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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 12’s article.
Quarterbacks: Derek Carr (LV) – $5,600 v LAC (3.0% projected rostership)
It hasn’t quite been the career year that many were predicting for Derek Carr heading into the season. Carr was coming off a great year in 2021 and now added Davante Adams, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Many (myself included) figured that Adams would help Carr take his game to another level, especially in the touchdown department. Touchdowns seemed to be the biggest weak spot for Carr in his career to this point and Adams was considered the premier touchdown-scoring wide receiver. Add in the fact these two had great chemistry from their college days and it seemed like a match made in heaven. Carr hasn’t had a career year but he has been very solid for the most part. He’s averaging 17.1 DraftKings points per game this year and has topped 22 DraftKings points in two straight now. This week looks like a great spot for Carr as well as the game environment is extremely fantasy-friendly. The combined total of this game is a whopping 50.5 points which is one of the highest on the slate. The Las Vegas Raiders are slight home underdogs by 1.5 points so they should need to continue to drop back and pass all game. The Raiders still have a 24.5-point implied team total which is still a very nice number. These teams are also two of the faster-paced teams in the league which should lead to more plays (and more chances for fantasy points) for both sides. This game will also be played in a dome. Add it all up and you have a great fantasy environment and one ripe for a shootout.
Unlike most weeks, this week there’s a good amount of pricepoint leverage to be had. Trevor Lawrence ($5,900 / 15.2%) is shaping up to be extremely chalky this week considering what he’s done lately and the juicy matchup against the Detroit Lions. By playing Carr, you can get a quarterback in the same salary range that is in nearly just as friendly of a fantasy environment that will be on five times fewer rosters. That alone is a reason to play Carr. There is also nice game leverage to be had though. Josh Jacobs ($7,900 / 19.7%) is shaping up as one of the chalkiest running backs on the slate. It makes sense as Jacobs is coming off a career-best game and one of the best games we’ve seen all season from any player. Playing Carr is a way to gain leverage off of those who use Jacobs this week. When stacking Carr my favorite piece to use is Davante Adams ($8,700 / 9.7%) is my favorite piece to use. Adams is one of the best wide receivers in the league and gives you a massive ceiling. He’s averaging 22.6 DraftKings points per game and has seen 11+ targets in four straight games now. He also put 33.1 DraftKings points on this same Chargers team in the season opener. In addition to Adams, there are a few other viable stacking pieces for the Raiders. Foster Moreau ($3,600 / 13.5%) and Mack Hollins ($4,600 / 4.1%) are both good pieces to put in single or double stacks of Carr lineups. Even Josh Jacobs ($7,900 / 19.7%) is a viable stacking piece, albeit a bit on the chalkier side, though most people won’t be using Jacobs and Carr together.
Stacks to Consider: Derek Carr + Davante Adams + Keenan Allen / Derek Carr + Davante Adams + Austin Ekeler / Derek Carr + Davante Adams + Foster Moreau + Keenan Allen
Other Quarterbacks to Consider: Kirk Cousins (MIN) – $5,700 v NYJ (4.7%), Geno Smith (SEA) – $6,100 @ LAR (6.4%)
Running Backs: Joe Mixon (CIN) – $7,100 v KC (9.3% projected rostership)
It’s interesting to see Joe Mixon ($7,100 / 9.3%) projected at such a low roster rate this week. It’s almost certainly due to the fact he missed last week and is still technically questionable as of this writing. DFS players shouldn’t fear, however, as it’s very likely he plays and the injury was a concussion, not something structural. We see players come back from concussions without any dip in production almost all the time. On top of that, the game environment looks extremely fantasy-friendly. The Kansas City Chiefs have been the worst defense in general according to our Betting Predators model in terms of fantasy points and offense allowed all around. It makes sense too as they are a great offense but allow teams to move the ball and score as well. The combined total of this game currently sits at 52.5 points. That’s the highest total on the entire week and one of the higher we’ve seen in the past month. The Cincinnati Bengals also have an implied team total of 25 points. That’s the highest number of any underdog this week. That number is higher than plenty of teams that are favored to win as well. On the season Mixon is averaging 18.4 DraftKings points per game. Just a few weeks back he put up 58.1 DraftKings points in a single game. His usage is one of the best of any running back in the NFL as well, especially in the passing game so there isn’t too much of a worry about him being game-scripted out of this one if the Bengals fall behind.
