DraftKings GPP Domination: Wild Card Round - Footballguys

Looking for edges in DraftKings tournaments on Wild Card Weekend.

Short Slate Tips

If your goal is to finish at the top of a large-field tournament on the upcoming four-game playoff slates, you’ll need to push GPP game theory to the max when constructing lineups. Some helpful bullets to get you thinking in the right direction:

  • The leverage you gain on the field by exploiting ownership percentages is amplified on short slates. Whereas on a normal slate, a chalk-play like Ezekiel Elliott typically tops out around 30% rostered, we should expect his ownership to land in the 60-70% range this week. The takeaway, however, is not to fade Elliott in 100% of your lineups and pray he busts so you can instantly pass half the field. In fact, if you’re entering multiple lineups, 60-70% exposure is probably the right idea. If Elliott gets hurt or is held in check, your lineups without him have legs. But on a four game slate, there simply aren’t enough players with Elliott’s 15-point floor and 40-point ceiling to risk zero exposure. With a stronger-than-usual chace you’ll need Elliott to have a shot at winning, putting him in about two-thirds of your lineups eliminates the risk you’re drawing dead with all your buy-ins if he has a huge game.
  • While fading the chalk completely when multi-entering is rarely the right move, entering the same type of roster most of your opponents are has zero chance at first place on a short slate. In all likelihood, you’ll need two or three players in each lineup that are less than 10% owned to have a chance at a meaningful payday in a large field.
  • Focus on unique roster construction. Build lineups that feel safe -- then tear them down and make new ones where you allocate more cap space to the opposite positions. Try full game stacks, playing a tight end in the flex, or anything else you consider a viable strategy for making your lineups stand out in a sea of carbon copies. Just make sure the roster you constructed still has a high enough theoretical ceiling before clicking the submit button.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave salary on the table. With ownership at least as important as projections on a short slate, leaving $500 or more unspent is a path to uniqueness most people won’t take. Unlike normal weeks, coming well short of the cap doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sacrificing points.
  • Use the Vegas lines to inform projected ownership. We won’t have the luxury of Steve Buzzard’s ownership projections to guide us this week, but we can usually assume players from favorites will be higher-owned than their underdog counterparts. Sites like TheSpread.com let you dive deeper by showing the percentage of public bets on each team and how the lines have moved since they opened. Generally speaking, the higher percentage of tickets on a team, the higher-owned their players will be. And sometimes you can spot how sharp bettors are leaning when reverse line movement occurs. The sharps are fallible like everyone else but identifying who they like more than the public can at least get the contrarian wheels turning in your brain.

Indianapolis @ Houston

Colts Texans
Opening Vegas Implied Total 22.5 25
Points Per Game 27.1 25.1
Opponent Points Per Game 21.5 19.8
Situation Neutral Pace Rank 2 9

The CHALK

You want exposure to these guys, but so will most of your opponents.

  • Deshaun Watson ($6,700) - Colts at Texans has the highest over/under on what projects to be a low-scoring slate, so it’s a safe bet both Watson and Andrew Luck will be the two highest-owned quarterbacks. If you’re looking for a lean on how to divide your exposure between the two, it’s probably best to favor Watson slightly. He has three 30+ point performances this season to Luck’s one and is playing on his home field. In a paced-up game with everything on the line, Watson -- who has 21 rushes, 115 rushing yards, and 3 rushing touchdowns in the Texans last two games -- figures to continue running the ball frequently in an effort to sustain drives.
  • Andrew Luck ($6,400) - Player vs. team statistics within a season (or even multiple seasons) shouldn’t be relied on due to the miniscule sample size, but it is at least encouraging Luck had 39.66 DraftKings points in his first game against Houston and 27.56 in the rematch. The biggest takeaway from those two meetings was the Colts complete lack of ability to run the ball (their running backs combined for exactly 34 rushing yards in each game). The Texans remain stout up front, making another game with 40+ pass attempts a likely outcome for Luck, who will nearly always compile 25-30 DraftKings points with that type of volume.
  • DeAndre Hopkins ($8,700) - Hopkins is the alpha dog receiver on this slate, and with T.Y. Hilton banged up, it’s not particularly close. 38.4% of Watson’s pass attempts were aimed at Hopkins this season -- a market share that led the league by a mile. Things were no different in the red zone where Hopkins commanded more than one-third of the Texans targets. With such massive volume and scoring opportunity built-in, Hopkins has the highest floor of any wide receiver and a 40-point ceiling if the game shoots out. He belongs on about half of your lineups and in every one of your Watson stacks.
  • T.Y. Hilton ($7,800) - Hilton will be popular due to his correlation with Luck but he’s not right physically. In last week’s game, there were several times it was clear he didn’t want to be tackled. With the highest probability of an in-game injury of any player on the slate, Hilton is a fade relative to the field. But even playing at far less than 100%, he has at least one 37+ yard gain in each of his last four games and cleared 100 receiving yards in both games against the Texans this season. About 20% exposure is warranted.
  • Eric Ebron ($5,200) - One of either Ebron or Zach Ertz will appear on a combined ~60% of tournament lineups. Fading the chalk at tight end is always a direct path to differentiating your roster, but on this slate, there aren’t many other options at the position who can hit 15 fantasy points, let alone 30. Ebron has multi-touchdown upside, he comes $1,200 cheaper than Ertz, and the Texans have allowed over 55% more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than league average over the last five weeks. Go even with the field at about 20% exposure.
  • Lamar Miller ($4,900) - He’s more or less guaranteed 20+ touches plus goal-line work at less than $5K. It’s difficult to come up with reasons not to play him.

