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
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett
This is the most popular stack of the week in the most popular game of the week that almost ended up being taken off the slate entirely. The game got flexed to Monday, which sent the entire DFS industry into a panic, and the complaints had the sites decide to keep it on the main slate instead of removing it. That’s good news because this should be a banger. The Seahawks are implied for 29.75 points and the top stack of Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf combine for a projection of 68.90, the highest on the slate. The sole issue is that they also combine for a whopping $21,800 in salary which excludes the tight end, making it vital to pay down at either running back or tight end and risk a premium position letting you down.
All of that being said, there’s good reason for interest here. The Seahawks pass 71.88% of the time in the RedZone, which leads them to an implied passing touchdown expectation of 2.27, the highest mark of all teams in week 7. The Cardinals also have a natural game stack piece with DeAndre Hopkins, who regularly holds over 30% of the targets and air yards for his team and is projected for 24.30. Adding those four players together puts you at $30,000 in total salary spent and a combined projection of 93.57. All these numbers are large and in charge, yet only leave you with $4,000 per player in average remaining salary to fill your tight end and running back positions.
This spot is difficult not because of the projections or any of the baselines, but simply because of the risk of ruin. Paying this much for a stack gives you confidence that the stack itself pays off, but you have to depend on unreliable filler around it to make it work. If that unreliable filler turns out to be, well, unreliable and bad, then the stack meeting expectations won’t do you any good. There’s a balance to be had and this stack doesn’t maintain that composure. When you consider the price, the risk at premium positions, and the ownership on the most popular stack of the week, it’s hard to justify it as a priority focus. Fade this one for one of the other games with a 50+ game total.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones
The Falcons came alive last week after firing Dan Quinn, putting up 40 points on the back of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones who had just returned to the team from injury. They ended up choking away a lot of their lead in the second half, because you can’t change the culture of a team that plays flat late, but it was promising to see them get a deserved win after so many had escaped them. Implied for the highest game total on the slate at 56.5, this game against the Lions has everything that you could want from a gamestack and should arguably be the most popular even though it doesn’t project to be. With a combined price of $21,100, it’s expensive, but it makes just as much if not more sense to stack them as it does to start with the Seahawks.
And there’s a couple reasons for that. The combined projection sits at 67.37, good for a close second to highest available, which takes up the typical QB/WR/WR combination. The Falcons are only implied for 1.67 passing TDs because of a 53.33% passing rate in the redzone, but with the average depth of target on Julio Jones at over 10 yards he has a better chance at a long touchdown than other receivers and could score from deep which the model tends to be low on. Perhaps the largest plus to this stack is how much cheaper the Lions receivers are than other comparable game stacking options. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. (or TJ Hockenson, if you’re trying to party) give a lot of flexibility in terms of salary and the bonus of using Hockenson is correlating a premium position that others will look to either punt or correlate elsewhere.
Ultimately this stack comes down to the Lions, not the Falcons. It’s fairly easy to feel good about the stack of Matt Ryan with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley (or Russell Gage if you need salary relief) but in order to gain the true upside of this game, the Lions have to make the decision to pass to catch up. Golladay has yet to have less than 14 fantasy points in a game, but also no more than 20 because the Lions just don’t push the envelope and play conservatively even when behind. All things considered, the ownership difference between this stack (31.17% combined with Golladay) and the Seahawks (currently 47.62%, likely to climb) gives me more interest in the Falcons in GPPs. Great pivot from the chalk.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Devante Adams
When a team that is popular ends up doing badly, they end up being less popular in subsequent weeks because of recency bias. When a team that is popular ends up doing badly as an afternoon game, they end up even lower owned because that recency bias is stronger since there were fewer distractions from the performance. That’s the situation we have this week with the Packers, who have an implied total of 30 (highest on the slate) and have to compete for ownership with both the Seahawks and the Falcons. With a combined projection of 63.37, the combo of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Robert Tonyan check a lot of the boxes you want out of a stack.
First off, the price of taking these players isn’t all that bad, coming in at $19,500 and lower than that of the other exceptional stacks this week. It also covers the tight end position in the correlation, which is something that not enough people focus on. Even when you add on Will Fuller as a game stacking piece, you only end up at $26,300 and a projection of 83.82 along with a combined ownership of 37.70%. Once you add in the fact that Aaron Jones looks like one of the most popular plays on the slate and you gain leverage by stacking the Packers instead of using him, this spot ends up being a GPP player’s dream.