There are multiple avenues to leverage by playing Mixon this week. The best comes in the way of game leverage. Tee Higgins ($7,200 / 15.4%) is coming off back-to-back huge games and is looking like he’ll be one of the chalkiest wide receivers on the slate this week. Most people who play Higgins won’t want to use Mixon as well. Mixon’s roster rate could rise as the week goes on but as long as Higgins remains pretty chalky, that will keep Mixon’s roster rate in check. Joe Burrow ($6,900 / 8.2%) isn’t extremely chalky but is projected as the third most popular quarterback on the slate as well. There is also some pricepoint leverage to be had. Kenneth Walker III ($7,000 / 18.1%) is checking in as one of the chalkiest running backs on the slate once again this week so most people will take the $100 savings and click Walker III instead of Mixon. When correlating Mixon this week, my favorite option is Travis Kelce ($7.900 / 10.8%). Kelce has been on a completely different level from any other tight end this year. He’s averaging 22.8 DraftKings points per game this season. The next closest tight end is Mark Andrews ($6,600 / 6.1%) who is averaging 15.1 DraftKings points per game. JuJu Smith-Schuster ($5,700 / 4.2%) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4,100 / 3.2%) are the two other viable stacking pieces with Mixon. Both are Chiefs pass-catchers that could go off any given week and are fairly low-rostered given the game environment.
Stacks to Consider: Joe Mixon + Travis Kelce / Joe Mixon + JuJu Smith-Schuster / Joe Mixon + Patrick Mahomes + Travis Kelce + JuJu Smith-Schuster
Other Running Backs to Consider: Austin Ekeler (LAC) – $8,500 @ LV (9.6%), Nick Chubb (CLE) - $8,000 @ HOU (6.6%), Christian McCaffrey (SF) – $8,600 v MIA (2.3%)
Wide Receivers: Courtland Sutton (DEN) – $5,500 @ BAL (4.4% projected rostership)
Boy, has it been a brutal season for the Denver Broncos. There was a ton of excitement around this team (and this division) when the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson ($5,200 / 1.1%). All of that buzz has certainly fizzled as this offense has been arguably the most disappointing in the NFL this year. Wilson is averaging just 14.5 DraftKings points this year. Courtland Sutton ($5,500 / 4.4%) was expected to have a huge year and instead is averaging just 11.8 DraftKings points per game himself. The past three games have been solid as he’s scored at least 12 DraftKings points in each without scoring a single touchdown. That’s great usage and if he’s able to get some good touchdown luck it turns a good game into a great one. This week he gets a great matchup to try to do so in taking on the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are far better at stopping the run than the pass. They have allowed the sixth-most DraftKings points to wide receivers this year so far. It seems unlikely that Jerry Jeudy plays in this one either so Sutton should continue to dominate the targets. The Broncos don’t have a great implied team total but are 8.5-point underdogs so they should need to drop back to pass more often than usual in this one, much to the benefit of Sutton.
This is another spot where we have a bit of game leverage combined with pricepoint leverage. Latavius Murray ($5,300 / 13.6%) is (surprisingly) looking like he might come in fairly chalky this week. It’s mostly that he’s one of the cheapest running backs that gets a big workload. He’s been thoroughly mediocre but volume plays so people will go there fairly often as a salary-saving option. That alone makes Sutton a great leverage play for tournaments on this slate especially since he will be two or three times less popular. There is also some pricepoint leverage to be had with Terry McLaurin ($5,800 / 18.7%) and Garrett Wilson ($5,300 / 16.7%) both in the same salary range and will be far chalkier than Sutton on this slate. There are a few different correlated plays to use with Sutton but my favorite (by far) is Mark Andrews ($6,600 / 6.1%). Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the NFL and is still priced too cheap because of his recent injuries. He also gives you some massive ceiling potential at a position that severely lacks that type of upside. In addition to Andrews, Demarcus Robinson ($4,000 / 2.2%) and Devin Duvernay ($4,500 / 0.5%) are also viable correlated plays as well, albeit far less strong compared to Andrews.
