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NFL DFS Picks: Optimizer Groups-Think | Week 1 Fantasy Lineup Constructions – Showdown Edition

Terry McBride



NFL DFS optimizer picks draftkings fanduel showdown thursday night football week 1 cowboys vs. buccaneers stacks groups strategy advice tip free expert optimal lineup

It is finally time for football NFL DFS action returns in style on Thursday night with a Showdown slate featuring massive prize pools across the industry. This article will focus on lineup construction and utilizing Fantasy Cruncher’s powerful groups and rules settings to build winning lineups for the unique Showdown format each week, while the primary version will cover the full main slate and will come out on Fridays with a final update released first thing Sunday mornings. For single-game action like tonight’s slate, we will take a look at constructions built around specific likely game scripts, and how to push and pull Fantasy Cruncher toward building lineups that are not simply dropping the highest projected players into multiplier slots. Let’s break down these Thursday Night Football NFL DFS optimizer picks for Cowboys vs. Buccaneers.

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: Week 1 Thursday

Introduction and Concepts

For typical multi-game slates, lineups will rely on concepts including stacking quarterbacks with skill players and running players back from opposing offenses in an effort to capture highly correlated outcomes in high-scoring games. For Showdown contests, the overall approach is somewhat different, given the inclusion of multiplier spots and lack of specific positional requirements. Single-game contests are typically more interesting in DraftKings’ Showdown format that requires a salary increase to roster a player in the Captain position, while the multiplier is free on the blue site. In both cases, there is good reason to look to players other than the two quarterbacks as the multiplier option.

According to tracking data for DraftKings Showdown contests over 2019 and 2020, only 17 of 95 slates were won with a quarterback Captain. Skill player Captain plays are the recommended approach for upside as well as construction differentiation. Across the same sample, wide receivers and running backs split the outcomes evenly, with 33 tournament-winning events each and tight ends added an additional five. While it can be worth a chuckle to roster kickers and defense in the top spots, defenses won the day just five of 95 times, while kickers managed the trick just twice.

Quarterbacks remain exceedingly important to NFL DFS point-scoring upside in this build. 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, while 20 winners rostered just one signal-caller, and not necessarily the one stacked with the Captain wide receiver.

In the 33 winning lineups that began with a running back Captain, only four did not include at least one quarterback. Nineteen winners included just one quarterback and an additional 10 featured both passers. The double-quarterback lineups with a primary running back in the Captain spot become somewhat price prohibitive in some cases, forcing the use of low-cost and lower-owned plays, including pass-catchers from further down the depth chart. This can be both good and bad for Showdown tournaments as it both forces somewhat unique lineup constructions but also accumulates risk in the final three lineup spots. Only seven of the 17 winners with a quarterback at Captain featured the other team’s passer, while all of the quarterback lineups featured correlated receivers.

Playing a kicker or a defense in a FLEX position is viable, but playing two is far less likely to reach the upside necessary to win a large field tournament, there is too much opportunity cost choosing a lower scoring option over a skill player, even in games with low totals. 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 madman won a tournament with two defenses and a kicker in 2019.

A lineup construction featuring a lone Captain with a five-man stack from the opposing team across all of the FLEX positions won the main DraftKings contest just once in the 95-point sample. The reverse construction, stacking four FLEX players with a Captain as the fifth man and just one player from the opposing team saw 19 victories. Forty of the 95 lineups were even three-three builds, 25 of them were three FLEX players stacked with a Captain, while only nine lineups featured just one FLEX player stacked with the Captain. Stacking at least two FLEX spots from the same team with the Captain play is the strongest approach, regardless of the Captain’s position.

All of the tracked results above are representative of a limited sample, none of the rules or recommendations are ironclad and all of them should be considered in the context of each week’s specific game, likely game script, and starting rosters. While only seven lineups featuring two running backs from the same team have won Showdown slates over the last two years, that does not mean a lineup featuring both Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard cannot win a tournament in the right situation tonight, it is just a far less likely outcome.

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. 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.

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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. 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 Chris Godwin Captain as the KEY position. It will then force constructions featuring Godwin in the Captain role to include at least two of the players listed in the group.

NFL DFS optimizer picks draftkings fanduel showdown thursday night football week 1 cowboys vs. buccaneers stacks groups strategy advice tip free expert optimal lineup

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.

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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.

NFL DFS optimizer picks draftkings fanduel showdown thursday night football week 1 cowboys vs. buccaneers stacks groups strategy advice tip free expert optimal lineup

Key Player: All Skill players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Tom Brady and Dak Prescott

This group will result in getting one of the quarterbacks whenever any of the listed skill players is utilized at Captain. To force the quarterback from the same team as the Captain multiple groups should be created for 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 – Shootout

The Buccaneers are likely to blow this one out, given a Cowboys defense that is expected to be lousy once again. Still, there is enough talent on the field to speculate on a high-scoring passing-heavy affair that sees most of the scoring land with receivers and quarterbacks. This group will result in lineups that are heavily focused on the passing attack, forcing four players from groups that include only passers and pass-catchers, while still following our general construction guidelines as set in the rules and limits section.

Key Player: Captain version of all likely pass catchers and both quarterbacks

Setting: At least four

Group: Standard version of all likely pass catchers and both quarterbacks

Game Script – Ground Game

If the Buccaneers get ahead by a lot in the first half, this game could easily become a more ground-and-pound focused affair. The Buccaneers have a multi-headed running back group with Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Giovani Bernard, while the Cowboys primarily feature Ezekiel Elliott, but also have Tony Pollard available in the backfield. The following groups will attempt to create constructions that include kickers and defenses, as well as skill players and correlated quarterbacks at FLEX, with Captain running backs as the KEY players.

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Key Players: Captain versions of Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard

Setting: At least three

Group: Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Greg Zuerlein, Ryan Succop, Buccaneers, Cowboys

Force Lower-Owned Upside

This group can be applied to force lower-owned players with still tangible upside to be included when more highly owned captain plays, such as the two quarterbacks, are being utilized.

Key Player: Tom Brady, Dak Prescott

Setting: At least one

Group: Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Tony Pollard, Blake Jarwin, Giovani Bernard, and Dalton Schultz

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Take a look at our starting lineups, inactive players and NFL depth chart list. If you’re interested in other NFL football DFS for multiple game slates, head over to NFL DFS ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, DFS NFL rankings, and DFS NFL stacking.

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 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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