The Reid Option: Week 8
Identifying Donkey Chalk in daily fantasy football can be tough, especially when it comes to a lower-priced player who figures to step into a featured role. Sometimes a guy goes Malcolm Brown on you, and sometimes they go Latavius Murray. Obviously we need to look at these guys on a case-by-case basis; there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to figuring out who’s going to succeed in an expanded role and who won’t.
We’ll surely have to deal with those decisions this week with players like Ty Johnson and Kenny Stills, possibly among others. We’ll get to the Week 8 viability of those players later in the column, and as I write this on Wednesday night I don’t know how widely owned they’ll be come Sunday. But the point is this: Say one of them is definitely going to be cash-game chalk, and you think they’re a trap so you’re going to take a stand and fade the Donkey Chalk. Well, your cash game mix should be adjusted based on this.
We discussed this on The Gillcast a couple weeks back when Malcolm Brown was the chalk while filling in for an injured Todd Gurley, and Nate (who is occasionally sharp) decided to fade him in cash games. And so I asked him if he had adjusted his cash game exposure to account for this play, and Nate (who is often un-sharp) said he hadn’t.
What he should have done is skewed his cash game exposure strongly towards head-to-head contests, as opposed to 50/50s and double-ups. And the reason he should have done that is because when you purposefully fade a popular player, you’re looking to gain leverage on a large percentage of the field. We’re all used to doing this in GPPs, but we don’t often think of doing it in cash games – usually all of these contests are lumped together as the same thing in our minds.
However, the truth is that they aren’t the same: When you play head-to-heads at volume, your variance is inherently lower than when you play a bunch of 50/50 or double-ups; the logic being that if you have a 35th percentile lineup, you’ll still win about 35% of your H2Hs, but you’ll cash in 0% of your 50/50s. By the same token, if you have an 80th percentile lineup, you’ll win about 80% of your H2Hs, but you’ll win 100% of your 50/50s. Ipso facto, there’s less variance when you play head-to-heads – at least if you’re putting in any sort of significant volume.
This ties into why you should want to play more H2Hs if you’re fading a chalky player: There’s no real point to gaining leverage on the field in a 50/50 – as long as you’re above the 50th percentile, you’re good. Just build a good, solid lineup and don’t make your success or failure binary based on one decision. You don’t get extra credit for out-leveraging the field and finishing at the top like you do when you play a bunch of H2Hs, so if you feel strongly about a fade and you want to take advantage of it, play a contest mix that rewards it.
In fact, there’s a case to be made that you should sometimes play different lineups in 50/50s and head-to-heads, eating the chalk more in the former and playing what you consider most optimal in the latter (if those things are different). Some people might consider it heresy to play multiple cash game lineups, but really it’s no different than playing a bunch of GPP lineups, where say you have 15% exposure to a guy that the field owns at 30%. You’re not full-fading a dude and having your entire week come down to that decision, but you’re still under-exposed in relation to the field at large. You can call playing multiple cash game lineups a “two condom move” or whatever, but this game isn’t about ego – it’s about making money. You should always be making moves that you believe will give you the greatest chance of making money, and only you know how much variance you can court.
Last week, I played Matt Ryan in my main cash game lineup (woof), but I thought he and Jared Goff were really similar, so I pivoted to Goff in some contests and that move ended up making my week passable instead of a loser. I’m not saying that I often hedge (in fact I usually don’t) but I am saying that you should always keep your mind open to different paths depending on the slate and how you feel about the player pool. It may be easy to do what you always do and just make one cash game lineup and enter it into everything, but this week I challenge you to open your mind to different, sometimes more optimal options.
(All odds listed are accurate at the time of writing, and may shift throughout the week. The Reid Option focuses exclusively on the main slate.)
This week I’m sure I’ll do what I do every week, which is ogle the prime high-priced QBs and then by Sunday end up settling on some low-priced scrub that I pray hits 20 fantasy points. That scrub will likely end up being Jacoby Brissett, who’s averaged 300.3 yards and 3 TDs at home this season, and who’s Colts carry a strong 25-point implied team total on the NFL betting odds board. He’s a strong value specifically on DraftKings, but I’m hoping that we get enough value that I can pay up for some bomb.
What kind of bomb, you ask? I want ALL the bomb. I want that Russ Wilson again a Falcons defense so weak the players’ moms lie about what their sons do for a living.
“Hey Mrs. Jones, your son’s name is Deion, right? Is that the same one that plays for the Falcons?”
“Uh … uh, naw, that ain’t my son. My son’s a janitor.”
I wanna watch him run circles around hapless Falcons “pass-rushers” who have combined for 5 sacks this entire season. I wanna stack him with Tyler Lockett, bring it back with Julio, and win millions.
But I also want Deshaun Watson. I want to watch him carve up a Raiders defense that’s allowed 8.2 net yards per attempt (the second-highest mark in the NFL) and has a 5% QB hurry rate and a 14% QB pressure rate, both of which are the most pathetic marks in the NFL. I wanna stack him up with DeAndre Hopkins, who’s going to pimp-slap the Oakland CBs while Garion Conley laughs from the Texans’ sideline – and I want to bring it back with Darren Baller and win millions.
