We’ve seen the chalk hitting a lot this year. Last week it was Jaylen Samuels getting targeted on nearly 60% of his snaps and Russell Wilson being allowed to throw against the awful Buccaneers pass defense. Wilson threw so much that the Seahawks dropped from the 2nd most run-heavy team all the way to the 9th in one week! Earlier this year it was guys like Kenny Golladay, Latavius Murray, Leonard Fournette, Austin Hooper, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, Will Fuller V, the Patriots Defense, etc. that all had big games when they were heavy chalk. In just about every week this year, the top owned player on the slate (or one of the top 5) was a difference-maker that you needed in your lineup. We’ve talked a lot about this at Footballguys. Is the DFS landscape changing again where ownership on players is no longer high enough to fade? Should you be playing all the chalky players? A hypothesis for this might be that the public is getting better at identifying the chalky players so it is correct to play them since they are good plays. Whereas in previous seasons maybe the chalky players weren’t always the best plays which is why they failed.
The stats this year would certainly support the idea that you should play more chalky players. But there is a lot of variance in the NFL still. Samuels is a great example from last week. Samuels was the mega chalk that couldn’t fail because he was the lead back on the Steelers and was going to get all the rushing attempts, he could handle. The Steelers had literally no one else. But what happened was Samuels only played 64% of the snaps and had fewer rushing attempts than Trey Edmunds 12-8. The only thing that saved Samuels from busting was that he was targeted an insane 13 times and he caught all of them for 73 yards. If you had those receiving yards in your projection, they were either bad projections or you have the Back to the Future sports almanac. Outside of those two things you were lucky. Even with all those targets, a similarly priced Preston Williams pivot outscored Samuels.
I don’t think Samuels was a bad play. I played him quite heavily. However, it is an example of where it looks like Samuels was a slam dunk play and the chalk crushed as expected again. But in reality, it took a lot of luck for one of the best plays in the year to get there. You should never go so far as to always fade the chalk. They are the most likely to score a lot of points. That’s why they are the chalk. But I wouldn’t go out of your way to load up on the chalk plays just because they have been so profitable thus far in 2019.
How to play the chalk
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 of DFS. In this section, we talk about how to handle the toughest decision of the week. What to do with the chalk:
It appears there will be quite a few chalky QBs this week led by Lamar Jackson. Jackson gets a rematch of his week 6 matchup against the Bengals where he threw for 236 yards and added 152 yards on the ground as well as a rushing TD. Another score like that could certainly win the slate. Jackson’s rushing floor gives him a floor as good as anyone in the league besides a healthy Patrick Mahomes II. Jackson has only really busted once this season which was week 6 against the Steelers. To make the situation better Jackson gets a prime matchup against the Bengals who are allowing the most yards per play in the league. Yes, even worse than the Dolphins.
The biggest worry about Jackson is the game script may not be favorable as a 10-point favorite. If the Ravens pull ahead early it’s likely that the Ravens call off the passing attack and more importantly, they will make sure that the runs are coming from Mark Ingram II instead of Jackson. Running quarterbacks rush attempts decrease significantly in blowouts to keep them safe. Since there are currently several quarterbacks with similar ownerships and all are good plays, I don’t think ownership is a big factor in our decision this week unless Jackson’s ownership projection rises sharply over the weekend. I am leaning towards making Jackson a key part of my GPP plans but if I was doing a single lineup, I would probably pass on him.