Leverage Plays

If the implied game script goes wonky or the chalk busts, these guys could be the reason why.

  • Dontrelle Inman ($4,300) - If Luck is forced to pass 40+ times again, Inman is set up for about seven targets at an affordable price. The solid veteran has both a touchdown and a 25+ yard reception in each of his last two games. Using him without Hilton is a great way to differentiate your Luck stacks, and if Hilton aggravates his injury in-game, Inman becomes the Colts primary perimeter receiver in a terrific matchup against the Texans’ shaky defensive backs.
  • Marlon Mack ($6,000) - On paper, Mack is an awful play against Houston’s top-ranked DVOA rush defense, which is precisely why he qualifies as a leverage play. If the Colts get out to an early lead and force a negative script on Houston, there’s a non-zero chance Mack touches the ball 25 times. Even without volume or positive game flow, there aren’t many safer bets to score a touchdown than Mack, who has scored at least once in each of the last four weeks. A lot would have to break Mack’s way for a 25+ point ceiling game, but if he gets there, it would crush all the Luck stacks. Pair him with the Colts defense for a contrarian stack in a small handful of lineups.
  • Ryan Griffin ($2,600) or Jordan Akins ($2,500) - We’ve entered true contrarian territory, but a sub-5% tight end with double-digit scoring potential is a difference maker on this slate. In the last meeting between these teams, Houston tight ends caught all 11 of their combined targets for 151 total yards. It’s tough to choose between Griffin, who plays the most snaps, and Akins, who seems to have supplanted Jordan Thomas for the No. 2 tight end role over the last two games, since neither are especially involved in the Texans’ passing attack. If you’re going to play these guys in a small number of lineups, it’s best to split your exposure down the middle, though a good way to break a tie in GPPs is with overt athleticism. Akins played four years of professional baseball before playing some wide receiver and kickoff returner in college at UCF.

In The Mix

These guys come in above the “click and a prayer” cutoff line.

  • Nyheim Hines ($3,500) - Hines has equal probabilities of being a complete non-factor and delivering a potentially useful low double-digit scoring output, but there is also a scenario in which he has a tournament-swinging game. If the Colts have learned after two failed attempts they can’t run the ball against Houston, maybe they come out with a game plan centered around quick passes to Hines, who has been targeted at least five times in each of the last five games and leads the team in red zone targets over that span. The Texans getting out to an early lead is another possibility that favors increased usage from Hines.
  • Chester Rogers ($3,400) - He’s cheap and could see five or six high percentage slot targets from Luck. You can do worse if you have $3,400 and one open roster slot left.
  • Keke Coutee ($4,000) - Assuming he plays, Coutee should jump into the 20% ownership tier. The last time he played a full game in Week 11, he led all Houston receivers with nine targets -- and that was prior to Demaryius Thomas rupturing his Achilles. Coutee offers more floor than ceiling, even at his depressed price, but 15-point glue guys have a place in GPP lineups on this slate.

Seattle @ Dallas

Seahawks Cowboys
Opening Vegas Implied Total 19.75 22.25
Points Per Game 26.8 21.2
Opponent Points Per Game 21.7 20.2
Situation Neutral Pace Rank 18 21

THE CHALK

You want exposure to these guys, but so will most of your opponents.

