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:
- Nailing down a common roster construction on this slate might be the most difficult it’s been all season. Not only are there a surplus of high-scoring offenses in excellent matchups, but there is also an uncharacteristic number of value-plays at both running back and wide receiver.
- The first teams most entrants will look to when choosing their core players are the Chiefs, Rams, and Packers. Each is a home favorite of at least nine points, with an implied team total over 28. We can also assume players from the Chargers, Falcons, Saints, and Patriots will be in demand. All average at least 27.5 points per game and are favored by more than a field goal on the road. In the cases of LA and Atlanta, the ineptitude of their opponents (Oakland and Cleveland, respectively) will add to their appeal.
- With so many of the top offenses in great spots, and only $700 separating the QB2 from the QB11, quarterback roster percentages should be super-flat. Patrick Mahomes II, Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, and Philip Rivers will be popular plays, but unlike last week when Cam Newton appeared on 24% of Milly Maker entries, it’s safe to ignore the crowd’s exposure when selecting a quarterback.
- Running back is where the path towards a common roster build will begin to diverge. Dion Lewis ($4,600) handling 23 touches to Derrick Henry’s eight last Monday night is not factored into Week 10 pricing. And assuming Chris Carson rests his hip injury this week, Mike Davis ($4,300) becomes a second source of 20+ affordable touches in a potentially high-scoring game. Usually, two standout values at running back would lead to heavier wide receiver spending, but there is also an abundance of viable low-priced receivers for the crowd to consider this week.
- Geronimo Allison was placed on IR after Week 10 contests opened, leaving flashy rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($5,000) too cheap in an every-down role as Rodgers’ No. 2 target. If Sammy Watkins’ foot injury keeps him out, Chris Conley ($3,200) is the likeliest candidate to absorb his 17% target market share in Kansas City’s top-scoring offense. And the return of Josh McCown as the Jets starting quarterback could breathe life back into the team's starting wide receivers, each of whom is available for less than $4,000.
- With so many running backs and wide receivers in play at $5,000 or less (Duke Johnson Jr, Aaron Jones, and Corey Davis also qualify), entrants will have no trouble getting up to the elite plays of their choosing. Stars & scrubs roster-builds will take on many varieties, but will be the norm in comparison to balanced construction.
- Perhaps no player’s ownership will increase more due to the loose cap than Travis Kelce’s ($7,000). There is a large gap in raw fantasy point projections between Kelce and the next-closest tight end, and the opportunity cost to roster him is not as significant as usual.
- No defense/special teams unit is priced above $3,600 and there is less than a $1,000 difference between the DST1 and the DST10. With cap space at less of a premium than most weeks, entrants shouldn’t have much trouble paying up to top-ranked options like the Jets ($3,400), Chiefs ($3,300), and Chargers ($3,500).
TAKING A STAND ON THE CHALK
These players are the odds-on favorites to either score the most fantasy points or return the best value on their respective salaries. 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: Aaron Rodgers (vs. MIA, $6,400, 8% rostered) - There may not be a true chalk quarterback this week, but Green Bay is a public team, they’re heavily favored at home against a lousy defense, and Rodgers is $800 cheaper than Patrick Mahomes II -- the consensus top-projected scorer at the position. Before dominating Sam Darnold last week, Miami allowed five touchdown passes to Deshaun Watson, an 82% completion rate to Matthew Stafford, and a 316-3-1 passing line to Mitchell Trubisky in their previous three games. Rodgers should have zero trouble dismantling the Dolphins defense in his first start at Lambeau Field since lighting up the 49ers for 425 passing yards in Week 6. Brock Osweiler has predictably turned back into a pumpkin after a surprisingly adequate showing in his first two games as Miami’s starter. The most likely game script points to Osweiler throwing often to keep pace with Rodgers, which should result in multiple turnovers for Miami and more scoring opportunities for Green Bay, who rank fifth in the league with a 75% passing touchdown rate. Make Rodgers one of your core quarterbacks regardless of his projected roster percentage.
RB: Melvin Gordon III (@ OAK, $9,000, 18% rostered) - Gordon will split chalk running back status with Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt this week, but there is no doubt the crowd will chase his matchup against the lifeless Raiders defense. Over the last five weeks, Oakland has allowed 33% more fantasy points than league average to opposing running backs, which trails only the Browns. Gordon has played seven games this season and four of them have resulted in 30+ fantasy points. After watching Marlon Mack (25-132-2), Nyhiem Hines (11-78-0), and Raheem Mostert (7-86-1) blow past the Raiders plodding linebackers in recent weeks, the odds Gordon is able to clear 30 for the fifth time this season is at least equal to his early ownership projection. If he remains projected under 25% by Saturday’s update, push for more than the field.
