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DraftKings Strategy

DraftKings Preview: Rahm seeks redemption

by Will Gray
Updated On: March 10, 2021, 3:10 pm ET

Combining one of the strongest fields of the year and one of the most unpredictable venues around, The Players is where One & Done picks go to die.

No one is immune from the potential dangers in Pete Dye's design, as betting favorites with all the right traits can often be seen clearing out their locker on Friday afternoon. It's a similar story when it comes to setting DraftKings lineups, with TPC Sawgrass sometimes leveling out the playing field and making a 6/6 roster a rarity. But there are some players we can lean on more confidently than others this week, along with a few low-salary options that could outperform their perceived reputations.

One such option is Jon Rahm, the world No. 2 who came close to winning this event two years ago before tumbling out of the top 10. Here's a look at some other players to consider (along with a few to steer clear of) at the Tour's flagship event:

Favorites

Jon Rahm ($10,900): Of the players priced above $10,000 this week, I like the Spaniard the most. Rahm's tournament came undone two years ago when he put an ill-advised fairway bunker shot into the water on No. 11, but as he pointed out in his Tuesday presser he still stood on the 15th tee tied for the lead despite that blunder. Things didn't pan out from there, as he stumbled to a T-12 finish, but there's reason to believe he'll be able to hold it together this time if presented with a similar opportunity. Rahm's T-32 finish in Bradenton was his first result outside the top 20 since the U.S. Open, and the first finish outside the top 30 since July. His overall game is just so sound that I expect him to be able to bounce back in his Sawgrass return. He may not win, but he'll likely factor in the final round.

Patrick Cantlay ($9,200): Cantlay might be my favorite outright selection, and he's a player I'm expecting big things from this week. The strength of this week's field is shown by the fact that 10 other players are priced ahead of him despite the fact that Cantlay hasn't finished worse than T-17 in an event since October. That stretch includes a win, runner-up and T-3 finish, and he should be fully rested after an abrupt withdrawal from the WGC two weeks ago. He cracked the top 25 in each of his first two trips to the Stadium Course and should be in position for even bigger things this time around, given the success he's had on other correlated courses like Sherwood, Muirfield Village, Innisbrook and TPC River Highlands.


Tread Lightly

Rory McIlroy ($10,600): I don't like what I'm hearing from the defending champ. McIlroy can be an introspective player at times, and right now I'm not sure that tendency is helping his cause in the wake of a disappointing final round at Bay Hill. He has admitted that he's searching for a spark and is dealing with both the seeds of a two-way miss and some heavy questions with the Masters fast approaching. Throw in the fact that no defending champ has cracked the top 10 since Adam Scott in 2005 and it's a recipe for me to steer clear. The last time McIlroy was outside the top 10 in the world, he won the very next start at Bay Hill in 2018. I'm not sure that the pieces are in place to replicate that success now that he's down to 11th in the latest rankings but still priced like a top-3 player.

Bryson DeChambeau ($9,700): There were a few factors in play last week in Orlando that helped put DeChambeau ahead of the pack: long rough, long par-3s and a handful of straight holes that allowed him to accentuate his advantage off the tee. Those won't be quite as neatly aligned this week on a course with bends, nooks and crannies on nearly every hole. DeChambeau boasts a 70.0 scoring average over his first two trips here, finishing T-20 and T-37, but attempting to navigate a layout fraught with peril could prove more difficult than taming the Home of the King. You're paying a premium on his price given last week's heroics, which in and of themselves may be tough to back up. DeChambeau will win with frequency in the long run, but I'm not buying that he'll sustain that level of success this week.


Lineup Savers

Matthew NeSmith ($6,700): NeSmith was a popular play last week at Bay Hill before missing the cut, but I'm willing to back him given the string of three straight top-20 finishes that preceded it. He has been somewhat feast or famine, cracking the top 20 in seven of the last eight events in which he played the weekend. While there were a handful of missed cuts along the way, NeSmith's ball-striking stats are too good to ignore: seventh this season in SG: Approach, 19th in SG: Tee-to-Green. He'll need a decent week on the greens to put the whole package together, but if the short game comes through he could be back in familiar territory inside the top 20.

Emiliano Grillo ($6,700): Grillo is a player I'm circling in a variety of formats this week, given his combination of recent form and course history. He has three top-25 finishes in his last four starts, including a T-21 result last week at Bay Hill when he finished third among the field in SG: Off-the-Tee and fourth in Proximity. He'll need that sort of ball-striking acumen this week, but he also has a strong track record on the Stadium Course with an 11th-place finish in 2017 and a T-26 finish in 2019 among three straight made cuts. He's third in SG: Approach over the last 24 rounds at TPC Sawgrass and someone I think could put up a strong showing.

Will Gray

Will Gray manages betting, fantasy and DFS content for NBC Sports EDGE across Golf, Soccer and NASCAR. He has covered the PGA Tour since 2013 and regularly contributes golf betting insight and analysis across multiple digital platforms. Gray has been with NBC Sports since 2007 and recently served as a writer, video analyst and podcast host for Golf Channel. You can follow him on Twitter @WillGrayGC