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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:
Ownership will concentrate on a handful of games this week, but none more so than Rams at Falcons and its slate-high 54-point over/under. Matt Ryan ($6,300) and Austin Hooper ($5,300) have barely budged in price despite their elite season-to-date production. Both are clear chalk. Julio Jones ($8,000), Calvin Ridley ($5,300), and Devonta Freeman ($5,400) will also draw moderate-to-high ownership on Atlanta’s side.
The Rams offense went bust-o in a tough matchup against San Francisco last week, but the crowd should forgive them in this spot. Cooper Kupp ($7,400) will be a popular correlation play in Ryan-Hooper stacks, while Robert Woods ($5,900) and Brandin Cooks ($5,400) are priced fairly enough to command attention as well. The only leverage play on Atlanta’s side is probably to fade their offense entirely (not advisable), while Gerald Everett ($3,700) is a less obvious way to invest in the Rams.
Three other potentially close games opened on the 50-point over/under borderline -- Cardinals at Giants (49), Colts at Texans (48), and Ravens at Seahawks (50.5). Game stacks should inflate the ownership of the key contributors on all of these teams, except for possibly New York where Daniel Jones ($6,100) and the returning Saquon Barkley ($8,900) are relatively expensive. Outside of bargain-priced T.Y. Hilton ($5,900), Indianapolis players shouldn’t attract much attention either.
It’s a safe assumption at least 50% of the crowd will choose a quarterback from one of the aforementioned games. Without Patrick Mahomes II on the slate (get well soon), Deshaun Waston ($7,000) is the QB1, but the salaries of the top plays at the position are clustered tightly together. Only $700 separates Watson from the QB7 (Ryan). Whether your opponents choose Watson, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, or Ryan, they will be spending a fair amount at quarterback. Punting the position with a sub-$6K option is one easy path to creating a unique build this week.
Spending in common roster builds should be heavy at RB1 and RB2. Leonard Fournette ($7,000) profiles as super-chalky in a dream spot vs. Cincinnati’s swiss cheese run defense, Dalvin Cook ($8,000) gets a soft matchup against the Lions, David Johnson ($7,800) has scored less than 18 DraftKings points in a game just once all year, and Chris Carson ($6,500) has officially graduated to bell-cow status after handling 80% of Seattle’s backfield touches over the last four weeks. Fewer will spend all the way up to Barkley in his return from a two-game absence, but even priced a full 10% above the RB2 (Cook), he still gives the field another expensive running back to consider.
Spending at quarterback and running back should suppress ownership of the premium wide receivers a bit, especially since Jones and DeAndre Hopkins ($7,400) haven’t performed up to expectations recently and Michael Thomas ($7,900) has a tough draw on the road against the Bears’ secondary. Kupp looks like the highest crowd-exposure among the wide receivers over $7K. Most of the ownership at the position should settle in the $5K-$6K range, where Hilton, Kenny Golladay ($5,800), Tyler Boyd ($5,600), Allen Robinson ($5,500), John Brown ($5,500), Cooks, and Ridley are all priced to move. Lineups built around a core of two wide receivers who cost $7K or more will stand out this week.
Assuming stock builds include a mid-priced wide receiver or a value running back like Josh Jacobs ($5,000) or Kerryon Johnson ($5,100) in the flex spot, there is enough room left over for Austin Hooper ($5,300) or Mark Andrews ($4,900) at tight end. Many will also be tempted to chase Hunter Henry’s ($4,000) 33-point game from last Sunday Night, leaving more room to spend at running back, wide receiver, or defense.
The Bills ($4,300) are the reason to splurge at DST. They’re 17-point home favorites against the hapless Dolphins and had an extra week to prepare for the game. At the other extreme, DraftKings has once again lowered the salary floor at defense, which led to the Jets appearing on 18% of rosters in last week’s Milly Maker. This week’s punt candidates are the Colts ($2,000), Redskins ($1,700), and Dolphins ($1,500), with Indianapolis the likely front runner.
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 take a hard stance on.
