All roster percentages cited below are based on Devin Knotts’ 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.
KNOW YOUR ENEMIES
If you want to finish at the top of the standings in a mid-to-large field GPP, your roster has to stand out from the crowd. Studying a list of projected roster percentages is a helpful first step, but it lacks the context of how the most popular players fit together under the salary cap.
To gain some insight into how the majority of entrants will allocate their cap space, so you can spend yours differently, let’s think about how the public is most likely to attack roster construction at each position.
The Week 1 DraftKings $5M Fantasy Football Millionaire saw nine quarterbacks check-in with roster percentages between 6-10%. With six games on this week’s main slate implied to reach or exceed a 50-point total, we should expect a similarly flat roster distribution this week. Kyler Murray ($8,200), Russell Wilson ($7,500), Josh Allen ($7,200), Tom Brady ($6,900), Dak Prescott ($6,800), and Justin Herbert ($6,700) will cannibalize each other’s popularity in the top pricing tier. It’s a near-lock one of these quarterbacks (most likely Prescott or Brady) appears in the most common roster construction.
Flip the Build: Matthew Stafford ($6,400), along with the rest of the Rams skill players appear underpriced on the road in Indianapolis. Assuming the crowd gravitates towards Stafford stacks by the weekend, the best price pivot off the top quarterbacks could be Jalen Hurts ($6,400). We’ll see how much of his Week 1 passing prowess (264-3-0, 77% completions) can be attributed to the Falcons defense, but Hurts’ rushing ability puts him in the overall QB1 regardless of matchup. Baker Mayfield ($6,000) and Ben Roethlisberger ($5,900) put the crowd to sleep most weeks, but both are easily stackable heavy home favorites with high implied team totals.
Najee Harris ($6,300) put up only 5.9 DraftKings points in his NFL debut, but will probably end up the chalkiest player on the slate in his second career game. The crowd will chase Harris’ matchup, workload, and modest price, which fits in nicely alongside expensive quarterbacks and wide receivers. Alvin Kamara ($8,800) and Austin Ekeler ($7,300) are the most likely luxury purchases at RB1, but the desire to stack expensive quarterbacks with their top receivers and run-back options should keep high-end RB1s in relatively modest demand. RB2s alongside Harris in common builds will most often be mid-priced options, such as Chris Carson ($6,100), Darrell Henderson ($5,700), and Damien Harris ($5,400).
Flip the Build: It could be a rare week in which Christian McCaffrey comes in at 10% rostered or less. His $9,900 salary is one way to start your builds differently while maintaining upside. Ezekiel Elliott ($6,200) is a near-perfect price pivot off Harris at RB1. If Elliott has a big game at the expense of Prescott, Amari Cooper, and/or CeeDee Lamb, you’ll gain massive leverage on your opponents. And keep your eye on the news out of San Francisco. If we don’t have much clarity on their backfield hierarchy by the weekend, it’s better to be a week early than a week late on Elijah Mitchell ($5,000).
The public remembers watching Amari Cooper ($6,800) and CeeDee Lamb ($6,400) deliver the goods in last Thursday’s season opener against a tough Tampa Bay defense. We can safely expect at least one, and maybe both, to appear in common builds. Keenan Allen’s ($7,000) roster percentage will also get a boost as the most common run-back piece in Cowboys at Chargers stacks. Cooper Kupp ($6,000) is mispriced by at least $1K after proving himself as Stafford’s preferred target in Week 1. It wouldn’t be shocking if he ended up the chalkiest wide receiver on the slate. The No. 1 wide receivers in Arizona, Seattle, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay will round out common builds, but they’ll eat into each other enough to keep their respective roster percentages somewhat in check.
Flip the Build: Going back to last week’s busted chalk, Calvin Ridley ($7,500), as a one-off should help you differentiate your builds. Justin Jefferson ($7,400) and A.J. Brown ($6,900) also qualify as Week 1 disappointments the crowd will overreact to. But if you really want to turn the common build upside down, more than one wide receiver under $5K will do the trick. Inexpensive pieces of the Buffalo passing game will allow you to get there.
Travis Kelce isn’t on the main slate and Darren Waller ($7,600) is priced equivalent to the WR3. Waller and George Kittle ($6,300) will command attention due to the steep drop-off in production after them at the position, but neither fit the common construction. Tyler Higbee ($4,100) is priced well and saw heavy usage in a Week 1 primetime game, which should make him the public’s preferred tight end.
Flip the Build: If Waller only reaches 10-12% rostered, making him the centerpiece of your lineup is an easy way to differentiate from the field. Aside from paying all the way up to Waller, the best you can do is use a tight end from a high-scoring game that will get overlooked in favor of his team’s wide receivers and running backs. Either tight end on the Cowboys (Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin) or Seahawks (Gerald Everett, Will Dissly) qualify.
CAN YOU TRUST THE CHALK?
The term chalk in sports betting refers to the heavily favored side of a bet. In DFS tournaments, these are the most popular players on the slate. Identifying and taking a stance on the chalk is an important part of tournament strategy. If you fade a chalky player, and he fails to deliver on his scoring projection, your lineups become positioned to pass a large chunk of the field in the standings. But when a player the crowd loves meets his lofty expectations and you choose to avoid him, your lineups can quickly get buried.
