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.
Justin Herbert ($7,100) was always going to be popular playing at home against an undermanned Giants team. But with Keenan Allen (and possibly Mike Williams) out due to COVID, our opponents’ lineups will be riddled with cheap Chargers’ stacks. Those who prefer heavier spending at wide receiver and running back will look to an erratic running quarterback, either Cam Newton ($5,400 vs. ATL) or Taysom Hill ($5,600 @NYJ), each of whom benefits from a favorable matchup.
Flip the Build: Josh Allen ($7,800) and Tom Brady ($7,600) are facing off in the game with the slate’s highest over/under (52.5 points), and Patrick Mahomes II’ Chiefs have the highest implied team total on the slate (29 points). All three top-shelf quarterbacks will cannibalize each other’s popularity, leaving Lamar Jackson under-exposed for a second consecutive week. If you want to get different while saving salary at the position, Teddy Bridgewater ($5,700) is a double-digit home favorite against the Lions who would provide massive field leverage on the Broncos running game.
Without Allen in the lineup, Austin Ekeler ($8,300) profiles as the focal point of the Chargers’ passing attack, making him clear chalk. The RB2 next to Ekeler in common lineups is likely to come from the $6K range. If Melvin Gordon III is inactive, or we otherwise get reports Javonte Williams ($5,900) has earned the feature back role in Denver, he’ll end up the highest-rostered player on the slate. If it’s clear by Sunday Gordon will be back to force a timeshare, Antonio Gibson ($6,000) and Josh Jacobs ($6,200) are the top candidates to appear in the RB2 and Flex slots of stock lineups.
Flip the Build: Joe Mixon’s ($7,700) popularity should finally come down to earth after posting his first sub-par stat line since Week 8. Assuming last week’s neck injury and his early-week illness are behind him by Sunday, Mixon has a winnable matchup at home against the 49ers rush defense. The potential for a shootout (O/U 48.5) gives Mixon a ceiling that rivals any running back’s on the slate outside of Ekeler. Alvin Kamara ($7,900) and Ezekiel Elliott ($7,300) come with more injury risk than Mixon but with Mark Ingram II on the COVID list and Tony Pollard dealing with a plantar fascia injury, it may not matter.
If Mike Williams can clear COVID protocols by Sunday, he becomes an automatic WR1/2 in Keenan Allen’s presumed absence. In Newton/Hill lineups, Williams can be joined by an expensive WR1, such as Tyreek Hill ($8,500) or Chris Godwin ($7,100). Those who spend up to Herbert at quarterback can't afford another wide receiver above the low-$6K range, where D.J. Moore ($6,200) and Hunter Renfrow ($6,100) stand out as crowd-favorite value plays.
Flip the Build: If most of the roster percentage is clustered in the $6K-$7K tier, we have two choices at wide receiver -- identify high upside/low rostered targets in the same price range, or go bargain shopping. CeeDee Lamb ($7,200), D.K. Metcalf ($6,500), Mike Evans ($6,600), and Ja'Marr Chase ($6,900) each qualify as price pivots off chalky plays, such as Godwin, Williams, and Moore. If you want to punt a receiver slot, look to Jacksonville’s pass-catchers in a great matchup against Tennesee. Laquon Treadwell ($3,400) is especially mispriced relative to the role he’s carved out in Urban Meyer’s offense over the previous two games.
George Kittle ($6,900) and Travis Kelce ($7,400) will be in demand as one-off plays, but both are too expensive to fit in common roster builds. As a result, the crowd will gravitate towards a cheap tight end. Gerald Everett ($3,500) and Jared Cook (assuming at least one LA wide receiver scratches) are the top public plays below $4K.
Flip the Build: An easy way to flip the common build is to pay at least $5,500 for a tight end. If you can’t find that much cap space, James O’Shaughnessy ($2,900) is a moderately rostered punt play. You can also go completely off the board with talented Texans rookie Brevin Jordan ($2,500), who has seen his role expand in recent weeks. And don’t forget about last week’s busted chalk, Foster Moreau ($4,000), who should get another chance to hog snaps in Oakland with Darren Waller expected to miss his second consecutive game.