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: Matt Ryan (vs. LAR, $6,300, 17% owned)
In a head-scratching move, DraftKings reduced Ryan’s salary by $100 following his sixth-consecutive 300-yard passing performance to open the season. The key to his eye-popping fantasy numbers has been Atlanta’s horrid defense, which went from bad to worse when safety Keanu Neal was lost for the season in Week 3. LA should have none of the problems moving the ball on offense they had against San Francisco last week, which means Ryan should once again be forced to put the pedal to the floor for all four quarters. Weighing the combination of Ryan’s season-to-date success and this week’s high-scoring game environment against his projected ownership is the conundrum, of course. He appeared on more than 19% of rosters in last week’s Milly Maker, which is a big number for a quarterback. While he shouldn’t go quite as high this week with more top-shelf signal-callers to choose from, he’ll be popular enough that you’ll need to be creative (and a little lucky) to build a first-place lineup around him. Make Ryan one of the six-to-eight quarterbacks in your player pool this week, but don’t let your exposure exceed his ownership projection.
RB: Leonard Fournette (@CIN, $7,000, 32% owned)
Fournette has been underappreciated by the crowd every week thus far but that’s about to change due to his matchup at Cincinnati. The Bengals have allowed 53% more PPR fantasy points to opposing running backs than league average over the last five weeks, and as Mark Ingram’s stupifying 30% ownership rate in last week’s Milly Maker proves, our opponents are well aware of their struggles stopping the run. Fournette has accounted for a staggering 96% of Jacksonville’s total backfield touches this season, which eclipses even Christian McCaffrey’s 93% rate. The only thing missing from his stat lines has been touchdowns but as long as he continues to average 23.5 touches per game, they’ll come soon enough. Cincinatti allows 3.5 red zone scoring attempts per game, which ranks inside the top-12, so this could be the week regression towards the mean kicks in. Lock and load Fournette in cash games, but his ownership is prohibitive in tournaments. Max out your exposure around 20-25%.
WR: T.Y. Hilton (vs. HOU, $5,900, 19% owned)
Hilton is available for $900 less than his season-high salary and there are more reasons to like him this week than just his curiously low price:
The Texans pass defense has allowed the sixth-most PPR fantasy points per game to enemy wide receivers this season and they’ve gotten burned mostly on the perimeter, where Hilton has lined up on 70% of his routes this year. Even if cornerback Johnathan Joseph is back from a strained hamstring, it won’t make much difference. Per Pro Football Focus, Joseph ranks inside the bottom-10 relevant cornerbacks in yards allowed per route covered.
Hilton is more than just a downfield threat this year. Despite missing Week 4 with a quad injury, his four red-zone receiving touchdowns are tied for the league-lead and his 27% share of Indianapolis’ red zone targets more than doubles the next-closest Colts player.
If you like chasing narratives, some of the best games of Hilton’s career have come against Houston. He’s gone over 100 yards in each of his last three meetings with the Texans, posting per-game averages of nine targets, six receptions, 163 yards, and 0.66 touchdowns in those contests.
Hilton’s Week 5 return from the quad injury was disappointing (4-4-37-0) but head coach Frank Reich clearly came into that game with a plan to keep Kansas City’s offense off the field and executed it to perfection, which limited production in the Colts passing game. With the bye week to fully recover, Hilton should also be closer to 100% health.
The case for Hilton is strong enough that it’s fair to wonder if his ownership creeps closer to 25% by Sunday, at which point we need to question his upside with Jacoby Brissett as his quarterback. His early-week 19% projection is a reasonable exposure but you should consider a fade if Hilton continues picking up steam.
TE: Austin Hooper (vs. LAR, $5,300, 21% owned)
Hooper’s salary is up to a season-high $5,300, which is not nearly high enough to keep the crowd off him. Even at his current cost, Hooper would have delivered salary multiples of 5.4x, 4.7x, and 4.6x in three out of his last four games. He enters Week 7 still underpriced, tied to this week’s quarterback chalk in the projected highest-scoring game on the slate, and facing a defense that has struggled to defend tight ends. The Rams linebackers are a weakness most recently exposed by a supposedly-hobbled George Kittle (8-8-103-0), a plodding Will Dissly (4-4-81-0), and the combination of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate (6-6-69-1). The game scripts and offensive line issues that have boosted Hooper’s target volume all season will once again be in play this week. This is not how the sharpest DFS minds usually play the chalk at tight end (an extremely volatile position) but sometimes the point-per-dollar value is too good to pass up. Coming in over the field on Hooper could very well pay off again.
