DraftKings is rolling out an intriguing new contest for the NFL’s Opening Night: the $2.5M Kickoff Thursday Millionaire – Battle of the Byrdes. And it's like no DFS game you've ever played. The details:
- 294,117 entries (max 150)
- $10 per entry
- $1,000,000 to first place
- $100,000 to second place
- $50,000 to third place
- Payouts to 21.3% of the field
Sounds straightforward, but this contest gets a couple of twists. The differences:
- Lineups will feature six slots, to be filled by quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and defense/special teams units, and
- …one of your players must be designated Captain
A Captain Spot?!
Your Captain can come from any position, and his scoring will count at 1.5x value. The trade-off, naturally, is that each player’s salary is upped by 1.5x for your Captain slot. So, as your Captain, Julio Jones’ salary jumps from $10,800 to $16,200.
Obviously, that will swing things tremendously. A 25-point success will become a 37.5-point eruption, and this contest will tilt wildly with every 9-point touchdown. And players can’t blindly plug the best and brightest options into the Captain spot; they cost 1.5x the salary. So, addressing the captain spot will be huge.
Common, cash-game sense dictates that our Captain should be a quarterback. They score the most, so they double the best. But they score the most on the aggregate – GPPs aren’t often taken down just by a high-scoring quarterback, but also by their stacked positional players. Their receivers reach their bonus marks easier, and they benefit more from multi-touchdown performances. A quarterback may score majorly in this matchup, but if one does, his top receiver(s) could certainly outdo him.
Look no further past this matchup for confirmation. Last year, when Jones erupted for 53.8 DraftKings points in Week 11, Ryan posted a good-not-great 19.0. Jones won a few fantasy contests himself that week, but rostering Ryan was no prerequisite for it.
In such a micro contest, you’re only going to excel with your most contrarian of contrarian takes. The pack will flock to the quarterbacks, so the path to placing high here is to zag left. Identify the game’s top-scoring receiver and plug him into the Captain spot.
And there’s a good chance that’s Zach Ertz. He’s expensive, but he also looks like the most efficient play of the slate. For all of his Super Bowl magic, Nick Foles played a safe, close-to-the-vest game for most of his 2017 run. He didn’t go downfield often until the final, do-or-die games, instead feeding his star tight end relentlessly. Following Carson Wentz’s injury, Ertz drew 47 of the team’s 217 targets, playoffs included. (His backups saw just 16 combined looks over that span – it was Ertz, not the position, that appealed to Foles.) He’s the clear-cut call to lead the Eagles in targets, and it would surprise no one if he hauled in a pair of short touchdowns and tilted this contest wildly.
What about going cheap at the captain position?
Going cheap at the captain position is a risky move, but it could pay off especially if none of the top end players have a big game. Going cheap gives you more salary cap space than you otherwise would have had if you went with an expensive player. There are really four different ways you could go cheap at the captain position and have it potentially work out. The theory behind going cheap is that if Julio Jones has 25 fantasy points, it will cost an extra $5,400 to put him at the captain spot and for that $5,400 salary your team only gets an extra 12.5 points (2.3x salary). If Mohammed Sanu gets 15 fantasy points, it will cost an extra $2,300 to put him in the captain position for an extra 7.5 fantasy points (3.2x salary).
Ways to go cheap at the captain position-
1) Take one of the Eagles running backs not named Jay Ajayi. Whether it be Darren Sproles and believe he will break a long touchdown reception, or Corey Clement hoping that Jay Ajayi goes down with injury these players have upside.
2) Going with a Falcons wide receiver not named Julio Jones. Jones is going to be extremely popular, so taking someone at the captain position such as Mohammed Sanu, Calvin Ridley or even Austin Hooper could work out if the Eagles work to take Jones out of the game which we have seen time to time from the Falcons.
3) Take a kicker. This seems crazy, but in reality a kicker does two things. Every kick that a kicker makes is a drive that does not end in a touchdown giving you points and taking away the upside of your opponents. It's not inconceivable to think that a kicker could get 20 points in this format at the captain position.
4) Finally, take a defense. The preferred defense would be the Falcons simply because Nick Foles, while he was great last season in the playoffs, has shown in his history a tendency to turn the ball over. A few turnovers and a touchdown and you could be looking great by going cheap with this captain position.
Filling Things Out
It makes a lot of sense to superstack Nelson Agholor with those two, as a matter of fact. He comes affordably and looks like Foles’ second, if not first, read for most of the game. Agholor out-targeted Alshon Jeffery 37-32 over Foles’ 2017 gig, and he caught 78% of those looks. If this game goes pass-happy, these two look like the dominators.
If you’re digging heavily into the Falcons instead, Jones looks like the obvious pick. But his exposure will be through the roof: he’s outstanding, and players will have to pay up for someone. It’s likely that not even a solid Jones game – something like 6 catches for 80 yards – will lift the boats too high. Of course, no one wants to be caught without him for his yearly 200-yard blowup. But the much, much stronger likelihood is that Jones does Jones things but fails to deliver big money in a contrarian tournament. I’d rather seek out exposure to the Atlanta running backs, who always dominate the redzone opportunity over there.
Digging Through the 50-Cent Bin
All of this is only made possible, of course, by identifying the right cheap guy. Someone will hit big at a near-minimum salary, and those who played him will virtually all finish in the money. A handful of options jump out:
Corey Clement checks in cheaply at just $3,000, and he was another favorite of Foles’ down the 2017 stretch. He caught 10 passes in the playoffs, and he spun magic – however questionable – in the Super Bowl.
The presence of Darren Sproles complicates things for Clement, and he’s a fair stab in his own right at just $3,600. But he’s also 35, and there’s a chance the Eagles are much higher on Clement at this point. Sproles will be fairly popular in this contest, so Clement makes more sense anyway.
Those fading Jones have a few enticing Atlanta options to chase on the cheap. Tight end Austin Hooper costs just $4,600, and he’s always boasted touchdown upside, scoring on 6 of his 68 NFL receptions. But the shrewdest cheap Falcon looks like kicker Matt Bryant, who would benefit from multiple different circumstances and game flows. If the Falcons move the ball but fail to score much, Bryant wins. If the game disappoints and ends low-scoring, Bryant wins. On the other side of the football, Jake Elliot makes sense at just $400 more – but he’ll draw more exposure than Bryant.
Wendell Smallwood is a desperate grasp at mega-value. At just $800, he’s a true punt as you are just hoping for him to do something, and the Philadelphia backfield is relatively wide-open. (He also returned four kickoffs last year, and the team has yet to reveal its 2018 guy.) Yes, he’s more likely to produce a zero than aid in a big payday, but a zero isn’t necessarily devastating. Lots of competing lineups will also have whiffs that fail to score muhch, even big-name ones. If a high-salary, high-exposure guy like Ertz or Jones vanishes or suffers an injury, much of the contest will bow out quickly, and blowing a spot on a free square like Smallwood won’t bury a lineup.
That’s not a recommendation, for the record. Strive to score points first and foremost. But for what it’s worth, a Smallwood lineup can also fit both quarterbacks, Ertz, Agholor, and Freeman.