If you are entering multiple lineups, deciding whether to play or pass on chalky players is non-binary. The overall roster percentage of your lineup, how the player correlates to the rest of the lineup, and the size of the tournament you are entering all provide needed context.
Some suggestions on how to treat this week’s most popular players:
Najee Harris (vs. LV, $6,300, 25% rostered)
The aforementioned Harris is unquestionably mispriced relative to his stranglehold on the Steelers’ running back touches. In his NFL debut, Harris was on the field for 100% of the offensive snaps while also receiving 100% of Pittsburgh’s carries and targets out of the backfield. It’s an extreme workhorse profile that should play well against the Raiders, whose rush defense didn’t look improved in Week 1 from the unit that allowed the fourth-most PPR points to running backs in 2020. From a game theory perspective, a complete fade of Harris is not recommended. He is simply going to touch the ball too many times in a solid game environment. If you’re multi-entering, match the field’s exposure. You can also consider Harris if you’re only playing a single lineup.
Amari Cooper (@LAC, $6,800, 17% rostered)
The Dallas passing game will draw massive attention from the crowd. Following the injury to Michael Gallup, the target funnel has narrowed for the pass-happy Cowboys. It’s entirely possible both Cooper and Lamb both reach their Week 1 heights. Just know if you’re planning on running out a bunch of Prescott-Cooper-Lamb stacks, so is the rest of the field. Stack this game liberally. It has the highest implied total on the slate (55.5 points). But search for ways to do it most of your opponents will not. Sprinkle Cedrick Wilson and the Dallas tight ends into your game stacks too, and this is a fantastic buy-low opportunity to go heavy on Ezekiel Elliott.
Tyler Higbee (@IND, $4,100, 12% rostered)
Higbee’s Week 1 usage was a best-case scenario for his season-long outlook. He played 100% of the Rams’ offensive snaps, ran a route on 89% of those snaps, and commanded a 24% target share. Similar to Harris, Higbee is too cheap based on how heavily he was relied upon in Week 1. But fading chalky tight ends will pay off over the course of the season. The position is more volatile than any on DraftKings save for DST. Pivot to one of several tight ends in high-total games who can easily approximate Higbee’s production at one-third of the roster percentage.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Dak Prescott||QB||@LAC||$6,800||14%||58 pass attempts last week. Use him plenty, differentiate elsewhere.|
|Tom Brady||QB||ATL||$6,900||11%||Looked terrific in the opener. Should shred hapless ATL defense.|
|Justin Herbert||QB||DAL||$6,700||9%||Warrants exposure in potential shootout, but prefer mobile QBs.|
|Darrell Henderson||RB||@IND||$5,700||15%||Surprising workhorse role in Week 1. But weakness of IND is the secondary.|
|Chris Carson||RB||TEN||$6,100||18%||Great spot for RB production and Penny is out. Prefer Lockett & Metcalf at lower % rostered.|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||@CAR||$8,800||16%||Probably closer to leverage than chalk. Should shred CAR linerbackers.|
|Cooper Kupp||WR||@IND||$6,000||17%||Glaringly mispriced due to Rams playing last Sunday night.|
|CeeDee Lamb||WR||@LAC||$6,400||16%||See Cooper analysis above.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||DAL||$7,000||14%||Can't argue with volume, production, or matchup.|
|Darren Waller||TE||@PIT||$7,600||11%||Priced equivalent to WR3. Steep opportunity cost but where else do you get 19 targets?|
You won’t necessarily be sneaking the players in this section past your opponents. But their roster rate and scoring projections are misaligned with the probability they can help you to a first-place finish. Play them at a higher rate than the field when multi-entering and consider them as pivot options off similarly-priced chalk plays if the overall roster percentage of your lineup is too high.
Ezekiel Elliott (@LAC, $6,200, 11% rostered)
As alluded to in the Amari Cooper blurb above, we should expect a combined roster percentage of at least 45% to settle on Cooper, Lamb, and Prescott. The Cowboys’ passing game is more likely to have a big day than their running game. But is it four times more likely? Elliott’s usage was fine in Week 1. He played on 84% of the snaps and had a 71% route participation rate. If the game script remains neutral, Dallas will run more than they did last week. All it will take is a couple of short touchdowns for Elliott to put a pin in the ceilings of Cooper and Lamb. If his percent-rostered projection remains in this range, triple the field at minimum, and use him primarily in non-Cowboys stacks.
Baker Mayfield (vs. HOU, $6,000, 4% rostered)
No one wants to play Mayfield in DFS. He’s a sub-par pocket passer in a run-first offense. But Vegas is suggesting Cleveland will score over 30 points in a lopsided home win over the lowly Texans. It's a possible outcome we would be silly not to leverage. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the favorites to account for most of the Browns’ scoring, but Mayfield has flashed a ceiling during Kevin Stefanski’s tenure in Cleveland. Last year, he eclipsed 30 DraftKings points in three separate games and went for at least 24 points in two others. The only tough part is stacking Mayfield because the Browns tend to spread it around on offense. Jarvis Landry is the obvious option but based on Week 1 usage, Anthony Schwartz, David Njoku, and Austin Hooper can also be considered. Run it back with Brandin Cooks.
