Welcome to NFL DFS chalk or walk! This is an article that looks to identify popular plays and their viable pivots in DFS and season long contests. We will use projections to make assumptions about players' performances and find inefficiencies based on who the field values more.
This article is best used with the projections models here at Paydirt, but it will still be valuable even as a one off piece of content. While the focus is on Draftkings, the content is applicable to Fanduel as well. Costs, Projections, and ownership projections format will be Draftkings/Fanduel.
Popularity, leverage, and balance in DFS
- Tony Pollard is going to be an incredibly popular play, and the other pieces of chalk are built around strong baselines and performance.
- Dameon Pierce makes for a fantastic pivot off Pollard in large field GPPs based on strong usage and workload in any gamescript.
- While DJ Moore ran hot last week, his baselines are similar to Darnell Mooney at much higher ownership.
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Current highest owned NFL DFS plays
By far the highest projected ownership for any player this week goes to Tony Pollard. With Ezekiel Elliott doubtful, he is in line for 75%+ of the running back touches for the Cowboys and is not priced appropriately for the role. Meanwhile, he’s been a popular option for the fantasy industry for years and is always popular when he gets to be the lead back. His 40% projected ownership in large field GPPs might actually be too low and 50%+ is not out of the question.
Other names on this list like Josh Jacobs and Tyreek Hill are based more on baselines than situations. Both Jacobs and Hill have been incredible this season and project for some of the highest medians on the slate. Jacobs has a 26.80% chance at being the highest scoring player overall with Tyreek at 15.10%, both some of the best rates available. Overall both of these players have high floors and are certainly deserving of high ownership.
This slate has a lot of spread out ownership outside of Tony Pollard. What this means is we should be able to play a lot of it together while maintaining some level of relative value. That being said, pivots are still an important piece of the puzzle and something we need to think through.
NFL DFS Popular plays and pivots for leverage
It’s vital to have a strong assessment of not only the popular plays but the viable pivots to them at their position and price. Here are some of the most important popular plays on the slate and a pivot you can make to gain leverage and relative value in tournaments:
Some of the tables used for the stats in this article:
- NFL Vegas implied totals and touchdown projections: https://paydirtdfs.com/nfl-vegas-implied-totals-and-touchdown-projections/
- League adjusted pass and rush rates: https://paydirtdfs.com/nfl-pass-and-rush-splits-league-wide/
- League adjusted redzone pass and rush rates: https://paydirtdfs.com/nfl-redzone-pass-and-rush-splits-league-wide/
- NFL Receiver research sheets: https://paydirtdfs.com/nfl-fantasy-receiving-research-sheets/
Running backs: Tony Pollard vs. Dameon Pierce
Cost – $6,100/$6,300
Projection – 22.31/20.02
Ownership%: – 40.60%/39.30%
As mentioned in the popular plays portion above, Pollard is popular for a multitude of reasons. Outside of the narrative based stuff though he still holds up as a strong option. He projects in the low 20s in terms of medians and has a 31.30% chance to be a top 5 scoring player on the slate. The Cowboys are 10 point favorites and implied for 1.55 rushing TDs, the fifth most on the slate. In sum, there’s a reason for his high projection of ownership. However, it’s certainly being inflated by his name value and there is little reason for him to be 50%+ owned on any given slate.
Cost – $6,300/$7,300
Projection – 19.79/17.56
Ownership%: – 14.14%/17.09%
At essentially the same price to Pollard, we have another bellcow back in Dameon Pierce. He’s been terrific this season, with no less than 69 rushing yards since week 2 and 20+ attempts + targets in the same stretch. In fact, no other RB in the league is averaging more of his teams total rushing attempts. Houston are only 1 point favorites this week, but Pierce has had a strong workload regardless of gamescript. The biggest reason for this pivot is that even with the Texans being a team total 6 points below the Cowboys, the projection for Pierce is within striking distance of Pollard. He’s an elite option in large field tournaments.
Wide Receivers: DJ Moore vs. Darnell Mooney
Cost – $5,300/$6,200
Projection – 16.48/12.83
Ownership%: – 19.55%/19.11%
DJ Moore finally experienced a stroke of luck last week with his first TD since week 2. However, he has yet to top 75 yards this year and his median expectations are still relatively low. Granted, the price is pretty good, but this is a textbook chasing situation based on results from last week.The Panthers have a team total of just 18.5 and are 4 point underdogs against the Atlanta Falcons. In case you didn’t know this, the Falcons are the poster child for establishing the run, and if they are favorites they will slow this game to a grind. Overall, his projection and situation warrant a chunk of ownership and he makes for a strong cash game option.
Cost – $4,800/$6,200
Projection – 15.10/12.30
Ownership%: – 6.66%/3.86%
For less salary on Draftkings and a similar projection, we find Darnell Mooney as a great pivot off Moore. Sure, the Bears are very pass heavy. However, while PJ Walker projects for 219 passing yards, Fields is close behind at 206. Now, it would be silly to say either is a high total, but that’s kind of the point. You are just trading alpha wideouts on low passing output teams here. While Mooney hasn’t had any touchdowns this year, his receiving totals are in the same range as Moore. That said, Mooney has had at least one game over 75 yards, which gives him a slight edge in upside. Especially considering you can have an in-game correlation with mega-chalk Tony Pollard, it makes sense to gain a bunch of relative value with a simple pivot off Moore to Mooney.
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