Guiding DFS Tournament Principles
There are three keys to winnings large-field tournaments on FanDuel. First, we need to identify the “good chalk” — the popular plays who we want to build our lineups around. Second, we need to identify the less-popular plays who still have similar upside to the most popular players at their position. Lastly, we need to decide which young breakout candidates to target.
Every week, we will talk about these principles and identify the top targets in each category. These players will be listed below by category along with their projected popularity and then broken down in more depth in the position-by-position breakdowns in the following section.
1. Identify the good chalk
Our whole lineup should not be sub-5% rostered guys. Popular plays each week are usually popular for a reason and we always need to remember that the number one goal is to score as many points as possible. We do not want to get too cute and build our entire rosters around longer shot plays.
The chalk is often especially attractive at running back. Volume is key and we usually know in advance which running backs are likely to see 20+ touches. We want to build our lineups around those running backs, especially on FanDuel where it is harder to get lucky with low-volume receiving backs due to the 0.5 PPR scoring.
The following players are worth considering as core lineup pieces despite their popularity this week. Please note, the projected percent-rostered numbers listed in parentheses are calculated by Devin Knotts and updated daily throughout the week. Please check here for Devin’s latest up-to-the minute projections.
Week 3 good chalk
2. Build uniqueness without sacrificing too much upside or floor.
We know that we do not want to avoid the chalky plays entirely. However, we also do not want to have lineups that are too chalky. Ideally, we want to have at least two sub-5% players in every lineup to increase our chances of placing highly in large-field tournaments. The key is to do so without sacrificing too much upside. Game theory demands we take into account what our competitors are doing and what the majority of the rosters we are competing with will look like.
The easiest way to get the best of both worlds (high upside on unpopular plays) is to target top players in what are perceived to be difficult matchups. The crowd can sometimes get too carried away with using weekly matchups to make their roster decisions. This gives savvy players an opportunity to roster top talents with similar fantasy projections to the chalk at a fraction of the popularity. If you hit on the right lower-rostered player, you quickly separate yourself from the pack and give yourself a chance to win the big money.
Week 3 lower-rostered targets
3. Show up to the party early
The surest path to low-priced upside is through talented young players who have yet to breakout. We need to be aggressive in rostering rookies and second-year players before they become proven, popular, and expensive. In large tournaments, these are the types of opportunities we must leverage to get an edge on the field. In the long run, it is better to risk jumping the gun at times as opposed to being too conservative and consistently missing out on breakout games from future stars.
Week 3 breakout targets
4. Stack to win
Stacking is a common strategy for good reason. If you are not adding strong correlations to your rosters, you are making life extra difficult. Stacking increases your odds of the winning a large-field tournament because if you pick the correct games to target, you can land on a group of players who all hit their ceilings in the same week because of a positive game environment.
The best way to build correlated lineups is to stack your quarterback with one or two of his top pass catchers while also rostering one of the top offensive threats from the opposing team. We call rostering an offensive player who is going against your primary quarterback stack “running it back.” If the game is a shootout, you have a great chance of finding yourself near the top of the leaderboard.
Week 3 top stacks
Russell Wilson, Seattle ($8,700 — 12%)
Wilson is off to a blazing start with nine passing touchdowns through two games. He has topped 31 FanDuel points in both outings. The question at this point is whether Wilson is going to cool off at some point or if he is going to keep doing this almost every week like Patrick Mahomes II did in 2018. We should be open to the possibility of the latter. The way Wilson is playing right now, a 50-touchdown season is well within the realm of possibility. It is shaping up as a career year for Wilson who is the early favorite for NFL MVP.
Everything sets up for Wilson to have another strong performance in Week 3. Seattle is playing at home against the Cowboys in a game Vegas expects to be a shootout (56.5-point game total). Against one of the league’s best offenses, the Seahawks are going to have to stay aggressive offensively for four quarters. The Cowboys defense is beat up. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie joins Leighton Vander Esch, Anthony Brown, and Sean Lee on the injured reserve list after suffering a hamstring injury last week. The Cowboys secondary is getting dangerously thin and is going to have a hard time slowing Wilson and this Seahawks passing offense.
Wilson is going to be popular but he looks like the clear top play on the slate. Both his floor and ceiling are amongst the highest in the NFL given this matchup. He is worth building our rosters around regardless of popularity.
Cam Newton, New England ($7,700 —18% )
Given what we have seen from Newton so far this year, he is underpriced by almost $1,000. Newton is getting massive usage as a runner. He has racked already run 26 times for 122 yards and 4 touchdowns. The rushing touchdown total does not feel fluky given how often the Patriots have been calling Newton’s number around the goal line. Add it all up and Newton is averaging over 18 fantasy points per game just with his legs. As with Lamar Jackson, rostering Newton is almost like adding an extra running back to your fantasy lineup.