WR: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (vs. MIA, $5,000, 17% rostered) - Geromino Allison’s core muscle injury clears Valdes-Scantling’s path to fantasy stardom. In the three games Valdes-Scantling has played at least 80% of the snaps this season, he eclipsed a 3x multiple of his current salary each time. There is a strong chance we haven’t seen the rookie’s ceiling yet either. At 6’4’’, 206 lbs., with 4.37 wheels, Valdes-Scantling has caught a pass of 40+ yards in each of the last three games. While Davante Adams is dealing with shadow coverage from Miami cornerback Xavien Howard, Valdez-Scantling will run most of his routes against second-year undrafted free agent Torry McTyer. McTyer has Pro Football Focus’ 10th-worst coverage grade among cornerbacks who have played at least 150 snaps this season. There is risk counting on an unproven receiver at high ownership, as we saw last week with Courtland Sutton, but Valdes-Scantling’s association with Rodgers is a mitigating factor. Sometimes a free square is a free square, and that’s the case this week with “MVS”.
TE: Travis Kelce (vs. ARI, $7,000, 12% rostered) - Targeting tight ends on heavily favored home teams is good process. So is just clicking on Kelce’s name each week. With Rob Gronkowski either sitting out or playing ineffectively through injuries, and Zach Ertz off the main slate, there isn’t a tight end remaining who can sniff Kelce’s 30-point ceiling. It’s not like he needs a positive matchup to be considered a great play, but it’s worth noting Kelce’s opponent this week -- Arizona -- ranks 30th in pass success rate and 25th in yards per pass attempt allowed to opposing tight ends. If Sammy Watkins is ruled out, there should also be a few vacated targets for Kelce to inherit. As more value has opened up on the slate, however, Kelce becomes easier to squeeze onto rosters, even at his season-high $7,000 salary. If his roster projection increases to 20% by the weekend update, make tight end the position where you differentiate most of your lineups.
DST: New York Jets (vs. BUF, $3,400, 15% rostered) - We get it. The Bills are bad. But why are the Jets favored by 6.5 points against any NFL team? The answer is a mystery, which should give you pause if you’re following the crowd on the highest-owned defense. It’s not to say Footballguys is wrong for having the Jets projected to lead all DSTs in scoring this week. Regardless of who Buffalo trots out at quarterback, the potential for multiple sacks and turnovers will be there for New York. But defense is the toughest position to project, the Jets are a decidedly bad team, and they’re not cheap. Fade them in comparison to their percent rostered.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Patrick Mahomes II||QB||ARI||$7,200||8%||Why start fading him now?|
|Dion Lewis||RB||NE||$4,600||20%||Type of RB who gives NE fits. Finally 20+ touch workload.|
|Todd Gurley||RB||SEA||$9,400||28%||Should get back on track at home. DK still refuses to raise price.|
|Kareem Hunt||RB||ARI||$8,500||18%||Mother of all game scripts and rushing matchups.|
|Michael Thomas||RB||@CIN||$8,100||23%||Too many will chase points from last week's top 1% outcome.|
|Davante Adams||WR||MIA||$7,800||14%||CB Xavien Howard doesn't matter for Rodgers' top WR.|
|Tyler Boyd||WR||NO||$7,500||16%||Priced and rostered like AJ Green. He is not AJ Green.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||@OAK||$7,100||14%||One TD on 630 receiving yards is a fluke. Great matchup.|
|Jimmy Graham||TE||MIA||$4,600||10%||Miami linebackers worth picking on every week.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DST||ARI||$3,300||10%||ARI ceding 4th-most fantasy points to opposing DSTs.|
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: Matt Ryan (@ CLE, $6,200, 6% rostered) - Ryan had been the owner of stark home/road splits before going into Washington and hanging 32 fantasy points on the Redskins in Week 10. Under normal circumstances, it might be worth considering those splits before going back to him on the road, but his opponent this week is the Browns. Cleveland enters this game with their defense in shambles. Even if middle linebacker Joe Schobert can return this week, the team will be without weakside linebacker Christian Kirksey, who has been one of the league’s best at the position in coverage. They also lost No. 2 cornerback E.J. Gaines for the season last week due to a concussion. It seems like safety Damarious Randall and star cornerback Denzel Ward will be active, but both will be playing at less than 100%. Ryan, who has scored 30-or-more fantasy points five times this season, should be able to do whatever he wants to this injury-ravaged unit, especially over the middle of the field, where Patrick Mahomes II, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce gashed Cleveland last week.
