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:
- There are five games on the slate with an over/under of at least 50 points. As a result, ownership should be spread more evenly than usual at all positions. The game most entrants will look to stack -- with an emphasis on both teams’ pass-catchers -- is Falcons at Steelers, which opened with a season-high 57-point game total.
- Quarterback roster rates should remain particularly flat considering 12 teams on the main slate have implied team totals of at least 24 points. Ben Roethlisberger ($6,900) and Matt Ryan ($6,600) will top the wish list of most entrants, with Andy Dalton ($5,900) and Blake Bortles ($5,500) the most popular options for those who look to save at the position. Unlike the last few weeks, there are several viable plays at quarterback priced below $5,500 who may find themselves in shootouts and/or pass-heavy game scripts.
- The most expensive player on the slate, Todd Gurley ($9,400), will remain a chalk play. He’s likely to be challenged in terms of ownership by Melvin Gordon III ($8,600), who fits more neatly under the cap, and gets an Oakland defense that was just destroyed on the ground by the Cleveland Browns. Bottom line -- the majority of teams will feature one of Gurley or Gordon. Using both in the same lineup requires three wide receivers and a flex in the $5K and under range.
- Antonio Brown ($9,100) and Julio Jones ($8,500) should dominate wide receiver ownership in a perceived shootout. The most common roster construction will likely include a core of a high-priced running back alongside either Brown or Jones and their respective quarterback stacking partners. This type of build requires a focus on RB2s and WR2s in the $5K-$6K range, where T.J. Yeldon ($5,600) Tyler Boyd ($5,700), and Calvin Ridley ($5,800) look like the usual suspects. $4K-and-under punt plays at WR3 and flex will round out most of these lineups. Marquez Valdez-Scantling ($3,300) will make this type of construction an even easier decision for most entrants if Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb scratch for Green Bay.
- Common construction leaves little room for paying up at tight end. Despite splitting snaps with Jesse James, Vance McDonald’s affordable price ($3,700), association with the Steelers offense, and penchant for highlight-reel plays will attract the crowd. Those who pay up to chase Jared Cook’s ($4,800) massive Week 4 performance will have to save elsewhere, most likely at quarterback or WR3.
- Paying up for a defense should be a good way to differentiate your lineups. Squeezing in a top-priced quarterback, running back, and wide receiver leaves little choice but to search for a sub-$3K option at the position. Baltimore ($2,800) should draw the highest roster percentage in a matchup against Cleveland, who somehow allowed double-digit fantasy points to Oakland’s awful defense last week. The Titans ($4,000) and Rams ($3,800) should be under-owned in plus road matchups as a result.
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. ATL, $6,900, 11% rostered) - Roethlisberger struggled in the second half of last week’s game against the Ravens, but the gap between Baltimore’s second-ranked defense (DVOA) and Atlanta’s is a veritable canyon. The next time the Falcons hold an opposing quarterback under 335 yards and three touchdowns in a game will be their first since Week 1. Atlanta is failing to get pressure on the quarterback (4.5% sack rate), which should allow big plays to develop downfield for Roethlisberger and his pass-catchers. But even if the deep ball isn’t working for Pittsburgh this week, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown, and James Conner will make the Falcons pay if they continue to cede catches within 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and rely on their tackling ability to prevent long gains. He almost has to be in a handful of your lineups this week, but Roethlisberger’s overall QB1 price and elevated ownership could mean low-owned QB-WR stacks that incorporate Pittsburgh receivers have greater upside. Keep your exposure in line with his percent rostered.
RB: Melvin Gordon III (vs. OAK, $8,600, 25% rostered) - Gordon has scored 30 or more DraftKings points in three of LA’s first four games. It would be surprising if he didn’t at least come close to making it four-out-of-five after watching the Raiders plodding linebackers try to keep up with Nick Chubb (3-105-2) and Carlos Hyde (22-82-1) in Week 4. What Gordon may lack in usage compared to every-down workhorses like Gurley, he makes up for with a high reception floor and massive scoring potential. He’s padding his stats with six catches per game on the young season and leads all players -- wide receivers included -- with seven targets from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. The $800 you save dropping down from Gurley at RB1 is important this week, making Gordon an easy choice. He deserves a spot in at least 20% of your lineups.
