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 11 NFL DFS Showdown: 49ers-Cardinals MNF
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.
These are simply 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.
- Christian McCaffrey ($11,400) is the most expensive player on the slate but also has the highest projection by 3 full fantasy points.
- Jimmy Garoppolo ($9,600) has the second-highest projection on the slate.
- DeAndre Hopkins ($10,400) is one half of the third projection tier, a week after turning 14 Colt McCoy targets into 10 receptions for 98 yards.
- Deebo Samuel ($8,200) is the second half of the third projection tier.
- McCoy ($9,400) is one half of the fourth projection tier.
- James Conner ($8,600) is the other half of the fourth projection tier.
- Brandon Aiyuk ($7,600) is one of three players in the bottom tier of studs.
- Rondale Moore ($6,600) turned 13 McCoy targets in Week 10 into nine receptions for 94 yards.
- George Kittle ($7,000) is the third player in the bottom tier of studs.
Top 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 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.
- Trey McBride ($1,000) steps into the tight end one spot for the Cardinals with Zach Ertz out and is clearly too cheap for his new role.
- Keaontay Ingram ($2,600) steps in as the top backup to Conner with Eno Benjamin released. Conner played 96% of snaps in Week 10, with Ingram only stepping in for five snaps, but prior to that Conner had topped out at 72% of snaps in any game this season, so it would not be surprising to see Ingram take on a bigger role this week.
- Jauan Jennings ($4,400) played 32% of snaps in Week 10 and makes for a fine salary saver as the 49ers’ WR3.
- Eli Mitchell ($5,800) returned in Week 10 for his first action since Week 1, and surprising had 18 carries and two targets despite playing behind McCaffrey. The high volume of opportunities was likely an outlier, as Mitchell played 35% of snaps to McCaffrey’s 65%, but if he sees even 70% of that volume, he could pay off his price tag.
- As usual, kickers and defenses are among the top point-per-dollar options. Robbie Gould ($4,200) leads the way both in projection and value. McCoy has not had a propensity to throw interceptions in his career, but it has been a relatively small sample size and the 49ers defense is a tough spot. Garoppolo has thrown just four interceptions this year, but was more average last year, throwing 12 in 15 games.
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.
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 49ers-Cardinals Game-Specific Thoughts
- If you play Garoppolo: Garoppolo has not shown a ton of rushing upside in his career, maxing out at 62 yards in his best season. He has rushed for five touchdowns over the past couple of years, so a relative spike week is possible, but generally any lineup with Garoppolo should probably have at least one 49ers pass catcher in it, and preferably multiple if Garoppolo is at captain. Pass catchers can include any of the playable running backs.
- If you play McCoy: Similar to Garoppolo, McCoy has not shown a lot of upside with his legs in recent years. It’s best to have at least one Cardinals pass catcher in the lineup if you play McCoy, and preferably multiple if you play him at captain. Running backs can be included as pass catchers.
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 Gibson 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 Gibson in the captain spot, you’ve essentially reduced the field of lineups you’re competing with to 20,000. If only 200 lineups have Gibson 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:
- Stephen Anderson ($200) played a season high 37% of snaps for the Cardinals after Ertz left the game in Week 10. He has run just 19 routes and been targeted twice this season but could see more opportunities as the tight end two.
- Kyle Juszczyk ($600) played just 38% of snaps and did not see a target in Week 10, the first game with both McCaffrey and Mitchell active. He could see reduced opportunities, but he had seen four targets apiece in the last two games he had played and he could vulture a touchdown to pay off his price tag.
- A.J. Green ($4,800) played 44% of snaps for the Cardinals in Week 10. Robby Anderson ($4,000) played just 12% of snaps but played 83% in Week 9 and is always a threat for a long touchdown.
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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