But wait! You know what else I want? I want Jared Goff. Oh yes, I want Jared Goff. I want to watch that blond-haired marionette get puppeteered by Sean McVay to a 300/4 game against a Bengals defense that has allowed the most total yards in the NFL (3,016) and the second-highest total yards per play (6.4) to enemy offenses. I wanna watch Brandin Cooks finally go off, and I want to bring it back with elite buy-low Tyler Boyd, who’s had some tough games lately but also has 41 targets over the past four weeks – the 4th highest total in the NFL. I can only assume this stack will win me millions.
But wait – that’s not all! I want Matt Stafford, and I want him bad. I want to watch the man who’s thrown for the 2nd-most air yards per game (373.8) carve up the team that’s allowed the 4th-highest net YPA to villain QBs (7.7). I want to watch Kenny Golladay bounce back from a down week at low ownership for a monster game, and bring it back with Evan Engram after a $1200 price drop on DraftKings dot com. Surely, this brilliant buy-low stack will win me millions.
Let me ask you a question, and I want you to be very honest: If Alvin Kamara were priced at $6200 on FanDuel this week, would you play him in every lineup? How about David Johnson for $6100? Would that be a lock? Well, if those name brands are out this week and their replacements – Latavius Murray and Chase Edmonds – are in featured roles this week, that’s essentially what we’ll get. And if you think they’re donkey chalk, well, that may just be you thinking like a donkey.
Last week we saw Edmonds handle a grown man’s workload with 27 carries and 3 targets; surely the skies won’t be so friendly in a road game against the Saints, but DJ was seeing 6.8 targets per game coming into last week, and if you add that to even 12 totes, Edmonds is a value I won’t be passing up.
As for Latavius, if you don’t want the Saints bellcow RB in a game against the Cardinals where he’s a 9.5-point favorite behind a 28.8-point implied team total, you should just delete your account and donate your balance to a charitable cause instead of giving it away to DFS degens. The reality is that if Kamara is out, the biggest lock of the week is La-La-Latavuis …
La, la, la … Latavius
La, la, la … Latavius
La, la, la … Latavius
The doctor said Kamara need 3 weeks of recovery
But Arizona gold for fantasy
Saying the best part of Sunday is my Lat
Davis be jealous and tilting on the Gillcast
Bigger day I project than last week
Figure I’m scorin’ high, makin’ bread’s a relief
Chillin’, sittin’ on all of the Murray
While all the fishes, they got none – bad decision
Next two weeks I should win about a million
All for the love of budget ceiling
Got no love for expensive guys, I’m no fish
Any sharp discussion, he’s an obvious jam-in
All the time, Sean Peyton’s system makes guys
Top pros, and that’s how it goes
C’mon, we are, we are
La, la, la … Latavius
He is, he is
La, la, la … Latavius
The other fill-in value we’ll get this week is Ty Johnson, who could certainly be a play, but I feel less strongly about him than the two aforementioned studs. Ty John is filling in for the freshly dusted Kerryon Johnson, who was averaging 17.4 carries per game – but only 2.6 targets per. And the thing is, it’s unclear if Ty will fully step in to that kind of workload and/or if he’ll get the goal-line work. We know that J.D. McKissic will get the lion’s share (see what I did there?) of the pass-catching duties, so while a home game against the hapless G-Men is a great situation, I see Ty Johnson more as a solid value than a lock-button play. Of course, his value would be much more appealing – and necessary – if we don’t get Edmonds or Latavius.
While the high-end running backs may be rendered irrelevant from a value/cash-game perspective, any of them can be GPP winners and going with an expensive RB+cheap WR/TE/QB construction will likely be a contrarian way to build tournament lineups. Christian McCaffrey has been given fewer than 25 touches just once in six games, and it’s unlikely he’ll be widely owned because he’s expensive and facing a “good defense”. Well I’ve got news: Defense doesn’t matter and touches do, so have zero GPP exposure at your own peril. We should also consider having some Saquon Barkley in our lives; he’s the most talented RB in football and the Lions single-ply defense is nothing to be afraid of. It’s not often you can get the best RB in football at microscopic ownership, so it’s worth taking advantage whilst you can.
Surely if I can fit Leonard Fournette into my cash game construction, I will. This, I promise you. Fat CMC’s touches the past four games: 31, 27, 26, 31. And three of those games were on the road (at DEN, at CAR, at CIN), while this week’s game is a home tilt against the Jets in which the Jags are favored by 6 points. Lenny should be in for another bulbous workload, and while he gets more expensive by the week, his price tag still doesn’t match the elite volume.
