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:
- Three games on the main slate opened with Vegas totals above 50 points -- Philadelphia at New Orleans, Carolina at Detroit, and Tampa Bay at New York Giants. The crowd will look to these games first when choosing their core players.
- Quarterback pricing remains tightly clustered, with only $1,000 separating the QB1 (Drew Brees) from the QB11 (Marcus Mariota). As a result, a combined 25% of the field should have no trouble spending up to either Brees ($6,500) or Cam Newton ($6,200). Those who look to save cap space at quarterback will likely zero in on Eli Manning ($5,200), who draws Tampa Bay’s disastrous defense at home, or Dak Prescott ($5,200) in an equally enticing matchup on the road in Atlanta. If Baltimore rookie Lamar Jackson ($4,700) is named the team’s starter, the complexion of the slate changes significantly.
- Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt are off the main slate, but there are still tough choices to be made at the top running back tier. Melvin Gordon III ($8,900), Saquon Barkley ($8,700), and Ezekiel Elliott ($8,500) are each in great spots. Alvin Kamara ($8,200) has the highest ceiling at the position in any given week. Christian McCaffrey ($8,000) is on a heater as he enters a plush matchup with Detroit. And Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has revived David Johnson’s ($7,500) value just in time for a home game against the dismal Raiders. This season’s cumulative RB3 -- James Conner ($7,200) -- provides yet another high-end option, though some will be scared off by the opposing Jaguars defense. Expect ownership to be split fairly evenly among the top eight running backs.
- Life would be a peach if it were easy to fit two, or even three, of the aforementioned running backs into lineups, but a dearth of attractive wide receivers in the sub-$5K price range makes rostering more than one a chore. Dion Lewis ($4,800) and Mark Ingram II ($4,700) stand out as running back values, making it more likely we’ll see a common construction that includes Newton or Brees at quarterback, a stud RB1 paired with Lewis and/or Ingram, Michael Thomas ($8,800) or Odell Beckham Jr Jr. ($8,400) at WR1, and wide receivers in the $5K-$6K price range filling in the remaining receiver slots. Kenny Golladay ($5,800) will appear most frequently in these lineups, especially if Marvin Jones Jr isn’t practicing by Friday.
- Zach Ertz ($6,600) is the luxury purchase at tight end this week, but rostering him comes with a steep opportunity cost. Don’t be surprised to see Evan Engram ($4,100) get piled on, despite his general lack of productivity this season, due to his appealing price point and a highly-publicized matchup against Tampa Bay’s sieve-like pass defense.
- No defense/special teams unit is priced above $3,400, and similar to the quarterback position, there isn’t much salary separating options one through 10. Ownership at defense will be flat, but Arizona ($3,100) should lead the way against the laughing-stock Raiders after the Cardinals made life difficult for Patrick Mahomes II in Week 10. Entrants who splurge on two top running backs and a high-priced receiver in the same lineup are likely to turn to New Orleans ($2,100) -- the biggest favorite on the slate -- at just above the site minimum price.
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: Cam Newton (@ DET, $6,200, 10% rostered) - When we last saw Newton on the main slate, he gave us a 21-point floor-game as the mega-chalk in Week 8. He won’t come close to his 23% tournament ownership from two weeks ago, but he’ll justifiably attract a crowd in the dome against Detroit. The Lions have allowed the fifth-most normalized fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks, including a tournament-winning 355-3-0 passing line from Mitchell Trubisky last week. Since Week 1, Newton has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game and exceeded 24 fantasy points (roughly a 4x multiple of his current salary) five times. Detroit hasn’t allowed many rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks this season, but matchups don’t matter for Newton, who once again leads the position in rush attempts, yards, and touchdowns. The chances Newton has a ceiling game and appears in a winning tournament lineup are at least equal to his percent rostered projection. Make him one of your core quarterbacks.
RB: David Johnson (vs. OAK, $7,500, 24% rostered) - There is no shortage of high-quality running backs in great matchups this week, but Johnson is the only one priced under $8,000, which should inflate his ownership in comparison to the rest of the top-tier. Johnson’s throwback Week 10 performance -- 183 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns -- was chicken soup for the soul of DFS and season-long fantasy players alike. Not only was Johnson targeted nine times, but he was running actual downfield routes against the Chiefs instead of catching the ball in the flat and getting tackled immediately like he was earlier this season. New offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich clearly understands the importance of getting the ball in the hands of his best players and putting them in position to succeed -- a welcome development for Johnson considering the Cardinals Week 11 opponent. Oakland’s plodding linebackers have been smoked by Marlon Mack (25-132-2), Nyheim Hines (11-78-0), Raheem Mostert (7-86-1), and Melvin Gordon III (165 total yards and a touchdown) in recent weeks. A properly used Johnson -- playing as a substantial home favorite for a change -- is certainly capable of adding his name to that list. He’s worth at least 20% exposure.
