By Tom Bellucco (@BellRoto)
Hey RotoBallers! I hope you’re all surviving yet another Tuesday-Wednesday without football to consume. I also hope your NFL DFS ventures have been more successful than mine so far. I’ve been playing NFL DFS on DraftKings once again this season, and through the first three weeks I feel as though I’m going backwards. So, I thought to myself, what better way to reflect on my process than to write an article for you people! Hopefully, at least a few of you gain some insight from this reflection article at my expense, and hopefully I can hit the reset button and get back to what has worked for me in past NFL seasons.
My weekly approach is much like that of most NFL DFS players. I allocate some of my bankroll towards cash games (specifically Double Ups) and I allocate another portion of my bankroll towards small buy-in tournaments. I’m a multi-entry type of tournament player, and it’s almost impossible to break down success or failure in that format with just a three-game sample size, so I want to discuss those cash game entries and why they’ve left me unsatisfied through Week 3.
You can reach out to me on Twitter @BellRoto with any questions, comments, or words of criticism that you may have. I always love DFS strategy talk. Feel free to leave feedback on this article as well as if you’d like me to write something else like this going forward.
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Week 1 – 9/10
Good news: This lineup cashed! The cash line for this single entry Double Up was around 127 DK points.
Bad news: I needed two touchdowns from my defense in order to get into the green.
Let’s start at the QB position. Brian Hoyer was talked about alongside players like DeShone Kizer and Carson Palmer as possible punt options at quarterback. My thinking was that he should have to throw a lot to keep up with the Panthers, which was correct thinking, but I guess I didn’t factor in how bad San Fran might be out of the gate. Sure, he and Pierre Garcon hooked up six times for decent yardage, but outside of that the 49ers looked inept on offense. They looked much better this past Thursday night against Los Angeles, but it was probably too optimistic to go with Hoyer, Garcon, and a new head coach in the season opener against a healthy Carolina defense.
My running backs weren’t all that bad. I admittedly fell for the “Bilal Powell is actually good and is overtaking Matt Forte” rumors, and that almost burned me. However, I am content with my decision to pair Todd Gurley and David Johnson together. That combo would’ve looked a lot better had DJ not hurt his wrist and lost his easy touchdown. The lesson for this one is that pass-catching backs like Powell can provide a nice floor, but you have to be sure of their role first before throwing them into a cash lineup. As such, paying up for backs who get a ton of work AND catches out of the backfield seems to be a nice key to success. We’ll revist that down the road.
We touched on Garcon already, and I think he was a pretty good play with or without Hoyer. There were a few balls just out of his reach that could’ve gotten him to 20 or more DK points. But yeah, I know, the quarterback is a big factor in choosing a wide receiver. I’m fine with the Doug Baldwin play. I thought Seattle would be playing from behind for longer in this game, and I also didn’t think their offensive line was that horrendous. Julio Jones and AJ Green just recently demonstrated why you play first string wide receivers against Green Bay. As for Larry Fitz, I was way too bullish on his red zone targets and Carson Palmer‘s abilities. That wouldn’t be the last time I fell for Fitzgerald.
Zach Ertz was chalk that I was happy to have eaten and will be happy to continue eating as long as he stays around that 5K price tag. Carson Wentz loves that man. And sure, I got super lucky with the Rams defense. But c’mon people they were playing Scott Tolzien! Unfortunately this win gave me a false sense of security about my roster construction going into Week 2.
Week 2 – 9/17
I accidently cut off the final score of this lineup, but it was 120.22 for what it’s worth (which was zero dollars and zero cents in DK Double Ups). For the record, one of the three-entry max Double Ups I entered had a cash line of 138.96, so it was by far a higher scoring week than Week 1. I think our friend Tom Brady had a lot to do with that.
Unfortunately, I went with the wrong expensive QB, and Rodgers couldn’t live up to the “Sunday Night Hammer” hype. He continues to throw the ball extremely often, which is great for a cash game QB, but when Brady is 20% owned and puts up 10 extra points it makes things difficult. Even still, the Rodgers pick didn’t completely kill me. I do, however, wish that I had paid down for a 20ish point performance instead of paying the same price as Brady but getting shorted 10 points. Make note here that if you’re going to pay up for a QB in cash, you better be sure they’re going to outscore the field by a good amount.
Ty Montgomery was a great play, but even your mother knew that in Week 2. Unfortunately I passed on names like Kareem Hunt, Jay Ajayi, and Melvin Gordon to grab Ezekiel Elliott on the road against Denver. The intrigue came from his massive usage, especially in the receiving game. We also knew that if Dallas was going to win, it would be on the ground. Unfortunately, they got slaughtered. That’s just a scenario in which I got too cute and forgot how good Denver’s defense can be (as well as how bad the Giants were in Week 1). As for ‘Quizz, I paid down for a value RB who came through with a touchdown. Normally that would be a success, and in no way did Jacquizz Rodgers at 4.4K kill my lineup, but in a high-scoring week you really need to focus on running backs who catch passes on DraftKings.
Wide receiver was rough for me in Week 2. Who am I kidding, the WR position all three weeks is a big reason why I’m writing this article in the first place. Keenan Allen was almost as obvious as Montgomery, as his price was egregiously low. Outside of that free space, I decided to stay on Adam Thielen even after the Sam Bradford news came out. I thought for sure that Case Keenum would rely on the slot receiver to try to mount a comeback against Pittsburgh. It turns out I was a week early on my faith in Keenum, but even though Thielen validated my thinking in Week 3, I still wish I would’ve gone with the crowd to JJ Nelson. Speaking of Cardinals wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald was no better in Week 2, even with David Johnson and John Brown out. That was a tough one to swallow.