Mike Evans (vs. ATL, $6,100, 7% rostered)
Evans (5.4 DraftKings points) busted in epic fashion during Thursday night’s prime time season opener against Dallas. The quiet performance gives us an opportunity to pounce on the crowd’s recency bias by targeting Evans at home against the hapless Falcons. Evans is still the same player who has never finished a season with fewer than 1,000 receiving yards since entering the league in 2014. And it’s not as though he’s failed to reach his ceiling playing with Tom Brady. In 2020, Evans had spike weeks of 23, 24, and 40(!) PPR fantasy points. If he’s going to be the lowest-rostered of the Buccanneers’ big three receivers, make him your highest.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Ben Roethlisberger||QB||LV||$5.900||5%||His arm might be cooked, but has weapons and game environment in his favor.|
|Jalen Hurts||QB||SF||$6,500||5%||Odds he ends up the top-scoring QB on the slate > his % rostered.|
|Chase Edmonds||RB||MIN||$4,900||7%||Has the passing game role we wanted to see locked up.|
|Austin Ekeler||RB||DAL||$7,300||11%||Lack of receptions last week was due to WRs getting open. RZ usage was encouraging.|
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR||MIN||$8,000||10%||Mismatch for any cornerback MIN can throw at him.|
|Calvin Ridley||WR||@TB||$7,500||11%||Go back to last week's busted chalk in TB-ATL stacks.|
|Ja'Marr Chase||WR||@CHI||$5,000||8%||Priced as though he didn't establish himself as the alpha in Week 1. He did.|
|Noah Fant||TE||@JAX||$4,200||8%||Terrific matchup. No Jeudy = more targets.|
These players are flying below the crowd’s collective radar and will therefore give you the greatest leverage on your opponents if they outperform expectations. Depending on the field size, it will usually take at least one or two players from this tier for your lineup to finish in the top one percent of GPP entries.
Keep in mind, however, that the path to success for these players is somewhat limited, or else they wouldn’t be contrarian. Using more than two together in the same lineup will come at the expense of maximizing projected fantasy points. And if you’re multi-entering, it doesn’t take much exposure for these players to gain you an edge on the field. A 5% rostered player only needs to appear in two out of 10 lineups to give you four times more exposure than your opponents.
Devin Singletary (@MIA, $4,900, 5% rostered)
With mid-priced running backs all the rage this week, Singletary makes sense as a price pivot in lineups that don’t include Bills receivers. Zack Moss has fallen behind Matt Breida, allowing Singletary to take on a featured role in Buffalo. He played on 75% of the snaps in Week 1 and touched the ball 14 times, including five targets out of the backfield. Bills at Dolphins isn’t drawing too much collective attention from the crowd, but with a 49-point over/under and Buffalo’s ability to hang big numbers on the scoreboard, it probably should be. Take advantage of the low price on Singletary and the Bills’ other cheap pieces, including Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders.
Update 9/18: Moss will be active this week, which makes Singeltary a super-thin play at $4,900, especially with Chase Edmonds available at the same price. You can safely forget about playing him.
Kirk Cousins (@AZ, $6,200, 1% rostered)
No one will play Cousins on the road in Arizona while he’s so close in price to Matthew Stafford (among others). But didn’t we just see him go on the road in Cincinnati and engage the Bengals in a shootout? The Vikings are implied to score 24 points, which is just enough to put their major pieces in play for tournaments. Chandler Jones’s five sacks protected Arizona’s suspect secondary in Week 1 against the Titans. But if he can’t follow up the outlier performance, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are capable of boosting Cousins to a second consecutive 25-point output on DraftKings.
DeVonta Smith (vs. SF, $5,400, 5% rostered)
Earlier, we identified Jalen Hurts as a solid pivot play at quarterback. Smith is the only Eagles receiver you can stack alongside Hurts with any confidence. In his NFL debut, Smith led Philadelphia in wide receiver snaps, routes run, and target share on his way to an impressive 19.1 DraftKings points. This week’s game, at home against the 49ers, will require the Eagles to keep their foot on the pedal for much longer than they had to in last week’s blowout win over the Falcons. We haven’t seen the best of Smith yet, but we might against a beat-up San Francisco secondary.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Joe Burrow||QB||@CHI||$5,800||3%||Stafford torched the Bears. Why not Burrow?|
|Jonathan Taylor||RB||LAR||$7,200||4%||Week 1 passing game work was a plus. Big upside if game shoots out.|
|Tim Patrick||WR||@JAX||$4,600||5%||Not exciting but could very well be the new WR1 for DEN in best possible matchup.|
|Chase Claypool||WR||LV||$5,600||5%||Explosion game incoming. Triple the field, at minimum.|
|Justin Jefferson||WR||@ARI||$7,400||4%||Should have had a TD last week. AZ secondary is awful.|
|Pat Freiermuth||TE||LV||$2,500||1%||Dependent on Eric Ebron's status (hamstring DNP Thursday).|