It’s common for DFS players to key in on the same expected top plays each week, or ‘chalk plays’ if you will. Each week, we’ll look at the expected chalk plays with tips and best practices to improve your roster construction.
We’ll also explore theoretical and conceptual areas of roster construction in DFS as we examine various pieces of chalk throughout the season, with the goal being to grow as players along the way. Numerous tips, or best practices, will emerge from this exploration. With that, and in our best Bruce Buffer voice, it’s time.
Week 14 Chalk
Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts
Zack Moss saw 19 carries and three targets on 94 percent of the offensive snaps last week in the absence of Jonathan Taylor. Taylor has been ruled out for the second consecutive week, leaving Moss with a likeliest range of outcomes of 22-25 running back opportunities. The Cincinnati Bengals team allowing 4.8 yards per carry, 1.56 yards allowed before contact and 22.3 DK points per game behind 11 total touchdowns to opposing backfields this season.
Cleveland Browns D/ST
The field is showing us a couple things with the extreme levels of ownership currently expected on the Cleveland Browns defense. First off, we should expect the field to be looking to save salary at the position this week due to the relative absence of projectable value pieces.
Secondly, the field might find it difficult to react to late-week news this week as Trevor Lawrence is actually listed questionable after suffering an ankle injury late in the team’s Week 13 loss.
Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
The running back with the most valuable role and workload playing for the team with the highest Vegas-implied team total. It makes sense why Christian McCaffrey is expected to garner extreme levels of ownership on a slate devoid of top-end environments.
Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs
Rashee Rice has seen his route participation rate increase in consecutive weeks and is coming off of 19 targets over his previous two games. He appears to finally introduce some level of consistency from the Kansas City wide receivers in the process.
I won’t fight this one, Rice is a solid on-paper play considering he plays in the top expected game environment of the week on a pass-first offense that will now be without their top running back.
Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
After starting the season not seeing elite-level volume, Bijan Robinson has seen 22 running back opportunities or more in three consecutive weeks. The fact that he plays for a team averaging just 18.8 points per game puts a slight damper on this situation, but Robinson is a fine on-paper play this week.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire became the top “projectable value” piece on the slate after Isiah Pacheco was ruled out. If you read that as a ringing endorsement to play Edwards-Helaire, you would be mistaken.
To me, that speaks to the lack of projectable value on this slate and not to the viability of Edwards-Helaire, who is likely to cede green zone touches to Jerick McKinnon and is still susceptible to losing work to someone like Deneric Prince.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
It might surprise you to hear that Nico Collins was the first pass-catcher to go for more than a modest 59 yards against the Denver Broncos during their recent 5-1 stretch. And it isn’t like they played a string of bottom-feeder offenses, they did this against the Packers, Chiefs, Bills, Vikings, Browns and Texans.
That does not necessarily mean Keenan Allen can’t or won’t succeed here, just that the micro matchup is far worse than most will realize going into the slate.
Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns
Elijah Moore is a fantastic on-paper value saver on this slate … if Joe Flacco starts for the Browns and if Amari Cooper is out.
Dorian Thomspson-Robinson cleared concussion protocol, but head coach Kevin Stefanski has yet to announce whether he or Flacco will start on Sunday. The Cooper situation appears more certain after he managed only one limited session on Friday, indicating he had yet to make it to the final stages of the concussion protocol.
What’s Most Important in Week 14
Last week, we transitioned the first portion of our exploration of chalk and leverage to a higher degree of emphasis on the process that leads us to the top plays. We’re going to continue that this week because the Week 14 slate is eerily similar to what we were forced to deal with last week.
The San Francisco 49ers currently boast a Vegas-implied team total that is more than five points higher than the next closest team (29.75). Pair that with their historical hit rate of scoring 30 points or more with Brock Purdy under center and a healthy Deebo Samuel, and we’re left with a team highly likely to return a useable DFS score from one of McCaffrey, Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, or George Kittle.
