Note - this article was published prior to the rescheduling of the Washington at Philadelphia and Seattle at Rams games. It has since been updated to reflect the removal of those games from the main slate. With new COVID rules in effect, it is more important than ever to track actives and inactives leading up to lineup lock.
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.
Kansas City played the Chargers on Thursday Night Football and Tampa Bay hosts New Orleans on Sunday Night, leaving the main slate without four of the public’s favorite quarterbacks. Roster percentages should remain flat at the position as a result, though we’ll likely see two schools of thought when it comes to common roster construction. Some will be tempted to spend up to Kyler Murray ($7,900) on the road against the hapless Lions, or Josh Allen ($8,000), assuming we get reports he won’t be severely limited by his sprained foot. Given the question marks surrounding Allen, more will look for savings at quarterback, where Tua Tagovailoa ($5,700) stands out as the top value play at home against the abysmal New York Jets.
Flip the Build: If the choice for the public is between paying up to Murray/Allen or down to Tagovailoa, no one in the entire middle tier of signal-callers should get piled on. Dak Prescott ($6,500) and Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,700) each project for moderate popularity and have a path towards appearing in a first-place lineup. If dumpster diving is your thing, hold your nose and click on Trevor Lawrence ($5,100). It’s possible the toxicity in Jacksonville left town along with Urban Meyer, and Lawrence is cheaper than Zach Wilson and Gardner Minshew this week. A home game against the Texans might be enough to lead Lawrence back over 20 DraftKings points for the first time since Week 5.
Injuries and illnesses have the running back position in a state of complete disarray, but regardless of how the news breaks after Friday’s practice reports, we can safely expect roster percentages to cluster in the $6K range. James Robinson ($5,400) profiles as the chalk. He is cheap, has a winnable matchup against Houston, and Carlos Hyde will scratch with a concussion. Question marks abound after Robinson. It appears Myles Gaskin (COVID) and Michael Carter (ankle) are cleared to return, while Elijah Mitchell (concussion) will not play, paving the way for three affordable running backs in common roster builds.
Flip the Build: No one is spending up at running back this week because there isn’t much worth spending up for. Najee Harris ($7,800) is overpriced by at least $500. The same can be said of Joe Mixon ($7,200), who doesn’t have outs in the passing game if he fails to score multiple touchdowns. Both are fairly strong plays on this slate, however, given their modest roster percentages and the lack of high-upside running backs available.
With Jonathan Taylor, Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, and Alvin Kamara off the main slate, it feels like we have no choice but to spend big at wide receiver. Cooper Kupp ($9,000) was the clear chalk, but with the Rams off the main slate, the mantle should pass to Davante Adams ($8,900) by default. The most common No. 2 wide receiver for stock builds is likely Diontae Johnson, depending on whether or not Jaylen Waddle ($6,600) can test out of COVID protocols. DeVante Parker ($4,300) will appear as the WR3 in an absurd amount of lineups, especially if Waddle is out, as expected.
Flip the Build: There isn’t a game on the slate with a Vegas total north of 47.5 points, so low-rostered pieces of high-scoring passing games do not exist. If you want to flip the conventional build at wide receiver, do it by stacking a wide receiver corps you believe will exceed expectations. Some possibilities include the Bengals (Tee Higgins and JaMarr Chase), Cowboys (Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb), and Jaguars (Marvin Jones, Laquon Treadwell, Laviska Shenault).
There will be variations of common lineups that opt for George Kittle ($7,500) ahead of a pricey WR2. While Kittle’s salary has increased by $1,600 since Week 13, it’s more than justified by the 82.7 Draftkings points he has combined for over the last two games. Mike Gesicki ($5,000) and Dallas Goedert ($5,300) are the consolation prizes for those who can’t find the room for Kittle’s bloated salary (equivalent to the WR5).
