Week 7 NFL DFS: Tournament strategies and player picks for FanDuel, DraftKings
Ben Gretch looks at the Week 7 DFS slate and gives his tournament strategies and top player picks by position.
Each week this season, I'll go through some tournament strategies for that week's slate, then give out some picks I like at each position. Let's start this week's article by discussing some strategies to consider for tournament lineups in Week 7.
Week 7 tournament strategy session
I've had some good discussions on Twitter with some of you in recent weeks and it has reminded me that everyone is at different stages of their DFS learning curves. Some play it casually and might like a few tips, some are just starting out but want to sink their teeth in and get good, and some have played for a long time and might just like reminders of things they've long known but may have forgotten to emphasize.
Wherever you are, you're likely aware that in tournaments, stacking your QB with pass-catchers increases upside. But beyond the simplest of QB-WR stacks, there are several ways to increase upside that follow the same logic.
And really, that logic is simple: In football, as in many sports, stats compound. It's not just that a quarterback throwing a touchdown means someone had to catch it; an offense scoring quickly also means the opposing team has more time, and might need to answer. Looking backward, the overall context and shape of a game has a dramatic impact on the individual stat lines.
That's a key point to understand, because it's natural when building lineups to think multiple players from the same team can't all do well at once — that they are competing for production. But while that's true to a degree, the game context plays a huge role, and when games do shoot out into back-and-forth contests with tons of points on the board, there's frequently more than enough production for several players on the same team to produce.
Likewise, when games are slow or uncompetitive, the opposite happens. Take last night, a game that slowed way down after Patrick Mahomes got injured on Kansas City's third drive. At that point, the Chiefs had already racked up over 100 yards of total offense, but as the game wore on, the Chiefs' defense scored and took Joe Flacco and the Broncos out of the game. Kansas City didn't need its foot on the throttle, and despite that fast start and a later 57-yard touchdown by Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs finished with just 271 total yards on offense, a season low. Denver put up just 205.
If you look at the box score, you see the impact. Hill hit for a long touchdown, but his final line of 3-74-1 wasn't amazing. Travis Kelce also played well, but 8-6-44 doesn't win GPPs. Mecole Hardman caught an early touchdown, but finished at just 2-28-1. The running backs didn't do much. Mahomes' injury and the game flow sapped the upside from everyone in the offense.
Meanwhile, Denver was worse. Courtland Sutton got off to a quick start, and looked like a lock for a big game. He didn't catch a pass in the fourth quarter, and finished at 8-6-87. A more competitive atmosphere where the Broncos were able to move the ball and perhaps create a back-and-forth game and Sutton's line might have doubled that. Same goes for Royce Freeman, the other Broncos player who found some success.
The inverse is also true, and in fact what we're looking for are games that have the potential to feature a lot of late production. It's not uncommon when a close, competitive game features plenty of passing on both sides, and both offenses find some success, for the quarterbacks to more than double their Fantasy points for a game in the fourth quarter alone. The results can be even more drastic for pass-catchers.
An example that comes to mind is Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in their comeback attempt against the Saints in Week 3. Entering the fourth quarter, Wilson had thrown 21 passes for 195 yards; he threw 29 for 211 in the final period to post season highs with 50 attempts and 406 yards.
Those types of outcomes don't happen every week, but they are the game outcomes we're looking for in our tournament lineups. Tyler Lockett went nuclear in that game with a 14-11-154-1, while Will Dissly also pitched in 7-6-62-1. And because Saints had to score points to build the lead that led to that comeback, you also had the potential for ceiling production on the other side, and Alvin Kamara hit that with 16-69-1 on the ground and 10-9-92-1 through the air.
That game didn't even feature the ultimate jackpot, which is the competitive atmosphere I've referenced a couple of times. If teams are trading scores late and the lead is changing, both offenses can be trailing with the ball, back and forth. The epic Monday night Chiefs-Rams clash last season comes to mind, as does the Wilson-Deshaun Watson showdown in Seattle two years ago. If you don't remember either, I suggest looking up the box scores.
Both games featured two skill position teammates each hitting 30-plus DraftKings points, while their opponents had two hitting at least 20-plus. There were at least five skill position players in each game scoring 20-plus DraftKings points in both of those high-scoring affairs.
Those games are rarer, but the lesson here is not to stop your stacking at the simple QB-WR combos we started with. You can do mini game stacks that don't even include a QB, such as a RB from one side and a WR from the other in a game. That would have worked nicely with Lockett and Kamara back in Week 3.
You can also go to full game stacks with a QB and two or even three pass-catchers, plus a player or two on the opposing roster. That might seem like too much exposure to a specific game, but a lot depends on the slate, and if you wind up on a game that features an offensive explosion while some other popular games play out more slowly, you're in phenomenal shape.
There are all sorts of stacks you can build, and it's smart to research ones that correlate well. I'll sometimes build lineups that only feature players from three or four games, even on a big slate with plenty of contests to choose from.
If you're curious about which games to look at, start with Vegas lines, as high over/unders will give you both a good idea of games that are expected to feature plenty of scoring, and also stacks that will be popular (and we've discussed in recent weeks how important understanding ownership can be). Another good trick is to look for close lines, as we want games that have the potential for those explosive see-saw fourth quarters we discussed above.
