This article was updated at 10:00 am on on 12/1/18.
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:
- Bye weeks are a thing of the past, which means we get our first 13-game main slate since Week 3. While that means there are more decisions to make than usual, we can still be confident Carolina at Tampa Bay, which has a slate-high 56.5-point over/under, is the first game our opponents will look to for core players. Neither team can stop opponents from hitting big plays, which puts the key offensive pieces in play on both sides.
- Kansas City is implied to score over 35 points against the woeful Raiders. Most weeks, the Patrick Mahomes II-Tyreek Hill stack would be mega-chalk. The duo will still be somewhat popular, but DraftKings has given the crowd reason to think twice by making the combination cost one-third of the salary cap. In the wake of Kareem Hunt's release, we can be certain Spencer Ware ($4,000) will be the highest-owned player on the Chiefs, as well as the entire slate.
- The Rams and Packers should round out the group of teams most people will chase when building their cores. LA is a 10-point road favorite facing a soft Detroit defense, while Green Bay draws the hapless Cardinals in their first game at Lambeau Field since Week 10.
- There is more separation in quarterback pricing than we have seen recently on DraftKings. Mahomes ($7,600) is a full $1,000 more than the QB2 (Cam Newton). And even Newton, at $6,600, is more expensive than any quarterback was on last week’s slate. While roster percentages at the position should remain relatively flat, with plenty of entrants spending up to Mahomes, Newton, and Jared Goff ($6,400), the most ownership should concentrate in the $6K range, where the usual suspects include Jameis Winston ($6,000) and Lamar Jackson ($5,900).
- Christian McCaffrey is coming off a PPR performance for the ages. He’ll be the most popular high-priced running back in a matchup with the Buccaneers, who allow opponents to do whatever they want to on offense. Look for the common construction to include a second high-priced running back in addition to McCaffrey. Todd Gurley ($9,300) is a likely option, though many will come down to Aaron Jones ($6,700) with Green Bay favored by two touchdowns over visiting Arizona. Saquon Barkley ($7,900) will be relatively popular and should see his ownership spike a bit due to the Hunt suspension, but he should still provide some leverage over McCaffrey, Gurley, and Jones.
- Spending up for two running backs eliminates Tyreek Hill ($9,100) from stock roster builds. Kenny Golladay ($6,700), Emmanuel Sanders ($6,300), D.J. Moore ($5,600), and Corey Davis ($5,500) stand out as potential target hogs in excellent matchups. It’s possible to fit two of these players next to a $6K quarterback and a McCaffrey/Hunt combo. Those who use Jones instead of Hunt will be able to afford a luxury purchase at WR1 like DeAndre Hopkins ($8,200) or Adam Thielen ($8,000). WR3 will have to come cheap, which should inflate the ownership of players like Adam Humphries ($4,200) and Chris Godwin ($3,900), with DeSean Jackson ruled out.
- With Zach Ertz off the main slate, Travis Kelce ($7,000) is the clear top projected scorer at tight end. But like his teammates Mahomes and Hill, Kelce is priced well above the field at his position. Jack Doyle’s season-ending injury opens the door for touchdown machine, Eric Ebron ($4,200), to see the field full-time. Ebron, Greg Olsen ($4,100), and Cameron Brate ($3,700) fit neatly in a chalky build.
- Most entrants will fill their flex spot with a cheap running back. Carlos Hyde ($3,300) profiles for 15-18 touches plus goal-line work in the absence of Leonard Fournette (suspension). He was shaping up as the mega-chalk prior to the Hunt news, but now it would be surprising if most people didn't find the extra $700 to get up to Ware, who should be owned on at least 35% of tournament lineups.
- Less than $1,000 separates the top-12 defenses. Ownership at the position will be super-flat as a result, with most entrants spending between $2,500 and $2,900, where the Chiefs, Colts, Rams, Texans, Dolphins, and Packers all have terrific on-paper matchups.
