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:
- If you don’t plan on staying glued to the news cycle this week, you’re probably better off not playing. In Week 17, more than any other week, information is your biggest edge. The Week 17 Motivation Tracker summarizes the stakes in each game and the latest buzz from coaches who may not be incentivized to risk injury to their regular starters this week. While the Motivation Tracker provides a solid overview, it is critical that your research continues through the hours preceding lineup lock on Sunday.
- The most frequently stacked offenses will be the Chiefs, Steelers, Rams, Patriots, Packers, and Buccaneers, who are each implied by Vegas to score over 26 points. The Saints also have a high implied team total (26.5) but are almost guaranteed to pull their starters early, if not hold them out entirely.
- Of those teams, players from Pittsburgh and Green Bay are probably the safest bets to play their regular complement of snaps. Tampa Bay apparently has designs on seeing what quarterback Ryan Griffin can do at some point this week, while the chance exists Kansas City, LA, and New England could pull starters if their teams are comfortably ahead in the second half of their respective games.
- A combined ~35% of the field will be playing Patrick Mahomes II ($7,100) or Ben Roethlisberger ($7,000) at quarterback. Spending below $6,000 at the position looks like a straightforward way to start building lineups differently than the crowd.
- The top price tier at running back is riddled with question marks. Christian McCaffrey ($9,100) might not play, Ezekiel Elliott ($9,000) shouldn’t see more than a handful of snaps, it would be surprising if the Rams risked further injury to Todd Gurley ($8,600), and it’s doubtful Alvin Kamara ($7,900) is featured by the Saints. Melvin Gordon III ($8,400) and Saquon Barkley ($8,200) are the only intriguing high-end options remaining, and even Gordon has playing time concerns if Kansas City is blowing out Oakland and the Chargers are watching the scoreboard.
- Without many top options to choose from, the default roster construction will shift towards affordable running backs. Royce Freeman ($3,500) is a clear punt option with Phillip Lindsay sidelined, but we won’t know the crowd’s full plans at running back until Friday afternoon, when the health statuses of Spencer Ware and James Conner ($7,500) are clarified. If Conner is active, as expected, his reasonable price and matchup against the lowly Bengals should attract the crowd. And if Ware is held out again despite practicing fully this week, Damien Williams ($6,100) becomes the chalkiest player on the slate.
- The way things are shaping up, there should be plenty of room for wide receiver spending in the most common roster builds. Davante Adams ($8,000) will lead the way at the position as he attempts to capture several Green Bay receiving records (provided he plays through a knee injury). Antonio Brown ($8,700) reminded us last week he can still break a slate, though he was a late-week addition to the injury report. And Tyreek Hill ($8,400) will be featured in a high percentage of Mahomes stacks.
- Robert Woods’ ($6,900) recent production and matchup against the 49ers should make him the most popular wide receiver priced below $7K. Lineups with multiple wide receivers priced below $5K will be the exception, despite a handful of interesting options in that price range who have been heavily targeted in recent games.
- It wouldn’t be surprising if 50% of the field finds the cap space for either Travis Kelce ($7,200) or Zach Ertz ($6,700). Kelce has an especially attractive matchup against Oakland, but with ownership concentrated so heavily at the top, tight end feels like a position where it could pay to question the groupthink. If Kelce and/or Ertz were to bust, your lineup is instantly in a better position than 25%-50% of your opponents.
- Roster rates at defense/special teams will be especially flat. Ownership shouldn’t be a huge factor in which defenses you target, but with the number of teams in attractive matchups available for less than $3K (Eagles, Chiefs, Ravens, and Saints to name a few), it’s a safe bet the field won’t be paying up at the position.
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. It is more critical than ever to check the Saturday update in Week 17.