  • Ezekiel Elliott ($9,000) - Elliott is the mega-chalk on this slate and should top 60% ownership in most GPPs. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett may have tipped his hand last week by resting Elliott and playing all of his other starters in a meaningless game vs. the Giants. It’s likely he’s gearing Elliott up for 30+ touches against the Seahawks, who have struggled to stop elite running backs on several occasions this season. 150 total yards feels like an inevitability, but you should leave yourself some outs so you’re still alive if Elliott lands on the wrong side of touchdown variance.
  • Tyler Lockett ($5,300) - Lockett has enjoyed a super-efficient real-life season that has translated into consistent 15-20 point outputs on DraftKings. The feeling of safety Lockett provides at a middling price point is likely to drive his ownership too high relative to his upside. While he has a winnable matchup on the outside against cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, Lockett has received exactly two targets in three of his last five games. He can bust loose for one his trademark long scores and still fail to put up enough fantasy points to justify his ownership.
  • Doug Baldwin ($6,200) - Baldwin has recaptured his pre-2018 form just in time for the playoffs and remains affordable enough to squeeze into most roster builds. Over the last three weeks, he’s commanded twice as many targets as the next closest Seahawks receiver, both in and out of the red zone. If Baldwin is all the way back to the WR1 we expected before his preseason knee injury, we’re getting at least a $1,000 discount on him this week, which is a pricing inefficiency you should jump in about one-third of your lineups.
  • Amari Cooper ($7,500) - Cooper hasn’t made much noise since going bonkers in a Week 14 win over Philadelphia (52 fantasy points). There is a strong case to be made that he is way overpriced and will be over-owned, but the ceiling he’s flashed since being traded to Dallas can’t be dismissed out of hand. The Seahawks secondary has overachieved all season but their top cornerback, Shaquill Griffin, is battling an ankle sprain. Griffin is off the injury report, but if he’s bothered by the injury, Cooper’s outlook improves beyond just being the clear No. 1 receiving target on the home favorite Cowboys. Stacking Cooper with Dak Prescott and another Dallas pass-catcher, without using Elliott in the same lineup, is a possible way to gain leverage on Elliott’s massive ownership.

LEVERAGE PLAYS

If the implied game script goes wonky or the chalk busts, these guys could be the reason why.

  • Dak Prescott ($5,500) - Speaking of Prescott, he’s a home favorite quarterback who has exceeded 30 fantasy points twice since Week 14, yet he’s priced down and will appear on about half as many rosters as Watson, Luck, and Lamar Jackson. If Russell Wilson is on his game and forces a shootout, Prescott clearly possesses the upside to help you win a GPP. While he can be stacked without Elliott for added leverage, as mentioned above, keep in mind Prescott and Elliott are also highly correlated. Elliott’s 22.7% target market share was fifth among running backs this season.
  • Russell Wilson ($5,700) - It seems odd to list two Seattle wide receivers as chalk yet still consider Wilson a leverage play, but it appears to be the way things are headed. Wilson is a transcendent talent coming off one of the most remarkably efficient quarterback seasons in league history. He may end up about 15% rostered, at which point the odds he produces a 25+ point game against any defense in the league are greater than his projected ownership rate. At the very least, the attention Lockett and Baldwin are getting in comparison to Wilson looks like a situation to exploit.

IN THE MIX

These guys come in above the “click and a prayer” cutoff line.

  • Chris Carson ($6,800) - Carson is priced at his ceiling. Resist the urge to chase his last three impressive box scores, which have come against the soft rush defenses of the 49ers, Chiefs, and Cardinals, respectively. Dallas hasn’t allowed a single running back to exceed 65 yards on the ground against them at home all season. There’s no doubt Seattle will try to run the ball, but if it’s not working and the season is on the line, Wilson will be forced to put the team on his back. If the game script skews pass heavy for the Seahawks, Mike Davis is probably the better Seattle back to roster.
  • Blake Jarwin ($3,300) - Jarwin would be a much better tournament play if he hadn’t exploded for 40 DraftKings points in Week 17. Because the site only bumped his price $500 after the out-of-nowhere performance, he’ll become the de facto tight end for those who refuse to spend up to Ebron or Ertz. Jarwin has received at least seven targets in three of the last four games, so he appears fairly safe from a volume perspective, but before blowing up last week, he hadn’t topped 12.6 DraftKings points all season. The odds aren’t great for this game to shoot out the way Cowboys at Giants did last week, and Seattle ranked bottom-10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends this season. Don’t go above 10% exposure to Jarwin.
  • Michael Gallup ($3,600) - Gallup has scored in the double-digits on DraftKings in each of his last two games and has the highest theoretical ceiling of any Cowboys receiver not named Amari Cooper due to the number of downfield routes he runs. If Seattle sells out to stop Cooper, Gallup will see plenty of single coverage from cornerback Tre Flowers, who has allowed the third-most yards per route covered among active cornerbacks on this week’s slate (per Pro Football Focus).
  • Cole Beasley ($3,500) - While Gallup’s ceiling remains theoretical for now, Beasley’s is at least somewhat proven. He got over on the Giants last week (6-6-94-1) and nearly hit a 10x multiple of his current salary in Week 6 against Jacksonville. This isn’t to say Beasley is in play for 25+ DraftKings points, but an ordinary five catches for 50 yards would play nicely on this slate if he can find the end zone. It’s worth noting Beasley’s 26.6% average per game red zone target share leads the team.

