This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
I'm going to say this a lot this season but that's because it's the most important factor when it comes to winning tournaments in NFL DFS: get off the chalk! It's fine to use a few popular players in your lineups but make sure that the cumulative popularity isn't too high. Just about every week we see the winning lineups have multiple players with single-digit percentages in terms of their popularity. Half of the chalk is almost always going to fail and the leverage off the chalk is what vaults lineups to the top. Instead of locking in certain players, focus on building a lineup that correlates and has some leverage; avoid entering cash-game lineups in tournaments. Good Luck!
Note: All prices listed come from DraftKings, but most of the logic can be applied to other sites across the DFS industry. Discussion is limited to players from the "main slate" of games kicking off at 1:00, 4:05 and 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. The strategy below is meant for large-field tournaments, where payouts typically are limited to ~20 percent of lineups, with the vast majority concentrated at the very top.The Games
|45.5||Chicago Bears||19.25||Cleveland Browns||26.25|
|52||Arizona Cardinals||29.75||Jacksonville Jaguars||22.25|
|54.5||Los Angeles Chargers||24||Kansas City Chiefs||30.5|
|45.5||Washington FT||19||Buffalo Bills||26.5|
|48||Indianapolis Colts||21.5||Tennessee Titans||26.5|
|44||Cincinnati Bengals||20.5||Pittsburgh Steelers||23.5|
|42||New Orleans Saints||19.5||New England Patriots||22.5|
|47.5||Atlanta Falcons||22.25||New York Giants||25.25|
|50||Baltimore Ravens||28.75||Detroit Lions||21.25|
|43.5||Miami Dolphins||19.5||Las Vegas Raiders||24|
|41.5||New York Jets||15.5||Denver Broncos||26|
|55.5||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||28.25||Los Angeles Rams||27.25|
|56||Seattle Seahawks||28.5||Minnesota Vikings||27.5|
These are the players with the best projections relative to their salaries — good plays both for cash games and large-field tournaments. While we don't want our GPP lineups to look like cash-game lineups top to bottom, there's nothing wrong with using a few chalky plays. These players, along with a couple passing-game stacks, tend to form the core that remains fairly consistent throughout my lineups.
If you read last week's article, you will probably notice that I've highlighted the same two players here; that's because they are both great value again. I had success playing them in cash games last week and they're both currently in my cash lineup for this week. I'll briefly mention another good option at each position.
- RB Najee Harris vs. CIN ($6,600)
Harris has played 97 percent of Pittsburgh's offensive snaps, and it was encouraging to see him catch five passes and a touchdown last week. His salary went up $300 but it still seems cheap for a home matchup against Cincinnati. He'd also get a slight bump if Diontae Johnson misses. Austin Ekeler ($7,200) is another good option in this range, as the matchup against Kansas City has shootout potential and the game script sets up well for Ekeler to catch a lot of passes.
- WR Cooper Kupp vs. TB ($6,800)
This is one of the easier decisions for me in cash games because Kupp has smashed value in back-to-back weeks. Matthew Stafford looks great in Sean McVay's offense. Kupp has 21 targets in two weeks and while his salary went up by $800, which is still too cheap for his role in the offense. The Rams figure to be passing quite a bit against Tampa Bay's great run defense. Another WR that's just too cheap is Keenan Allen ($6,600) and the matchup against Kansas City is ideal.
