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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:
There are three marquee games on this week’s slate our opponents will attack with games stacks -- Saints at Buccaneers (over/under 50.5), Falcons at Panthers (o/u 50.5), and Texans at Ravens (o/u 50). Expect the key members of each team’s passing game to command heavy ownership, along with the running backs in Atlanta and Carolina. Paths to contrarian exposure to these games include New Orleans’ secondary wide receivers, O.J. Howard, Ronald Jones II, and the short-area pass-catchers who will receive a bump in targets due to Austin Hooper’s injury (namely slot receiver Russell Gage and backup tight end Jaeden Graham).
Lamar Jackson ($7,700), Drew Brees ($6,900), Dak Prescott ($6,700), and to a lesser extent, Deshaun Watson ($6,800) and Jameis Winston ($6,500), will ensure the majority of the crowd spends up at quarterback. But unlike in recent weeks, there will be popular punt options as well. The low salaries of Kyle Allen’s ($5,300) pass-catchers should boost his ownership, while some might even be tempted to go all the way down to Jeff Driskel ($4,600) at home against the Cowboys. Those who punt the position will most likely do so to fit two running backs priced at $8.9K or more, or one luxury running back along with Michael Thomas ($9,900).
Running back is top-heavy with McCaffrey ($10,500), Ezekiel Elliott ($9,000), and Dalvin Cook ($8,900) all in great spots. But the moderately-priced Josh Jacobs ($6,900) appears to be this week’s chalk, at home vs. Cincinnati's forgiving rush defense. Further down the salary list, Brian Hill ($4,600) will cause an ownership pile-up as he presumably steps into a three-down-plus-goal-line role for Atlanta. Assuming an expensive quarterback is the standard, pairing Jacobs and Hill allows the choice of paying up to McCaffrey at flex or Thomas at WR1.
Wide receivers like Amari Cooper ($7,700), Julio Jones ($7,500), Mike Evans ($7,400), and Chris Godwin ($7,300) will appear in plenty of lineups, but there is no room to fit them next to Thomas in the common roster construction. D.J. Moore’s price ($5,900) has yet to catch up to his back-to-back 100+ yard games, making him a glaring point-per-dollar value. Deebo Samuel’s salary ($4,000) wasn’t adjusted after his 11-8-112-0 breakout game on Monday night and it appears Emmanuel Sanders will scratch along with George Kittle. The easiest path to a contrarian lineup might be as simple as avoiding the wide receiver core of Thomas, Moore, and Samuel.
Kittle and Austin Hooper are out with injuries, while Hunter Henry and Travis Kelce face off on Monday Night Football. It leaves Mark Andrews ($6,100) and Darren Waller ($5,500) as the clear spend-up options and each fits under the cap easily enough assuming Hill, Moore, and Samuel are in the same lineup. Dropping down to Greg Olsen ($3,900) will be a popular way to leave more salary for the flex position and defense/special teams.
There is value on the slate but making it work with McCaffrey and Thomas’ exorbitant salaries requires paying down at defense. The Cardinals ($1,500) will garner more ownership in a road matchup with San Francisco than they have any right to. On the higher side, Minnesota ($3,400) looks like a relative bargain as double-digit home favorites against Brandon Allen and the visiting Broncos. Otherwise, ownership shouldn’t be a concern in your choice of DSTs.
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 strong overweight 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: Drew Brees (@TB, $6,900, 10% owned)
Brees was the mega-chalk in last week’s Milly Maker (17.5% owned) and promptly face-planted at home against the previously-awful Falcons defense. The poor performance (11.48 DraftKings points) should ensure he doesn’t reach quite the same level of popularity as Week 10, but Tampa Bay is too good a passing matchup for the crowd to pass up. According to Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule, the Buccanneers have allowed a league-leading 37% more fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks over the last five games than an average defense would have against the same quarterbacks. The only reason to be leery of Brees in this spot is his recent history of sub-par performances on the road in Tampa Bay, but circumstances have changed. Football Outsiders ranks the Bucs first overall in rush defense efficiency but 27th against the pass. Sean Payton is too smart a head coach to forego a pass-heavy game plan in this matchup, and Brees is still too good a quarterback to fail in executing said plan. Dust off your busted Brees-Kamara-Thomas stacks from last week.
RB: Brian Hill (@ CAR, $4,800, 30% owned)
Hill is essentially Jaylen Samuels from Week 9, but scarier to fade. Whereas Samuels bailed out 50% of the field that week by catching an unprojectable 13 passes, Hill has way more outs to make his way into a first-place lineup:
He’s not a tweener like Samuels. Hill was a bell-cow at Wyoming, accounting for over 34% of the team’s total yards and touchdowns during his college career.
