NFL DFS: AutoMattek Absolutes Week 2
Week 1 is in the books, and now we can stop with all of that philosophical “We don’t know what we don’t know” nonsense and just play the best plays, right? Well… sort of, actually. The DraftKings Millionaire Maker was won last week by an Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams stack and, for the first time in my memory, almost won by a player with a straight-up ZERO at tight end from Robert Tonyan.
The chalk both smashed (Josh Jacobs, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook) and sucked (Boston Scott, Antonio Gibson) at running back. DaVanate Adams, Calvin Ridley, D.K Metcalf, and Marquise Brown were all in winning lineups as popular options while Marvin Jones, Chris Godwin, and D.J Moore busted in chalky constructions.
Personally, I was a little too staunch on my anti-chalk game stack stance last week. Seattle-Atlanta was “owned” but didn’t approximate anything that made the plays in that game unprofitable. There are many different ways to go contrarian. You can limit your lineups to less than max salary, you can use the DR optimizer to limit total ownership, you can avoid the normal construction for the week (i.e., if everyone is paying up for running back, use two cheap running backs and jam expensive wide receivers) or you can simply avoid the games that are featured on every DFS podcast.
The problem, of course, with fading the best games is that means you’re consciously avoiding playing the best plays. The other issue is that outside of obvious value running back spots (Boston Scott last week, Jonathan Taylor this week), the ownership doesn’t really converge *that much* especially with mid-priced wide receivers. As a result of thinking about this, after watching the SEA-ATL shootout last weekend, we can’t think that it is optimal to ignore the obvious value with Dallas Cowboys players this week.
Shootout At The JerryWorld Corral
Turn on any DFS podcast this week, or watch any fantasy sports live stream, and you will be told that the Dallas-Atlanta game is the “must stack” game of the week. Amari Cooper is essentially free on DraftKings, given his historical baseline. CeeDee Lamb is priced at only $5,200 on Fanduel, despite the high total for this game and the fact that his biggest competition for snaps and targets (Blake Jarwin) is done for the season.
I am making no effort to avoid Dak Prescott in single entry, 3-max, or MME NFL DFS tournaments. Prescott accounted for only one touchdown in Week 1 but still rushed for 30 yards and is now set up against one of the most fantasy-friendly defenses in football. Furthermore, the fact that Dallas’ defense looks pretty average should be a boon to the overall game script for Cowboys players and the Atlanta pass catchers.
Michael Gallup is probably the most interesting DFS play on both FD and DK, as all of his teammates are getting more attention. Lamb will be one of the most-rostered players on Fanduel, and Cooper will potentially be the most popular wide receiver play on DraftKings. Gallup should fall somewhere in the middle and is my favorite player in this game for tournaments.
Ezekiel Elliot is my preferred option at running back in cash games, and given his increased usage in the passing game from Week One; I think he is eminently stackable with Dak Prescott. These two players could easily combine for four or more touchdowns. One issue with Elliot is that because he will be such a popular cash game play, we could really see his ownership elevated in single-entry and three-max as many players simply enter their cash lineups into those tournaments.
On the Atlanta side, I am a little less enthusiastic about stacking Matt Ryan in this game just because he doesn’t have Prescott’s rushing upside (or Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and so on). Still, of course, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are as good of “bring backs” as you could possibly find. I am a little worried about Ridley approaching that true chalk zone as he crushed last week and barely saw a price hike on DraftKings to $3,800. Overall, this is the most popular game with the best plays, and I will treat it as such instead of attempting to find ways around it in my lineups.
One rule I have considered is using at least one of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup in every lineup. That should give me both plenty of Dak stacks but also have those great per dollar values in all my lineups. This is a super volatile approach and has some direct paths to putting all your lineups in a coffin, but as the field gets sharper, I love these hyper-aggressive approaches.
Ronald Jones Bit Equity
The running back position seems fairly solved this week. Jonathan Taylor is the best points-per-dollar play on both DraftKings and Fanduel; he is a legitimate lock button candidate in tournaments, and I can’t imagine setting a cash game lineup without him. His true price for his role on this Colts team is probably something like $7,500 (the same price as Clyde Edwards-Helaire). Ezekiel Elliot and Derrick Henry are the other two “obvious” plays at the position. Melvin Gordon, the beneficiary of Phillip Lindsay being ruled out but in a very difficult matchup against the Steelers. Christian McCaffrey is well, Christian McCaffrey.
