Michael Dubner uses the DFS Lineup Optimizer and other RotoViz tools to prepare for FanDuel GPPs for the Week 13 Thursday Only Thanksgiving Slate.
Large-field GPPs are primarily won in three key areas: 1) player projections, 2) roster construction, and 3) ownership.
Groupthink can run rampant through the fantasy football grapevines and cause DFSers to concentrate on just one scenario in a player’s possible range of outcomes. What was once a good play in a vacuum can become sub-optimal as chalk. And what may feel thin at first may actually be plus-EV at low ownership.
Our goal here is to uncover players and roster constructions that are going overlooked by the public and can help vault us to the top of the leaderboards to bank a large GPP prize.
GPP Ownership Rule: Construct a Unique Roster
For those who play the Showdown slate, you probably have learned the importance of building a unique roster. On these small slates, it’s easy to jam in the best plays that fit under the salary cap in order to construct a lineup with the highest projection. This strategy theoretically has the highest probability of getting first place, but you’ll then run into the issue of chopping that first-place prize with thousands of others.
Thus, on these short slates, it’s optimal to sacrifice some value in projections in order to gain equity in ownership so you have a unique lineup. The goal of DFS is to maximize profit when you are right, not to maximize the probability of being right every time.
Short Slate Flex Position Strategy Differs From Main Slate
On FanDuel main slates, I only play running backs in the flex because we can have a higher degree of certainty in our RB projections and they usually have more upside in FanDuel’s half-PPR scoring format compared to Wide Receiver and Tight End. However, short slates — such as the three-game Thanksgiving slate — are a different beast. Wide Receivers are absolutely in flex consideration on Thanksgiving, especially if it allows you to increase correlation in your lineup by stacking. Given the low floor, low upside state of the TE position, I’m less likely to use one in the Flex, but I won’t completely rule out the idea.
There are two primary ways I go about building short slate stacks. One is to build around a contrarian passing attack, and then fill out the rest of the roster with the best plays. The other option is to stack the highest-scoring game, but in a unique way.
Dak Prescott – Amari Cooper/Michael Gallup – Ezekiel Elliot/Jason Witten/Blake Jarwin/Randall Cobb/Tony Pollard – One of the Bills
The above stack in words looks like this: most of my Prescott stacks will have one of Amari or Gallup, then one of Elliot, Witten, Jarwin, Cobb or Pollard, and then brought back by one of John Brown, Cole Beasley, or Dawson Knox. I am not going to outright avoid a double stack of Dak with Amari and Gallup, but think that will be the most popular way to double-stack Dak.
Dak only needs to be brought back with one Bills pass-catcher since Buffalo has a smaller pie of passing production. Josh Allen only needs to be single-stacked given his rushing upside.
Drew Brees – Alvin Kamara/Michael Thomas/Jared Cook – Ted Ginn/TreQuan Smith/Josh Hill – One or two Falcons
Saints vs Falcons will be by far the most popular game stack, so it will be important to be cognizant of your lineup’s cumulative ownership. Cost can also be an issue here, as Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones are four of the most expensive players on the slate.
Brees should always be double-stack in tournaments since all of his fantasy production comes through the air. The Saints have such a concentrated opportunity share that it’s difficult to want to stack Brees with anyone other than Kamara, Thomas, or Cook. To balance out projection, ownership and cost, I’m going to use a maximum two of Kamara, Thomas, and Cook. I will then work in his ancillary pass-catchers into double- and even triple- stacks. In lineups where I have two of Kamara, Thomas, and Cook, I would then want to use a lower owned Falcons bring back option. In Brees lineups with just one of Kamara/Thomas/Cook, then I’ll be bringing it back with at least one of Ridley or Julio.
Matt Ryan – Julio Jones/Calvin Ridley – Russell Gage/Brian Hill/Christian Blake/Jaeden Graham – One or two Saints
This is pretty much the same format as the Saints stack. Ryan double-stacked with Jones and Ridley is obviously the best option, but also comes at high ownership especially if you then bring it back with a Saints’ primary option. My preferred Falcons stack is to use one of Jones or Ridley, then an ancillary Falcons pass-catcher, and bring it back with a Saints primary pass-catcher.