WR: Julio Jones (@ PIT, $8,500, 19% rostered) - Jones and Odell Beckham Jr Jr are the only wide receivers to record at least 40 targets without scoring a touchdown. It’s a worrisome development for a player who scored only three touchdowns last season and hasn’t received a red zone target since Week 1. But Jones has still eclipsed 29 DraftKings points twice in 2018, proving his ceiling remains intact despite his apparent end zone allergy. He should be in for his usual stellar yardage totals this week and his odds of scoring at least one touchdown are better than 50 percent. Pittsburgh has allowed seven touchdowns to enemy wide receivers, including three from outside their red zone. Their league-leading 10.4 average depth of target suggests Jones may not need red zone looks in this game to finally break his scoring drought. If this is the week Jones adds a touchdown (or two) to his monstrous yardage totals, you’ll want to be along for the ride. With the matchup and game script both in his favor, Jones warrants heavy exposure.
TE: Vance McDonald (vs. ATL, $3,700, 10% rostered) - McDonald is the cheapest way to buy into the Steelers 30.25-point implied team total, but there are several reasons to fade him relative to his current percent rostered projection:
- Timeshare - In the three games McDonald has been active this season, he has played on 45%, 48%, and 63% of the offensive snaps, respectively. While Jesse James isn’t relinquishing his role anytime soon, this is admittedly only a mild concern. McDonald has run a pass route on 89 snaps over the last three games, which trails only eight other tight ends. By comparison, James has run 56 over the same span. McDonald’s role and per-route efficiency mitigate the timeshare risk, but if we’re going to follow the crowd on a tight end, it should at least be one we’re certain will be on the field for half his team’s plays.
- Touchdown expectation - McDonald’s 75-yard touchdown against Tampa Bay was awe-inspiring, but not something to hang your hat on when attempting to predict future performance. The lone red zone target he has received since returning from injury in Week 2, on the other hand, might be.
- Volatility - In an article on Rotogrinders earlier this week, Brit Divine pointed out nearly 60% of the three highest-owned tight ends have busted each week, a higher rate than even team defense. Fading the chalk at tight end is the correct move in GPPs more often than not regardless of who the player is, let alone one dependent almost entirely on efficiency.
DST: Baltimore Ravens (@ CLE, $2,800, 9% rostered) - The national television audience just watched the Ravens defense shut down the Steelers in the second half on Sunday Night Football. They’ll want a piece of Baltimore going up against Cleveland, who have allowed nearly 36% more fantasy points to opposing defenses than the league average this season. Baker Mayfield had a strong debut in Week 4 but turned the ball over four times despite facing Oakland’s 31st-ranked pass rush. Baltimore ranks top-5 in Football Outsiders adjusted sack rate metric, suggesting Mayfield’s decision making will need to mature quickly if he wants to avoid more turnovers. You can’t do much better below $3,000 than the Ravens, regardless of their percent rostered.
MORE CHALK PLAYS:
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Matt Ryan||QB||@PIT||$6,600||7%||Three straight over 30 points. Perfect game script and matchup.|
|Todd Gurley||RB||@SEA||$9,400||20%||Over 25 fantasy points in every game.|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB||NYG||$8,000||22%||At least 26 total touches in each of last two games.|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB||@KC||$5,600||16%||Backfield to himself. KC ranks 32nd in run defense DVOA.|
|Antonio Brown||WR||ATL||$9,100||23%||Prefer Jones at $600 less but don't come up empty on Brown.|
|JuJu Smith-Schuster||WR||ATL||$7,500||18%||Atlanta D most vulnerable in areas of field where JuJu operates.|
|Jared Cook||TE||@LAC||$4,800||16%||Fade at high ownership after $700 price increase.|
|Tennessee Titans||D/ST||@BUF||$4,000||8%||Bills lead league in FF pts. allowed to DSTs by a wide margin.|
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: Matthew Stafford (vs. GB, $5,700, 7% rostered) - Stafford is sandwiched between Bortles and Dalton in price, which should shade him a bit from the crowd in what has traditionally been a terrific spot to use him. Green Bay isn’t considered a plus matchup for opposing quarterbacks, but they’ve rarely been tested this season. The list of quarterbacks they’ve faced includes Mitchell Trubisky, Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, and Josh Allen. Cousins -- the one name who stands out on that list -- hung a 425-4-1 passing line on the Packers in Week 2. Stafford comes in hot, having completed over 75% of his pass attempts in each of his last two games and has saved his best for the Packers in recent years. In his last four games against Green Bay, Stafford has averaged 354 passing yards, 2.5 touchdowns, 0.5 interceptions, and hasn’t been held below 320 yards or 2 touchdowns in any game. Out of the five games with an over/under north of 50 points, Green Bay at Detroit should see the lowest combined ownership.
