After a fun weekend loaded with quality football games, only Monday Night Football NFL DFS Showdown and Single-Game slates remain to round out Week 1. The league has a quality contest lined up for the third prime-time game of the season, with the Ravens headed to Las Vegas to face the Raiders. The game has a 50-point total, with the Ravens favored by 4 on the road and coming in at a 27.25 implied total. With the game expected to be relatively close and somewhat high scoring, there is potential for NFL DFS points to come from a wide range of sources. This article will look at utilizing the optimizer’s powerful rules, limits and groups functions to focus on specific construction sets to reach differentiated lineup constructions, some of which will follow through-lines to specific game scripts. Let’s break down these Monday Night Football NFL DFS optimizer picks for Ravens vs. Raiders showdown lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Awesemo’s Top Stacks Tool is a big part of this process. Use these as building blocks along with those tools to make further tweaks approaching lock for NFL DFS Week 1.
NFL DFS Picks & Optimizer Groups: Monday Night Football
Small Sample Central – Trends and Notes
For Thursday’s game, there are several lineup construction notes based on a sample of 95 Showdown slates over the past two seasons. Several of those primary points bear repeating as a brief summary, but it is important to not get too focused on results-based thinking in such a small sample. Quality lineup construction is always the focus, but historical results can help inform some basic decisions in a pricing and ownership vacuum. A quick summary of that previous content:
- According to tracking data for DraftKings Showdown contests over 2019 and 2020, only 17 of 95 slates were won with a quarterback Captain.
- Across the same sample, wide receivers and running backs split the outcomes evenly, with 33 tournament-winning events each.
- Tight ends and defenses won the day five times each, while kickers managed it just twice (Rob Gronkowski‘s Thursday night win makes this six times for tight ends).
- Of the 38 times that a wide receiver or tight end was in the winning Captain position, only three of those builds did not include at least one quarterback in a Flex position.
- Fifteen winning builds in the sample included both quarterbacks from the game.
- In the 33 winning lineups that began with a running back Captain, only four did not include at least one quarterback.
- Only seven of the 17 winners with a quarterback at Captain featured the other team’s passer, while all of the quarterback Captain lineups featured correlated receivers.
- Thirty-five of 95 winning lineups featured at least one defense, but only two of those featured both defenses.
- Twenty-nine winning lineups featured at least one kicker, but only two of those included both.
- Only eight winning lineups included at least one defense and one kicker, while one person won a tournament with two defenses and a kicker in 2019.
Building from those general notions of construction, gamers can look at similarly profiled games to see if trends emerge. In a 96-point sample that includes data from Thursday’s Showdown contest, there were 26 games with a Vegas total of 50 points or more. Of those games, six were won by a quarterback Captain play, with three builds coming as 5-1 stacks and three as 3-3 stacks. Only one of those six games had a spread that was far afield from tonight’s four-point line, a game that saw Kansas City as -11 favorites but ended up falling well short of the projected total with just 32 points scored. Tight ends carried the day on three of the 26 slates, while wide receivers and running backs were the clear best Captain plays once again, coming in as the winning play 17 of 26 times. Interestingly, a 5-1 stack won only twice in any of the 20 wins that utilized a skill-player at the Captain spot. No defense or kicker Captain play has won a slate when the game is totaled over 50.
Focusing a large cross-section of lineup shares on builds with skill players in the multiplier positions, while including correlation plays with a thought toward potential game script is the approach to building lineups for DraftKings NFL DFS Showdown and FanDuel Single Game contests once again. This can be accomplished by utilizing lineup exposure caps to thin slice shares of quarterbacks at the Captain spot and force the use of skill players. Utilizing heavy randomness across the full slate of skill players can also create a steady mix of lineup constructions with quality distributions to the best plays. The following rules can also be incorporated to push lineup construction in specific directions.
DraftKings + FanDuel Stack Rules
QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from Opposing Team (this will happen naturally in most Showdown constructions, but including the rule will eliminate lineups that feature only an opposing kicker or quarterback)
QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (this will happen naturally in a large portion of lineups, but stacking quarterbacks with pass-catchers is the easiest way to rack up NFL DFS points. It makes sense to include this rule to force the build in most situations)
Limit rules are slightly less important for Showdown slates as there are only two teams to choose from. They are still useful for preventing suboptimal constructions, however, including the following will help prevent these less likely builds.
