Week 2 NFL DFS: Tournament strategies and player picks for FanDuel, DraftKings
Ben Gretch looks at the Week 2 DFS slate and gives his tournament strategies and top player picks by position.
Welcome back to a look at tournament strategies and player picks for Week 2 DFS. We're still in the early going, but we have some real, tangible data to build off. That creates major opportunity to make smart contrarian plays, which is what I'll mostly focus on in the player section.
But first, let's look at some Week 2 strategy.
Week 2 strategy session
Week 2 is likely my favorite DFS week of the season. I mentioned this last week, but it's important to understand that essentially every NFL sample we have is small. Seasons are only 16 games, and there is a ton of roster and coaching staff personnel turnover every offseason. Even within these relatively short seasons, factors like teammate injuries (think offensive line) or gameplans can change the circumstances within which a player is trying to perform. That's just the nature of football, and how many variables work together to create an outcome (and a series of statistics) on any given play and in any given game.
But after one week, there is always a lot of recency bias. Of course there is! We have one major data point, one Fantasy point outcome from one week. It can be challenging to keep that in perspective.
Take the Thursday Night Football showdown slate. I wasn't a big fan of the slate, mostly because I (and everyone else) thought Christian McCaffrey was going to crush, and trying to make a decision on whether to roster the highest-priced guy in a flex spot or as the captain was already going to hamstring my lineup options and likely mean I'd be, at best, competing for a major tie atop the leaderboard. I'm not a big fan of showdown slates where the upside is a massive tie.
To me, the only choice for a contrarian lineup was to fade McCaffrey. So I decided to do that, but without much conviction, throwing two quick lineups into the largest GPP, essentially thinking I was lighting $20 on fire. To build my lineups, I considered what would need to happen for McCaffrey to post a dud. First, the other pass-catchers for the Panthers would need to be involved. Second, the game would probably need to go under, and perhaps with a Buccaneers win (although that was dangerous, because McCaffrey often catches a lot of passes in negative scripts). I chose configurations that were heavy the other Panthers players that would perform in this outcome, as well as Ronald Jones, my preferred Buccaneers running back. One of my two lineups had five of the six players in the winning lineup — Cam Newton, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Chris Godwin and Greg Olsen — and made a nice little profit.
I'm not sharing this to humblebrag because if this was some great call where I knew McCaffrey was going to post a dud, I would have played more lineups. But that's one reason this is an instructive story — I played these lineups despite thinking this was decidedly not the most likely outcome, simply because I thought McCaffrey would be massively owned.
That prediction was correct — McCaffrey was in 89.3% of over 130,000 lineups. The second part of the decision was that if this outcome did occur, the potential payoff would be larger; there would be less of a split at the top. That, too, proved accurate, and while I wasn't actually near the top of the leaderboard, the contest was taken down by a solo winner, and there were two more unique lineups in the top 12.
As you prepare for the Week 2 main slate, keep these concepts in mind. Football is a wild game, and if you're hoping to hit a big winner in DFS, you have to be willing to think outside the box. And there's no better time for that than Week 2, when the common wisdom is clearly defined.
Let's talk about some outside-the-box tournament options, along with a few more obvious names.
Jared Goff QB
LAR L.A. Rams • #16
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Goff's pretty affordable for a home favorite in a game with the slate's second-highest over/under. There are a number of exciting quarterback options this week, and it should help Goff fly a bit under the radar after a slow game on the East Coast. Last year, Goff averaged 98 more passing yards per game at home and threw more than double the touchdowns.
Kyler Murray QB
ARI Arizona • #1
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
You can absolutely pay up for Lamar Jackson on the other side of this game, but Murray is far cheaper and will go low-owned because of his matchup. Part of the reason to like Jackson is how fast the Cardinals played in Week 1 — they were the quickest team in the NFL in average time to snap. That also means we should expect plenty of offensive plays for the Cardinals, and while the Ravens defense is great, the Dolphins certainly played a role in making them look unbeatable in Week 1. This is a large-field GPP play only.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #30
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
We hit on Ekeler here last week, and he is still underpriced and probably still won't be chalky enough. Christian McCaffrey was the only back in the league who racked up more high-value touches in Week 1, and with the Chargers' pass-catching corps in shambles, Ekeler should be a lock for a solid receiving role once again. But most Fantasy players are conditioned to see the 12 rush attempts and be worried this isn't a full-time back. Don't make that mistake.