Mitchell Trubisky – Allen Robinson – Anthony Miller/Tarik Cohen – Kenny Golladay/Marvin Jones
The Bears’ target distribution condenses if Taylor Gabriel (concussion) isn’t able to get cleared by Thursday. The Bears vs Lions have the lowest total on the slate, so it will be low owned. But (1) Trubisky is really cheap at $6,800, (2) won a few Milly-Makers in 2018, and (3) has four games with more than 19.5 FanDuel points this season. We also saw Trubisky finally run more again last week (seven rushing attempts). Detroit is allowing the fifth-most passing yards per attempt over their last five games.
Trubisky should almost always be paired with Allen Robinson who is expected to see about 25% of the targets. He can also be double stacked with one of Anthony Miller (20 targets last two weeks) or Tarik Cohen (15 targets last two weeks). For the “bring back,” I wouldn’t get cute on the Lions side since this stack will already be low owned. Just play one of Golladay or Jones.
If stacking the opposite side of the game, Jeff Driskel can be single stacked given his rushing upside.
Studs and Duds
Every short slate is different, but I generally like to build my rosters with studs and duds, rather than building a balanced roster. I want to roster the best raw scorers that will carry my roster, and hope to just get viable scores from bargain players.
Studs and Duds Running Back Edition:
While I normally go for the studs and duds approach on short slates, FanDuel is also forcing us to do so at RB based on pricing. Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara both cost more than $8,000, with Devin Singletary the third-highest price at $6,600. Everyone knows Elliot and Kamara are two of the best plays on the slate, so I won’t waste your time explaining why. From a roster construction standpoint, I will roster minimum one of Elliot or Kamara on every team.
David Montgomery is my third favorite RB overall, but he’s priced as the RB8. He’s disappointed from a counting stats perspective, but has seen the necessary volume.
Teammate Tarik Cohen is great short slate RB. Cohen is averaging six targets per game over the last four games, and that should continue as the Bears may be missing some pass-catchers due to injury. Latavius Murray can be used as touchdown leverage off of Kamara, Thomas, or Cook, but also has some yardage upside as we saw him run for 64 yards in Week 12. The Lions committed to Bo Scarbrough last week by feeding him 18 carries, but he needs a touchdown to be worthwhile since he’ll catch zero passes and the Lions have the lowest implied team total on the FanDuel Thanksgiving slate at 18.
Brian Hill saw another 13 opportunities last week and will be the lowest-owned primary back. He’s seen nine combined targets the past three games and is second on the team in red zone opportunities the last two weeks (five). Quadree Ollison provides leverage off the Falcons passing attack if he scores a short-yardage touchdown, since he leads the Falcons in red-zone opportunities (seven) and red-zone touchdowns (two) the last two weeks.
Tony Pollard has a low projected workload, but we’ve seen him score 15-plus points twice this season, and he provides leverage off of chalky Zeke. Pollard can also be stacked with Dak Prescott, as he’s seen four targets in each of the past two games.
Studs and Duds Tight End Edition:
The obvious position where studs or duds makes sense on this year’s Thanksgiving slate is at Tight End, especially since FanDuel’s pricing practically forces you to. Jared Cook is the only TE you can reasonably project for more than eight FanDuel points, but he’s also by far the most expensive at $6,700. The other option is to punt the position and try to luck your way into a cheap touchdown.
After Cook, Jason Witten has the highest target expectation. Given Witten’s relatively expensive price ($5,500; second highest among active TEs) and low upside (highest score of 10.5 this year back in Week 2), I plan to use Witten exclusively in Cowboys vs Bills game stacks.
On the contrary, Blake Jarwin and Josh Hill are what short slates are made for. Both are only seeing 2.5 targets per game, but are on the two teams with implied team totals over 25 points. If either finds the end zone, they provide massive leverage on their higher-owned teammates. They can also be used with skill-position players on their own teams when building Cowboys or Saints onslaughts.
Dawson Knox is the minimum-priced TE I have the most interest in, as he has the third-highest yardage expectation among TEs (behind Cook and Witten).