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KNOW YOUR ENEMIES
To place near the top of a large field GPP, your roster has to stand out from the crowd in some way. Knowing which players will command the highest ownership is a helpful first step, but without the context of how those players can fit together under the salary cap, it’s difficult to project the type of lineups you’ll be up against most frequently.
Sometimes, the clearest path to creating a unique roster is to allocate more of your salary cap to the positions your opponents are not. To gain some insight into how most other entrants are likely to think as they construct their rosters, with the goal of building yours differently, consider these bullets:
- All eyes will be on Baltimore at Kansas City and its slate-high 55-point over/under. Lamar Jackson ($7,000) and Patrick Mahomes II ($7,600) are the first and second-ranked quarterbacks on DraftKings through two weeks. Despite their rising salaries, the duo should combine for about 20% of the total quarterback ownership on the slate.
- Salaries have begun to adjust to this year’s data, however, and it’s difficult to build balanced rosters that include Jackson or Mahomes. Dak Prescott ($6,500) saves a bit of cap space in a cakewalk matchup at home against the Dolphins. Further down the list, Kyler Murray ($5,800) appears underpriced relative to his performance in a pair of tough matchups to open the season. Both will be chalky, but due to DraftKings’ tightly-clustered quarterback pricing, just about any quarterback outside of Jackson and Mahomes won’t force a shift in the common roster construction.
- Running back will be top-heavy this week, with Ezekiel Elliott ($8,900) and Dalvin Cook ($7,800) the first two players most entrants will attempt to build around, followed closely by Austin Ekeler ($7,200). Christian McCaffrey ($8,700) should be up there too, but he’s a little tougher to gauge due to the impact of Cam Newton’s injury on the Panthers offense. Fellow top-tier running back Saquon Barkley ($9,100) should see reduced ownership due to his RB1 price point and the unknowns surrounding rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
- Builds that include one of Jackson, Mahomes, or Prescott, along with two running backs priced over $7,000, will be in search of wide receiver value. Nelson Agholor ($3,600) is coming off a 27.7 point performance in a nationally televised game. With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery both expected to scratch, he profiles as (risky) mega-chalk. Other receivers who fit with heavy quarterback and running back spending include Emmanuel Sanders ($4,800), Larry Fitzgerald ($5,100), Christian Kirk ($5,000), Calvin Ridley ($5,300), and John Brown ($5,500). There is leverage to be gained this week by building lineups around a core of wide receivers priced around $6,500 and above.
- If we assume the crowd will attack mid-priced receivers, there is room left over for Zach Ertz ($5,700), George Kittle ($5,600), or Mark Andrews ($4,600) in stock builds. Andrews, in particular, should get piled on due to his correlation with Jackson and consecutive 28-point performances to open the season. Travis Kelce ($7,100), on the other hand, is a luxury purchase many entrants will pass on outside of Mahomes stacks. It is as good a week as any to chase Kelce’s ceiling in tournaments.
- Picking on the Dolphins offense will be popular after the New England DST practically put teams over the cash-line by themselves in Week 2. The Cowboys ($4,300) are next up against Miami but are cost-prohibitive. It’s the same story with the Patriots ($3,800), who haven’t given up a touchdown yet this season and face Luke Falk and the overmatched Jets in Foxboro. Both defenses will be chalky, but their salaries are tough to squeeze in on a slate with tighter pricing. Don’t be surprised to see Minnesota ($3,300 at home vs. Oakland) or teams facing inexperienced quarterbacks -- Tampa Bay ($2,900), San Francisco ($3,200), and Arizona ($2,700) -- appear just as frequently in the most common lineup construction.
IMPORTANT: All ownership percentages cited below are based on Steve Buzzard’s projections which are refined and updated throughout the week. Click here or use our Lineup Optimizer to make sure you are using the latest projections before setting your lineups.
Soft blue highlighting indicates a recommened core player to build into a high percentage of lineups.
