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.
Similar to the Week 12 main slate, the quarterback position is dreadful. Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes II, and Dak Prescott play in primetime for a second consecutive week. Aaron Rodgers is on bye. And Kyler Murray ($7,500) and Lamar Jackson ($7,800) are overpriced in low-total games. It leaves Tom Brady ($7,200) as the clear-cut chalk, followed by Justin Herbert ($6,700). A sneaky-high 49.5-point over/under should propel Derek Carr ($6,000) as the public’s favorite value play.
Flip the Build: Jackson and Murray are each contrarian options who have overall QB1 in their range of possible outcomes, but their salaries and game environments leave plenty to be desired. Kirk Cousins ($6,500) is in a better spot for offensive production vs. the Lions, but his price is inflated in a matchup that profiles as friendlier for Alexander Mattison and the Vikings’ running game. You probably don’t need to get too different at the position, but you can consider Carson Wentz ($6,100) vs. the Texans and hope touchdown variance strikes Jonathan Taylor down. Tua Tagovailoa ($5,500) has played exceedingly well since returning from injury, though it hasn’t shown up in the box score. Perhaps the counting stats will come in a home matchup against the injury-depleted Giants?
Common roster builds will diverge at running back, and that is before several key injury situations are settled. We know Taylor ($9,200) is chalk against the Texans’ bottom-five rush defense, and Mattison ($7,600) is set up to crush the Lions. These two will appear together in RB-heavy builds and alone as RB1s in more balanced lineups. Regardless of cap allocation at other positions, we can safely expect running backs to be used in the flex position more often than not. Elijah Mitchell is only $6,000, coming off a huge week (30.8 DraftKings points), and facing Seattle’s league-worst rush defense. Jamaal Williams ($5,400) is about $1K too cheap standing in for the injured D'Andre Swift. Optimal construction can be thrown into complete disarray if Miles Sanders and/or Darrell Henderson suffer injury setbacks in practice on Friday.
Flip the Build: If the masses are paying up to Taylor and Mattison, and down to Mitchell and Williams, the middle salary range is ripe for the picking. Antonio Gibson ($5,700) is the most intriguing option based on his matchup and recent usage. Hopefully, J.D. McKissic clears the concussion protocol to further shade Gibson’s roster percentage. James Conner ($5,900), Josh Jacobs ($6,000), and David Montgomery ($5,600) are also positioned for heavy workloads, and none should exceed a middling percent-rostered.
Cooper Kupp ($9,000) should end up the highest-rostered wide receiver since enough lineups will include two inexpensive running backs. But with many opting to pay up for Taylor and Mattison (or possibly Joe Mixon), the mid-range at wide receiver will get piled on. Your opponents’ rosters will be littered with Chris Godwin ($6,600), Jaylen Waddle ($6,400), Hunter Renfrow ($5,800), Michael Pittman Jr ($5,700), and Brandon Aiyuk ($5,600).
Flip the Build: DraftKings consistently prices Justin Jefferson ($8,200) too high to make him a crowd-favorite, and this week is no exception. With Mattison expected to appear on about 20% of rosters at roughly the same salary, Jefferson (and Adam Thielen) provide field leverage. On the topic of leverage, Van Jefferson ($5,300) is cheap, heavily targeted since Robert Woods was lost for the season, and will go unnoticed while Kupp, Henderson (or Sony Michel), and Odell Beckham Jr garner all the attention in LA. Devonta Smith ($6,100) is too skilled for anyone the Jets can use to cover him. Especially if Jalen Hurts suffers a setback, Smith will have the low crowd exposure and 4x ceiling we’re looking for in GPPs.
Darren Waller is expected to miss Week 13 with a knee issue, positioning Foster Moreau ($2,700) as the mega-chalk. While he won’t appear in the most common builds, Rob Gronkowski ($5,300) will also be popular coming off a big game and headed into a matchup against the Falcons.
Flip the Build: Moreau is a glaring value, but an obvious fade in tournaments at the most volatile position outside of DST. Playing just about any tight end aside from Moreau or Gronkowski will be different enough. Kyle Pitts ($5,600), George Kittle ($5,300), and Dallas Goedert ($4,500) have the highest ceilings, while James O’Shaughnessy ($2,600) is your price pivot off Moreau in his first full game with Dan Arnold sidelined.