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. CAR, $6,000, 10% rostered) - Winston followed up a tremendous second half in Week 11 vs. the Giants with his most complete game of the season last week against the 49ers (312-2-0, 76% completion rate, 26 fantasy points). Despite the successful outing, DraftKings failed to change his price as he enters the game with this week’s highest implied point total. The Panthers are a 3.5-point road favorite but come into Week 13 reeling after three consecutive losses. Ben Roethlisberger (328-5-0) and Russell Wilson (339-2-0) had their way with Carolina’s pass defense in two of those defeats, suggesting Winston will have the opportunity to pile up passing stats, whether Tampa Bay is leading or trailing for most of the afternoon. Dating back to last season, Winston has finished with at least 25 DraftKings points in five of his last six starts, including every one of the full games he has played this season. We’re close to the point where his median scoring projection is equivalent to a 4x salary multiple. There’s no need to exceed the field’s percent rostered on any quarterback, but Winston should still be one of the few you build stacks around.
RB: Christian McCaffrey (@ TB, $8,800, 25% rostered) - It’s safe to say concerns about McCaffrey’s ceiling can be laid to rest following his last four weeks of production. After a 52.7-point explosion in Week 12, we’ll have to pay $900 more for McCaffrey this week, but there isn’t a price DraftKings could have named to keep the crowd from chasing his Week 12 points in a matchup against Tampa Bay. The Buccanneers have allowed 24% more fantasy production to opposing running backs than league average over the last five weeks, a sample which includes 157 total yards and two touchdowns to McCaffrey in Week 9. Tampa Bay is expected to get their top tackler back for this game (linebacker Lavonte David), but David couldn’t stop McCaffrey in their last meeting and now he’s coming off a multi-week knee injury. McCaffrey is expensive and highly-owned, but also immune to negative scripts and playing as well as any running back over the last month. He’s officially reached 2017 Alvin Kamara fade at your own risk levels.
WR: Kenny Golladay (vs. LAR, $6,700, 18% rostered) - With Marvin Jones Jr officially out for the season, and the visiting Rams likely to force Matthew Stafford to attempt 40 passes, Golladay is more than a dark horse to lead the slate in targets. Over the last three games, Golladay has received 13, 15, and 8 targets, respectively. His five red zone looks over the same span trail only Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr, and Julio Jones. LA’s secondary will receive a boost from the return of cornerback Aqib Talib from a 10-week absence. But even if Talib’s playing time isn’t limited, he’ll have plenty of rust to knock off after such a long layoff. Golladay should still see plenty of cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Troy Hill, who are responsible for allowing the fourth-most normalized fantasy points to opposing wide receivers over the last five weeks. Count on this being the last week we’re able to roster Golladay at WR2 pricing.
TE: Eric Ebron (@ JAX, $4,200, 24% rostered) - With Mo Alie-Cox ruled out and platoon-mate Jack Doyle lost for the season, Ebron should see a season-high snap share this week against Jacksonville -- a team he hung three total touchdowns on in Week 10. The Doyle news didn’t break in time for DraftKings to adjust Ebron’s price, making him a standout value now that he’s something close to an every-down player. On 56% of the Colts snaps this season, Ebron is tied for the league-lead with 11 receiving touchdowns and leads Indianapolis with a 24.3% share of the team’s red zone targets. Frank Reich is clearly scheming Ebron open when the team gets within striking distance and the additional playing time should stabilize his floor. In the five games Doyle missed this season, Ebron averaged 5.2 receptions vs. 3.6 in the five contests Doyle played. When a tight end is a chalky as Ebron will be this week, the correct move is to fade him in tournaments. But the position is so weak and Ebron so inexpensive relative to his ceiling, you don’t want to come up completely empty. If he ends up close to 30% owned, consider 20% exposure.