KC Kansas City • #26
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
I will loop LeSean McCoy in here, too. This is a great week to be on the Chiefs' backs, but because of uncertainty about who the lead guy is, both will go relatively underowned. Williams saw the vast majority of the high-value touches last week, while McCoy played well enough that I would expect him to earn more work. Both of these guys have strong ceilings.
BUF Buffalo • #26
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Singletary started and played 70% of the team's snaps, while Frank Gore looked old and T.J. Yeldon barely got on the field. He only got four carries because of a pass-heavy gameplan and then script, but that will also keep some in the dark about just how active he was. At a cheap price and likely low ownership against a Giants team in shambles, there's plenty of reason for optimism.
JAC Jacksonville • #27
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
We have to be encouraged by Fournette's opportunity share last week. And his matchup in Week 2 isn't bad — the Jaguars aren't the Saints, but New Orleans did put up over 500 yards of offense last week against a Texans squad that dealt away Jadeveon Clowney and might struggle defensively this year. Fournette will get enough touches to go as the offense does, so this is a bet that Gardner Minshew can at least be decent.
PIT Pittsburgh • #19
Age: 22 • Experience: 3 yrs.
JuJu got locked down by the Patriots in an island game, and questions about his ability to be a true No. 1 started almost immediately. While he's still likely to garner solid ownership this week, it'll likely come in under where it should. He was shadowed by Stephon Gilmore last week, PFF's No. 2 corner in terms of coverage grade in 2018. The other receivers also didn't step up, so Ben Roethlisberger has plenty of incentive to lock onto his top target against a defense that just got shredded by the Bengals passing game. I'm all in on JuJu this week.
Stefon Diggs WR
MIN Minnesota • #14
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Diggs will be almost entirely unowned, as will Adam Thielen. In 2018, no team threw fewer than 15 passes in any game. The Vikings threw 10 last week. We're not going to see that most weeks, and this passing offense will still be highly concentrated. And while I don't usually rely on historical records against specific teams, it doesn't hurt that Diggs has a long history of shredding the Packers, including games of 33.9 and 22.9 PPR points last year.
KC Kansas City • #17
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Tyrell Williams and Sammy Watkins are chalkier options from this game, and good options at that. But Hardman is another way to get exposure to the Chiefs this week, especially on FanDuel where he's only $200 over the minimum price. Hardman ran routes on 79% of Patrick Mahomes' dropbacks in Week 1, and the team needs his speed to fill Hill's role. I expect some easy touches early, and at least five or six targets or rush opportunities overall. Here's hoping he breaks a couple.
SEA Seattle • #16
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Lockett's another play where we're leveraging some overreaction. One low-volume passing game shouldn't suddenly erase our preseason excitement for Lockett, who is very affordable and also unlikely to be heavily rostered after just two targets in Week 1. But Seattle will need to throw more in a Week 2 road game at Pittsburgh, and Lockett should be expected to see more targets early.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #15
Age: 30 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Phillip Rivers is familiar with Inman, and if Mike Williams misses on top of Hunter Henry being out, I would expect Inman to see at least a handful of targets at a stone min price point. Travis Benjamin would also be in play.
OAK Oakland • #83
Age: 27 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Waller's going to be a popular play, but given he was in for 100% of the Raiders' snaps in Week 1, and given his still-depressed price tag since he played on Monday night, he's chalk I'm happy to be on. I have Waller as a top-eight tight end rest of season, making it easy for me to take the discount even at elevated ownership given he draws the Chiefs.
Evan Engram TE
NYG N.Y. Giants • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
There's not much to say about Engram that his stat line from Week 1 and the injury report doesn't cover. He's going to get plenty of defensive attention, but the Giants have no one to throw the ball to otherwise. Expect double-digit targets.
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