Sunday of Week 3 of NFL DFS winds down with what looks like a solid contest between the Packers and 49ers in San Francisco. With the reigning MVP on the field, 50-plus total and a 3-point spread, the stars should be aligned for an action-packed fun game with plenty of options for NFL DFS scoring. The 49ers have offensive weapons of their own, parsing through the best possible options is difficult on a Showdown slate with this much quality on both DraftKings and FanDuel, the best way to find the path to the best NFL DFS Showdown lineup picks is by utilizing the Awesemo Top Showdown Plays Tool. When using the tool we want to focus on the probability of success but also the leverage, which measures a player’s popularity against that probability and indicates where the field is over or underweight to a play.
NFL DFS Optimizer Groups: 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.
With a 50.5 total and the hometown 49ers just three-point favorites, Vegas is seeing this one as a relatively high-scoring game that could go in either direction, with home field accounting for the point differential. In the sample that still needs a quick update to account for the most recent Showdown slates, there are 22 games totaled between 50 and 55 points. In that sample no defense or kicker play won as a captain in a winning lineup. Defense was rostered at a Flex position only twice, though both of those were in games with spreads of 3 or 3.5, while kickers were winning Flex plays eight times. No lineup was able to win without at least one quarterback in that sample, while eight of the 22 winning lineups featured both quarterbacks. However, only five of the 22 winning lineups featured a quarterback as the Captain play; all of those featured just the one quarterback, three were 5-1 builds and two were 3-3.
Skill players remain the dominant Captain play. Wide receivers and tight ends, presumptive pass-catchers, account for half of the 22 winning Captain plays, while running backs were the winning Captain in six of 22 winning entries. In 10 instances where the spread was 3 or 3.5, there were winning entries with a pass catcher at Captain, four with quarterbacks, and only two with running backs, which follows logically for a high-scoring close contest.
Scaling the other direction and taking the sample from games with a 48 to a 52-point total, understanding that there are some redundancies in the data set, there are 31 total contests, with nine of those at either a 3- or 3.5-point spread. In that reduced nine-game sample, there are seven winning 3-3 constructions and three 5-1 builds, with five winning Captain shares going to pass-catchers, two each to quarterbacks and running backs, and a defense sneaking into play, though that was an outlier contest that went well under after Patrick Mahomes was injured. Ignoring the point spread, there are 16 of 31 contests in this range won by a pass-catcher at the Captain spot, while nine went to running backs and five were quarterback plays. Flex defense was relevant in nine of 31 opportunities, while kickers factored into things 13 times.
The only lineup in that 31-game sample to lack at least one quarterback was the instance that saw a defense Captain play win. 30 of 31 entries featured at least one signal-caller, while 13 had both quarterbacks in play. Of those 13 lineups, only one had one of the quarterbacks in the Captain spot. 25 of 31 lineups in this sample were either 2-4, 3-3, or 4-2 constructions, five were 5-1 builds and only one was a 1-5, an odd lineup that saw James Robinson at Captain with Ryan Fitzpatrick and two of his pass-catchers, his running back and his defense in the Flex roles.
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 Allen Lazard in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Lazard in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group that includes both quarterbacks, as well as a mix of stars and less popular players from both teams who fit into the anticipated narrative and pricing requirements.
NFL DFS Optimizer 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. 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: Aaron Rodgers & Jimmy Garoppolo – 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 Anti-Shootout
Key Players: Aaron Jones, Eli Mitchell, A.J. Dillon, and Trey Sermon – Captain versions
Setting: at least 4
Group: Packers, 49ers, Robbie Gould, Mason Crosby, Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle
There are 40 games in the sample that were totaled between 48 and 55, a full 20 of those went under the point total, which is to say that a high total does not necessarily dictate that a game will shoot out. Capturing some of the alternative possibilities for game-flow is a great approach to building contrarian NFL DFS Showdown lineups. This group will utilize a situation in which any of the Captain running backs is selected by the optimizer to push lineup constructions in a direction that favors the running back captain play while forcing the use of four players from this group to constrict to 4-2 or 3-3 builds. Note that this group still includes both quarterbacks and primary pass-catchers, they are not irrelevant to even a low-scoring affair.
Game Script — MVP Mode
Key Players: Aaron Rodgers & Davante Adams – Captain versions
Setting: At least three
Group: Davante Adams (+25%), Aaron Rodgers (+25%), Jimmy Garoppolo, Mason Crosby, Robbie Gould, A.J. Dillon, Trey Sermon, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Kerryon Johnson, Trent Sherfield, Mohammed Sanu, Robert Tonyan
This group attempts to capitalize on the upside of Adams or Rodgers in the Captain role by pushing the projection for each when the other is the key player. This will result in getting to the pairing in most lineups where one appears as the Captain play, and the group will then drag three additional players from a selection of both key skill players and lower-cost lower-owned plays with the potential for upside and a path to production this type of game. The pairing of Rodgers and Adams is a chalky start to a build, but forcing the four-player group will help build contrarian lineup combinations and even leave salary on the table despite the big spend on the first two clicks.
Concept — Inexpensive Captain Plays
Key Players: Trey Sermon, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, A.J. Dillon
Setting: At least 4
Group: Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Davante Adams, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Robbie Gould, Mason Crosby, A.J. Dillon, Eli Mitchell, Aaron Jones, Robert Tonyan
This group attempts to weaponize the idea of taking a discount with a less-likely Captain play while forcing the optimizer to utilize a pool of specific players who will ensure a competitive scoring build and one that properly spends the banked salary across the rest of the construction. This group includes quarterbacks as well as primary and secondary skill players from both sides.
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