Newton also showed he still has plenty of ability as a passer as well, throwing for 397 yards last week in Seattle. His shoulder looks fully recovered. Newton was throwing with plenty of velocity and showed impressive downfield accuracy. The matchup against the Raiders is strong. The Raiders have allowed 286 passing yards per game (third-most)
Daniel Jones, NY Giants ($6,900 — 1%)
It is always going to be easy to poke holes in the resume of inexpensive, low-rostered upside options. That is the case with Jones. His offensive line is mediocre, he is without a couple of top targets (Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley), and he has had a slow start to the season. These are the reasons he is likely to end up on very few rosters despite a dirt-cheap salary.
However, if we dig a bit deeper, Jones has a lot going for him this week in a sneaky-good matchup and makes sense from a game theory perspective. To start with, Jones has not been as bad as the general media narrative would have you believe. He has thrown for at least 240 yards in each of his last five outings. Jones is averaging 260 passing yards per game this season despite playing what may end up being two of the better pass defenses in the NFL (Steelers and Bears) when all is said and done. It will be a huge relief for Jones to come into a game knowing his offensive line will not be overmatched and that he should actually have some time in the pocket. While the 49ers name will scare many away, this defense is a shell of what it once was after being decimated by injuries. Elite interior pass rusher DeForest Buckner was traded to the Colts. Top edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are both out. Top cornerback Richard Sherman is also on injured reserve.
One thing Jones has proven without a doubt is his weekly upside. In 14 career starts, he has thrown for 300+ yards five times. He has finished as the overall fantasy QB1 in 2-of-14 starts (14% of the time) and also finished as the QB2 in a third week (with 34 FanDuel points). In short, Jones has had GPP-winning performances in over 20% of his career starts. If we are getting him at a sub-$7K salary when nobody else is going to be playing him, those are the types of risks we want to take in large-field GPPs.
Other Quarterbacks to Consider
|Kyler Murray||Detroit||$8,400||20%||Great matchup and Murray's increased rushing usage gives him elite floor and ceiling.|
|Dak Prescott||Seattle||$8,500||10%||Putting up big numbers in one of league's top offenses.|
|Josh Allen||LA Rams||$8,100||10%||Tougher matchup but Allen has been outstanding in 2020.|
|Carson Wentz||Cincinnati||$7,600||3%||Chance to get his season on track against poor defense.|
|Ben Roethlisberger||Houston||$7,500||2%||Looks like same guy who threw for 5,129 yards and 34 TDs in 2018.|
|Matthew Stafford||Arizona||$7,300||3%||Should have Golladay back and will have to be aggressive to keep up with Cardinals.|
Kenyan Drake, Arizona ($6,500 — 24%)
While Drake does not have the 30-touch upside some of the other top backs have, he has had very solid usage so far this season. Drake is averaging 20 touches per game and playing over 68% of the snaps. He is the clear lead back on an Arizona offense that is getting in a ton of snaps (79.5 per game). We are getting Drake at a price nearly $1,000 cheaper than we should in large part due to some bad touchdown luck.
Last season, running backs scored 78% of the Cardinals rushing touchdowns. Through two games, only one of Arizona’s four rushing touchdowns has been scored by the running backs. This is an area where we should expect the pendulum to swing back towards the running backs soon, likely this weekend. Drake had seven rushing touchdowns in the final three games of the 2019 season, so we know the GPP-winning touchdown upside is there.
#CardsCover2 - Looking at the numbers, this has the chance to be a big week for Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds. The Cardinals rushing offense is among the best in the league, while the Lions have had difficulty stopping the run through two games. https://t.co/8AhgNfWcik— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) September 25, 2020
The matchup is elite. Not team has given up more rushing yards than the Lions (408). If that wasn’t enough of an enticement to play running backs against Detroit, the Lions are also getting destroyed through the air by opposing running backs. Through two games, Detroit has already allowed 24 receptions for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns to opposing backs. The Cardinals are home favorites with a huge 30.5-point team total. Everything points towards 100+ yards for Drake with a great shot at multiple touchdowns.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia ($7,400 — 34%)
Sanders and Ezekiel Elliott look likely to be the chalkiest of the chalk this week. It would not be surprising to see both approach 40% ownership in many tournaments. Despite the projected popularity, it is hard to fade Sanders this week. In his return from a lengthy absence, Sanders had a massive workload (20 carries and 7 targets) despite a negative game script. He also played 77% of the snaps. This offense looks like it will truly be built around Sanders and he could be the rare back who consistently sees 20+ carries and 6+ targets almost every week. Sanders is at least $1,000 too cheap given his usage in this offense.
