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:
This week’s marquee game is Tampa Bay at Atlanta (over/under 51.5). Expect to see plenty of Matt Ryan stacks (with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, or both) run back with either Mike Evans or Chris Godwin. If you want to take the road less traveled to gain exposure to Buccaneers or Falcons players, consider targeting the starting running backs -- Ronald Jones II and Brian Hill. Other common team stacks will include the Browns, Saints, and Seahawks.
As much as 50% of the total quarterback ownership could settle on Ryan ($6,700), Jameis Winston ($6,200), Russell Wilson ($6,800), and Drew Brees ($6,600). There are a handful of sub-$6K signal-callers with attractive matchups (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, and Jeff Driskel to name a few) but it’s a safe bet most of our opponents will spend up at quarterback.
Christian McCaffrey will draw his usual ~20% ownership, but his salary is prohibitive alongside a stack of pricy Atlanta and Tampa Bay wide receivers. Alvin Kamara ($8,200) looked all the way back to his pre-injury form last week and should be the most sought after RB1. Look for moderate spending at RB2, with matchup plays Derrick Henry ($6,900), Phillip Lindsay ($5,200), and Miles Sanders (assuming Jordan Howard scratches again) leading the way.
Ridley’s fair salary ($6,500) and huge Week 11 (31.3 DraftKings points) could make him an even more popular stacking partner for Ryan than Jones. Using Ridley rather than Jones also makes it easier to run back a highly-correlated game stack with Godwin ($7,200) or Evans ($7,300). Most entrants will bargain hunt for a WR3, which should inflate the ownership of DeVante Parker ($5,200), who has back-to-back 10-target games since Preston Williams was lost for the season.
An overall lack of value at running back and wide receiver leaves little room for premium tight end spending. Zach Ertz ($6,000) and Darren Waller ($5,700) will be popular standalone plays, but look for the crowd to gravitate towards Dallas Goedert ($3,700) with Philadelphia short on healthy pass-catchers and facing a vulnerable Seattle secondary.
After Ryan Finley fluttered one interceptable pass after another against Oakland last week, Pittsburgh’s defense ($4,000) will cause an ownership pileup. The majority of lineups, however, won’t have the leftover cap space for a luxury purchase at DST. Mid-priced options like the Bills ($3,400), Saints ($3,300), and Lions ($3,100) will appear more frequently in common roster builds.
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: Matt Ryan (vs. TB, $6,700, 13% owned)
Ryan and his wide receivers should have a field day inside the dome at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. You have to go all the way back to Week 6 to find the last time an enemy quarterback failed to throw at least three touchdown passes against Tampa Bay. The only argument against Ryan is Atlanta’s defensive turnaround since coming out of their Week 9 bye. Ryan has been held to 35 or fewer pass attempts in each of the team’s last two games after exceeding that number in five out of his first six (excluding the game he left early with a sprained ankle). Jameis Winston has thrown six interceptions over the last two weeks and is plenty capable of contributing to a game script where Ryan isn’t forced to keep his foot on the gas. But even if he isn’t required to throw 40-50 passes, as he did throughout the first half of the season, Ryan’s efficiency should be through the roof in this matchup. Don’t be afraid to make him one of your core quarterbacks.
RB: Alvin Kamara (vs. CAR, $8,200, 22% owned)
Sigmund Bloom, as usual, said it best earlier this year -- Kamara runs with so much intensity, it seems like touching him might cause an electric shock. We hadn’t seen that version of Kamara for a while due to an accumulation of injuries, but he finally looked back to normal last week against a stout Tampa Bay run defense. His 23 touches (including 10 receptions) for 122 scrimmage yards against the Bucs would have looked even more impressive had he not gotten a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty. Kamara, in peak form, is an epic mismatch for the Panthers rush defense. Carolina leads the league in normalized fantasy points allowed to running backs over the last five weeks by a wide margin. With the Saints playing at home against a floundering Kyle Allen, it’s easy to imagine an outcome that includes a multi-touchdown game from Kamara. He’s good chalk.