He isn’t likely to come off the field unless he needs a breather. Hill has a three-down skill set and the sub-200 lbs. Kenjon Barner isn’t going to challenge him at the goal-line.
The matchup is impeccable. Carolina has allowed the more normalized fantasy points to running backs than any other team over the last five weeks.
The game environment is far more conducive to high fantasy scoring than Indianapolis at Pittsburgh ever was.
Matching the field on Hill isn’t likely to help you, so your choices are either full fade or push all-in. It’s a tough choice, but assuming Hill’s projected ownership is pushing 40% by the weekend, the best play in tournaments is a fade. The Falcons enter this game ranked 29th in rushing with 76.8 yards per game. And while Barner isn’t a real threat to his workload, he could see enough work to cap Hill’s ceiling as a pass-catcher. Target Atlanta’s passing game instead, which should have a more consolidated target distribution in the wake of Hooper’s knee injury.
WR: D.J. Moore (@ATL, $5,900, 21% owned)
Moore is developing into one of the best young wide receivers in the league, but DraftKings has been slow to come around on his price. His 27% target market share ranks 10th in the NFL over the last four weeks and he’s reached the 100-yard bonus in back-to-back games. Even if Atlanta cornerback Desmond Trufant is active for the first time since Week 5, Moore will still get plenty of opportunities to line up across from Isaiah Oliver. Per Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks have a 121.3 pass-rating when throwing into Oliver’s coverage this season, which ranks ninth-highest in the league (minimum 200 coverage snaps). Talent, opportunity, and efficiency are perfectly aligned for Moore in this matchup. He’s priced too well to fade.
TE: Darren Waller (vs. CIN, $5,500, 25% owned)
Waller has seen just seven total targets over his last two games after failing to reach seven targets in a game just once in Weeks 1-8. On the bright side, he’s made the most of the targets he has received, recording three catches of 20+ yards over the last two weeks. It signals Waller is still one of the better play-making tight ends in the league, but defenses are better prepared to defend him than they were earlier in the year. Fortunately for Waller, playing defense is not the Bengals’ strong suit, as evidenced by Baltimore’s tight ends combining for a 14-12-151-2 receiving line against them last week. Less fortunately, Waller’s ownership will be inflated due to the lack of quality tight end options on the slate. The Raiders offensive pie -- even facing Cincinnati -- isn’t large enough to support two players in the 25% ownership range and Josh Jacobs projects to be the much stronger play. Fade Waller relative to the field.
DST: Arizona Cardinals (@SF, $1,500, 11% owned)
DraftKings’ recent trend of pricing the least desirable defenses below $2K continues this week, but despite the betting line (49ers -10.5), it’s fair to wonder if the Cardinals aren’t severely underpriced. Seattle’s previously-struggling pass rush tallied five sacks against San Francisco last week and no one has accused Jimmy Garoppolo (eight interceptions) of being careful with the football. Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones (league-leading 11.5 sacks) is single-handedly capable of making it a rough day for Garoppolo, and cornerback Patrick Peterson’s return improves the Cardinals’ defense in aggregate. It’s possible Arizona gets steamrolled on the road but at such a low price, they at least shouldn’t sink your lineup outright. The upside is there for double-digit DraftKings points if one of their defensive stars can make an impact play.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||HOU||$7,700||10%||Price getting up there but not high enough to avoid him as core QB.|
|Kyle Allen||QB||ATL||$5,300||13%||Tournament results could be decided by his success or failure. Fade candidate.|
|Josh Jacobs||RB||CIN||$6,900||27%||Worth the exposure. Five targets last week suggests true bell-cow usage coming.|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB||ATL||$10,500||29%||More value out there to fit him this week. Great spot at home vs. ATL.|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||DEN||$8,900||23%||Game script in his favor but prefer other high-priced RBs.|
|Deebo Samuel||WR||ARI||$4,000||15%||Can't argue with price/matchup/talent if both Sanders and Kittle miss.|
|Michael Thomas||WR||TB||$9,900||17%||Priced way up for the matchup, but should still be a top exposure.|
|Julio Jones||WR||@CAR||$7,500||22%||Tough matchup with Bradberry coming back but provides leverage on Hill.|
|Greg Olsen||TE||ATL||$3,900||15%||At least one chalky Panther has to fail. Betting it's low-ceiling Olsen.|
|Minnesota Vikings||DST||DEN||$3,400||11%||Pass defense has been suspect but shouldn't matter much vs. B. Allen.|
MID-RANGE OWNERSHIP VALUE
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: Jameis Winston (vs. NO, $6,500, 5% owned)
Tampa Bay’s pass defense struggles to get stops, Winston throws the ball 45+ times and hits the 300-yard bonus on DraftKings. Rinse, repeat. A road matchup in New Orleans is a tough one, but why should this game go much differently than the other three since the Buccaneers’ bye? Winston will have to throw plenty in this game, whether to keep up with New Orleans on the scoreboard or just to move the ball in general. The Saints have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards this year and a Tampa Bay running back hasn’t cleared 80 yards on the ground since Week 3. The matchup is ready-made for 300+ yards and multiple touchdowns for Winston, especially with New Orleans star cornerback Marshon Lattimore (hamstring) out or playing at less than 100%.