In addition to the outstanding projected opportunity, Sanders has a prime matchup. The Bengals may again be without two of their top three defensive tackles on top of losing almost all of their defensive tackle depth to injuries (and a COVID opt out) during training camp. We saw this same defense get absolutely abused by the Browns in Week 2. Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt put up over 100+ total yards and combined for four touchdowns.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis ($6,700 — 28%)
Taylor makes our list as “good chalk” for the second week in a row. While he was named the starter prior to Week 2, there was some question as to how much of a committee approach the Colts would take. It quickly became clear that Indianapolis was going to give Taylor all the carries he could handle. Taylor touched it 28 times and likely would have had 30+ touches had the game been more competitive. Once the Colts went up 25 points midway through the fourth quarter, third-stringer Jordan Wilkins came in to close things out in garbage time.
The matchup for Taylor in Week 3 is fantastic. Indianapolis is the only team on the slate favored by more than a touchdown (11.5 points). The Jets gave up 184 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns to the 49ers running backs last week, including a pair of 50+ yard runs. In a game the Colts should dominate, Taylor should have a heavy workload again and is likely to get plenty of red zone opportunities.
Joshua Kelley, LA Chargers ($5,900 — 5%)
Kelley enters Week 3 tied for the 6th-most carries in the NFL. The talk of Kelley taking over the Melvin Gordon III role in the Chargers offense looks to be coming to fruition more quickly than anyone could have expected. Sigmund Bloom made a strong case for Kelley this week in his Sleepers column:
Kelley should get a ton of carries any time the Chargers control the game, and they should be able to do just that against the Panthers this week. He’ll also be first in line for goal line carries against a defense that has allowed six touchdowns to running backs on the ground already this year.
Amongst the sub-$6K backs, Kelley has one of the highest projected number of touches and is facing one of the weakest rushing defenses in the league.
Other Running Backs to Consider
|Ezekiel Elliott||Seattle||$9,000||33%||Ellliott will be extremely popular but has arguably the highest floor on the slate.|
|Jerick McKinnon||NY Giants||$5,700||7%||Steps in as the lead back on elite rushing offense but will he get goal line work?|
|Derrick Henry||Minnesota||$8,200||23%||Many were burnt by Henry last week but he looks to be in a great spot for 25+ touches again.|
|Mike Davis||LA Chargers||$6,000||7%||Caught 8 passes last week and should see 20+ touches in relief of McCaffrey.|
|Josh Jacobs||New England||$8,300||10%||Tough matchup but Jacobs is talented and is receiving a huge workload.|
|Chris Carson||Dallas||$7,700||7%||Will fly further under the radar than he should with focus on Seattle's passing offense.|
|Antonio Gibson||Washington||$5,500||2%||Quietly stepped into lead role last week (65% of snaps). Due for a big bump in targets.|
|Devin Singletary||LA Rams||$5,900||1%||Should get big boost in snaps and touches with Zach Moss out.|
DK Metcalf, Seattle ($6,500 — 21%)
Metcalf has scored a touchdown and put up at least 90 receiving yards in each of his first two games but has yet to really explode for the type of slate-breaking game we think he is capable of. This could be the week he breaks out with a multi-touchdown game. Dallas has a banged up secondary and was just abused by Calvin Ridley (7-109-2) last week.
Metcalf, at 22-years old, looks on the brink of emerging as one of the NFL’s most dominant players. His speed and physicality makes him an impossible cover. In his second season, he is not coming off of the field at all (he has played all but one offensive snap so far). In a game expected to be a shootout, Metcalf at a bargain price of just $6,500 looks like the top wide receiver play on the slate.
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta ($8,000 — 23%)
Through two weeks, Ridley is the top fantasy wide receiver and it is not particularly close. He has 16 more FanDuel points than any other wide receiver. With Julio Jones’ status in doubt for Week 3, Ridley projects to see 10+ targets for the third-straight week.
While Ridley is going to be popular and is now priced up as the second-most expensive wide receiver, he is still worth using as a core piece this week. There are few attractive pay-up options on the slate and the strength of the mid-priced running back options gives us some salary to play with. It is easy to fit Ridley in so there is little reason not to just ride the hot hand despite a mediocre matchup against Chicago.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis, ($6,200 — 2%)
If we are going to play two or three of the chalky running backs, we need to find some ways to differentiate our roster with less popular wide receivers while trying not to sacrifice too much upside. Hilton gives us a great opportunity to do just that. He is priced down after a slow start and has fallen off the radar for many after a poor showing in Week 2. Hilton has had some drops and has yet to show the strong rapport with Philip Rivers that was on display throughout camp in actual NFL action.