WR: Julio Jones (vs. TB, $8,000, 24% owned)
If it feels like Jones has historically saved his best for Tampa Bay, it’s because he has. But he’s deserving of this week’s top wide receiver spot for more reasons than his stellar results against guys with orange laundry over the years. The aforementioned Buccaneers defense gets flash-fried by the opposition’s WR1 on a weekly basis. There isn’t a cornerback on Tampa Bay’s ragtag depth chart Jones can’t run past or bully at the catch point. We haven’t seen a vintage ceiling game from Jones yet this season, but he remains one of the few receivers in football capable of hanging 200+ yards in a boxscore. If Ridley’s price ends up making him the more popular stacking partner for Ryan, be prepared to overweight the field on Jones.
TE: Dallas Goedert (vs. SEA, $3,700, 10% owned)
Goedert was one of the more heavily-touted tournament plays on Footballguys and elsewhere around the industry last week, but less than 5% of the field in the Milly Maker trusted the advice. Now that he scored a touchdown for the third time in his last four games, gets an ideal matchup against Seattle’s secondary, and still costs less than $4K, we should expect Goedert’s tournament ownership to play out differently. The public knows Goedert as Zach Ertz’s high-ceiling backup but he’s played at least 75% of the offensive snaps in consecutive games. With Alshon Jeffery banged up, DeSean Jackson on injured reserve, and Nelson Agholor looking iffy with a knee injury, Goedert’s role in the offense should only continue to grow. We always need to be hesitant when following the crowd at tight end due to the position’s high weekly variance, but with George Kittle, Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry, and the Colts’ tight ends off the main slate, beggars can’t be choosy. As long as he checks in under 20% owned by Buzzard’s weekend update, you can at least match the field.
DST: Detroit Lions (@WAS, $3,100, 9% owned)
The Lions can’t stop the run and their defensive line can’t generate pressure but it shouldn’t matter much this week. Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins is in over his head and his offensive linemen don’t seem concerned with helping him out. Haskins was sacked six times and had three turnovers at home against an incompetent Jets team last week. Detroit just has to get off the team bus to 2x their salary in this matchup and the ceiling is there for the Lions to appear in a first-place lineup if one of Haskins’ inevitable mistakes results in a score for the wrong team.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Russell Wilson||QB||@PHI||$6,800||9%||Should have to throw to move the ball on the road against pass funnel defense.|
|Jameis Winston||QB||@ATL||$6,200||11%||Coming off ugly week but has reached 4x this price in 5 of last 8 games.|
|Derrick Henry||RB||JAX||$6,900||12%||JAX defense looks like a gift for RBs. Henry hitting his late-season stride?|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB||@NO||$10,500||11%||30-point floor, 50-point ceiling. Opponent doesn't matter.|
|Nick Chubb||RB||MIA||$8,100||13%||24.5 touches per game in two games with Hunt back. Game script sets him up.|
|Mike Evans||WR||@ATL||$7,300||20%||Seemingly improved ATL secondary faces a stiff test w/ Evans, Godwin.|
|Michael Thomas||WR||CAR||$9,300||22%||Multi-TD game incoming. Top WR expsoure.|
|Calvin Ridley||WR||TB||$6,500||11%||Floor and ceiling both get a boost with Hooper sidelined.|
|Zach Ertz||TE||SEA||$6,000||14%||Wentz dialed in on him again. Matchup is a plus.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||DST||@CIN||$4,000||6%||Have you watched Ryan Finley throw?|
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: Drew Brees (vs. CAR, $6,600, 8% owned)
Brees is far from a below-the-radar play but Ryan, Winston, and Wilson will shade his ownership a bit. With the Saints favored by 9.5 points at the Superdome, Brees’ ceiling is as high as any quarterback’s on the slate. The beautiful part about playing him in tournaments is that you know exactly where his targets will land. Stacking Brees with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara can get you exposure to most of the yards and all of the touchdowns New Orleans puts on the board this week. Consider running your Saints stack back with last week’s busted chalk, D.J. Moore. Moore should be able to run past New Orleans cornerback P.J. Williams on at least one deep ball.
