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Monday Night Football NFL DFS Showdown Strategy: Isaiah Likely a Great Value for Ravens-Saints MNF (November 7)

Neil Orfield

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MNF NFL DFS Showdown Strategy: Brady Leads the Way in Buc-Saints

For nearly a year now, I’ve 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 NFL DFS Showdown.

That’s 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’s a tradeoff DFS pros will gladly make.

My goal with these Showdown articles — which I’ll 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’ll break them down accordingly: Projection, Correlation and Differentiation.

Before reading this piece, you may find it helpful to read my evergreen piece about how to attack NFL Showdown GPPs more generally: https://www.stokastic.com/nfl/draftkings-showdown-simplified-tips-tricks-making-big-money-nfl-dfs-island-games-2022/

Week 9 NFL DFS Showdown: Ravens-Saints MNF

Projection

The goal in DFS is to make the lineup that puts up the most points and a natural starting point is looking at individual players who are likely to put up high scores or high point-per-dollar scores. Some pros run simulations or create their own projections to achieve this. Many others, like myself, rely on the Stokastic projections and tools to determine which players should be core pieces of our lineups. I primarily look at the base projections and the “Top NFL DFS Showdown Plays” Tool, which publishes results of 10,000 advanced simulations run by the Stokastic team.

Studs

These are simply the top projected players on the slate. I’d recommend having at least two or three of these players in just about every lineup you make tonight, either as captain or in a flex spot.

  • Lamar Jackson ($12,400) is the highest projected player on the slate by more than four fantasy points.
  • Alvin Kamara ($11,400) has the second-highest projection and salary on the slate.
  • Andy Dalton ($10,400) has the third-highest projection and salary on the slate.
  • Chris Olave ($8,600) has the fourth-highest projection and salary on the slate.
  • Kenyan Drake ($7,200) makes up one half of the bottom tier of studs, benefitting from the absence of Gus Edwards.
  • Isaiah Likely ($5,800) makes up the other half of the bottom tier of studs, as he steps right into the high-volume role vacated by injured Mark Andrews. After Drake and Likely, there is a nearly three point drop off to the next-highest projected player.

Point-Per-Dollar Plays

These are just a few players who will be featured throughout my lineups due to their high projected points per dollar. At the same time, because I’ll typically have at least two or three studs in each lineup, the top points-per-dollar plays are often players I’ll be pivoting away from in some lineups in favor of players who project a bit worse but will also garner lower ownership. I’m also excluding any player with a projection below three fantasy points from this list.

  • Josh Oliver ($1,200) saw a season high 50% of snaps for the Ravens in week eight with Andrews leaving early. Oliver has just seven targets so far this season on 64 routes run but could play a bigger role with just Likely ahead of him on the depth chart.
  • Justice Hill ($2,200) has carried the ball just nine times over the past two weeks but will likely play a bigger role with Edwards out tonight.
  • Devin Duvernay ($6,800) and James Proche ($3,800) step in as the top receivers for the Ravens with Rashod Bateman sidelined. Duvernay has the highest projection, Proche has the higher point-per-dollar projection.
  • Tre’Quan Smith ($3,400) and Marquez Callaway ($4,600) will solid point-per-dollar options only if Jarvis Landry ($5,200) is ruled out. If Landry is in, he will be a solid point-per-dollar option himself.
  • As usual, kickers and defenses make for solid point-per-dollar options. Justin Tucker ($4,200) leads the group both in terms of raw projection and value relative to salary. Dalton has thrown four interceptions in five games started this season, and Jackson has thrown six picks for the year as well.

Correlation

In NFL DFS, correlations are endless, both positive and negative. Most are minor enough that they don’t necessarily need to be factored into lineups. If you want to give a boost to your running back’s defense, for example, that’s great; but running backs will frequently be optimal without the defense also being optimal, even in NFL DFS Showdown.

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The only correlations that are almost mandatory to consider on NFL DFS Showdown slates involve quarterbacks. Particularly, non-rushing quarterbacks. That’s 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’ll 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 4 points per passing touchdown, while the receiver gets 6 points for a receiving touchdown.

The quarterback is also generally one of the most expensive players on his team. Thus, often he will 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’ll need to have multiple pass catchers in the flex.
  • If you play a quarterback at captain, and he has major rushing upside, you don’t 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 don’t 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 Ravens-Saints Game-Specific Thoughts

  • IF you play Jackson: Jackson has as much rushing upside as any quarterback in the league and can be played anywhere in your lineup without any pass catchers. Generally, it’s probably best to have at least one pass catcher if playing him at captain. Drake can be included among pass catchers to pair with Jackson.
  • IF you play Dalton: Dalton has shown very little rushing upside the past few seasons. It’s best to pair him with at least one pass catcher, and preferably multiple if he is in the captain spot. Kamara can be included among Saints pass catchers to pair with Dalton.

Differentiation

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’re competing against when the player has a 99th-percentile outcome. Taking it to the extreme, just as a thought exercise, let’s say that Kamara scores 100 fantasy points tonight. You’re not just going to need him; you’ll need him in the captain spot (150 fantasy points). If 20,000 lineups in your contest have Kamara in the captain spot, you’ve essentially reduced the field of lineups you’re competing with to 20,000. If only 200 lineups have Kamara at captain? Now we’re talking.

On NFL DFS Showdown slates there is an additional factor for large-field GPPs. We don’t just want to find seldomly used players; we want to find seldomly used LINEUPS. Why? Well, I’ll give you two examples from last year:

  • On Sept. 20, 2021, DraftKings had a Milly Maker for the Packers vs. Lions tilt, but the top lineup was duplicated 231 times. Rather than winning a million dollars, the users who entered those 231 lineups had to split the top 231 prizes, for just a bit over $6,000 each. That’s 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 vs. Colts Milly Maker, taking home not just a million dollars but a ticket to the Tournament of Champions.

If you’re going to win — which takes a lot of luck, regardless of how well your lineup projects — I’d suggest making it count. I’m 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.


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Some Easy Tricks

Low-owned players. Yup, even if you’re using other tricks to get unique, it’s still a good idea to play a few players in some of your lineups who won’t be getting much ownership. Some low-owned players to consider:

  • Dwayne Washington ($200) should step into a bigger role with Mark Ingram sidelined, though the Saints should also have Jordan Howard ($200) playing his first game of the season. It is unclear what role each will play, but both make interesting plays at the minimum salary and very little expected ownership.
  • Adam Trautman ($1,800) is expected to return from injury for this game. His role may be reduced with Juwan Johnson playing well, but he is also expected to be forgotten by DFS players, and a single touchdown could pay off his price tag.
  • Patrick Ricard ($800) has just three rushes and eight targets on the year but has increased goal line potential with Edwards out.

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. If you want to read my reasoning, check out the evergreen piece I linked near the top of this page. In some of my lineups, I like to see the following:

  • Quarterback against opposing Defense.
  • Pass Catcher at Captain without including the QB 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’s up to you. If it’s less than $600 and you haven’t gotten extremely unique with player selections and weird correlations, it’s likely you’ll have to split any winnings with many other entries.

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Neil Orfield has been playing DFS regularly since 2013, but his success really started taking off in 2019 when he had a six figure payday with a hand built NFL lineup. The next day, he signed up for a Stokastic+ subscription with FantasyCruncher. Since then he has won an NFL milly and added six figure wins in XFL, MLB, and NBA. He has recently excelled at NFL Showdown, with many five- and six-figure wins since 2021.

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