THE SHARP REPORT
One of the most proficient gamblers that sportsbooks have ever seen, Haralabos Voulgaris, is on record saying the main reason he retired from professional gambling is that he was gradually losing his edge against the sportsbooks. Voulgaris explains that every time he placed a bet, he gave the sportsbook a metaphoric piece to the puzzle that, once solved, would completely erase his edge to the point where he would no longer be a profitable bettor. The same way sportsbooks learned from Voulgaris’ bets and eroded his edge, daily fantasy sports players can learn from their top competitors and eat away at their edge. These top competitors, known as sharps, typically play DFS at a much higher level and for much more money than others. These players normally have very advanced and accurate projection systems that give them their edge over the field. Fortunately, every time they enter a contest the sharp players’ lineups are available to the public to be broken down, analyzed and learned from. The Sharp Report will be a weekly article that uses all available and applicable data to draw conclusions regarding how the industry’s smartest decision makers and their projections systems come to their final conclusions when building lineups. Over the course of the entire season, The Sharp Report’s goal will be to project what the best players in the industry will do in upcoming contests and, in turn, figure out what it is that gives these high-level players their edge over the field.
Throughout each week, more and better information regarding things like player availability, individual matchups, and depth charts will become available. The section of this article projecting which player is likely to be rostered by most of the sharp players next week will be updated by Saturday afternoon each week after all applicable information has become available. If enough data reveals itself that a completely new player is deemed worthy of being mentioned as Next Week's Sharp Play, the original section will appear in red font and the new section will appear in green font. If all available information leads to the same conclusion made earlier in the week, the original section will be changed from black font to green font.
The players analyzed in this article consistently play, and win, in high-stakes contests and are also ranked in the top ten percent in RotoGrinders’ super heavyweight division of DFS players. Players’ names will be omitted from the article, but all lineups analyzed are from the $30K Sun BIG NFL $1,065 30-Man 50/50 on FanDuel.
This week there was no consensus core amongst sharps. Lineups varied across the board and there were only a few highly-rostered players on the slate.
Jaylen Samuels ended up being the most popular salary-saver on the slate, and for good reason. He entered Week 14 as Pittsburgh’s starting running back and he cost just $100 more than the minimum price on FanDuel which led to an astounding 86.7 percent of sharps plugging him into their high-stakes cash lineups.
(Last week’s analysis used to project Samuels as the Sharp Play of the week) Jaylen Samuels was essentially this week's Spencer Ware, minus the sky-high implied team total. In Week 13, Pittsburgh's starting running back, James Conner, went down with an ankle injury and he was unavailable for the team's Week 14 matchup with the Oakland Raiders (the same opponent Spencer Ware faced two weeks ago, coincidentally.) Jaylen Samuels was the primary running back used by Pittsburgh following Conner's injury and he was expected to be the team's starter in Week 14 as well. Mike Tomlin's offense, much like Andy Reid's, has historically relied upon one running back to shoulder the load, rather than a committee of running backs. In the past it has been Le'Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, or James Conner, but now it is rookie Jaylen Samuels' turn. Samuels was one of college football's best playmakers at NC State last season, and he was likely be called upon to do the same this week by the Pittsburgh Steelers. As 10.5-point favorites over the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers were expected to rely upon the ground-game heavily to secure a victory over the struggling Oakland Raiders and stay on track for another AFC North division title.
Why Jaylen Samuels?
Near minimum-price starting running back.
Facing one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
Heavy favorite should lead to a positive game flow for the running game.
Keenan Allen was the most popular top-end wide receiver amongst sharps in Week 14, and given the value at running back with Jaylen Samuels, it was quite easy to fit Allen into lineups. At $7,900, Allen was reasonably priced and had an elite matchup against one of the league’s worst secondaries. 53.3 percent of sharps locked Allen into their lineups this week and he ultimately paid off by posting 16.3 FanDuel points including a trip to the end zone.
Without Melvin Gordon III available for the Los Angeles Chargers, the team was expected to rely heavily upon its star wide receiver to make up for the lost production. Keenan Allen’s production has spiked in recent weeks when Melvin Gordon III has either been playing through and injury or not playing at all. Against the struggling Cincinnati Bengals, there was little reason to believe that this week would be any different. Cincinnati’s defense has allowed no less than 24 points in any game besides the season opener against Indianapolis this season. The team’s defense is struggling mightily, and the betting markets reflected this. Los Angeles entered the game as a stunning 16.5-point favorite over Cincinnati, and the team was expected to score over 30 points in the game. It was tough to imagine a path to victory for the Chargers that did not include significant production out of one of the league’s best wide receivers.
Why Keenan Allen?
Without Melvin Gordon III, Allen’s workload was expected to increase.
Great matchup against a struggling defense and secondary.
16.5-point favorites with an implied team total over 30 points meant there was plenty of production to go around.
This week, with a shortened list of commonalities in the sharp lineups, it is important to once again look at the most important data points for the sharps when they build lineups. One important note for roster construction rather than player selection is what to do with the flex position. In the flex spot there are two overwhelming trends in high-stakes cash teams: it is almost always filled by a running back rather than a wide receiver (and almost never a tight end,) and the latest starting player should always be in the flex position.
