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NFL Showdown can be a fickle beast. These contests do not rely on median projections so much as leverage and uniqueness. Fading the highest-rostered plays can be a risky proposition. Typically, your edge is going to come by identifying the best low-rostered plays and finding clever ways to pair them with the juggernauts of the slate.
This article will have a heavy DraftKings lean simply because the decision-making process is more interesting, given the salary premium attached to the Captain spot. FanDuel's pricing is the same for both MVP and Flex spots. You will usually need the slate's top scorer at MVP, so FanDuel strategy revolves around unique Flex builds.
Advice in this article will pertain predominantly to tournament lineups and strategy. For cash lineups, build around median projections. For head-to-head contests, continue to lean into the median projections, but if two options project closely, give the nod to the lowest rostered player.
The 49ers (-10.5) are hefty favorites over the floundering Giants, and it's not hard to see why. They've scored 30 points in each of the first 2 weeks, running the ball more efficiently than anyone in football (5.6 yards per rush). That says nothing of second-year quarterback Brock Purdy, who sits fifth in net yardage per throw (7.1). Across the field, the Giants lost their first six quarters of the season by a heartbreaking 60-0 margin before rebounding to vanquish Joshua Dobbs and the Cardinals. Unsurprisingly, Vegas is politely projecting a final score in the neighborhood of 27-16.
The Giants will be without featured back Saquon Barkley for at least this game. And up front, they'll be without two starting linemen, including star left tackle Andrew Thomas. The biggest news of the slate will focus on 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk, whose status has been labeled "fluid" and "a game-time decision" by the team. This is a situation to monitor, with big, big Captain implications in play.
San Francisco 49ers
Brock Purdy (FLEX only)
Purdy comes cheaply for a heavily favored quarterback. That's due to the expected game script but also to Purdy lacking traditional upside in the Josh Allen/Justin Herbert vein. Still, Vegas expects the 49ers to score a typical compliment of points tonight. So why wouldn't we be sure to plug in the (likely) winning quarterback when he costs under $10K? If tonight goes as expected, he'll at least be involved in a couple of touchdowns, which can't be claimed by many in this game.
Most lineups will find a way to squeeze McCaffrey in, so don't think you're going to cash in on a huge night. With a stud like McCaffrey, in a cherry situation like this one, strategy will tell the tale. Either he will score the 35+ Captain points needed to break the slate, or he won't, but even those who benefit wouldn't benefit >much>. When you factor in all of the peripheral risks (What if he gets hurt in the first quarter? What if the 49ers go up 34-3 at halftime and coast?)… there ultimately isn't much to gain. This is a relatively cheap slate, but I still won't be playing him at Captain in more than 20% of my lineups.
Mitchell, on the other hand, is intriguing. He's barely seen the field this season, which has depressed his cost into the basement. But coach Kyle Shanahan made it a point this week to take the blame for that and to reiterate that Mitchell remains part of the rotation. He's McCaffrey's direct backup, and he boasts a wildly efficient track record (4.9 career yards per carry, with an 1100-yard season). McCaffrey can't realistically keep taking 92% of team snaps, particularly on a short week, particularly as a double-digit favorite. Mitchell could return on this investment with just 8-10 rotational touches and could break the slate if called upon for more.
This is the configuration that will likely determine most GPP standings. Virtually every lineup will feature at least one of Samuel and Aiyuk; if the latter is healthy, many will have both. That would normally make this an ideal spot to zig from the pack, but this isn't a typical Showdown slate. With a (relative) lack of playmaking options on the slate, these two will be inescapable in the Captain discussion.
Samuel is always a dynamic play with slate-breaking potential. That said, he's not used like a typical wideout, working much more underneath than down the field. That's the main reason he hasn't cleared 65 receiving yards since Week 6 of last season. The rushing supplement is nice, but it's a bit overstated (49 carries over his last 15 games). Don't get me wrong: you want Samuel in this murky slate. At worst, he'll be the third-best overall source of upside and touchdown potential.
If he plays, though, Aiyuk looks like the better Captain. He'll almost certainly come lighter-owned than Samuel despite having drawn just two fewer targets (16 to 14) and more than double the air yards. Aiyuk continues to look more and more like the dynamic No. 1 wideout he was drafted to be. The roster percentage of Aiyuk will be significantly less as people will avoid him due to the injury risk, but he makes for a tremendous contrarian Captain play. He is likely too expensive as a flex due to the injury.
Jennings doesn't see much attention (just four targets thus far), but one could do worse for under $5K. He's a big body who's adept at making contested catches, particularly near the goal line (6 touchdowns on 61 career catches).
George Kittle (CPT or FLEX)
Kittle has opened the year deathly quiet, with just six catches on nine targets. But when he's not called upon to block as much, he's among the game's more dynamic playmakers over the middle. And given the lack of explosive receivers (and Saquon Barkley) in this game, he's underpriced for that upside. Catching 4-6 balls and a touchdown should easily be enough to open up this slate.
That said, if Aiyuk can't suit up, Kittle's roster percentage will shoot through the roof, so plan accordingly. In that case, his best value comes as Captain, where most rosters will have Christian McCaffrey or Deebo Samuel.
Under the Radar
Jordan Mason (FLEX only)
Mason is a deep, deep cut. He's the clear No. 3 back, but he'd need significant help to make a dent. This slate is so cheap that his salary relief probably isn't necessary - one can easily fit in the big hitters without him.
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