Saturday-Only DFS Slate Breakdown: Week 16

Dec 20, 2019
Saturday-Only DFS Slate Breakdown: Week 16

There are three games on Saturday this week and FanDuel and DraftKings have rolled out some massive prize pools for the slate. The following will break down each game and discuss how to leverage public opinion on this short slate. For those used to playing full slates there are some adjustments to consider:

  • Short slates are not all about value - With so few players in the pool, there will inevitably be a ton of overlap in lineups which naturally leads to a high variance slate. For this reason, it makes sense to focus on GPPs. (Putting your tournament lineups in small 50/50s, however, can be a nice way to hedge if you are not playing any cash games.) Rather than building a lineup with the best point-per-dollar plays, owners should consider game flow scenarios and build lineups that follow a logical narrative relative to those scripts.
  • Consider non-traditional lineup builds - On short slates, there are some lineup construction strategies to consider that would never make sense on a full slate. Some examples are playing more than one running back from the same team in a lineup, rostering one or two players against your defense, and leaving salary on the table. It’s going to be tough to find contrarian stand-alone players—look for other ways to be unique.
  • There is leverage to be had at the “onesies” - Full slates will rarely have any quarterback, tight end, or defense in more than 15%–20% of lineups in large-field GPPs. On slates such as this one, players at those positions could exceed 50% ownership in even the largest fields. This presents a rare opportunity to be contrarian at positions where ownership is usually quite flat.
  • Stick to a (relatively) small player pool - It’s tempting to try to cover all of your bases when the player pool is so small but that will only dilute your good reads. Narrow in on a small core with your favorite off-the-board plays and be way overweight on those players. Coupled with strong correlation plays, this is how to build a profitable portfolio on a short slate.
  • Don’t forget about late swaps - If your lineups are slanted towards game stacks, especially for the earlier games, it’s imperative to see where you stand when the final game starts. If you only have one player left and someone ahead of you has the same player, the only way to win is to swap, even if it’s to a player with a lower projection.

Here are some general notes to consider for this slate:

  • Only two teams are projected for more than 24 points and two games have a spread of 6.5. Outside of talent and value considerations, this will lead to heavily concentrated ownership but also fantastic leverage opportunities.
  • Four of the six teams rank 10th or better in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to quarterbacks and only one team ranks outside the top 20 against running backs. Again, ownership will heavily reflect these trends.
  • Just three running backs on the slate are averaging more than 15 touches per game over the last month. It’s possible the FLEX position is dominated by wide receivers, especially on DraftKings.

Texans (-3) @ Buccaneers; O/U 50

As the most likely shootout of the week, this game will dominate ownership, especially the passing games. Houston is one of three teams ranked in the bottom 10 in aFPA to every skill position while the Bucs are the most obvious pass funnel in the league—they rank 23rd in quarterback aFPA, 31st against receivers but first against running backs. Deshaun Watson ($8,600 FD/$7,000 DK) and Jameis Winston ($8,400 FD/$6,900 DK) could easily end up in over two-thirds of lineups, while DeAndre Hopkins ($8,700 FD/$8,500 DK), Will Fuller ($6,100 FD/$5,900 DK) and Breshad Perriman ($7,400 FD/$6,000 DK) should all meet or exceed the 50% clip. It’s worth noting Tampa Bay allows the second-most points per game to wide receivers lined up in the slot, which makes Kenny Stills ($5,500 FD/$4,400 DK) an intriguing differentiator to Texans team stacks.

One obvious way to separate from the pack when stacking this game is to use the running backs. Carlos Hyde ($6,600 FD/$5,000 DK) was a late-week injury add but if you roster him, you’re hoping he stumbles across the goal line for a couple of touchdowns and boosts your game stacks—he is not an ideal one-off leverage play. Ronald Jones ($5,500 FD/$4,400 DK), however, is useful as a unique addition to game stacks or as a leverage play in lineups that don’t zero in on this game. The Texans are vulnerable across the board on defense and while Jones and Peyton Barber split touches last week, Jones should be more active in the passing game with a depleted receiving corps.

My favorite way to leverage this game is to heavily stack the Tampa offense without Perriman. After his blowup game in Week 15, he will challenge Hopkins for the highest-owned receiver of the slate. Perriman was out-targeted by O.J. Howard ($5,500 FD/$4,00 DK) and Cameron Brate ($5,000 FD/$3,500 DK) last week and Justin Watson is just a week removed from an eight-target outing. Rostering both Tampa tight ends in a few lineups could be one of the savviest contrarian plays of the week—Brate is my favorite stand-alone off-the-board play this week. This isn’t to say that Perriman won’t be in my portfolio but very few owners who stack this game will omit him from their lineups. With Scotty Miller out, Ishmael Hyman ($3,000 FD/$3,000 DK) could be the dart throw that breaks the slate.

The high expected score isn’t a reason to ignore the defenses. Only one Week 16 starter has a higher interception rate than Winston, keeping the Texans ($4,100 FD/$3,200 DK) in play even in lineups with a couple of Buccaneers. Tampa Bay ($3,800 FD/$2,300 DK) is viable on DraftKings for the simple fact that their price frees up so much salary.

Bills @ Patriots (-6.5); O/U 37.5

There isn’t much to love offensively in this game. The Patriots rank in the top 10 in aFPA to every skill position while the Bills rank in the top half of the league across the board, including sixth against quarterbacks.