Flip the Build: Texans rookie Brevin Jordan ($2,800) was called out in this space as a top contrarian play last week and delivered a 7-4-26-1 receiving line (5x salary multiplier). He remains off the public’s radar and capable of a similar box score against the Jaguars, assuming he can play through a hand injury again. The easiest path towards a unique roster might be to pay up to a tight end other than Kittle. Outside of Kittle, Gesicki, and Goedert, the highest theoretical ceilings on the slate belong to Mark Andrews ($6,400), Zach Ertz ($5,400), and Kyle Pitts ($5,500).
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:
Tua Tagovailoa (vs. NYJ $5,700, 16% rostered)
It would have sounded bonkers as recently as Week 8 for Tagovailoa to lead the quarterback position in percent-rostered on a Showdown slate, let alone an 11-game main slate. While his beleaguered opponent has plenty to do with Tagovailoa’s popularity, there is no denying his improvement since returning from a finger injury. The southpaw has completed at least 73% of his passes in three consecutive games and has a five-to-one TD:INT ratio over the same span. He’s also incredibly cheap to stack with DeVante Parker or double-stack with Parker and Mike Gesicki. You can lock Tagovailoa into cash games, but watch his final percent-rostered projection in GPPs. If it’s higher than 10-12%, play him at about half the field’s exposure. The over/under in Jets at Dolphins is 41.5 and Tagovailoa is presumably missing Waddle, his most trusted weapon.
Cooper Kupp (vs. SEA, $9,000, 29% rostered)
If you’re looking for reasons to fade Kupp in tournaments, this article is not for you. It might be tempting to buck the conventional roster construction by spending up at running back and leaving Kupp out of your plans, just not if your goal is to score more fantasy points than your opponents. Kupp has exceeded 25 points on DraftKings in roughly 70% of his games this season – a rate that doubles the high range of his roster percentage projection. Until he costs $10K or more, you can’t afford to leave him out of your lineups. With Odell Beckham presumably out with COVID, it’s scary to think how heavily Kupp will be targeted against Seattle.
DeVante Parker (vs. NYJ, $4,300, 27% rostered)
Parker’s price looked like a mistake before we learned Jaylen Waddle would miss Week 15. Now that he stands alone as the Dolphins’ WR1, we can safely expect his roster percentage to fly off the rails. Parker returned from a five-week layoff in Week 13 to a solid 71% snap share and 73% route participation rate. He tallied a respectable 5-5-62 receiving line in Miami's convincing win over the Giants, which should be his absolute floor without Waddle in the lineup against an inferior Jets defense. Similar to Tagovailoa, however, Parker is a much better option in cash games than tournaments. The overall ceiling of the Dolphins’ passing attack isn’t high enough to propel Parker beyond 20 DraftKings points, which is the minimum it would take to justify rostering him at the same rate as the field.
|Proj. Ros %
|Highest ceiling at the position on the slate.
|Hyde nursing concussion. Too cheap in great matchup.
|McKissic likely out again. Has been unlucky in TD dept.
|Bills most likely to take Rams place as most popular offense.
|Can't argue with volume or matchup.
|Roster percentage likely too high for boom/bust profile.
|Solid play before Waddle news. Exceptional play now.
|Didn't take long for the bloom to come off Cam Newton's rose.
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.
Davante Adams (@BAL, $8,900, 16% rostered)
Adams might be closer to chalk than leverage, but he’s listed in this section because most of our opponents will spend the extra $100 to get up to Kupp. While Adams hasn’t reached his ceiling quite as frequently as Kupp this season, he has a pair of 33+ point performances in his previous three games and a sneaky-good matchup against the Ravens that the crowd isn’t high enough on. Baltimore is missing three starters in its secondary and has allowed four 100+ yard performances to enemy wide receivers since Week 11. An approximation of the receiving line Diontae Johnson dropped on Baltimore in Week 13 (11-8-105-2) is well within Adams’ range of possible outcomes. If you must pivot off Kupp, do it with Adams at half the percent-rostered.
12/18 Update - With Kupp now off the slate, we can safely expect Adams' popularity to rise. He can no longer be considered for leverage, but remains a solid foundation piece for GPP lineups.
