Thursday kicks off Week 4 with a game that could get ugly in a hurry for NFL DFS today. The home team is favored by more than a touchdown over their guests in a battle of first overall picks that sees Joe Burrow likely to lead his Bengals to victory over Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. Fortunately for NFL DFS purposes, there is an abundance of skill up and down the roster on both teams, with quality skill players who can score points on the ground and through the air. Something worth noting is that the slate is down to a single kicker, the Jaguars went to the street to sign a replacement for Josh Lambo, who will miss tonight’s game, the new kicker has not been added to the player pool. We’ll dissect some of the best NFL DFS optimizer picks for DraftKings showdown and FanDuel single-game contests.
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: 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 carrying a 46-point total with the hometown Bengals landing as -7.5 favorites. In 27 Showdown slates that began with a total between 44.5 and 47.5, we see a bit of variety on the Captain board. Kickers managed two of their victories in the format in games with similar totals, both times in games with point spreads of six or more. Interestingly, both of the victorious kicker Captain lineups also included both quarterbacks in Flex roles. Signal callers landed as the winning Captain in four of the 27 contests, with two of those lineups including the opposing quarterback in a Flex role. As we see frequently, quarterbacks are key players in lineup construction, only three of the 27 winning lineups did not include at least one quarterback in any role.
Running backs and wide receivers tie with nine victories each while adding tight ends pushes the tally to 12 victories for pass-catchers. Four of the nine times that wide receivers have won the day have been 5-1 constructions, while the others are a mix of the remaining combinations. Defenses were used in Flex roles in five of the lineups, kickers were used in four, and one of the lineups included both defenses and one kicker and was built without a quarterback. With running backs in the top spot, defenses are in play in the Flex role four more times, but kickers unexpectedly make just one appearance.
With only seven contests in the point-total-based sample that fall between a six and 8.5-point spread, there is not a ton of information available. One of those lineups was a kicker Captain victory, with skill players making up the remaining winner pool. All of the winning lineups included at least one quarterback, with three of them including both. Ignoring the point total and focusing on a pool of games with spreads between six and nine points, we have a 24-game sample that includes a dozen wide receiver Captain wins, and only seven running back victories. Surprisingly, eight of the 12 lineups that won with wide receiver Captain plays were 3-3 constructions.
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 Joe Mixon in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Mixon 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 both defenses.
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: Joe Burrow & Trevor Lawrence – 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 — Shootout
Key Players: Joe Burrow & Trevor Lawrence – Captain versions
Setting: at least 3
Group: Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, DJ Chark, Auden Tate, CJ Uzomah, Dan Arnold, Jacob Hollister
This group attempts to create less likely constructions when either quarterback lands in the Captain role while maintaining viable upside. The group utilizes a pool of secondary and tertiary targets, or worse, to capture lower-owned upside in the passing game, while still leaving room for a star receiver or running back play to land in the lineups as they are optimized. When parsing these lineups, the Top Showdown Plays Tool is helpful in determining which players are viable value plays and which are over-owned by the public.
Concept – Premium Receiver Captain with an Even Construction
Key Players: Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault Jr., Auden Tate – Captain versions
Setting: At least four
Group: Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Evan McPherson, Joe Mixon, James Robinson, Dan Arnold, CJ Uzomah, Auden Tate, Jacob Hollister, Carlos Hyde, (additional positively leveraged skill players and defenses are optional)
This group attempts to force a majority of 3-3 constructions when the premium wide receivers land in Captain spots. The resulting lineups will still include 4-2, 2-4, and five-man stacks, but they will lean toward the more level constructions. This group includes both quarterbacks, but pairing it with the quarterback group above will ensure that every build includes at least one signal-caller. The balance of the group includes several lower-owned or positively leveraged plays from each team while leaving room for more highly projected players and hopefully leaving salary on the table to help ensure a divergent build.
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