QB: Patrick Mahomes II (vs. OAK, $7,100, 21% rostered) - Mahomes leads the league in season-to-date fantasy scoring on DraftKings by a 20% margin over the next closest player. He’s quarterbacking a 13.5-point home favorite with the highest implied team total on the slate, and facing a Raiders defense he torched for 295 yards and four touchdowns in Week 13. The only reasons to consider coming up short on Mahomes are the possibility he gets an early hook in a blowout win and his inflated ownership percentage relative to the other quarterbacks. Is he twice as likely to produce a 30+ point game than Ben Roethlisberger at home against the Bengals? More than twice as likely as Aaron Rodgers at home against Detroit? Maybe the probability isn’t as far off as it seems given how consistently outstanding Mahomes has been this year, but your exposure shouldn’t exceed 15%-18%.
RB: Damien Williams (vs. OAK, $6,100, 21% rostered) - Williams is the lynchpin of the slate. On one hand, his production in two games as a starter (at least 29 points in both games) far outweighs his slow-to-adjust price tag. On the other, it appears there is a strong chance he won’t have the Chiefs backfield to himself this week with Spencer Ware set to return. If Ware suffers a setback and is declared inactive, Williams percent rostered will jump to about 35%, at which point the correct move in tournaments is to fade him in comparison to the field. But if Ware is active, it’s difficult to project how far Williams’ ownership will drop. Keep your eyes peeled for Steve Buzzard’s weekend roster percentage update. If it appears Williams is slated for less than 20% ownership due to Ware’s presence, snatch up more than the field. Williams could very well have seized control of the feature back role ahead of a healthy Ware, who did little to assert himself before getting injured.
WR: Davante Adams (vs. DET, $8,000, 24% rostered) - Adams will be extremely popular this week due to the combination of his unnatural consistency (at least 16 DraftKings points in all 15 games this season) and his highly-publicized quest to break several Packers receiving records. It will take two receptions and 134 receiving yards for Adams to become the single-season franchise leader in both categories. If he hits those marks and adds two touchdowns, Adams would also become the first Green Bay player ever with 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in a single season. Aaron Rodgers sounds committed to getting Adams into the record books, but adds an important caveat -- he’ll have to play. Adams hasn’t practiced as of Thursday with an injury to the same knee that caused him to miss a playoff game in 2016. It’s clear the Packers records are important to both Adams and Rodgers, but it’s doubtful Adams would put his long-term health at risk in an otherwise meaningless game if his knee isn’t right. Considering his inflated ownership (compared to the last two weeks), enough doubt exists to fade Adams relative to the field.
TE: Travis Kelce (vs. OAK, $7,200, 23% rostered) - While tight end is an obvious position to differentiate your rosters from the crowd this week (and most others), it’s tough to ask for a better spot than Kelce’s. The Raiders have allowed the second-most normalized fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, including the fourth-most in the previous five weeks. When Kelce got a crack at this same defense four weeks ago, he scored 42.9 DraftKings points -- the second-highest total for a tight end this season. Like all Kansas City starters, there is a chance he gets pulled early in a blowout, but if that were to occur, Kelce will likely be the primary reason why. He is more than capable of leading all tight ends on the slate in fantasy points without the benefit of playing all four quarters. And if Oakland were to somehow keep this game close, his 40+ point ceiling remains intact. At least 20% exposure is warranted.