RB: Aaron Jones (vs. MIA, $5,000, 6% rostered) - Jones enjoyed a season-high 16 touches in the Packers first game since trading Ty Montgomery. His snap-share also bordered on 60% for the second consecutive game, signaling the end of Green Bay’s frustrating backfield committee. While Jones was his usual efficient self in Week 10 (5.4 yards per attempt), he was game scripted out of the Packers convincing loss to New England, which suggests 16 touches might not be his ceiling. Whether Jones has workhorse potential remains to be seen, but we won’t have to wait long to find out. Green Bay is favored by 9.5 points at home against the Dolphins this week. Even if he does top out near 15 touches again, Jones -- Football Outsiders second-most efficient running back with less than 72 rush attempts -- has upside against a Miami defense allowing over 135 rushing yards per game.
WR: Josh Gordon (@ TEN, $6,000, 7% rostered) - Gordon’s first start as a Patriot came in Week 6. Since then, he ranks fifth in the NFL in total air yards, sixth in yards after the catch, and has commanded a 21% target share in New England’s perennial top-5 offense. The best case scenario Gordon supporters were hoping for after he was traded to the Patriots is materializing on the field, yet DraftKings, as usual, has been slow to adjust his price. After exceeding a 4x salary multiple against Green Bay last week, Gordon’s cap number didn’t budge at all despite the excellent one-on-one matchup on deck in Tennessee. To borrow a phrase from PFF’s Pat Thorman, Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler is a human Duraflame log. Butler leads the league in both touchdowns allowed (seven) and yards allowed per coverage snap (min. 150 snaps). Gordon has catches of 55 yards in two of his last three games, proving he’s plenty capable of being the next WR1 to slip past Butler for a long touchdown.
TE: Austin Hooper (@ CLE, $3,800, 3% rostered) - Remember two blurbs ago when you read Matt Ryan will have his way against Cleveland’s injury-ravaged defense? The pass-catchers who stand to benefit most are Tevin Coleman ($5,400) out of the backfield, and Hooper. It’s unlikely Hooper erupts like Jared Cook (13-8-110-2) and Travis Kelce (9-7-99-2) did against the Browns, but a 5x return on his low salary is very much in play. Ryan has spotted the mismatch and peppered Hooper with targets in games against Carolina (5-5-59-1), Pittsburgh (12-9-77-1), and Tampa Bay (10-9-77-1) this season. Each of those teams carry a bottom-five ranking in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends, and without Kirskey in coverage at linebacker, Cleveland is every bit as vulnerable. Hopefully, the crowd doesn’t catch on as we get closer to the weekend.
DST: Washington (@ TB, $3,000, 3% rostered) - Washington’s defense has stifled Green Bay and Carolina this season, yet they’re suddenly a punching bag because they were lit up by a well-rested Falcons team last week? Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the best stories of 2018, but he remains prone to interceptions, and unless you believe in age-35 breakout seasons, regression is coming for him at some point. What’s more worrisome than Fitzpatrick is the potential for this game to turn into a complete stinker. Can Alex Smith -- effectively playing without his starting offensive line -- put up points on Tampa Bay? He couldn’t last week against Atlanta -- a team that allows over 28 points per game. Without the early garbage time Fitzpatrick has padded his stats with the last two weeks, there’s a case to be made for fading the Buccaneers entirely. Playing Washington’s defense at low ownership adds leverage to the fade.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Philip Rivers||QB||@OAK||$6,000||8%||OAK D just made Nick Mullens look like Johnny Utah.|
|Tevin Coleman||RB||@CLE||$5,400||7%||7 targets following bye encouraging against CLE backup LBs.|
|Nick Chubb||RB||ATL||$5,500||9%||20 touches locked in, great matchup. Duke may be more popular.|
|Cooper Kupp||WR||SEA||$6,400||12%||Still too cheap for safe reception floor/multi-TD upside.|
|Tyreek Hill||WR||ARI||$7,300||12%||Can break any slate. Price down $1,300 from 2 weeks ago.|
|Doug Baldwin||WR||@LAR||$5,200||6%||If healthy, won't be hurt by low SEA pass volume vs. LAR.|
|Rob Gronkowski||TE||TEN||$5,600||6%||Worth a few shots at what feels like career-low price/ownership.|
|Atlanta Falcons||DST||@CLE||$2,500||5%||Sacks and turnovers locked in vs. Mayfield.|
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 you multi-enter a tournament. Be careful not to over-invest in these players, but you’ll need at least two from this ownership tier in your lineup for a shot at first place in most mid-to-large field GPPs.