Limit QB/RB/WR/TE/DST/K from Same Team to three unless paired with Captain
Limit RB from Same Team to one (this is a rule that can be toggled on and off over multiple crunches, but the preference for this slate would be to use it)
Limit K from Same Game to one
Limit DEF from Same Game to one
We will utilize Fantasy Cruncher’s Groups utility to create specific builds. The Groups feature includes the ability to designate players as the key to the group, or the player whose use in a position will trigger the group requirements. For Showdown slates this can be utilized to force specific sets of players or positions along with each type of designated Captain. Utilizing Groups with the quarterbacks as key players is important to push team stacks when they appear in the Flex positions as well. The example below shows a group that utilizes Darren Waller as the Captain as the key. It will then force all constructions featuring Waller in the Captain role to include at least two of the players listed in the group, which includes his correlated quarterback, the opposing quarterback and several of the opposing receivers in the hopes of catching a shootout as the core build. This would also create a relatively high-cost lineup that will force in value plays but could become somewhat chalky along the way as well.
NFL DFS Team Groups
Unlike multi-game slates, when attacking individual potential game scripts, these groups are better deployed individually for separate crunches that can then be combined into a single pool of lineups. Running them all at once is likely to create conflicting scenarios that will either prevent or limit a full crunch.
The first wrinkle in utilizing Groups to create specific constructions is that the tool differentiates between a wide receiver or running back and the same player in the Captain or MVP spot. This requires the creation of a group that adds the Captain version of any likely skill player as the key player, with a rule setting that any lineup featuring any of these players must include one of the quarterbacks in a Flex position. The alternate approach to this problem is to remove all but the skill players from potential inclusion at the Captain spot then create a rule that will simply stack the quarterback with the Captain spot, but that approach is likely more flawed.
Key Player: All primary skill-players as Captain
Setting: At least one
Group: Lamar Jackson and Derek Carr
This group will result in getting one of the quarterbacks whenever any of the listed primary skill-players is utilized at Captain. To force the quarterback from the same team, multiple groups should be created for skill players from each team utilizing just the quarterback from that team. When quarterbacks appear in Flex positions, the rules and limit settings will kick in to force optimal constructions in the other Flex roles.
Game Script – Semi-Naked Lamar Jackson Explosion
Jackson is both the most popular Captain play on the slate and by far the most likely to put up a slate-winning score in the role. Jackson has massive positive leverage at the position, but he requires a significant investment of salary as well. Jackson has thrown 62 touchdowns to one of the poorer receiving corps in football over the past two seasons, gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. Jackson is a standout for what he does from the quarterback position in the ground game. He crested 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season in 2020. He averaged 6.3 yards per rushing attempt on the year and ran the ball in for seven touchdowns. With the propensity for scoring the ball himself and the general limitations in the Ravens’ passing game, Jackson can be weaponized on his own, with one correlated receiver play and perhaps a running back from his own team in Flex roles and a core of opposing skill players. This two-group set attempts to capture that construction for script-specific crunches.
Group One Key Player: Lamar Jackson – Captain
Setting: At most one
Group One: Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay
Group Two Key Player: Lamar Jackson – Captain
Setting: At least three
Group Two: Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Willie Snead
Game Script – Ground Game
If the Ravens get up by a score or two, they seem likely to quickly flip the switch to a defensive mode and attempt to grind the game down despite all of the injuries to their running back corps through training camp. With Latavius Murray and Ty’Son Williams as the primary active runners for the Ravens, creating a group that utilizes the Captain version of each player as the key player creates a low-owned dart throw stack for large field tournament play. Given the profile of both teams, it is not out of the question that a run-based script pays off, particularly in the second half. Playing this underappreciated aspect of tonight’s contest could pay significant rewards.
Key Players: Ty’Son Williams, Latavius Murray – Captain versions
Setting: At least two
Group: Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, Baltimore Defense, Mark Andrews, Darren Waller, Justin Tucker, Daniel Carlson
Force Lower-Owned Upside
This group can be applied for chalky builds that require some differentiation. Examples of this would certainly include rostering Jackson at the captain spot, but he has such significant positive leverage that it is almost a secondary thought. Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews and the balance of the highest-priced skill players will all technically be slightly over-owned, given the skew created by Jackson’s probability of being the top scorer. Creating a group to offset ownership with Carr, Waller, Josh Jacobs or Mark Andrews in the Captain role seems appropriate for a sub-set of crunches. This group focuses on players projected for less than 20% ownership in the Flex roles while avoiding diving into the extreme end of unlikely plays. A few players, such as both kickers, come at slightly negative leverage, so overall construction should be watched for popularity.
Key Players: Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs, Mark Andrews – Captain versions
Setting: At least two
Group: Hunter Renfrow, Latavius Murray, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Ravens Defense, Raiders Defense, Justin Tucker
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