Running backs typically fill the flex position because of the floor afforded by the increased volume they see as opposed to the volume of a wide receiver. A starting running back’s level of involvement is relatively steady and the range of outcomes is not nearly as large as that of a wide receiver. Rostering fourth wide receiver adds unnecessary risk to cash lineups, and this is avoided by treating the flex position as a third running back spot.
The player starting the latest should always fill the flex position for one simple reason: optionality. This goes for all formats, not just cash games. Late swap on FanDuel and DraftKings affords players the ability to change lineups after lock as more news and information becomes available. For example, as the 1:00 PM EST games are wrapping up, if a lineup is filled with underperforming players, it may be the optimal move to pivot from a high-floor player in the flex position to a high-ceiling player instead. In GPPs, this could be something like pivoting from a running back to a wide receiver in the flex position- a move that could not be made if the flex position was already filled by a running back in the 1:00 PM EST games.
Next Week’s Sharp Play
At first glance, nobody really jumps off the page this week as the sharp play. However, at the quarterback position, Dak Prescott’s price and matchup make for a great value play on FanDuel. At just $7,300 Dak Prescott’s combination of rushing and passing contributions should make him extremely popular amongst sharps in cash-games in Week 15. Over the last five games, Prescott has posted three games of approximately 3x value on FanDuel at this price. It certainly does not hurt that Prescott currently sits atop David Dodds’ h-value rankings at quarterback, which has been a strong signal of which quarterback will be the most popular amongst sharp players in cash this season. Since the acquisition of Amari Cooper there is an added dimension to this Dallas offense that simply was not there to start the season. This week, when the Cowboys travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in the dome that is Lucas Oil Stadium, expect big things from Dak Prescott, potentially through the air and on the ground.
NEW SHARP PLAY
Juju Smith-Schuster exploded onto the scene a year ago as a rookie and ultimately leapfrogged multiple competitors for targets in the Pittsburgh aerial attack by the end of the year. This season, Smith-Schuster has made a case (with some) that he is actually the best wide receiver on the Steelers' roster. This is not serving as an endorsement in that particular conversation (save that one for Twitter,) but rather an endorsement at his particular price in this particular matchup. The Steelers and Patriots are expected to play in Sunday's highest-scoring game on the main slate of games. With a total of 54 points, this 4:25 PM EST kickoff is expected to be a shootout from the get-go. Going into Pittsburgh and not only shutting down Antonio Brown, but also Juju Smith-Schuster is far easier said than done. New England is notorious for shutting down the opposing team's number-one target on offense, but even if they succeed the Patriots will likely focus their efforts on four-time first-team All Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. At $7,800, Juju Smith-Schuster's price in the highest-scoring game of the day is too low and as 2.5-point home underdogs, the Steelers' passing game will likely be heavily relied upon if Mike Tomlin wants to get his team back on track following an embarrassing loss to the Oakland Raiders.
PREVIOUSLY PROJECTED SHARP PLAYS
Week 2: Christian McCaffrey- 20.9 FanDuel points (2.8x value)/30.9 DraftKings points (4.4x value)
0.0 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 3: Corey Clement- 9.0 FanDuel points (1.6x value)/10.5 DraftKings points (2.4x value)
16.7 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 4: Giovani Bernard- 23.6 FanDuel points (3.7x value)/25.6 DraftKings points (4.1x value)
86.1 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 5: T.J. Yeldon- 22.2 FanDuel points (3.42x value)/26.2 DraftKings points (4.7x value)
33.3 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 6: Jameis Winston- 32.9 FanDuel 0oints (4.45x value)/35.9 DraftKings points (6.19x value)
- 86.7 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 7: Todd Gurley- 28.6 FanDuel points (2.80x value)/30.6 DraftKings points (3.12x value)
- 85.3 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 8: Tyler Boyd- 24.1 FanDuel points (3.54x value)/31.6 DraftKings points (4.72x value)
- 20 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 9: Kenny Golladay- 6.9 FanDuel points (1.11x value)/8.4 DraftKings points (1.52x value)
- 53.3 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 9: Cam Newton- 21.18 FanDuel points (2.46x value)/21.18 DraftKings points (2.31x value)
- 66.7 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 10: Melvin Gordon III III III III III- 25 FanDuel points (2.8x value)/27.50 DraftKings points (3.1x value)
- 84.6 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 10: Ryan Fitzpatrick- 15.74 FanDuel points (2.1x value)/19.74 DraftKings points (3.3x value)
- 76.9 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 11: Dion Lewis- 3.7 FanDuel points (0.6x value)/4.2 DraftKings points (0.9x value)
- 29.2 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 11: Saquon Barkley- 34.2 FanDuel points (3.9x value)/38.2 DraftKings points (4.4x value)
- 66.7 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 12: Jameis Winston- 22.88 FanDuel points (3.1x value)/25.88 DraftKings points (4.3x value)
- 23.3 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 12: Gus Edwards- 11.8 FanDuel points (2.2x value)/14.8 DraftKings points (3.4x value)
- 63.3 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 13: Jameis Winston- 22.76 FanDuel points (3x value)/22.76 DraftKings points (3.8x value)
- 70 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Week 14: Jaylen Samuels- 12.70 FanDuel points (2.8x value)/16.20 DraftKings points (4.4x value)
- 83.3 percent rostered in BIG $1,065 50/50
Thanks all, and if you have any feedback or recommendations for future versions of The Sharp Report feel free to send me your thoughts and follow me on twitter @ThaGreatZambino!