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 28-Man 50/50 on FanDuel.
Last week, there was little overlap in lineups and this article contained just two players. This week could not be any more different. There was a clear core of sharp players that the majority of high-stakes cash-game players built around. When the dust settled, it ended up being one of the season’s weirdest slates, but the sharps tipped their metaphoric hands when it comes to what they valued and focused on.
Ezekiel Elliott has proven himself to be one of the league’s most valuable fantasy assets for one primary reason: volume. In Week 15, as the season comes to an end and the Dallas Cowboys need just one win to secure a playoff berth, Zeke figures to play a massive role in Dallas’ offense, and for $8,800 the price was right for Elliott to be a cash-game building block.
This past week, Dallas went into Indianapolis as 3-point underdogs, which typically is a suboptimal situation for a running back. In Week 15, Zeke, however, was a different story entirely. First and foremost, this slate was devoid of a top-end running back playing in a favorable matchup. The heaviest favorite on the slate was the Atlanta Falcons and few (except FootballGuys’ own John Lee) considered their backfield viable for cash-games. The other top-tier running back on the slate, Saquon Barkley, was a 2.5-point home underdog in a game that featured consistent rain throughout the day (and he was $600 more expensive than Elliott.) Elliott has been nearly matchup-proof AND game-script-proof this season, which is an extremely rare combination in the age of scat backs and pass-blocking specialists. As one of the league’s most well-rounded running backs, Ezekiel Elliott stays on the field and is almost always a massive contributor in Dallas’ offense, and Week 15 forecasted no differently. Throughout the season Elliott has been targeted on a stunning 22 percent of Dak Prescott’s pass attempts. Even when the team is playing catch-up, Elliott is still heavily involved in the offensive attack. The safety afforded by Elliott compared to the rest of the running backs on the slate was simply too good to pass up this week, and he ultimately made his way into 77.8 percent of lineups in the BIG $1,065 50/50.
Why Ezekiel Elliott?
- Consistent workload and production.
- Playing in a dome late in the season is a significant advantage for offenses.
Lack of viable running backs elsewhere on the slate to pay up for.
In Week 15, there were two clearly underpriced running backs on the FanDuel main slate of games, and Dalvin Cook was one of them. At just $6,200, Dalvin Cook was in 74.1 percent of lineups in the BIG $1,065 50/50 when the Minnesota Vikings played host to the Miami Dolphins.
The Minnesota Vikings were the second most-favored team on the FanDuel main slate as 7.5-point favorites over the Miami Dolphins. Dalvin Cook’s health has been trending upwards in recent weeks and in such an elite matchup, it was tough to pass up this salary relief. Cook had been dinged-up for a good portion of the season, but he finally seems to firing on all cylinders. This could not have come at a better time for the Vikings as they lead the race for the final NFC wild card by just half of a game over the Philadelphia Eagles. As substantial favorites, the Vikings were expected to turn to the run-game to secure any lead they may jump out to at home. It has been a common theme throughout the season that the sharps target running backs on heavily-favored teams, and this week was no different. Dalvin Cook was this week's most inexplicably priced player on the slate considering he had been active in each of the Vikings' previous five games and produced at least 14.5 FanDuel points in three straight. When push came to shove in the Week 15 lineup-building process, Cook ended up in 74.1 percent of the sharpest cash-game lineups on FanDuel.
Why Dalvin Cook?
- Significantly underpriced player relative to his production and involvement in the offense.
- Running back on a heavily favored team playing at home.
- Playing in a dome late in the season.
As expected, Juju Smith-Schuster was the most-rostered option in the Pittsburgh Steelers' passing attack in Week 15. Priced at $7,800, he was far easier to fit into lineups than his partner-in-crime, Antonio Brown. In the game that was expected to total the most points of any on the slate, Juju Smith-Schuster was rostered by 63 percent of players in the BIG $1,065 50/50 on FanDuel
Last week's analysis used to forecast this week's 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.
Why Juju Smith-Schuster?
- Consistent and increasing workload.
- Home underdog in the game with the highest expected number of points means an bump to the passing game.
- Cheaper exposure than his counterpart, Antonio Brown, and he has seen increased in usage whereas Antonio Brown has decreased lately.
In his previous three games with the Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper has commanded at least 25 percent of Dak Prescott’s targets. His price inexplicably sat at $6,600 for another week on FanDuel, which was far too low for sharps to ignore in cash games in Week 15. When all was all said and done, Cooper was rostered by 70.4 percent of players in the BIG $1,065 50/50.
As mentioned above in Ezekiel Elliott’s analysis, Dallas entered this matchup with Indianapolis with as 3-point underdogs. Typically, in this type of game script, the aerial attack is used significantly more than average. It is tough to imagine a bigger change in both role and production in-season than what Cooper has experienced. Since his trade to the Cowboys, Cooper’s offensive production has skyrocketed, oddly enough, however, his price has not. His touchdown rate was certainly not sustainable and there were a handful of flukey plays thrown into the mix (see: game-winning touchdown against Philadelphia just last week,) but when he was priced just $100 more than Courtland Sutton (no disrespect, but he has one game over 10-FanDuel points this season) it’s tough to pass up. The oft-mentioned combination of an astoundingly low price with a reasonable floor of opportunity made Amari Cooper the sharpest option at wide receiver on the Week 15 FanDuel main slate.
Why Amari Cooper?
- Price does not match his role in Dallas' offense.
- Playing on a slight underdog means a plus-game script for the passing game.
- Playing in a dome late in the season.
next week's sharp play
While Dak Prescott struggled mightily last week when the Cowboys were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts, this week he gets a far easier matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense. His struggles last week can be attributed to various things, but one that particularly stuck out was the offensive line's inability to keep Prescott upright. Without two All-Pro offensive lineman, even in max-protection with eight blockers against just five pass-rushers, the Colts dominated in the trenches. The Bucs' pass-rush and secondary are far weaker than that of the Colts, thankfully for Prescott and company. His price has not been adjusted for the matchup (it sits at the same $7,300-mark it did against Indianapolis,) but his expected production gets a significant boost in such a matchup. Look for Prescott to be the most popular quarterback to build cash-teams around in Week 16 as the Cowboys once again attempt to secure their spot in the playoffs.
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- 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
Week 15: JuJu Smith-Schuster- 6.0 FanDuel points (0.8x value)/8.0 DraftKings points (1.0x value)
- 63 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!