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This week I wanted to kick off by talking about the Draftkings live final last week. It was disappointing for me in a lot of ways. First of all, I didn’t finish nearly in the range I was hoping for. But that’s results-oriented. The bigger disappointment was I never loved the team I submitted and I had a really good day outside of the entry I used in the event which meant had I just picked a better lineup it could have been very different. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to pick some of the best lineups lately and I don’t think I followed through on that process very well this week. That said looking back at your lineups and seeing what went right or wrong is one of the most overlooked processes by casual players. If you aren’t doing this weekly you are missing a significant opportunity for improvement. It’s probably the number one thing I would say casual players don’t do well that could turn their play around.
The biggest decision of the week always starts with what quarterback you want to play and how many players from that team and game you want to play. I had it narrowed down to Kyle Allen, Gardner Minshew, Patrick Mahomes II, and Kyler Murray. There were a few others that if the right lineup came together, I would consider but it was really these four that stood out as the best options. I went with Murray because I figured it was the game with the best chance to shoot out. It did come through with a 38-24 score but unfortunately the way it got there was a worst possible outcome.
When stacking Murray with his teammates it was really only three players that were in consideration which of course was Kenyan Drake, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald. I chose Kirk and Fitzgerald and having Fitzgerald in the lineups was one of the main reasons I never loved it. Fitzgerald hadn’t topped 75 yards since week 2 and his upside felt limited. I talked myself into it thinking that he wasn’t really who I was counting on winning the week for me and if he could get into the end zone he would pay off his low salary. He also helped get me Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey who I thought were two of the key plays of the week. If I end up with Drake or Kirk/Fitzgerald end up with the 5 TDs for the week things look a lot different.
I already mentioned the 2 running backs that I liked. I really wanted to get to three running backs but I couldn’t get it to work out from a salary perspective so I ended up with a WR at flex as I figured a lot of people were going to go with a TE. My favorite receivers for the week were Kirk, Tyreek Hill, Danny Amendola, Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Chris Conley, and I didn’t hate Odell Beckham as an opponent for Cardinals. This is where the other part of the lineup I didn’t like comes in. I went with Courtland Sutton and Corey Davis, neither of who were anywhere near my list of favorite plays and weren’t in the lineup I came up with the night before. I simply overthought these two spots.
After going with a chalky QB and RBs I figured I wanted to get different elsewhere. I figured that the defense would pay more attention to A.J. Brown after his big game which might open some opportunities for Davis and that people would stay off of Sutton because of the snow. Going with 1 of the 3 between these two and Fitzgerald was probably the right decision. Not all three. All three had their opportunities but just didn’t see a big play. Again, if one of these guys hits a big play on those targets things could turn out completely different but even if it did I don’t think it was the best play.
Overall, though it was a great weekend and some friends won a lot of money. I would highly encourage folks to make an effort to qualify for one of these events next year, as long as you keep within your bankroll. It’s a great time. Now let’s go get our last real week!
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:
This week Russell Wilson gets a primetime matchup against the Cardinals. The Cardinals have slightly slowed down their pace the last couple of weeks but for the year they have allowed the most total yards, most plays for the opposing team, most passing yards, most passing TDs, and second-most overall points. If you can’t tell that’s a pretty good matchup for our quarterback. Especially one of Wilson’s caliber. There is no doubt that Wilson has one of the highest upsides on the slate as well as one of the highest floors.
Where things start getting tough for me is that I like other chalky plays as you will see and his wide receivers such as Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are either too expensive (DK) or too highly owned (FD). Additionally, Wilson is the highest owned by quite a bit on FD. I will have Wilson has a part of my player pool as the QB with the highest upside of the week but I will be under-weight on him vs the field and he’s not who I would prioritize if I was building a single lineup.
