In this special three-week Fan Duel NFL Playoffs feature, we will take a close look at projected ownership and top plays of the week. We will also spend some time on game theory and discuss ideas on how to build relatively unique lineups that can still score enough points to win GPPs.
We’ll start off with some general strategy ideas and then go through each position and apply the strategies to this week’s slate to identify the top plays given our ownership projections at each position.
SHORT-SLATE GPP STRATEGY
In the first week of the playoffs, we focused upon three common strategies for small-slate GPP Success: (1) Get uniqueness on the cheap, (2) Play the studs and (3) Identify the best high-upside bargains. We want to continue to pursue these strategies. As we saw in the Wild Card round, it was difficult to win without the stud players that we identified in advance like Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Again this week, we want to make players like Bell, Brown, Devonta Freeman, Julian Edelman, and Julio Jones are staples of our lineups. We also want to try to find that "lotto ticket" low-owned, high-upside player like Randall Cobb was in the Wild Card round and we want to differentiate our lineups with low-owned players that have similar projections to higher-owned options.
Last week we focused on (1) sneaky high-correlation plays and (2) leveraging negative correlation plays to fade highly-owned players. We noted that Dion Lewis had a huge positive correlation with the New England defense and was a great option to stack with the Pats defense. We also discussed how if your were going to fade a top running back (like Le'Veon Bell) on the assumption that they don't find the end zone, it's smart to leverage a negative correlation play like the team's kicker (Chris Boswell) who is more likely to have a big game if the red zone offense struggles.
As we enter the final week of the playoffs and go from four games to just two, we want to continue to use the strategies we've used in past weeks while becoming even more aggressive in trying to differentiate our lineups from te field. One method to do so is what I like to call, "building from the bottom up."
1. Final Week is an Opportunity to Stray from your Comfort Zone
If you have never tried your hand at mass entering GPPs (let's say 10+ entries), this two-game slate provides the perfect opportunity. It is tough to invest much bankroll at all into cash games on a two game slate, so if you are someone who normally plays 80% or more of your weekly budget on cash games, this is the week to switch things up and instead focus upon GPPs. From a bigger picture perspective, the direction the DFS industry is headed may be twoards a heavier focus on multi-entry GPPs. Cash games have become noticeably more challenging this season and that trend is likely to accelerate in future years. There is more good information than ever and the percentage of experienced players in double-ups and in the lobby posting cash games sill continue to rise as inexperienced players either give up due to losing or improve their games as they gain experience. It makes sense then that the focus will continue to shift towards tournaments.
2. Bottom-Up Roster Construction
To win a GPP on a tiny two-game slate, you basically need to do two things: (1) roster the perfect combination of highly-owned star players and (2) hit on the correct "lottery ticket" lower-owned, inexpensive player. At first blush, hitting on the "lottery ticket" guy might seem harder to do. Thus, the most common approach is for daily fantasy players to build a few "core lineups" and then try to take advantage of multiple entries to help them hit on their lottery ticket. For example, one might decide to use a Matt Ryan/LeVeonBell/Julio Jones/Randall Cobb/Jared Cook core and then "sprinkle in" various RB2s, WR3s and defenses in making multiple lineups. This is what I like to call a "top-down" approach to lineup building. It certainly can work if you are able to hit on the the exact right core group of popular plays because you then have multiple opportunities to hit on the right lottery ticket types. Taking this approach is basically gambling that you can predict the exact best popular stack and corresponding top plays amongst the popular guys and then leveraging the advantages of multiple entries to do the rest. However, in my experience, it has been easier and more profitable to focus my time and effort in trying to identify the correct "lottery tickets" and then building the rest of my lineups around those players instead. Let's call this the "bottom up" approach. The logic in this approach is taking the calculated risk that you can correctly identify the best lower-owned player(s) to roster and then leveraging the advantages of multiple entries to hopefully also hit on the correct combination of stars to go along with them.
A personal example would probably best illustrate the approach. I have 25 entries into the survivor series final that has a top-heavy payout structure and over 5,000 entires. I've identified Mohamed Sanu and Eli Rogers as two players I want to push my chips in on and build my lineups around from the "bottom up." In other words, I want to be extremely "overweight" on both players compared to the field. Let's set target ownership at 60% for each player. I can start with 10 lineups with just Sanu, 10 lineups with just Rogers and another five lineups with both Sanu and Rogers. From there, I build out with a bunch of the different popular players and game stacks. If Rogers and/or Sanu end up "hitting", I have plenty of bites at the apple in terms of trying to put together the perfect combination of top players.
In the positional breakdown, we will focus on some of the top lower-owned players to build around if you take the bottom up approach.