DST: Houston Texans (vs. JAX, $3,300, 9% rostered) - Your opponents are licking their chops to get one last crack at Blake Bortles, especially since he’s on the road against a highly-motivated Houston defense. It’s difficult to fault the logic -- Jacksonville has allowed the fourth-most schedule adjusted fantasy points to opposing defenses this season and Bortles is a candidate to implode in any given game. But factoring in price and projected ownership, it might make more sense to cut against the grain and target the Jaguars defense for $1,000 less. Jacksonville hasn’t quit on head coach Doug Marrone and would like nothing more than to cost their division rival a home game in the Wild Card round. Don’t exceed the crowd’s exposure.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Ben Roethlisberger||QB||CIN||$7,000||11%||Game environment and opponent both point to 30+ point game.|
|Jamaal Williams||RB||DET||$6,000||31%||If early-week ownership projection sticks, clear fade even at good price.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||DAL||$8,200||23%||Can't imagine DAL defenders want to tackle him right before playoff game.|
|Royce Freeman||RB||LAC||$3,500||16%||Could be value trap depending on final ownership %. Booker still involved?|
|Antonio Brown||WR||CIN||$8,700||19%||Was an outstanding play but now risky due to late-week knee injury.|
|Tyreek Hill||WR||OAK||$8,400||20%||Might only need one quarter of playing time to reach value vs. OAK.|
|Robert Woods||WR||SF||$6,900||23%||Confusingly low price following Week 16 ceiling game.|
|Zach Ertz||TE||@WAS||$6,700||19%||Prefer to pay up to Kelce for $500 more.|
|New Orleans Saints||DST||CAR||$2,700||5%||Doesn't matter if key starters rest. Kyle Alen can't play in the NFL.|
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: Aaron Rodgers (vs. DET, $6,300, 9% rostered) - The Packers have nothing material to play for, but both Rodgers and interim head coach Joe Philbin are adamant the team will give its best effort this week. We can probably take Rodgers at his word given his season-best performance (45.88 DraftKings points) in an equally meaningless game against the Jets in Week 16. Rodgers has thrown a combined 11 touchdowns in his last three meetings with the Lions, who have been limping to the finish line for weeks. Kirk Cousins (253-3-0) just had his way with Detroit and it was only a few weeks back Mitchell Trubisky (355-3-0) and Cam Newton (357-3-1) reached their respective ceilings as passers against the Lions defense. It might not feel great going heavier than the field on Rodgers in a game with no stakes, but he’s demonstrated he’s still playing to win and the matchup against Detroit’s checked-out pass defense puts another ceiling game in play this week.
RB: James Conner (vs. CIN, $7,500, 6% rostered) - Assuming Conner’s full participation in this week’s practices means he is suiting up against the Bengals, tournament entrants will be faced with a difficult decision. Is Conner healthy enough to avoid re-injury? Will he be spelled more often by Jaylen Samuels, especially if Pittsburgh gets out to a big lead? If Conner plays, there is no doubt he’ll appear on significantly more than 6% of your opponent’s rosters, but these lingering questions should keep his ownership somewhat depressed relative to his upside. Despite missing the last three games, Conner still ranks as the cumulative RB6 on DraftKings this season. The Steelers are playing at home, in a must-win game, and are favored by more than two touchdowns. Cincinnati has allowed 22% more fantasy points than league average to opposing running backs over the previous five weeks and 31% more on the season. Playing Conner sight unseen after a severe ankle sprain is a calculated risk, but one that could pay off with a massive game. If his ownership tops out around 15%, double the crowd’s exposure.
WR: Kenny Golladay (@ GB, $6,600, 15% rostered) - Golladay was a better tournament play in each of the last two games when he was both less expensive and lower-owned. But his status as Detroit’s unquestioned target-hog hasn’t changed, Green Bay’s pass defense is by far the friendliest he’s faced in the last three weeks, and while he’s priced up a bit, Golladay remains affordable enough to return a 4x salary multiple. With Marvin Jones Jr and Bruce Ellington on IR and Golden Tate traded to Philadelphia, Detroit simply does not have a viable pass-catching option besides Golladay, who received a whopping 15 targets last week against Minnesota. Unlike the previous two games when he was matched up with top cover corners Tre’Davious White and Xavier Rhodes, Golladay’s one-on-one matchup should be a walk in the park. Green Bay will attempt to blanket Golladay with Jaire Alexander, one of six active cornerbacks who has allowed over two yards per route defended this season. Unless Golladay’s percent rostered projection spikes to 25% or more by Saturday, come in with more exposure than the field.