LA Chargers @ Baltimore

Chargers Ravens
Opening Vegas Implied Total 19.5 22
Points Per Game 26.8 24.3
Opponent Points Per Game 20.6 17.9
Situation Neutral Pace Rank 16 5

THE CHALK

You want exposure to these guys, but so will most of your opponents.

  • Lamar Jackson ($5,800) - Jackson is a worthy play in cash games, but how much he helps your tournament lineups in his first career playoff start is questionable. Since taking over as Baltimore’s starter in Week 11, Jackson’s 558 rushing yards trail only five running backs. But the Ravens ultra-conservative game plan caps his ceiling as a passer to the point Jackson needs to score multiple rushing touchdowns to compete with the upside of Watson and Luck, or even Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky for that matter.
  • Keenan Allen ($6,900) - Allen wouldn’t ordinarily be chalky in a matchup against Baltimore, but with his salary the second-lowest it has been all season, we should expect to see him in about 25% of lineups. While the Ravens pass defense has shown some cracks against opposing WR1s in recent weeks, it’s difficult to project Allen for more than 20 DraftKings points. Besides not looking right since leaving LA’s Week 15 game with a hip injury, Allen will have trouble commanding the target volume he requires to reach his ceiling if the Ravens dominate time of possession, as usual.

LEVERAGE PLAYS

If the implied game script goes wonky or the chalk busts, these guys could be the reason why.

  • Melvin Gordon III ($7,700) - Gordon is set to command approximately one-third of Elliott’s ownership, which would be absurd on most slates, let alone one in which they are the only two elite running backs. When Gordon is healthy, he’s Elliott’s match in terms of both floor and ceiling. After sitting out Weeks 13-15 and handling about two-thirds of his normal workload in each of the Chargers last two games, we can safely project Gordon for his usual complement of touches. Those touches may not be worth as much as usual due to Gordon’s matchup against Baltimore’s stingy defensive front, but besides Elliott, where else are we getting 15+ carries, about five catches, and the possibility of two rushing touchdowns this week?
  • Gus Edwards ($4,200) - Edwards is a complete bore but he’s priced well for a home favorite running back who handles the majority of his team’s carries. He’ll need at least one touchdown to pay off in tournaments, but that’s not a stretch against the Chargers, who have allowed 32% more fantasy points to opposing running backs than league average over the last five weeks.

IN THE MIX

These guys come in above the “click and a prayer” cutoff line.

  • Austin Ekeler ($4,400) - If the Ravens get out to a big lead, we should see Ekeler pick up extra work in the passing game. His per-touch efficiency gives him a high enough ceiling for tournaments.
  • Kenneth Dixon ($4,000) - Fresh off a 12 carry, 117 yard Week 17 performance against the Browns, Dixon is the more explosive member of the Ravens running back platoon. Edwards has the higher floor for touches, but Dixon is capable of making more out of less.
  • Hunter Henry ($2,500) - Ignore the urge to reach for the shiny new toy. It’s hard to imagine Henry sees the field enough for more than 10-15 snaps unless we hear otherwise leading up to the game.
  • Mike Williams ($4,700) - Williams is second on the Chargers in air yards behind Allen and has a legitimate 25+ point ceiling. He’s the definition of an all or nothing GPP play.
  • Mark Andrews ($3,500) - If you’re going to stack Jackson, your choices are the Ravens defense, a running back (so you get all the team’s rushing production), and Andrews -- the only pass-catcher on the team to do anything of note since Jackson took over at quarterback.

Philadelphia @ Chicago

Eagles Bears
Opening Vegas Implied Total 17.5 23.5
Points Per Game 22.9 26.3
Opponent Points Per Game 21.8 17.7
Situation Neutral Pace Rank 30 27

THE CHALK

You want exposure to these guys, but so will most of your opponents.