TAKING A STAND ON THE CHALK
These players are the odds-on favorites to score the most fantasy points relative to their respective salaries. The problem is most of your opponents are well aware. Fading popular plays entirely for the sake of differentiating your lineups is rarely the best decision when multi-entering tournaments. Instead, decide how much exposure you are comfortable with for each player in comparison to their projected ownership percentage. Some suggestions on how to treat this week’s highest-owned players:
QB: Lamar Jackson (@KC, $7,000, 11% owned)
Jackson opened the season with back-to-back dominant fantasy performances, he’s playing in a game the collective football universe has circled on the calendar, and he costs $600 less than Mahomes (significant savings on this slate). It’s a fair assumption he’ll be the most popular quarterback, but as great as Jackson has been, he’s not without risk. His previous matchups against the Dolphins and Cardinals were cupcakes. This week, Baltimore is a 6.5-point underdog and playing in a hostile environment against one of the best teams in the AFC. Jackson’s rushing ability all but guarantees a sub-par passing day won’t single-handedly sink your lineups, but at his salary and ownership levels, it’s not a high floor we’re after. If Baltimore’s game plan is to keep Mahomes off the field, Jackson’s pass attempts might be limited by design. And if the Ravens are forced to play catch-up, it remains to be seen what Jackson looks like when faced with a negative game script. As great as he’s looked so far, don’t exceed the field’s exposure.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott (vs. MIA, $8,900, 24% owned)
The Dolphins have been outscored by a combined 92 points through two games and are staring down the blade of a buzzsaw at the Cowboys, who have yet to be held under 30 points in a game this season. Not by coincidence, Miami’s defense has faced the most rush attempts in the league by a 21% margin over the next-closest team. Elliott was back to his usual bell-cow usage last week with 25 total touches and an 83% backfield workload share against Washington. The only reason to question him in this spot is the potential for Dallas to pull their starters early in a blowout win. Even in that scenario, it’s likely Elliott will have already made a significant dent in the box score. He belongs in at least 20% of your lineups.
WR: Nelson Agholor (vs. DET, $3,600, 31% owned)
Nelson Agholor chalk week is an unexpected development, but here we are. Three of Philadelphia’s best pass-catchers -- DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert -- are likely to scratch due to injury and the memory of Agholor posting an 11-8-107-1 receiving line on Sunday Night Football is still fresh in the minds of the public. Agholor has run 86% of his routes from the slot this season, which bodes well for his outlook against Detroit. All of Larry Fitzgerald’s Week 1 production against the Lions came from the slot (11-8-113-1) and Keenan Allen generated over 60% of his 98 yards on slot routes in Week 2. The potential for 10+ targets at Agholor’s salary is difficult to pass up, especially within the context of this slate, but it’s best to come in well under the field. Is Agholor really six times more likely to appear in a first-place lineup than Devin Smith, who is projected at 6% owned in the same price range?
TE: Mark Andrews (@KC, $4,600, 15% owned)
It was fair to wonder if Andrews could keep up his Week 1 production despite being handicapped by Baltimore’s three-way tight end platoon. After he scored 28 DraftKings points for a second-straight week, we have our answer. While Andrews has seen fewer snaps than both Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst, he’s run about twice as many pass routes as each. Jackson has locked in on Andrews when he’s on the field, targeting him on 36% of his routes run and 27% of Baltimore’s overall pass attempts. Both rates lead all tight ends, as does Andrews’ 56 DraftKings points. There isn’t much about the matchup with Kansas City to worry about from a personnel standpoint, but there is the aforementioned possibility the Ravens try taking the air out of the ball to ground the Chiefs passing attack. It’s usually good game theory to fade high-owned (non-Kelce) tight ends in GPPs, and any reason to worry about a drop in opportunities for Andrews makes him a questionable play at inflated ownership. Come in underweight.
DST: New England Patriots (vs. NYJ, $3,800, 23% owned)
We probably just witnessed the most fantasy points New England (or any defense for that matter) will put up all season. They won’t have the luxury of beating up on the feckless Dolphins this week, but they might be getting the next best thing with Luke Falk and the Jets visiting Foxboro. Falk acquitted himself fairly well in emergency duty Monday night, completing 80% of his pass attempts at a 7.9 yards per attempt clip, but he’s in over his head against the Patriots, who may have the best overall defense in the league. Defensive scoring is so volatile from game to game it rarely pays to chase last week’s box score, but this matchup is Mike Tyson vs. Little Mac. Don’t come up empty on New England but stay below the crowd.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Patrick Mahomes II||QB||BAL||$7,600||10%||Will be high-owned every week until salary exceeds $8K. Still always in play.|
|Dak Prescott||QB||MIA||$6,500||11%||Worried he'll leave the heavy lifting for the DEF and Elliott.|
|Austin Ekeler||RB||HOU||$7,200||23%||It's getting close but price still hasn't risen enough.|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||OAK||$7,800||24%||Zero concerns about success of OAK rush defense in small sample.|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB||@ARI||$8,700||25%||Getting him right a key to the slate. How much does Kyle Allen ding him?|
|Emmanuel Sanders||WR||@GB||$4,800||14%||Flacco peppering him. Negative game script should help maintain volume.|
|Larry Fitzgerald||WR||CAR||$5,100||14%||DraftKings painfully slow raising his price.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||HOU||$7,000||22%||Last week's 15 targets exactly what we wanted to see w/out Henry.|
|Travis Kelce||TE||BAL||$7,100||13%||9-77-1 receiving line against BAL last year.|
|Dallas Cowboys||DST||MIA||$4,300||14%||This is unfortunate for Josh Rosen and his family.|
MID-RANGE OWNERSHIP VALUES
You won’t be sneaking these players past your opponents. But their projected ownership percentage is lower than the probability they will score more fantasy points than their salary implies. If you are multi-entering tournaments, raise your exposure higher than their ownership projection.