QB: Blake Bortles (@IND, $4,900, 3% rostered) - Jaguars at Colts (47 point over/under) could be the shootout no one pays attention to. Five out of Indianapolis’ eight games this season have produced totals of 57 points or more, and Andrew Luck has at least three touchdown passes in every game since Week 4. Luck won’t make it easy for the Jaguars defense to regain their dominant form in this one, which could result in a script where Jacksonville can’t afford to hide Bortles. If he’s forced to air it out, Bortles couldn’t ask for a much better opponent. The Colts have allowed the second-most normalized fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks over the last five weeks, including three touchdowns to Derek Carr in their last game before the bye. With all the key players going largely ignored -- Bortles, Luck, Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton, the Colts tight ends, Leonard Fournette, and the Jaguars receivers -- it’s worth stacking this game around your core guys in a few lineups.
RB: Mark Ingram II (@ CIN, $4,500, 6% rostered) - Ingram hasn't been productive since Week 5, but he has dealt with a pair of difficult opponents in the Ravens and Vikings, and got banged up against the Rams in a matchup better suited to Alvin Kamara's skill-set last week. Despite his recent struggles, Ingram’s snap share has remained consistent, and multiple touchdowns will be in his range of possible outcomes for as long as he plays with Drew Brees. He's now priced as a back-up on DraftKings in a matchup with the Bengals, who have allowed the fourth-most normalized fantasy points to running backs over the last five weeks. Without A.J. Green, it’s possible Cincinnati's offense goes completely in the tank. If the Bengals are unable to keep pace with the Saints, the game script favors a heavier-than-usual dose of Ingram.
WR: Donte Moncrief (@IND, $4,700, 3% rostered) - Groupthink suggests there is no way of knowing which wide receiver to stack with Bortles in any given week, but a closer look points to Moncrief as the clear top option in Jacksonville’s passing game. If we remove the Jaguars wonky 40-7 loss to the Cowboys in Week 6, Moncrief has received 14, 10, and 7 targets in his last three games, respectively. His 32% market share of team air yards leads Jacksonville by a wide margin, which should play well against an Indianapolis defense allowing a significantly higher completion rate than league average on targets 20-30 yards downfield. If you’re a fan of narratives, this is Moncrief’s first game against the team who drafted him and made little effort to keep him once his rookie contract expired.
TE: Jared Cook (vs. LAC, $4,700, 6% rostered) - The Raiders reputation as a toxic team will keep the crowd off their passing game, despite the fact they project for high volume this week. Without Amari Cooper, Cook is the best (only?) receiving option in Oakland, and the matchup aligns for tight end fantasy production. LA has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in each of their last three games, and four of their last five. Most entrants looking for a tight end in the $5,000 range will pay up to O.J. Howard or down to Jimmy Graham, making Cook both an ideal price pivot and a logical correlation play if the Chargers offense goes off, as expected.
DST: LA Rams (vs. SEA, $2,400, 6% rostered) - Prior to getting stonewalled by the Saints dominant offensive line last week, the Rams totaled 10 sacks in their previous two games. Seattle allows the sixth-highest adjusted sack rate in the league, which is trouble with LA defensive end Aaron Donald somehow pressuring passers at a higher rate than last season. When you consider stacking the Rams defense with Todd Gurley costs the same exact amount as stacking the Chiefs defense with Kareem Hunt, LA looks like even more of a bargain.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Derek Carr||QB||LAC||$4,700||2%||Three TDs as recently as Week 8. Stack with Cook.|
|Marlon Mack||RB||@IND||$6,000||4%||JAX has been run on this year. Mack is lightning in a bottle.|
|Sony Michel||RB||@TEN||$5,300||5%||18+ fantasy points in three straight before injury.|
|Taylor Gabriel||WR||DET||$4,200||3%||The latest WR to tee off on embattled DET CB Tabor.|
|Jermaine Kearse||WR||BUF||$3,500||1%||Rapport with McCown, Anderson likely to scratch.|
|Christian Kirk||WR||@KC||$8,400||4%||Correlation play in KC stacks.|
|Nick Vannett||TE||@LAR||$3,700||5%||Eight targets, TD last week. LAR vulnerable to TEs.|
|Tampa Bay Bucs||DST||WAS||$2,900||4%||WAS O-line is a mess. Even TB defense can take advantage.|