This article was updated at 11:40 am on on 11/24/18.
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:
- The Chiefs and Rams are on a well-deserved bye week and the fantasy-friendly offenses of the Saints, Falcons, and Packers are off the main slate. We’re left with an uncharacteristically low (for 2018) two games with an over/under above 50 points -- Miami at Indianapolis and San Francisco at Tampa Bay. Most entrants will look to the home favorite in each game when choosing their core players. Other teams with implied totals over 25 points that will attract significant attention include the Chargers (28.25), Eagles (26), and Patriots (27.75).
- Andrew Luck ($6,400) and Jameis Winston ($6,000) will be the most sought-after quarterbacks. Both are priced as top-5 options, but they won’t be tough to fit due to DraftKings tightly-compacted quarterback salaries. Very few people will consider a quarterback priced below $5,500. Contrarian stacks built around a cheap signal-caller should offer greater leverage than usual.
- The Arizona Cardinals have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, which means Melvin Gordon III ($8,600) will be in high demand, especially since the Chargers (-12) are the biggest favorites on the slate. But there is also an unusual amount of running back value to entice the crowd this week. Nick Chubb ($6,300), Marlon Mack ($5,500) and Matt Breida ($5,700) are high-upside players in ideal matchups, and Week 11 breakout Gus Edwards ($4,400) warrants consideration with Baltimore hosting Oakland as a double-digit favorite (especially if Alex Collins scratches). Many lineups will include three of the aforementioned backs, with Gordon plus two value-plays likely to be the most common combination.
- EDIT: ESPN reported Gordon is a game-time decision due to an aggravation of his hamstring issue. If he is forced to sit, Austin Ekeler ($3,700) will become the highest-owned running back on the slate. His low price (even for a backup) alters the complexion of the slate. Entrants can now either spend up for two high-priced running backs, two high-priced receivers, or use more of their cap to pay up to a premium tight end.
- A lineup with Luck/Winston, Gordon, and a pair of $5-$6K running backs leaves room for one top-tier wide receiver. Odell Beckham Jr ($8,800) should top the most wish lists due to his matchup with the injury-depleted Eagles secondary. Mike Evans ($7,700), and T.Y. Hilton ($6,500) will also be popular as the obvious stacking partners for Winston and Luck, respectively. Value plays below $5K at wide receiver are few and far between for a second straight week. Look for D.J. Moore ($4,600) to appear frequently in this week's stock roster builds, especially if Devin Funchess is ruled out.
- It was announced O.J. Howard would miss the remainder of the season after Week 12 salaries were released, leaving Cameron Brate ($3,600) underpriced as the main pass-catching tight end in one of the league’s most productive passing offenses. Zach Ertz ($6,400) and George Kittle ($6,200) are intriguing high-end options, but rostering either of them means less spending at RB1 or WR1, which will make many of your opponents hesitate.
- We have one defense priced up at $4,000 (Jacksonville), but only $1,000 separates the next 10 choices. The Jaguars will be popular in Josh Allen’s return for the Bills, and the Ravens defense will draw a crowd at home against the lowly Raiders, but ownership at DST should be fairly flat. Percent rostered should barely be a factor in your decision-making process when choosing a defense this week.
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: Jameis Winston (vs. SF, $6,000, 18% rostered) - Tampa Bay is at home and implied to score over 29 points. If you believe Vegas has the line correct, you’ll want to be overweight on Winston. A league-leading 79% of the Buccaneers offensive yardage this season has been generated via the pass, and their 73% passing touchdown rate trails only three other teams. Winston’s opponent this week, San Francisco, ranks as a bottom-8 unit in both opponent passing touchdown rate and total air yards allowed. In his last six starts dating back to last season, Winston has finished as a weekly top-6 quarterback in five games. And if Dirk Koetter hadn’t pulled him in Week 8 at Cincinnati, it’s likely he would have leveraged garbage time to make it a clean sweep. There is a chance this game between two terrible teams falls well short of Vegas’ 55-point expectation, but it’s undeniably a great on-paper spot for Winston. Make him one of your core quarterbacks.
