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, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill
We can get started today with the most expensive stack on the board and talk about the Chiefs. As always, Kansas City is going to be a premium stack that is difficult to afford but is justified by the immense ceiling they can reach. They have the highest implied team total on the slate at 29.75 and the over/under for that game is also the top mark at 56. Based on heavy pass rates in the redzone, they are projected to throw for 2.11 touchdowns (rush for 1.05) and since the target tree is so concentrated on just a few pass catchers it makes it relatively easy to stack. The problem is, of course, the price you pay for all of this.
You are going to need to cough up $22,800 on Draftkings for the main trio of Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce in GPPs (or cash, if that’s your thing) and thus you are left with just an average of $4,533.33 per player to fill out the rest of your roster. That’s a pretty small amount leftover in spending cash, especially when there isn’t a whole lot of apparent value at this point in the week. The projection of 65.6 and LevX (a metric in finding undervalued players in GPPs) of 10.31% are both fantastic and worth paying for, but if you can’t find enough good value to make a complete team that can actually score enough points to win a GPP then it doesn’t really matter. When you add in a game stack piece with either Antonio Brown or Mike Evans, you start being starved for salary, and that’s going to be an important part to finding the ceiling of this spot. While possible, this stack is very limiting, and unless there are some significant values popping up on Saturday and Sunday morning, you’re going to likely pass on this stack in most formats.
Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry
Justin Herbert and the Chargers are having a historically great season with a rookie QB (yes, up there with Mahomes) and considering the talent on this team it’s not crazy to think it continues even if they have played above their heads a bit. They have a relatively low team total of 23.5 as they are 5.5 point underdogs against a Buffalo team that has a defense people like to avoid, but the over/under for the game is still really good and sits at 52.5 which is the third highest on the slate. The Chargers are a bit above league average in terms of pass rate in the redzone at 63.5%, which gives them a passing TD projection of 1.58, though that number is only low because of the low team total. Should this team get into the redzone, they prefer to let Herbert throw it, which leads to the good ceiling this team possesses.
Once again, we are looking at an expensive trio here, as the whole combo suggested by the models costs $20,000 even. You get a decent discount on Hunter Henry, who has been on the rise over the last couple of weeks in this offense, but Keenan Allen is finally priced appropriately and Herbert is not cheap either. The nice part here is that the ownership should be pretty low (currently at 28.69% combined) since the team total is not one of the higher totals on the slate and it’s actually pretty good leverage considering people being on Stefon Diggs as a chalky wideout. When you add him to the equation as a game stack piece, you end up with an expensive but production core of players at low ownership on a big slate. Similarly to the Chiefs, the lack of viable value makes this a difficult stack, but the big drop in ownership makes it more appealing to try to fit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown
It’s basically an automatic thing at this point that if the Bucs play a night game that they are going to underperform. That’s because Tom Brady has a bedtime of 8:00 pm (That’s a real thing, you can look it up, isn’t that crazy?) and so when they play primetime games he’s not at peak performance. Thankfully, they just played a primetime game and underperformed, so the recency bias will be strong against them as they come into a prime spot against a Chiefs offense that will surely be competitive. The Bucs have a team total of 26.25 and are just 3.5 point underdogs, signaling a great game and a lot of upside while playing in the highest total game with Kansas City. Passing 65% of the time in the redzone allows them a passing touchdown projection of 1.83 and when combined with the Chiefs passing touchdown expectation of 2.11, we have the highest combined projection of 3.94. Did somebody say game stacks?
For just $18,400 you end up with an extremely high upside stack since the Bucs are priced down based on the recent let down and being underdogs, so it’s something we definitely want to take advantage of. They are projected for 49.25, which isn’t an incredibly projection, but it’s worth noting that Antonio Brown is being projected conservatively based on lack of playing time since joining the team. However, in that limited playing time, he leads the team in targets and air yards as Brady is looking to him early and often, and he’s the cheapest of the three wideouts! This stack is a sharp way to get exposure to the highest total on the slate without having to pay the same premium as taking the Chiefs, and if they Chiefs end up doing well you can expect Brady and the Bucs to be passing a lot and playing catch up, so it’s a win win. There’s also a possibility of taking Brady, two of his pass catchers, and two of the Chiefs pass catchers as well since this game has such a good shot at hitting it’s ceiling. However you play it, this is one of the best stacks on the week.
