Fanduel and Draftkings are running their live finals and some big online championships this week. I wanted to make sure I got this out early so everyone could start doing some early game planning for such big events. That said that means things could change drastically from what I mention below. Especially, in terms of ownership. Be sure to check ownership updates throughout the weekend. Best of luck to everyone on some of the big prize pools this weekend.
This week I wanted to discuss late swapping. Late swap in DFS terms is changing your lineups for games that start later in the day after the first set of games starts. Last week was a perfect example of why late swap is important.
At the time lineups locked at 1PM ET, it was unknown if Josh Jacobs was going to play or not. However, what we did know was that if Jacobs was to miss the game Deandre Washington would be one of the better plays on the slate both in terms of ownership and value. To look at why this is the case I had Washington projected with slightly more points than Bilal Powell despite Washington costing more. For Draftkings Milly maker Washington was 1% owned whereas Powell was 31% owned. If we knew Jacobs status Washington should have been about 30x higher owned. This became even more important when Washington did, in fact, beat Powell in points scored 21 to 11. Those extra 10 points and $500 certainly could have come in handy.
So how should you handle situations like this? A couple of options you have are as follows
- Have a plan for what you are going to do if the questionable player sits. This is easy if you are running a single lineup but if you have more than 1 it gets exponentially more difficult.
- Purposefully draft more players that start after the slate starts. This would allow you to swap those players to the questionable player's backup.
- Leave additional salary on your team. This might allow you to make a more advantageous swap if the player is ruled out.
- Purposefully fade a high owned player at a similar price point from the early games that this player can replace. For example, instead of playing Powell take a chance that you are playing all Washington and leave some room left over to swap if it doesn’t come to fruition. The Titans WR’s were a good option last week.
- Build lineups that you like with a player(s) that have similar costs that you feel comfortable playing if the swap doesn’t come to fruition.
If you don’t play other DFS sports you may not be used to late swapping as big news like this doesn’t come up often in NFL, maybe once a year. Whereas it is a big part of the other sports. But when it does how prepared you are for it is one of the best ways to profit in that specific week. So try to think ahead if you see some players as questionable at kickoff.
How to play the chalk
One of the biggest decisions each week is how to handle the chalk on the slate. The chalkiest players are typically the ‘best’ plays on the slate if you are trying to maximize your total points produced. However, if you are looking to win a big tournament you can gain a lot of ground on your competition if you choose a player that outperforms there. If that player is in a lot of lineups you can pass a lot at one time. Balancing scoring the most points and playing against your competition is the toughest part of DFS. In this section, we talk about how to handle the toughest decision of the week. What to do with the chalk:
Similar to last week the QB ownership appears to be fairly flat across the industry with 6 players at greater than 8% but none greater than 10%. Of these players, the one that is most likely to raise over the next few days is Ryan Tannehill as I have already heard a couple of podcasts that I don’t normally listen to touting him. My guess is the public support for him will continue after crushing the Raiders for 391 yards and 3. Since starting in week 7 Tannehill has thrown for 2+ TDs in all but one game and most importantly for public perception he is 6-1 in those games.
This week’s matchup against the Texans will also look especially appealing after Drew Lock sliced up the Texans for 309 yards and 3TDs in his second career start. However, for the season the Texans haven’t been awful in the passing game. They rank 20th in Y/A and 22nd in points allowed. Neither are great but they aren’t the worst in the league either. If he stays under 10%, I think you can include Tannehill in your player pool but he shouldn't be a priority. If his ownership starts to take off like I think it might he is a fade for me.
One of the chalkiest players, especially on Fanduel looks to be Chris Carson. Carson is expected to get a big boost with Rashaad Penny now on the IR. Will that really be the case? In games that Penny has played more than 5% of the snaps Carson has 68% of the snaps, two were over 75% though. In games where Penny is inactive Carson has played 67% of the snaps. Surprisingly Penny has played less than 5% of the snaps now 3 times. In those games, Carson averages 89% of the snaps. The trend seems to be that if things don’t go haywire where their game planned backup doesn’t leave the game and play less than 5% of the snaps they want Carson to get about 70-75% of the snaps and not 85%+ of the snaps that he gets when things go off the wall. Carson’s snaps should be pretty safe and if C.J. Prosise fumbles or has an injury his upside is great. But his baseline expectations might not be as high as some expect.
