I’m mainly a cash game player. DFS cash games are when (roughly) 50% of the participants (roughly) double their money. Regardless of where you land in the final standings, you either double up, or walk away empty-handed. In this space, I’ll share my lineup from the prior week, and discuss some of the thought-process behind how I arrived at the places I did. Some weeks I’ll win, and some weeks I’ll lose (hopefully more of the former) but hopefully it can help you understand the type of thought process that goes into being a successful DFS player. As always, I welcome any feedback, questions, or challenges on twitter.
Won 66% of head-to-heads and cashed in all Double ups.
Cooper Kupp ($6,800): I was genuinely shocked that “only” 67.8% of the field in a relatively higher dollar contest (the screenshot above, and corresponding ownership levels, are form a $100 buy in contest.) Kupp came in to the game getting 38% (best in the NFL) of Stafford’s targets. This week, I thought it was reasonable to project Stafford for over 40 targets. He didn’t quite get there, but mainly because he threw his touchdowns too fast. Just like in the first two weeks of the season, they mainly went to Kupp. Kupp will be a must play anytime his salary is this reasonable (which I suspect it won’t be for a while.) His role, and the Rams efficiency, is so strong that the biggest impediment to his fantasy scoring is game script. The Rams lean heavily on the run when they’re out to a lead.
Arizona Defense ($3,000) For the second week in a row, I got an unusually high defensive score. I’d like to claim more credit for this, but it’s mostly just good luck. I’m not totally throwing darts — I liked the Cardinals pass rush against a turnover-prone rookie QB. Four turnovers and a defensive score was more than I could’ve hoped for though.
Alexander Mattison ($6,000) DraftKings has wisely raised the pricing on high-level backups like Mattison. In years past, he would’ve been in the $4,000 range and a much more obvious play. I was on Dalvin Cook all week as my top running back play though, so once he seemed doubtful I pivoted to his backup. This news/decision actually shaped much of my lineup this week. With the Vikings playing at four, and no definitive Dalvin news until after the 1 o’clock games started, I had to build in such a way that I could adapt if Dalvin ended up playing:
Cook looks to be on the wrong side of questionable, so there will probably be a lot of interest in Alexander Mattison ($6,000, DraftKings.) If going that way, it’s probably worth it to save enough salary ($400) you can pivot to Chris Carson if Cook ends up being declared in. https://t.co/dS4w3jKgVB
— Billy Ward (@Psychoward586) September 26, 2021
I intentionally left $400 in salary on the table, so I could switch to Chris Carson ($6,400) if need be. I’m pretty confident that ownership would’ve been higher on Mattison if the Vikings had an early game this week. This is a perfect opportunity to get an edge on our competition. While it can be frustrating not knowing, we’re all playing with the same player set.
TJ Hockenson ($5,200): For the third week in a row, I paid up for one of the more expensive tight ends. For the third week in a row, I got the worst one of the price range. I used to almost exclusively play cheaper tight ends, but the TJ/Pitts/Higbee/Andrews range this year just feels like they should outscore the $3,000 players each week. This is something I need to strongly rethink the rest of the season.
Tight ends are much harder to project than the other offensive players. So even when we see a high projection on a player, we need to keep in mind that the range of outcomes is wider than with a similarly projected running back. I’ve been fortunate that most of the field has made the exact same mistake as me so far, but there comes a time when you have to acknowledge that it’s not bad luck, it’s bad process. That’s where we are now.
Lamar Jackson ($7,800): I was actually planning on playing Stafford (and Tyler Higbee) most of the week. When the Dalvin news came out, I suddenly had $2,200 in leftover salary to play with. Already having Kupp, I decided to move up from Stafford and Higbee to Hockenson and Lamar. The Lions defense has been so terrible before this week (I’m a lifelong self-hating Lions fan, for the record) that I expected Lamar to have a huge game. It didn’t go that way, partially due to some terrible Marquise Brown drops. Stafford of course threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns, so my early-week intuition was correct. The big mistake here was trusting a decision I had about 90 minutes to make (after Dalvin news) instead of trusting the week’s worth of research I’d put in.
Saquon Barkley ($6,200): Saquon seems to be getting healthier each week, with the Giants expanding his role. Pre-injury we never got him this cheap, and the Falcons seemed like a soft matchup. As a bonus, the Giants declared Wayne Gallman inactive Sunday morning, strengthening the case for Saquon. While it made me feel better, I was always playing Barkley. Other than Kupp, he was the easiest decision of the week. It wasn’t a monster week, but at his price going over 20 points was a fine outcome.
Chris Godwin ($6,100): With a 56-point total, I wanted a lot of exposure to the Rams-Bucs game. Godwin has served as the #1 option in Tampa so far this year, and with Antonio Brown out, the case was even stronger. This ended up as a relatively down game for Godwin against a tough Rams secondary, but he bailed me out with a rushing touchdown.
KJ Osborn ($3,500): Osborn had functioned as the #3 option for the Vikings so far, seeing 15 targets through the first tow weeks. He was within four targets of the team lead (Jefferson with 19) but was less than half Jefferson’s salary. My earlier builds (with Dalvin Cook) were pretty tight salary-wise, so I needed a cheap receiver. Osborn was the best option in the range, especially considering the game environment. This one looked like it had the makings of a shootout, which ultimately didn’t happen. The Vikings also involved their tight ends way more this week, leading to only two targets for Osborn. He made the most of them, but it still wasn’t ideal. Even so, sometimes the value of a player is what he allows you to do with the salary saved.
Tyler Boyd ($4,700): With Tee Higgins out, it seemed like one of Boyd or Ja’Marr Chase ($5,400), if not both, would be in line for a big game. Boyd fit salary-wise, Chase didn’t, so that’s where I went. Naturally, Chase went for an extra 8.9 points this week, but I was fine with what I got from Boyd.
I try to be process focused, not results focused in my DFS play. It’s tempting to feel good about a week where I had a 40% or so ROI, but I don’t. I got lucky with my defense, and the field missing obvious plays in Kupp and Mattison more than I expected. Once I made the decision to pivot to Mattison (with the Carson backup plan) I panicked a bit to use the rest of my salary.
The correct move in hindsight was to leave Stafford and Higbee in the lineup, which would’ve been worth an extra 24 points over Jackson and Hockenson. They were playing in a far better game environment, and Stafford has been ultra efficient this year. They also don’t rely on Marquise Brown catching the ball or Jared Goff throwing into them for their production. I could’ve used that salary to go up from Boyd or Osborn to a more expensive wide receiver, namely one of the Chargers guys. That would’ve added another few points, depending on which way I handled it. The results this week were better than I deserved. It’s natural to complain when things go the opposite way, but more valuable to acknowledge when you get lucky too.