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
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson
With the highest implied team total on the slate at 29, the vikings are going to be a polarizing stack in DFS. This is, of course, because the Vikings aren’t necessarily known for their high octane offense and consistently high scoring games. They are a team that not only wants to pass less overall (just a 57.84%) but are by far the lowest pass rate team in the league in the redzone at an insane 26.09%. A team total of 29 doesn’t really mean much for the Vikings as a DFS stack considering their egregious run rates when it counts the most.
For a stack that sits under $20,000 in DFS, their combined projection of 65.91 is really good, and their percent chance to reach more than four times their combined salary sitting at 35.90% is great as well. They face an Atlanta team that has a very easy to guess game stack piece with Calvin Ridley (projects for 20.65) and should be able to do whatever they want to score points towards their total. It helps that Kirk Cousins is priced well below the top tier of QBs on the slate at just $6,100, but it hurts to have to avoid Alexander Mattison for correlation issues.
The core problem with this stack is an assumption away from the norm for the Vikings. Most people will assume that a team will alter their gameplan for their opponent, but that’s typically not the case. The Vikings are a “run first, ask questions later, and then pass after all the questions have been answered” kind of team and assuming that they will end up passing more often against a “bad” pass defense is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The much better play, should you need to take a Viking, is Alexander Mattison, and if you think that he doesn’t pay off it’s because the Falcons dominated, not the Vikings. Easy fade this week.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan
The Packers find themselves in a solid spot. After starting the week at an implied total of 24.5, they sit at the fourth best team total of 28 even and have gotten plenty of money pushing them farther up as the week goes on. They have a top 5 projection of passing touchdowns at 1.74 and are priced reasonably with the main stack listed costing around $20,600 on draftkings. They are slightly above the middle of the pack in neutral pass rate at 67.12%, but make up for it with fantastic efficiency and one of the skinniest target trees (low variance distribution of targets) in the league.
A combined projection of 64.49 for Rodgers, Adams, and Tonyan is plenty of bang for your buck, with a 20+% (amount of time that a player scores more than 20 fantasy points) at 54.48% of the time will make for a quality stack in all formats. We know the ceiling is exceptionally high here as well, with Adams have a legit ceiling of 40 fantasy points and the Packers relying on Rodgers upside to bail them out in plenty of games. The single question mark in terms of viability is Robert Tonyan. He’s been climbing in fantasy outcomes since week two, with 10.5, 16, and 33.8 fantasy points consecutively and his targets have been on the rise as well, but with the return of Adams it’s fair to wonder if he maintains his significance.
This stack is a relatively expensive starting point, but it offers a lot of stability from Rodgers and Adams and gives you a low owned correlation piece with Tonyan at the premium tight end position. The biggest issue is if this game ends up competitive or not, with the Buccaneers having a lackluster couple of performances since Brady’s five touchdown extravaganza. Ownership should be pretty low and the upside is certainly high, but if you believe the Packers passing game is off the charts it’s imperative you also roster either Mike Evans or Chris Godwin in the game stack as the Bucs will have to play from behind. It’s an expensive stack with not a lot of value on the slate, but play it if you find some to supplement.
Detroit Lions: Matt Stafford, Kenny Golladay, TJ Hockenson
I know that it’s hard to trust the Lions, but it’s worth considering them this week as they go up against the Jaguars in what could end up being a shootout. Implied for the second-most points on the main slate at 28.75, There’s more than enough room for Stafford and two pass catchers to end up as top fantasy plays on the slate, especially considering the Lions are one of the pass happiest teams between the 20s (63.36%) but also end up above average in passing in the RedZone at 55% even.
The combination is relatively cheap, costing under $20,000, with a combined projection of 60.35 fantasy points. That’s well over 3x and doesn’t consider ceilings, and because the stack uses the tight end position you end up covering a premium position with a correlative piece of your lineup, which is always the better way to approach things. It’s also easy to bring back a wideout from the Jaguars with either D.J. Chark (pending injury) or Keelan Cole if you need the salary savings. The weaker link here is Hockenson, but you have plenty of other options if you prefer a different tight end and can use Marvin Jones Jr. if you would like.