The player I would prioritize is DeAndre Washington. Josh Jacobs is out this week. A few weeks back I talked about how Washington would have been the mega chalk if we knew Jacobs was out at the time of the lineup locks. We are now getting the chance to see that play out in real-time. Washington will likely be owned over 30% this week on both Fanduel and Draftkings which is currently the highest on the slate. I would be surprised to see anyone owned higher.
If we look back at week 14 we saw that Washington accumulated 53 rushing yards on 14 attempts to go with 6 receptions for 43 yards. It’s that receiving ability that makes him especially appealing on Draftkings. Despite Washington’s high ownership, I think you can still go overweight on him compared to the field and if I were playing just lineup I would include him in it. If you are playing on FD I can see a solid path to fading him as he is priced a bit higher but I don’t see the need on DK.
We just saw Michael Thomas obliterate the Colts on Monday night. Much like he has the rest of the league which will lead him to be the highest owned WR on the week. Thomas has his eyes on the receptions record held by Marvin Harrison so you should expect him to continually be a primary target for Brees. The rest of the Saints have their eyes on the #1 seed in the NFC. So you should expect Thomas to be a central piece of their game plan. Either way, you look at it Thomas should be locked in for high targets.
The problem with Thomas is similar to Wilson. It’s tough to fit in all the chalky pieces this week. Thomas’s price is high, his ownership is high, and there are simply other pieces that work better to build a truly elite GPP lineup which is rare for me to say. Despite the high targets maybe things don’t work out perfectly, maybe Alvin Kamara finally makes it to the end zone this week and limits Thomas’s upside which makes him a good pivot. I am planning on going under the field on Thomas and leveraging him with Kamara and/or Jared Cook, see below.
What happened to Austin Hooper’s price tag at DraftKings? Two weeks ago, he was $6,000 and now he is all the way down to $4,400 which is the lowest he has been since week 4. This week’s matchup against the Jaguars isn’t something to look forward to but the Falcons have recently lost Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley. Last week Julio Jones picked up all the work with an insane 20 targets but even Jones can’t keep up that pace. I would expect Hooper to be much more heavily involved this week.
On Fanduel, Hooper is much more appropriately priced, at least relative to other tight ends. So, this is another player that I am taking a different approach for both sites. On Fanduel, I think Hooper is a good value that should be a part of your GPP plans. On DraftKings, Hooper is just too cheap for me to pass up and as long as his ownership doesn’t start to go to high I will have him as a key part of my GPP plans and would pair him with Washington leaving me plenty of money to build out the rest of my team.
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%.
Kyle Allen was benched this week to see how Will Grier looks. Grier gets a great matchup against a Colts defense that should fit well for a QB’s first game. The Colts don’t create a lot of pressure on the QB and give up easy plays in the middle of the field to limit big plays. Since Grier likely won’t be taking a lot of big shots and instead will be looking for Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore on shorter routes it should be a shot for him to shine. Let others wait to play him next week and take a shot on him this week.
There aren’t a lot of running backs I love under 5% owned so do a little more of your looking in the 5-10% range this week. But one that I think could stand out is James Conner. His workload was slightly reduced last week in his first game back since Week 11 and his first full game since week 8. But the Steelers passing game is a mess and it appears Conner came out of last week’s game without any setbacks. If Conner is relied upon heavily like he was last year he could have the upside to break the slate at minimal ownership.
I said that I really like Danny Amendola last week and I am glad to run him back at low ownership again. Since David Blough has taken over Amendola has seen targets of 8, 8, and 13 last week on the first game that Marvin Jones missed. Amendola still hasn’t seen the endzone all year but at some point, that trend will likely change. 10 catches for 100 yards and a TD isn’t out of the question and at minimal cost and ownership that sounds like great value to me.
Jared Cook seems to be going under the radar this week after it was Michael Thomas getting all the work last week. But that was the first week since week 4 where Cook hasn’t either scored a TD or had 70 receiving yards. No one is going to want to go to Cook when he is priced below Hooper but if you do while fading Thomas you can pass a lot of the field and have a shot at one of the top spots in the tournaments.