Three key players
Nick Chubb: Fade
The main thing here is that Nick Chubb is basically a dollar store Derrick Henry, and we can apply a lot of the same rules to the both of them. When it comes to this kind of running back (heavy rushing volume, little to no receiving volume) they are very gameflow dependent and can be knocked out of the game if the game script goes sideways, so they are more volatile in their ceilings than backs with more receiving work. When there are players that are volatile and getting ownership, it represents a great time to fade them and leverage the field instead of following. Yes, Chubb projects well at 19.10 fantasy points, but there are a lot of RBs on this slate that offer more game script immunity in all ranges of salary. Considering the projection being good but not incredible and the ownership showing him being well overvalued by the field, Nick Chubb is a prime fade candidate in all formats. Fade.
Travis Kelce: Play
Tight end has been an absolute dumpster fire this year, with guys like George Kittle and Zach Ertz injured and other high value players like Hunter Henry being underwhelming. It’s led to just one tight end to rule them all, and his name is Travis Kelce. His volume has been insane (8.6 targets, 2 redzone targets per game) and his points per snap and points per touch numbers are equally awesome at .33 and 3.02, respectively. His median projection of 21.2 leads the position, and being on the Chiefs means that he’s going to be in a position to dominate each and every week as the efficiency of the team doesn’t get any better. Literally the only question here is if you can afford him and any correlations that go with him in your stacks. This week, people may be inclined to go with Darren Waller in a matchup with the Falcons, but the pivot to a more expensive Kelce makes a lot more sense. Play.
Stefon Diggs: Play
With John Brown ailing, there’s a possibility that we end up getting Diggs in a good spot as the lone alpha receiver, which is something we should always look forward to. He projects very well at 21.41 fantasy points, and has a 8.52% chance to be the top scoring wide receiver on the slate overall, so paying a high price for the exquisite route runner is a good idea on paper. It’s even better considering you can use him as part of a Bills stack with Josh Allen or as part of a game stack with the Chargers. This is because when we are looking at the Bills without John Brown, it’s very obvious where the bulk of the targets and air yards go to, and that’s going to be Diggs, so we can build around him instead of worrying about the other wideout scenarios. The only issue here is ownership as he is approaching 20% owned in large field GPPs. There are likely some good pivots like DeAndre Hopkins in the same price range, but Diggs is a great play should you find yourself able to take on the ownership with the field. Play.
Three key values
Jerrick McKinnon: Play
It’s interesting that thus far we don’t have a lot of ownership on McKinnon, but we can hope that it stays that way through the weekend. He’s projected very well at 17.55 and has an incredible 24.24% chance at hitting 5x his salary. San Francisco is not a great team, so it’s fair that they have a low team total and low touchdown projection (just 2.15 implied touchdowns) but when we have a price this low it mitigates a lot of the downside from the team based stats. On a slate that is really low on usable value plays, McKinnon offers a lot of salary relief that is necessary to make the high end stacks work. It’s also valuable that he is a running back, which means you don’t have to worry about game stacking or secondary correlations to go with him. Play.
Derek Carr: Fade
Ah yes, the weekly spot against the Falcons, where people are going to be piling on ownership to players simply because of the defense that they are facing. It always represents a nice position to fade the general public and get ownership at other more valuable spots that are easier to manage rather than following the field and rostering players that typically don’t deserve to be chalk. Now, I will say: Derek Carr and the Raiders have been much better than advertised this year, and it’s viable to stack them any given week. Darren Waller is a legit weapon and the coaching has been better than expected. However, Carr doesn’t have a big ceiling as a QB for fantasy, and it makes this is much easier decision. He’s projected for just 20.13 fantasy points and has surpassed 300 passing yards just twice this year while being under 200 passing yards three times. Being a good real life QB and a good fantasy QB are very different things, and it makes this fade pretty easy. Fade.
Denzel Mims: Play
I was skeptical of Mims on the Jets for a lot of reasons, but most of them were around the team just being a flying spaceship of sadness and despair. Outside of all the pain and misery of the team itself, Mims has been fantastic, and should start seeing the benefits of getting so much volume. Since he jumped up as a starter for the team, he has collected averages of 35% air yards and 26% of team targets as well as an aDOT of 15.3. These are fantastic numbers, especially for a rookie, and the switch from Sam Darnold to Joe Flacco may have actually increased his ceiling a bit. The price hasn’t caught up with his opportunity yet, as he is still just $3,500 on Draftkings this week and projected for 10.40 fantasy points while having a 17.24% chance at hitting 5x his salary. He’s a high risk, high reward play to help you fit the big boys at the other positions. Play.