Let's get to the player picks for this week.
Kyler Murray QB
ARI Arizona • #1
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The Cardinals-Giants matchup fits our parameters for a potential shootout with an over/under north of 50 points and a three-point spread. I've written up Murray most every week because I think his rushing ability gives us a strong floor and the tempo in the offense gives us plenty of ceiling. A matchup with the Giants is not the time to be off him.
Matt Ryan QB
ATL Atlanta • #2
Age: 34 • Experience: 12 yrs.
The other game that will be popular to stack this weekend features the Rams traveling to Atlanta, with the slate's highest over/under at 55. Jalen Ramsey's status will be notable, but Atlanta's defense has struggled to stop anyone and its passing offense has been clicking, which has created fertile scoring conditions on both sides of games. Back home in the dome, I expect a big game from Ryan.
Jared Goff QB
LAR L.A. Rams • #16
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
It's a bounce-back spot for Goff after a putrid showing in Week 6. He's on the other side of the potential shootout with Atlanta, and the Rams are actually favored in that game on the road. They need to get right, and with a banged up running back corps, they need Goff to step up. The Falcons' secondary has struggled to stop anyone all year, so it's a great spot to make that happen.
JAC Jacksonville • #27
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Still a significant discount from the top-priced backs, Fournette takes his monster dual workload into Cincinnati as a road favorite to face a Bengals' front that has struggled to stop running backs. Expect the Jaguars to lean on him, and they shouldn't have much trouble scoring in this one, which is great news for a player like Fournette who projects to score a high percentage of his team's touchdowns.
LAR L.A. Rams • #27
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
This pick is entirely contingent on one of Todd Gurley or Malcolm Brown missing Week 7. If they both miss, Henderson will become chalk. If one misses, he'll project as the second half (but healthier side) of a running back tandem in a high-scoring affair. I think that's still a situation where he's be a sneaky option, especially given how good he looked in limited Week 6 reps.
NYG N.Y. Giants • #26
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Barkley looks likely to suit up for Week 7, and while we don't know much about what his snap share might be, he's in a great spot and is a particularly good value on FanDuel. We'll need to track his status up until Sunday, but with Sterling Shepard out and the Giants hurting for playmakers, we should expect a decent number of touches against a defense that has been hit for at least 100 total yards and four total touchdowns by opposing lead backs over the past four weeks.
Keenan Allen WR
LAC L.A. Chargers • #13
Age: 27 • Experience: 7 yrs.
It's not a great matchup for Allen, but it's a winnable one. More importantly, I buy into the squeaky wheel narrative with him, as he has a history of racking up targets after some down games and a little displeasure. Expect Philip Rivers to look for him early and often in a game the Chargers need. It's a bonus that Allen's price has dipped in recent weeks.
LAR L.A. Rams • #12
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
If I'm expecting a bounce-back game from Jared Goff, I'll want some exposure to his wide receivers. And as much as I like Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are far cheaper and likely to continue coming in at far lower ownership (Cooks the cheapest and also likely lowest-owned). I don't think that makes a ton of sense, because I don't really buy that Kupp is that clearly ahead of both Woods and Cooks that the latter two couldn't be the big producers for Week 7.
Dante Pettis WR
SF San Francisco • #18
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Let's be clear: this is more of a contrarian pick. And it's possible the 49ers just control the game against Washington, and it's Tevin Coleman you want. But with Deebo Samuel trending toward missing the game and Pettis' snaps slowly trending upward, I'm at least intrigued. He's a reasonable low-salary option.
Allen Lazard WR
GB Green Bay • #13
Age: 23 • Experience: 1 year
Lazard was a pretty good prospect out of Iowa State with a solid breakout age who somewhat surprisingly went undrafted and hadn't really gotten a shot. Then last week happened, where he was the star late in a Packers' comeback win. With nearly every Packers' pass-catcher who has played big snaps this week questionable or already out for Sunday, Lazard could be looking at a full slate of snaps. Davante Adams is already out, and if both Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling can't suit up, Lazard will be a very chalky play at the minimum salary. But he'll be a good one, and he's still a good one even if one of those other receivers plays, but in that case we'll be looking for confirmation Lazard would get extended playing time.
Evan Engram TE
NYG N.Y. Giants • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
There may not be a safer play on the slate, as the high game total, Sterling Shepard's inactive status and the matchup with the Cardinals all but ensure Engram will see a load of targets. He's expensive, especially on DraftKings, and while we have salary-saving options at other positions highlighted above, we do want to have the option to afford higher-priced stacks. That might make the next guy slightly preferable on DK.
Mark Andrews TE
BAL Baltimore • #89
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
With Marquise Brown out last week, Lamar Jackson was down one of his two most-targeted receiving weapons... and he locked into the other one. Andrews led the team with an 8-6-99 receiving line. Well, Brown is out again in Week 7, and I expect a similar outcome against a Seahawks defense that has long been vulnerable to good tight ends and has allowed the fourth-most points per game to the tight end position this year. Andrews is a significant discount on DraftKings relative to FanDuel, and might be the preferred play to Engram there.
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