Other Cash-Game Options
QB Lamar Jackson at DET ($7,800)
QB Josh Allen vs. WAS ($7,000)
QB Justin Herbert at KC ($6,500)
RB Derrick Henry vs. IND ($8,600)
RB Dalvin Cook vs. SEA ($8,400)
RB Austin Ekeler at KC ($7,200)
RB Saquon Barkley vs. ATL ($6,500)
RB Joe Mixon at PIT ($6,300)
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. LAC ($4,900)
WR Keenan Allen at KC ($6,600)
WR Chris Godwin at LAR ($6,100)
WR Sterling Shepard vs. ATL ($5,900)
WR Robert Woods vs. TB ($5,700)
WR Marquise Brown at DET ($5,600)
WR Marvin Jones vs. ARI ($4,900)
WR K.J. Osborn vs. SEA ($3,500)
TE T.J. Hockenson vs. BAL ($5,200)
TE Kyle Pitts at NYG ($4,900)
TE Noah Fant vs. NYJ ($4,800)
D/ST Buffalo Bills vs. WAS ($3,800)
D/ST Cleveland Browns vs. CHI ($3,200)
D/ST Cincinnati Bengals at PIT ($2,100)
Stacks are the centerpiece of any tournament lineup, seeking to take advantage of positive correlations between players. It rarely makes sense to use a quarterback without one or two of his pass catchers, even if the player in question scores a decent portion of his fantasy points with his legs. Ideally, a stack also includes a pass catcher from the other side of the game, hoping to take advantage of a back-and-forth shootout. (Implied team totals are listed in parentheses.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (28.25) at Los Angeles Rams (27.25)
This game is appealing for a few reasons: first, it has a 55.5-point total and there are players on both sides that are too cheap. Second, it won't be as popular of a target as it should be because people don't like to roster either QB. Finally, each team has a good defensive line and the other should be forced to throw.
Tom Brady ($6,800) has thrown nine touchdown passes in two games, topping 30 fantasy points in each. The Bucs could struggle running the football against Aaron Donald and Co. Antonio Brown is questionable and Mike Evans figures to see a lot of Jalen Ramsey. This sets up well for Chris Godwin ($6,100) and Rob Gronkowski ($5,500). Godwin specifically seems much too cheap for this spot, as we're used to seeing him priced around $7,000.
Matthew Stafford ($6,400) looks reborn in Sean McVay's high-powered offense. The Rams won't expect to have much success on the ground against Tampa's elite run defense, so it should be a pass-heavy game plan, especially with Darrell Henderson likely to miss. Cooper Kupp ($6,800) has been unstoppable, as he's the highest-scoring WR in the league through two weeks and the salary hasn't caught up yet. Robert Woods ($5,700) is affordable too and should see plenty of targets. People will be off Tyler Higbee ($4,000) after he busted as the chalk last week, but this is a great spot to go back.
- Favorite Stack: QB Stafford + WR Kupp + WR Godwin + WR Woods/TE Higbee
Los Angeles Chargers (24) at Kansas City Chiefs (30.5)
I count at least 10 players in this game who would be solid plays this week on their own, so when you factor in the shootout potential and 54.5-point total, it sets up great for stacks.
Justin Herbert has attempted 40+ passes and topped 300 yards in both games to start the season. The Chargers almost certainly will have to pass and put up a lot of points to stay competitive with the Chiefs. Keenan Allen ($6,600) should probably never have a salary under $7,000. He's gotten 21 targets in two weeks and reached 100 yards receiving in both games. Mike Williams ($6,400) has been equally impressive. He's always had the big-play ability, and the fact that he's seen 10+ targets in each game is very encouraging. Austin Ekeler ($7,200) caught nine passes last week and the game script sets up favorably for him to see plenty of targets again. Even Jared Cook ($3,900) is viable with his cheap salary and 13 targets through two weeks.
Patrick Mahomes ($8,200) is the best QB in football, and the Chiefs have the highest implied total on the slate. Tyreek Hill ($8,400) and Travis Kelce ($8,200) are the top overall options at their positions. Not much else needs to be said from a football perspective. The best part is that they won't be overly popular due to the high salaries and opportunity costs in other games. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($4,900) and Mecole Hardman ($3,900) are favorably priced and can be included in either side of the stack.