RB: Alvin Kamara (@TB, $7,400, 23% owned)
With McCaffrey, Elliott, and Cook above him in price and Jacobs below him, it’s fair to expect Kamara’s final ownership to settle closer to the 15% range, which would be moderate enough to double the field’s exposure. Any concerns about lingering effects from Kamara’s recent injuries were laid to rest last week after he returned to play on 78% of the Saints’ backfield snaps. Tampa Bay presents a difficult challenge for running backs, but Kamara’s usage in the passing game gives him a path to transcend the tough matchup. Of the 13 running backs averaging at least 18 touches per game, only Leonard Fournette has fewer touchdowns than Kamara’s two. A multi-touchdown game is coming from Kamara sooner than later and you’ll want to be overweight on the field when it does.
WR: Chris Godwin (vs. NO, $7,300, 9% owned)
The beautiful part about banking on Winston to exceed 300 passing yards for the seventh time in his last eight games is knowing at least 50% of his throws will be aimed at Godwin and Mike Evans. When the Bucs played the Saints in Week 5, Godwin (primarily a slot receiver) avoided coverage from talented perimeter corners Lattimore and Eli Apple. The result was a zero catch game for Evans (shadowed by Lattimore), while Godwin rolled to a 9-7-125-2 receiving line. Division matchups rarely play out the same way the second time around, but Godwin still has a matchup advantage operating from the slot. With Lattimore ailing, the Saints will have to give Apple and P.J. Williams more help to cover Evans. The added stress on New Orleans’ defensive backfield should allow Godwin more room to operate.
TE: Mark Andrews (vs. HOU, $6,100, 7% owned)
Andrews’ projected ownership should creep into the double-digits by the weekend update simply because there aren’t many high-ceiling tight ends to choose from. Some will be turned off by Houston’s season-to-date performance against the position, but those folks are worried about the wrong details. Reliable target volume and high-scoring game environments are what matters most for tight ends and Andrews has both in his favor this week. He has commanded between seven and nine targets in all games but one in 2019 and leads the Ravens with a 27.3% share of the team’s red-zone targets. Baltimore is at home, favored by more than a field goal (-4) and implied to score 28 points. If you believe Vegas set the line right, there aren’t many ways the Ravens get there without Andrews finding the end zone at least once.
DST: Baltimore Ravens (vs. HOU, $3,000, 2% owned)
If their early-week ownership projection hasn’t risen above 8% by Sunday morning, make Baltimore your most heavily-owned defense. After beginning the season as a liability, the Ravens’ cornerback corps has made a complete turnaround thanks to the return of Jimmy Smith, trade for Marcus Peters, and all-around excellence of Marlon Humphrey. Without a glaring weakness in their defensive backfield, Baltimore has racked up three interceptions, four forced fumbles, five sacks, and five defensive touchdowns in their last three games (two of which came against the high-scoring offenses of Seattle and New England). Houston can put points on the board, but also have allowed Deshaun Watson to be sacked three times per game. The floor and ceiling are both high for the Ravens in this spot and their salary doesn’t reflect their recent dominance.
MORE MID-RANGE OWNERSHIP VALUES
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Matt Ryan||QB||@CAR||$6,200||9%||When the running game is mega-chalk, the passing game provides leverage.|
|Leonard Fournette||RB||@IND||$7,900||13%||Reasonable ownership for RB workload only eclipsed by CMC.|
|Ezekiel Elliott||RB||@DET||$9,000||11%||Lack of receiving hurts but multi-TD game possible against DET rush defense.|
|Kalen Ballage||RB||BUF||$4,300||11%||Dollar store Fournette.|
|Terry McLaurin||WR||NYJ||$5,600||7%||Slayton burned Jets CBs with speed last week. McLaurin can do the same.|
|John Brown||WR||@MIA||$6,400||7%||Too many yards and targets for low TD total. MIA defense should help.|
|Stefon Diggs||WR||DEN||$6,900||9%||Refuse to believe he doesn't have one more big game in him w/o Thielen.|
|Dallas Goedert||TE||@NE||$3,200||4%||No D-Jax and possibly no Jeffery frees up snaps and targets.|
|New York Jets||DST||@WAS||$3,100||8%||The way to beat the Jets is via the pass. WAS can't pass.|
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: Kirk Cousins (vs. DEN, $6,300, 2% owned)
There isn’t much to love about Denver at Minnesota and its paltry 40.5-point total. But Cousins has played at a high level over the Vikings six-game winning streak, and if you trust Vegas’ line, Minnesota should score at least three touchdowns in this game. The implied game script favors a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook, but he’ll be 20+% owned at $8,900. If the Vikings win big, the chances they do so because Cousins has a big game are far greater than 2%. A Cousins-Stefon Diggs stack will be moderately priced, lightly-owned, and has a high-ceiling, even in a low-scoring game. You can play Cook in the same lineup for a shot at all of Minnesota’s touchdowns (and most of their yards) in a big home win.
