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Optimizer Groups: Optimal TNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Steelers vs Vikings

Terry McBride

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Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Chase Claypool opted to blame his teammates for wasting clock after being ridiculed for celebrating before spike attempt

Week 14 gets started with a matchup between the 6-5-1 Steelers and the 5-7 Vikings, with Pittsburgh somehow coming in as the more relevant team. The Steelers remain in the thick of things in an extraordinarily tight race for an AFC Wildcard spot, currently sitting just one win outside of the playoff picture. The Vikings will be defending their home field without wide receiver Adam Thielen and with at best a banged-up Dalvin Cook. The star running back is trending toward playing despite dislocating his shoulder just 11 days ago, but his overall role and effectiveness are very much in question. If Cook does go, the immensely talented running back will be something of a wildcard on a slate that features a number of excellent pass-catching options. The game is carrying a low 44.5-point total with the hometown Vikings favored by three, essentially rewarding them for playing at home and nothing more. With an abundance of quality NFL DFS point-scoring options, there are limitless ways to construct a quality lineup for DraftKings Showdown and FanDuel single-game contests tonight.

The Awesemo Top Showdown Plays Tool is the best way to find low-owned value and leverage, when using the tool we want to focus on the probability of success but also the degree to which a player is owned when compared with that probability and can indicate if the field is over or underweight to a play. Using all of the Awesemo expert data and tools, let’s find the top NFL DFS optimizer picks for DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups tonight.

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 14 Thursday Night Football

Small Sample Central — Trends and Notes

Several of the primary lineup construction notes from previous versions of the article will continue to be listed in this space, but each week we will attempt to find parallels based on Vegas data and the general game environment from historical contests in the pool of DraftKings Showdown research from 2019 through this week’s contests. It is important to not get too focused on results-based thinking in such a small sample. Quality lineup construction is always the focus, but historical results can help inform some basic decisions in a pricing and ownership vacuum. A quick summary of that previous content:

  • According to tracking data for DraftKings Showdown contests over 2019 and 2020, only 17 of 95 slates were won with a quarterback Captain.
  • Across the same sample, wide receivers and running backs split the outcomes evenly, with 33 tournament-winning events each.
  • Of the 38 times that a wide receiver or tight end was in the winning Captain position, only three of those builds did not include at least one quarterback in a Flex position.
  • Thirty-five of 95 winning lineups featured at least one defense, but only two of those featured both defenses.
  • Twenty-nine winning lineups featured at least one kicker, but only two of those included both.
  • Only eight winning lineups included at least one defense and one kicker, while one person won a tournament with two defenses and a kicker in 2019.

Tonight’s relatively low 44.5-point total yields a sample of 20 lineups if we look at a range of two points in either direction. The sample includes eight games that were at a point spread between three and four, with running backs seeing victory in five of the eight contests. The remaining wins went to two wide receivers and one quarterback. With only seven wins in the extended 20-game sample, it seems that running backs find the most Captain value in games with tighter point spreads such as the one on the board tonight. Pass catchers as the Captain play account for eight of the 20 winners, while one kicker and four quarterback Captain plays were victorious in the sample.

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As has been seen throughout the season in samples of all shapes and sizes, quarterbacks belong primarily in flex roles in DraftKings Showdown contests. The position was included in 18 of the 20 winning lineups in this sample, with eight of those lineups including two quarterbacks. Kickers were in the flex position in four winning lineups in addition to the winner that rostered a kicker Captain, but no winning lineup included more than one kicker. Seven winning lineups rostered a defense, with one lineup including both defenses, but no winner in the sample rostered a defense in the Captain role.

Nine of the 20 winning lineups in the sample were 3-3 constructions and four more were 4-2 builds in favor of the team from which the Captain play was drawn. Only two lineups were successful with 2-4 constructions, both of those utilized running back Captain plays and, interestingly, both games rocketed beyond their Vegas totals. A game with a 44.5 total ended the evening at 66 actual points scored, while the other contest opened at 45.5 and ended with a 61-point actual total. The remaining three winning lineups in the sample were 5-1 constructions, with one Captain share each to quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. On another interesting note, each of these three games went well under their Vegas total, missing by an average of 14.3 points.