The biggest reason not to use the Lions is because…. It’s the Lions. They have a problem with sitting back on their heels in the second half of games no matter the game circumstance. You almost have to assume that they are going to be training for them to have any real chance of finding their ceilings. With that being said, I prefer a Jaguars stack that includes one of Golladay or Hockeson as a game stack piece. The only way the Lions end up as GPP winning options is if the Jaguars do very well themselves, so stack that side instead and fade Matthew Stafford.
Three key players
Alexander Mattison: Play
Generally when a running back goes down with an injury their backup doesn’t get priced up near enough and it’s a relatively easy decision to play that backup the next week in DFS. That’s not the case here, with Mattison getting priced all the way up to $7,200 on draftkings as he looks to absorb the full workload of Dalvin Cook as well as his regular responsibilities. His regular responsibilities, by the way, are pretty good, with nearly 29% of the redzone rushing work (on a team that rushes more than any other team in the league in the redzone at 73.91%) and between 6-9 touches even as a backup. I’m not sure how many people will actually roster him considering the price as a backup, but he’s a phenomenal play with a presumed floor of 25 touches and massive redzone equity on a team in position to score a lot of points. A projection of 22.54 fantasy points doesn’t do him justice and he makes for one of the best plays on the slate. Play
AJ Brown: Play
Brown is mispriced this week and it’s leading to a lot of attention of the star wideout for the Titans. He’s priced about $2,000 too cheap for his regular opportunity on the team, much less missing key options due to the COVID restrictions. He came back from an injury on Tuesday and threw together nine targets, including three redzone targets, and a massive 3.03 fantasy points per touch in a week that saw the touchdowns go mostly elsewhere. His expected fantasy output based on his opportunity was a gaudy 33.57, and thus you can see how underpriced he is. Tennessee opened the week at a team total of 30.25, signifying plenty of touchdowns to be scored, and although the titans are more run heavy in the redzone (63.04% of all plays are rushes inside the 20) you have to think that Brown’s chances of eclipsing 100 yards, along with his redzone equity for receivers, makes him a steal at his price. Play.
David Montgomery: Fade
This is the popular play of the week that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me considering the circumstances involved. Chicago is implied for just 21.5 points, the sixth lowest on the main slate, and they have shown that they would rather pass than run in the redzone with a 70.97% pass rate. Montgomery has just 10 rushing attempts in back to back games and outside of his eight targets in week 5 has averaged just 2.8 targets per game. His expected fantasy points per game sits at just 13.51, and he isn’t necessarily cheap either. His baselines give him a median projection of 17.75, but that’s assuming a lot of things go right for the Bears and that’s generally a pretty scary assumption to make. He’s currently projected for 16.01% ownership and it’s likely going to get higher. Fade.
Three key values
Myles Gaskin: Play
The Dolphins are a surprisingly potent offense through the first couple weeks of the season and get to face a putrid Jets squad after a dismantling of a much better 49ers team. Gaskin set season highest in yards per target (6.8), redzone target percentage (60%), and fantasy points per snap (.48) and looks primed as the lead back on a team that should have a solid lead all game. The price tag hasn’t caught up to the median expectation of Gaskin and with a projection of 21.07 fantasy points it’s safe to say that Mattison is one of the premier value plays of the week 6 slate. The single concern is lack of floor, and if the Jets get up early his role could diminish, but he’s worth a shot in all formats based on price alone. Play.
Laviska Shenault: Fade
Shenault had a bit of extra opportunity last week with Chark going down with an injury early in the game and it was still just a pedestrian outing for a wideout in a fantastic spot. His fantasy points per touch are sitting below 2.5 and he gets the least amount of redzone opportunities of the main Jacksonville receivers, and it seems that people may want to target him against a Lions defense that is interpreted as bad. His projection of 18.42 fantasy points is solid but assumes a lot about his role in the offense, and the baselines show that his ceiling isn’t going to be high enough to warrant decent ownership. Fade.
Dionte Johnson: Play
Dealing with injuries multiple weeks straight, Johnson may be off of everyone’s list as somebody to target in DFS. His price has dropped quite a bit and he sits at $4,900 on DraftKings which makes him a high risk, high reward option in large field GPPs. When healthy, he’s been the Steelers best receivers, with 10 and 11 targets in the first two weeks which lead to 11.7 and 23.2 fantasy points, respectively. Even if he hits a floor performance based on those games, he won’t kill you in cash game formats and his price mitigates a lot of the risk in taking him in GPPs. Make sure that he is healthy before you roster him, but he makes sense for those that have multiple lineups. Play.