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Optimizer Groups: Optimal TNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Chiefs vs. Chargers

Terry McBride

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NFL DFS DraftKings Showdown Optimizer Groups FanDuel

NFL DFS Showdown slates don’t get much better than Thursday Night Football’s showdown between the Chiefs and Chargers. The game is carrying a meaty 54.5 total that stands as one of the higher game totals for a Primetime slate all season. The Chargers are three-point underdogs, despite defending their home field, but with a tight point spread and a huge total, this should be a competitive and high-scoring affair. Both teams have interesting options with low ownership who are make-or-break plays, as well as a strong foundation of go-to stars and reliable NFL DFS point producers. Targeting a broad mix of players that includes some of the positively leveraged fringe players is a strong approach to gigantic field GPP play on DraftKings Showdown and FanDuel contests 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 Thursday 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 game is looking like a shootout on the Vegas board. The pool of previous winning lineups includes seven games that were totaled within a point on either side of tonight’s mark, and 13 if we extend by another point. The list includes an even mix of five wins for running back Captain plays and five wins with pass-catchers in the multiplier spot. Every winning lineup but one included at last one quarterback, and four of the 13 winners included both passers. Only one of the three winning lineups that rostered a quarterback Captain play included the other passer, that lineup is also just one of two that rostered a defense in a flex position.

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No defense or kicker was rostered in a Captain position in this small sample, and no winning lineup included both a defense and a kicker. The kicker position was also rostered only twice in flex roles in winning lineups, the strong lean is toward skill players both through the air and on the ground. The competitive and high-scoring nature of the expected game flow also leans toward the evenly built lineup constructions that we see in the tiny sample. The most frequently winning construction is a 3-3 build, with seven wins in the 13 contests. Interestingly, that list includes all five of the pass-catcher winners and two of the quarterback victories, but none of the running back wins. Three of those were 4-2 builds and the winning lineups included a 2-4 and a 5-1 running back Captain winner as well. The final quarterback lineup was a 5-1 construction from a game early last year that featured these Chiefs and managed to include all of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Clyde-Edwards Helaire, and Mecole Hardman with Mahomes at the Captain spot.

If we ignore the point total and focus instead on the close spread, there are 27 games in the bank that featured a spread of either 3.0 or 3.5. With 13 wins, pass-catchers far outpace the running back position, which only saw seven victories in the Captain spot, only one more than the quarterback position. This suggestion of a thin trend toward the passing game would be logical in competitive games of all types, but particularly those that are high-scoring. Only six of the 19 lineups that had a member of the passing attack in the Captain spot ended the night with an actual game total below 40 points, with many of the remaining lineups landing in the 50s. Lineup constructions should focus on a mix of passing-game focused players rotating through the Captain spot while flex roles can be used for rostering skill players of all types, as well as a quarterback when one is not in the Captain spot.

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)

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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 Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Edwards-Helaire 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 kickers from both sides.

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: Patrick Mahomes & Justin Herbert – 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 Concept – Leverage Captains

Key Player(s): Byron Pringle, Darrel Williams, Mike Williams – Captain versions

Setting: At least 3

Group: Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Mike Williams, Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, Josh Palmer, Jalen Guyton, Demarcus Robinson, Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Austin Ekeler, Darrel Williams

This group is triggered by the use of any of the top three plays by leverage in the Captain spot. While Mike Williams is the only one of the three with a realistic probability mark for posting the game’s top score, the low prices on the two Chiefs players are pushing them into the optimal lineup in Captain roles with relevant frequency, while the public is not rostering them frequently enough. Utilizing any of these three will provide a salary discount to lineups that use stars in the multiplier spot, which adds appeal for the opportunity to roster multiple premium skill players and quarterbacks in the flex roles. This group forces three players from a list that excludes the top projected players overall, in favor of pushing a few lower-owned plays into lineups. It includes both quarterbacks as well as the lesser pass-catching options and the primary running backs from both sides. The group only draws three players in order to leave open spots and cap space for the star-caliber players outside of the group.


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NFL DFS Concept – Chalk Captain with Leverage Flex

Key Player(s): Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler – Captain verssions

Setting: At least three

Group: Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Byron Pringle, Mike Williams, Darrel Williams, Jared Cook, Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, Travis Kelce

This group focuses on the players who are projected at or around 10% popularity or more in the Captain spot. Each of these players is negatively leveraged in the role when we compare their exposure to the frequency with which they land in the optimal lineup in simulated slates, but they are all strong overall options for the top scorer of the night and will be justifiably popular. Adding Travis Kelce to the list of key Captains would be entirely acceptable here as well. The group forces three players from a list of the positively leveraged flex plays, which includes both quarterbacks, several of the star players, and several lower-owned role players from both sides. The group focuses on the passing game and leverage, while leaving room for another expensive or popular play in spots outside of the group in NFL DFS lineup construction.


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Take a look at our NFL starting line-ups, inactives and NFL depth charts. View our DraftKings NFL DFS ownership rankings and our FanDuel NFL rankings. We also have showdown projections and single-game ownership projections. If you’re interested in other NFL DFS strategy for multiple game slates, head over to NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL DFS rankings, and NFL stacks.

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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