As far as narratives go, “talked with grandma” is not the spiciest but it does feel like Hilton is primed to get on track. The Colts know they need to get Hilton going, especially with Parris Campbell sidelined. In a game in which they are favored by 11.5 points, expect for the Colts to have the play-calling freedom to give Hilton some extra opportunities to regain his confidence and get rolling. In terms of proven upside, Hilton’s is obvious. He has an incredible career total of 33 games with 100+ receiving yards.
Darius Slayton, NY Giants ($5,500 — 1%)
Slayton is another strong option to differentiate our rosters, save some cap space, and do so without sacrificing proven upside. In Slayton’s last nine games, he has had 100+ yards and 2 touchdowns in three of them (33%). With both Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard both out, Slayton should get a bunch of targets this week against a beat up 49ers defense. San Francisco’s defense will be without top pass rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, which means Daniel Jones should have some time in the pocket. If so, Slayton should be the main beneficiary as the Giants primary deep threat.
Other Wide Receivers to Consider
|DeAndre Hopkins||Detroit||$8,500||31%||Super chalky but worth paying up for.|
|Allen Robinson||Atlanta||$6,900||12%||Quiet start to the season but seeing targets and has great matchup.|
|A.J. Green||Philadelphia||$5,900||1%||Leads the NFL in air yards. Due for a big game sometime soon.|
|CeeDee Lamb||Seattle||$5,600||12%||May be Cowboys best WR already and in shootout environment.|
|Julian Edelman||Las Vegas||$6,500||9%||Averaging 9 targets per game and in strong matchup.|
|D.J. Moore||LA Chargers||$6,700||6%||Averaging 11 targets per game. Priced too low despite tough matchup.|
|K.J Hamler||Tampa Bay||$4,500||1%||Min-priced upside play. Elite speed and saw 7 targets last week.|
|Jerry Jeudy||Tampa Bay||$5,300||1%||Slow start but it is going to happen at some point for Denver's top WR.|
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia ($6,200 — 10%)
Ertz is off to a slow start with 8 catches for 60 yards and 1 touchdown through two weeks. He is due for a game where he racks up big yardage numbers. Going back to 2018, Ertz has had 11 games games with 90+ receiving yards (over 34% of his games). Against a Cincinnati defense that looks like one of the NFL’s worst units, Ertz has a good chance to have his first 90+ yard receiving game of the 2020 season. With Dallas Goedert coming in at $1,000 cheaper and having a hotter start, Ertz could come in at an even lower rostered percentage than predicted and makes for a nice upside play on a slate that does not include elite fantasy tight ends like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit ($5,400 — 1%)
Vegas is projecting a shootout in the desert between the Lions and Cardinals (game total of 55.5 points). If this does turn into a high-scoring affair, Hockenson could be a prime beneficiary and makes for a strong “run it back” option if you are playing an Arizona stack. While the Cardinals have been solid defending tight ends through two weeks, this was a defense that was consistently destroyed by opposing tight ends in 2019. The Cardinals allows 16 receiving touchdowns to tight ends last year and gave up 100+ yards and a touchdown to an opposing tight end four times. One of the tight ends who dominated Arizona was Hockenson, who caught 6 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown at Arizona in the best game of his career.
Other Tight Ends to Consider
|Dallas Goedert||Cincinnati||$5,200||3%||Will be popular but the bargain price and great matchup are hard to ignore.|
|Logan Thomas||Cleveland||$4,900||16%||The #2 target in WAS offense. CLE gave up 11-87-1 to Bengals TEs.|
|Hunter Henry||Carolina||$6,000||1%||8 targets and 70+ yards in each of first two games.|
|Evan Engram||San Francisco||$5,900||5%||Should see target boost with Barkley and Shepard sidelined.|
|Jonnu Smith||Minnesota||$5,600||14%||Only 6 targets per game but has already scored three times.|
|Tampa Bay||Denver||$3,800||21%||Strong pass rush facing a backup quarterback|
|Atlanta||Chicago||$3,200||3%||Bargain option against bad quarterback|
|Indianapolis||NY Jets||$4,800||16%||Huge favorites against awful offense|
|Pittsburgh||Houston||$4,700||5%||The NFL's best fantasy defense generates a ton of pressure.|
|Cleveland||Washington||$3,900||11%||Priced well against shaky quarterback.|
|Philadelphia||Cincinnati||$4,500||10%||Front seven should dominate bad Bengals line.|