RB: James Conner (vs. ATL, $7,500, 18% rostered) - Conner is borderline chalk this week due to his association with the Steelers offense, but his percent rostered should be held down a smidge by recency bias. Since his 38.2-point explosion in Week 1, Conner has returned salary multiples of 2.9x, 1.9x, and 1.3x, usually as a popular play. While things have gotten particularly bad over the last two games, any running back -- even Le'Veon Bell -- would have had difficulty producing in the Steelers last two game scripts. Both Tampa Bay and Baltimore dominated time of possession against Pittsburgh, preventing the type of game flow required for Conner to see a large workload. He has remained heavily targeted in the passing game, however, with at least five targets and 25 receiving yards in each of his last three sub-par outings. A league-high 33% of pass attempts against the Falcons have been aimed at running backs and they’ve led the league in receptions allowed to the position for each of the last three seasons. Conner’s floor/ceiling combo is as high as any running back’s on the slate, yet he’s not as expensive as Gurley, Gordon, and McCaffrey, or likely to be as highly rostered. Don’t be afraid to push your exposure as high as 30%.
WR: Stefon Diggs (@ PHI, $7,000, 8% rostered) - Minnesota at Philadelphia has as much scoring potential as any game on the slate, but is going overlooked. The Vikings have been forced into shootouts both times they faced quality offenses this season and Carson Wentz looked a lot like the 2017 version of himself in last week’s overtime loss to Tennessee. Kirk Cousins will take aim at an Eagles secondary struggling to defend perimeter wide receivers, with Julio Jones (10-169-0), DeSean Jackson (4-129-1), Mike Evans (10-83-1), and Corey Davis (9-161-1) serving as proof. In particular, Jalen Mills, who projects to cover Diggs on about 40% of his routes, has been so bad head coach Doug Pederson was forced to answer questions about benching him this week. Diggs has double-digit targets in each of the last three games and proven he has a GPP-winning ceiling when the Vikings are forced to keep pace with a high-scoring opponent. If his current percent rostered projection holds, double the field’s ownership.
TE: Zach Ertz (vs. MIN, $6,500, 8% rostered) - Rob Gronkowski played Thursday night and Travis Kelce is in a tough matchup with Jacksonville, leaving Ertz as the blue-chip tight end with the highest floor/ceiling combo on the slate. Ertz’s price tag makes him tough to fit in most lineup constructions, but rostering him gains you access to reliable volume (double-digit targets in every game this season), a team-high 29% red zone target market share, and will force you to allocate your cap space differently than your opponents -- exactly what you’re after in GPPs. While Ertz is a great play at a middling ownership rate regardless, Minnesota has allowed 90+ yard receiving games to both George Kittle and Jimmy Graham this year, so his matchup isn’t one to worry about. Pair him with Carson Wentz and run it back with Diggs for a contrarian game stack.
DST: New York Jets (vs. DEN, $2,600, 6% rostered) - The Broncos are coming off a tough division loss on Monday Night Football and have to travel to New York on a short week. This would be a terrible spot for Denver, even if they were playing well. But they’re not. Case Keenum hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 1. He has six interceptions on the season and has been sacked seven times in the last two games. Before woeful showings on the road against Cleveland and Jacksonville, the Jets defense had the look of one we could get behind in fantasy. Keenum’s penchant for mistakes should help them get back on track. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Chad Kelly come on in relief for Denver as soon as this week.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Jared Goff||QB||@SEA||$6,500||7%||Getting up there in price but still warrants every-week exposure.|
|Joe Mixon||RB||MIA||$6,900||8%||Gio looking doubtful in great matchup vs. Dolphins linebackers.|
|David Johnson||RB||@SF||$6,300||12%||Upside still in question but Rosen helped. Price is right.|
|Davante Adams||WR||@DET||$7,600||8%||Looking at 15 targets if he gets cleared to play (calf).|
|John Brown||WR||@CLE||$5,600||6%||See Flacco blurb below.|
|Tyreek Hill||WR||JAX||$6,900||7%||Can get behind any secondary. Take the $ and ownership discount.|
|Jimmy Graham||TE||@DET||$4,700||9%||Great matchup, could be last pass-catcher standing in GB.|
|LA Rams||D/ST||@SEA||$3,800||5%||SEA allows 2nd-highest QB sack rate.|
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: Joe Flacco (@CLE, $5,400, 2% rostered) - Flacco has been good for 21-25 fantasy points in three-out-of-four games this season. After he lit up Pittsburgh for 363 yards and two touchdowns in prime time Sunday night, it’s surprising he’s not attracting more attention in Week 5, especially against the Browns, who were just lit up by Derek Carr for 37 fantasy points. It’s difficult to say which of Flacco or John Brown looks more rejuvenated this season, but it’s a certainty their skill-sets complement one another perfectly. Flacco has hooked up with Brown six times for pass plays of 20+ yards. Only Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have connected on deep passes as frequently. The Ravens play at the second-fastest situation-neutral pace in the league and rank fourth in pass attempts per game, which should ensure the opportunities for Flacco to hit Brown downfield remain plentiful. While a Flacco-Brown stack doesn’t have the greatest upside, they only need 44 total points to return a 4x multiple of their combined salaries, leaving more than enough cap space to build a winning lineup around them.