Charles Clay was a great play in Week 1 and Week 3. Unfortunately I rostered him in Week 2, and he disappeared. That’s what you get when you pay down at tight end. It’s going to be tough to predict targets and touchdowns for guys like Clay, but more often than not, punting TE is not a bad move. As for my defense, San Francisco didn’t look nearly as incompetent in Week 2 in Seattle, which blew my mind. I don’t hate the play at all, but this goes to show that a defense won’t make an impact on your lineup unless they can score a TD or force a shutout.
Week 3 – 9/24
Remember when I said I felt like I went backwards from Week 1 to Week 3? My scores suggest the same thing.
The cash line for this single entry Double Up was the lowest yet at 111 DK points. I had some hope that Terrelle Pryor would salvage what was a brutal cash lineup day, but he too fell asleep at the wheel.
DeShone Kizer was the brightest spot in this lineup, and I couldn’t be happier in my decision to pay down for him. Unfortunately, Tom Brady went nuts again, but that didn’t kill me in cash games. Overall, from a point-per-dollar standpoint, Kizer was a great play. I may have gotten a little lucky with garbage time points, but his versatility and matchup allowed me to save money for other positions in what turned out to be a tightly budgeted week on DK.
Le’Veon Bell didn’t quite pay off his price tag, but you can’t be mad about a 20-point floor. He wasn’t nearly the root of my problems, but then again he didn’t put up the type of game that I was hoping for. When you pay up for a RB with high ownership, you really need them to reach more than their floor to feel vindicated. The other RB spots were where the brutality began. Montgomery was still a great play in my eyes. I guess I didn’t factor in Green Bay’s offensive line injuries enough, as Ty Mont had no room to run on the majority of his carries. However, his snap count was still the same, and he caught eight balls! I’ll keep rolling him out until he’s priced correctly with the Kareem Hunts of the world.
Jay Ajayi deserves his own paragraph. I went back and forth all week on whether I wanted to play an expensive running back who didn’t catch all that many balls out of the backfield. Then I heard about his knee issue and I was set on backing off of him. Then I had a change of heart on Sunday morning, and I went back to Ajayi in his dream spot getting 20+ carries against what I thought was a brutal Jets run defense. My alternative to Ajayi and Pryor was Keenan Allen and Travis Kelce, who also sucked, so the move didn’t cost me any money. However, I think I would’ve felt a little better about those plays failing then I did watching the Dolphins get stomped. With the lack of pass-catching, high price tag, and knee issues lingering, I’ll probably stay away from Ajayi for a while.
Pryor felt super safe at wide receiver to me. I thought for sure my Redskins would be trailing in this game, and I definitely believed more in his 11-target Week 1 than I did in his four-target Week 2. However, I’m now realizing that the Redskins don’t really need Pryor in order to have success through the air. They have so many weapons, and honestly Pryor hasn’t impressed me at all yet. He’ll probably breakout at some point this season, but I don’t think he’s a safe option by any means for the time being. As for my two bargain bin wide receiver plays, I’m just straight up embarrassed. A lot of people got burned by Rashard Higgins, so I can’t be THAT upset about that one. But I talked myself into Brandon LaFell trailing the Packers and getting Tyler Eifert‘s targets. I was rudely reminded that he’s still Brandon LaFell, and I really need to be sure there’s a target floor when paying down at the wide receiver position.
Lastly, Zach Ertz and the Eagles defense were fine plays. Ertz was still underpriced and in a great spot against a bad Giants middle pass defense. He actually almost blew it for me and the rest his owners by dropping a touchdown, but he got the ball right back on the next play to put up another great day. I was feeling phenominal about the Eagles for the first 35 minutes of that game, but the Giants came roaring back, and I watched the points slowly fall off. Zero sacks was very strange for a team playing Eli Manning and this terrible offensive line, so I don’t want to get away from my reasoning because of a late comeback.
Where do I start?! No really… Where do I start? Please tell me what you all think about my approach thus far and where I may be going wrong. Again, the best way to reach me is on Twitter @BellRoto.
What I can say is that I want to keep putting running backs in my flex position as long as it fits. Hopefully I can find a value running back who catches passes in a good matchup, and that can allow me to pay up relatively for the other two running backs without having to put guys like Higgins and LaFell in my WR spots.
I keep reminding myself that the QB position usually doesn’t have a huge point difference between an average perfomance and a good performance. So, if you can pay down for a QB and have them play two thirds as well as the chalk QB who people are paying up for, you’ve usually won that battle. However, a chalky Tom Brady (and probably Aaron Rodgers some time soon) can really ruin that approach if they go nuts.
Target floors are huge for wide receivers in the same way that they are huge for running backs. Sure, one long catch can save a wide receiver’s day, but if you have two guys combine for less than 15 at your WR spots, you’re going to be digging yourself out of a hole at other positions.
I want to keep playing around with the idea of flexing a tight end if I don’t feel comfortable with three running backs as “cash game locks”. It would’ve been Kelce this past week, which wouldn’t have worked out, but their prices generally seem low compared to wide recievers with the similar 8-10 projected targets, so maybe there’s something there.
As for defenses, targeting bad offenses is obviously the move. However, you want to target bad offenses that throw the ball. The more drop backs, the more chances for interceptions, sacks, and fumbles. It’s nearly impossible to predict defensive TDs, but throwing the ball while trailing can lead to them more often than teams who are simply playing to keep the score respectable.
I’m sure there’s a lot more that will go through my head in the next few days before Week 4, but hopefully this helped some of you step back and clear your head like it helped me. I would love to hear more from you all about your approaches in relation to mine. I hope you have had more success than me so far, but if not, let’s turn this NFL DFS season around together.
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