Daily Fantasy: Strategy Analyzer

Welcome to the first Daily Fantasy Football Strategy Analyzer article of the season. Despite how easy the DraftKings’ commercials make it look, winning a lot of money in daily fantasy is hard. Rarely can you roll out of bed on Sunday morning, pick nine random players, and make money. A lot of research time is required to produce a good lineup. You need to figure out who the good players are for that week, what strategies you should use to construct lineups, and what strategies your opponents will use. However, that’s what I’m here for. Life is busy and sporadic, so I’m sure you don’t have hours to figure out if Player X can help your lineup more than Player Y. My article that comes out on Fridays is used to outline some players for that week. The article highlights players that I love, hate, think that you need, and think can help you win tournaments. You can find that article here.

Moving to this week, I will first highlight some of the players who are expected to see extremely high ownership. Then I will provide players at a similar price point who I believe are better to roster in tournaments. I will also highlight game stacks that I believe will be lower-owned, as well as ways to use high-owned game stacks creatively.

Don’t be afraid to get different

Football is a weird game. Despite how obvious it seems that something will happen, quite consistently, the opposite happens. The New York Jets were 0-13 last season, and defeated the 9-4 Los Angeles Rams on the road. Derrick Henry had a matchup with the Green Bay Packers, who repeatedly get gashed on the ground, and he was held to under 10 DraftKings points. Why am I telling you this? Well, here’s why. Things that seem obvious don’t end up happening, and players that seem like they will have an awesome fantasy performance end up having horrible weeks. As the week goes on, we see ownership projections in daily fantasy football. People tend to flock to certain players at different price points, and neglect other players at that same price range. This creates opportunities to gain leverage on the field.

Let’s look at this week. A few players who are projected to have some of the highest ownership on DraftKings are Christian McCaffrey, Marquez Callaway, and Marvin Jones Jr. Callaway and Jones Jr. are both in a similar price range, but this is just plummetting the ownership of the other cheap wide receivers.

I’m not here to tell you that Callaway and Jones Jr. are bad plays, because they aren’t. Callaway is the number one receiver in Sean Payton’s offense and is in an environment with one of the highest totals of the week. Jones Jr. is matched up against the Texans’ defense, in a matchup where Jacksonville should succeed. On paper, both of these guys are good plays. However, they’re not guaranteed to do well. The chances of another cheap wide receiver having a better week than them is fairly likely. Jones Jr. and Callaway have higher median projections, but in a tournament, we’re not looking for a median performance. We want the outlier performance. So, do you want to play Marquez Callaway for $3,400 on DraftKings at 20+% ownership in tournaments? Or, would you rather play a sub-3% owned player for $3,700 who has a chance to beat him, but has a slightly lower median projection?

Low Owned Pivots

This brings me to the first player that I will highlight, and that is Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS) of the Green Bay Packers. Valdes-Scantling is $300 more expensive than Callaway, and $100 more expensive than Jones Jr. on DraftKings. On FanDuel, Valdes-Scantling and Callaway are the same price, and Jones Jr. is $600 more expensive. MVS is in the same game environment as Callaway, and has shown big-play potential time and time again. MVS is the definition of a “boom-or-bust” fantasy option, as he posted six games of 17+ DraftKings points, and eight games with less than 8 DraftKings points.

Some good news going into this season is that supposedly MVS has looked like a different player in camp. He’s been known to drop passes from time to time, but according to the Packers’ beat writers, his hands are much improved. He’s looked like the second-best receiver in Green Bay behind Davante Adams. MVS is listed as a starter on the depth chart, so he should see 70+% of the snaps, with some dude named Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball to him. A 2% owned every-down player on the offense that was just number one in the league? For $3,700? Marquez Valdes-Scantling shapes up as a phenomenal tournament play, and a fantastic pivot off of the likes of Marquez Callaway and Marvin Jones Jr.

Christian McCaffrey is more difficult of a guy to find a pivot off of. Since all of the high-priced players garner some ownership, there isn’t usually going to be some 1% owned stud. However, with McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook all expected to get fairly owned, this tells us that some other studs won’t have that high of ownership. Tyreek Hill is a stud who I could see falling under 10% owned, and I expect Jonathan Taylor and Justin Jefferson to be under 5% owned.

