Rotoworld's 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. Before diving in, though, just a 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, Hayden Winks' Fantasy Blueprint Column, and Denny Carter's in-depth analysis of this week's Injury Report.
I'll also join Josh Norris and the crew this Sunday morning at noon ET on the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Show to answer all of your pressing start/sit decisions. Until then, these are my thoughts for Sunday's DFS main slate.
What can we learn from Thursday’s slate?
A lot, actually.
(Do not look up Blimpie’s net worth, by the way…)
In all seriousness, it never made sense to roster J.D. McKissic over Antonio Gibson on Thursday given the narrative we discussed during Wednesday’s DFS Building Blocks show; in short, I was of the mindset that Dallas’ o-line was in fact a farce and pressured on only 4-of-34 dropbacks against Minnesota’s teddy bear front-seven because … well, it’s Minnesota. Washington’s ferocious pass rush, on the other hand, not only went into Thanksgiving with a proven resume stuffed with elite players but had reached the quarterback far more consistently than the Vikings with a top-five sack rate (and amount of sacks) to date. Based solely on that story — something that’s crucial to script out for every Showdown and short DFS slate — McKissic was never going to out-produce Gibson, Alex Smith was never going to dropback and throw the ball more than Andy Dalton, and Dallas’ defense was never going to be the better play (and correlation) over Washington’s unit. And yet I admittedly rostered Smith, McKissic, and the Football Team’s defense in a clear non-correlated and overthought lineup(s) when the obvious approach (in hindsight) was to stack Gibson with Washington’s pass rush and run it back with whichever Cowboys wideout ownership dictated we roster.
It’s obviously less crucial to tell yourself a story for Sunday’s main slate since there are multiple games and offenses to choose from. But the lesson, as always, is to trust your own intuition and avoid overlapping players who would never hit together in the first place. And as you’ll soon find out, the rest of Week 12 includes a lot of similar landmines for us to be aware of and avoid.
It makes sense to begin construction with the two highest implied totals on Sunday between the Chiefs-Buccaneers and Chargers-Bills. Both have a legitimate case to carry (and warrant) the highest combined ownership among game stacks this week — and personally, I don’t think any of the four teams fail to get there — but there is an obvious edge in simply stepping back and letting the crowd build our stacks for us.
Take the Chiefs, who have ditched the run altogether the past three weeks and leaned on Patrick Mahomes for the league’s highest pass play rate in neutral game script, with a lead, and just overall in that span. If that game environment snapped Derek Carr out of his funk of 24 attempts per game in Las Vegas’ three contests prior to Sunday night’s showdown, it can easily do the same for Tom Brady and Tampa Bay’s aerial attack, which has passed at the league’s fourth-highest rate when trailing — a 75-play sample size — in three full games with Antonio Brown. And best of all, Brady currently projects to come in at half the ownership of the other three quarterbacks in these two games given his lowly performance under the national spotlight (yet again) just last week. Rather than considering him washed for his missed throws against Football Outsiders’ No. 7 pass defense DVOA, it’s just as easy to reflect on his 300-yard, three-score performance against the Panthers only one week prior. And the Chiefs clearly aren’t short the options to run it back with, which is perhaps the most important cliff note of this slate.
Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Tyreek Hill, for example, are the concerted heavy hitters in these two games and are unsurprisingly projected to carry double-digit ownership for it. Meanwhile, the ancillary options — Austin Ekeler, Cole Beasley, Mike Williams, Sammy Watkins, Chris Godwin — are expected to go overlooked. We shouldn’t necessarily look to fade costly tried-and-true receivers if they’re consistently getting jammed with targets — see Allen’s league-high 103 targets from Justin Herbert or Tyreek’s 16 targets per game the last two weeks — but sprinkling in ancillary options involved in high totals is also a unique way to have exposure towards those matchups. An Allen double-stack with Diggs and Davis? The chalk, especially on DraftKings where the rookie is the stone-minimum. But Allen coupled with Diggs and Beasley? Confident and unique. Same goes for Mahomes, Hill/Kelce and Watkins or Herbert, KA and Williams/Hunter Henry, the latter two who are roughly never rostered in tournaments.
Herbert, who’s averaging the fifth-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks, could very well explode against the Bills; he was a slate-breaker just last week in finishing as the overall QB2 with the fourth-highest pass play rate (and 9.3 yards per attempt) in neutral game script opposite the Jets. But coach Anthony Lynn also ran the ball at the league’s fifth-highest rate when trailing the week before, and Los Angeles’ team total (24, 20th in Week 12) suggests something’s funny in the air. Not to mention Buffalo comes out of its bye with an unsustainable 87-22 pass:backfield-carry ratio in its two games prior. All could be in store for fireworks, but there’s enough concern here to simply let the crowd direct us to the less rostered (and thus more valuable) players and stacks.
Editor's Note: Looking for an added edge? Dominate all season long with our DFS Toolkit. Use our Lineup Optimizer to come up with winning lineups for DraftKings, FanDuel, and Yahoo! Click here for more!