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:
Justin Herbert (vs. NYG, $7,100, 16% rostered)
Herbert has all the trappings of a quarterback we should want to roster in DFS. He’s playing at home, his team is favored to win by double-digits, and the potential loss of Keenan Allen due to COVID opens up a variety of cheap stacking options. While Herbert enters this week’s matchup against the dismal Giants having exceeded a 4x multiple of his current salary in three out of his previous five games, there is a glaring warning signal that should keep him mostly reserved for cash formats. If you look at his recent ceiling games against the Eagles, Steelers, and Bengals, Herbert got there because the opposition forced him to keep his foot on the gas. Do you trust the noodle-armed Jake Fromm, making his first NFL start on the road with a depleted receiving corps, to put pressure on Herbert to throw for four quarters? The answer is a hard no, especially if fading Herbert is an easy path to a unique lineup.
Javonte Williams (vs. DET, $5,900, 25% rostered)
As of Thursday, Melvin Gordon III had logged back-to-back limited practices and said he “feels like he’ll be able to go on Sunday against the Lions”. The Broncos coaching staff, however, have their backs up against the wall and it remains to be seen how willing they are to put the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube after Williams’ stellar Week 13 performance. Williams looked like a star on the ground (23-102-0) and through the air (9-6-76-1) against the Chiefs. If gifted a similar workload against the dismal Lions, Williams is probably the most deserving mega-chalk of the season at a sub-$6K price point. For tournaments, it’s probably better if Gordon were announced active. While it’s possible Gordon would return to his usual role and stymie Williams’ opportunity, there is a chance Williams has already won the job outright and a healthy Gordon would only serve to reduce his percent rostered.
Chris Godwin (vs. BUF, $7,100, 19% rostered)
In a move that was long overdue, DraftKings finally bumped Godwin’s salary over the $7K threshold. It would seem 17-target games have an effect on the pricing algorithms, and we should expect the same to hold true for his roster percentage in tournaments. The Bills are a difficult matchup for the Buccaneers passing game on the surface, but we haven’t seen Buffalo in action since they lost stud cornerback, TreDavious White, to a torn ACL (Mac Jones’ four pass attempts on Monday Night Football do not count). Even if White were still in the lineup, there wouldn’t be a reason to fade Godwin in this spot. He’s the clear WR1 on the league’s best passing offense and Buffalo at Tampa Bay might end the only high-scoring game on the slate.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Taysom Hill||QB||@NYJ||$5,600||11%||Keep him reserved for cash games.|
|Cam Newton||QB||ATL||$5,400||10%||If he can't rebound off a bye vs. this defense, it's over.|
|Austin Ekeler||RB||NYG||$8,300||22%||Good chalk, especially if Allen is out.|
|Antonio Gibson||RB||DAL||$6,000||18%||Better GPP play if McKissic is active. Multi-TD upside.|
|Mike Williams||WR||NYG||$6,000||28%||Hard to see him failing without Allen in the lineup.|
|D.J. Moore||WR||ATL||$6,200||17%||Obvious Newton stacking partner benefits from no CMC.|
|Tyreek Hill||WR||LV||$8,500||20%||Minimum 10% exposure to slate-breaking ceiling required.|
|Jared Cook||TE||NYG||$3,200||12%||Bad chalk. Not every LAC player can succeed.|
|Seattle Seahawks||DST||HOU||$3,100||14%||Easy to fade a bad defense at this roster %.|
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.
Alvin Kamara (@NYJ, $7,900, 14% rostered)
On an ordinary slate, if Kamara were sub-$8K, facing the Jets’ defense, and his platoon-mate had COVID, he would appear on at least 30% of rosters. Instead, he’ll check in at about half that rate, which makes a leap of faith Kamara is fully recovered from a Week 9 MCL sprain a gamble worth taking. It’s fair to question Kamara’s ceiling due to Taysom Hill taking over at quarterback for New Orleans, but his splits with Hill from last season are drawn from a dangerously small four-game sample (that includes one game in which Denver was forced to start a wide receiver at quarterback). It’s probably best not to overthink this one. Kamara is one of the most dangerous players in the league with the ball in his hands and the Jets have allowed 60% more fantasy points to enemy running backs than league average over the past five weeks. Double the field’s exposure.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (vs. LV, $6,100, 7% rostered)
With Javonte Williams, Josh Jacobs, and Antonio Gibson available at about the same salary, Edwards-Helaire will go overlooked in a great spot. The Chiefs host the Raiders as 9.5 point favorites and Vegas’ linebackers struggle to contain the run. It would be surprising if the Raiders’ coaching staff didn’t make major adjustments after Patrick Mahomes II strafed them for 406 yards and five touchdowns in Week 10. If Las Vegas dares Kansas City to beat them with the run, Edwards-Helaire has a strong chance at 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. In last week’s game against Denver, he was on the better side of a 65/35 touch-share with Darrel Williams.
