Welcome to the NFL Big Three! This article is going to look at the NFL daily fantasy sports main slate and go over three different areas: Stacks, important players, and value pieces. There will be three additions to each area as we look to give you the best preparation for the week ahead. Hopefully, you find this info valuable no matter your skill level and we can find consistent success through the season!
Models and disclaimer
The majority of the information that I’m going to be using in these articles is based on freely available information that you can find yourself, but there will also be information and data that is pulled from the models at my daily fantasy sports site which look to use predictive algorithms to find valuable info in important stats.
Of those models, I’ll be looking at things like a range of outcomes dataset, expected touchdown rates, as well as aggregated yardage calculations which pull together a lot of predictive info to create more manageable statistics about every player in the league. Using a model that creates a range of outcomes rather than a single median projection is much more applicable to sports and is something that I encourage any stats or analytics nerd to pursue, and it’ll be the basis of a lot of the decisions I make here.
Likewise, using predictive stats rather than descriptive ones is imperative to success in this field, and expected touchdown rates matter a lot to me since they are such a large part of fantasy football and swing a significant portion of winnings. My expected touchdown model takes into account league average rushing and receiving touchdown production from all points of the field and normalizes player rate to produce how many touchdowns we should expect based on what they should have accomplished.
All in all, The data here tries to look forward and get an idea of the best spots to attack.
Three key stacks
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce
With the highest team total on the slate at 33.5, the highest over/under on the main slate at 55, and the best quarterback and coach combo in the league, it’s going to make a lot of sense to go to the Chiefs in all formats. There were some concerns early in the season that the high flying passing attack would be taking a backseat to more rushing attempts and shorter routes, but the last couple of games have put all that talk to rest. Sitting as the top overall stack in the models, this is where the slate begins.
This is certainly an expensive way to start your builds, with the trio costing $31,000 on draftkings, but a combined projection of 72.42 shows that the price is well worth it. With the highest passing touchdown projection at 2.32 and a top 10 passing rate in the redzone, it’s a good bet that around 70% of the total scoring from the Chiefs is going to come through the air. Considering Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are soaking up around 40% of the redzone targets, it’s also a good bet that a good amount of the scoring will come through them. This stack has the added benefit of utilizing an underwhelming tight end position as well, which helps you focus on the positions that matter.
So is there a reason to avoid this stack? Not necessarily! The ownership looks to be moderately low (for now) with an average of around 15% on the three players, and the projections are plenty to pay for the massive salary investment which there are a couple of great value plays to help you afford them. The most annoying part of this stack is who to use from the Raiders, as Darren Waller is the best option but would force you into a two-tight end build which is a bad process in large field GPPs. The Chiefs make for a fantastic starting point in week 5 and have a great chance to be the top overall scoring combo on the slate.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller V
It’s a bit of a mystery what the Texans will look like now that they are rid of their idiotic head coach, but it’s a fair bet that they will look to Watson as a leader on offense and allow him to have more control over what happens in the games. The hope is that the days of “only running the ball 26 times” (Bill O’Brian actually used that as an excuse on their week 4 loss) are gone and we can see Watson shine.
The Texans have a team total of 30, which shows that Vegas isn’t too scared of the hiring and expects them to keep scoring, and their passing touchdown expectation is actually second on the slate at 2.30, only behind the Chiefs mark of 2.32. What’s more, the Jaguars are a heavy passing team as well, with a 70.08% neutral pass rate, so this game has sneaky upside on both sides and could very well be a shootout. Deshaun Watson has a projection of 29.03 with Will Fuller coming out at 21.58, which are both comparable numbers to Mahomes and Tyreek for a chunk less in price.
This stack is a lot easier to swallow than the Chiefs stack simply because of the cost associated, but there are a lot more questions than answers in terms of what this team will look like free from the chains of O’Brian. The ownership projections are plenty low enough at 10% or so across the board, so now is the time to take on the risk and look for upside on this team. Bringing it back with DJ Chark from the Jaguars is an easy pairing to capture all the points of this potential shootout while adding Brandin Cooks to the mix on your Texans stack is a great way to take advantage of a cheap wideout that burned everyone the week before. There are risks involved, but that’s the best thing to leverage in large-field tournaments.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Gardner Minshew, DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault
Speaking of DJ Chark, if you aren’t sold on the Texans as a stack because of all the questions surrounding the team’s future, may I interest you in a Jaguars stack? This is one of the cheapest stacks on the board, with Minshew and Chark costing just $12,700 on Draftkings (And Shenault being just $4,500 more), and should the game turn into a shootout as the numbers suggest, it could pay huge dividends for those that make the investment.
The Jaguars have seen the second largest increase in implied team total since the books opened this game, with a jump from 20.25 to 24.5 along with closing the spread from 6.5 to 5.5 in the process. They pass over 70% of the time and actually increase the amount of passing plays in the redzone as they jump to 77%. With a jump in team total and such heavy passing rates, it would lead to Minshew’s projection hopping up. Indeed, he’s projected for 20.85 and has a 33.76% chance to hit 4x his salary according to the models. DJ Chark has a similar set of projections, with a median of 20.7 and a 4x% of 30.84%. For the price, you’ve got to love the way the trends are looking for this combo.