Tyreek Hill always owns one of the highest ceilings on any slate. Hill posted six games of 25+ DraftKings points last year, including his 60 DraftKings point performance against Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay has one of the best defenses in football, and Tyreek Hill shredded them. Players will have lower ownerships due to a perceived “poor” matchup, but Hill’s performance against Tampa is a prime example of why matchups are overrated. A sub-10% Tyreek Hill is always worth a flyer in tournaments.

Jefferson is part of Minnesota’s three-pronged offense, which rarely sees production out of anyone not named Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, or Justin Jefferson. Jefferson flashed a ton of upside during his rookie year, with seven games of over 20 DraftKings points, including a 33.5 point performance, and a 42.6 point performance.

The Bengals allowed the 5th most touchdowns to opposing receivers last year, and they lost William Jackson III. Jefferson is being overlooked due to being priced near Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, and Calvin Ridley. All of them have similar ceilings, but Jefferson is going to have a fraction of the ownership that the other three have. Jefferson is one of my favorite ways to differentiate lineups in tournaments.

Jonathan Taylor is in a similar boat as Jefferson, as he is being overlooked due to being priced right below the tier of McCaffrey, Cook, Henry, and Kamara. They’re all expensive, they’re all talented, and they’ve all shown the ability to have monster fantasy performances. Taylor’s ceiling is probably slightly lower than those other four options, but it’s not like their ceilings are that far apart. Taylor had games with 26+ touches last year, which is similar usage that the other four have, and even more touches than Kamara usually sees. Taylor had a 41.4 point DraftKings performance, flashing his sky-high ceiling. The Colts match up with Seattle, who was fairly stout against the run last year. However, Seattle’s defense is nothing to be afraid of, and definitely not enough to scare me off of rostering Jonathan Taylor at sub-5% ownership. Rostering talented players at low ownership is going to be a theme of this article all season long, and Jonathan Taylor is a prime candidate for that in Week 1.

Stacking tutorial

Before I get into stacking, let me lay the groundwork. What do you believe is easier to do, guess the outcome of three football games, or nine? Are you more likely to predict three teams to win, or nine? It’d be three right? You can think like this in daily fantasy as well. If you choose nine different players from nine different games, it is hard for all of them to do extremely well. However, if you choose nine players from three or four total games, it makes your chances of success much higher.

Correlation is one of the most important things in daily fantasy football. In football, the easiest way to correlate is to stack. Stacking is when you roster two or more players from the same team, in hopes that that team has a great day offensively. If you think Josh Allen is going to have a great fantasy performance, then it makes sense to roster Stefon Diggs. When Allen does well, it’s more likely than not that his number one pass catcher does well. You can also add a second pass-catching option. For Josh Allen’s sake, you may add in Cole Beasley or Gabriel Davis.

In some situations, you may only like one side of a game. If you have no faith in the Steelers’ offense this week, then fine. Use Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and Cole Beasley. Then move on to the other parts of your lineup. The step above a single team stack is a game stack. If Team A is winning 28-0, then they don’t have too much incentive to keep putting points on the board. They will probably become less aggressive and focus on using as much time as possible. However, if Team A is winning 28-24, then they will continue to be aggressive and try to put points on the board. Why am I bringing up this hypothetical?

If you’re looking for the best possible outcome for your stack, it would be a high-scoring, close game. If you think the Bills-Steelers game is going to be high scoring, or your lineup is being constructed under the assumption that it is a high-scoring game, then you’d want to roster a Steelers player. This is called a bring-back. To game stack the Bills-Steelers game, you may start your lineup with Allen, Diggs, and Beasley, and then you can bring it back with Najee Harris, or one of the pass catchers like Claypool, Johnson, or Smith-Schuster.

A secondary stack is another way to increase your correlation. A primary stack is one with a quarterback, where a secondary stack is usually two players in a game not involving your primary stack. So in our hypothetical, the Allen/Diggs/Beasley/Harris part of the lineup is our primary stack, and then a secondary stack would be two players from a different game, usually on different teams. The secondary stack features two players in a game that you also hope is high scoring, and you hope that these players do a solid amount of scoring for their team. For example, you could use Joe Mixon and Justin Jefferson, giving you a secondary stack of the Bengals-Vikings game.

