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With no Week 8 byes or overseas games, we have a massive 13-game Main Slate that features most of the NFL’s fantasy stars. One way to gauge the slate is to look at it through the lens of player ceilings. 33 players on this slate have scored at least 25 FanDuel points in a game this season (13 quarterbacks, 10 running backs, 8 wide receivers, and 2 tight ends). We are starting to get deep enough into the season that looking at max scores can help us understand what type of overall score may be required to take down a large tournament. For example, here are the Top 20 players on the Week 8 Main Slate ranked by their highest fantasy score of the season:
When building lineups this week, it helps to keep in mind these numbers. As noted above, there are 13 quarterbacks (though two are injured) on this slate who have already put up a 25-plus point game. Many of them are priced down around $7,000. We want to be laser focused on quarterbacks with the skill sets, matchups, and proven upside to at least hit 25 FanDuel points because with so many players capable of hitting at least that threshold, it is highly likely we need at least 25 from our quarterback to win a tournament this week. This can help us winnow down our player pool. Matthew Stafford has been consistently productive all season and has a decent point per dollar floor. He has also not topped 17 FanDuel points in any game this season. We can drop him from our player pool. Trevor Lawrence has not scored more than 18.1 in any game this season. He did have a few big games last season. Maybe you do not want to totally eliminate Lawrence from our player pool if multi-entering, but it is hard to see him putting up a GPP-winning score. In fact, he shows up in just 0.7% of the optimal lineups when I simulated the slate 1,000 times.
These large slates are loaded with high upside plays, so we need to swing for the fences even more than normal. The winning score this week is likely to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 points. We need to construct lineups with a realistic path to those sort of totals. With that context in mind, let’s dive in to the plays at each position that can push us to the top of the Week 8 GPP leaderboards.
Is playing one of the three elite fantasy quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes II, and Jalen Hurts) the sharp play this week? Or is it better to focus on the bargain quarterbacks? One way to answer questions like this is to put together range of outcome projections, and then run simulations. This is part of my weekly process and the results of my simulations are pictured below for quarterbacks:
Column Definitions: Optimal is the percentage of times the player projects to be in the best lineup. Ownership is the percent of tournament lineups the player is expected to appear in according to Footballguys’ Devin Knotts. Difference is simply the Optimal percentage minus the Ownership percentage. Multi-Entry is a new column added this week that takes into account the other columns and calculates a good target for how many of your lineups I believe each player should be in. You likely will want to use your own judgment and cut down the player pool even further based upon your view of the slate.
The Big 3 quarterbacks appear in the optimal lineup 31.9% of the time. Our Percent Rostered estimate for the three is a combined 30.3%. From that angle, playing one of the three looks like at least a solid play. Based upon range of outcomes in the specific matchups this week, Jackson and Hurts profile as especially attractive plays.
As noted in the introduction, it is also worth thinking about decisions like this through the lens of ranges of outcomes. One way to do this without any complicated simulations is simply looking at past fantasy results from the first seven weeks and assuming those are a fairly accurate representation of the expected distribution moving forward. We are still early enough in the season that the sample sizes are small., so caveats apply. However, we can still gain some perspective by grouping players together. For example, we can look at the 21 games played this season by the Big 3 Quarterbacks:
- In 9.5% of the games in the sample, our elite quarterbacks scored 33 or more fantasy points. Thus, there would be a 25.9% chance at least one of the Big 3 will score 33+ on an average slate. None of the other projected starting quarterbacks on the slate have scored 29 points in the 100-plus games the remaining group outside the Big 3 has played. We can assume that something like 25% of the time this slate is played, one of the Big 3 quarterbacks has a massive game, and you would need to have him to take down a big tournament.
- In roughly 30% of our games, we should expect that one of the elite quarterbacks scores in the 27-32 range. This is the type of score that would mean the quarterback would be a strong play (potentially even optimal), but probably not a must-have. You do not need one of the Big 3 to hit their absolute Top 10% rage of outcomes to win a tournament if you also hit on some strong bargain plays.
There are 11 other starting quarterbacks on this slate who have put up at least 24 FanDuel points one or more times this season. Odds are extremely high that at least one of those 11 goes for 25-plus on Sunday. In the 25% of slates where one of the Big 3 hits their ceiling, it probably does not matter. In the other 75% of slates, hitting on the right mid-to-low priced quarterback who puts up a score in the high-20s should be a winning strategy.