RB: Melvin Gordon III III (vs. ARI, $8,600, 29% rostered) - Gordon is everything you’re looking for in a cash game running back. He’s locked into a three-down plus goal-line role on a top-10 offense and has finished with less than 20 fantasy points in just one game all season. This week’s matchup against the Cardinals rush defense will further entice the crowd, but there are reasons to pivot off Gordon as the projected highest-rostered running back in tournaments. If we look at only the last five weeks, Arizona has allowed 19.3 normalized fantasy points per game to opposing running backs -- a far cry from their season-to-date average of 25.3. And while Gordon, has provided a consistently high floor all season, three of his 30+ point performances came in Weeks 1-4. None of this is to say Gordon is a poor play with the Cardinals visiting LA as 12-point underdogs, but there are several running backs available who can approximate his ceiling and save you cap space. Fade him relative to the field.
EDIT: As mentioned above, Gordon is now a game-time decision with a hamstring injury. Even if he is declared active, he becomes difficult to trust since he can further aggravate the injury or the Chargers can choose to rest him at any time against an inferior opponent. The best thing we can hope for from a game theory perspective is Adam Schefter to tweet Gordon will be active tomorrow morning, fade him, and take a shot on Austin Ekeler getting most of the work without his ownership percentage inflating to 40%+.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr Jr. (vs. PHI, $8,800, 19% rostered) - Beckham is the cumulative WR5 on DraftKings since Week 5 thanks in part to a string of advantageous matchups. His chances of staying hot this week are high against Philadelphia’s struggling secondary. The back end of the Eagles defense -- a vulnerability to begin with -- has gone completely off the rails with injuries to cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, and safety Rodney McLeod. They have allowed 45% more fantasy points than league average to enemy wide receivers over the last three weeks, including a combined 14-249-2 receiving line to Tre'Quan Smith and Michael Thomas in Week 11. Beckham has already demonstrated the 30+ point upside needed to justify his salary twice this season and should be immune to negative game flow. If the Giants can keep pace with the Eagles, Beckham is likely to be the primary reason why. And if New York’s defense gets lit up by Carson Wentz, Beckham’s target volume will rise with the Giants playing catch up. The concern with making Beckham one of your highest exposures is Eli Manning. The probability Manning plays poorly enough to ruin the great matchup is at least equal to Beckham’s ownership projection. Come in about even with the crowd.
TE: Cameron Brate (vs. SF, $3,600, 23% rostered) - O.J. Howard’s emergence made Brate a forgotten man in Tampa Bay’s offense, but with Howard lost for the season, the crowd will be quick to remember Brate’s back-to-back cumulative top-10 tight end finishes in 2016 and 2017. Across those two years, Brate’s 30 red zone targets trailed Mike Evans’ 37 for the team lead, yet Brate still led the team in total catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns from inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. So far this season, Buccaneers tight ends are averaging 18.1 PPR fantasy points per game (fourth-most in the league). If Brate provides only 75% of that number with the pass-catching role entirely to himself, he’ll pay off his middling $3,600 price tag. His standing as Winston’s red zone binky and the high-scoring environment suggested by the Vegas line give Brate upside to boot. Overall, Brate is a fine play whose salary makes a lot of things possible. But keep in mind tight end is a high variance position and it rarely pays to follow the crowd on the most popular option in tournaments.