WR: Michael Thomas (vs. PHI, $8,800, 23% rostered) - After totaling 281 yards and three touchdowns over his last two games, Thomas is firmly entrenched as the game’s preeminent WR1. With the Chiefs and Rams playing on Monday night, the Saints are heavy favorites to lead the slate in scoring, especially since they’re at home, where they average a league-best 37.2 points per game. As usual, the opportunities for Thomas will be plentiful, and this week he gets to feast on an injury-ravaged secondary. The Eagles have already allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, and now they’ll be without top cornerback Ronald Darby (torn ACL), who joins fellow starting corner Jalen Mills and safety Rodney McLeod on the sidelines. Variance and contrarian roster construction are the only two reasons to fade Thomas in this spot and they’re not very convincing. If his current roster projection holds through the weekend, you’ll want to be even with the field.
TE: Zach Ertz (@ NO, $6,600, 15% rostered) - Carson Wentz was forced to throw 44 times last week to keep Philadelphia in the game against the Cowboys, and 16 of those throws were aimed at Ertz. A similar game script is implied by the betting line in Eagles at Saints (New Orleans -8.5), putting another ceiling game in Ertz’s range of possible outcomes. There are reasons to proceed cautiously, however, with the highest-priced and top-owned tight end. While the Saints have been extremely vulnerable defending slot receivers, they have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. Ertz’s target volume also wasn’t threatened by Golden Tate last week due to the fact Tate played on just 29% of the offensive snaps in his Eagles debut. With another week to learn the playbook, Tate’s snap rate --and target volume -- should at least double in a strong matchup, which would reduce the number of short and intermediary targets available for Ertz. When you add in the volatility inherent to the tight end position (Ertz has three games with fewer than 13 fantasy points this season), it seems like a better idea to fade Ertz relative to his projected ownership and spend more on premium running backs and wide receivers.
DST: Arizona Cardinals (vs. OAK, $3,100, 12% rostered) - Arizona, led by stud defensive end Chandler Jones, has recorded at least four sacks in four of their last five games. Meanwhile Derek Carr, who leads the NFL with six interceptions thrown when under pressure, has been sacked a total of 17 times across Oakland’s last four games. The lowly Cardinals being favored by five points against any NFL team should tell you all you need to know about Carr’s chances of succeeding against Arizona head coach Steve Wilks’ exotic blitz packages. It’s best not to overexpose yourself to any team defense, but it’s hard to argue with the Cardinals this week. 15% (maximum) exposure is warranted.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Drew Brees||QB||PHI||$6,500||11%||Surgical 77% completion rate, 21:1 TD:INT ratio. PHI D hurting.|
|Carson Wentz||QB||@NO||$6,300||8%||24+ fantasy points in 5 of last 6 games.|
|Ezekiel Elliott||RB||@ATL||$8,500||22%||Coming off ceiling game, gets ATL rush def. Chubb just shredded.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||TB||$8,700||22%||TB rush defense putrid since LBs Alexander and Cichy hit IR.|
|Dion Lewis||RB||@IND||$4,700||23%||20+ touches in great matchup hard to come by at his price.|
|Odell Beckham Jr||WR||TB||$8,400||22%||Has delivered in great matchups last 3 weeks. Should again.|
|Kenny Golladay||WR||CAR||$5,800||16%||Downfield threat vs. def. that struggles in downfield coverage.|
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR||@WAS||$7,900||17%||Perimeter WRs getting over on WAS def. all season.|
|Evan Engram||TE||TB||$4,100||10%||Has done nothing to warrant heavy ownership. Fade.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||DST||@JAX||$2,900||13%||Defense vs. Bortles always in play but there are better options.|
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: Dak Prescott (@ATL, $5,200, 5% rostered) - Prescott has exceeded a 4x multiple of his current salary in three of the Cowboys last four games. All three of those 20+ fantasy point performances came against defenses -- Jacksonville, Washington, and Philadelphia -- that aren’t exactly easy to score on. This week, Prescott draws the Falcons, who have allowed the second-most normalized fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks, and were last seen getting lit up by Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. Prescott is probably in line for a strong game regardless, but Cowboys at Falcons is primed to shoot out. With the exception of a 23-20 win over the Giants in Week 7, every home game the Falcons have played this season has totaled between 55 and 80 points. Ezekiel Elliott will have zero issues extending drives in this game, which should put Prescott in position to score three total touchdowns. As an added bonus, Atlanta has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards to enemy quarterbacks this season, padding Prescott’s statistical floor and ceiling.
