For nearly two years now, I have been hosting the High Stakes podcast for Stokastic, interviewing DFS pros on a range of topics. There have been a lot of recurring themes on the show, but the most relevant for this article: DFS pros love MNF Showdown.
That is because a lot of casual NFL fans enter the Showdown fray to have some action on island games. As a result, DraftKings and FanDuel offer enormous contests with generous prize pools. The contests become more difficult to win, too, when there are hundreds of thousands of entrants, but with a large portion of the new players being casual, the increase in difficulty pales in comparison to the increase in prize pools. It is a tradeoff DFS pros will gladly make.
My goal with these Showdown articles — which I will be writing for each Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football NFL DFS slate this season — is to help you attack the largest-field DraftKings GPP like a pro. There are three main components to discuss when it comes to Showdown, and I will break them down accordingly: Projection, Correlation and Differentiation.
Week 11 Eagles-Chiefs MNF Showdown: NFL DFS Strategy
The goal in DFS is to make the lineup that puts up the most points, so a natural starting point is looking at individual players who are likely to put up high scores or high point-per-dollar scores. I rely on Stokastic’s NFL DFS projections and tools to determine which players should be core pieces of my lineups. I primarily look at the base projections and the Top NFL DFS Showdown Plays Tool, which publishes results of thousands of advanced simulations run by the Stokastic team.
These are the top-projected players on the slate. I’d recommend having at least three of these players in just about every lineup you make tonight, either as captain or in a flex spot.
- Patrick Mahomes ($11,200) has a great matchup with an Eagles defense that gives up the third-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, per Fantasy Points. Mahomes has a greater-than-65% chance of making the optimal lineup, according to Stokastic’s Top NFL DFS Showdown Plays Tool.
- Travis Kelce ($10,000) leads the Chiefs in route participation and target share at 65.8% and 23.6%, respectively. Kelce has around a 70% chance of optimality.
- Jalen Hurts ($12,000) has a tough matchup with a Chiefs defense that gives up the third-fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Hurts has around a 60% chance of optimality.
- A.J. Brown ($10,200) is second on the Eagles in route participation but leads the team in target share, at 85.9% and 29.5%, respectively. Brown has the third-most PPR fantasy points of all receivers this season, and though the Chiefs give up the third-fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to wide receivers, he has better than a 60% chance of optimality.
- D’Andre Swift ($8,400) has consistently been the Eagles’ lead back since Week 2, averaging 15 carries and nearly four targets per game on the season. Swift has a tough matchup with a Chiefs defense that gives up the second-fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to running backs but still has better than a 35% chance of optimality.
- Isiah Pacheco ($8,400) played 68% of snaps in Week 9, his most of the season, getting 16 carries. He had just one target but averages more than three per game. Pacheco has the worst possible matchup against an Eagles defense that gives up the fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to running backs, but he has a greater-than-40% chance of optimality.
- DeVonta Smith ($9,000) leads the Eagles in route participation and is second in target share, at 91.3% and 19.0%, respectively. Smith has around a 30% chance of optimality.
Top Point-Per-Dollar Plays
These are just a few players who will be featured throughout my lineups due to their high points-per-dollar projection. At the same time, because I will typically have at least three studs in each lineup, the top points-per-dollar plays are often players I will be pivoting away from in some lineups in favor of players who project a bit worse but who will also garner lower ownership. I am also excluding any player with a projection below 3 fantasy points from this list.
- Justin Watson ($2,400) played 63% of snaps in Week 9, his most of the season. He was second on the Chiefs in route participation in that game at 58.8%, and his five targets led the team.
- Noah Gray ($1,800) is 4th on the Chiefs in route participation and tied for 6th in target share at 45.8% and 6.8%, respectively.
- Rashee Rice ($7,400) played 68% of snaps in Week 9, his highest of the season, and could see a post-bye rookie bump. Rice’s 41 targets this season are second on the team, 30 behind Kelce but also 11 ahead of Skyy Moore in third.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($3,000) was third on the Chiefs in route participation and tied for third in target share in Week 9, at 52.9% and 10%, respectively.
- As usual, kickers and defenses are among the top point-per-dollar plays on the slate.
In NFL DFS, correlations are endless, both positive and negative. Most are minor enough that they do not necessarily need to be factored into lineups. If you want to give a boost to your running back’s defense, for example, that is great; but running backs will frequently be optimal without the defense also being optimal, even in NFL DFS Showdown.
The only correlations that are almost mandatory to consider on NFL DFS Showdown slates involve quarterbacks — particularly non-rushing quarterbacks. That is because of the scoring dynamics on DraftKings. On each passing play, the pass catcher scores more fantasy points than the quarterback. For example, if a quarterback throws a pass for 5 yards, he will get 0.2 fantasy points — 1 fantasy point per 25 yards passing, divided by five. The receiver will get 1.5 fantasy points — 1 point per reception, plus half a point for 5 yards receiving. The quarterback also only gets four points per passing touchdown, while the receiver gets six points for a receiving touchdown.
The quarterback is also generally one of the most expensive players on his team. Thus, he will often need to be his team’s highest fantasy point scorer to be the optimal captain. Outside of rare occasions where the quarterback scores fantasy points by passing to a player who is not in the DraftKings player pool or gets points as a receiver on a trick play, there are essentially just two ways for the quarterback to be the highest-scoring player on his team: adding fantasy points via rushing or spreading the ball around to multiple pass catchers.