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:
Tom Brady (@ATL, $7,200, 14% rostered)
Brady appeared in 12% of lineups in last week’s Fantasy Football Millionaire, trailing only Cam Newton for the top spot. Without much competition in the top salary tier and with very few attractive value plays at the position, we can safely assume Brady will be even more popular this week. The Falcons are a neutral matchup for enemy quarterbacks, mostly due to how terrible they are stopping the run. While Leonard Fournette can once again have a huge game, it’s not likely to come entirely at Brady’s expense as it did in Week 12. When these two teams faced each other in Week 2, Brady threw for five touchdowns. Dak Prescott (296-2-0) is the only other above-average quarterback Atlanta has faced since. A 30+ point game isn’t too far off Brady’s median projection in this spot. Make him one of your top quarterback plays.
Jonathan Taylor (@HOU, $9,200, 25% rostered)
Aside from last week’s solid 19.7 DraftKings points against the league’s best rush defense in Tampa Bay, Taylor has scored at least 21 points (and as many as 56) in every game since Week 4. He annihilated Houston’s rush defense back in Week 6 (14-145-2) and there is no reason he shouldn’t once again. The only difference is Taylor cost $6,600 in the previous game. At $9,200 and upwards of 25% rostered, we’ll need him to reach something approaching his ceiling to justify playing him in tournaments. You may want to leave him out if you’re only playing one lineup, but carry at least 20% exposure if you’re multi-entering.
Foster Moreau (vs. WAS, $2,700, 20% rostered)
Although there are cheap running backs available, the running back salary floor is higher than any non-quarterback position, so the field still has to save salary somewhere. Tight end is usually the most likely place to conserve cap space and everyone remembers the talented Moreau filling in admirably for Waller against Philadelphia in Week 7 (18 DraftKings points). While Moreau pops in point-per-dollar models, he’s best avoided in tournaments relative to his roster percentage. If the volatility of the tight end position rears its head, avoiding Moreau will move you past a large chunk of your opponents in the standings.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Justin Herbert||QB||@CIN||$6,700||10%||Pay up to Brady instead.|
|Derek Carr||QB||WAS||$6,000||9%||Low cost to stack Raiders only reason he's in play as chalk.|
|Alexander Mattison||RB||@DET||$7,600||20%||Hard to choose which RBs to play this week. As good a choice as any.|
|Jamaal Williams||RB||MIN||$5,400||16%||Can't trust the Lions offense with so many other good RB plays.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||@CIN||$7,500||15%||Overpriced by at least $600.|
|Cooper Kupp||WR||JAX||$9.000||17%||Entering a slate without 20% exposure is dangerous.|
|Chris Godwin||WR||@ATL||$6,600||20%||Last week's quiet game was an anomaly in Brown's absence.|
|Rob Gronkowski||TE||@ATL||$5,300||12%||If Week 12 was any indication, roster % will be inflated.|
|Miami Dolphins||DST||NYG||$3,300||12%||Hate playing chalk DST but hard to avoid hot MIA squad at home.|
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.
Antonio Gibson (@LV, $5,700, 14% rostered)
Gibson will pick up steam with the public as the week wears on, especially if J.D. McKissic can’t clear the concussion protocol. While Gibson would make for a higher-leverage play in the event McKissic is active, he’s still worth mentioning in this section because he might be the best play on the slate either way. Since the Football Team’s Week 9 bye, a (finally) healthy Gibson has averaged 23.6 touches per game with McKissic in the lineup. Over the same three-week span, the Raiders have allowed 38% more PPR fantasy points to enemy running backs than league average. Gibson’s ceiling rivals that of any other running back on the slate outside of Taylor’s. Play him heavily with or without McKissic in the lineups, regardless of how popular he gets.
Carson Wentz (@HOU, $6,100, 6% rostered)
We just saw a chalky Brady put up 12 DraftKings points while his sparsely-rostered running back dropped 47 on the Colts. The same theory applies to Wentz this week, albeit in reverse. The crowd is tripping over themselves to click on Taylor, but if Indianapolis’ touchdowns come via the pass against the lowly Texans, it’s Wentz and his receivers who can help you finish in the top-1% of a GPP. For his own part, Wentz has performed well recently when matched up against a lousy pass defense. Since Week 8, he’s scored over 20 DraftKings points in games against the Titans (20.34), Jets (24.18), and Buccaneers (26.34). Stack him with last week’s busted chalk, Michael Pittman Jr, who should fly somewhat below the crowd’s radar due to recency bias.
