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.
NFL key big three
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!
All in all, The data here tries to look forward and get an idea of the best spots to attack.
Three key stacks
Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams
Today we start off with some flowchart logic: If the Jets are playing, whoever their opponent is can be considered valuable in DFS. Therefore, since the Jets play the Chargers, you’re going to be considering stacking them in every single format. They have a solid implied team total of 28, points although the game total is mediocre at just 46.5, and as 9.5 points favorites you expect them to be able to score with relative ease. The questions here revolve more around the way that people approach the Chargers rather than how we expect them to perform, so we need to take a look at the way the stack comes together in terms of projection, ownership, and availability.
With a projection of 62.99 there’s really no reason to avoid them based on median expectations. At a combined salary of $19,300 the investment isn’t quite as hefty as other top flight stacks on this slate, and the ownership as of now is modest at just 30.43% for the preferred combination. That being said, early ownership projections can be conservative, and it’s more likely this stack ends up in the 45%+ range than to stay this low. Another important aspect of this stack is the passing touchdown expectation, which my models have at 1.82 based on the team total and redzone passing rate of 61.22%. All of these numbers are good to great depending on how you view the rest of the slate, so the Chargers side of things looks fine for GPPs even at what I assume to be relatively high ownership.
The biggest problem that we have to deal with here: It’s the freakin Jets. They haven’t shown any significant signs of life outside of giving the Patriots a run for their money and the main players in their passing game have been inconsistent at best. Who do you bring this stack back with? If you assume the Jets will be trailing by a large amount in the second half, you have to consider either Breshad Perriman or Jamison Crowder as a game-stack correlative for the Chargers stack. My guess is that people will be low on Jamison Crowder after he only had two targets in a primetime game, but he only played 68% of the snaps coming back from injury and should go back to being the top target hog (25% of air yards, 27% of targets) on the team. However you decide to stack this game, it’s a good spot to give your attention.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins
The Bengals continue to be a high upside team with a lot of passing volume and relatively cheap pieces that make sense as a target in GPPs. The main problem is that the team isn’t very good, so they are pretty consistently underdogs and have low team totals based on Vegas lines and spreads. Indeed, we see this again, with them being 1.5 point underdogs against Washington and only implied for 22.75 points. However, with low implied team totals comes lower prices, and that is going to allow you to spend up on other important pieces based on the circumstances of the slate.
$17,000 for a full stack is pretty low and allows you to fill out the rest of the lineup with more valuable players at premium positions. The combined ownership sits under 25% and the 4x% of 35.31% is decent in terms of GPPs, but nothing special. Maybe the biggest problem here is the Top%, which measures how often a stack is likely to be the top scoring combination on the slate, sits at just .34%. This doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in GPPs considering it’s imperative to have top scoring players if you want to find any real success.
The reason that I mention this stack is that Washington has some popular pieces that may need to be leveraged in GPPs and a Bengals stack is one of the more direct ways of doing it. Generally when I talk about Leverage, we are looking to avoid popular plays and let them fail, but in this instance we want to maximize them in ways that others aren’t. Should Terry McLaurin (projected for 13% ownership) and Logan Thomas (projected for 11% ownership) end up being trendy plays this week, I doubt that it comes in the form of a full stack. If either or both of them is to find a true ceiling game, then the Bengals are likely to be beneficiaries of a good passing gamescript or they put up enough points that McLaurin/Thomas were in a passing scenario. Though the medians aren’t great, the ownership mitigates that risk and the ceiling is high enough that utilizing a Bengals stack is advantageous.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks
Houston finds themselves in an interesting position as they are underdogs against a pretty bad New England Patriots squad. They have reverse line movement as well, starting as three point favorites and now two point underdogs, which signals some concerning things happening in terms of the offense. It’s led them to go from a team total of 24.5 down to 23.25, which isn’t a large drop, but it’s still something to note when you are paying middling prices for a passing game that has proven to be hit or miss. Still, the team is built for GPP exposures and deserves consideration on this slate.
The projections here are pretty good, sitting at 55.21 for the combination, and the price is still under $18,000 on DraftKings which isn’t anything that breaks the bank. The 4x% and 5x% projections are alarmingly low at just 26.03% and 8.97% respectively, which goes to say that there are specific circumstances that need to happen for this stack to find you a significant-finish in GPPs. The single redeeming factor we have for this stack in terms of upside is that Houston throws in the RedZone at a 75.86% rate, second-highest on the slate, which gives them the third-highest passing touchdown expectation on the slate at 1.87.
Typically I am very excited about a Texans stack, but this week it feels underwhelming. They have an uncharacteristically low team total and are facing a Patriots squad that is great at removing the most effective weapon of their opponent. What’s more, the Patriots are a team that plays ball control and focuses on rushing rather than chunk plays, so if the Texans have an inefficient outting they will be unable to find any sort of ceiling. When you add in that this stack, as well as the main game stack piece of Jakobi Meyers, are going to be popular? This seems like a spot to avoid. There are too many things that need to go right for the Texans to even find their medians and this seems like a let down spot on a slate without a lot of direct paths to success.