RB: Isaiah Crowell (vs. DEN, $4,100, 2% rostered) - If the Jets defense is in play at home against the Broncos, so is completing the contrarian stack by pairing them with Crowell. Denver’s rush defense is on its heels after being trampled on the ground by Kareem Hunt on Monday Night Football, and now have to deal with Crowell’s angry running style on short rest. Crowell lacks Hunt’s 35 fantasy point ceiling, but 20 is attainable for him in a positive game script, as evidenced by his four combined touchdowns in the only two games the Jets were competitive in this season. Besides Aaron Jones, who will probably be more popular than his playing time warrants, running back punt plays in the $4K range are few and far between. Crowell’s palatable upside make him one of a precious few low-priced running back differentiators on the slate.
WR: Kenny Golladay (vs. GB, $6,000, 6% rostered) - Golden Tate is coming off a 36-point game. Marvin Jones Jr’ price is down $2,000 from Week 1 and has a well-known player vs. team narrative in his favor (8.25 catches, 117 receiving yards, and 1.25 touchdowns per game vs. the Packers). It should leave Golladay the lowest-rostered member of the Lions talented wide receiver corps in a potential shootout against Green Bay. Golladay is neck and neck with Jones for the team lead in air yards but has over twice as many yards after the catch. Deep threat wide receivers who can also create yards on their own have inherent multi-touchdown upside. Golladay hasn’t flashed it this year, but his ceiling is over 30 fantasy points. The Packers defense isn’t the gift it was to enemy wide receivers last year, but the last time they faced a team with an abundance of talented pass catchers -- Minnesota in Week 2 -- Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for 21 catches, 259 yards, and three touchdowns. Stack the Lions passing game.
TE: Nick Vannett (vs. SEA, $2,500, 3% rostered) - It’s going to be difficult to practice restraint on Vannett while he’s priced at the site minimum. Will Dissly’s season-ending injury catapults Vannett into a full-time role for Seattle. Over the first three weeks, Dissly played an average of 62% of the team’s offensive snaps and received a solid (for a tight end) 14% target market share. Dissly -- essentially a slow linebacker playing tight end -- was able to parlay those looks into a pair of fantasy relevant performances. Unlike Dissly, Vannett has at least one redeeming athletic trait. In a game the Seahawks figure to be trailing, he’s a dark horse candidate for close to double-digit targets. It should help the Rams have allowed the fifth-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends.
DST: Chiefs (vs. JAX, 2,500, 2% rostered) - This isn’t an endorsement of the Chiefs 31st-ranked defense (DVOA). It’s actually a vote of confidence in Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City is capable of jumping out to an early lead at home, even against Jacksonville’s vaunted defense. If such a game script were to unfold, the Jaguars’ chances of winning are tied directly to Blake Bortles’ arm. Based on what we’ve seen from Bortles this year, the probability he shreds the Chiefs defense is equal to the likelihood he passes for less than 200 yards and turns the ball over multiple times. With several offensive pieces for the Jaguars attracting significant ownership, Kansas City’s DST is a leverage play. Pair them with Tyreek Hill for a chance to double dip on a special teams touchdown.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Carson Wentz||QB||MIN||$5,800||3%||Looked good last week. PHI-MIN could be sneaky shootout.|
|Derrick Henry||RB||@BUF||$4,400||2%||If script goes according to plan, Henry might see 20 carries.|
|Matt Breida||RB||ARI||$5,700||5%||ARI is a matchup to target for RBs. Morris banged up.|
|Emmanuel Sanders||WR||@NYJ||$7,100||4%||Gets the Buster Skrine coverage bump.|
|Kenny Stills||WR||@CIN||$5,400||3%||Upside option for CIN-MIA game stacks.|
|Mike Williams||WR||OAK||$4,200||5%||Benjamin out again = more snaps for top RZ target.|
|Austin Hooper||TE||@PIT||$3,000||6%||PIT terrible against TEs since Shazier went down.|