The Sharp Report
One of the most proficient gamblers that sportsbooks have ever seen, Haralabos Voulgaris, is on record saying the main reason he retired from professional gambling is that he was gradually losing his edge against the sportsbooks. Voulgaris explains that every time he placed a bet, he gave the sportsbook a metaphoric piece to the puzzle that, once solved, would completely erase his edge to the point where he would no longer be a profitable bettor. The same way sportsbooks learned from Voulgaris' bets and eroded his edge, daily fantasy sports players can learn from their top competitors and eat away at their edge. These top competitors, known as sharps, typically play DFS at a much higher level and for much more money than others. These players normally have very advanced and accurate projection systems that give them their edge over the field. Fortunately, every time they enter a contest the sharp players' lineups are available to the public to be broken down, analyzed, and learned from. The Sharp Report will be a weekly article that uses all available and applicable data to draw conclusions regarding how the industry's smartest decision-makers and their projections systems come to their final conclusions when building lineups. Over the course of the entire season, The Sharp Report's goal will be to project what the best players in the industry will do in upcoming contests and, in turn, figure out what it is that gives these high-level players their edge over the field.
Throughout each week, more and better information regarding things like player availability, individual matchups, and depth charts will become available. The section of this article projecting which player is likely to be rostered by most of the sharp players next week will be updated by Saturday afternoon each week after all applicable information has become available. If enough data reveals itself that a completely new player is deemed worthy of being mentioned as Next Week's Sharp Play, the original section will appear in red font and the new section will appear in bold black font. If all available information leads to the same conclusion made earlier in the week, the original section will be changed to bold black font.
The players analyzed in this article consistently play, and win, in high-stakes contests and are also ranked in the top ten percent in RotoGrinders' super heavyweight division of DFS players. Players' names will be omitted from the article, but all lineups analyzed are from the GIANT $1,060 50-50 on DraftKings.
Team #1: 177.62 points, 2/50, DID cash
Team #2: 164.72 points, 25/50, DID Cash
Last weekend, all three players featured in the Sharp Core were rostered by at least 64-percent of the field in the GIANT $1,060 50/50 on DraftKings.
Lamar Jackson is rounding into form late in his 2020 campaign. Across the last three weeks, he has led the Ravens to high-scoring performances of 34, 47, and 40 points. Last weekend, an exceptionally soft matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars' league-worst defense, according to passing DVOA allowed. Jackson was not a cheap selection at quarterback, but thanks to the salary-saving options at other positions, fitting him into cash-game lineups was a viable strategy. A strong starting point for weekly quarterback selections in cash-games is the FootballGuys' consensus projections within the Single Lineup Builder. There, sorting by h-value can help to highlight the strongest plays at each position. H-value is superior to the standard points-per-dollar value approach because it properly weights the value of securing high-scoring players, despite their expensive price tags. In Week 15, Lamar Jackson was the clear-cut number-one quarterback on the slate, according to FootballGuys' consensus projections h-value. Once again, most of the sharpest NFL DFS cash-game players opted to lock in a dual-threat at quarterback, providing a substantial floor and ceiling of production in multiple areas of the game.
Late-breaking news that Ezekiel Elliott would miss the Cowboys' Week 15 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers made Tony Pollard a fantastic cash-game selection. Pollard has been the more efficient of Dallas' top two running backs this season, and Week 15 was his chance to prove his worth to the team with a full workload. The second-year back out of Memphis has played a sizable role in Dallas' passing game when on the field this season. Pollard has commanded approximately 1 target for every 2.5 rushing attempts he has registered this year-- here, as the team's number-one option in the backfield, he was expected to command significant volume both on the ground and through the air. The thought process behind locking Tony Pollard into cash-game lineups on Sunday afternoon was straight forward. At $5,200, he was massively underpriced for a player expected to shoulder a full workload in Dallas' backfield, which features considerable volume through the air. Pollard easily paid off this price tag at the end of the day thanks to a pair of rushing scores and 6 receptions for 69 yards through the air.
Below, in italics, is last week's analysis used to project Brandon Aiyuk as a member of The Sharp Core.
Brandon Aiyuk has burst onto the scene for the 49ers in recent weeks, and his outlook for the final few weeks of his rookie campaign is exceptionally bright. Unfortunately, Deebo Samuel went down with a recurring hamstring injury last weekend, which will likely sideline him for the final few weeks of the season. Brandon Aiyuk has risen to the occasion as a potential number-one wide receiver for San Francisco in his absence. Aiyuk averages over 11 targets-per-game over his last 5 outings, and he has recorded at least 5 receptions for 75 yards in each of those games. Last week, after Deebo Samuel went down with his injury on the team's offensive snap of the game, Aiyuk commanded 16 targets against the Washington Football Team. This weekend, in a much softer matchup against the Dallas Cowboys' 23rd-ranked pass defense, according to DVOA allowed, Aiyuk is primed to dominate once again. Although his price has increased slightly since last week, San Francisco's rookie pass-catcher should be a staple of cash-game lineups in Week 15 at $6,400.
Below, in italics, is last week's analysis used to project Emmanuel Sanders as a member of The Sharp Core.
Sticking in New Orleans, Emmanuel Sanders projects to be another beneficiary of the Saints' new-look passing attack in Week 15. Earlier in the year, when Michael Thomas was out of commission, Sanders and Drew Brees built an impressive connection across the latter three games of this stint. Sanders averaged over nine targets-per-game over this span, and he should return to the top of the depth chart this weekend. At just $4,200, Emmanuel Sanders is a steal in a projected shootout against the Kansas City Chiefs, which is projected to total over 52 points between the teams. Also, this matchup will take place inside the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which will shield both offenses from any adverse elements of December weather. The stars have aligned for not one, but two members of the New Orleans Saints' offense to make their way into sharp cash-game lineups across the industry this weekend, and they should surely be featured in yours as well.
