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. For the single game slates, there are many factors to consider. Let’s dive into what Showdown contests are, and some Titans-Packers DFS picks for TNF.
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.
Week 11 NFL DFS Showdown: Titans-Packers Picks TNF
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 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 two of these players in just about every lineup you make tonight, either as captain or in a flex spot.
- Derrick Henry ($11,600) is the top projected play on the slate, in a juicy matchup with a Packers defense that is 30th in Rush DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
- Aaron Jones ($11,200) is half of the second projection tier, though his matchup is tough, facing a Titans defense that is best in the league in Rush DVOA.
- Aaron Rodgers ($10,400) is the other half of that second projection tier, in a matchup with a Titans defense that is 13th in Pass DVOA.
- Ryan Tannehill ($9,600) is half of the third projection tier, in a matchup with a Packers defense that is eighth in Pass DVOA.
- Allen Lazard ($8,600) is the other half of that third projection tier.
Top Point-Per-Dollar Packers-Titans Picks
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.
- Randall Cobb ($200) projects extremely well for a minimum-salary player. As a result, we can probably expect that he will be pretty chalky.
- Dontrell Hilliard ($3,200) played a season high 42% of snaps for the Titans in Week 10. He has been targeted 22 times so far this season, though just six of them have come over the past four games.
- Treylon Burks ($5,200) returned to action for the Titans in Week 10 after missing the previous four games, immediately stepping in to play 56% of snaps.
- A.J. Dillon ($6,600) has played fewer than 50% of snaps for the Packers in four of the past five games but has also carried the ball at least 10 times in four of those games.
- Robert Tonyan ($5,800) saw just one target in Week 10, but in the four weeks prior he had been targeted a healthy 26 times. He was still on the field for 64% of snaps in Week 10.
- Robert Woods ($6,800) leads all Titans in routes run with 207 and targets with 38.
- Austin Hooper ($4,600) has been targeted 23 times this season and has played 61% of snaps each of the past two weeks.
- Christian Watson ($7,400) played a season high 84% of snaps in Week 10 and may have earned himself a bigger role in the offense after scoring three touchdowns on eight targets.
- Nick Westbrook ($6,200) caught five passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in Week 10. He is second on the Titans in routes run this season with 185.
- As usual, kickers and defenses are among the top point-per-dollar plays. Mason Crosby ($4,000) leads the group both in terms of projection and value, followed by Packers Defense ($3,800). Tannehill has thrown just three interceptions in seven games this year but threw 14 interceptions last year. Rodgers has already thrown seven interceptions this season, more than he threw in any of the past five seasons.
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 Showdown.
The only correlations that are almost mandatory to consider on 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, more often than not 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 game-specific thoughts:
- IF you play Rodgers: Rodgers has rushed for just 64 yards and zero touchdowns so far this year. Generally, any lineup with Rodgers in it should probably have at least one Packers pass catcher in the lineup, and multiple in lineups with Rodgers at captain. Both Jones and Dillon can be paired with Rodgers as pass catchers.
- IF you play Tannehill: Tannehill has rushed for just 41 yards and one touchdown this season, but in the two full seasons prior, he rushed for 266 and 270 yards with seven touchdowns in each. Generally I trust the larger sample, enough so that I am willing to play a handful of lineups with Tannehill in the flex and no Titans pass catchers. Still, in most lineups with Tannehill I’d prefer to pair him with at least one pass catcher, and multiple if he is in the captain spot. Hilliard can be considered a pass catcher to pair with Tannehill. Henry has been targeted just 20 times this season, so generally it’s best not to use him as the only pass catcher in Tannehill lineups.
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 Henry 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 Henry in the captain spot, you’ve essentially reduced the field of lineups you’re competing with to 20,000. If only 200 lineups have Henry 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 in your set of lineups who won’t be getting much ownership. Some low-owned players to consider:
- Sammy Watkins ($4,800) disappointed a lot of Showdown players just a few weeks ago as the presumed top receiver for the Packers. Now he is likely fourth on the Packers depth chart, and his price is clearly too high for that role. Still, if none of the field is going to play, he’ll make for an interesting dart throw. He has played at least a third of snaps in every game he has been active this season.
- Chigoziem Okonkwo ($2,600) has just one reception in each of the past two Titans games, but both went for more than 40 yards. The rookie has also seen his playing time increase since the Titans’ Week 6 bye, playing between 32% and 46% of snaps in each of the past four games.
- Geoff Swaim ($200) has been targeted just three times in the past six games, though he has seen the field for more than 50% of snaps in each of those games. He is a touchdown-or-bust option that makes some sense at low ownership.
- Marcedes Lewis ($600) played a season high 58% of snaps for the Packers in Week 10. The veteran has been targeted just three times in on 71 routes run in 10 starts this season after seeing 28 targets last year. He is another touchdown-or-bust option. Meanwhile, fellow tight end Josiah Deguara ($1,800) has seen 12 targets, including five in Week 9, despite running just 60 routes this season.
- Samori Toure ($1,200) played the first game of his career in Week 7, then saw four targets each in weeks eight and nine. He didn’t see a target and only played 19% of snaps in Week 10, and now the Packers get Randall Cobb back. But with Romeo Doubs out and Amari Rodgers cut, Toure could still retain some role in the offense.
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. 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 on this slate 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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