Justin Jefferson (@ DET, $8,200, 11% rostered)
This entire blurb could read, “Justin Jefferson plays in a dome this week”, and it would be reason enough to raise your exposure. But without Dalvin Cook, the Vikings offense should rely at least a little bit more on its best playmaker, who was on a tear before cooling off against San Francisco in Week 12 (9-4-83-0). In the last game Cook missed (against these same Lions), Jefferson converted eight targets into 124 receiving yards with zero touchdowns. Expect a similar receiving line plus a touchdown in Detroit, where the Lions have been lucky to hold wide receivers out of the end zone at such a high clip.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||@PIT||$7,800||6%||Overpriced but ceiling is highest at position.|
|Josh Jacobs||RB||WAS||$6,000||7%||Quietly has at least 4 targets in each of last 4 games.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||@MIA||$6,300||8%||Getting healthier and prioritized in passing game.|
|Mike Evans||WR||@ATL||$6,700||9%||Will appear on fewer rosters than Gronk, Godwin, Fournette.|
|Brandon Aiyuk||WR||@SEA||$5,600||10%||No Deebo increases opportunity. Playing well.|
|Ja'Marr Chase||WR||LAC||$7,000||8%||Forgotten man after Higgins finally blew up.|
|Dallas Goedert||TE||@NYJ||$4,500||8%||Sharp play last week didn't work out. Still sharp.|
|Minnesota Vikings||DST||@DET||$3,200||6%||Swift was only good thing DET offense had going for it.|
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.
Tua Tagovailoa (vs. NYG, $5,500, 3% rostered)
Any time a wide receiver projects as popular and his quarterback contrarian, it’s worth digging deeper. Such is the case with Jaylen Waddle and Tagovailoa this week. Tagovailoa has played lights out recently, completing 84% pass attempts over the last two games. Despite his stellar play, Tagovailoa hasn’t exceeded 18.5 points on DraftKings during Miami’s three-game winning streak. Touchdown variance is the likely culprit. Myles Gaskin can’t continue to run for three yards every time he touches the ball and score multiple touchdowns in a game. The Dolphins should beat up on the injury-ravaged Giants at home. If Tagovailoa’s efficiency is a major reason why, 23-25 DraftKings points are in play, which is plenty for tournaments at his low price point and crowd exposure.
Van Jefferson (vs. JAX, $5,300, 5% rostered)
In two games without Robert Woods, Jefferson has 16 targets and leads the Rams with 50 more air yards than Cooper Kupp. The numbers behind the numbers also check out. His snap rate is above 95% in both games and he’s run a route on nearly every one of Matthew Stafford’s dropbacks. Apparently, the crowd hasn’t caught up to Jefferson’s post-Woods usage because as of this writing, Odell Beckham Jr and Darrell Henderson, each of whom are nursing injuries, are slated to appear on more rosters. Plan on this being the last week we’ll see Jefferson at a sub-10% roster percentage.
Marquise Brown (@PIT, $6,500, 5% rostered)
Now two weeks removed from missing time with a thigh injury, Brown should get back to making downfield splash plays. With 19+ DraftKings points in 60% of his games this season, Brown’s probability of helping you to a first-place finish is far greater than his minuscule roster percentage. While Pittsburgh has struggled to defend bigger receivers downfield, Brown, who has at least 10 targets in each of his last four games, will get too many opportunities to burn a struggling pass defense. It’s not cheap and doesn’t project well from a median standpoint, but a Jackson-Brown stack has tournament-winning upside.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||@SEA||$5,700||2%||Mitchell leverage. Pairs well with Aiyuk, Kittle.|
|Boston Scott||RB||@NYJ||$4,600||2%||Could shoulder most of load even with Sanders active.|
|Darnell Mooney||WR||ARI||$5,600||6%||20+ in three straight since A-Rob got hurt.|
|Terry McLaurin||WR||@LV||$7,400||6%||Price never seems to drop. Play in non-Gibson lineups.|
|Devonta Smith||WR||@NYJ||$6,100||4%||QB doesn't matter. Who covers him on NYJ?|
|James O'Shaughnessy||TE||@LAR||$2,600||5%||Similar median projection to Moreau at 1/4 the % rostered.|
|San Francisco 49ers||DST||@SEA||$2,700||4%||Something is wrong with Russ (probably his finger).|