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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.
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 $2,120 50-50 on DraftKings.
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Last Sunday was a historically low-scoring slate. In total, the day featured just 40 total touchdowns across all games, the lowest total on a Sunday featuring 10 or more games since 1994. Subsequently, fantasy scores on DraftKings, especially in cash games, were remarkably low, relative to expectation. Still, evaluating the lineup building process of the smartest DFS players is a valuable endeavor that will help players build smarter, better, and more profitable lineups in the final weeks of the regular season.
A barrage of COVID absences and postponements threw a wrench into the process of building out the Sharp Core in Week 15. Ultimately, the process pointed firmly in the direction of James Robinson, who ended up in 100-percent of lineups in the GIANT $2,120 50-50 on DraftKings. Robinson's appearance in every single lineup in this high-stakes cash game contest validated the process utilized to identify the sharpest cash-game building blocks on DraftKings. Below, in italics, is the forward-looking analysis that was used to identify James Robinson as the Sharp Play of the week ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars' game against the Houston Texans.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer earlier this week, leaving Darrell Bevell in charge for the remainder of the season. Bevell has made his intentions to use James Robinson as a true bell-cow running back abundantly clear. Additionally, Robinson is an exceptional value this week, as his suppressed price reflects the limited playing time that he saw under the Meyer regime. With a new coach calling the shots, his playing time should increase substantially. Lastly, Robinson has one of the softest matchups in the NFL this weekend, going up against the Houston Texans' horrific run defense. The side ranks 28th in the NFL in rushing DVOA allowed, and they should struggle to contain James Robinson on Sunday afternoon. Lock James Robinson into cash-game lineups, as he will certainly be a player that sharp NFL DFS players turn to as a bargain bin running back option.
The Miami Dolphins offense was depleted in Week 15 due to numerous players landing on the Reserve/COVID List. Chief among the players missing was wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. As a rookie, Waddle is one of the NFL's most consistent high-volume pass-catchers, and his absence freed up a significant number of targets for redistribution throughout Miami's receiving corps. The top two candidates to benefit from Waddle's absence against the New York Jets' 32nd-ranked defense, according to DVOA allowed, were DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki.
DeVante Parker had been in and out of the Dolphins' starting lineup all season due to injury, but he was at full strength in Week 15. Parker entered last week's matchup averaging eight targets-per-game this year with Waddle in the fold. Then, with Waddle sidelined, Parker was primed to absorb the number-one receiving role in Miami's passing attack. The role he stepped into produced approximately 15.6 points per game across the first 14 weeks of the season-- a mark that would easily surpass the salary-implied expectations for DeVante Parker's $4,300 price tag on DraftKings. At such a low mark, locking in a big-bodied pass-catcher of Parker's ilk in an expanded role against the league's worst pass defense was a no-brainer decision for sharp NFL DFS players in Week 15.
Elsewhere, Mike Gesicki rose to the top of the tight end rankings last weekend for many of the same reasons. Leading up to last week's game, Gesicki averaged nearly seven targets-per-game while playing alongside Jaylen Waddle. Aside from Parker, Gesicki, and Waddle, the next-highest-volume wide receiver in Miami's offense, Albert Wilson, averaged just 3.1 targets per game entering Week 15. The vast drop-off in quality from Mike Gesicki to Miami's next-best receiving option made the fourth-year tight end an elite candidate to see an increase in receiving volume on Sunday afternoon. Gesicki was also a sharp selection at tight end last week due to the pool of viable tight end options and viable roster constructions for cash games. Priced above Gesicki, George Kittle was one of just a few other viable options at tight end. However, Kittle's $7,500 price tag was a bit too steep for most sharp NFL DFS cash-game players due to his volatile receiving volume. On the opposite end of the spectrum, at just $3,200, James OShaughnessy was the next-most-viable cash-game option. However, OShaughnessy had only scored double-digit fantasy points once this season, heading into Week 15. Therefore, given the difficulty of building a viable cash game lineup around a top-priced tight end and the lack of reliable fantasy production from the bargain-bin options, Mike Gesicki was the perfect selection in the mid-range as the "Goldilocks Selection."
In Week 15, DeVante Parker was rostered by 100-percent of players in the GIANT $2,120 50-50 on DraftKings, while Mike Gesicki was also rostered by 65-percent of players. Overall, the Miami Dolphins' skill position players were drastically underpriced due to Jaylen Waddle's absence and an extraordinarily soft matchup with the Jets' bottom-ranked defense.
Gabriel Davis played 83-percent of Buffalo's offensive snaps and commanded 8 targets in Week 14, which set season-highs in both categories. This performance gave reason to believe that the talented 22-year-old might be finding his footing in the Bills' high-octane passing attack. Then, entering Week 15, Emmanuel Sanders, the Bills' previous number-three wide receiver, landed on the inactive list for the team's matchup against the sputtering Carolina Panthers. Sanders's absence was expected to push Davis up the depth chart. Without Sanders, Gabriel Davis had very little competition for reps as the number-three wide receiver in an offense that had deployed at least three receivers on over 75-percent of its plays this season. This role was especially valuable last week due to Buffalo's expected offensive output; the Bills had a team total of over 28 points at most sportsbooks entering this game, good for the second-highest tally on the DraftKings main slate of games. This perfect confluence of events made Gabriel Davis a far more valuable fantasy asset than his $3,700 price tag on DraftKings would imply.
Sharp NFL DFS players make a living in cash games by targeting situations like this where a player's role increases at a substantially higher rate than his price does. Gabriel Davis's moderate $200 increase on DraftKings from Week 14 to Week 15 was not nearly enough, especially after accounting for the late-breaking information regarding Emmanuel Sanders's availability. When the dust settled, Davis featured in 55-percent of lineups in the GIANT $2,120 50-50 on DraftKings in Week 15, when he scored 25.50 points. This scoring output was the highest for any player rostered by at least 15-percent of this exceptionally sharp field.
Week 16 Sharp Core
Build Week 16 cash game lineups around the Sharp Core. The players featured below are selected using the same processes and research that the sharpest NFL DFS players use. The results for these selections over the last 3+ seasons have been strong, with documented success across every position and price range.
This article will be updated later in the week as more information becomes available leading up to kickoff. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, where I will send a tweet to notify everyone whenever I update any of my articles here at FootballGuys.
Sharp Core Feature #1: Ronald Jones II
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were decimated by injuries in their Sunday Night Football clash with the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. The team lost Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans to injury during the game, and all three are expected to miss at least one month of action while Godwin is out for the year with a torn ACL. Ronald Jones II is the obvious next-man-up in Tampa Bay's backfield. Last season, across the four outings that Fournette missed or was limited in, Jones scored an average of 21.78 DraftKings points per game. Although 21.78 points would be an unreasonable expectation for him this weekend, his modest $5,100 price tag requires just 13.0 points to reach value. Additionally, the combination of a soft matchup against the Carolina Panthers' 24th-ranked run defense, according to DVOA allowed, and a favorable game script as 10-point favorites will provide a fantastic floor of rushing production for the fourth-year running back from USC. Fortunately, Jones II's history of lackluster performance in pass-protection, which has limited his playing time in the past, should not be much of an issue for him this week if the Buccaneers intelligently deploy a simplified, quick-hitting passing attack in their first game with their second-team receiving corps. Expect Ronald Jones II to stuff the stat sheet on the ground in Week 16, when he will undoubtedly be one of the most popular running back selections amongst sharp NFL DFS players.