is aggressive for a player coming off a 6.1 fantasy point performance. It feels safe to say no one will want a piece of Arizona’s offense against the Bears defense, not even Johnson, who inexplicably caught only one pass last week while the Cardinals were playing catch up for nearly the entire game. The reasons to sprinkle Johnson into 10% of your lineups are his price (down $1,600 from Week 1) and pure narrative. Arizona head coach Steve Wilks acknowledged the obvious after his team’s embarrassing Week 2 loss to the Rams -- he needs to find more creative ways to get Johnson the ball. Trusting the Cardinals coaching staff to deploy Johnson correctly after two weeks when they didn’t figure it out after an entire off-season seems like a questionable strategy, but Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy have to be feeling the pressure to get Johnson going after their dismal start to the season. A game script in which Mitchell Trubisky gifts the Cardinals short fields isn’t altogether unlikely and could result in a multi-score game for Johnson, who remains an elite touchdown maker.
WR: Marquise Goodwin (@KC, $5,500, 5% rostered) - Goodwin took part in limited practices on Wednesday and Thursday, which suggests he will appear in his first game since Week 1. Due to the injury concern and general out of sight, out of mind mentality of the crowd, he makes for a sneaky GPP play. When healthy, Goodwin is one of a small collective of big-play wide receivers who warrant tournament exposure every week, regardless of opponent. It just so happens, his opponent this week presents him with the most favorable matchup possible. The Chiefs rank 29th in pass defense DVOA on the young season and have allowed 100+ yards and a touchdown to both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Keenan Allen. Needless to say, you’ll have to check on his status leading up to game time, but if Goodwin is active, 15% exposure would not be unreasonable.
TE: Jake Butt (vs. BAL, $2,700, 1% rostered) - After a quiet Week 1, Butt commanded 21% of Case Keenum’s targets against the Raiders and turned in a respectable 4-48-0 receiving line. Any tight end likely to see between five and seven targets in a matchup with Baltimore is worth a look. The Ravens were consistently burned by opposing tight ends in 2017 (remember Marcedes Lewis’ anomalous three touchdown performance?) and have allowed the seventh-most targets and a bottom-10 pass success rate to enemy tight ends so far this season. If Vegas has the spread right (Baltimore -5.5), there should be more attempts for Denver’s pass-catchers to go around. At his sub-$3K salary, Butt only needs 10 fantasy points to justify a spot in your lineup.
DST: Arizona Cardinals (vs. CHI, $2,400, 3% rostered) - Are we sure we trust Trubisky as a six-point road favorite against a talented defense? Even if Chicago beats Sam Bradford into submission, Trubisky still has to contend with Chandler Jones’ pass rush and Patrick Peterson’s tight coverage in the defensive backfield. If last week’s results against a depleted Seattle unit are any indication, Trubisky is going to make mistakes this week. He has been sacked on 8% of his dropbacks and ranks bottom-10 in Pro Football Focus’ adjusted completion rate. Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals pull the upset and their defense is the primary reason why.
More Contrarian Plays
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Philip Rivers||QB||@LAR||$5,800||3%||Rivers at low ownership in a pass-heavy game script? Yes, please.|
|Aaron Jones||RB||@WAS||$4,300||1%||Admittedly thin play, but Williams has been no good filling in.|
|Austin Ekeler||RB||@LAR||$4,400||2%||If Chargers are playing catch up Ekeler will see the field more.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||@LAR||$7,300||6%||Mistakenly forgotten after he wasn't needed in easy win against the Bills.|
|Will Fuller V||WR||NYG||$5,900||4%||Nearing Tyreek Hill never fade status.|
|Brandin Cooks||WR||LAC||$7,000||5%||See Fuller, Will.|
|Jared Cook||TE||@MIA||$4,000||5%||Miami linebackers stink in coverage.|
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