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Optimizer Groups: Optimal SNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Saints vs Buccaneers

Terry McBride

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Awesemo's Wild Card NFL DFS Lineup Review Strategy Show. Free DraftKings and FanDuel picks for daily fantasy football with projections & rankings.

NFL DFS Showdown slates don’t get much worse than Sunday Night Football’s showdown between the Saints and Buccaneers (although when you only need to change two names and an adjective in an intro sentence from Thursday to Sunday, there can be hidden appeal). The game is carrying a low 44.5-point total that doesn’t do justice to the ugly nature of the game on its own. For the full picture, we need to include the -11.5 by which the hometown Tampa Bay team is favored. The lopsided contest is sure to provide NFL DFS point-scoring, and there are numerous weapons that can be rostered from the Buccaneers side, but landing on the correct mix of skill players who will be involved up to and after the point of a blowout can make things tricky for DraftKings and FanDuel slates tonight.

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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 DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups tonight.

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 15 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.

Tonight’s lopsided contest should be a no-doubter victory for Tampa Bay Tom and his teammates. The Buccaneers come in as extreme favorites against the limited Saints, and the contest does not compare exactly to many in or historical catalog of winning lineups. The record includes 12 games that were within a half-point of the total tonight, but only one of those contests had more than a 10-point spread, and that one was a -15. If we expand the pool to include games within a point of the game total, we have 20 contests from which to glean information, but still only the one game at more than a 10-point spread. The list primarily includes games that had spreads between three and six points, mid-range totaled games trend toward tighter point spreads.

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In the 20-game sample, we see the strong trend of where quarterbacks are most valuable continue. The position was rostered in 18 of the 20 winning lineups, but only four times in the Captain position. Because of the hefty salaries typically shouldered by the passers, the impact that they have on the rest of a lineup’s potential construction can be crippling. The upside from the position comes in significantly greater doses when rostered in a flex role. In that position, quarterbacks are virtually unskippable in DraftKings NFL DFS Showdown lineup construction. On FanDuel and other sites that do not multiply salaries for point multiplying positions, the story is entirely different, quarterbacks can and should be used in those roles as frequently the most likely top scorers on the slate.

Within the 18 lineups that utilized a quarterback, eight of them rostered both signal-callers, with only two of those lineups using one of the quarterbacks in the Captain spot. With tonight’s pricing, however, there could be an optimal path to rostering both quarterbacks in any role in highly projected lineup constructions. Among the set of 20 winners, this set sees seven running back victories. The constructions are split interestingly, with three victories going to 3-3 builds, and two each going to 5-1 and 2-4. Of these winners, two of the lineups included two running backs from the same team, something that was discussed on Saturday Night’s Showdown Live Before Lock show as a strong consideration for quick lineup differentiation in this format.

With apologies to the lone kicker Captain victory in this sample, the pass-catchers are the most interesting position on the board for this configuration, with eight victories in the 18 entries. These primarily come as 3-3 lineup constructions, with just one 5-1 and two 4-2 builds included in the list. Every lineup except for the 5-1 included at least one quarterback, typically the one correlated with the pass-catcher in the Captain spot. In the flex roles, defenses were more valuable than kickers in games with this type of total, seeing seven shares in winning lineups to just five for their limited teammates.

The full set of games includes 11 that began with a point spread of 10 or more regardless of game total. On this list, we see three defenses win in the Captain spot, all of which came in 5-1 slanted constructions. The remaining wins went to three running backs, a kicker, two quarterbacks, and two pass-catchers, which would be a paradigm shift from every other sample we have explored this season. Given the shaky correlation between the sample and tonight’s game, there is reason to take the results very lightly, though several of the games included in this list were totaled between 40.5 and 45, with only three of the 11 above a 45-point total.

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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

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

Construction Basics

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 Leonard Fournette 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 including both quarterbacks as well as a mix of positively leveraged skill players and the kicker and defense from Tampa Bay.

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.

Quarterback Inclusion

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 & Taysom Hill – Captain 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.

NFL DFS Gameflow – The Not Godwins

Key Player(s): Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Tyler Johnson – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Tom Brady, Taysom Hill, Chris Godwin (-50%), Mike Evans, Tyler Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, Adam Trautman, Ryan Succop, Buccaneers Defense, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara, Marquez Callaway

This group attempts to exploit the situation of having any of the Buccaneers non-Godwin pass-catching options landing as positive leverage plays in the Captain role. Tyler Johnson may not be the most frequently optimal Captain play, but his leverage score in the role is slate-leading and his $1,600 base salary has him as a 4.9% optimal Captain. Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski are, of course, more comfortable but also more popular plays in the multiplier role. The leverage on the 1B and 1C options in the loaded Tampa Bay offense is outpacing Chris Godwin’s mark by a wide margin and the salary savings can be weaponized in lineup constructions. This group forces four players from a list including both quarterbacks, the same list of pass-catchers, Godwin with a downgrade, and several other positively leveraged plays across both teams.


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NFL DFS Concept – Less Expensive Quarterback Captain

Key Player(s): Taysom Hill – Captain version

Setting: At least four

Group: Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Johnson, Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Defense, Ryan Succop, Alvin Kamara, Marquez Callaway, Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett

While this group may look like it will just force a normal lineup mix, it actually pushes the odd construction of having Taysom Hill rostered in the Captain spot as a lower-cost quarterback option, while cramming the flex spots full of Buccaneers, including all primary skill players, the kicker, the opposing quarterback (ol’ whats-his-name), and notably the opposing Tampa Bay defense. Along with several of the better leverage or raw point-scoring options that correlate with Hill, this group should be targeted for large field tournament play and should yield lineups that slant toward Tampa Bay despite the choice of Captain. Hill does not need to be the highest raw point scorer on the slate to provide Captain value, it is also worth mentioning that he has more upside to score without the involvement of a skill-player teammate on the other end of a pass than many quarterbacks in the league.


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We also have showdown projections and NFL DFS showdown ownership projections. Take a look at our inactive player list, NFL lineups and NFL depth chart list. If you’re interested in other DFS NFL plays for multiple game slates, head over to NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL DFS rankings, and NFL DFS stacks. View our FanDuel DFS NFL ownership rankings and our DraftKings NFL rankings.

Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on Awesemo.com. A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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