The NFL DFS landscape is full of analysis about targeting matchups, finding value and picking the best players. While all of those things are important components of winning at daily fantasy football, other topics like game theory, lineup building strategies and contest selection are also important. That’s what you’ll find here, as we take a look at some of those more nuanced strategic elements to prepare you for each week of the 2021 NFL season.
The Week 3 Derrick Henry Effect
NFL Week 2 was basically the Derrick Henry show, as he demolished the opposition in the 2nd half en route to a 50-point fantasy game. Henry clearly had a monumental fantasy impact, and he’s looking to be a far more popular DFS selection in Week 3 as a result of that incredible performance. Henry will take on a Colts defense that isn’t especially beatable on the ground, but it seems as though he’ll be among the week’s most popular running backs as a result of that Week 2 outcome. The Titans are also favored against the Colts, and the projected positive game script sets up well for Henry, while also likely making him a more obvious Week 3 choice.
Henry isn’t the only running back that’s seemingly worth spending a large chunk of salary on — Dalvin Cook ($8,400) is right up there with Henry’s $8,600 price tag — so this could be a week where most DFS lineups include an expensive running back. This situation will probably result in a few key effects — Alvin Kamara ($8,200) is likely to be overlooked after his Week 2 dud, and A.J. Brown ($6,500) and Julio Jones ($6,500) could fly under the radar as well with more people banking on the Titans’ running game. Additionally, these expensive running backs are likely to return us to a stars and scrubs strategy, where like Week 1, there are more lineups paying up for some expensive running backs and receivers while grabbing some bargain plays from the bottom of the salary range to afford them. In Week 2, the contrarian lineup construction was to use both expensive and cheap players while the field was largely balanced, but Week 3 seems as though it’ll be the opposite, largely because of Derrick Henry.
Handling Rams vs. Bucs
The high-end pricing for Week 3’s wide receivers looks to be landing on a lot of Rams and Buccaneers, and it’s mostly because the pass-catchers on both teams aren’t as high-priced as they should be. Cooper Kupp ($6,800) was Week 2’s top-scoring receiver, and he’s still very affordable with a price tag below $7K. Chris Godwin ($6,100) and Robert Woods ($5,700) both probably meet the criteria for “value plays” and Tom Brady ($6,800) and Matthew Stafford ($6,400) are both relatively underpriced as well, with Patrick Mahomes ($8,200) and Kyler Murray ($8,300) both being much more expensive. This already figured to be a shootout with a game total in the mid-50s, but with Antonio Brown now likely out due to COVID-19, there’s bound to be more concentrated targets for Tampa Bay.
This game actually sets up very similarly to last week’s Chargers vs. Cowboys matchup, where no one is an extreme value but everyone is probably slightly underpriced. Fading the chalk game in Week 2 worked out extremely well, and while doing the same in Week 3 is once again the lower probability move, it’s still most likely the right move. This doesn’t necessarily mean to avoid the whole thing in GPPs — Mike Evans ($6,300) might even be a bit of a contrarian pivot — but stacking it up in full is going to be a very popular strategy that will make it very hard to differentiate from what the field is doing. There are paths to this game failing, with the most likely one probably being a scenario where these two good defenses keep the offenses in check. The passing games on both sides are high-volume and efficient attacks, but the defenses are quite good as well.
There are three quarterbacks on Week 3’s slate that seem to have a higher degree of upside than the rest of the field: Lamar Jackson ($7,800), Patrick Mahomes ($8,200) and Kyler Murray ($8,300). Jackson will likely get a significant amount of attention because he’s the cheapest of this group and has a great matchup in Detroit against the Lions, while Mahomes and Murray could wind up being more overlooked because they are harder to afford. To play Mahomes or Murray with their top passing game threats, it probably means that you have to forego the top-end running backs like Henry and Cook. This seems to be the easiest path to differentiating for Week 3, where lineups that spend up at quarterback and perhaps also at tight end (with Travis Kelce $8,200) are actually quite unique in relation to those that pay up for the top running backs.
As mentioned above, a balanced build is one way to be different than the stars and scrubs approach that many DFS players will use in Week 3. That’s not the only way to generate contrarian lineups, however, as spending up at different positions than your competitors is another route to achieving the same effect. Mike Davis ($5,100) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($4,800) might find their way into a decent chunk of Week 3 lineups, but there are plenty of other cheap running backs and cheap receivers to take a look at as well.
How Does this Help Me Win?
If the concepts outlined here are confusing, you’re not alone. Many DFS players put the majority of their attention into picking the best “values” without considering these more in-depth strategic elements. Nonetheless, the goal of what we’re talking about here is simple: If you’re trying to win a GPP, it’s important to know where those value plays are, but it’s perhaps more important to know how good and bad outcomes by teams and players will impact your lineup and the lineups of your opponents. Winning a DFS tournament isn’t actually just about scoring as many fantasy points as you can, it’s about scoring as many points as you can — relative to the other people in your contest.
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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.
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