DST: LA Chargers (vs. ARI, $3,400, 10% rostered) - The Chargers defense scored double-digit fantasy points in four of their previous five games before putting up a surprising zero last week against the Broncos. They should have little trouble getting back on track against the Cardinals, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses when adjusted for strength of schedule. Prior to last week against Oakland’s non-existent pass rush, Josh Rosen had been sacked at least three times in each of his last four games. Per Pro Football Focus, Rosen has the second-lowest quarterback rating when pressured, which doesn’t bode well for his chances against defensive end Joey Bosa in his second game back from injury. LA is worthy of 10-15% exposure.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Andrew Luck||QB||MIA||$6,400||11%||Touchdown addict. Three or more pass TDs in seven straight.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||@PHI||$9,100||18%||Could be high-owned for the price coming off ceiling game.|
|Nick Chubb||RB||@CIN||$6,300||26%||CIN is best matchup for RBs over last five weeks.|
|Marlon Mack||RB||MIA||$5,500||15%||Too cheap for lion's share of workload vs. MIA defense.|
|T.Y. Hilton||WR||MIA||$6,500||24%||Feels like point-chasing. RBs and TEs get over on MIA defense.|
|Mike Evans||WR||SF||$7,700||20%||Back as top option with Winston under center.|
|D.J. Moore||WR||SEA||$4,600||16%||If Funchess is ruled out, Moore becomes mega-chalk (and fade).|
|George Kittle||TE||@TB||$6,200||14%||Only reliable pass-catcher on SF offense. Great matchup.|
|Zach Ertz||TE||NYG||$6,400||17%||Rebound spot for Eagles offense, Ertz included.|
|Baltimore Ravens||DST||OAK||$3,300||25%||Will be an auto-click for many at $600 less than Jaguars.|
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: Carson Wentz (vs. NYG, $5,900, 10% rostered) - Wentz was a popular option on the road in New Orleans last week and promptly played the worst game of his career. We shouldn’t hold getting dominated by the Saints in the Superdome against any player at this point, however, especially not Wentz who scored at least 23 fantasy points in each of his previous six games. When he last faced the Giants in Week 6, Wentz threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns -- a line he should be able to at least replicate in the division rematch. New York has been easier to run on than pass since trading defensive tackle Damon Harrison, but Philadelphia has no running game to speak of and the Giants pass defense is fraudulent. Since they last played Wentz, New York allowed 379 passing yards to Matt Ryan, held their own against Alex Smith, Nick Mullens, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and then gave up 199 yards and two touchdowns to Winston in the second half of last week’s game. This an excellent bounce-back spot for Wentz and the Eagles, who are still alive in the dreadful NFC East.
RB: James Conner (@ DEN, $7,800, 26% rostered) - Conner fell victim to a wonky game script and a dropped touchdown pass in Jacksonville last week, on his way to a second-straight game with less than 15 fantasy points. Hopefully, the crowd will be enamored with Gordon’s matchup and Saquon Barkley’s dominant Week 11, leaving Conner under-owned as a result. Before getting banged up in Week 10 against Carolina and last week’s underwhelming performance vs. a tough Jaguars defense, Conner exceeded 30 PPR fantasy points in four straight games. His ceiling is as high as any player’s on this slate in a less-than-intimidating road matchup with the Broncos. Denver's rush defense has stiffened since allowing 548 rushing yards and four touchdowns over a disastrous three-game stretch from Weeks 4-6, but they’re still a neutral opponent for opposing running backs, at best. In a game that can easily exceed its 46.5-point implied total, Conner might be the only running back with a realistic chance at 30+ touches.
WR: Josh Gordon (vs. NYJ, $6,400, 6% rostered) - The Patriots have been stewing over their ugly road loss in Tennessee for two weeks and should come out of their bye motivated to destroy one of the least talented rosters in the league. When we last saw the Jets, off-the-couch Matt Barkley, Zay Jones, and Robert Foster were making their defensive backfield look silly. Tom Brady will have all his weapons back for this game, which should give Gordon -- the only player on the team with slate-breaking potential -- more room to operate. Still fairly priced relative to his upside, Gordon has commanded double-digit targets in each of New England's last two games and has one reception of at least 44 yards in three of his last four. It’s only a matter of time before Brady and Gordon connect on more than one of those deep shots and this spot seems as good as any. The crowd will chase T.Y. Hilton’s Week 11 box score for $100 more than Gordon, making him an ideal price pivot with similar upside.
