Editor’s Note: For Evan Silva’s breakdown on every player in this game, click here. The audio for Silva’s PIT/NE Matchup is embedded below.
One-game GPPs aka Showdown slates are as much about lineup construction as picking the right players. The best way to wrap our heads around it is to work backwards. In other words, if Aaron Rodgers is our captain, we’ll likely need at least three TDs from him to win a tournament. Is it likely just one of his pass-catchers scores all three? No. We will need to roster two of Rodgers’ pass-catchers and hope they combine for the three touchdowns.
Similarly, we need to think about how touchdowns will be scored by running backs. If early-down RB Sony Michel is our captain, we’ll need him to score at least two touchdowns and they’ll almost certainly come on the ground. In that scenario, it’s unlikely Tom Brady would throw for three. It’s also unlikely James White would have access to a ceiling game.
We should also note that D/ST, K and TE typically don’t have the ceilings to be worthy of the captain spot. As you can see by the below chart.
Of course, the above is a generalization. In any single NFL game, flukey things can and will happen. Every year there are low-scoring, boring games. When a game finishes 10-3, you can throw out correlations and working backwards, you simply need the players who scored the most fantasy points. Whether and how much to consider these outcomes in your approach is up to you and largely depends on 1) What you think will happen in the game and 2) What you think your opponents will do.
As we turn our attention to Sunday night’s Steelers at Patriots game, it’s important to understand historical league and team outcomes.
Please note: The data in the below charts is from 2018. Some players are now on new teams, and teams often have new philosophies heading into new seasons, etc. Still, this is a good starting point to think about different outcomes for the league and each team.
The data below represents the percentage of times each position is responsible for producing the highest DraftKings score in every NFL game from 2018. While the highest scoring player is not mandatory to have in your captain spot on DraftKings to win a GPP, it often happens that way, so it’s worth noting these numbers.
HIGHEST SCORING PLAYER IN A GAME BY POSITION
- RB 34%
- QB 27%
- WR 27%
- TE 6%
- D/ST 5%
- K 1%
We cap off the first Sunday of the 2019-20 NFL season with another showdown slate that, if anything, projects to be the opposite of the product displayed in the TNF game. The most important factor to being competitive in this unique contest format is not just picking the best plays but rather building a highly leveraged, correlated lineup based on what we believe the outcome of the game will be. The SNF game featuring the Steelers at Patriots presents us with an opportunity to take advantage of an environment that is conducive to fantasy production for both offenses.
Until we have a large enough sample of 2019 games, last year’s data typically provides us with the most reliable starting point for our projections. The charts below show every player’s fantasy output for each game in 2018. Again, these results are from the previous season and therefore should be taken in the context of a team’s offseason changes. For more on those changes, read Silva’s Matchups.
The data shows us a philosophical difference in overall point distribution between the two teams. The Steelers have a tight distribution focused around their top producers; Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. Conversely, the Patriots point distribution is much more spread out offering a wide range of outcomes.
In one-game showdown slates we are not so much concerned with a player’s median projection as we are with their ability to reach their ceiling and how that affects the other players around them both on their team and their opponent’s. By getting an overview of a player’s range of outcomes we can determine if they possess the capability to be the highest scoring player on the slate and thus be worthy of rostering as our captain.
In order to build a competitive lineup in GPPs we should start by selecting our captain and then ask ourselves who benefits most if they are the highest scoring player on this slate. Often times we’ll see these correlations between players presented as an R^2 value, we’ll try to display the correlation in a way that lets you visualize which combination of players can achieve their ceilings in the same game. The information below will provide insight into the player groupings we believe are strongly correlated and give our lineups the best possible chance to compete.
*Captain JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, Julian Edelman – In 2018, Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown operated as true 1a/1b receivers. With Brown out of town Smith-Schuster looks to take over as an elite WR1 and Moncrief has a chance to see a majority of the targets vacated by Brown as evidenced by preseason usage. As we can see below, the Steelers offense is capable of supporting ceiling performances from multiple pass catchers. Opposing WR1’s have flashed the highest upside when the Steelers WR1 is the game’s highest scorer.
*Captain James Conner, Tom Brady, Josh Gordon – When Conner has been the highest scoring player on his team historically his teammates, specifically the WR1 on his team, have also outperformed expectations, it stands to reason that both Conner and Smith-Schuster can access their ceilings. As evidenced by the past performances below, running it back with Brady and one of his pass catchers is a no-brainer.