The Ownership Projections below are based upon an in-depth analysis of a number of factors, including: the general "buzz" around each player, projected scoring around the industry, and the pricing structure and typical roster construction decisions most owners are facing when trying to fit players in under the cap.
|Running Back||GPP Own %|
LeGarrette Blount Dion Lewis has emerged in recent weeks as the top option in the New England backfield. So we can just lock him in as a top play this week. Lewis will definitely lead the team in touches again and get the goal line work. Bill Belichick never drastically switches things up from game to game. Especially at the RB position…Hopefully you picked up on the sarcasm there. It was laid on pretty thick. Recency bias in favor of Dion Lewis (who is likely to be the highest-owned RB on the slate) makes Blount a great play this week and a perfect guy to build a number of “bottom up” lineups around. While Lewis has seen his usage tick up in recent weeks, it is easy to forget just how important Blount has been to the Patriots’ 2016 success. He has 11 games of 18+ carries and a league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns. The spot looks ideal for Blount as well. The Patriots are 6-point home favorites with a game total of 50.5 points (28.3-point implied team total). Plus, if the Steelers defense has had a vulnerability this season, it has been against power backs. The Steelers gave up 204 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns to Jay Ajayi, 209 total yards and 3 touchdowns to Ezekiel Elliott and 169 total yards to Isaiah Crowell. Pittsburgh was also gashed by Blount (24 rushes for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns) in their October meeting with the Patriots. With Blount’s massive touchdown potential and upside, he is a great bet at expected ownership of less than 25% on the two-game slate.
|Wide Receiver||GPP Own %|
*Note: Friday morning ownership projections based upon Jordy Nelson being inactive and Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison being active. Sunday injury news from Green Bay will have a massive impact upon wide receiver ownership for this slate.
Mohamed Sanu- The Falcons signed Sanu to a five-year, $32.5 million contract to be the ideal complement to Julio Jones. Sanu responded with a career-high 59 catches for 653 yards and four touchdowns on 79 targets during the regular season, with just one drop and a 73% catch rate. He is a key figure for the Falcons not just for his tangibles (size, strength, strong hands and RB-like run after the catch toughness), but for the intangibles he brings to the table. "Mohamed is, without a doubt, loose," wide receiver coach Raheem Morris said. "He’s almost loose sometimes where you have to reel him back in. But his attitude is awesome because he’s got authentic swagger. He’s got authentic, genuine love for football and cares about the game. His toughness is real.” If betting on a support player in a pressure spot, bet on the guy who believes in himself and who has the trust of his teammates. Another reason to like Sanu this weekend is that we don’t know the true health of Jones. It’s entirely possible that he serves primarily as a decoy. Jones was limited by an early leg injury in the Falcons’ first matchup against the Packers and Sanu saw a big increase in his role, seeing a season-high 10 targets. It led to Sanu’s biggest fantasy game of the season (9-84-1). Of the receivers in the $6,000-and-under price range, Sanu has the most realistic path to double-digit targets and is a nice option to build some “bottom up” lineups around.
Eli Rogers The Patriots defense has a well earned reputation for forcing opposing offenses to play “left-handed.” Their goal each week is to do whatever it takes to take away the elite players on the opposing offense and force the secondary players to beat them. Expect Antonio Brown to see plenty of double coverage and for Le'Veon Bell to see a steady stream of run blitzes. The Steelers secondary targets in the passing game are likely to see a steady diet of single coverage. Rogers emerged down the stretch as Ben Roethlisberger’s most trusted receiver not named Antonio Brown. Over the past five games, Rogers has seen 6, 5, 6, 1 and 7 targets (with the one outlier being the blowout win over the Dolphins). 5-to-7 targets feels like the floor this week, especially if the Patriots jump out to a lead as relatively heavy home favorites. Rogers is an especially strong “bottom up” building block for a couple reasons. first, his ownership is going to be depressed because the Steelers have the lowest team total of the week. He should come in somewhere in the 10-15% range. Rostering him in half your lineups will put you extremely overweight vs. the field. Second, Rogers’ is in a somewhat unique price range. Of all the receivers with projected ownership of over 5%, he is the only one priced below $5,000 and is a full $500 cheaper than Geronimo Allison. He not only serves as a high-upside lottery ticket type, but he also provides potentially valuable roster uniqueness due to his extremely low salary.
Martellus Bennett The Patriots target defensive weaknesses as mercilessly as any team in the league. If this Steelers defense has a weakness, it is the coverage ability of the linebackers (except for Ryan Shazier) and Safeties. In past matchups against Pittsburgh, New England has had tremendous success targeting their tight ends. In five career meetings against the Steelers, Rob Gronkowski has caught 30-of-36 targets for 496 yards and 8 touchdowns (with a pair of 3 touchdown games). While Bennett isn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Gronkowski, he too has talent and has a good chance of finding success over the middle of the field against the Steelers mediocre coverage backers. The overall dynamics of the tight end position this week also make a “bottom up” lineup approach built around Bennett an attractive option. Jared Cook is going to be the heavy chalk. Cook’s a good play, but at 60%+ expected ownership also looks like a prime fade candidate. Bennett’s expected ownership of 15-20% is actually relatively low on a four-game slate and he has the type of proven upside (he has a three touchdown game this season) to completely swing the slate.
|Defense||GPP Own %|
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