  • Zach Ertz ($6,400) - Ertz has the highest ceiling of any tight end on the slate, but there is a lot working against him this week. Nick Foles hasn’t leaned on Ertz as consistently as Carson Wentz did, Foles is banged up, and the Eagles are big road underdogs against the best defense in the NFL. Prior to the 49ers force-feeding George Kittle targets in Week 16, no tight end topped 50 receiving yards in a game against Chicago all season. If we knew Ertz would receive double-digit targets, he’d be worth playing despite the difficult matchup, but it’s not a given and the game environment doesn’t inspire confidence in a 30-point ceiling game. Don’t exceed 20% ownership.
  • Jordan Howard ($4,600) - It’s possible labeling Howard as a chalk play is a stretch, but his price fits nicely with the common roster construction and his involvement has increased as the weather has gotten colder. Since Week 13, Howard hasn’t seen fewer than 16 touches in a game and he has four total touchdowns over the last three weeks. Coming off his best fantasy output of the season in Week 17 (21-109-2), there is a definite possibility head coach Matt Nagy uses Howard in heavy doses against a Philadelphia rush defense that was mauled by opposing running backs down the stretch. It’s uncertain where the field will land on Howard, but about 40-50% exposure is reasonable if you believe the Bears dominate the Eagles in this game.
  • Tarik Cohen ($5,400) - As Nagy develops his offensive gameplan, there is no doubt he’ll take note of the way running backs have smashed Philadelphia catching passes out of the backfield. The Eagles have allowed 881 receiving yards to enemy running backs this season (sixth-most in the league), which includes five individual 60+ receiving yard games. Cohen is the back Chicago loves getting in space, but he’s in play for 30 fantasy points every week regardless of matchup. The one thing to watch is his ownership. If it appears he’ll end up the third-highest own running back on the slate behind Elliott and Miller, it’s worth going light on Cohen in favor of Gordon and Howard.

LEVERAGE PLAYS

If the implied game script goes wonky or the chalk busts, these guys could be the reason why.

  • Mitchell Trubisky ($6,200) - No one wants a quarterback with a proven 35-point ceiling at home against a depleted secondary? Why?
  • Nick Foles ($5,400) - There’s an extremely low probability Foles puts up the type of game that helps you win a GPP this week, but if we learned anything from last year’s postseason, it’s that Foles plays his best when the odds are the worst. He’s earned the Eagles a few stacks in your GPP portfolio, even if Prescott and Trubisky profile as better plays at their projected percent rostered.
  • Allen Robinson ($5,600) - Robinson is the most expensive Bears pass-catcher and his role is unpredictable from week to week, but he is Chicago’s most talented wide receiver, has a knack for the end zone, and faces a Philadelphia secondary filled with scrubs. If the Bears touchdowns don’t come via the running game, they’re most likely to go through either Robinson or Trey Burton, positioning non-Cohen Trubisky stacks to leap past large chunks of the field.
  • Nelson Agholor ($3,800) - It was widely assumed Agholor was useless after the Golden Tate trade bumped him out of the slot. But Foles has been looking for him over the last two games and Agholor responded with back-to-back 20+ point performances on DraftKings. His primary matchup against cornerback Kyle Fuller is less than desirable, but Agholor’s price doesn’t reflect his recent production and neither should his ownership.
  • Dallas Goedert ($2,600) - Tate has played less than 40% of the Eagles offensive snaps in three of the past four games while Goedert’s playing time has risen as a result. If Goedert can catch a touchdown, something he accomplished four times in his impressive rookie season, 15 fantasy points is in his range of possible outcomes. Ertz has a median projection close to 15 fantasy points, but costs well over twice as much, and will be ten times higher owned.

IN THE MIX

These guys come in above the “click and a prayer” cutoff line.

  • Darren Sproles ($4,100) - The way to beat the Bears is not to repeatedly run Josh Adams into their defensive front. Head coach Doug Pederson will need his playmakers on the field, and even at his advanced age, Sproles is both a playmaker and red zone option.
  • Alshon Jeffery ($5,900) - In general, finding the extra $300 to get up to Doug Baldwin is preferable, but Foles has a solid connection with Jeffery and it’s easier to beat the Bears on the perimeter than over the middle. He’s a must in Eagles stacks and worthy of more exposure than Ertz. If you’re into revenge narratives, he checks that box too.
  • Trey Burton ($4,400) - The tight end with the 30-point ceiling no one is talking about. Revenge game against team that let him walk in play here also.