D.J. Moore (@BUF, $6,000, 8% rostered)
Moore has been a popular play in recent weeks, but no one wants a piece of Cam Newton’s passing game on the road against the Bills. With Buffalo missing stud cornerback TreDavious White, however, they don’t pose the same threat to enemy wide receivers. Since Newton took over as Carolina’s starter, Moore has commanded target shares of 26%, 32%, and 29% and leads the team in air yards. The Panthers are implied to score a measly 17.5 points, but if they get there, it will likely come via the passing attack. Moore’s ceiling in this spot is similar to Diontae Johnson’s, but the Steelers WR1 is likely to appear in at least twice as many lineups.
Tyler Higbee (vs. SEA, $4,000, 6% rostered)
With Odell Beckham presumably sidelined, Higbee is in line behind only Kupp and maybe Van Jefferson for targets. We haven’t seen much of a ceiling from Higbee this season, but he’s produced steadily enough in a crowded passing offense to more than justify his $4K salary. Higbee’s upside with a few extra targets added to his projection is palpable at home against Seattle. The Seahawks have allowed 76% more PPR fantasy points to enemy tight ends than league average over the last five weeks, including blow-up games to Zach Ertz (9-8-88-2) and George Kittle (12-9-181-2), not to mention last week’s 7-4-26-1 receiving line to Texans rookie, Brevin Jordan.
|Proj. Ros %
|Heavy home favorite, second-highest over/under on the slate
|Slight leverage on Tua stacks in best possible matchup.
|Quietly dominating backfield touches in run-first offense.
|Hopkins' absence opens up downfield targets in + matchup.
|Hottest WR in the game outside of Kupp/Adams.
|May want to fade if roster % bumps high with Odell likely out.
|Cheap leverage on Metcalf.
|Playing at home against a QB that could be turnover prone.
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.
Trevor Lawrence (vs. HOU, $5,100, 4% rostered)
The case for Lawrence is primarily narrative-driven, but by all accounts, Urban Meyer had long since lost his locker room. If there were ever a team who wanted to prove their ineptitude was due to poor leadership, it’s the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars. Vegas is in agreement. Jacksonville opened the week as 3.5-point favorites against the Texans, but the line has jumped as high as -5.5 at some sportsbooks since Meyer’s firing. The Jaguars’ fortunes are tied to Lawrence, who should benefit from a coaching staff that is no longer insistent on forcing their system onto its players. Lawrence’s low salary makes 20-25 DraftKings points his target score in tournaments, which is lower than his ceiling projection in a neutral matchup against the Texans pass defense.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (vs. ARI, $5,200, 6% rostered)
It’s the time of year when the speed of the game begins to slow down for talented rookies, and St. Brown is a prime example. Over his previous two games, he has combined for 24 targets, 20 receptions, 159 receiving yards, and one touchdown. With T.J. Hockenson out for the season, DAndre Swift unlikely to make it back this week, and the Lions in a perpetual state of playing from behind, it’s easy to see the high volume trend continuing for St. Brown. If you were wondering who to run back in your Kyler Murray stacks, look no further.
Zach Ertz (@DET, $5,400, 4% rostered)
While we’re on the topic of Kyler Murray stacks, Ertz is worth considering in tournaments. Entrants spending in the $5-$5.5K salary range at the position are more likely to click on Dallas Goedert or Mike Gesicki, leaving Ertz under-exposed in a great spot for tight end fantasy production. The Lions have been strafed by enemy tight ends over the last three weeks in games against the Bears, Vikings, and Broncos, none of whom features the position in their respective offenses. Ertz will be counted on for a portion of the intermediate receptions DAndre Hopkins’ absence leaves behind, and profiles as Kyler Murray’s go-to on third downs and inside the red zone. There is a greater than 4% chance he leads all tight ends in scoring on this slate.
|Proj. Ros %
|Wouldn't leave him for dead just yet.
|Hopefully Peterson is active to shade % rostered.
|Blowup game incoming if Samuel continues to play RB.
|Most capable of reprising Waddle role of any MIA WR.
|Feels bad playing him in GPPs but targets should be there, right?
|Athletic rookie has carved out a role, continues to produce.
|Never rostered. Always frisky.