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When it comes to building a DraftKings lineup there is a particular art form to it. It becomes even more nuanced when you are building specifically for tournaments. There is a common misconception that you must pick these crazy, long-shot lottery ticket type picks. In reality, that’s not even close and actually a terrible way to go. You can still play plenty of the popular or “chalky” plays. They are popular for a reason and that reason is that they project very well and seem very likely to hit their projection. You can still play these but only a few of them in each lineup at a maximum and mix up the exposure throughout multiple lineups. Mixing those “chalky” plays into the same lineup as good leverage plays and great stacks is the ideal way to go to create a well-built tournament lineup. The entire roster build itself is really the true key to creating great tournament lineups. When it comes time to start playing DraftKings and building tournament lineups there are a few important tips to remember. First off, contest selection is extremely important. You need to know the payout structure as well as the number of people you are competing against. All of these things can be found in the “details” section of each tournament you are looking to enter. These are both very important because you need to understand how much leverage you need to get. Leverage is something you’ll hear a lot, especially in this article, and it’s very important the larger the field is. To gain leverage on the field, you need to understand which plays are the most popular. Once you do that, you need to choose players that are directly negatively correlated to those popular players or players who are projected less (but still good) and in the same price range. These are ways to allow your lineup build to get different from thousands of other people in the same tournament. It’s hard enough to win a tournament any given week so the last thing you want is to finally win and have to split those winnings with hundreds or thousands of other people with the same lineup. For more tips on cumulative rostership vs. product rostership, make sure to check out Week 10’s article.
Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow (CIN) – $6,800 @ PIT (3.3% projected rostership)
Joe Burrow started off the season fairly mild before turning it on in a big way. After five straight solid games to open the season he popped off for 35.5 DraftKings points in Week 6 and then followed that up with 42.2 DraftKings points in Week 7. It looked like Burrow and Bengals stacks were alive and well and then Ja’Marr Chase goes down with a hip injury. That certainly saps some upside but he still has more than enough weapons to have a ceiling game, especially in a good matchup. Luckily he gets an awesome matchup this week. According to our Betting Predators model, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been much easier to attack through the air than on the ground. They have also allowed the seventh-most DraftKings points to quarterbacks on the season. Burrow is currently averaging 24.1 DraftKings. The combined total isn’t quite as high as we like to see but still a solid 41 points. The Cincinnati Bengals are only four-point favorites here so the game could stay closer than usual which is a good thing for more dropbacks for Burrow. They have a nice implied total of 22.5 points.
This week there’s much more leverage to be had than usual at the quarterback position. In terms of pricepoint leverage, Burrow is sandwiched between Justin Fields ($7,600 / 9.8%) and Dak Prescott ($6,600 / 8.1%). Both Fields and Prescott are lining up to be two of the chalkier quarterback options on the slate. The main intrigue when it comes to Burrow though is the game leverage that can be had. Joe Mixon ($7,400 / 21.2%) is shaping up as one of the chalkiest running backs on the slate. Playing Burrow (even with Mixon) is a nice way to gain leverage off of a very chalky piece. When stacking Burrow there are plenty of different ways to go about it. Tee Higgins ($7,100 / 9.8%) is my favorite although he will likely be the most popular option as well. As previously mentioned pairing Burrow with Mixon is a different way to use both as plenty of people will shy away due to the usual negative correlation between running backs and quarterbacks on the same team. Mixon catches enough passes that it can work, however. In addition to Higgins and Mixon, there are two other viable stacking pieces for the Bengals. Tyler Boyd ($6,500 / 2.1%) and Hayden Hurst ($3,500 / 19.1%) are both great pieces to put in single or double stacks of Burrow lineups.
Stacks to Consider: Joe Burrow + Tee Higgins + Hayden Hurst + Diontae Johnson / Joe Burrow + Tyler Boyd + George Pickens / Joe Burrow + Tee Higgins + Tyler Boyd + Pat Freiermuth
Other Quarterbacks to Consider: Daniel Jones (NYG) – $5,700 v DET (9.8%), Lamar Jackson (BAL) – $8,400 v CAR (7.7%)
Running Backs: Dalvin Cook (MIN) – $8,000 v DAL (5.3% projected rostership)
It was so nice we’ll try it twice. Dalvin Cook is back once again as the featured running back here after he came through in a big way last week. Despite the tough matchup, he finished as the second-best running back on the slate with 26.60 DraftKings points despite being rostered in way too few lineups. It was the combination of matchup and salary that scared people away and that might end up being the case again this week. On paper, the Dallas Cowboys are a very tough matchup as they’ve allowed the fourth-least DraftKings points to running backs so far. That shouldn’t scare you away though as Cook is the type of player that can overcome any matchup, as we saw last week. As a rule of thumb, any stud player who is being faded heavily due to matchup is usually a great tournament play just from a game theory standpoint. On the season Cook is averaging 17.4 DraftKings points per game. That makes him the RB8 even though it doesn’t feel like he’s been that good. He’s scored double-digit DraftKings points in every game except one this year including 25+ in three games. Even though this matchup seems tough, the game environment is juicy. This game has a 47.5-point combined total which is the second-highest on the slate and will be played at home, in a dome.