So if your lineup has Allen/Diggs/Beasley/Harris/Mixon/Jefferson, suddenly six of your nine roster spots are filled, and they all have a positive correlation. If you had six different players in six different games, you would need six different things to happen. In this case, you just need two games to be fairly high scoring, and you’re cooking with gas. You could add another secondary stack to this lineup, utilizing some cheaper options like Kyle Pitts and Devonta Smith.

Game stacks for Week 1

In this section, I’m going to take you through my two favorite games to stack for this weekend, and who I’m looking at in these games.

Chiefs vs. Browns

This first game provides some extremely talented football players at some fairly lower ownership. This game has the highest total of the week, but surprisingly, no one on Cleveland is projected to have over 5% ownership on DraftKings or FanDuel. On the Kansas City side, Mahomes and Kelce will be over 10% owned, and Hill may creep up to 10% on DraftKings. On FanDuel, all three will be over 10% owned for sure, with Kelce getting above 20% owned, and Hill creeping his way north of 15%.

Ownership for a few of the players are getting up there, but they aren’t insane by any means. The Browns have low-owned pieces, and Mecole Hardman on the Kansas City side provides a low-owned high-ceiling play. Hardman seemingly slides into the wide receiver two role with Sammy Watkins gone, and this would be a perfect breakout week for him. Using Mahomes and stacking him with one to two of Hill, Kelce, or Hardman is what I would do on the Kansas City side. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is also viable, but I prefer Hill, Kelce, or Hardman in a Mahomes stack.

On the Cleveland side, you can bring back your Chiefs stack with any of Odell Beckham Jr, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, or Kareem Hunt. The receivers are a toss-up between the two, and I expect Landry to see lower ownership. Hunt and Chubb will both be extremely low-owned. If you think the game plays out with Kansas City taking the lead, and Cleveland trying to catch up, then Hunt is the running back I would use. If you think Cleveland takes a lead, then I would use Chubb. However, any four of those options are viable in any type of game script that you would like to create.

Titans vs. Cardinals

In comparison to the Chiefs-Browns game, this game is expected to see much higher ownership. Rondale Moore, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry, and Anthony Firkser are all expected to see over 10% ownership on DraftKings. Kyler Murray and Chase Edmonds will most likely be around 8-10%, with Julio Jones probably being the next highest owned, at only 6-8%. Telling you to stack this game isn’t much of a secret, although I wish it was. I outlined in my article yesterday how much I love Kyler Murray this week. This Titans defense is bad, and I want to exploit it in DFS this week.

Rondale Moore was one of my favorite targets earlier this week, and he was an early candidate for my lottery picks section in my Friday article. However, he seems to be attracting a lot of ownership, which is unfortunate. I still like him in this game stack, but I’m not as excited as I once was. The Cardinals side of this stack doesn’t really allow us to differentiate from the public. You can use Murray, Hopkins, and Moore in a stack, however, my personal preference is to just use Kyler and Hopkins.

The Tennessee side of this game allows us to differentiate a little bit, as Julio Jones is one of my favorite plays in this game. If you would like to read about why I like Julio so much in tournaments, then here you go. Jones will be the lowest owned of the Titans’ “big three” of Jones, A.J Brown, and Derrick Henry. With Jones’ upside, I’ll gladly take him as the lowest owned. He’s even projected to be lower owned than Anthony Firkser. I don’t have much interest in Firkser here, as he seems to be too high owned for the player that he is. Ryan Tannehill offers a nice way to differentiate yourself. You could stack this game with Tannehill and Jones, with the option to add Brown or Henry. However, I’d recommend Brown, as Henry isn’t too involved in the passing game.

My preferred way to stack this game is with Kyler and Hopkins from the Arizona side, and Julio Jones from the Tennessee side. You can also throw in Rondale Moore as part of the stack, as he is good salary relief with extremely high upside. He will be one of the highest-owned pieces in this game, but his ownership won’t be too out of hand. Another option is starting the stack with Tannehill and Jones. You could potentially add Brown, and run it back with Hopkins or Moore.

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