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The DFS Building Blocks show would usually be available at this time to shed some light on Sunday's slate, but the holiday week has allowed for something different ahead of Week 12. Friendly reminder that you can catch up on all of the week's events (and there have been a lot of them) between Patrick Daugherty's Week 12 Rankings, Nick Mensio's Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em, Pat Kerrane’s Friday Walkthrough, Denny Carter's Target Decoder, and Hasan Rasim's in-depth analysis of this week's Injury Report.
I'll also join the entire crew this Sunday morning at noon ET on A Good Football Show: Fantasy Kickoff (presented by Applebee's, of course) to answer all of your pressing start/sit decisions. Until then, these are my thoughts on DFS for Sunday.
WHAT CAN WE TAKE FROM THURSDAY?
For starters, don’t post that plate:
Amid getting roasted for sharing a photo of mom’s spaghetti, you may have noticed that David Montgomery (17/46), D’Andre Swift (injured), and Darren Waller (injured) all failed to get there at condensed percentages even though the field knew their opponents were favoring those players in tournaments. It took a little luck to avoid those latter two landmines, but the large-field Turkey Day winners assessed the entire landscape from the very beginning and intelligently sided against rostering who their opponents were rostering in order to separate themselves from the pack:
At first glance, it’s shocking to see a winning lineup atop a field of 81,000 entrants without a single player being less than 19% rostered. Some might even call it luck. But given the big-picture view of the slate — three decreasing totals, known interest around two offenses (and one game) in particular, impactful injuries air marshaling our opponents to perceived fill-ins, salary for days — one could argue that chasing floors (which is also the name of my DFS biopic) was both the safest and best way to approach Thursday’s slate since there were no ceilings to be had. Take that approach every week and you’ll never be able to afford that discounted television that you could have bought discounted all year but instead waited to battle crowds for during an arbitrary morning. Fortunately for DFS players, every slate is a new one and thus needs to be attacked as such.
Which reminds me...
Sunday lacks its usual firepower since Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, and their respective offenses will not be in attendance. If you’re curious as to why Tom Brady and Justin Herbert project as the highest rostered quarterbacks in this slate, look no further. Not only are the Bucs labeled with the league’s highest implied team total (28) a full two points higher than San Francisco’s (26), their indoors matchup against Indianapolis also stands four points (53) ahead of Vikings-49ers (49).
That’s not to say you shouldn’t play Brady knowing the field is going to. It’s admittedly a tremendous spot that breeds touchdowns since the veteran has stood upright and surgically pecked away at zone coverages, a Matt Eberflus staple, for a 73% completion rate this year. We’ve already experienced this same situation with his receivers, though, being gifted another opportunity to pivot since Chris Godwin projects to come in significantly more rostered than Mike Evans. Just in making that simple tweak, we give ourselves leverage over our opponents despite the duo’s indistinguishable success.
Whereas nearly half the field will naturally gravitate to Rob Gronkowski ($4,400 on DraftKings) and Godwin in double-stacks, we segregate our lineups by stacking Gronkowski with Evans or, better yet, the latter with any Colts player brought back, Jonathan Taylor in particular. As it stands, Michael Pittman is going to be everyone’s choice since he seemingly fits all builds on both DraftKings ($5,600) and FanDuel ($6,600). But Pittman obviously doesn’t offer the same ceiling as Taylor, arguably in the exact situation he was last week, especially when you factor in their margin for being rostered. Godwin and Pittman? Godspeed. But Taylor and Evans? Now we’re talking. You could even play one/both of Tampa Bay’s receivers without Brady — a tougher sell on a touchdown-dependent site like FanDuel since receiving scores there are typically the only reason quarterbacks are elevated — and instead pay down at his position since, as noted earlier, this slate is unique in that we’re only fading one Superhero.
COOL. WHAT NOW?
That last point is also why vomit-inducing quarterbacks — Ben Roethlisberger, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor — are gaining traction. If we are essentially fading one player, and this slate is “ugly” as a whole, then doesn’t it make sense to roster “ugly” plays? If this thought process becomes popular after inactives, then we can hone in on Brady with confidence knowing the field simply overthought him. Until that point, the game within the game is knowing everyone is spending their Saturday getting uncomfortably comfortable with the same cheap quarterbacks.