Lynn Bowden Jr was another beneficiary of late-breaking injury news in Week 15. Just hours before lock, it was revealed that DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Jakeem Grant, Miami's top three pass-catchers, would all miss their game against the New England Patriots. This laundry list of absences in the receiving corps thrust Lynn Bowden Jr to the top of the depth chart. Bowden, a third-round pick out of Kentucky, was seeing a steady increase in playing time leading up to this point. Without Gesicki, Parker, and Grant in the fold, Week 15 was a prime opportunity for Bowden to prove Miami correct for trading for the Las Vegas Raiders castaway. Before this matchup, Bowden played a season-high 71-percent of Miami's offensive snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs while tallying 9 targets on the afternoon. This buy-low opportunity to roster a high-volume pass-catcher in a depleted receiving corps was too good to pass up on in Week 15. Despite a tough matchup against New England's defense, the projected volume prevailed, making Lynn Bowden Jr one of the most popular receivers on the slate.
Below, in italics, is last week's analysis used to project Alvin Kamara as a member of The Sharp Core.
Late in the week, news came down that, not only will Drew Brees return to the lineup and start under center for the New Orleans Saints, but, Michael Thomas also landed on the injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the regular season. We can now expect the Saints' offense to look more like it did early in the season, when Alvin Kamara was regularly a staple of sharp cash-game teams as he led his team in both rushing and receiving. Without Michael Thomas, Kamara's receiving volume will increase because of the absence of a premier play-maker on the outside. Additionally, with Drew Brees back at quarterback, New Orleans' offense should air the ball out at a much higher rate, which serves as another boost to Kamara's projected performance this weekend. In a relatively soft matchup against the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense, according to DVOA allowed, Alvin Kamara is by far the strongest cash-game selection on the slate at just $7,400.
The Sharp Core
Projected Sharp Play #1: Mitchell Trubisky
Matt Nagy appears to have finally cracked the code and discovered how to make Mitchell Trubisky look like a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. In recent weeks, Nagy has overhauled Chicago's offensive attack. Now, Chicago's offense is eerily similar the San Francisco 49ers', Los Angeles Rams', or Cleveland Browns' attacks. The Bears' offense is now built around short throws to players in space and misdirection through play-action. These concepts have worked wonders in the other three offenses mentioned, making average NFL passers look like world-beaters. Recently, Mitchell Trubisky has been playing at the highest level of his career in this revamped attack. Trubisky has turned in three consecutive games with at least 8.4 adjusted-yards-per-attempt for the first time in his career, and he has a great opportunity to make it four this weekend. In Week 16, the Chicago Bears head down to Florida take on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 32nd-ranked pass-defense. At just $5,700, Mitchell Trubisky makes for an elite cash-game selection in this soft matchup.
Projected Sharp Play #2: Austin Ekeler
This weekend, the Los Angeles Chargers' offense will be without at least one, and possibly both, of its top receiving threats in their game against the Denver Broncos. Hunter Henry landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday afternoon, and will miss Sunday's game, while Keenan Allen, who played just 26 snaps last Thursday, is questionable once again this week. Without Henry, Austin Ekeler, one of the league's best receiving backs, projects to command higher volume through the air, giving him an unmatched receiving floor for running backs on the main slate of games here in Week 16. Expect Ekeler to clear 20 DraftKings points with relative ease, especially if Keenan Allen is unable to go, as Ekeler's target share within this offense will grow even larger in that case. Confidently build lineups around Los Angeles' stud number-one running back in all formats of DFS contests this weekend, as the position lacks the top-end plays that sharps typically zero-in on.
Projected Sharp Play #3: Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley is scorching hot in the recent weeks, rising to the occasion with Julio Jones sidelined. Ridley averages 12 targets per game over his last 3 outing, converting them into over 125 yards-per-game to go along with a score in 2 out of the 3. This weekend, Atlanta's passing volume should remain sky-high in a matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs' unmatched scoring attack. Last weekend, with an injured Drew Brees slinging the ball around, Emmanuel Sanders caught 4 passes for 76 yards against the Chiefs. One week earlier, Lynn Bowden Jr, Mack Hollins, and Mike Gesicki all suprassed 65 receiving yards on Kansas City's secondary. Pass-catchers that can only imagine playing at Ridley's level in their wildest dreams have posted respectable stat-lines in high-volume receiving roles recently. Calvin Ridley is primed to torch the Chiefs this weekend thanks to the expected passing volume that comes with the territory as a 10.5-point underdog. At $8,500 the price is steep, but well worth the investment this weekend-- scour the bargain bin for salary-saving options to make Ridley fit into your lineups at all costs this weekend.
"Bonus" Sharp Play: Houston Texans D/ST
This Sharp Play is listed as a bonus because listing a team defense in this place of a more important player in this part of the article would be a disservice to everyone. However, this weekend the Texans jump off the page as the number-one team defense on the slate, when accounting for their cost. At just $2,800, they are one of the cheaper defenses on the slate, and they match up with the Cincinnati Bengals' offense that has struggled mightily this year. Although they were impressive on Monday night, it is important to resist the urge to overreact and avoid targeting the Bengals' offense with a team defense selection. In short, any team facing the Cincinnati Bengals should be price much higher than the Texans are this weekend, and it would behoove you to save some salary by dropping down to them in cash instead of other higher-priced options.
As always, feel free to reach out to me on twitter @StillZam with any questions or comments about this article or anything fantasy football! I will also be sending tweets whenever this article or any other piece I write here at FootballGuys is updated, so be sure to follow to keep tabs on when everything is added and finalized