QB: Matt Ryan (@IND, $5,700, 4% owned)
The crowd is likely to focus more on how sloppy Ryan has been with the ball (five interceptions) than his back-to-back games with ~25 DraftKings points to open the season. His 304-2-2 passing line in Week 1 was more a result of garbage time than anything Ryan actually did well in Minnesota, but we can grant him a mulligan due to the difficult matchup. Last Sunday night against Philadelphia, Ryan (304-3-3) was far from perfect, but it was encouraging to see Atlanta maintain a 72% pass play percentage in a closely contested game. With their ground attack sputtering and pass-happy offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter back calling plays for the Falcons, the table is set for another big fantasy day from Ryan. Look for this game to go over its 47-point over/under and consider stacking Ryan across multiple lineups with different combinations of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper.
RB: David Johnson (vs. CAR, $6,800, 10% owned)
Johnson gave us a scare last week when he briefly left the game with an injury to the same wrist that torpedoed his 2017 season. But since he was able to return to the game and practice fully this week, we can safely assume disaster has been averted. With Kyle Allen set to start at quarterback for Carolina, it’s possible we’ll finally see what Arizona looks like in a positive game script. The combination of Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown (25-150-2) steamrolled the Panthers defense in Week 1. Carolina followed up by allowing known plodder, Peyton Barber (23-82-1), to have what will likely go down as his best rushing line of the season. The 25 total touches and passing game usage we saw from Johnson in Week 1 is much closer to his baseline than last week’s dud. Double the field.
WR: Kenny Golladay (@PHI, $6,600, 6% owned)
Only 2.4% of entrants in last week’s Milly Maker benefited from Golladay’s 28.7 DraftKings points. The breakout game and matchup against Philadelphia’s flammable outside cornerbacks should cause Golladay’s ownership to creep towards the double-digits by Sunday, but not high enough to keep him out of core-play consideration. Entering the season, it was unclear whether Golladay could resume the WR1 role in Detroit with Marvin Jones back to full health and the Lions offense projected to skew heavily towards the run. The results after two games, however, paint a clear picture of Golladay as the alpha in Detroit’s passing attack. His 19 targets are nearly double the 10 Jones has received thus far and Golladay has commanded an elite 36% market share of the team’s air yards. It also appears he’s been underperforming his air yards profile and is due for positive regression. Only three receivers (DeVante Parker, DeAndre Hopkins, and Mike Evans) have accumulated more air yards that didn’t turn into actual yards this season.
TE: George Kittle (vs. PIT, $5,600, 11% owned)
Kittle has badly underperformed his salary in consecutive weeks but DraftKings overcorrected by dropping him $1,200 from last week headed into a home matchup with the Steelers. The 49ers are favored by a touchdown at home and implied to score nearly 26 points -- a fertile game environment for tight end fantasy production. While it hasn’t translated to the box score yet, Kittle remains San Francisco's No. 1 receiving option. He leads the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards, offensive snaps, routes run, and air yards through two games. The sweetener is Pittsburgh’s pass defense. In his Top 10 column, our Matt Waldman noted how Russell Wilson and Will Dissly made Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush look silly in coverage on Dissly’s two touchdown receptions in Week 2. If Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo were taking notes, we should start gearing up for Kittle’s 2019 coming out party. Make him one of your highest exposures, even if his ownership projection climbs as we get closer to Sunday.
DST: Green Bay Packers (vs. DEN, $3,400, 5% owned)
Green Bay sacked Mitchell Trubisky five times in Week 1 and followed it up by forcing four turnovers against the Vikings in their home opener. The offseason additions of safety Adrian Amos, outside linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, and safety Darnell Savage have completely reshaped a previously suspect defense. Even if you’re not buying the early returns, it doesn’t matter because Joe Flacco is coming to Lambeau Field. Flacco has looked worse than mediocre this season and seems incapable of leading the Broncos offense to more than 20 points in a game. Denver’s entire team has to be deflated after last week’s last-second loss to the Bears and may not show up ready to compete in this one.