DST: Green Bay Packers (vs. ARI, $2,800, 17% rostered) - The Packers defense is an avoid most weeks but they’re capable of beating up on poor offensive teams at Lambeau Field (see Week 4 vs. Buffalo and Week 10 vs. Miami). Arizona certainly qualifies as a poor offensive team. They rank dead-last in points per game, yards per game, and yards per play. Per Pro Football Focus, rookie quarterback Josh Rosen has the lowest quarterback rating when pressured of any player with at least 100 dropbacks. It’s a recipe for disaster against a Green Bay defensive line with the fifth-highest adjusted sack rate in the league. As good as the Packers look on paper, however, there is no shortage of teams in the same price range with a similar probability of appearing in a tournament-winning lineup. If their percent rostered remains this high after the weekend projections update, make DST one of the positions you use to pivot.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Cam Newton||QB||@TB||$6,600||15%||As consitent as they come this year. Ceiling potential if TB stays close.|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||@ATL||$5,900||10%||Everyone loves a running QB. Rookie making first road start though.|
|Kareem Hunt||RB||@OAK||$7,800||19%||KC should ride him against slow OAK linebackers.|
|Aaron Jones||RB||ARI||$6,700||16%||Passing game involement a welcome development. Great rush matchup.|
|Todd Gurley||RB||MIA||$9,300||27%||McVay says ankle is fine. Improving DET rush defense a slight concern.|
|Carlos Hyde||RB||IND||$3,300||24%||Bust potential is there at but 15 touches hard to pass up at his price.|
|Spencer Ware||RB||@OAK||$4,000||35%||Hunt's supension makes him a free square.|
|Adam Thielen||WR||MIA||$8,000||12%||If Golladay isn't this week's target leader, Thielen will be.|
|Emmanuel Sanders||WR||@CIN||$6,300||14%||Top passing game option vs. wrecked defense.|
|D.J. Moore||WR||SEA||$5,600||14%||Funchess back at practice could ding volume in great matchup.|
|Travis Kelce||TE||@TB||$7,000||15%||Primed to destroy Oakland. Make the room for him where you can.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DST||OAK||$2,500||8%||Huge favorite (albeit on the road) vs. sack-prone QB.|
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: Deshaun Watson (vs. CLE, $6,100, 4% rostered) - Watson was masterful on Monday Night Football against Tennessee, completing 79% of his passes for 210 yards, scoring three total touchdowns, and adding another 70 yards on nine rush attempts. Despite the huge performance in a nationally televised game, Houston is the big home favorite no one seems to be sniffing around -- a situation made more confusing when you consider the Texans are hosting Cleveland. Before Andy Dalton got hurt while playing the Browns last week, three of the last four quarterbacks to face Cleveland eclipsed 330 passing yards. It’s also worth noting the one time they faced a semi-mobile quarterback this season, Jameis Winston ran the ball 10 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. With both teams ranking inside the top-12 in situation-neutral pace of play and a 47.5-point over/under, Browns at Texans is in contention to be the sneaky shootout of the week. At just $6,100, we’re looking for at least 25 points from Watson -- a threshold he’s cleared in half of his games this season. The probability he gets there again in this spot exceeds his projected ownership percentage by a significant margin, even if he continues to see a limited number of pass attempts.
RB: Saquon Barkley (vs. CHI, $7,900, 19% rostered) - With McCaffrey, Hunt, Gurley, and Jones all in terrific on-paper matchups, Barkley will go somewhat overlooked in a home game vs. Chicago. The Bears have the best DVOA rush defense in the league, which is supported by the fact they’ve only allowed only two running backs to exceed 60 yards on the ground against them this season (somehow the two were Frank Gore in Week 6 and LeGarrette Blount last week). Barkley could very well find the sledding tough on the ground in this game, but the reasons to get greedy while the crowd gets nervous are numerous:
- Barkley has proven multiple times this season he can make his fantasy day on one run against any defense. His talent transcends matchups.
- Even if he can’t find running room against Chicago’s stout defensive line, Barkley’s role in the Giants passing game is carved in granite. He’s caught six or more balls in more than half his games this season.
- The Bears are likely to pressure Eli Manning into more check-downs than usual, raising Bakley’s receiving floor even higher. Maybe the matchup keeps him from scoring 35+ points for the third straight game, but the chances he ruins your lineup are very low.
- He’s a bargain. When was the last time an all-world running back talent combined for nearly 75 fantasy points in his previous two games and saw his price come down by $1,200? DraftKings overcorrection is our gain if Barkley remains projected for sub-20% ownership by the weekend.