DST: Buffalo Bills (vs. MIA, $4,300, 16% owned)
To say Miami is the best matchup in the league for opposing defenses would be an understatement. The Dolphins have allowed at least three sacks in every game this season (including five in each of their last two) and turned the ball over multiple times in three out of five. Their abysmal offensive line is a mismatch for Buffalo’s top-10 defensive front and there isn’t a Miami receiver capable of getting open consistently against the Bills’ secondary. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s return as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback barely moves the needle. Pay up for Buffalo in at least 10% of your lineups.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||@SEA||$6,800||11%||40-point ceiling demands every-week exposure until he's $8K.|
|Russell Wilson||QB||BAL||$6,600||10%||Needs L-Jax to bring his A-game or attempts could be limited.|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||@DET||$8,000||22%||Ceiling game back in play after tough matchups in 2 of last 3.|
|Chris Carson||RB||BAL||$6,500||25%||Easier to beat BAL via the pass but Carson is cheap for a true bell-cow.|
|David Johnson||RB||@NYG||$7,800||19%||Price getting up there but game environment boosts him.|
|Cooper Kupp||WR||@ATL||$7,400||22%||Good play but prefer Cooks and Woods at less $ and ownership.|
|Julio Jones||WR||LAR||$8,000||20%||Trademark massive volume hasn't been there. Still need some exposure.|
|Tyler Lockett||WR||BAL||$6,600||18%||Shadow coverage from CB Humphrey. Metcalf is the leverage play.|
|Allen Lazard||WR||OAK||$3,000||18%||Late add after all 3 GB starting WRs missed practice all week. Short the field.|
|Evan Engram||TE||ARI||$6,500||18%||Premium for ARI matchup too high. Fade.|
|Mark Andrews||TE||@SEA||$4,900||20%||Only show in town if Hollywood scratches again.|
|Indianapolis Colts||DST||HOU||$2,000||9%||High floor at $2K. Watson takes lots of sacks.|
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: Kyler Murray (@NYG, $6,700, 8% owned)
Murray is fringe-chalk but with more entrants focused on Ryan, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and maybe even Jared Goff, his ownership won’t be a deterrent. The only quarterbacks who failed to exploit the Giants defense this season were the combination of Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins in Week 4. Murray has landed on the wrong side of touchdown variance more often than not as a rookie but he threw for multiple scores last week and the positive regression should continue against a Giants defense allowing nearly 27 points per game. Arizona’s entire offense benefits from playing at the league’s fastest situation-neutral pace and the Giants, like the Falcons last week, also rank inside the top-12 fastest teams in situation-neutral seconds per play. Players from both teams will have more attempts to score fantasy points as a result, none more so than Murray, who is as dangerous running the ball as he is throwing it. Over the last four weeks, Murray’s 221 rushing yards trail only Lamar Jackson among quarterbacks and he should get one of his favorite targets, Christian Kirk, back for this game.
RB: Saquon Barkley (vs. ARI, $8,900, 18% owned)
“Barkley is too expensive and his reinjury risk is too scary. There’s no way he’s 100% if he beat his injury timetable by a month!” That quote was taken from the inner monologue of the crowd as they consider what to do with Barkley this week. When the field is nervous, it’s time to get greedy in GPPs, which is why a 30% play on Barkley is the right idea. If his sprained ankle were a hindrance, Barkley wouldn’t have been practicing in full since Wednesday. Assuming the Giants aren’t crazy enough to risk a more significant injury to their franchise player, let’s zoom out and re-evaluate the situation:
Barkley is the most physically gifted running back in the league
He’s on the field for all three downs and at the goal-line
New York is a home favorite -- typically a strong spot for running backs
The implied total in Cardinals at Giants is up to 50.5 points
The game will be played at a fast pace, leading to increased fantasy scoring opportunities (see Kyler Murray blurb above)
Arizona ranks 28th in the league with 3.2 touchdowns allowed per game, but only 9% of those scores have come on the ground. These things have a way of evening out, especially when the opponent is a running back of Barkley’s caliber.
WR: DeAndre Hopkins (@IND, $7,800, 12% owned)
Hopkins disappointed for a fifth-straight game in last week’s cupcake matchup against Kansas City. The 28% of Milly Maker entrants who spent $7,400 on his feeble Week 6 stat line will be looking in a different direction this week, especially since Hopkins’ salary increased by $400. There really is no such thing as “he’s due” in fantasy football, but Hopkins’ peripherals are mostly in order. He ranks sixth in the league in targets, third in team target market share, and 10th in air yards. A big part of the problem stems from Deshaun Watson spreading the ball around in the red zone. After averaging 1.4 red zone targets per game in 2018, Hopkins currently sits at 0.8 -- a 43% decrease. Maybe guys like Darren Fells continue to poach his scoring opportunities, but it’s more likely we’re just looking at a small sample. Indianapolis has been bullied by elite WR1s this season, as Keenan Allen (10-8-123-1) and Julio Jones (9-8-121-1) can attest. As long as Hopkins sees his usual volume, this is a get-right spot at home against a familiar division opponent. Clicking his name also comes with the benefit of forcing a unique lineup construction.