In that lower-priced tier, the quarterbacks with the best chance of scoring 25-plus are Sam Howell ($6,900), Mac Jones ($6,700), Desmond Ridder ($6,700), and Joe Burrow ($7,100). My preferred strategy this week is to build roughly one-third of my lineups around the Big 3 and the other two-thirds around some of these lower-priced guys that open a pathway to the guys at other positions who have a realistic shot at 30-plus.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens ($8,800)
- We know Jackson has major upside. He scored 33.9 points last week against a good Detroit Lions defense. He also scored 28-plus in two other games. He has scored 28-plus in 43% of his 2023 starts. These types of game logs are exactly what we are looking for in GPPs. It helps that the eye test confirms the numbers. This Ravens offense looks like it is rounding into form and almost everything flows through Jackson.
- Beyond just the big picture knowledge that Jackson has a strong chance to hit a ceiling game in any given week, we should be even more confident in normal regarding his chances of doing so this week. The Cardinals defense has given up rushing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in 43% of their games this season. Arizona has also given up 300-plus passing yards a couple times. The only true dual-threat quarterback the team faced this season (Daniel Jones) put up 30-plus fantasy points.
Jalen Hurts, Eagles ($9,200)
- Hurts has thrown for at least 277 yards in five straight games. He has been one of the most consistently productive passers in the NFL this season.
- The last time the Eagles played in Washington, Hurts threw for 340 yards. He also threw for 319 yards at home against this same Commanders defense in Week 4. There is not a lot of guesswork involved here. We know Hurts has major upside as a passer in this matchup. Plus, he is always a threat to bulldoze his way into the end zone as a runner.
- The Commanders are allowing 263.6 passing yards per game, sixth-most in the NFL.
Sam Howell, Commanders ($6,900)
- Part of the reason Hurts has a clear path to a big game is that it is not far-fetched to believe Howell and the Commanders offense can score enough to force the Eagles to remain aggressive the entire game. When the Commanders traveled to Philadelphia in Week 4, Howell threw for 290 yards on 41 attempts and also ran for 40 yards.
- Howell has not scored a rushing touchdown since Week 1, but has enough dual-threat ability in this offensive scheme to project for a rushing score in something in the neighborhood of 20-25% of his starts. With that in mind, it is easy to understand how he has a path to appearing in the optimal lineup in 7.4% of Week 8 slate simulations.
- The Eagles face the highest pass rate against (70%) due to their elite run defense. On average, opposing quarterbacks are throwing 38.0 passes per game against Philadelphia. We saw Mac Jones throw it 54 times for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. We also saw Kirk Cousins throw for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns on 44 attempts.
Others to Consider
Patrick Mahomes II, Chiefs ($9,000)
- We just saw Mahomes throw for 424 yards and 4 touchdowns last week against the Chargers. The upside is unquestionable. However, the Denver defense has been playing better of late and these two teams played an ugly 19-8 game just two weeks ago.
- Mahomes is the toughest call of the Big 3 quarterbacks this week. He projects to land in the optimal lineup 8.3% of the time, third-highest at the position. However, he is also projected to be on well over 10% of the rosters. It makes sense to be below the field but still have a decent amount of exposure if making multiple lineups.
Desmond Ridder, Falcons ($6,700)
- Ridder has a roughly 5% chance of being in the optimal lineup this weekend. He is only projected to be on 0.5% of tournament rosters. This is the type of discrepancy we are looking for when building lineups that — over the long run — have a positive expected value.
- Over the past three weeks, Ridder has averaged 295.3 passing yards per game on 36.3 attempts. The Falcons have opened up the passing offense now that Ridder has started to settle in.
For the most part, the plays expected to be popular this week look worthy of their popularity. Tony Pollard ($7,600), Jonathan Taylor ($7,100), Breece Hall ($7,200), Alvin Kamara ($8,300), Isiah Pacheco ($7,400), Christian McCaffrey ($10,200), Bijan Robinson ($7,100), and D’Andre Swift ($7,700) should each attract solid ownership and project well enough to justify the popularity. This is a core group of popular backs who each have at least a 10% chance of landing in the optimal lineup this week. There are also a pair of under-the-radar plays worth considering. Raheem Mostert ($9,000) has shown too much upside to ignore. Tyjae Spears ($4,900) is talented and has been on the field over half the snaps. With some questions about Derrick Henry’s long-term future in Tennessee, there is a chance that the Titans youth movement includes more opportunity for Spears this week.