Even with an 11% target share in the Panthers offense last weekend, he still scored two touchdowns, and this may be a week where you’re actually able to get him incredibly low owned in tournaments as a massive underdog against the Bucs. CMC, at like 8% in big tournaments, is the sort of play that really rich, good DFS players make, and then afterward you go “oh, yeah, that was obviously, probably should have done that,” but you know, you don’t do, because you’re you.
The running back on the other side of that game, Ronald Jones, is someone I will manually boost in the DailyRoto optimizer and hand-pick in a few single-entry and 3-max tournament lineups. RoJo handled 77% of the running back work for the Buccaneers in a losing effort against the Saints and now gets to face the Panthers team that made Josh Jacobs look like Gale Sayers. People just absolutely hate Ronald Jones and think that Leonard Fournette will come in and take his job, so it would be legitimately shocking to see him end up over 15% owned in any contest, and that is probably even high. A 77% snap share with even a 5-8% target share should be enough to get your attention in tournaments against the Panthers.
The other sort of “pivot-y” running back is Clyde Edwards-Helaire. With so much attention on Zeke and Henry, there is a very good chance that many DFS players just overlook CEH, who sort of blew away our expectations in his first game. While he was targeted only once, I don’t think anyone actually projected him to play as much as he did in Week 1. The main talking point from the fantasy community was that Darrel Williams forms a sort of mentorship program over the first month of the season or so while CEH prepared himself for the full-time role. The Chiefs had different plans, giving Edwards-Helaire 25 carries in his first NFL game and handling every red zone rush the team had. If you are looking for a successor to Jacobs’ three-touchdown game from last week while priced in the $7,000’s, it is Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Whack-A-Mole Wide Receivers
Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season featured the most touchdowns ever scored in a week of an NFL season. This was sort of predictable, as many had touted the idea that offenses would be ahead of defenses (as it was in 2011 after the lockout). Still, also, any time you are projecting something that has never happened, there is massive room for error. The massive spike in touchdowns was very kind to many borderline wide receivers as not only was there more scoring available but as teams score more, it encourages other teams to try and score, which begets more passing. The point of this schpiel is that as teams are passing more and scoring more, that brings a far greater array of wide receivers into play.
Just in the $4,000 range on DraftKings this week, CeeDee Lamb, Diontae Johnson, and Christian Kirk stand out as pristine plays. We have already covered CeeDee Lamb and why we like him even as a popular play. Johnson actually led the Steelers in targets last week (not Juju Smith-Schuster) and gets a super banged up Broncos secondary who just had to put another defensive back on IR. Kirk is at his absolute floor price after tossing up an airball against Richard Sherman and the 49ers. All three of these wide receivers are core tournament plays for me. Parris Campbell can also stake his claim as a clear value in this range as it looks like he might lead the Colts in targets and really take over for T.Y Hilton as the No.1 WR in Indy.
What is even more interesting is that there are going to be loads of super-talented wide receivers who just aren’t core plays this week. A.J Brown is $6,100 against maybe the worst football team, and people are just straight up not going to play him because Corey Davis had 100 yards in a primetime game. I’ll be going back to the well hard on AJB. Marvin Jones disappointed in peoples’ cash game lineups last week but still lead the Lions in snaps and routes run; we aren’t particularly concerned about him. Will Fuller and Marquise Brown both piled up 100+ yards in Week One but didn’t score. I’ll give you guys a real Automattek Absolute: both Fuller and Brown scored a touchdown in Week Two playing against each others’ teams.
A week after dunking all over one of the best defenses in football, we also won’t expect DeAndre Hopkins to be a featured play as he fits in a weird salary range. You’d rather either have DaVante Adams, the clear best wide receiver play of the week or spend that high salary portion of your roster on Zeke and Henry. This could leave a legit wide receiver workhorse on a full PPR site like DraftKings on less than 10% of rosters.
Finally, the entire cadre of Kansas City Chiefs players seem like they are huge leverage plays. Mahomes is in a weird price range where he is less than Lamar but more than Dak. We have already covered by CEH won’t be on as many rosters as his counterparts. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, and even DeMarcus Robinson/Mecole Hardman are all going to be legit afterthoughts by a huge chunk of the DFS playing community. As a favor to me: make at least one of your 3-max teams this week a Mahomes-Tyreek-Kelce double stack. You won’t regret it.