RB: James Conner (@ JAX, $7,200, 19% rostered) - The last time we worried about Conner’s defense vs. position matchup was Week 9 in Baltimore when he totaled 163 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars defense is no cake walk, but their offense often buries them in negative game scripts, which has resulted in solid production yielded to opposing running backs. Conner -- this year’s cumulative RB3 -- is likely to fall behind Johnson, Elliott, Barkley, McCaffrey, Gordon, and Kamara in this week’s running back ownership pecking order, making him a quasi-leverage play among the top-tier backs. It’s likely Conner’s percent rostered settles closer to 15% by the weekend, in which case we need to decide if the probability he scores close to 30 fantasy points exceeds his ownership projection. Given the strength of Pittsburgh’s offense, the likelihood Blake Bortles gifts the Steelers with great field position more than once, and the fact Conner has eclipsed 30 fantasy points in 55% of his games this season, the answer is closer to yes than no.
WR: T.Y. Hilton (vs. TEN, $6,100, 8% rostered) - Hilton has eclipsed 20 fantasy points just once all season, which should keep his popularity in check despite a potentially high-scoring matchup with Tennessee. It’s likely Hilton will see a lot of Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who was responsible for holding Josh Gordon in check last week. But Hilton is moved all over the formation and is capable of slipping past Jackson downfield, even if he doesn’t get many opportunities to line up across from the eminently beatable duo of Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Coverage concerns aside, Hilton projects as the most heavily targeted receiver in a potential shootout. Tennessee’s offense has bounced back with the improved health of Marcus Mariota’s throwing arm, and the Colts offense is humming. Andrew Luck has at least three touchdown passes in six consecutive games. Since the streak began, five of those games have produced combined totals of 55 points or more. Look for Hilton to find the end zone at least once against a defense that has allowed five touchdowns to opposing wide receivers over the last five games.
TE: Greg Olsen (@ DET, $5,000, 7% rostered) - Since returning from injury in Week 6, only four tight ends have commanded more targets than Olsen. While he may no longer be physically capable of maximizing the efficiency of those looks, the Lions defense is there to lend a helping hand this week. Detroit allows the highest pass success rate to opposing tight ends and ranks 30th in yards per pass attempt yielded to the position. Given his usual six-to-eight opportunities, the probability Olsen can reach a 4x salary multiple is boosted by the plus matchup. If you want to hedge on Olsen in your Newton stacks, Devin Funchess ($5,100) has roughly the same price, target projection, and touchdown upside.
DST: Baltimore Ravens (vs. CIN, $3,200, 8% rostered) - It’s been a while since the sixth-ranked Ravens defense was in our good graces. They’ve scored three, negative four, and one fantasy points in their last three games, respectively, but were up against the Saints, Panthers, and Steelers in those contests. After watching Cincinnati struggle to score two touchdowns in their first game without A.J. Green last week (at home against a typically generous Saints pass defense), it’s easy to envision the Ravens rolling to an easy division win coming out of their bye. Dalton faced pressure on 15 out of 25 dropbacks against New Orleans and was intercepted twice as a result. Baltimore has the sixth-highest adjusted sack rate in the NFL and will make life miserable for Dalton if the Bengals poor pass blocking continues.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Matt Ryan||QB||DAL||$6,100||6%||30+ fantasy points in all home games but one.|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB||@DET||$8,000||18%||Good environment for 3rd straight blowup game.|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||PHI||$8,200||17%||If PHI can keep up, game script (and dome) favor Kamara.|
|Alshon Jeffery||WR||@NO||$6,300||7%||Top option to run it back with on PHI side.|
|Amari Cooper||WR||@ATL||$5,400||10%||DAL offense now concentrated. 28% target share as a Cowboy.|
|Mike Evans||WR||@NYG||$7,300||8%||Disappearing act getting old but ceiling intact, price & own % low.|
|Antonio Brown||WR||@JAX||$7,800||14%||Can't remember last time he was this cheap. Has burned JAX before.|
|Austin Hooper||TE||DAL||$4,500||7%||No Sean Lee for DAL was a problem vs. Ertz (16-14-145-2).|
|New Orleans||DST||PHI||$2,100||7%||Biggest home favorite on the slate provides cap relief.|
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: Marcus Mariota (@ IND, $5,500, 5% rostered) - Mariota’s price is up $800 from Week 10 and his ownership will be slightly inflated by the Titans high-profile victory over New England. Most weeks, this would be an easy spot to fade him, but it’s impossible to ignore how good he’s looked throwing the ball recently, and his matchup is the absolute nuts. Indianapolis has allowed the most normalized fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks -- a sample that includes a game against Derek Anderson (175-0-3) and the Bills. As mentioned earlier in the T.Y. Hilton blurb, Colts games have a tendency to shoot out, opening the door for a rare pass-heavy game script for Tennessee. If Mariota were to attempt 40 passes for just the second time this season, 300+ yards and at least two touchdowns are likely, with the possibility for another 4-6 fantasy points via the run.