In fact, this side might be more fruitful if you want to attack this game. The Texan’s best weapon is Will Fuller, but you have to pay quite a premium to have him with DeShaun Watson and you might miss out on multiple touchdowns from the Jaguars. If you stack Minshew with Chark and Shenault, you can take advantage of Fuller as a game stack and reel in a larger equity share of the total game scores for a lower price. Regardless of how you approach this game, the Jaguars stack deserves some consideration in your portfolio.
Three key players
Amari Cooper: Fade
Every week there is a really popular play that seems kind of forced, or is based on recency bias or some other block of vision, and this week that seems to be Amari Cooper. He had an awesome fantasy day last Sunday, but it was entirely based on an outlier amount of RedZone targets as well as the best possible results of a fourth-quarter rally. He had a whopping 33% of the RedZone targets after having none the prior two weeks but actually saw a decrease in his snap count and market share of the air yards. And that fourth-quarter comeback? They are 11 point favorites this week, so there’s likely not a reason to think we see the same heroics in week 5. He’s projected for 22.40 fantasy points and a 32.02% chance to end up a top-five play at wide receiver, but his ceiling seems capped and the ownership removes a lot of the viability of this pick. Fade.
Mike Davis: Play
There were two running backs last week that were by far the best plays on the slate, Alvin Kamara and Mike Davis, and this week Davis is going to make a return to that position. He’s projected for 28.21 fantasy points, most on the main slate of action, and did not get nearly the price bump he deserved after having a solid performance with a lot of bad touchdown luck. His expected fantasy points per game is 23.88 with averages of 10 carries and eight targets as well as good RedZone work leading to an expected 2.27 touchdowns on the year. He was vultured twice last week and could have had a massive outcome, but you’ll get another week to jump on board with his extreme value and lock him into your lineups. At his price, you can expect heavy ownership, but those who don’t have him are the ones making a bad leverage play in this instance. Play.
DJ Moore: Fade
Like last week, Moore is a trendy talking point across the DFS industry based on his deep targets and average air yards on the season along with an acceptable price. For the most part, he’s still a high value receiver that gets some deep targets, but it’s worth mentioning that he’s been headed in the wrong direction since Christian McCaffrey got injured. In week 4, he saw his snaps drop from 88% to just 71%, which his marketshare of the air yards tanked to just 22.75% and his aDOT ended up at the lowest point all year at just 8.8 yards. Considering Robby Anderson has a monopoly on the possession targets for the team, Moore seeing such a large drop in deep targets is very concerning for his weekly outlook. A projection of 16.94 is still promising, but the ownership will likely be more than it should be and I would rather avoid. Fade.
Three key values
Olamide Zaccheaus: Play
Zaccheaus kind of came out of nowhere in what seems like a neverending collection of Falcons backup receivers. Week 2 was just 12% of snaps and 2.78% of the targets, but in week four he blossomed to 75% of snaps and a healthy 23% target share. He’s not getting any RedZone targets thus far, but his projection of 12.41 and a 51.78% chance to hit 4x his salary on Draftkings makes him an exceptionally appealing value play. There are a lot of unknowns here that may cause problems leading up to the slate, but considering the price tag on the top stacks of the week, there’s a big need for a minimum priced wideout with his baselines. Play.
Kyle Allen: Cash play, GPP fade
Look, I understand how bad Kyle Allen was last year. He had more turnovers than games started for the Panthers and wasn’t able to get the ball downfield even with very solid receivers at his disposal. However, we don’t get the luxury of a $4,100 starting QB very often, and the range of outcomes on quarterbacks is much friendlier than any other position. He projects for around 15 fantasy points, which would be more than enough to make you happy in cash games, but it’s hard to imagine using him in GPPs. Washington is only projected for .87 passing touchdowns, and they run the ball in the RedZone at the fourth-highest rate in the league, so there’s really no ceiling to be had. He’s likely someone that you can (and should) use in cash games, but he’s a full fade in GPPs.
David Johnson: Play
Bill O’Brien was fired from all of his egregiously procured responsibilities with the Texans and thus we enter an era of (hopefully) optimized usage for the skill players on the team. The million-dollar question is how those skill players react to the change and if that means a more or less aggressive attack under the interim HC. David Johnson is projected for 20.50 fantasy points at just $5,200 bucks, which seems like a pretty solid value. However, you have to make the assumption that he gets increased usage because his yearly baselines aren’t inspiring. He’s averaged a decent 13 carries and four targets per game, but his expected fantasy points per contest sits at just 13.34. Should he see an increase in targets or RedZone work, his projections make sense, and for the price, he seems worth the risk in tournaments. Play.