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When it comes to building a DraftKings lineup there is a certain 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.
Quarterbacks: Dak Prescott (DAL) – $6,700 v DET (7.4% projected rostership)
You couldn’t script a better week for Dak Prescott to make his return to the Dallas Cowboys than this week against the Detroit Lions. The “Motor City Kitties” are living up to that moniker once again this season as their defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone so far this year. According to our Betting Predators model, the Lions have been the second-easiest defense for quarterbacks to face so far this year. They have also allowed the third-most DraftKings points to quarterbacks on the season as well. The Lions also have a capable enough offense to put up points which should allow Prescott to have to keep his foot on the gas for most of this game. This matchup has the second-highest implied total on the slate at 49 total points and will also be played in a dome so the offensive environment is extremely juicy. The Cowboys implied total of 28 points is also the second-highest on the slate. All of this is going to make Prescott one of the highest-projected quarterbacks not only from a point-per-dollar standpoint but from a raw point standpoint as well.
This week, in addition to the great matchup, one of the most exciting parts about building a lineup around Dak Prescott is the leverage you can achieve. Despite being one of the best point-per-dollar plays at quarterback on the slate, people will shy away from him since it’s his first game back from injury and that always brings uncertainty. In tournaments though, uncertainty is our friend because it allows situations like this where we can roster a guy at a far less rostership percentage than he should be. When stacking up Prescott, there are a few options to consider. CeeDee Lamb is going to be the most popular option considering he is the Cowboys' alpha wide receiver and has been awesome this year and still is surprisingly cheap at only $6,800. If using Lamb, try to get a little different with the rest of the lineup or stick to small-field with Lamb. The other two less popular options are Michael Gallup ($5,100 / 8.5%) and Dalton Schultz ($3,600 / 5.2%). Both of those players project well, are cheap, and aren’t very popular making them great options for all tournaments. My favorite bring-back option for the Lions is Amon-Ra St. Brown ($7,100) as he has a ton of upside, projects well, and is likely going to be rostered in fewer lineups (7.8% projected) than he should be as he is coming off injury recently himself. D’Andre Swift ($6,800 / 8.5%) and T.J. Hockenson ($4,100 / 2.1%) are also great options as well.
Stacks to Consider: Dak Prescott + CeeDee Lamb + Dalton Schultz + Amon-Ra St. Brown / Dak Prescott + CeeDee Lamb + T.J. Hockenson / Dak Prescott + Michael Gallup + Dalton Schultz + D’Andre Swift
Other Quarterbacks to Consider: Daniel Jones (NYG) – $5,100 @ JAX (3.6%), Derek Carr (LV) – $5,900 v HOU (8.9%)
Running Backs: Derrick Henry (TEN) – $8,200 v IND (6.1% projected rostership)
One rule of thumb when it comes to Derrick Henry on DraftKings is to play him in tournaments when he’s likely under 10% rostered and fade him a bit when he becomes extremely popular. This week looks like it’s a “play Henry in tournaments” type of week. This mindset really can be applied to most of the elite talents at running back and wide receiver. Sure matchups matter, but an elite talent can overcome any matchup any given week. The interesting part of this matchup is that it’s not even a tough one for Henry. The Indianapolis Colts have allowed the tenth-most DraftKings points to running backs so far this season. The Tennesee Titans are 2.5-point home favorites in a game with a respectable 44.5-point combined total. The last time Henry faced the Colts, which was only two weeks ago, he demolished them for 26.7 DraftKings points. He had 22 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. Henry also saw five targets in that game and caught three of them for another 33 yards. It seems the Titans have made a concerted effort to get Henry involved in the passing game which only boosts his outlook for this week and moving forward.
Like last week the most popular build is going to be skipping the elite running backs and paying down a bit to guys like Josh Jacobs ($6,500 / 32.4%) and Kenneth Walker III ($5,800 / 33.2%). By using Henry, it’s automatically going to give you a different look than people who play the cheaper running backs simply because of the difference in salary. That alone will allow you to get a good amount of leverage on the field and have fairly unique builds because you will need to be playing wide receivers in different salary ranges than the typical build would force you into. There isn’t too much game leverage to be had here since the pieces in the Titans passing game like Robert Woods ($5,500 / 8.2%) and Kyle Philips ($3,600 / 5.7%) won’t be very popular either. Looking at the best correlated plays to use with Henry, my favorite is Michael Pittman Jr. ($7,400 / 5.8%). Pittman Jr. had a rough game against the Titans last time out but is coming off a monster game and already has two games in which he scored more than 29 DraftKings points. Pairing Henry, who is coming off three straight games of 25+ DraftKings points himself, with Pittman Jr. gives you a low-rostered combination with a ton of upside and will allow the rest of the lineup to be very unique as well.
Stacks to Consider: Derrick Henry + Michael Pittman Jr. / Derrick Henry + Alec Pierce / Derrick Henry + Matt Ryan + Michael Pittman Jr. + Alec Pierce
Other Running Backs to Consider: Austin Ekeler (LAC) – $8,300 v SEA (11.2%), Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) - $6,000 v DET (6%), Leonard Fournette (TB) – $7,700 @ CAR (10.1%)
Wide Receivers: Davante Adams (LV) – $8,700 v HOU (9.2% projected rostership)
With Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson on bye this week, Davante Adams checks in as the most expensive wide receiver on the slate. As previously mentioned, anytime you can get a stud player at low ownership it presents a great option to take advantage of. I’m a bit surprised Adams is checking in so low-rostered considering the names that aren’t available this week combined with the fact that many will spend down at running back again. Regardless, this sets up a nice spot for Adams in this matchup. The Houston Texans have allowed the tenth-least DraftKings points to wide receivers so far but that’s only because they’ve been getting gashed by running backs every week. According to our model at Betting Predators they are the second-worst team against the run behind only the Lions. Even still, Adams is just too good to be this low-rostered. The Texans just aren’t a good defense in general. Adams is the WR5 with 21.9 points per game this year. His 31.6% target share ranks fourth among all wide receivers. Adams also has 13 red zone targets already to go along with 629 air yards. Those rank first and fifth among all wide receivers this year. Let’s not forget that he has already had his bye week too so he’s done this despite one less game than most players.