Unlike last week, there is more game leverage to be had in this one. Justin Jefferson ($9,100 / 13.1%) was not very popular last week but will be more popular this week coming off a monster game. Jefferson is certainly a great play but that will allow us to get more leverage with Cook. Cook will also go overlooked because of the salary. Cook is the third-most expensive running back on the slate and in the same range as some of the chalkiest running backs like Saquon Barkley ($8,900 / 18.1%) and Joe Mixon ($7,400 / 21.2%). When correlating Cook this week, my favorite option is CeeDee Lamb ($7,500 / 26.2%). Lamb is coming off a career-best performance and the matchup is great as the Vikings allow the fourth-most DraftKings points to wide receivers so far. On top of that, Lamb’s price barely saw much of an uptick. There are plenty of other good correlated options, including Dalton Schultz ($4,300 / 18.5%) and Michael Gallup ($5,100 / 2.1%). Even Tony Pollard ($6,500 / 11.2%) is a viable option as well although would be a much better (albeit chalkier too) play if Ezekiel Elliott happens to miss another game.
Stacks to Consider: Dalvin Cook + CeeDee Lamb / Dalvin Cook + Dalton Schultz / Dalvin Cook + Dak Prescott + CeeDee Lamb + Dalton Schultz
Other Running Backs to Consider: Jonathan Taylor (IND) – $7,800 v PHI (11.8%), Antonio Gibson (WAS) - $5,600 @ HOU (8.1%), Tony Pollard (DAL) – $6,500 @ MIN (11.2%)
Wide Receivers: Darius Slayton (NYG) – $5,000 v DET (2.0% projected rostership)
Heading into the year Darius Slayton was the forgotten man in the New York Giants wide receiver room. There was a lot of buzz around Kadarius Toney who is now on the Kansas City Chiefs. There was some excitement for rookie Wan’Dale Robinson who has been dealing with injuries all season. There was also a glimmer of hope that Kenny Golladay could have a bounceback campaign but that glimmer is long gone. Instead, it’s been Slayton as the main guy, especially lately. Slayton has scored double-digit DraftKings points in three straight games now and four of his last five outings. He’s also run at least 75% of the routes in three straight games as well so the underlying numbers back up the production. There is no reason to expect anything different this week with Toney gone, Robinson banged up, and Golladay still doing whatever he is doing on Sundays instead of playing football. With that type of usage, Slayton should have no problem producing in this matchup. The Detroit Lions are one of the worst defenses in football and a matchup we’ve been targeting every single week. They can’t stop anyone through the air or on the ground and allow the seventh-most DraftKings points to wide receivers so far this season. This game has one of the better combined totals at 45 points and the Giants have one of the highest implied team totals on the slate as well at 24 points.
This week is somewhat the opposite of last week where there wasn’t much game leverage but plenty of pricepoint leverage. Instead, with Saquon Barkley ($8,900 / 18.1%) shaping up as one of the chalkiest running backs on the slate, there is a ton of leverage to be had by playing Slayton and the Giants' passing game. Since there is a negative correlation between the two (all the stats Slayton gets are stats Barkley doesn’t get and vice versa) this is a perfect spot to gain leverage off of all the people using Barkley. They are both in the same game environment and facing the same terrible Lions' defense. There is some pricepoint leverage to be had with Terry McLaurin ($5,900 / 27.2%), Jakobi Meyers ($5,500 / 12.7%), and Garrett Wilson ($4,900 / 22.4%) all in the same salary range, and all three likely to be more popular. There is really only one great correlated play to use with Slayton and that is Amon-Ra St. Brown ($7,200 / 22.3%). St. Brown has been incredible when healthy this season averaging 16.5 DraftKings points per game. A wide-receiver-to-wide-receiver correlation is one of the strongest positive ceiling correlations you can get so it fits perfectly. St. Brown will be a bit chalky but that’s fine, especially when playing with Slayton. Jamaal Williams ($6,000 / 2.1%) is also a viable correlated play as well although not quite as strong.