Rule No. 1 — we must account for the 49ers on every roster in play this week. While this is not rocket science, the field is unlikely to treat the 49ers in this way this week. Nor is it likely to include the defense in that decision-making matrix.
Similar to last week, we have three other game environments away from the top individual team spot that have a higher likelihood of generating GPP-worthy scores. Those games are Colts-Bengals, Bills-Chiefs, and Lions-Bears. Consider basing rosters around those three game environments this week.
Building Leverage Through That
As was alluded to above, the field seems to not be emphasizing the 49ers as much as it should be this week. From a raw points perspective, that team has the highest likelihood of returning meaningful DFS scores of all teams on the slate.
That said, we now have Geno Smith that is listed as questionable after sustaining a groin-muscle injury in practice on Thursday, meaning there is a potential we see a new-look 49ers defense able to tee off against Drew Lock on Sunday.
Even if Smith does play, the injury is likely to affect his pocket mobility, which is a tough ask against a defense that has recorded 18 sacks in just four games since the addition of Chase Young.
Furthermore, sustained defensive success from the 49ers defense would theoretically reduce the likelihood that its skill position players are erupting for “had to have it” scores, making the 49ers defense one of the highest leverage positions to take on this slate.
We’ve talked a lot about the increased relevance of game over-stacks this season due to the suppressed scoring found in the league. That immediately makes over-stacks of the top remaining game environments extremely viable on this slate. The top ways I see of attacking that position are:
- Chase Browning + Ja’Marr Chase + Joe Mixon + Zack Moss
- Patrick Mahomes + Travis Kelce + Rashee Rice + Jerick McKinnon
- Chiefs over-stack + James Cook
- Justin Fields + D.J. Moore + Cole Kmet
- Josh Allen + James Cook + Stefon Diggs + Rashee Rice
All five of those proposed stacks include players that are highly likely to go largely overlooked on this slate, reducing the urge to “get different” on the remainder of the roster.
And we’re attacking those spots without straying too far from optimal, which creates a scenario where we’re building leverage to generate enough expected value to offset the EV lost from the deviation itself (this is the textbook definition of leverage).
The final leverage spot we’ll discuss for the Week 14 slate is Nico Collins. To piggyback on something I wrote at One Week Season this week, the Jets defense has been elite … against poor opposing offenses.
After holding the Bills to just 16 points in Week 1, the Jets have surrendered 30 to the Cowboys, 23 to the Chiefs, 27 to the Chargers, 32 to the Bills and 34 to the Dolphins. In those games, Khalil Shakir, Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, and CeeDee Lamb all went over 100 yards receiving.
All of that to say, the Jets defense is not some immovable force that can’t be beaten. Poor offensive efficiency and low time of possession has played the biggest role in wearing down this unit. The Jets are also playing man at the eighth highest rate this season, against which Collins holds a 32.1 percent target share.
Without Tank Dell around, Collins is the unquestioned alpha through the air for the Texans, and it’s currently looking like he will garner zero ownership while being priced at the same salary as Ja’Marr Chase.
A mini correlation of Collins + Tyler Conklin attacks this game environment head on, which the field is highly unlikely to do considering the biases associated with the Jets defense this season. This pairing gains increased leverage due to the state of the Week 14 slate, where we’re unlikely to have a large number of players score 25-30 DK points or more.
Collins has proven that he can put up the type of fantasy score that you had to have on a week like this, already putting up the top wide receiver score in multiple weeks this season. Searching for players who can feasibly approach the top overall score at their respective position is paramount on a slate where scoring is likely to be suppressed, giving further credence to Collins as a one-off or mini-correlation play.
That will do it for our Week 14 exploration of chalk and some theoretical and conceptual takeaways. We’ll be running this series every week of the 2023 season, picking out new learning points with each week. I welcome all feedback with this new column, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to let me know things you like or things I could do better.