RB: Saquon Barkley (@CHI, $7,900, 10% owned)
When we last saw Barkley on the field in Week 10, he turned in a rushing line that would make Kalen Ballage blush (13 carries for one yard). But Barkley was clearly hampered by his balky ankle against a tough Jets defensive front. The bye has given the injury some much-needed time to heal and Barkley is facing a Bears defense that has struggled to stop the run since losing defensive end, Akiem Hicks. Since Hicks was placed on injured reserve with a dislocated elbow, Josh Jacobs (26-123-2), Latavius Murray (27-119-2), Jordan Howard (19-82-1), and Todd Gurley (25-97-1) have stampeded Chicago’s rush defense. The odds that the bye week is exactly what Barkley needed to restore his overall RB1 ceiling are greater than his projected ownership.
WR: D.J. Chark Jr (@TEN, $6,400, 6% owned)
We only have a two-game sample of Chark with Nick Foles as his quarterback this season, but the results -- a 4-146-1 receiving line in Week 1 and last week’s monstrous 8-102-2 performance -- are certainly encouraging. The small sample makes it possible the target pendulum could swing towards Dede Westbrook or Chris Conley without a moment’s notice, but it’s past time we recognize Chark as a viable NFL WR1. After last week’s big game, Chark now ranks sixth among wide receivers in season-to-date DraftKings points. This week, he faces a banged-up Titans secondary that has been torched by the opposition’s top wide receiver in recent weeks. Unless his early ownership projection doubles by the weekend, going overweight on Chark is an easy call.
TE: Vance McDonald (@CIN, $3,500, 11% owned)
McDonald has only reached double-digits DraftKings points once since Week 2 but he’s worth a look at moderate ownership for four reasons:
This week’s tight end landscape is desolate
He has commanded exactly seven targets in each of his last three games
Cincinnati’s defense has allowed 129% more PPR fantasy points to tight ends over the last three weeks than league average
DST: Buffalo Bills (vs. DEN, $3,400, 6% owned)
According to Pro Football Focus, Brandon Allen ranks 35th out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating while under pressure over the last two weeks. Allen stands no chance on the road against the Bills, who enter this game with a top-10 adjusted sack rate. Buffalo should be able to cover the four-point spread in this game with ease. Make them one of your top DST exposures.
MORE MID-RANGE OWNERSHIP VALUES
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Carson Wentz||QB||SEA||$5,600||9%||Last week was a tough matchup. Better environment for shootout vs. SEA.|
|Leonard Fournette||RB||@TEN||$7,300||18%||Elite usage is still there. TEN defense crumbling at all levels.|
|Phillip Lindsay||RB||@BUF||$5,200||10%||Split with Freeman now 65/35 in his favor. How else does DEN move the ball?|
|Le'Veon Bell||RB||OAK||$6,400||22%||Now priced where 4x is within his range of outcomes as a Jet.|
|Allen Robinson||WR||NYG||$6,500||7%||Too good to be held down by bad QB play vs. Giants dismal CBs.|
|Tyrell Williams||WR||@NYJ||$5,900||6%||Speed kills the Jets cornerbacks. Williams has it.|
|Julian Edelman||WR||DAL||$6,900||11%||Dallas pass defense weakest in areas of field where Edelman operates.|
|Mike Gesicki||TE||@CLE||$3,400||9%||Snaps, routes run, targets have been there but production hasn't. CLE D helps.|
|New Orleans Saints||DST||CAR||$3,300||9%||The last thing Kyle Allen needs after last week is a road game in NO.|
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: Sam Darnold (vs. OAK, $5,800, 3% owned)
Darnold has erased memories of the Week 7 “ghost game” against New England by taking advantage of friendly matchups against the Giants and Washington over his last two games. Last week’s annihilation of Ryan Finley notwithstanding, the Raiders remain a pass defense to target. Even with Finley’s dreadful 115-0-1 passing line included in the sample, Oakland has allowed 31% more fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks than league average over the last five weeks. And if you’re a believer in the circadian rhythm narrative, the Raiders, who have to travel coast-to-coast and play at 1 pm EST, could come out flat for this game.