DraftKings + FanDuel Stack Rules

QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from Opposing Team (this will happen naturally in most Showdown constructions, but including the rule will eliminate lineups that feature only an opposing kicker or quarterback)

QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (this will happen naturally in a large portion of lineups, but stacking quarterbacks with pass catchers is the easiest way to rack up NFL DFS points. It makes sense to include this rule to force the build, in most situations)

Limit Rules

Limit rules are slightly less important for Showdown slates as there are only two teams to choose from. They are still useful for preventing suboptimal constructions, however. Including the following will help prevent these less likely builds.

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Limit QB/RB/WR/TE/DST/K from Same Team to three unless paired with Captain

Limit RB from Same Team to one (this is a rule that can be toggled on and off over multiple crunches, but the preference for this slate would be to use it)

Limit K from Same Game to one

Limit DEF from Same Game to one

Construction Basics

We will utilize Fantasy Cruncher’s Groups utility to create specific builds. The Groups feature includes the ability to designate players as the key to the group, or the player whose use in a position will trigger the group requirements. For Showdown slates this can be utilized to force specific sets of players or positions along with each type of designated Captain. The example below shows a group that utilizes Justin Jefferson in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Jefferson in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group including both quarterbacks as well as a mix of positively leveraged skill players and the kickers from both sides.

NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks

Unlike multi-game slates, when attacking individual potential game scripts, these groups are better deployed individually for separate crunches that can then be combined into a single pool of lineups. Running them all at once is likely to create conflicting scenarios that will either prevent or limit a full crunch.

Quarterback Inclusion

The first wrinkle in utilizing Groups to create specific constructions is that the tool differentiates between a wide receiver or running back and the same player in the Captain or MVP spot. This requires the creation of a group that adds the Captain version of any likely skill player as the key player, with a rule setting that any lineup featuring any of these players must include one of the quarterbacks in a Flex position. The alternate approach to this problem is to remove all but the skill players from potential inclusion at the Captain spot then create a rule that will simply stack the quarterback with the Captain spot, but that approach is likely more flawed. This group does not currently force quarterbacks when defense or a kicker is used at Captain.

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Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Ben Roethlisberger & Kirk Cousins – Captain versions

This group will result in getting one of the quarterbacks whenever any of the listed primary skill-players is utilized at Captain. To force the quarterback from the same team, multiple groups should be created for skill players from each team utilizing just the quarterback from that team. When quarterbacks appear in Flex positions, the rules and limit settings will kick in to force optimal constructions in the other Flex roles.

Game Script – Passing Game

Key Player(s): Justin Jefferson, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, K.J. Osborn, Pat Friermuth, Tyler Conklin – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Justin Jefferson, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, K.J. Osborn, Pat Friermuth, Tyler Conklin, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger, Greg Joseph, Chris Boswell, Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, Dede Westbrook

This group focuses on the passing games, with all of the primary pass-catching options triggering a group that includes the same receiving corps in their standard form, with the addition of positively leveraged Dede Westbrook, as well as both kickers and both quarterbacks. This group seeks to capitalize on the strong receiving options on both sides while chasing the positive leverage and strong probability marks for the grouped players as they appear in the Top Showdown Plays Tool.


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Game Script – Ground Game

Key Player(s): Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, Alexander Mattison – Captain versions

Setting: At least four

Group: Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, Alexander Mattison, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger, Vikings Defense, Steelers Defense, Greg Joseph, Chris Boswell, K.J. Osborn, Chase Claypool, Dede Westbrook, Diontae Johnson

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This group takes the opposite approach, focusing on a ground-based narrative and a grind-it-out struggle that could involve defenses and kickers, with both options from both sides included. The quarterback position is also represented on both sides, as we typically want a passer in a flex role even with a running-game-focused game script in mind. The rest of the group is balanced by positively leveraged pass-catchers as well as the standard versions of the same running backs. The group forces four players and should yield relatively even constructions, which aligns well with what we have seen in historical sampling for games of this nature.

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If you’re interested in other NFL football DFS for multiple game slates, head over to NFL DFS projected ownership, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL daily fantasy football rankings, and DFS NFL stacking. Take a look at our depth charts, inactive player list and NFL starting lineups. View our DraftKings NFL ownership rankings and our FanDuel NFL ownership rankings. We also have DraftKings showdown projections and single-game ownership projections.

Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on Awesemo.com. A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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