Favorite Stack: QB Mahomes + WR Hill + WR Hardman + RB Ekeler or WR Allen/WR Williams
Other Stacks to Consider
- RB Derrick Henry vs. IND ($8,600)
There are some weeks that I'd look to fade a RB who's coming off a 50-point game, but this isn't one of them. That's because this looks to be an even better version of the Henry than we've seen in previous seasons. Specifically, new OC Todd Downing has been involving him in the passing game. Henry has 10 targets through two games this season and that receiving upside just adds to his already massive ceiling.
- WR Tyreek Hill vs. LAC ($8,400)
Because there are so many great receivers in the mid-range, Hill's popularity won't be nearly as high as it should be. Think back to Week 1 when Hill was rostered on around five percent of lineups and broke the slate with 40 fantasy points on 15 targets. He's legitimately matchup proof and has a higher ceiling than any WR on the slate.
Fading the Field
Every week we see at least one or two players who are very popular without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often to blame, but in some cases it even makes sense to fade a player with a strong projection, particularly when there are good alternatives at the same position and price range.
- QB Kyler Murray at JAX ($8,300)
I'm a big fan of Murray and there is a good chance he will end the season as the highest scoring QB in fantasy. The matchup against Jacksonville is favorable too. What I don't like is his salary, or the salary of DeAndre Hopkins ($8,200). Spending $16,500 to stack them together is rather prohibitive on this slate where there are plenty of other appealing options in the mid-range. If you're set on rostering Murray this week, I'd suggest pairing him with exciting rookie Rondale Moore ($5,000).
The Smash Spot
Players in favorable positions to significantly outperform their salary.
This game has a 55.5-point total, and Jalen Ramsey is likely to cover Mike Evans for the majority of snaps. We normally don't see Godwin's salary this low, so he should be a bargain whether Brown plays or not. If Brown misses, Godwin has the upside to be the highest scoring WR on the slate.
- WR Marquise Brown at DET ($5,600)
Brown has looked great to start the season. He's caught 12 of 16 targets in two weeks and the salary seems too cheap for the matchup against a Lions defense that can't stop anybody. Brown's big play upside gives him a massive ceiling in this spot.
The Bargain Bin
QB Daniel Jones vs. ATL ($5,800)
QB Teddy Bridgewater vs. NYJ ($5,800)
QB Justin Fields at CLE ($5,200)
RB Mike Davis at NYG ($5,100)
WR Emmanuel Sanders vs. WAS ($4,200)
WR Mecole Hardman vs. LAC ($3,900)
TE Tyler Higbee vs. TB ($4,000)
TE Evan Engram vs. ATL ($3,600)
D/ST Tennessee Titans ($2,400), if Wentz is out
- WR Diontae Johnson vs. CIN
It's always tough to roster a Steelers WR because they have three to choose from when they're all healthy. There aren't enough targets to go around but if Johnson sits, JuJu Smith-Schuster ($6,000) and Chase Claypool ($5,800) become appealing for GPPs.
- WR Tee Higgins at PIT
Similar to the Steelers, the Bengals have three good WRs
- WR Odell Beckham vs. CHI
Beckham appears set to make his season debut and with Jarvis Landry on the IR, there should be plenty of targets up for grabs.
- WR Antonio Brown at LAR
Brown tested positive for COVID-19 but there is still a chance he plays if he can show two negative tests. If he sits, Mike Evans ($6,300), Chris Godwin ($6,100) and Rob Gronkowski ($5,500) would get bumps.
- RB Dalvin Cook vs. SEA
As things stand, I expect Cook to play but it's worth monitoring because if he misses, Alexander Mattison ($6,000) would become one of the top plays at RB based on his projected role in a good game environment.
- RB Josh Jacobs vs. MIA
If Jacobs misses again, Kenyan Drake is intriguing for large-field tournaments because he's caught 10 of 11 targets in two weeks, has big play upside and he won't be popular.
- RB Darrell Henderson vs. TB
Is Henderson sits, people might be drawn to Sony Michel ($4,900) but I don't like rostering RBs against Tampa Bay's elite run defense. Henderson missing would give bumps to Kupp, Woods and Higbee.
Nothing to be concerned about this week.