This is also the first week of the season where I’m pretty into Todd Gurley. Malcolm Brown has already been ruled out, and last week in the same dynamic Gurley played in a modest 64% of the team’s snaps. However, Darrell Henderson and John Kelly’s playing time was boosted in garbage time of a 37-10 blowout. Of course, as 13-point favorites against Cinci, there should be a similar worry this week, but what is appealing about Gurley is what could happen to make this game a blowout – specifically, lots and lots of points scored by the Rams. And those points are highly likely to come on the ground, since the Bengals are so galactically inept at run defense: They have allowed the most rushing yards AND the 2nd-most passing yards to villain RBs, and the 236.5 DK points they’ve surrendered to the position is a whopping 31.9 more than the next-closest team. As a unit, they have no talent and even less will, making Gurley a prime smash candidate that I’ll be overweight on.
Finally, with all the obvious value at this price point, I figure Marlon Mack will go overlooked, especially coming off three consecutive touchdown-less games. However, the Colts are strong 6-point home favorites against Denver, which sets up nicely for the Indy running game. Mack isn’t amazing on full PPR sites like DK, but he’s just $6800 on FanDuel and makes for a strong tournament pivot there.
I mentioned some of my favorite stacking candidates in the QB section, so in this section, I’ll mostly go over the value options at the position. The one thing I’ll say is that Michael Thomas is my favorite high-priced WR this week in cash games, since, you know, he leads the NFL in targets, receptions, receiving yards (by 101!), target share, and weighted opportunity – basically, every metric known to modern man. He’s at home against the generous Cardinals defense and he may even get Drew Brees back. Giddy tf up.
Alright, let’s talk value: Allen Robinson is 2nd in the NFL in weighted opportunity, but he’s priced as the WR11 on FanDuel and the WR15 on DraftKings. Madness, I tell you. Courtland Sutton is just $5300 on DraftKings, and per Evan Silva, is on pace for a 83/1289/7 season while the trade of Emmanuel Sanders frees up 6.3 targets and 60.7 air yards per game. Denver is likely to trail here which could lead to a mammoth volume game for Sutton.
Kenny Stills is 5th among all WRs in yards per route run, and after Will Fuller snapped through last week, Stills ran a route on 95% of Deshaun Watson’s dropbacks (per Hayden Winks). Well, Fuller ain’t coming back anytime soon, so you do the math. I also mentioned these dudes earlier, but I absolutely love both Kenny Golladay and Tyler Boyd as prime bounce-back candidates this week.
I’m also going to be filling out my last WR spot in GPP lineups with a lot of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis if I need the salary savings; they’re just $4100 and $4400 respectively on DK and saw 8 and 7 targets last week with Ryan Tannehill at the helm. Tannehill looked like he actually had a pulse last week – a huge improvement over the decrepit corpse of Marcus Mariota. Both players are capable of making monster plays down the field and the Bucs have been the 3rd-most generous fantasy defense against villain WRs on a per-game basis.
First off, let’s give a hearty LOL for Draftkings pricing the NFL TE leader in targets – Zach Ertz – at $5100 this week. He’s an ill value at this price point and is fully cash game viable. Of course no one will blame you for paying up for Darren Baller (as he shall be known as henceforth), who ranks 2nd among all NFL TEs in both weighted opportunity and fantasy points scored. I do believe because of all the mid-priced value, the #1 TE in weighted opportunity – George Kittle – will be under-owned in relation to his smash quotient in GPPs.
So … question: Do you guys know who the TE target leader over the past 4 weeks is? That’s right, it’s Gerald Everett! How on Earth did you know that, you sharp cookie you? Well, he’s still just $4300 on DK, and the Rams have the highest implied team total (30.8) of the week. Do with this information what you will.
And hey, if you really feel like being a tightwad, we’ve got plays for that too. Delanie Walker may not play this week, and if he doesn’t, he’ll be leaving his 5.2 targets per game to understudy Jonnu Smith – who’s just $2800 on DK. We also have Ben Watson, who saw 5 targets last week and played 62 of New England’s 82 offensive snaps. The Pats have the league’s 2nd-highest implied team total of the week (29 points) and with chaos befalling their pass-catching corps, you know Brady will be looking to throw short passes to his veteran targets. And the good news for Watson is that he’s both a veteran and a short target. Ergo, Leroy Jenkins.
The Patriots and Rams are favorites to feast on their feeble foes this weekend – you don’t need me to tell you that. Of course I’m so cheap I wouldn’t pay a nickel to see Jesus riding a bicycle, so I’ll be looking for value plays at the position, especially in cash games.
A prime cheap D this week is the Colts, and while I shouldn’t need to provide any justification for playing a DST vs Joe Flacco, I will be a dear and point out that Denver is a 6-point road dog and has allowed a 9.8% adjusted sack rate, the 4th-highest mark in football. I’m also very much into the Lions in a home game against the Giants – the DST numbers vs Daniel Jones are staggering: Since Jones took over the starting QB job in Week 3, opposing defenses have averaged 3.6 sacks and 2.8 turnovers per game, good for a fierce 14.0 fantasy points per game average – a figure that would rank 3rd among all DSTs for the season.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Let’s go make some money in Week 8.