RB: Miles Sanders (vs. NE, $4,100, 3% owned)
Sanders is a thin play, but he has several paths to a top-90th percentile outcome this week:
Jordan Howard is still banged up after Philadelphia’s bye. As we saw on Thursday night with James Conner, shoulder injuries linger for running backs and they’re easy to aggravate in-game. It’s possible Sanders is the Eagles’ primary ball carrier for a large portion of Week 11.
Sanders ranks third among running backs in air yards this season. The two players in front of him -- Tarik Cohen and James White -- have each seen twice as many targets. With DeSean Jackson out again, Philadelphia will continue to design downfield routes for Sanders out of necessity.
Alshon Jeffery might be joining Jackson on the sidelines this week. More available targets would boost Sanders’ touch projection.
New England could get out to a big lead, putting Philadelphia in hurry-up mode -- a game script that favors additional snaps for Sanders.
Sanders has five plays that have gone for at least 30 yards this season, including a 65-yard touchdown run in Week 8 vs. Buffalo. He’s explosive and capable of breaking long plays against New England, who had trouble containing Mark Ingram and Nick Chubb in their last two games.
WR: Nelson Agholor (vs. NE, $4,000, 1% owned)
On the topic of vacated Alshon Jeffery targets, Agholor could very well be the last man standing in Philadelphia’s wide receiver corps for the second time this season. He quietly saw eight targets from Carson Wentz last week and exceeded 24 DraftKings points in both games Jeffery missed earlier this year. Even if Jeffery plays, the Eagles stand very little chance of beating stud cornerback Stephon Gilmore on the perimeter. Expect Wentz to focus on short-area targets over the middle of the field, which translates to a busy day for Agholor, Sanders, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert.
TE: Ross Dwelley (vs. ARI, $3,400, 2% owned)
George Kittle is almost certainly out for the second straight week, giving Dwelley his second consecutive start. The second-year undrafted free agent out of San Diego looked lost at times last week and doesn’t possess a compelling athletic profile. But he was on the field for 91% of the 49ers offensive snaps and was the team’s only tight end to run a pass route against Seattle. Dwelley’s 43 routes run in Week 10 actually ranked third among all tight ends, trailing only Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen for the league-lead. The peripheral stats (which also included seven targets) tell a fine story, but Dwelley is really a pure matchup play. No team has allowed more than normalized fantasy points to enemy tight ends this season than Arizona.
DST: Carolina Panthers (vs. ATL, $3,000, 3% owned)
The crowd is so wrapped up in stacking the Carolina and Atlanta offenses, they’re missing the fact there is a mismatch in the trenches. Per Football Outsiders, the Falcons allow the seventh-highest adjusted sack rate in the league while the Panthers lead the NFL with four sacks per game. If Carolina is able to dominate the line of scrimmage at home, the game script for Moore, Olsen, and Curtis Samuel to have big games may never develop. Using the Panthers defense in lineups without any of their offensive players (besides Christian McCaffrey) is a great way to leverage tournament ownership.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Kyler Murray||QB||@SF||$6,100||2%||Ownership too low for running quarterback ceiling.|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||ARI||$6,700||3%||If game goes by Vegas' script, Jimmy G is under-owned.|
|Marlon Mack||RB||JAX||$6,400||5%||Explosive home favorite running back nobody is paying attention to.|
|LeVeon Bell||RB||@WAS||$7,200||8%||Washington rush defense slipping over last three weeks.|
|Courtland Sutton||WR||@MIN||$6,000||3%||MIN quietly a plus matchups for WRs. Sutton the only show in town.|
|Chris Conley||WR||@IND||$4,400||2%||Good rapport with Foles. Consider Westbrook and Chark also.|
|Kendrick Bourne||WR||ARI||$3,000||1%||Min-priced pivot off Deebo.|
|Mike Gesicki||TE||BUF||$3,500||4%||Last week's busted chalk still a big part of Miami's game plan.|
|New England Patriots||DST||@PHI||$3,500||3%||Best price since Week 1, two weeks to prepare, PHI WRs banged up.|