Three key players
Taysom Hill: Play in cash
As it turns out, the Saints are an organization that values grit and gadgetry over legit talent, and therefore they are starting Taysom Hill at QB this week instead of Jameis Winston. With that being said, there are some decisions that you have to make regarding him in both cash and GPPs as well as the site that you are playing in terms of your exposures. He projects well on both sites, with a median of 21.39 on DraftKings and 21.11 on Fanduel, and his price is below $5,000 on both. It’s not a question of playing him in cash games, where he’s going to be an obvious plug and play on both sites, but you have to think through the ownership and the opportunity cost in GPPs. On Draftkings, it’s rather straightforward, where you are comparing him against the other QBs in terms of efficiency and how well the stacks come together with either Michael Thomas or Alvin Kamara. That decision comes down to his overall efficiency and how easily you can differentiate with other players in the lineup, which leads me towards not playing him since there are likely higher upside options. On Fanduel, however, it’s a harder choice because he is a tight end on that site. When you have a player likely to be 50%+ owned in GPPs at any position, it’s always going to be smarter to fade them than play them so that you have a much more direct path towards winning the GPP, and that’s the situation we are likely to have on Fanduel this week. It doesn’t feel good to fade him, but simply pivoting to a similarly priced tight end instead of eating that chalk allows you to do whatever you would like with the rest of your lineup without worrying about leverage or ownership and that’s a very freeing feeling. So, with Hill, fade in GPPs and play in cash and hope he falls off the GPP cliff.
Dalvin Cook: Fade
Dalvin Cook likely has the best average opportunity of any player in the league right now and is the definition of a bell cow running back. He’s got exceptional rushing expectations of around 26-28 rushing attempts and a median projection over 100 rushing yards as well as three targets per game. His median projection sits at a wild 29.70, and he has a 33.35% chance to be the top scoring running back on the slate. The issue: He’s $9,000 on draftkings and projects for the most ownership on the slate at 31.45% as of writing. In general, it’s going to be bad process to pay such a large price for the highest owned player at a position like running back where production is mostly tied to game script and touchdown equity, so it’s a hard sell on taking Cook in GPPs this week. Especially when you consider 5% ownership on Derrick Henry and 10% ownership on Aaron Jones, there are other options that are cheaper with similar upside. Fade.
D’Andre Swift: Play in cash
There’s a very promising trendline here for Swift as he has finally overtaken Adrian Peterson as the lead back on the Lions. He’s been getting healthy receiving work all year, with an average of 4.33 targets per game, but the rushing work is trending way up with nine or more carries in four of his last five games and 16 carries in week 10 where he got the starting nod. Should he see that workload again, he’s going to be appropriately priced for the ceiling he represents. However, we don’t really like appropriately priced, and his ownership is trending up as people “catch on” to his uptick in rushing work. It’s important to remember that the Lions were well in hand of the game last week which could have led to more carries than expected for Swift, where the Panthers may make this a more competitive spot. The receiving work will always be good for him, but I fear we see just 9-12 carries this week which drops his medians quite a bit and takes him out of consideration in GPPs. Play in cash, but fade elsewhere.
Mark Andrews: Play
I’ve been stacking the Ravens all year, and the week after I finally say that I won’t be doing it anymore they are going to be chalky. The reason for this is because Nick Boyle, the backup tight end, is going to be out and people are thinking it’s going to lead to increased opportunity for Mark Andrews. This might be true since he did have nine targets last week and saw his snap count increase to 75.76% (season average of 64.21%) but it’s vital to keep in mind that players will see opportunity jump in games of injury and after a week of practice somebody else is able to step in and soften that load. It’s likely that somebody from the practice squad is brought up to take some of the snaps from Mark Andrews, as he has never been a huge workload player. Still, his median projection is good at 15.00 and he has a 24.68% chance of being the top scoring tight end, so it’s not like the baselines hate the play. If you are stacking the Ravens, it makes sense to use Andrews and hope for the boost in opportunity. Play if stacking.
Three key values
Jakobi Meyers: Fade
People are in love with Jakobi Meyers this week because of his rising opportunity and the string of primetime games where he has put on a show. All of that is really cool, but it hasn’t really translated to reliable production. He had the 29 fantasy point performance in Week 9 but has yet to surpass 15 fantasy points in any other game this season. The fantasy points per touch are solid at over 2.00 over the last four weeks, but the Patriots just don’t pass with enough efficiency or volume to take advantage of that number. At $4,900 he’s going to be exceptionally popular, especially considering how many people are stacking the Texans, and it seems like chasing the dragon if you are hoping for another outlier performance. The nail in the coffin for me is the Patriots being the second run heaviest team in the redzone at a 64.52% run rate which doesn’t speak to touchdown upside for their top receiver. Fade.
Michael Pittman Jr.: Play
I’m not actually sure where the ownership is coming from on Michael Pittman, but people are on him, and I can’t really blame them. He’s just $4,500 on draftkings and has eight and seven targets in the last two weeks as he has taken over as a top options on this Colts team. He actually profiles similarly to Jakobi Meyers, but the circumstances are much better for Pittman considering the team total is higher (26.5 vs. 25.25 for the Patriots) and the passing touchdown expectation is significantly better (1.60 projected vs. just .95 for the Pats) giving Pittman a much better chance to find his ceiling. While the median projection is lower at just 11.90 for Pittman, the ownership is lower and the game state is better overall. There’s also a better game stack environment, with the Packers giving you a much higher median expectation than the Texans which can help you use Pittman in a more effective way in GPPs. He’s risky, but if you are using a cheap WR, he’s the one I want. Play.
Logan Thomas: Play
Here’s some value that actually makes sense on this slate and can be valuable in making some of the more expensive combinations fit. Washington is going up against the Bengals, which has a low floor but a high ceiling when it comes to moderately priced stacks. One way to take advantage of that is with a secondary stack involving Logan Thomas (at a premium position) and one of the $5k wideouts for the Bengals. Thomas has seen five targets in back to back weeks with Alex Smith at QB and is averaging 2.56 fantasy points per touch on the season. 21% of his targets come in the RedZone, so they are typically high value, and the price hasn’t raised almost at all as he still sits at $3,300 this week. Considering the ownership will be rather high on this (11.14%, second highest TE on the slate thus far) he’s going to make a phenomenal cash game play as well as having high enough upside to be played in secondary stacks in GPPs. Play.