TE: Hunter Henry (@TEN, $4,000, 9% owned)
Henry’s early-week ownership projection feels a tad light given his price, which wasn’t adjusted following his triumphant 33-point return from a multi-week knee injury on Sunday Night Football. Chasing Henry’s nationally televised performance along with a significant portion of the crowd might feel like a donkey play but ~20% exposure is warranted for a few reasons:
The Chargers’ offensive line is in shambles, while the Titans’ defensive line rank sixth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate metric. Philip Rivers will be forced to get the ball out quickly, which favors short passes towards the middle of the field. Henry lined up in the slot on 50% of his snaps last week, which is consistent with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s historical tight end usage.
The Titans’ defense allowed a touchdown to an enemy tight end in each of their first three games. Austin Hooper lit them up in Week 4 (11-9-130-0) and they haven’t played a team that features a tight end in the passing game since (though Dawson Knox commanded a career-high five targets and Lee Smith scored a touchdown against them in Week 5).
DST: Chicago Bears (vs. NO, $3,000, 8% owned)
The Bears are well-rested, playing at home, and have been preparing to face Teddy Bridgewater since returning from their ill-fated Week 5 trip to London. This game has all the makings of a snoozefest à la the Saints 12-10 win in Week 4 over Dallas or their 13-6 victory in Jacksonville last week. Bridgewater was sacked a combined eight times in those two defensive slugfests and Chicago’s pass-rush is superior to both the Cowboys’ and Jaguars’. The Bears have both a high floor and ceiling in this matchup and their salary isn’t prohibitive.
MORE MID-RANGE OWNERSHIP VALUES
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Daniel Jones||QB||ARI||$6,100||7%||Matchups have been tough, weapons hurt. That changes this week.|
|Joe Mixon||RB||JAX||$5,000||11%||Sucking wind but too cheap for 76% share of RB touches over last 4 weeks.|
|Derrick Henry||RB||LAC||$5,800||11%||TEN could look to take pressure off Tannehill by pounding it w/ Henry.|
|Kenny Golladay||WR||MIN||$5,800||11%||One of the better point per dollar values on the slate.|
|D.J. Chark||WR||@CIN||$6,000||11%||Last week's donkey chalk now leverage on Fournette.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||@TEN||$6,700||9%||Size a mismatch for smallish TEN CBs.|
|Darren Waller||TE||@GB||$4,700||18%||No Tyrell again = added targets. Shaded by Andrews at $4,900.|
|New Orleans Saints||DST||@CHI||$3,200||4%||Facing Trubisky with a torn shoulder in slugfest game script.|
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: Ryan Tannehill (vs. LAC, $4,800, 1% owned)
Tannehill stinks. There is no debating it. But he’s also cheap on a slate where 80% of the field is likely to spend over $6K on a quarterback. You’ll need to tell yourself quite a tall tale to feel comfortable looking at Tannehill on your My Lineups page. Here goes nothing:
Tannehill averaged over 7.0 adjusted yards per pass attempt in each of his last three seasons as a starter. He’s no great shakes, but he’s not exactly Blake Bortles either.
Throughout his career, Tannehill has done enough to support fantasy-relevant wide receivers like Mike Wallace and Jarvis Landry. His supporting cast in Tennessee -- Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry, and Delanie Walker -- is arguably the most talented he’s ever had to work with.
Sneaky rushing upside raises Tannehill’s floor and ceiling in any given week. Since entering the league in 2013, he’s one of 13 quarterbacks to accumulate over 1,000 total rushing yards. He would rank higher on the list had he not missed the entire 2017 season recovering from a torn ACL.
The Chargers allowed 16.5 DraftKings points to Jacoby Brissett in Week 1, 17.1 to Matthew Stafford in Week 2, and 29.8 to Deshaun Watson in Week 3. Since then they’ve “shut down” Josh Rosen, Joe Flacco, and Devlin Hodges. Tannehill’s baseline is closer to those first three quarterbacks than the last three.