WR: Julio Jones (vs. BAL, $7,700, 19% rostered) - Jones is another stud player whose price decreased sharply headed into a less-than-ideal matchup. While the savings might cause his percent rostered to spike as high as he’s currently projected, it’s more likely those in search of a WR1 will find a way to get up to Davante Adams ($7,900), Adam Thielen or DeAndre Hopkins. There is no doubt Baltimore has been tough on opposing wide receivers this season. Since cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to the lineup in Week 5, the best fantasy line posted by a wideout against the Ravens was Michael Thomas’ 7-69-1 in Week 7. But much like Barkley, Jones is too cheap and playing too well to pass up if our opponents are nervous to roster him. Since Week 6, Tyreek Hill is the only wide receiver to score more cumulative fantasy points than Jones, who has gone over 100 receiving yards in six consecutive games. It’s Smith and the Ravens who face the tall task of containing Jones and not the other way around.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (vs. MIN, $5,400, 7% rostered) - Gronkowski is a bit of a wildcard on this slate. On one hand, he made it through last week’s game seemingly unscathed and even looked Gronk-like on a 34-yard touchdown reception in traffic. But on the other, he was back to being limited in Thursday’s practice and hasn’t eclipsed 15 fantasy points since Week 1. Assuming Thursday was more of a maintenance day than a setback, Gronkowski showed enough in an easy win over the Jets to qualify as a value-play with upside this week against the Vikings. New England hosts Minnesota as a five-point favorite with an implied team total over 27 points. Those are ideal conditions for tight end fantasy production, and while the Vikings have improved their defense against tight ends recently after some major first-half struggles, they haven’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of opponents over the last month (Benjamin Watson, Luke Willson, Trey Burton, one-handed Jimmy Graham). As long as Friday’s practice report doesn’t contain bad news, Gronkowski is priced too low relative to his upside in a game that could easily turn into a shootout.
DST: Denver Broncos (@ CIN, $2,700, 10% rostered) - Jeff Driskel ($4,500) is a viable punt play at quarterback this week due to his rushing ability. His prototypical size and decent arm strength might even give him a bit of upside, especially since it looks like he’ll have A.J.Green to throw to. But even the most rosy-eyed Driskel optimists have to see the writing on the wall. He’s a former sixth-round draft pick with downfield accuracy issues making his first NFL start. The Bengals defense is so decimated by injury, even the so-so Broncos offense should have little trouble forcing a pass-heavy game script on Driskel -- not great for a quarterback who only completed 58.6% of his passes last week against Cleveland’s prevent defense. And those are just the problems for Cincinnati that have nothing to do with a strong Denver’s pass rush. Maybe Driskel is the surprise story of Week 13, but it’s more likely we see the Broncos rack up sacks, turnovers, and possibly a defensive touchdown.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Kirk Cousins||QB||@NE||$5,500||4%||Why so cheap? Easy to envision shootout in Foxborough.|
|Lamar Miller||RB||CLE||$4,600||10%||Ran well even without the big play last week. Solid in 4 of last 5.|
|Nick Chubb||RB||@HOU||$7,000||9%||In the midst of breakout, ran more pass routes than Duke last week.|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB||IND||$4,400||10%||IND susceptible to pass-catching backs. Kessler will look to dump off.|
|Stefon Diggs||WR||@NE||$7,600||7%||Tough matchup with Gilmore but hogging targets lately. Watch injury.|
|Davante Adams||WR||ARI||$7,900||16%||Don't be scared off by Peterson, who isn't shadowing this year.|
|Brandin Cooks||WR||@DET||$7,000||16%||Always go higher than crowd when he's indoors.|
|Austin Hooper||TE||BAL||$3,900||3%||TE is the one position that can get over on BAL defense consistently.|
|Miami Dolphins||DST||BUF||$2,700||4%||Home favorite vs. innacurate, mistake-prone rookie QB.|
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: Matt Ryan (vs. BAL, $5,600, 2% rostered) - DraftKings is giving us Ryan -- and the Ryan/Julio stack -- at the lowest price we’ve seen all season, which is reason enough to triple the field’s exposure to Atlanta’s quarterback. From a game theory perspective, if we believe Lamar Jackson is going to be one of the three-highest owned quarterbacks (he is), the implication is Baltimore will put up a lot of points on the Falcons. If such a scenario were to play out, Ryan would need a considerable amount of pass attempts to keep Atlanta in the game, at home, where he’s scored 30-or-more fantasy points in four-of-six games this season. A big game from Jackson isn’t the only path for Ryan to exceed expectations either. If Jackson -- a turnover-prone rookie quarterback making his first start on the road -- was to turn the ball over multiple times, Ryan could be given several opportunities to capitalize on short-field scoring chances. In either case, the probability Ryan reaches the 25-30 fantasy points we’re looking for from him at this price is higher than his current projected ownership percentage.