TE: Chris Herndon (@ NE, $3,400, 6% rostered) - Herndon is the cheap option to use most frequently in lineups where you fade Kelce and Ertz. With five double-digit fantasy performances on DraftKings this season, including last week’s season-high 20.2 points, Herndon has been one of the most pleasant surprises in this year’s rookie class. He was helped in Week 16 by the Packers defense, which has been abysmal vs. tight ends in recent weeks, but the Patriots don’t defend the position well either. Eric Ebron (15-9-102-2) and Trey Burton (11-9-126-1) have smoked New England this season. And since Week 9, the Patriots have allowed touchdowns to Jimmy Graham, Jonnu Smith, and Vance McDonald. Even Buffalo’s Jason Croom got in on the action with a solid (for him) 8.5 DraftKings points against New England last week. After Robby Anderson’s recent string of standout games, we can expect him to be the focal point of Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme, leaving Herndon free to rack up catches and yardage over the middle of the field. He also has a bit of scoring upside as the Jets leader in red zone touchdowns since Week 7.
DST: Baltimore Ravens (vs. CLE, $2,900, 8% rostered) - While most of your opponents pile on the defenses playing against the weakest offenses, Baltimore -- this season’s second-ranked DVOA defense -- will go somewhat overlooked. The Ravens are a value no matter how you slice it. After a dominant performance on the road in LA last week (four sacks, three forced turnovers, and a defensive touchdown), Baltimore is now a six-point home favorite facing a rookie quarterback making his first start in an NFL game with a playoff atmosphere. For the most part, Baker Mayfield has done a commendable job since Hue Jackson’s expulsion from Cleveland. But prior to last week’s matchup against the toothless Bengals defense, he turned the ball over eight times in his previous three games. Baltimore deserves to be both the most expensive and highest-owned defense on the slate, yet somehow they won’t be either. Make the Ravens your heaviest DST exposure.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||CLE||$5,600||4%||Still convinced there is a ceiling we haven't seen. Must-win game helps?|
|C.J. Anderson||RB||SF||$5,400||10%||Will become chalky once Gurley is declared out.|
|Sony Michel||RB||NYJ||$5,200||5%||Game script should propel him to 20+ pts for 2nd straight week.|
|Jordy Nelson||WR||@KC||$4,900||6%||11, 7, 8, 10 targets in last four games. 19.7 pts. in Week 13 vs. KC.|
|Julian Edelman||WR||NYJ||$7,600||12%||Double-digit targets locked in plus positive game script.|
|JuJu Smith-Schuster||WR||CIN||$8,300||12%||Target hog looking to redeem himself after last week's costly fumble.|
|Brandin Cooks||WR||SF||$6,500||10%||Ceiling hasn't been there w/out Kupp but matchup could unlock it.|
|Evan Engram||TE||DAL||$4,600||5%||Finally healthy and producing without Odell Beckham Jr in lineup.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||DST||CIN||$3,000||6%||Stack with Conner offers leverage if PIT passing game underperforms.|
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: Josh Allen (vs. MIA, $6,000, 2% rostered) - Consecutive games with less than 20 DraftKings points have cooled the public on Allen, but those games require some context. The first was against Detroit, whose defense held mobile quarterbacks Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton to 15 rushing yards or less this season. The other was against the Patriots, who historically excel at taking away the one thing the opposing offense does best. Buffalo’s one thing is allowing the big-bodied Allen to run when his protection breaks down -- something he has proven he can do effectively against the Dolphins. When Miami played Buffalo in Week 13, the rookie signal caller exploded for 135 rushing yards on nine attempts. In their only other game against a rushing-threat quarterback this season, Mitchell Trubisky accumulated 47 yards on eight carries, which is more than the equivalent of an additional passing touchdown. Allen has both a high floor and proven 30+ point ceiling in this matchup.
RB: Adrian Peterson (vs. PHI, $4,500, 3% rostered) - Peterson is typically a running back to avoid on DraftKings due to his lack of involvement as a pass-catcher, but he shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand against Philadelphia’s rush defense. We’re aiming for at least 20 DraftKings points from Peterson at his salary, a benchmark he’s cleared in 20% of his games this season, which far exceeds his projected ownership rate. Washington isn’t going to gift wrap a win to the division rival Eagles, who desperately need one to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. As we saw last week when he ran for 119 yards on 26 carries, Peterson is the engine of Washington’s offense for as long as they can keep games relatively close. Only the Cardinals have allowed more normalized fantasy points to enemy running backs over the last five weeks than Philadelphia, who had been mauled by a running back in every game since Week 10 before “shutting down” plodders Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman last week. Peterson himself rushed for an age-defying 90-yard touchdown when these teams met in Week 13. He deserves a spot on 10%-15% of your GPP lineups.