*Captain Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, At least two Patriots receiving pieces – In 2018, when Big Ben reached his ceiling he often did so by targeting his primary weapons as evidenced by Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster’s production in such games. The opposing team’s QB, RB1 and WR’s of varying depths also displayed a ceiling. As noted above, the Patriots spread the ball around so much that we think it makes some sense to assume a ceiling game from Ben and Juju means you could need access to multiple pass catchers. Silva is expecting Josh Gordon to play most of the game Sunday night due to the Patriots current lack of depth at the position. Worth noting he has a massive size advantage over the Steelers diminutive CBs
*Captain Sony Michel, Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer – It’s not hard to imagine Michel having a multiple touchdown game. If it happens early and the Patriots get out to a lead, Pittsburgh WR’s will likely also be a must. The continuation of Stephon Gillmore’s dominance of WR1’s and Bill Belichick “taking away” Smith-Schuster could result in secondary Steelers pass-catchers having ceiling games. As noted in Matchups there is a possibility that Damien Harris doesn’t dress which would increase Michel’s already safe floor as the Patriots early-down running back.
*Captain James White, Julian Edelman, James Conner – Because White benefits from such a specific game script, standard correlations don’t apply to him as they would a traditional RB. In a game where James White is the top overall scorer we’d expect the Steelers to get out to an early lead. He and Edelman would be able to rack up points coming from behind, and could conceivably have access to big games without multiple touchdowns, making Tom Brady unnecessary.
*Captain Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, Donte Moncrief – Edelman has a much tighter range of outcomes compared to the other options in his own offense, he possesses a high floor and has multiple ways to achieve a ceiling, through volume or being on the receiving end of Brady’s touchdowns. As noted in Silva’s Matchups, the Steelers insist on covering slot receivers with linebackers and Edelman has torched them in previous meetings. Bringing it back with the cheaper of the two Steelers pass catching options gives us more roster flexibility with our remaining UTIL spots.
To make some of the above roster combinations possible, we may need to dip our toes into some uncomfortable waters. This slate certainly lends itself to a stars and scrubs build with a plethora of options at the top end. Finding cheap, low-owned players who can help us fit the stars will be imperative. Below are a few guys who project to see enough opportunities to warrant consideration.
In order of descending salary:
Donte Moncrief – This is a situation where our opponents may not be aware of the preseason usage that tells us Moncrief is the clear #2 option in Pittsburgh. He played on 19 of 20 1st team snaps with Ben Roethlisberger in the third preseason game. If he can lay claim to a majority of the 26.7% of targets vacated by Brown’s departure he could be a value at his salary.
Vance McDonald – There was some coach speak late in the offseason that McDonald may not be an every down player but like Moncrief he played on 19 of 20 snaps with Roethlisberger. McDonald is another candidate to see an increase in his target share with Brown gone.
Jaylen Samuels – The salary here is a bit prohibitive, especially if we plan to roster as many studs as we can.
Ryan Switzer – DraftKings pricing would indicate that James Washington is the WR3 in Pittsburgh. We believe from preseason usage that Ryan Switzer is the slot man and the clear #3. He owned a miniscule 6.5% target share in 2018 but with his snap count set to increase, opportunity could follow. Switzer could stand to benefit if Stephon Gillmore continues his dominance as he shadows Smith-Schuster and Belichick shows respect to Moncrief as he’s done in past matchups.
Phillip Dorsett/Demaryius Thomas – Thomas is listed as questionable but has gotten in limited practices all week. His status is worth monitoring as Dorsett would vault up as the primary WR3 for the Patriots with Jakobi Meyers expected to spell him.
Rex Burkhead/Damien Harris – It is to be determined how these guys will be used, if at all, in the Patriots backfield that was already deep before they drafted Harris. They’re extreme playing time risks but offer salary relief to give us access to the players we like.
Ryan Izzo – With Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks and Matt LaCosse already ruled out, Izzo is the only remaining tight end on the roster. He becomes an every down player who doesn’t require massive volume to pay off his minimum salary.
*NOTE* Damien Harris and Demaryius Thomas are INACTIVE, Matt LaCosse is a surprise ACTIVE, though we are unsure if he will play.
Again, roster construction and correlation are the most important factors for GPP success in the Showdown format. But understanding who will be popular helps. A rough guide to who we think will be the most owned:
Higher projected ownership, in order of descending salary:
* Juju Smith-Schuster
* James Conner
* Ben Roethlisberger
* Tom Brady
* Julian Edelman
* Sony Michel
* James White
Lower projected ownership, in order of descending salary:
* Donte Moncrief
* Vance McDonald
* James Washington (playing time concern)
* Jakobi Meyeres (extreme playing time concern)
* Rex Burkhead (playing time concern)