In addition to all that, the leverage is incredible here. As previously mentioned, Josh Jacobs is going to be one of the most popular players at any position this week, and for good reason. That does create a huge opportunity in tournaments to gain leverage off of Jacobs lineups by playing Adams. The reason for doing this is that Adams and Jacobs are more negatively correlated than positively correlated. Sure, they both could have great games but there’s a higher chance that only one hits their ceiling than both. This is because any yards and touchdowns that Adams gets are yards and touchdowns that Jacobs is not getting and vice versa. So by using Adams, if he has a monster game, not only do you have an under-rostered player but you are also busting a huge amount of lineups in the process. It’s one of the fastest ways to rise up the leaderboards of a tournament. Brandin Cooks ($6,000 / 10.2%) and Dameon Pierce ($6,400 / 17.8%) both look like very viable run-back options when playing Adams.
Stacks to Consider: Davante Adams + Dameon Pierce / Davante Adams + Brandin Cooks / David Carr + Davante Adams + Brandin Cooks
Other Wide Receivers to Consider: Michael Gallup (DAL) – $5,100 v DET (8.5%), Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET) – $7,100 @ DAL (7.8%), Garrett Wilson (NYJ) – $4,500 @ DEN (10%), D.K. Metcalf (SEA) – $6,600 @ LAC (13.1%)
Tight Ends: George Kittle (SF) – $5,300 v KC (6.9% projected rostership)
George Kittle has been a huge disappointment so far this year. He missed the first two weeks with a groin strain and since then has only averaged 9.1 fantasy points per game so far. It was even worst until last week’s 16.3-point performance. In the three previous weeks, he had scored 8.7 points, 4.4 points, and 6.8 points. To say it’s been brutal would be an understatement given what we’ve come to expect from Kittle. Last week was very encouraging though. Kittle saw 10 targets and finished with eight receptions for 83 yards. It was the first time the San Francisco 49ers had been in a true negative game script since his return and forced Jimmy Garoppolo to throw more passes than usual. This week against the Kansas City Chiefs could be more of the same. In addition to that, Kittle might just be getting healthier from that preseason groin strain as well. Either way, it’s very encouraging for his prospects this week and moving forward. This game also has the third-highest combined total at 48.5 points. All signs are pointing towards this being a very good spot for Kittle.
Looking at this play from a leverage standpoint is interesting. Usually, no tight-end projects for very high rostership percentages but this week might not be the case. Greg Dulcich had a very nice performance on Monday Night Football after the prices already came out so he is currently the absolute minimum salary. He’s going to be extremely popular this week. Paying up more than double the salary for Kittle is going to be somewhat contrarian as is. In addition to that, people will likely want to play Deebo Samuel in this matchup as well as Brandon Aiyuk who is coming off a big game himself. Playing Kittle either with them or by himself could be a good way to get leverage and get unique this week. There are plenty of viable run-back options to pair with Kittle this week. One of the most unique ways would be to play both Kittle and Travis Kelce ($8,000 / 5%). Most of the time it isn’t very smart to play two tight ends in the same lineup so most people won’t do it. This is one of the rare times when it could be very advantageous to do so. Both of them will be very low-rostered on their own and the combination of both in the same lineup will be extremely rare.
Stacks to Consider: Patrick Mahomes + Travis Kelce + George Kittle / George Kittle + Travis Kelce / Patrick Mahomes + Marques Valdes-Scantling + Travis Kelce + George Kittle
Other Tight Ends to Consider: Travis Kelce (KC) – $8,000 @ SF (5%), Dalton Schultz (DET) – $3,600 v DET (5.2%)
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 – Derek Carr ($5,900 / 8.9%)
RB – Dameon Pierce ($6,400 / 11%)
RB – Ezekiel Elliott ($6,000 / 6%)
WR – Davante Adams ($8,700 / 9.2%)
WR – Amon-Ra St. Brown ($7,100 / 7.8%)
WR – Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4,400 / 5.8%)
TE – George Kittle ($5,300 / 6.9%)
Flex – Kyle Philips ($3,600 / 5.6%)
DST – New York Jets ($2,600 / 16.9%)
Cumulative Totals – ($50,000 / 78.1%)
Product Rostership – .00000001596%
Sample Small Field Tournament Lineup
QB – Derek Carr ($5,900 / 8.9%)
RB – Derrick Henry ($8,200 / 6.1%)
RB – Dameon Pierce ($6,400 / 11%)
WR – Davante Adams ($8,700 / 9.2%)
WR – Hunter Renfrow ($4,900 / 4.7%)
WR – Brandin Cooks ($6,000 / 10.2%)
TE – Dalton Schultz ($3,600 / 5.2%)
Flex – Parris Campbell ($3,900 / 1%)
DST – Atlanta Falcons ($2,400 / 12.8%)
Cumulative Totals – ($50,000 / 69.1%)
Product Rostership – .00000000175%
By Rob Norton
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