Best of the Rest
We know Dalvin Cook will carry the highest ownership at his position, but stuffing him into our lineups at either DraftKings or FanDuel entails similar builds (and less diversification) involving the same minimum-priced players (Brian Hill, Gabriel Davis, Jordan Wilkins, Andy Isabella) that are allowing everyone else to roster him, too. And a useful rule of thumb has always been to generally avoid minimum-priced receivers catching 20-plus percent ownership in any slate. If we look just one or two spots below Cook, though, an opportunity to roster Derrick Henry (garnering significantly less interest) against a Colts front-seven short stud DTs DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry as well as run-stuffing LB Bobby Okereke is on the table. Henry is not only subtle leverage off Cook, but allows us to have unique exposure in a mini-stack with either Nyheim Hines (in a negative game script) or Jordan Wilkins, both who will suddenly be rostered in one-offs for Jonathan Taylor (COVID) rather than intelligently being coupled with Henry. Of course, if the field is scared to go into tournaments with both Justin Jefferson and Cook due to negative correlation, we can roster both without Kirk Cousins to gain an edge over the field, too.
This slate also offers a handful of inexpensive signal-callers in (potentially) terrific game scripts that allow us to diversify from the four quarterbacks discussed in-length above. Daniel Jones, for instance, has averaged the 27th-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks and has yet to exceed 23 fantasy points in any start this year. But the Giants’ team total (25.5) has also never benefitted from the week’s largest increase (+1.8) since initially opening in any slate this season. Rather than beginning the conversation for cheap options under center with Matt Ryan, who may be engineering a Julio Jones-less offense following the latter’s DNP on Friday, and Carr, we can have slightly more faith in Daniel Jones since, unlike the other two, he offers a rushing floor (4.9 carries per game) and allows us to save a couple hundred dollars at less ownership in an easier matchup. Same goes for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Miami’s offense (aka DeVante Parker), who will not only go completely overlooked against New York’s sieve of a secondary but allow us to spend down for any stacks and jam the rest of our lineups with that handful of aforementioned and salivating receivers.
Brian Hill could hit, of course, but we’ve already seen this Falcons Offense underwhelm with 16.7 points per game in the four contests Julio was either absent or limited for this year, making Hill easily avoidable if Jones is in fact ruled out. That situation would also create an opportunity to roster Josh Jacobs (or even Devontae Booker at zero ownership) in a road-grating game script since we should expect the Raiders’ offense to move the ball no matter how Julio fares. Admittedly, that middle tier of running backs — Ekeler, as mentioned earlier, at his lowest projected ownership on the year, Wayne Gallman in order to accrue touchdown equity over Daniel Jones, James White without Rex Burkhead, Chase Edmonds as leverage off of Andy Isabella given Arizona’s lack of receivers, Nick Chubb as a pivot from a cheaper Kareem Hunt — is where we should look to have exposure this week, anyhow, if only for the vast number of cheap running backs currently catering all the attention.
- Cleveland’s team total (27.7) warrants exposure in any way, shape, or form since it’s quietly the fourth-highest of Week 12.
- Kyle Rudolph isn’t the type of player who will bury us and break the slate even on his best day without Irv Smith (groin, out). Look elsewhere in that range (Tyler Eifert, Hayden Hurst) or prioritize spending up for Travis Kelce and Darren Waller further if the field continues focusing on Rudolph.
- Everyone wants to roster Cook and Jefferson, but no one wants to run it back with Robby Anderson or D.J. Moore. That in itself presents an opportunity for tournaments.
- Cincinnati’s ambiguous offense with Brandon Allen affords us an opportunity (albeit a dirty one) to bet on Tee Higgins’ or Tyler Boyd’s talent in any Daniel Jones/Wayne Gallman mini-stacks.
- Jakobi Meyers had three consecutive games with a 40% target share before that opportunity dipped to 7.8% against Houston. He’s the obvious bounce-back candidate that no one will be on if playing Kyler Murray and/or DeAndre Hopkins.
- Again, Atlanta’s offense has cratered this year without Julio Jones (hamstring). If Julio is active, though, reminder the Raiders’ defense has struggled to reach the quarterback (11 sacks, 31st-overall) and is allowing the fifth-most yards per play (6.0) on the season.
- Taysom Hill offered a rushing floor with 10 carries as the overall QB3 against the Falcons but is now slated to make his first career road start in altitude without LT Terron Armstead (COVID) and LG Andrus Peat (concussion).
- On that same note, the Broncos' team total (10.25) suggests Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, and Jerry Jeudy, all who were already thin plays against New Orleans' lights-out defense of late, are suddenly unpalatable with practice squad wideout Kendall Hinton under center for Drew Lock (COVID). Hinton is actually available at quarterback for $6,000 on FanDuel, but the opportunity cost of rostering him over competent options in (much) higher totals at a onesie position clearly keeps him out of our pools. The Saints' defense, however, remains a strong tournament and cash option since even a run-heavy game script would eventually get taken behind the woodshed as long as New Orleans puts points on the board.
- Let ownership dictate how you approach and stack Chiefs-Buccaneers and/or Chargers-Bills.
- Prioritize overlooked ancillary options — Cole Beasley over Gabriel Davis, Sammy Watkins over Tyreek Hill, Austin Ekeler stacked with Justin Herbert — in high totals.
- Avoid minimum-priced receivers catching 20-plus percent ownership.
- Pivot to another expensive running back (a la Derrick Henry) over Dalvin Cook for leverage.
- Cheap quarterbacks in terrific game environments (Daniel Jones, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derek Carr) this week allow us to be unique and jam in multiple expensive options that warrant being rostered.
- The middle tier of running backs (Wayne Gallman, James White, Nick Chubb) will go overlooked.