Another big factor in Carson’s favor is the Panthers are allowing the second-worst yards per attempt at 4.9 and also the second-worst rushing TDs at 17. I think Carson makes a good play that has the potential to be great and should certainly be a part of your GPP plans. But I am less excited about him as compared to the public especially if his ownership continues to creep up.
DeAndre Hopkins recorded his highest receiving yards of the year last week without Will Fuller V. Hopkins also had a season-high 13 targets. In games that Fuller has played Hopkins is averaging a target on 29% of his snaps. When Fuller is out that skyrockets to one of the best marks in the league at 34%. In the games Fuller has missed, Hopkins targets are 12, 13, 11, 12, 13 which is about as consistent of a workload you can ask for. In the games Fuller played, they are 13, 8, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8. Again very consistent but not nearly as good.
As we can see by the target trends the opponent doesn’t really matter much for Hopkins. The thing that matters is if Fuller is playing or not. The matchup against the Titans is an average one as they allow the 13th worst yards per pass, so it's not one to worry about. Fuller did practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday so there is a chance he plays. If Fuller misses once again Hopkins is a solid play that will probably merit a high ownership level. If Fuller is out and Hopkins ownership stays high based on his recent performance he is a clear fade in a tough matchup.
George Kittle has been hot since returning from his injury in week 12 making one highlight play after another. Those highlights quickly add on to his ownership projection. From a stat perspective, he has 2 TD in 3 games. Unfortunately, he also bombed significantly in week 13 with 17 yards on 2 receptions. Kittle’s matchup against the Falcons is a nice one as their defense has gone back to struggling to allow point totals of 35, 26, and 20 in their last three games since the two-game anomaly. Kittle can break the slate at any time so keep him in your player pool but I would go underweight on him in tournaments and rely on his longer-term stats, which are great but his price is higher, over his recent flashy play.
If you play too many chalky players you will be competing against too many people to win first place and the odds will be stacked against you. If you play too many contrarian players you won’t score enough points. Remember, the plays are contrarian because most likely there is something wrong with that player. In general, the public is very smart. Finding that right mix is the second hardest thing to do in DFS. In this section, I will try to point you to some of the most contrarian options on the slate with ownership projection below 5%.
Derek Carr and the Raiders were just booed off the field after their embarrassing 42-21 loss to the Titans. But in DFS you have to have a short memory. Carr is priced as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. He has certainly played like it too. But Vegas thinks this won’t be a particularly low scoring game with the total sitting near the middle of the pack at 46. Obviously, the Raiders are big underdogs which leaves their implied total lower but if they are behind that only helps Carr as he will be asked to throw more often. It might not feel comfortable playing Carr when he hasn’t gone over 300 yards yet this year but there is more than a 3% chance this is the week he does it.
Since Derrius Guice returned to action in week 11 Adrian Peterson’s snaps fell from 52% per game to 31% while Guice was playing if you exclude last week’s game Guice got hurt. After Guice was hurt Peterson ended last week with 43% of the snaps. This leads me to believe that Peterson is still a big part of the team’s running back plan when Guice is out. If he gets 40-50% of the snaps and 15-20 carries he is good shape to capitalize on his price, especially on Draftkings where he is priced at $4,400 and is projected at 2% in terms of ownership.
If Peterson doesn’t take advantage of Guice’s absence it may be Terry McClaurin who is coming in at 3% ownership. Since Dwayne Haskin’s first start in week 9 McClaurin has yet to top 100 receiving yards and only has one touchdown. But he is starting to show a little bit of a connection with Haskins with 7 targets last week and 12 three weeks ago. He also found the end zone late last week. You are buying the quarterback whenever you purchase a wide receiver and Haskin's isn't a great purchase. But McClaurin still has the skill set that made him a favorite target for the DFS community earlier in the year.
Hunter Henry continues to be a forgotten man after his fast start as he hasn’t really blown the slate open recently. But Henry continues to be a big part of the Chargers game plan as he has over 50 yards or a TD in all but one game this year which has led to double-digit PPR games in all but 2. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gone over 100 yards since his first game back in week 6. But it shows he still has the upside for 100 yards 2 TD game that blows the slate open. While he continues to stay under 5% owned he should be part of your GPP plans while most others pass.