EDIT: Tom Brady missed Friday's practice with an illness and knee injury. By all accounts, the knee injury is considered minor and Brady is expected to play. If Brian Hoyer is forced to start, it might not be the death knell for Gordon most would assume. They share a rapport from their time together in Cleveland and Hoyer has supported a WR1 at multiple stops throughout his career. The reduced ownership for Gordon would be an additional benefit.
TE: Eric Ebron (vs. MIA, $4,000, 3% rostered) - A week after proving he doesn’t even need to play on half the snaps to have a three-touchdown ceiling, Ebron showed us he also has a zero-point floor. For as long as Jack Doyle is healthy, he’s the much safer play, but Ebron is still the Colts tight end to target in tournaments. Only Carolina has allowed more normalized fantasy points to opposing tight ends over the last five weeks than the Dolphins, who have given up multiple touchdowns to the likes of Jordan Thomas and Michael Roberts this season. Tennessee made it a point to pay extra attention to Ebron when he was on the field last week, but even if the Dolphins copy their game plan, they lack the requisite talent to make it work. Ebron is a mismatch for most linebackers in coverage, an area where Miami’s inexperienced unit has struggled all season.
EDIT: Mo Alie-Cox was declared out on Saturday, improving the outlook for both Ebron and Jack Doyle. Both Colts tight ends are stronger plays as a result of the injury, with Ebron the biggest winner due to Alie-Cox's red zone role.
DST: Philadelphia Eagles (vs. NYG, $2,400, 9% rostered) - The Eagles defense may not resemble their Super Bowl-winning 2017 version, but they can still get enough pressure on the quarterback to make life difficult for Eli Manning. Manning has been sacked at least four times in four of his last five games, a sample that includes a game against this same Philadelphia team in Week 6. At just $400 above the site minimum, the Eagles come with a solid floor at home against Manning, who is one of only two quarterbacks to get sacked on at least 25% of his dropbacks this season (minimum 300 dropbacks). The risk (and the reason for their low price) is the Giants receivers could easily burn their injury-riddled secondary, but it’s a chance worth taking in a must-win game for Philadelphia.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||OAK||$5,700||11%||Super-high floor against OAK rush D. Passing stats are gravy.|
|Matt Breida||RB||@TB||$5,700||10%||TB sans LBs Alexander and David is the nuts matchup for RBs.|
|Joe Mixon||RB||CLE||$6,800||15%||Great matchup, especially if A.J. Green is back to open up offense.|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB||SEA||$7,900||19%||One of the best PPR workloads in the business in any given week.|
|Alshon Jeffery||WR||NYG||$5,800||10%||Giants had no answer for him in last meeting.|
|Tyler Boyd||WR||CLE||$6,000||13%||Price has corrected. Should see softer coverage with Green back.|
|Tyler Lockett||WR||CAR||$5,200||5%||Deep threat vs. defense that stuggles to defend deep threats.|
|Jared Cook||TE||@BAL||$4,500||4%||TE is the one position that can get over on BAL defense consistently.|
|Buffalo Bills||DST||JAX||$2,700||5%||Bortles on the road, Jacksonville team dejected.|
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: Tom Brady (vs. NYJ, $6,500, 4% rostered) - Brady may not qualify as a true contrarian play, but as the most expensive quarterback on the slate, most entrants will be inclined to pass on him for Luck and Winston. Rob Gronkowski is expected to return for the Patriots, and by now, you should be familiar with Brady’s splits with and without his all-world tight end (25% increase in fantasy points per game with Gronkowski). Even if Gronkowski is still hampered by the back injury that has kept him out since Week 8, his mere presence on the field will make life easier for Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman, who already enjoy decisive advantages over the Jets secondary. With New England’s offense finally close to full-strength, the game environment sets up nicely for a big day from Brady. The Patriots are well-rested coming off a bye week, favored by double-digits, and implied to score nearly 28 points.