RB: Alex Collins (vs. CIN, $4,400, 7% rostered) - Viable plays in Collins’ price range are in short supply this week, which could vault him out of contrarian territory. The crowd, however, values reliable volume and Collins doesn’t offer it. He has exceeded 12 rush attempts in only two games all season, hasn’t seen more than 11 carries in a game since Week 6 and adds zilch to the box score as a pass-catcher. While those are all good reasons to ignore Collins this week, he stacks nicely with the Ravens defense if you believe they dominate the short-handed Bengals. Over the last four games, Collins has emerged as the team’s goal-line hammer. On the season, he’s split carries from inside the five-yard line evenly with Javorious Allen, but Collins has out-carried Allen three to one at the goal line over the last four games and has scored four touchdowns in the same span. The Bengals have given up over 66% more fantasy points than league average to opposing running backs over the last five weeks, which could push Collins over 20 fantasy points for the first time in 2018.
WR: Brandon LaFell (@ ARI, $3,400, 3% rostered) - Clicking on LaFell’s name will make you hate your lineup, but if you can overcome the cognitive dissonance, he can provide some much-needed salary relief. Amari Cooper plays for the Cowboys, Martavis Bryant will miss the next few weeks with a PCL injury, and Jordy Nelson (knee) had yet to practice as of Thursday. Someone has to catch passes from Derek Carr this week, and LaFell, who has played on at least 90% of the snaps in each of the Raiders last three games, is the only wide receiver on the team showing faint signs of a pulse. Since being inserted as a starter, LaFell has returned salary multiples of 4.3x and 2.6x -- not great for a player with such a low salary, but enough to make him a viable punt play, who can help you squeeze two RB1s and a WR1 into the same lineup. Just don’t go much higher than 7% exposure -- LaFell is a scrub and Oakland is a train wreck. Seth Roberts ($3,000) is also in play for the same reasons.
TE: James O'Shaughnessy (vs. PIT, $2,600, 2% rostered) - While on the topic of inexpensive last men standing on crummy teams, O'Shaughnessy returned from injury to play on 70% of the Jaguars offensive snaps last week. His six targets tied for second on the team and he ran 23 pass routes, which ranked 13th at the tight end position in Week 10. O'Shaughnessy is clearly part of the game plan in Jacksonville and his numbers could see a boost due to a matchup against Pittsburgh. The Steelers haven’t been as terrible defending tight ends as they were earlier this season, but they are still vulnerable to the position. Since Week 6, they have let up a 6-54-0 receiving line to C.J. Uzomah, a touchdown to Seth DeValve, and a combined four catches for 71 yards to Baltimore’s Mark Andrews/Hayden Hurst platoon. O'Shaughnessy doesn’t offer much upside, but only needs something close to last week’s five catches for 46 yards to 4x his near-minimum salary. Look to him as a low-exposure roster filler for stars & scrubs roster builds.
DST: Washington (vs. HOU, $2,700, 4% rostered) - Washington has scored at least 15 fantasy points in three of their last four games. They should fly mostly below the radar due to the general perception of Houston as a solid offensive team, but Washington at least provides a decent floor this week. Deshaun Watson’s 9.5% sack rate ranks fourth-worst in the league and Washington has tallied 15 sacks over their previous four games. Indianapolis, Green Bay, and Carolina have gone into Washington and scored 21 points or fewer this season, which should allay fears of a ceiling game for Watson. If it looks like only 4% of the field is on Washington by the weekend, three times the crowd’s exposure is warranted.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Matthew Stafford||QB||CAR||$5,400||4%||Lions won't be able to limit his attempts if CAR is scoring.|
|Theo Riddick||RB||CAR||$4,000||4%||7.5 targets per game since Tate trade. TD threat at home.|
|Marlon Mack||RB||TEN||$6,000||7%||Still dominated snaps and backfield workload in down game.|
|D.J. Moore||WR||@DET||$4,200||4%||Only needs one big play to pay off in plus matchup.|
|Cole Beasley||WR||@ATL||$4,400||2%||Off the board option for Prescott stacks. Draws horrid CB Poole.|
|Golden Tate||WR||@NO||$5,500||5%||Crowd scared by snap share. Should ramp up in dream matchup.|
|Jonnu Smith||TE||@IND||$2,700||4%||Thin play due to low volume, but TDs in back-to back games.|
|Oakland Raiders||DST||@ARI||$2,300||3%||Horrible unit but ARI allows 2nd most adjusted points to DSTs.|