The NFL DFS action on Sunday of Week 4 winds down with an evening affair between Tom Brady’s Buccaneers and his former Patriots club. The game should be entertaining and will provide a reasonable amount of NFL DFS point-scoring from a wide range of possible sources. The loaded Tampa Bay team, even in a slightly diminished form while dealing with injuries, has numerous offensive weapons that Brady is capable of cycling through, while the need to stay in the game and a closer-than-expected spread of 6.5 and a 49.5 game total should see the Patriots generate some offense if Vegas is to be believed. The Buccaneers come in with a 28-point implied total, while the Patriots land at 21, so the scoring expectation remains slanted, but options are available on both sides.
The Awesemo Top Showdown Plays Tool is the best way to find low-owned value and leverage, when using the tool we want to focus on the probability of success but also the degree to which a player is owned when compared with that probability and can indicate if the field is over or underweight to a play. Using all of the Awesemo expert data and tools, let’s find the top NFL DFS optimizer picks for Thursday Night Football DraftKings and FanDuel showdown lineups.
NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks: Sunday Night Football
Small Sample Central — Trends and Notes
Several of the primary lineup construction notes from previous versions of the article will continue to be listed in this space, but each week we will attempt to find parallels based on Vegas data and the general game environment from historical contests in the pool of DraftKings Showdown research from 2019 through this week’s contests. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Among 17 contests in our pool that saw a game total between 48.5 and 50.5, we see just one lineup that was victorious without at least one of the game’s two quarterbacks. That lineup featured a 3-3 construction with a team defense at the Captain spot. Five of the 17 lineups featured both quarterbacks in one of the available roles. Eight of the 17 winning Captain plays were wide receivers, with a lone tight end Captain making it nine victories for pass catchers, with running backs picking up just six. Once again, the historical information leans in favor of receivers as the primary Captain play.
Expanding the pool by a point on either side (47.5 to 51.5) stretches the sample to 31 contests but does not add any lineups that were successful without a quarterback. Tight end Captain plays picked up an additional three victories, with wide receivers extending to 12, for a total of 16 victories by pass catchers. The running back position picked up a few wins to get to nine total in the sample, but that count is short of the other skill players by a fair margin. Rostering quarterbacks at Captain continues to trail the curve more than one may expect, though the obvious high post-multiplier salaries help explain why. The position remains critical in the Flex spots and should be included in virtually every construction, based on our small sample polling. Wide receivers won the day in four of the seven contests that started the night with a point spread within one of the 6.5 line in this contest.
If we ignore the game total and instead focus on spreads between 6.0 and 7.0, we see that wide receivers have also dominated the Captain role in games fitting that mold. The position was the victorious Captain play in half of the 20 contests in that sample, with tight ends pushing pass catchers up by one additional victory. Running backs account for just five of the 20 wins, which follows in a game that is expected to see some scoring and a bit of a blowout, which would require the trailing home dogs to keep pace by throwing the ball more. Only one of these lineups did not include a quarterback, the same lineup as in the previous sample, while nine of the 20 lineups included both quarterbacks. Only one of those lineups was a quarterback Captain, suggesting that a wide receiver Captain play with both quarterbacks in the Flex roles is a strong construction for this type of game.
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. The example below shows a group that utilizes Chris Godwin in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Fournette in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group that includes both quarterbacks, skill players who correlate with the opposing quarterback, and a handful of lower-cost skill players. This group leaves slots open for other premium plays, but salary availability is less likely, depending on the format. There is also the notion that a Godwin Captain-worthy performance would have a tangible negative impact on the point-per-dollar upside of fellow stars like Mike Evans.
NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks
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. This group does not currently force quarterbacks when defense or a kicker is used at Captain.
Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain
Setting: At least one
Group: Tom Brady & Mac Jones — Standard versions
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 — The Upset
Key Player: Mac Jones – Captain version
Setting: at least 3
Group: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, Damien Harris
In a certain number of universes, the Patriots win this game convincingly. It is not a large number, but it is within the realm of possibility. Within that sample of plausible outcomes, in addition to many likely outcomes with wide receivers in the Captain spot, a fair share of lineups would require a big game from the Patriots quarterback. This construction would force three skill players from the pool of likely participants into the lineup every time Jones lands in the Captain role while leaving room for Buccaneers to fill the remaining spots. Brady is potentially a necessary addition to the group as well, if the opposing quarterback does not come up frequently enough in Flex positions, this could be down to factors like randomness and exposure caps outside of the group, results may vary.
Concept – Premium Receiver Captain with an Even Construction
Key Players: All premium pass catchers – Captain versions
Setting: At least three
Group: Tom Brady, Mac Jones, Leonard Fournette, Damien Harris, Cameron Brate, Buccaneers defense, Ronald Jones, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nick Folk, Ryan Succop, Tyler Johnson
This group attempts to force a majority of 3-3 or 4-2 constructions when the premium wide receivers land in Captain spots, attempting to capture the potential trend-line that we can observe in historical sampling. The resulting lineups will still include some five-man stacks, but they will lean toward the more level constructions. This group includes all of the most likely pass catchers in the Captain role while utilizing three players from a group that includes both quarterbacks, kickers, the Tampa Bay defense, and a handful of lesser-owned skill players from each side. This group should come together while leaving enough room for another star Flex play and a value play, or two clicks from the mid-range that leave salary on the table to help differentiate constructions. Lineups that stand out for a significant lack of spend may lean too heavily into the lower end of this group and should be culled from most pools. A rule to limit tight ends from the same team to one might be a smart addition when crunching lineups with this group.
Game Script – The Putaway
Key Players: Leonard Fournette — Captain version
Setting: At least three
Group: Tom Brady, Mac Jones, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Ryan Succop, Cameron Brate, Buccaneers defense, Tyler Johnson, O.J. Howard, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
This group assumes an early Buccaneers wipeout and ongoing ground and pound duty through the later portions of the game, with Fournette seeing added volume and getting into the end zone in an ideal outcome. The running back has seen an average of 4.7 targets in the passing game and he leads the Tampa Bay running back corps in touches under normal circumstances. This group adds both quarterbacks as well as most of the likely Buccaneers scoring, knowing that they cannot all be rostered. This will deliberately create a pool of lineups that leans heavily toward Tampa Bay but in perhaps alternate constructions that leave money on the table. The build assumes that the Patriots’ passing game is rendered somewhat irrelevant while adding their running backs to the back end as potential value plays.
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