Chalk will develop on any given slate. It is a human certainty introduced in games of competing agents. Things like crowd or group, psychology, risk acceptance profiles, a desire to seek comfort and an innate disdain for the unknown lead people to naturally gravitate towards certain areas of a player’s range of outcomes. We will dissect this in this weekly article.
More Week 4 DFS: Main Slate Analysis | Top Plays
We’ll also explore theoretical areas of roster construction in DFS as we examine various pieces of chalk throughout the season, with the goal of growing 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 4 Chalk
Keenan Allen, Chargers
Keenan Allen is on a torrid stretch in the previous two games in the absence of Austin Ekeler. We’ve seen the career splits with and without Ekeler on the field. This week, Allen plays a haphazard Las Vegas Raiders defense that runs tons of zone coverage without Ekeler and Mike Williams on the field.
We spoke last week about how condensed this Los Angeles Chargers pass offense gets with one of the big three missing – Allen is now the last man standing. He’s coming off an insane 48.5 fantasy outburst (DK scoring), and he did that without catching a touchdown. He’s in a great spot. That said, some interesting angles are at play when we talk about leveraging the mega-chalk on a slate like this.
Kyren Williams, Rams
Kyren Williams has been on the field for all but four offensive snaps in the previous two games for the Los Angeles Rams, which is borderline unheard of in today’s game. It’s quite funny that two backs are seeing a backfield all to themselves – Williams and Zack Moss. Furthermore, Williams has seen all but one running back opportunity during the previous two weeks. The workload is all but set in stone at this point, but the matchup is a concern.
The Indianapolis Colts have allowed opposing backs to average just 3.5 yards per carry this season and sit at seventh in the league in rush DVOA. Offsetting those concerns are 17 targets during his recent two-game stretch, alleviating the need for multiple touchdowns to return a GPP-worthy score.
Davante Adams, Raiders
Davante Adams is another wide receiver on this slate coming off a 20-target game (Allen). That said, Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a concussion in Week 3, and no player has played the game immediately following a concussion this season. That should be treated as more of a trend than noise, even with a small sample. The league could be taking a more cautious approach with head injuries after the fallout from Tua Tagovailoa’s incident last season.
We likely won’t know the status of Garoppolo until the early games have already kicked off, introducing a level of uncertainty not present in other spots on the slate. It was shocking to see his ownership where it was, particularly considering his teammate, Jakobi Meyers, is priced $2,500 cheaper on DraftKings and has similar underlying metrics this season.
Tony Pollard, Cowboys
Tony Pollard handily leads the league in carries (62) and red zone opportunities (27) but has scored just two touchdowns through three weeks. The touchdowns are going to regress at some point. His matchup is non-prohibitive against a New England Patriots team considered run-funnel behind heavy rates of man coverage and moderate blitz rates.
The biggest knock to Pollard’s profile is his salary on a slate where pricing is much tighter than it has been to start the season. That will likely make rosters with Pollard look similar from the sense of salary allocation. In other words, rosters with Pollard will almost certainly also contain Josh Palmer and/or a salary-saving option at tight end.
Pat Freiermuth, Steelers
Enter Pollard pairing partner No. 1. Pat Freiermuth’s 70.2 percent route participation rate ranks 28th among tight ends this season, and his 12.3 percent targets per route run (TPRR) rate ranks 38th. But he’s scored two touchdowns, right?
It’s hard to understand the field’s infatuation with a tight end who has run the 23rd most routes this season on an offense that has scored more than 28 points (four touchdowns) just twice during the last calendar year.
Josh Palmer, Chargers
Enter Pollard pairing partner No. 2. Palmer’s 18.4 TPRR in the 2022 season, a season where Allen and Williams missed a combined 11 games, was entirely underwhelming, as were his 8.5 aDOT and 1.32 yards per route run (YPRR). The price is right, but his path to true GPP-worthy ceiling is slim.
Puka Nacua, Rams
Now we’re talking. Puka Nacua has seen a target on almost 40 percent of his routes against zone coverage this season, which is absurd. That’s important because the Colts have played zone coverages at the second-highest rate in the league this season. It would not be shocking to see Nacua end Week 4 with another 15-20 target game. Plus, he’s got great hair, so there’s that.
I want to hate this play with every ounce of my being; it is a cheap chalk defense. But I can’t, in good conscience, call the Cleveland Browns a bad on-paper play this week. There will always be reasons to fade chalk defenses, but I will have the Browns D/ST in my player pool this week.
Mega Recency Bias
In the 2020 season, teams averaged 2.88 touchdowns per game. That touchdown rate continually dipped until last year when NFL teams averaged 2.43 touchdowns per game across the league. This year, that number is down to 2.30 touchdowns per team per game. And yet, last week saw an absolute offensive explosion where seven teams carried Vegas-implied team totals approaching or surpassing 28 points (four touchdowns).
Predictably, the scores needed to win GPPs in Week 3 dwarfed those required during the first two weeks of the season (mid-290s in Week 3 compared to mid-230s in Week 1 and Week 2).
This week, three teams are implied for 26.0 points or higher, which was seven teams last week. Why is that important? The field has the sweet taste of outlier offensive production in their collective mouths this week, and it is showing through in early rostership projections.
People want to jam in the studs coming off career performances (Allen and Adams, to name a couple) and scrape the bottom of the barrel for any possibility of perceived value (more on this below).
That will make a large portion of the field carry extremely fragile rosters into play this week. When we then consider that fragility on the backdrop of the likely regression in scoring from a week ago, we’re left with very clear paths to leverage generation.
As we’ve discussed in multiple weeks this year, finding the game environments that could greatly outperform their game totals gains increased importance when scoring is harder to come by.
The top three spots on this slate for that outlier-type production are the Rams-Colts, the Denver Broncos–Chicago Bears and the Raiders-Chargers. There should be a special shout to the slate-leading Vegas implied team total of the San Francisco 49ers (28.75), who could be without Deebo Samuel (game-time decision).
Based on the rostership numbers from the field, we can be all but certain most rosters in play this week will be looking for any semblance of salary-saving potential. The primary focus of the field is Freiermuth and Palmer, two pieces of chalk that are extremely fragile on this slate. Another could be added through Chuba Hubbard should Miles Sanders miss Week 4 – Hubbard is priced at just $4,800.
The guise of perceived value profoundly affects roster construction tendencies, considering everyone is working with the same salary cap. This week, the pressure to find salary savers comes from the top, with the field likely wanting to fit in as many high-priced studs as possible in the hangover from last week’s scoring eruption.
We would do well to fight the urge to start our roster-building process at the top this week. Instead, start at the bottom of player pricing and scroll up until we can identify a player with a legitimate 30-point upside.
Hint: That process starts with players like Marvin Mims ($3,900), Nico Collins ($5,100), Joshua Kelley ($5,300), Meyers ($5,500), Tutu Atwell ($5,500), D’Andre Swift ($5,700), Moss ($6,000), and Kyren Williams ($6,000). Build rosters around some of those plays and see how different they look to those that start at the top in player pricing, and then hunt for anything down low that we can talk ourselves into.
That will do it for our Week 4 exploration of chalk and some theoretical and conceptual takeaways. We’ll run this series every week of the 2023 season, picking out new learning points each week.