Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
There’s so much to give thanks for this year, and hopefully, everyone enjoys the day with family, friends, doggos looking for yummy scraps, and of course, a day filled with football. Daily Fantasy has become as much a part of the NFL Thanksgiving tradition as the turducken, and DraftKings is offering a Millionaire contest with a $20 entry and a prize pool of $2.75 million. Gobble that! Let’s look at some tournament plays and strategies on the three-game slate that will hopefully leave you thanking us later.
Before we dive into specific plays, let’s go over a couple of key strategy concepts that come into play on a short slate, as opposed to the usual 10-13 games we see on a Sunday Millionaire slate.
1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LATE SWAP:
This is something that should always be in play regardless of slate size, but it takes on even greater importance with only three games and all of them spaced apart, so there is no overlap. The Detroit-Chicago game is going to be challenging from a fantasy-goodness standpoint, to begin with, so it’s probably best not to overload your lineup with players from this game.
For one thing, it is only natural that contest players are going to want to actually watch the players they select, and this will lead to inflated ownership on the key players from this game, particularly D’Andre Swift and David Montgomery. Fading these backs creates leverage later in the day, especially if they have pedestrian games. Having the ability to assess the standings landscape after the first game with the ability to adjust accordingly is a big strategic advantage here.
The biggest reason to not lock too much early this year is the vast uncertainty hanging over players in the later games like CeeDee Lamb, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram. We may not know until well after the Chicago-Detroit game locks what is going to happen with those players, and which backups suddenly become hot commodities if they are ruled out. The more flexibility you have to adjust, the better off you are.
2. TAKE SHOTS AT LONGSHOTS:
If you are playing a couple of guys from the early game, think about using one spot on a guy not getting love from the touts. It never fails on Thanksgiving: Somebody who’s 2-percent owned is going to smash and break the slate. Maybe it’s Jamaal Williams. Maybe it’s Amon-Ra St. Brown. Maybe it’s Jimmy Graham. Maybe it’s Noah Brown in the middle game. Knowing you have the vast majority of your lineup invested in the later games allows you to take a stab at a potential out-of-nowhere slate-breaker.
3. LEFTOVERS, LEFTOVERS, LEFTOVERS:
The shorter the slate, the higher probability of duplicated lineups. What is the point of finishing first if you have to split the million with 3,000 other people who used the same over-owned lineup as you? The best way to avoid duplication is to leave salary on the table. There is so much value on this slate because of injuries in Chicago, Dallas, and New Orleans that you can build a solid lineup and leave several hundred dollars, maybe even a couple thousand, and that is more than enough to be different than the field. Don’t be a slave to maxing out your salary cap.
Because of all the value, my lean is to add chalk to your Thanksgiving menu and ride Josh Allen ($7,800) in the late game. Allen is in the best situation on the slate, with a healthy receiving corps and a team undoubtedly fired up after getting embarrassed last week by the Colts. Dak Prescott is down his top receiver and maybe his top two. The Raiders are in implode mode and the Saints have no one trustworthy to play.
That leaves either Jared Goff in the early game or my favorite pivot off of Allen in Andy Dalton ($5,500). The Red Rifle is precisely the type of early-game dart throw I mentioned above. He actually looked surprisingly comfortable in relief of Justin Fields on Sunday and has now had a couple of days of first-team practice reps under his belt. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was the No. 2 QB points producer on the slate, and his discount and likely low ownership make playing so late-game chalk more palatable.
As noted above, D’Andre Swift ($7,300) and David Montgomery ($6,000) are very likely to be the two highest-owned running backs on the slate. And for good reason, they are both excellent plays who should get a ton of carries and targets. But we’re trying to win the tournament, not finish in a tie for a $30 payout. That means you’re going to have to fade one of these guys, maybe both, to get ahead of the field. Ezekiel Elliott ($8,000) is the obvious leverage play, not just against the two early-game backs, but also his own quarterback and cheap wide-receiver combos that should make for arguably the highest-owned stack of the day. If Lamb joins Cooper on the inactive list, Elliott and Tony Pollard ($5,600) are going to be busy backs. You could really go down the leverage rabbit hole and play Pollard over Zeke. The other leverage/longshot back that intrigues me is Matt Breida ($4,800). Bills coach Sean McDermott is on record this short week as indicating a larger role for the former 49er, and he makes for the exact type of player few will be on that leverages both his position and his team’s passing attack.
The one guy I think you have to play is Darnell Mooney ($5,700). Those 16 targets on Sunday were not a fluke and Allan Robinson is out again, so Mooney is going to be the alpha again. Marquise Goodwin ($3,800) is also a terrific option here and a Dalton-Mooney-Goodwin stack is hardly the craziest thing you could do on this slate. The next-best individual option is Stefon Diggs ($7,900), who is the obvious stacking option with Josh Allen. I’m concerned enough about the implosion happening with the Raiders to be off their receivers, although DeSean Jackson ($3,100) is another of those longshot plays that would pay a huge dividend if he hits for a long touchdown. The Dallas guys are another collection of unknowns, but I expect Lamb (if he plays) and Michael Gallup (if Lamb doesn’t play) to be very popular. I have no love for the Detroit or New Orleans wide receivers and will likely narrow my pool to Bears and Bills.
I would imagine the crowd is going to flock to Darren Waller ($6,400) at the top end or T.J. Hockenson ($5,200) in the early game. I would lean toward fading both of them and look strongly at Dalton Schultz, who emerged from a mini-slump last week with a 6-53 game on eight targets. He is the true beneficiary of Cooper and possibly Lamb being out of the Cowboys’ passing attack, and slotting in between Waller and Hockenson salary-wise might make him under-owned. I’m a little down on Cole Kmet ($3,700) with Dalton under center, but I like Jimmy Graham ($2,800) as a true early-game longshot play to score a touchdown.