Stacks to Consider: Courtland Sutton + Mark Andrews / Courtland Sutton + Demarcus Robinson / Russell Wilson + Courtland Sutton + Mark Andrews
Other Wide Receivers to Consider: Brandin Cooks (HOU) – $5,000 v CLE (1.5%), Davante Adams (LV) – $8,700 v LAC (9.7%), D.K. Metcalf (SEA) – $6,700 @ LAR (8.8%), Tyreek Hill (MIA) – $8,800 @ SF (6.7%)
Tight Ends: Tyler Conklin (NYJ) – $3,100 @ MIN (3.2% projected rostership)
A Tyler Conklin ($3,100 / 3.2%) revenge game? Who says no to that? Conklin has been decent this season in his first season with the New York Jets. He started off the season hot with three straight double-digit DraftKings performances before fizzling out. Conklin then had a huge game in the middle of the season before struggling for a couple of weeks again. This past week he had a solid game and that was despite them dominating and not having to throw nearly as much. On the season Conklin is averaging 8.6 DraftKings points per game. Coincidentally, most of his bad games have come with Zach Wilson and most of his good games have come when Wilson wasn’t playing. Luckily for Conklin (and us as DFS players), Zach Wilson is not the starting quarterback this week. The Cardinals have allowed more DraftKings points to tight ends this season than any other team in the league. In addition to that, this is a nice setup for Conklin. Not only is he playing against his former team, but the Minnesota Vikings allow the tenth-most DraftKings points to tight ends this year. They are also a matchup to target since they have a good offense that can put up points themselves. That should force the Jets to continue to drop back to pass all game. This game is also being played in a dome which is another boost to both passing offenses.
Just like last week, Conklin gives you a good amount of game leverage. As previously mentioned, Garrett Wilson ($5,300 / 16.7%) is likely to be one of the chalkiest wide receivers on the slate. Playing Conklin is a way to try to get leverage off those who play Wilson in that all the stats that Conklin gets are stats that are being taken away from Wilson. There is some pricepoint leverage to be had as well this week with Conklin. Foster Moreau (3,600 / 13.5%) and Hayden Hurst (3,500 / 9.6%) are both in the same salary range and figure to be two of the chalkiest tight ends on the slate. There are a few different options for correlated plays but my favorite is Justin Jefferson ($8,900 / 7.0%). Jefferson is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and is averaging 24.2 DraftKings points per game. The fact that he’s only projected to be on 7% of rosters is far too low for a player of that caliber. Dalvin Cook ($7,200 / 13.1%), T.J. Hockenson ($5,200 / 5.2%), and Adam Thielen ($5,000 / 9.8%) are all very strong correlated plays as well.
Stacks to Consider: Mike White + Tyler Conklin + Justin Jefferson / Tyler Conklin + Dalvin Cook / Mike White + Garrett Wilson + Tyler Conklin + Adam Thielen
Other Tight Ends to Consider: Evan Engram (JAX) – $3,000 @ DET (5.8%), Greg Dulcich (DEN) – $3,400 @ BAL (5.0%)
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 – Derek Carr ($5,600 / 3.0%)
RB – Austin Ekeler ($8,500 / 9.6%)
RB – Joe Mixon ($7,100 / 9.3%)
WR – Davante Adams ($8,700 / 9.7%)
WR – Courtland Sutton ($5,500 / 4.4%)
WR – Devin Duvernay ($4,500 / 0.5%)
TE – Foster Moreau ($3,600 / 13.5%)
Flex – Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4,100 / 3.2%)
DST – Los Angeles Rams ($2,300 / 6.3%)
Cumulative Totals – ($49,900 / 59.5%)
Product Rostership – .0000000001555%
Sample Small Field Tournament Lineup
QB – Joe Burrow ($6,900 / 8.2%)
RB – Joe Mixon ($7,100 / 9.3%)
RB – David Montgomery ($6,200 / 22.5%)
WR – Tee Higgins ($7,200 / 15.4%)
WR – Olamide Zaccheaus ($3,600 / 3.4%)
WR – Treylon Burks ($4,600 / 7.5%)
TE – Travis Kelce ($7,900 / 10.8%)
Flex – Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4,100 / 3.2%)
DST – Denver Broncos ($2,400 / 10.2%)
Cumulative Totals – ($50,000 / 90.5%)
Product Rostership – .00000002375%
Make sure to tune in next week to see the best plays and stacks for tournaments for Week 14!
By Rob Norton
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