Stacks to Consider: Darius Slayton + Amon-Ra St. Brown / Darius Slayton + Jamaal Williams / Daniel Jones + Darius Slayton + Amon-Ra St. Brown
Other Wide Receivers to Consider: Tee Higgins (CIN) – $7,100 @ PIT (9.8%), Davante Adams (LV) – $8,700 @ DEN (3.9%), Chris Olave (NO) – $6,800 v LAR (2.8%), Darnell Mooney (CHI) – $5,400 @ ATL (4.3%)
Tight Ends: Foster Moreau (LV) – $3,700 @ DEN (6.4% projected rostership)
It’s interesting to see Foster Moreau go from being one of the chalkiest tight ends last week to a leverage play this week, especially considering he produced well and his price didn’t jump. So it goes with DraftKings as things can switch drastically on a weekly basis even just based on public perception. Speaking of last week, Moreau came through with 13.3 DraftKings points. Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are still on the IR so Moreau should continue to be a key piece of this Las Vegas Raiders offense this week. While he didn’t produce too well in the few games before that, his usage was still awesome. Moreau has seen at least four targets in four straight games now and at least five targets in three of those games. He’s also played at least 95% of the snaps and ran at least 33 routes in three straight games now. This week’s matchup against the Denver Broncos is not one to avoid either. The Broncos are a good defense overall but are middle-of-the-road against tight ends. It’s very possible he could be featured pretty heavily if they are able to slow down one or both of Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs.
Usually, we talk about how tight end isn’t a great spot to gain leverage but there is a lot of leverage to be had when playing Moreau this week. Josh Jacobs ($7,500 / 21.4%) continues to be one of the chalkiest running backs on every slate. Playing Moreau and the Raiders' passing game is a great way to gain leverage off of those who play Jacobs. This is the same idea behind using Darius Slayton in the previous section. The nice part is there is some pricepoint leverage to be had in addition to the game leverage. Hayden Hurst ($3,500 / 19.1%), Dalton Schultz ($4,300 / 18.5%), Tyler Higbee ($4,000 / 18.2%), Greg Dulcich ($3,800 / 17.9%), and Pat Freiermuth ($4,200 / 16.8%) are all in the same salary range and currently checking in as very chalky above the 15% roster rate threshold. There really is only one great correlated play to use with Moreau and that is Courtland Sutton ($6,000 / 14.7%). Sutton has been disappointing (as has the entire Broncos offense) but could be in line for more work with Jerry Jeudy nursing an injury. Greg Dulcich ($3,800 / 17.9%) is also another viable option too although he will be pretty popular. The nice part about playing Dulcich with Moreau is that most people shy away from playing two tight ends in the same lineup so it could be a nice way to get unique and save some salary as well.
Stacks to Consider: Derek Carr + Foster Moreau + Courtland Sutton / Foster Moreau + Courtland Sutton / Derek Carr + Davante Adams + Foster Moreau + Courtland Sutton
Other Tight Ends to Consider: Tyler Conklin (NYJ) – $3,400 @ NE (6.4%), T.J. Hockenson (MIN) – $5,300 v DAL (7.2%)
In terms of choosing a defense/special teams, generally, it is the last position I fill. There are, however, a few rules to follow when doing so. The first rule is that you should rarely, if ever, play a DST in the same lineup as the quarterback or running back they are facing. There is a strong negative correlation between them and you are building a lineup in which you want every piece to hit its ceiling. The second rule is to target defenses with high pressure rates and/or are facing offensive lines that allow high pressure rates. More pressure creates more opportunities for sacks and turnovers, which is where the defensive touchdowns come from. Those defensive touchdowns are needed to hit ceiling outcomes. The third, and perhaps more important rule is to try your best to avoid the popular or “chalky” defenses of the week. Defensive scoring is so random and variant that it makes it extremely unpredictable. It’s usually much better to get leverage and lean into that unpredictability and use game theory for the sake of being different.
Important Note: These rules are much more critical in larger-field GPP tournaments. As the field gets smaller, it becomes less crucial to stick strictly to these rules.
Sample Large Field Tournament Lineup
QB – Daniel Jones ($5,700 / 9.8%)
RB – Dalvin Cook ($8,000 / 5.3%)
RB – Antonio Gibson ($5,600 / 8.1%)
WR – Amon-Ra St. Brown ($7,200 / 22.3%)
WR – Darius Slayton ($5,000 / 2.0%)
WR – Darnell Mooney ($5,400 / 4.3%)
TE – Foster Moreau ($3,700 / 6.4%)
Flex – Courtland Sutton ($6,000 / 14.7%)
DST – Cincinnati Bengals ($3,400 / 4.6%)
Cumulative Totals – ($50,000 / 77.5%)
Product Rostership – .000000003492%
Sample Small Field Tournament Lineup
QB – Dak Prescott ($6,600 / 8.1%)
RB – Dalvin Cook ($8,000 / 5.3%)
RB – Jonathan Taylor ($7,800 / 11.8%)
WR – CeeDee Lamb ($7,500 / 26.2%)
WR – DeVonta Smith ($6,200 / 7.2%)
WR – Parris Campbell ($4,300 / 17.3%)
TE – Dalton Schultz ($4,300 / 18.5%)
Flex – Jack Stoll ($2,500 / 3.7%)
DST – New York Jets ($2,800 / 5.2%)
Cumulative Totals – ($50,000 / 103.6%)
Product Rostership – .00000005884%
Make sure to tune in next week to see the best plays and stacks for tournaments for Week 12!
By Rob Norton
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