Week 4 is when we start getting some concrete data on how the season is going to play out. Unless a player was injured in one of the first three games their team has played around 180 snaps. This is a good amount of data for things like target share and snap allocation to start to stabilize. Since these are the main stats which drive fantasy points we can start to rely on our projections a little more heavily. However, be careful thinking that touchdown rates are starting to stabilize. They are going to take a lot more data, maybe not all year, to find a stabilization point. So don’t play the guy that has scored a bunch of touchdowns and might be leading the league in fantasy points. Instead, take a look at some of the players that are playing a lot of snaps but haven’t scored yet. Not only could their teams be looking to get them in the end zone but you will likely get them at an ownership discount.
One of the biggest decisions each week is how to handle the chalk on the slate. The chalkiest players are typically the ‘best’ plays on the slate if you are trying to maximize your total points produced. However, if you are looking to win a big tournament you can gain a lot of ground on your competition if you choose a player that outperforms there. If that player is in a lot of lineups you can pass a lot at one time. Balancing scoring the most points and playing against your competition is the toughest part in DFS. In this section, we talk about how to handle the toughest decision of the week. What to do with the chalk:
The highest quarterback on Fanduel is pretty clear as I currently have Patrick Mahomes II projected at 17% ownership a full 6 points higher than anyone else. It’s a little closer on Draftkings but Mahomes still leads the way there. There isn’t much that hasn’t been said about Mahomes at this point. Through three games his ‘worst’ outing is 374 yards with 3 TDs. Through 3 games he has 10 TDs compared to 13 last year. For some reason, I think when people were predicting regression this year for Mahomes this isn’t exactly what they had in mind.
This week the Chiefs roll into the Detroit where Mahomes gets a chance to play his first game in a dome during his career. The effects of domes are typically overrated but when you are already the best quarterback in the league it can’t hurt to get every advantage possible. One of the main goals of fading chalk is to be able to gain ground on your competition when the chalk fails. With how consistent Mahomes is that isn’t overly likely to happen. Your best options are to play a QB at a much lower price point to differentiate your team elsewhere. I think that’s a viable option but isn’t going to be my primary focus this week so I will have plenty of Mahomes lineups.
At running back one of the chalkiest players looks to be Wayne Gallman who is replacing the injured Saquon Barkley. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain last week and is expected to miss 4-8 weeks. After the injury, all 5 carries and the majority of the snaps went to Gallman. Many are expecting Gallman to be the clear cut back going forward until Barkley returns. At rock bottom prices across the industry, it seems like a no brainer to start a lead back with guaranteed carries. However, the problem is that Gallman has never been a lead back in his career, is playing on a mediocre team with a quarterback that everyone hated this time last week. Outside of a meaningless week 17 game in 2017, Gallman has never had more than 12 carries for 59 yards in a game. Opportunity is king in DFS but I can find a lot of ways for Gallman to fail and I am willing to take the chance that he does.
At wide receiver, the clear cut top owned player will be Keenan Allen. Allen has been on fire to start the year with stat lines of 8-123-1, 8-98-0, and 13-183-2. Allen leads all other receivers by 18 PPR points through only 3 games. That’s almost a full game lead after only three games! Allen also gets the easiest matchup on the board playing the Dolphins. I have Allen at about 60% to a score a TD in this game which makes him tough to fade.
However, Allen’s price is one of the highest on the slate and there are a lot of things that could go wrong this week. The Chargers could get up big on the Dolphins in the first half with scores going to other players like Austin Ekeler. Another alternative is for another top-end receiver like Deandre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr or Julio Jones to go for a huge game that tops a big game for Allen and you needed that other wide receiver in your lineup. Those three receivers’ cumulative ownership is about the same as Allen’s. I would rather take three shots with them vs 1 with Allen. But if you are building a couple of lineups have a piece of Allen. UPDATE: Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Justin Jackson, and Virgil Green are all out for the Chargers. This makes it an even more interesting spot for Allen. This will also make it a little more likely they can't take him out late in the game as they don't have many other options left. He may be the chalk worth eating.
Another reason to possibly fade Allen is that the chalk play at tight end is Travis Kelce in the previously mentioned Chiefs/Lions game. For all the reasons I like Mahomes, I like Kelce. Without Hill, Kelce has been the model of consistency with 8 or 9 targets in all three games and never finishing below 88 yards. If you are playing Mahomes you might as well stack him with Kelce. Even if that means potentially sacrificing Allen.
If you play too many chalky players you will be competing against too many people to win first place and the odds will be stacked against you. If you play too many contrarian players you won’t score enough points. Remember, the plays are contrarian because most likely there is something wrong with that player. In general, the public is very smart. Finding that right mix is the second hardest thing to do in DFS. In this section, I will try to point you to some of the most contrarian options on the slate.
I talked about him a couple of times on the Power Grid this week so if you haven’t checked that out be sure to do so but I like the idea of playing Matt Ryan at less than 5% ownership. Ryan has 3 straight games of 300+ yards and 2 TDs. If it wasn’t for Mahomes video game levels we would be talking about how great Ryan is. But Mahomes is in the league so we are given the option to invest in Ryan at low ownership rates.
At running back through 3 games Denver has split their workload 52% to Phillip Lindsay and 50% to Royce Freeman which is causing a lot of DFS investors to stay on the sidelines since both are under 10% owned and Freeman all the way down at 1%. The Jaguars aren’t the ideal team to run against but they aren’t unbeatable either giving 90 yards to Carlos Hyde and 81 to LeSean McCoy on only 10 carries. When there is uncertainty and low ownership a great way to take advantage of it is to take a couple of shots with both players. I slightly prefer Freeman due to his low ownership but both are solid plays for me. Be sure to watch Freeman's injury status before plugging him in.
Another play I really like doing is fading a really chalky player and running his teammate instead. This not only allows you to move ahead of a busted chalk play. But you are also ensuring that your replacement has better shot at doing well themselves. This week that exact opportunity presents itself with the chalky Terry McLaurin and the forgotten men Paul Richardson Jr and Trey Quinn. Sure McLaurin has started out on fire and appears to be better than both of them with 7-9 targets as well as a touchdown in all three games thus far. But in football things can change quickly, if the others score a TD or two and McLaurin doesn't you could be flying to the top of the standings.
One player that has seemingly slid under the radar all year is Greg Olsen. Each week thus far I have been well over the field and have been rewarded handsomely for it. This week Olsen’s ownership looks to have started to tick up a little bit but is still well below some of the major chalk. Young quarterbacks often zero in on their tight ends especially when things get tough. This is exactly what Kyle Allen did last week finding Olsen for two touchdowns. Olsen isn’t the tight end he once was but he’s not one that should consistently be sitting at the bottom of the salary either. Don’t be afraid to play the veteran just because he isn’t the hot play of the week.