Devin Singletary ($6,400 FD/$5,500 DK) is the only running back on this slate averaging at least 20 touches per game over the past month but New England’s stellar defense should keep his ownership relatively in check, especially on DraftKings where owners will surely be heavy on pass-catching backs such as Duke Johnson and James White. On a small slate, it’s almost always wise to take the volume at an ownership discount and hope for the best. There isn’t a clear smash spot for any running back on this slate so being overweight on Singletary on DK could be a high-leverage play. With slot cornerback Jonathan Jones ruled out, Cole Beasley ($5,800 FD/$4,800 DK) is the only other viable one-off from the Bills offense.

Given Tom Brady’s recent struggles and Julian Edelman’s ($7,500 FD/$6,400 DK) injury concern, this passing game will not be highly-owned but it’s not the spot to get cute. Edelman will almost surely be active, albeit against a tough defense. However, because of the short slate, he should draw relatively high ownership—don’t be surprised to see him in over a third of lineups. The Patriots’ top receiver does lead the league in red-zone targets, so there is clear upside, even with his injuries in a low-scoring game. If Edelman isn’t a factor, expect the running backs to be heavily involved—lineup builds should reflect that. Rosters should use either Edelman or the New England running backs, not pair them together in game stacks.

Given Buffalo’s excellent secondary over the last couple of years, Bill Belichick has used James White ($6,500 FD/$5,800 DK) heavily in the passing game, targeting White at least six times in three of the last four games against Buffalo, including two games with at least 10 targets. This makes White an obvious play on DraftKings but his 18 red-zone targets this season give him the requisite touchdown equity to consider being overweight on him on FanDuel, where he should draw much lower ownership than on DK. If the Patriots implement this plan of attack, it will run counter to their game plan which fed Sony Michel ($6,100 FD/$4,600 DK) 20 touches last week. Rostering multiple Patriots backs in a high-scoring contest could be viable on a short slate but this defensive battle is not the spot to consider going heavy on such a build.

Along with San Franciso, the Patriots ($4,800 FD/$4,000 DK) figure to be the highest-owned defense of the week.

Rams @ 49ers (-6.5); O/U 44

This is the spot to game stack when getting away from the Texans/Buccaneers game. Jimmy Garoppolo ($7,900 FD/$5,500 DK) will easily be the third-highest owned quarterback of the slate and could challenge Jameis Winston for the second-highest on DK because of the price discrepancy but there is a reason to consider Jared Goff ($7,500 FD/$5,800 DK), as bad as he’s been. While Garoppolo ranks fourth in fantasy points per pass attempt over the last six weeks, the 49ers defense has fallen off lately, mostly due to injuries. After allowing just 7.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over the first eight weeks of the season, San Francisco has surrendered 22.6 per since then—only the Cardinals have given up more points per game to quarterbacks over the entire season. Richard Sherman’s return will give the 49ers defense a boost but their defense remains shorthanded.

George Kittle ($7,400 FD/$6,500 DK) is the obvious player to stack with Jimmy G. but he will be the highest-owned tight end by a mile, possibly approaching 50% ownership. With Rams corner Troy Hill declared inactive, Deebo Samuel ($6,200 FD/$5,100 DK) is my preferred contrarian pass-catcher in this offense over Emmanuel Sanders ($6,400 FD/$5,500 DK), who figures to draw Jalen Ramsey.

On the Rams side, Tyler Higbee ($6,300 FD/$5,000 DK) likely would have matched Kittle in ownership if Gerald Everett remained sidelined but at least some owners will shy away from Higbee with Everett active. Ownership above 30% is still very much in line. Everett’s presence shouldn’t put much of a dent in Higbee’s role but he now has a riskier floor than he would have had otherwise. Robert Woods ($7,200 FD/$6,200 DK) has seen at least nine targets in five straight games with an insane 19-target effort mixed and is the favorite to lead the Rams in targets with Everett back in the mix but he should draw over 30% ownership by default on a weak wide receiver slate. For game stacks, he should certainly be in the player pool but the way to leverage this side of the game is to be overweight on Cooper Kupp ($7,300 FD/$6,600 DK). If the 49ers have a weakness right now, it’s in the middle of the field with safety Jaquiski Tartt out. Most owners will look to Higbee to exploit that weakness but Kupp could benefit just as much if not more.

Todd Gurley ($7,400 FD/$6,300 DK) will be the highest owned running back on the slate, for good reason. On a short slate, getting away from a high-volume running back who gets used in the passing game doesn’t make sense, even with a tough matchup. He should be used as a core play and rostering Gurley in half of a GPP portfolio is viable. As a 6.5-point favorite, Raheem Mostert ($7,100 FD/$6,100 DK) has as much upside as any back on this slate but there is some merit to fading him in team stacks as a way to be contrarian or simply being underweight overall. While Mostert is the clear lead back in San Francisco, he still only played 53% of snaps last week and has exceeded a 60% snap share just once. Tevin Coleman hasn’t exceeded four touches since Matt Breida ($5,300 FD/$3,800 DK) returned from injury two weeks ago, so if there is a dart throw in this backfield it’s Breida—his low salary could lead to a unique lineup build

Because of the spread, the 49ers defense ($4,500 FD/$3,400 DK) will be highly owned but they are banged up. The Rams ($3,500 FD/$2,500 DK) open up a ton of salary and are worthy of GPP consideration if it means rostering an extra stud or two

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