RB: Marlon Mack (@HOU, $6,000, 9% owned)
Calling Mack a contrarian play is probably stretching the definition of the term. More specifically, he is a leverage play on T.Y. Hilton. Is Hilton really twice as likely as Mack to go off against the Texans, as their respective ownership projections imply? Entrants will shy away from Mack on DraftKings due to his limited involvement in the passing game, but there shouldn’t be any workload concerns here. Mack’s 20.2 carries per game trail only Christian McCaffrey (21.2) for the league-lead and his 94 rushing yards per game rank fifth in the NFL. Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich took a run-heavy approach in last year’s playoff meeting with the Texans and Mack responded with a 24-148-1 rushing line. While Hilton has a clear advantage on Houston’s cornerbacks, if Reich is game-planning to limit Deshaun Watson’s time on the field, Mack could once again be the main beneficiary. If his production comes at Hilton’s expense, you'll lap a large chunk of your opponents.
WR: DK Metcalf (vs. BAL, $4,800, 8% owned)
Tyler Lockett has to deal with shadow coverage from Marlon Humphrey, who was responsible for shutting down Tyler Boyd in Week 6. While Baltimore received help in the secondary thanks to a mid-week trade for former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, Metcalf still has the far better one-on-one matchup. Will Dissly’s unfortunate Achilles injury might not seem like a big deal, but he vacates six targets per game over the last four weeks, along with 19% of Seattle’s red-zone targets on the season. The 6’3’’, 230-pound Metcalf is the most logical candidate to inherit Dissly’s scoring opportunities and we’ve already witnessed the rookie’s big-play upside. There has only been one game this season in which Metcalf has failed to catch a pass of 28+ yards. Dissly’s absence combined with the soft matchup could be the catalysts Metcalf needs to blow past his salary-implied scoring expectation.
TE: Dawson Knox (vs. MIA, $3,300, 2% owned)
Knox’s snap-share and role in Buffalo’s passing game have been on the rise over the last three games. He stumbled against the Titans in Week 5 but set season-highs in snap-share (72%) and targets (five). The Bills should have no issues moving the ball whichever way they’d like against Miami’s defense. As long as Knox can maintain the playing time he’s earned over the last three games, opportunities will be there to exploit some of the worst coverage linebackers in the league. Mark Andrews destroyed the Dolphins in Week 1 (8-8-108-1) and the only relevant pass-catching tight end they've faced since was Jason Witten (4-3-54-0). Knox is a superior athlete to Andrews by most workout metrics. While he doesn’t have the same eight-target upside, he won’t need it to deliver GPP value in this spot.
EDIT: It looks like Tyler Kroft is ready for his first game action of the season, which puts a potential damper on Knox's snap and target projections. Knox has enough big-play potential to pay off this price regardless, but it's tough to get excited about playing him in a 50/50 timeshare.
DST: LA Chargers (@TEN, $3,100, 3% owned)
It may seem counterintuitive to recommend both Tannehill and the Chargers as viable contrarian plays. By no means should you use them together in the same lineup, but there are clear paths to each hitting value. Titans quarterbacks have been sacked on a league-high 14.2% of their offensive plays this season. Last week, Tannehill was on the field for only 30 snaps and still got sacked four times. The Chargers have a high floor in this matchup, and while there may be reasons to like Tannehill’s chances as a home favorite against a banged-up defense, their fantasy outlooks are not mutually exclusive.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||@WAS||$6,000||2%||Crowd assumes this is a blowout. What if SF gets there w/ pass TDs?|
|Matt Breida||RB||@WAS||$5,300||3%||More will be on Coleman due to snap share and RZ role. Breida has the ceiling.|
|Darrell Henderson||RB||@ATL||$3,500||1%||Chalk if both Gurley and Brown scratch. Interesting if only one misses.|
|Will Fuller||WR||@IND||$6,200||3%||Ownership overcorrection. Opportunities were there for monster game last week.|
|Duke Williams||WR||MIA||$4,100||1%||Zay Jones gone, John Brown dinged. Williams looks like RZ threat.|
|Darius Slayton||WR||ARI||$4,100||2%||9th in air yards over last 2 weeks. Engram and Barkley's returns help him get open.|
|Gerald Everett||TE||@ATL||$3,700||4%||Entire offense had no chance last week. Leverage on popular LAR WRs.|
|Seattle Seahawks||DST||BAL||$2,800||2%||L-Jax can be erratic. SEA def is fugazi but opportunistic.|