MORE MID-RANGE OWNERSHIP VALUES
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Josh Allen||QB||CIN||$5,900||7%||TDs passing and rushing in both games. Accuracy, decision making improving.|
|LeVeon Bell||RB||@NE||$7,000||6%||Not much upside but 30+ touches are 30+ touches.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||@TB||$9,100||11%||Pay up to be contrarian for best RB in NFL. Danny Dimes can't be worse than Eli?|
|Davante Adams||WR||DEN||$7,600||9%||Back on track last week, strong play any time GB is at home.|
|Sammy Watkins||WR||BAL||$6,800||14%||Still had 12 targets in down game. BAL secondary ill-equipped to defend him.|
|Mike Evans||WR||NYG||$6,600||7%||If not this week, then when? Air yards profile signaling + regression.|
|Zach Ertz||TE||DET||$5,700||16%||Last season's target volume is back with injuries to Goedert, D-Jax, Jeffery.|
|San Francisco 49ers||DST||PIT||$3,200||5%||Rudolph not afraid to let 'er rip. Will lead to interceptions for inexperienced QB.|
Hitting on one-or-more of these players will gain you massive leverage on the field. Due to their low ownership, the better they perform, the faster your roster separates in the standings. Keep in mind, using a 5%-owned player in only 2-out-of-10 lineups gains you four times more exposure than the field when you multi-enter a tournament. Be careful not to over-invest in these players, but you’ll need at least two from this ownership tier in your lineup for a shot at first place in most large-field GPPs.
QB: Deshaun Watson (@LAC, $6,400, 5% owned)
Houston at LA has the second-highest over/under on the slate (48.5 points), yet it seems to be flying below the radar as a potential shootout. The Chargers pass defense has struggled in the absence of safety Derwin James, allowing multiple touchdowns through the air in each of their first two games. LA is dangerously thin in the secondary outside of cornerback Casey Hayward (who was uncharacteristically burned by Golladay last week) and the Texans downfield weapons -- DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee -- are more than capable of pressing the advantage. Watson’s ownership may climb as we get closer to kickoff, but there should be enough recency bias left over from last week’s stinker against Jacksonville to give Texans stacks (or Houston at LA game stacks) some leverage.
RB: Ty Johnson (@PHI, $3,000, 2% owned)
Johnson is an admittedly thin play, but there are worse ideas than sprinkling him into one or two of your lineups. The Lions unexpectedly waived C.J. Anderson this week, vacating about 25% of the team’s total backfield touches in the process. Assuming Matt Patricia and co. have no plans on giving newly signed Paul Perkins significant snaps, Johnson should find himself on the short side of a 60/40 split with Kerryon Johnson this week, which equates to about 10 total touches. Johnson has the size-adjusted speed and burst to turn any one of those opportunities into a long gain. At site-minimum salary, one big play is all it takes for Johnson to reach value while allowing you to fit more studs into your lineup.
WR: Will Fuller (@LAC, $4,900, 4% owned)
Fuller has predictably gotten off to a slow start as he works his way back from a torn ACL but better times are ahead. Like Golladay, Fuller is among the league leaders in air yards that have not resulted in actual yards. Eventually, he’ll begin connecting with Watson on deep attempts and this week’s matchup could be the catalyst. While Hopkins fights off shadow coverage from Hayward, Fuller will run the majority of his routes into second-year undrafted free agent Brandon Facyson’s coverage. Per Pro Football Focus, Facyson has allowed the seventh-most yards per-route-covered among main-slate cornerbacks this season.
TE: Jimmy Graham (vs. DEN, $4,000, 2% owned)
Graham followed up a 5-3-30-1 receiving line in Week 1 with a donut last week against Minnesota, making it unlikely the crowd will want anything to do with him. The former fantasy stud has reached the twilight of his career but could still prove useful at home against the Broncos. Denver was one of eight teams to allow over 1,000 cumulative receiving yards to enemy tight ends in 2018 and the trend has continued through two games this year. Darren Waller and Foster Morreau combined for a 10-9-90-0 receiving line against the Broncos in Week 1 and Chicago’s tight ends totaled 53 yards on nine targets against them last week. We can probably bump Graham’s yardage projection up a bit in this matchup, and with Green Bay playing at home as 7.5-point favorites, he’s well-positioned to score his second touchdown of the season.
DST: Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BAL, $2,500, 2% owned)
The Chiefs offense frequently boosts their defense by forcing opponents into negative game scripts. If you’re questioning Jackson’s ability to hang with Kansas City at Arrowhead, rostering the Chiefs is a way to double down on your take and gain maximum leverage on the field.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||PIT||$6,200||2%||Steelers secondary is a mess, Garoppolo settled in last week.|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||@SEA||$8,000||4%||Too talented for sub-5% ownership. Saints will still scheme him ball in space.|
|JJ Arcega-Whitside||WR||DET||$3,500||10%||looked lost in emergency duty last week but talent is there. Pivot off Agholor.|
|Mecole Hardman||WR||BAL||$5,000||5%||Big Week 2 should have been even bigger. Speed kills.|
|Preston Williams||WR||DAL||$3,700||2%||Rosen's favorite target in the preseason. Role was increasing before QB change.|
|Austin Hooper||TE||@IND||$3,600||3%||Colts LB Leonard in concussion protocol. Quiet 17% target share.|
|Buffalo Bills||DST||CIN||$3,400||6%||Mismatch for patchwork CIN offensive line.|