EDIT: As mentioned above in the Josh Gordon blurb, Brady missed practice on Friday due to illness and a knee injury. His percent rostered should drop as a result, making him an even stronger contrarian play, as long as he's able to suit up. If he scratches, Brian Hoyer ($4,500) merits consideration against the woeful Jets.
RB: LeSean McCoy (vs. JAX, $4,200, 5% rostered) - Like Brady, it wouldn’t be surprising if McCoy’s ownership was slightly above normal contrarian levels. On one hand, he is dirt-cheap coming off a vintage 26-113-2 rushing line in his last game against the Jets. But on the other, he now has one useful game all season and he’s facing the Jaguars, who shut down James Conner in Week 11. While McCoy doesn’t have the 27-point ceiling in this matchup he flashed against New York, it would only take closer to 20 points to make him part of a winning tournament lineup given his season-low salary. Consider stacking McCoy with the Bills defense. They are traditionally a tougher out at home and it wouldn't be shocking if they jumped all over Blake Bortles after Jacksonville saw their slim playoff hopes dashed in an emotional loss to the Steelers last week. In any case, McCoy is the cheapest source of 20 touches on the slate and is therefore deserving of more attention than he is likely to receive.
WR: Danny Amendola (@ IND, $4,600, 9% rostered) - No one ever wants to roster Amendola, but he has received between six and 11 targets in every game since Week 6 and become a reliable glue-guy for cash games and tournaments alike. In the Dolphins last five games, Amendola has posted at least 14 fantasy points in four of them and he even has a bit of upside this week in a matchup with the Colts. Ryan Tannehill is expected to return for Miami, which is no great shakes but at least qualifies as an upgrade over Brock Osweiler at quarterback. The Dolphins defense is unlikely to stay competitive with the white-hot Andrew Luck, which means Tannehill should be forced to throw at least 35 times. If such a game script were to play out, we can pencil Amendola in for double-digit targets, giving him enough opportunity to return a 4x salary multiple.
TE: Nick Vannett (@ CAR, $2,700, 2% rostered) - Vannett is a thin play due to the fact he has received exactly two targets in each of his last two games, but he is playing more snaps and running more pass routes than platoon-mate Ed Dickson, which gives him a reasonable chance of expoiting a great matchup against Carolina. No team has allowed more normalized fantasy points to opposing tight ends over the last five weeks than the Panthers. And while Vannett hasn’t been lighting the world on fire, he has at least shown a knack for finding the end zone. He has caught touchdowns in two of his last three games and would have made it three in a row if not for getting tackled a yard short of the goal line in Week 11. Carolina has allowed five tight end touchdowns since Week 8.
DST: Cincinnati Bengals (vs. CLE, $2,500, 4% rostered) - The Bengals defense is atrocious, but if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, they’ll need a strong performance against the Browns. Cleveland’s offense has looked improved under new leadership, but since Hue Jackson’s firing, they have faced the generous defenses of the Chiefs and Falcons. It could be argued Cincinnati's defense is as bad or worse than those two teams, but an in-division road game should present a stiffer test for the Browns, who allow the eighth-highest sack rate in the league and average one interception per game.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Case Keenum||QB||PIT||$4,700||2%||PIT @ DEN has sneaky shootout potential.|
|Kenyan Drake||RB||@IND||$4,900||3%||IND susceptible to RBs in passing game. Good game script.|
|Elijah McGuire||RB||@NE||$3,600||3%||Pass-catching back on team likely to be trailing throughout.|
|Sterling Shepard||WR||@PHI||$5,300||5%||Forgotten man against terrible PHI secondary.|
|Quincy Enunwa||WR||@NE||$3,700||7%||Target hog on team likely to be trailing throughout.|
|Chris Godwin||WR||SF||$4,100||3%||All TB WRs are in play vs. SF corners.|
|Rob Gronkowski||TE||NYJ||$5,100||6%||Cheapest we've ever seen him. Worth a shot if he plays.|
|San Francisco 49ers||DST||@TB||$2,300||3%||TB offense can both giveth and taketh away.|
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