RB: Dion Lewis (vs. NYJ, $5,300, 4% rostered) - Those looking for a running back in Lewis’ price range will either pay up to Phillip Lindsay or down to Gus Edwards. But even if there were no other attractive players in his tier, people still wouldn’t want a piece of Lewis, whose production has tailed off since a promising stretch from Weeks 7-9. As difficult as it might be to click Lewis’ name after looking at Tennessee’s last three box scores, there are reasons to consider it:
- Lewis is still Tennessee’s lead-back. Over the last three games, his snap rate hasn’t dipped below 70% and he’s handled 60% of the team’s total backfield touches.
- The Titans host the Jets as eight-point favorites, with a 25-point implied team total. If we believe Vegas’ game-script, there will be added opportunities for Tennessee’s running backs to produce. Derrick Henry, at 1% projected ownership, is also a worthy dart-throw in tournaments.
- The Jets have been shredded on the ground against unimpressive competition lately. Since Week 7, Latavius Murray (15-69-2), Jordan Howard (22-81-1), LeSean McCoy (26-113-2), and Sony Michel (21-133-1) have enjoyed uncommonly strong performances vs. New York’s defensive front.
WR: Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($5,200 vs. ARI, 2% rostered) - The shine is off Valdez-Scantling after consecutive games with less than two fantasy points, yet DraftKings mysteriously raised his price by $300 for this week’s matchup with the Cardinals. While the back-to-back games with three-or-fewer targets are troubling, no one will be on the rookie, and it’s not as though another Green Bay pass-catcher has usurped him in the pecking order. It looks like Randall Cobb will be back this week, but he hasn’t been healthy or effective since Week 1. Equanimeous St. Brown’s involvement has increased marginally over the last two weeks, but he couldn’t finish last week’s game due to injury and is the receiver most likely to lose snaps to the returning Cobb. Valdez-Scantling will remain the starter opposite Davante Adams, who has to battle All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson most of the afternoon. Valdez-Scantling should enjoy the more favorable coverage and it was only a few weeks ago he could be relied on for at least one 40-yard chunk play per game. He’s not a high-exposure option by any means due to his weak point-per-dollar value, but the game environment sets Valdez-Scantling up nicely for a bounce-back performance at extremely low ownership.
TE: Gerald Everett ($2,900, @ DET, 1% rostered) - What’s not to like about Everett this week? He’s exceeded a 3x multiple of his current salary in each of the last three games and flashed a 20-point ceiling in the Rams first full game without Cooper Kupp in the lineup. His two red zone touchdowns since Week 9 lead the team and suggest he’s being counted on to fill Kupp’s vacated role. Despite the recent production, Everett remains priced in Ricky Seals-Jones territory and no one seems interested in playing him. In a matchup against Detroit, who allow the fourth-highest pass success rate to enemy tight ends, a second-consecutive ceiling game for Everett is within his range of possible outcomes. He also gains you leverage if he finds the end zone at the expense of more popular Rams players like Gurley, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks.
DST: Tennessee Titans ($3,000, vs. NYJ, 4% rostered) - You can complete a contrarian RB-DST stack by rostering the Titans alongside Lewis. Over the last five weeks, the Jets have allowed 31.3% more fantasy points to opposing defenses than league average and they enter this game as eight-point road underdogs. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for New York, Tennessee should have little trouble forcing multiple sacks and at least one turnover, something Jets opponents have done in each of their last three games. With more enticing options like the Packers, Broncos, and Chiefs available for less, rostering the Titans qualifies as paying up to be contrarian without sacrificing projected fantasy points.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Marcus Mariota||QB||NYJ||$5,200||2%||Too cheap for recent level of play + huge home favorite.|
|Theo Riddick||RB||LAR||$4,700||5%||Pass-catching back in pass-friendly game script.|
|LeSean McCoy||RB||@MIA||$4,900||2%||Hard to trust, but capable of getting it done vs. MIA.|
|Courtland Sutton||WR||@CIN||$4,200||7%||Locked up by Joe Haden last week. CIN has no Haden.|
|David Moore||WR||SF||$4,300||3%||Nose for end zone and becoming more reliable.|
|Josh Gordon||WR||MIN||$5,900||3%||CB Rhodes needed MRI. Will be banged up if active.|
|Kyle Rudolph||TE||@NE||$3,600||2%||NE allowing most normalized fantasy pts. to TEs in last 5.|
|Atlanta Falcons||DST||BAL||$2,400||1%||They stink, but viable in case Jackson plays like a rookie.|