Garoppolo is an awesome play on the surface — Minnesota will be without Danielle Hunter (torn pec) and Everson Griffen (personal) on the edge and Michael Pierce (elbow) and Dalvin Tomlinson (COVID) up the gut — but is also connected to two reasonably rostered players in the mid-teens (Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk) at the same position on this slate. You could differentiate your lineups with George Kittle or Justin Jefferson in that scenario since they offer two of the highest ceilings at their positions despite being (as of Saturday afternoon) overlooked. Another method is to attack San Francisco’s rushing equity since, in orchestrating the league’s third-highest run play rate from neutral game script, we should actually expect rushing touchdowns to take precedent. Jeff Wilson, fresh off an underwhelming 20-touch performance, is the logical fit if Elijah Mitchell (broken finger) is ruled out. Having out-touched Wilson 27-10 in their last appearance together, though, Mitchell himself is a justifiable play being ignored entirely (if active). You would also then free yourself to lean on a different cheap quarterback and stack, moving away from those getting collectively steamed.
Kirk Cousins and Minnesota's pass catchers aren't necessarily cheap, but there is an advantage to taking a chance on offenses with predictable distributions — if they hit, we at least know who hits. The Vikings, for example, have two impactful receivers and, at times, a tight end. That's it. Same goes for the Steelers, who pair quite easily with Roethlisberger. You could also make an argument for the Falcons (Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts), Jets (Elijah Moore, Ryan Griffin) and Texans (Brandin Cooks), all that project to be forgotten. The fact the Jets are permitting 30 backfield touches and the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs doesn't stop just because David Johnson is on the other side (though I understand if you disagree). It just means it's a harder pill to swallow. But in doing so, we get to pay up for potential week-winners around our cheap, ugly stacks that are unique to everyone else's cheap, ugly stacks. That's the point.
- I touched on Jonathan Taylor, Justin Jefferson, and George Kittle above, but Joe Mixon and Najee Harris also qualify as "GPP, bro" players in that they are not projecting to be rostered in their sluggish (or at least perceived as that) matchups despite their salivating ceilings.
- Monitoring Green Bay's injury report will be crucial since A.J. Dillon, coming off an elite 81% backfield touch share sans Aaron Jones, would be in the same position garnering significantly less interest opposite the Rams if Jones is ruled out.
- On that same note, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, priced at $5,600 on FanDuel and $4,100 on DraftKings, should genuinely be placed in the $7,000 range after coupling his usual 15.6-yard depth of target with 10 targets and 81% of Green Bay's snaps in place of Allen Lazard (shoulder, questionable).
- Dallas Goedert, too, since his usage in four full games without Zach Ertz — 31.7% target share, route on 86% of Jalen Hurts' dropbacks — is that of a tight end that should be priced around George Kittle. Both Hurts and Goedert are attractive options if wish-casting a heavier passing script minus Jordan Howard.
- Just because the field is eyeing James Robinson, Saquon Barkley, Darrell Henderson, and Miles Sanders doesn't mean you have to. As always the case when players are getting steamed, shop in their general ranges for leverage. Pivoting elsewhere in the same offense (see the Elijah Mitchell strategy) is also preferred.
- I'm not necessarily fighting against Javonte Williams Breakout Week, but note the Broncos will be without both of their starting tackles.
- (I purposely saved the worst note for last...) Jonathan Taylor has logged back-to-back career-highs in snaps, logically out-touching Nyheim Hines 62-8 in that stretch because the Colts have run 92 plays with a seven-plus point lead. But if Brady and the Bucs were to take an early lead and put Indianapolis in a position they hadn't faced in multiple games, wouldn't Hines' opportunity as the team's receiving back naturally increase? Food for thought.
- Every slate is unique. What made sense last week may not be the case the following week. Sunday's slate fits that mold in allowing us to play "ugly" plays with our opponents.
- Pivoting from high-rostered teammates (Tom Brady-Chris Godwin) to lower rostered ones (Brady-Mike Evans) is a unique way to gain leverage over the field. Same for game stacks. Ex: Jonathan Taylor, projecting to be rostered in 2-4% of lineups, over Michael Pittman, projecting for 30-40%.
- Don't ignore low-rostered players with slate-breaking ceilings (Justin Jefferson, George Kittle) just because the field is not on them. On the contrary, ignore all micro-level analysis and play them.
- If everyone is going to roster a cheap quarterback, why roster the same one? Matt Ryan, Zach Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tyrod Taylor are similarly priced to Jimmy Garoppolo but will go completely overlooked (along with their stacking options).
- Don't read the last Kerouacian Note.