Amari Cooper (@WAS, $5,900, 6% rostered)
Cooper’s salary has cratered now that he has failed to top 51 receiving yards in three appearances since Week 9. But he was eased back into action last week following a bout with COVID (34% snap rate) and should be back to full speed with the Cowboys coming off extended rest. With Ezekiel Elliott hurting and Tony Pollard likely to scratch, Dallas may be forced to lean more heavily on their passing game. Getting the ball in Cooper’s hands would be a sound strategy regardless of the health of the Cowboys’ running backs. Washington has allowed 22% more fantasy points to opposing wideouts than league average this season.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Russell Wilson||QB||HOU||$6,600||6%||Showed signs of life last week. Seattle has no running game.|
|Joe Mixon||RB||SF||$7,700||10%||Watch illness. Should finally go overlooked if active.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||@LAC||$6,000||8%||Play him outside of Chargers stacks too.|
|Mike Evans||WR||BUF||$6,600||7%||Godwin/Gronk leverage brings weekly multi-TD upside.|
|DK Metcalf||WR||@HOU||$6,500||10%||Past due for huge receiving line. No Texans can stop him.|
|Ja'Marr Chase||WR||SF||$6,900||8%||Would be +10% rostered if he brings in long TD last week.|
|Foster Moreau||TE||@KC||$4,000||6%||Always a good idea to go back to last week's busted chalk.|
|New York Jets||DST||NO||$2,500||6%||Cheap leverage on Taysom Hill.|
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.
Lamar Jackson (CLE, $7,400, 3% rostered)
Jackson will appear on too few rosters for a second consecutive week. Sure, he hasn’t played well as the Ravens enter their stretch run, but you can count the number of quarterbacks with a higher weekly ceiling than Jackson on two fingers. The chances he appears in the optimal lineup are greater than 3% until proven otherwise. A matchup against Cleveland doesn’t scream ceiling-game, but it won’t matter if Jackson approaches 100 yards on the ground.
Laquon Treadwell (@TEN, $3,400, 4% rostered)
Don’t look now, but Treadwell – the quintessential first-round draft bust – is operating as the Jaguars’ WR1. Over the last two games, his snap share (90%), route participation rate (88%), and target share (19%) support the low double-digit scoring efforts (close enough in Week 12) he’s posted on DraftKings. Assuming the usage pattern continues for Treadwell, he actually has some upside this week against the Titans. When we last saw Tennesee’s pass defense in action, they were making Kendrick Bourne (6-5-61-2) look like Cooper Kupp.
Emmanuel Sanders (@TB, $4,900, 2% rostered)
We’re likely to see plenty of Josh Allen stacks this week, but few will include Sanders, who hasn’t exceeded 7.1 DraftKings points since Week 10. Sanders remains the most heavily targeted Bills’ wide receiver behind Stefon Diggs over the team’s last four games, which plays well against a Tampa Bay defense that routinely gets burned for big plays in the passing game. While he doesn’t project for a massive performance, the chances Sanders delivers a big game at his salary aren’t much different than Diggs' and Cole Beasley's, each of whom will appear in at least five times as many lineups.
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Ros %||Comment|
|Teddy Bridgewater||QB||DET||$5,700||4%||Double-digit home favorite. Stackable with Javonte.|
|D'Onta Foreman||RB||JAX||$5,100||5%||Game script points to heavy usage + goal-line work.|
|Tre'Quan Smith||WR||@NYJ||$4,800||5%||No Deonte Harris opens up additional targets.|
|Brandon Aiyuk||WR||@CIN||$5,800||6%||Expensive but capable of making a splash if Deebo sits again.|
|Josh Palmer||WR||NYG||$3,000||4%||Possesses some alpha traits. Time of year when rookies flash.|
|Brevin Jordan||TE||SEA||$2,500||1%||Athletic rookie getting more involved on offense each week.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||DST||SF||$2,900||2%||Never rostered. Always frisky.|