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Neil Orfield’s NFL DFS Showdown Strategy: Kareem Hunt an Elite Stud for Steelers vs. Browns TNF (Sept. 22)

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Neil Orfield's NFL DFS Showdown Strategy: Kareem Hunt Elite Stud Steelers vs. Browns TNF (Sept. 22) 2022

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 as a way 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 3 NFL DFS Showdown: Steelers vs. Browns TNF

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 Showdown Plays” Tool, which publishes results of advanced simulations runs by the Stokastic team.

Studs

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

  • Nick Chubb ($12,000) is the highest projected player on the slate, but also the most expensive by a wide margin. Through two games he has rushed 39 times for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Mitchell Trubisky ($8,600) is significantly cheaper than Chubb, but projects fairly closely to Chubb.
  • Jacoby Brissett ($8,800) is slightly more expensive than Trubisky and has a projection very slightly lower.
  • Diontae Johnson ($9,200) is more expensive than both starting quarterbacks, and while his projection is lower, his upside is every bit as high. Johnson is tied for the team lead in routes run with 75 through two games and leads the team in targets with 20.
  • Najee Harris ($9,800) is the second most expensive player on the slate but has just the fifth highest projection. Still, the upside is clearly there. Harris has rushed 25 times for 72 yards through two games, adding eight targets in the receiving game.
  • Kareem Hunt ($7,600) has six targets and 24 carries through two weeks. His projection, sixth best on the slate, reflects his low volume, but he is always live to put up a big score.
  • Amari Cooper ($9,400) is the third most expensive player on the slate and has the seventh best projection. He leads the Browns in routes run and targets through two games, with 63 and 16, respectively.
  • Chase Claypool ($6,200) is a nice discount off other high-end options but has a high ceiling. Claypool is tied for the team lead in routes run with 75, but has just 11 targets, nine fewer than Johnson.
  • Pat Freiermuth ($7,000) has the ninth highest projection on the slate at a reasonable price tag. He has run routes on 60 plays and has 16 targets through two games.

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 studs in each lineup, the top points-per-dollar plays are often players I’ll be pivoting away from in some spots 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.

  • David Bell ($1,400) has just 20 routes run through two games, with one total target. Still, he’s a talented rookie who may see more opportunities throughout the year.
  • Browns Defense ($3,800) and Steelers Defense ($4,400) project well in a game that is expected to be low scoring.
  • Cade York ($4,200) and Chris Boswell ($4,000) both have a chance to be optimal with a couple field goals in a potentially low scoring game.
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones ($5,400) is second in routes run on the Browns, just one behind Cooper, and second in targets with 12.
  • David Njoku ($5,200) has run 52 routes and received six targets through two games.
  • George Pickens ($4,800) is third in routes run on the Steelers with 72, just three behind both Claypool and Johnson, but has been targeted just six times. Trubisky acknowledged this week that he should target the rookie more.

Correlation

In NFL DFS, correlations are endless, both positive and negative. Some are obvious — QBs have positive correlation with the WRs on their team. Some need a bit more research — how do kickers fare when a team’s backup running back exceeds his projection? Some correlations I like in this game:

  • Brissett at captain with at least one, and probably two, Browns pass catchers. Brissett is not historically a rushing quarterback. Through two games this year he has rushed ten times for 53 yards, though, on pace for the highest rushing output of his career by a good amount. Time will tell if he continues to run, but even if he keeps up this rushing volume, he’ll still be doing most of his damage through the air. If he happens to rush in a touchdown in a low scoring game, there is some possibility that he is the optimal captain with just one, or potentially even zero, pass catchers; but it’s a lot more likely that if Brissett is captain, he’ll bring at least two Browns catchers along for the ride in flex spots.
  • Trubisky at captain with at least one, and probably two, Steelers pass catchers. Trubisky has rushed just four times for 16 yards through two games. His historical rushing is not much better, though he does have nine rushing touchdowns in 59 total games played. The analysis for Brissett largely applies to Trubisky, too; while he could be optimal via the ground, it’s a lot more likely that if he’s the optimal captain he will bring at least two Steelers pass catchers with him.

One note: I’m not necessarily suggesting that these QBs are the first place you should go in the captain spot. I’m saying that if you choose to play them at captain, I’d recommend having multiple of their pass catchers in flex spots.

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 Hunt 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 Hunt in the Captain spot, you’ve essentially reduced the field of lineups you’re competing with to 20,000. If only 200 lineups have Hunt at Captain? Now we’re talking.

On NFL 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.

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 who won’t be getting much ownership. Some low-owned players to consider:

  • Bell ($1,400) is not expected to get much ownership. Which makes sense, given his lack of opportunity or production to this point. But one broken play could pay off this price tag, particularly in a game with a low total.
  • Jaylen Warren ($3,200) has been on the field for 40 snaps as the number two running back through two weeks, carrying the ball seven times in addition to receiving two targets on 21 routes run. If he ends up in the end zone on one of his touches, he will likely be optimal at this price tag.
  • Harrison Bryant ($4,600) has run 32 routes through two game, 20 fewer than starting tight end Njoku, but leads the tight ends in targets with eight to Njoku’s six. His price tag is too high for his expected opportunities, but in a low scoring game it would not take much for Bryant to be optimal.
  • Zach Gentry ($3,000) has run routes on just ten plays through two games, receiving two targets. He could very easily score zero fantasy points. But he is 6-foot-8 and has shown some skill as a receiver in the past. He is live to score a touchdown at very little ownership.
  • Anthony Schwartz ($2,800) has run 16 routes and been targeted just twice so far this year. He has also received two carries, which may be an indication that the Browns are interested in keeping him involved. He is a high volatility dart throw.

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.

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Leave salary on the table. I kind of buried the lede here. 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. Tonight might be a good night to leave more than you normally would, as this is expected to be a low scoring game and the mid-range options are not much less appealing than the studs.

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