Some General Thoughts
- If you play a quarterback at captain, and he does not have rushing upside, and he is the most expensive player on his team, you will almost always want to have multiple of his team’s pass catchers in the flex. This is also largely true if the quarterback is only slightly less expensive than the most expensive pass catcher on his team.
- If you play a quarterback at captain, and he has moderate rushing upside, you can consider playing just one of his pass catchers in the flex — but multiple may still be preferred, depending on the extent of that rushing upside. The quarterback’s price may also come into play here; the more expensive he is, the more likely you will need to have multiple pass catchers in the flex.
- If you play a quarterback at captain, and he has major rushing upside, you do not necessarily need to play any pass catchers in the flex. This is relatively uncommon, and only applies to a few quarterbacks.
- If you play a quarterback in the flex, and he does not have rushing upside, you will generally want to have at least one of his pass catchers elsewhere in the lineup, either at captain or in another flex spot.
- If you play a quarterback in the flex, and he has moderate to high rushing upside, you do not necessarily need to include one of his pass catchers elsewhere in the lineup. But there will always be positive correlation there between a quarterback and his pass catchers.
Some Eagles-Chiefs Game-Specific Thoughts
- If you play Hurts: Hurts has started 43 career games and has 33 rushing touchdowns while averaging 41 rushing yards per game. Hurts is an elite rushing quarterback who can be played without any pass catchers but most often should be paired with at least one when used at captain.
- If you play Mahomes: Mahomes has always been willing to run when necessary, and with a subpar group of receivers, he is averaging 28.7 rushing yards per game this year, the highest average of his career. Still Mahomes is a tier below Hurts and should generally be paired with at least one pass catcher, especially when captained.
- None of the running backs are more than secondary stacking partners.
Making highly projected lineups with smart correlations will separate you from the lowest level Showdown players, but there are many very smart casual players as well. Differentiation is the last step to separating pros from Joes.
In just about any DFS GPP, finding low-owned gems is key because lower ownership reduces the field of lineups you are competing against when the player has a 99th-percentile outcome. Taking it to the extreme, just as a thought exercise, let’s say that Swift scores 100 fantasy points tonight. You are not just going to need him; you will need him in the captain spot (150 fantasy points). If 20,000 lineups in your contest have Swift in the captain spot, you have essentially reduced the field of lineups you are competing with to 20,000. If only 200 lineups have Swift at captain, now we are talking.
On NFL DFS Showdown slates, there is an additional factor for large-field GPPs. We do not just want to find seldomly used players; we want to find seldomly used LINEUPS. Why? Well, I will give you two examples from 2021:
- On Sept. 20, 2021, DraftKings had a Milly Maker for the Packers-Lions tilt, but the top lineup was duplicated 231 times. Rather than winning $1 million, the users who entered those 231 lineups had to split the top 231 prizes, for just a bit over $6,000 each. That is despite having everything go their way, which requires an extreme amount of luck.
- On Oct. 11, 2021, we saw the other end of the spectrum: User rcoho1984 played a unique lineup in the Ravens-Colts Milly Maker, taking home not just a million dollars but a ticket to the Tournament of Champions.
If you are going to win — which takes a lot of luck, regardless of how well your lineup projects — I would suggest making it count. I am not necessarily concerned with making an entirely unique lineup like rcoho1984 did every single time, but I aim to be a lot closer to their unique lineup than those that were duplicated 231 times.
Some Easy Tricks
Low-owned players. Even if you are using other tricks to get unique, it is still a good idea to play a few players in some of your lineups who will not be getting much ownership. Some low-owned players to consider:
- Jack Stoll ($3,200) has just three targets on the season despite playing 32% of snaps. Stoll had seven catches for 74 yards over the five-game stretch that Dallas Goedert missed last year, while Grant Calcaterra ($200) added four receptions for 41 yards.
- Albert Okwuegbunam ($400) might be the tight end most likely to see more passing game work. Okwuegbunam ran his first two routes of the season in the fourth quarter of Week 9 after Goedert left. Alternatively, Julio Jones ($2,600) could see an increase on his 27.5% route participation and 3.3% target share.
- Skyy Moore ($3,400) ran 10 routes in Week 9, while Mecole Hardman ($2,800) ran five and Kadarius Toney ($4,200) ran four. All are darts throws capable of splash plays for an unsettled received room.
- Olamide Zaccheaus ($1,200) has seen a decrease in snaps since Jones joined the team, but in Week 9 he remained fourth on the Eagles in both route participation and target share at 43.8% and 8.7%, respectively.
Embrace lineups missing some correlation pieces or even with some negative correlation. Generally, highly correlated lineups will be over-owned, whereas the field will avoid negative correlation at all costs.
- Quarterback against opposing defense.
- Pass catcher at captain without including the quarterback at flex.
- Multiple running backs from the same team in a lineup.
Leave salary on the table. This is the easiest way to lower your duplicates. Casual players assume that if they have salary left over, they should upgrade. The problem with this approach is that it almost inevitably leads to highly duplicated lineups. How much salary should you leave on the table? That is up to you. If it is less than $800 and you have not gotten extremely unique with player selections and weird correlations, it is likely you will have to split any winnings with many other entries.