This is likely my favorite spot of the week when you take in everything that we care about for GPPs. It offers you a high projection on a team with huge upside that belongs to a relative predictable couple of players while giving you solid leverage over the field and an easy gamestacking combination. There are variations that give you ways to leverage other spots on the slate as well, and the premium positions can be filled with more reliable players rather than depending on luck. When the Packers win someone a bunch of money this week, tell them who sent ya.
Three key players
Aaron Jones: Fade
When you look at the way that Aaron Jones is used, it doesn’t really instill a lot of confidence in him as a popular DFS play. Sure, he has pretty solid Redzone usage and is involved in the passing game in a meaningful way. 5.2 yards per target is great for a running back, and the upside is certainly there. However, the volume is pretty lackluster and he only averages around 1.25 fantasy points per touch. That’s totally fine on somebody that is getting a consistent volume of 20 or more touches per game, but Jones has only exceeded that twice this year in five games. He’s ultimately too touchdown-dependent to be somebody that you have exposure to when he’s going to be popular, and even with a high projection (currently 27.08), there’s likely more leverage in tournaments in taking the passing game instead. Fade.
Kareem Hunt: Play
It’s interesting that Hunt is a bit of a game script dependent back on this team, but that’s kind of where things have come to. When the Browns are behind, they end up using their wideouts and not checking down as much, so even though Hunt is a good receiver it doesn’t amount to much if he doesn’t get targets. Last week in a terrible game script he had 13 carries and three targets for just 7.7 fantasy points, but he projects in this week’s matchup at 23.70 thanks to a solid piece of the RedZone work on a team that rushes the ball 60.98% of the time when in scoring position. As 3.5 point favorites, the Browns should at least be in a more competitive spot here than last week which gives Hunt a much better chance to reach his median expectations and more. The bigger decision that you have to make is whether you want to pay his relatively lofty price tag, but there’s enough value on this slate to make it easy to swallow. Play.
Travis Kelce: Play
Paying up at tight end has been a high leverage move in tournaments this year with so many people falling for the value options with low ceilings, and this week is no exception. Kelce finds himself in a good spot, as the Chiefs are implied for 28.5 points and going up against a Broncos team that has problems moving the ball and scoring points, which leads to more time on the field for the Chiefs offense and thus more opportunity for Kelce. More opportunity leads to big scores considering Kelce averages nearly 3.0 fantasy points per touch and can have upwards of 10 targets while holding over 20% of the RedZone targets on a team in the scoring position quite a bit. You can use him as part of a Chiefs stack or as a secondary mini-stack with somebody like Jerry Jeudy or Tim Patrick. No matter how you look at him this week, Kelce makes for a high priority target in your DFS lineups. Play.
Three key values
Joe Burrow: Play
The Bengals are passing the ball a pretty absurd amount this year. With 246 attempts on the year, he’s averaging over 40 throws per game and just under 300 yards per contest at 284. The big thing here is a lot of volume for a notably low price point of just $5,500 along with some intriguing low cost stacking options (A full stack costs less than $17,000 in any form) which allows you to fit some good high priced running backs. Considering a projection of over 20 fantasy points, he is a better value than most QBs on the slate and makes for a high upside starting point in any format. Play.
Kenyan Drake: Fade
After an explosive performance on Monday night, Drake didn’t see his price rise at all and is sitting under $5k on DraftKings just ripe for the picking. Especially with a projection of 15.54, he’s going to look like a screaming value across the industry. He managed 20 carries and 28 fantasy points thanks to a late long touchdown run, but it’s worth saying that the Cardinals had a commanding lead over their opponent the entire game. The game script, along with the long touchdown run, masked what was an otherwise pedestrian performance from Drake and if somebody has to depend on luck to be a solid play they are almost always a valuable fade no matter the price. Fade.
Dionte Johnson: Play
Was I a week too early? Johnson got another price drop after missing yet another week yet still projects well with a median of 14.80 and a great chance to hit 5x his salary of 21.46%. With some popular spend-ups at running back, value at wideout will come at a premium and most of the field will understand that. Though him being cheap with room for upside is a plus, one of the biggest benefits to using Dionte is in a mini-game stack with A.J. Brown, that way you eat up a good amount of the upside in a potential shootout with two of the highest ceiling options available. The game environment, price, and roster construction all line up to make Johnson a solid play once again. Play.