Breece Hall, Jets ($7,200)
- The Jets announced prior to Week 5 that Hall was no longer going to be on a pitch count. Week 4 was the first time this season he played over half the snaps. He exploded for 194 total yards and a touchdown on 25 touches. His Week 6 numbers were more modest (93 yards and a touchdown on 17 touches for 17.8 FanDuel points). However, that performance may have been even more impressive given the context. The Eagles give up the fewest fantasy PPG to opposing backs (11.0), so Hall’s 17.8 stands out as a major positive in any attempt to normalize fantasy production given the defense.
- The matchup is back to being favorable this week. The Giants have given up the ninth-most points to opposing backs (21.7 FanDuel PPG). This is a spot where we are getting a young back who looks like a potential breakout star, in a great matchup, and priced affordably as the RB11. He profiles as good chalk this week and the goal should be to be overweight versus the field.
Bijan Robinson, Falcons ($7,100)
- Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has frustrated fantasy enthusiasts with both his puzzling usage of star players and his failure to disclose Bijan Robinson’s health status prior to Week 7. It did not come out until after the game that Robinson was sick. He touched the ball just once on 11 snaps. I would avoid all Falcons in cash games given the wide variance in usage.
- In tournaments, we love the high variance. Robinson’s floor may be low, but the upside is there. He has four games this season in which he played at least 72% of the snaps. Prior to last week’s single touch, he was averaging 97.8 total yards on 13.3 carries and 5.3 targets per game.
- While the Titans have a reputation as a stiff run defense, the unit has struggled in recent weeks. Zach Moss put up 195 yards and 2 touchdowns against them two games ago. With a potentially shaky rookie quarterback (Will Levis) making his first career start on the other side, we could see some turnovers and extra red zone opportunities for Robinson and the Falcons offense.
Raheem Mostert, Dolphins ($9,000)
- Nobody is going to want to play Mostert this week. He is the fifth-priciest player on the entire slate at any position and priced way up as the RB2. He faces a tough Patriots defense. He also was on the injury report early in the week (though it was probably more of a veteran’s day off). People are going to gravitate towards the cheaper, bigger-name talents at the position. The 3.3% percent rostered projection may end up being slightly low, but it reasonable to assume Mostert goes overlooked this week.
- So we assume we are getting a guy who is on less than 5% of opposing lineups… This is a player who is currently (1) on pace for 1,500 yards and 27 total touchdowns, (2) has 41.7 and 32.7 fantasy point explosions within his last five games, (3) ran for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns against this exact same Patriots defense back in Week 2.
Others to Consider
D’Andre Swift, Eagles ($7,700)
- Since taking over as the lead back in Week 2, Swift has averaged 16.7 carries and 4.2 receptions per game. He is averaging over five yards per touch. The only thing that has kept him from being a fantasy monster is that he has scored on just 1.6% of his 125 touches over this stretch.
- Swift has 12 carries from inside the 10 yard line this season, so there is a case he has been a victim of bad luck and is a strong candidate to score more touchdowns going forward.
- On the other hand, Swift has just two red zone touches over the last three games. Both went for negative yardage.
- Overall, he is a good play but the touchdown expectations are not nearly as high for Swift as they are for some of the other top backs on the slate.
Alvin Kamara, Saints ($8,300)
- Kamara’s usage has been insane since returning to the lineup in Week 4. He has 69 carries and 35 receptions in just four games. To put that into perspective, that is a 17-game pace of 293 carries and 149 receptions. There are two ways to view these numbers.
- The optimistic view is that the bonkers usage should continue and makes Kamara arguably the best running back play on the slate.
- The pessimistic view is that this usage rate is unsustainable. The Saints other running backs are getting healthier and the team spent a third-round pick on Kendre Miller and $8M in guaranteed money on Jamaal Williams.
- The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. In my book, he is a strong play but not one of the best on the slate.
Tyjae Spears, Titans ($4,900)
- Spears has played at least 52% of the snaps for the Titans in four straight games. Coming off of a bye, it is possible that Tennessee starts to play their young talent even more, especially considering Derrick Henry is rumored to be on the trade block.
- The sub-$5K price range is ugly this week. If we want to build uniqueness and squeeze an extra superstar into our lineup, taking a flier on a talented youngster who is capable of breaking loose for a long touchdown is a strategy worth considering.