RB: Joe Mixon (vs. PIT, $5,900, 4% owned)
The Steelers are the stingiest defense against running backs over the previous five weeks, which explains Mixon’s low ownership. But his opponents in Cincinnati’s last three games -- the Rams, Ravens, and Raiders -- are also tough on running backs, yet Mixon exceeded expectations in all three matchups. Since turning to Ryan Finley, the Bengals have emphasized Mixon in an attempt to hide their (terrible) young quarterback. They even ran him 30 times in a 36-point loss to Baltimore in Week 10. It’s doubtful Cincinnati plans on airing it out with Finley to move the ball on offense and Mason Rudolph seems incapable of running up the score on the Bengals. Mixon is once again set up for a heavy workload at a palatable price, making him a solid point-per-dollar play despite the poor matchup.
WR: Chris Conley (@TEN, $4,100, 1% owned)
Conley is an arbitrage play on play on Chark. His eight targets finished second on the team in Foles’ return, resulting in a 6-51-0 receiving line. In his only other game with Foles this season, Conley turned in 21.7 DraftKings points, suggesting the rapport between the two from their time together in Kansas City is legitimate. Considering Tennessee’s recent struggles on defense and the likelihood Derrick Henry is able to run the ball at will against the Jaguars, Foles could be called on for 40+ pass attempts for a second-straight week. Double-stacking Foles with Chark and Conley isn’t as crazy as it seems given the trio’s affordable salaries and low ownership.
TE: Tyler Eifert (vs. PIT, $3,100, 2% owned)
Eifert is a thin play due to his low snap-share but he’s reached double-digits on DraftKings in two out of his last three games and Finley will be in constant need of a safety valve against the Steelers pass rush. Pittsburgh has been vulnerable to tight ends dating back to Ryan Shazier’s scary injury in 2017. This year, the Steelers have allowed 53% more fantasy production to tight ends compared to other teams facing the same opponents. Eifert shouldn’t be a significant part of your GPP plans, but 6-8% is warranted.
DST: Cincinnati Bengals (vs. PIT, $2,100, 6% owned)
The Bengals managed eight fantasy points on the road in Oakland last week and stand a good chance of matching that total at home against Mason Rudolph and Pittsburgh’s depleted pass-catching corps. Rudolph has taken seven sacks over his last two games and turned the ball over four times last week in Cleveland. The cap savings gained from rostering the Bengals opens up much-needed cap space on a tightly-priced slate.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Nick Foles||QB||@TEN||$5,400||2%||Like his WRs this week. Foles makes a cheap stacking partner.|
|Ronald Jones II||RB||@ATL||$4,800||10%||Focus will be on TB passing game. Leverage play.|
|Patrick Laird||RB||@CLE||$3,400||1%||Showing well in the passing game. Ballage making case to lose job.|
|Terry McLaurin||WR||DET||$6,000||3%||Should've had bigger Week 11. Can slip behind any CB, Slay included.|
|James Washington||WR||@CIN||$5,000||4%||If Smith-Schuster and Johnson scratch, could be a breakout game.|
|Anthony Miller||WR||NYG||$3,500||2%||Role increased with Burton on IR. Excellent price, matchup.|
|Jacob Hollister||TE||@PHI||$4,300||3%||Cheapest Wilson stacking partner in solid matchup.|
|New England Patriots||DST||DAL||$3,300||4%||Priced down and boosted by head-coaching mismatch.|