WR: Donte Moncrief (@ HOU, $3,400, 3% rostered) - Blake Bortles is back under center for the Jaguars this week, which (believe it or not) breathes some life into their passing game. It’s evident by now Bortles should not be a longterm starter for any team, but there is no question he belongs on an NFL field more than Cody Kessler, who was all sorts of awful as Bortles’ fill-in over the last four games. Moncrief commanded at least seven targets in four of Bortles’ 11 starts this season and eclipsed 13 fantasy points (his 4x target score) five times. The Texans have allowed 49% more fantasy points than league average to opposing wide receivers over the last three weeks, with perimeter pass-catchers doing most of the damage on downfield chunk plays. This makes Moncrief the preferred contrarian stacking partner for Bortles ahead of teammate (and slot receiver) Dede Westbrook. Stop laughing about the idea of Bortles stacks -- even in a season he lost his starting job, he managed at least 28 DraftKings points in three separate games.
TE: George Kittle (@ LAR, $6,300, 11% rostered) - Kittle’s projected double-digit roster percentage makes him a bit of a stretch as a contrarian play, but he’s mentioned here to remind you his ceiling is just as high as both Kelce’s and Ertz’s yet he won’t appear on half as many rosters as either of them. Kittle’s target volume is incredibly steady for a tight end. Since Week 10, he hasn’t seen below eight targets from Nick Mullens and has recorded as many as 13. When these teams met in Week 7, the Rams won 39-10 on the road and Kittle finished as the TE3 on DraftKings with five receptions, 98 yards, and a touchdown. This week’s game script (Rams -10) sets up similarly for Kittle and if he goes for 20+ points while the other expensive tight ends bust, your lineup instantly gains leverage on half the field.
DST: Washington (vs. PHI, $2,200, 1% rostered) - If you want to push all in on a few Adrian Peterson lineups, complete the contrarian stack with Washington’s defense. Nick Foles has once again stepped in admirably for Carson Wentz, and we’re catching him in the midst of one of his trademark heaters, but that’s precisely why Washington is being ignored by 99% of our opponents. The Redskins defense is still playing hard and has 11 sacks in their previous three games. Despite Foles’ late-season heroics, he remains the same quarterback who failed to top 10 DraftKings points in two out of three starts to open the season. With Foles battling a rib injury, there is certainly greater than a one percent chance Washington can rattle him early and force a negative game script he’d be ill-equipped to handle.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Blake Bortles||QB||@HOU||$4,400||1%||>1% chance of classic Bortles garbage time points.|
|Nick Chubb||RB||@BAL||$6,400||2%||Seeing too many touches to be rostered sub-5%.|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||CHI||$6,300||4%||Talented home favorite RB in must-win game sub-5%?|
|Kenyan Drake||RB||@BUF||$3,700||5%||Quietly played 85% of snaps in first game w/out Gore.|
|Dede Westbrook||WR||@HOU||$4,700||4%||In case Moncrief isn't actually the preferred Bortles stack partner.|
|Robert Foster||WR||MIA||$5,100||6%||Forgotten after one middling week. Lost deep ball in sun vs. Pats.|
|Jamison Crowder||WR||PHI||$4,800||4%||Josh Johnson's favorite target has exploitable matchup vs. PHI DBs.|
|Chris Godwin||WR||ATL||$4,300||3%||In play any time DeSean Jackson is out.|
|Gerald Everett||TE||SF||$2,800||3%||The best of a bad bunch in the sub-5% ownership tier.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||DST||@HOU||$2,300||1%||Watson sacked at least four times in each of last five games.|