It’s Christmas Day.
I’m in the middle of nowhere in Arkansas. I have no phone, no internet service, and there are no other buildings in sight. I am watching the Raiders-Eagles game, also known as the worst game Christmas has ever seen. The Raiders are trailing 13 to 10 with 30 seconds left and no timeouts; they have the ball at their own 20 yard line. At this point I’m in second place, currently up $1,500, and trailing the leader of the $25K Fair Catch (Single Entry) contest by a little more than 5 points. I’m only two points ahead of the contestant in 6th place, so I had very little room for error on the final game of the slate. Everything is looking good up until this point, but everybody behind me has either Marshawn Lynch, Cooper Kupp or some combination of the two. My problem is, I don’t have a single Raider on my team and I’m afraid that my opponents have a legitimate shot at stripping me of my GPP take-down. Little did I know when I built this roster that the last 30 seconds of that meaningless Week 16 game would be as exciting to me as the last 8 minutes of Super Bowl 50…
To cut to the chase, after three straight incompletions, the Raiders went for the impossible lateral play on 4th down with 3 seconds to go. The Eagles defense scooped it up, ran it into the end zone and catapulted me into first place as time expired. I had taken down my first ever GPP, and what a feeling it was.
Contest: $25K Fair Catch (Single Entry)
Entry Fee: $12
Total Contestants: 8,333
Finishing Position: 1st
According to the “experts” the most common tip for short slate tournaments is to leave some money on the table and differentiate yourself by saving salary. Though I am not advising you to leave 7K on the table, I do think there are positives and negatives to doing so. Leaving too much salary can burn you very quickly if you aren’t strategic about how you build your roster. Of course, its always harder to use all of your salary with so many less players to choose from, but it also makes fading a clear cut player to leave some salary on the table even more risky. Hopkins going for a 5/72/1 at an $8,000 price tag won’t put a dent into your lineup on the main slate, but he may be the top scoring WR on the short slate, making it almost impossible for you (who paid down for the purpose of being contrarian) to win big.
With that said, here is the lineup that I put together for the single entry short slate tournament explained with my winning lineup:
QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Le’Veon Bell
RB: Alfred Blue
WR: DeAndre Hopkins
WR: Torrey Smith
WR: Juju Smith-Schuster
TE: Vance McDonald
FLEX: Zach Ertz
The first player that I plugged in was undoubtedly Le’Veon Bell. The guy is a workhorse who sees around 30 touches a game, and is an even bigger factor on the road. With Brown out of lineup, Le’Veon was poised for an even bigger load against a banged up Houston defense. I ran it back with DeAndre Hopkins, who has the highest target market share in the league, and a floor of 15 points, while playing against an injured Steelers secondary who ranked first in fantasy points allowed to WR1 over the previous 5 weeks. The 3rd player I slotted in was Juju Smith-Schuster, who with Brown out, was now assumed to play almost all of the snaps, most of which would be in the slot where Houston gives up the 4th most fantasy points per game in the league. With those three combining for nearly half of my salary cap, I knew salaries would be slim and I would need to find relief somewhere.
The first spot I always try to pay down at is at the tight end position. Having watched Steelers games recently, and knowing how they used Ladarius Green at the TE position last year, I plugged in McDonald who is the far superior athlete to Jesse James. McDonald had scored 9.6 points against the Ravens two weeks prior, and then got injured in the second quarter of that same game – prohibiting further fantasy production. McDonald also had a designed touchdown called back due to a holding penalty in that same game, which caused for even greater promise moving forward. Next, I had Zach Ertz, who had the benefit of playing an awful Oakland secondary at home, as well as much lower ownership than usual with Nick Foles at the helm. Having around $22,000 left in salary at this point, it was time to examine the 4 defenses that were on the board.
With the Eagles and the Steelers both in supreme matchups, and the other two options listed statistically as two of the worst in the league, I knew that D/ST was not a spot where it would be possible to pay down. With that said, I didn’t hesitate to plug in the Eagles. Having about $19,000 left and 4 more positions to fill, I looked at the remaining running backs. With all options sitting at similar prices, I didn’t like the prospect of playing Marshawn Lynch on the road, as I knew he had a date with one of the best run defenses in the league with a very limited role catching passes out of the backfield. I also wasn’t very high on Lamar Miller, who had lost a lot of touches and goal line work to Alfred Blue. Jay Ajayi was getting limited work – as he was one of three running backs that the Eagles were consistently deploying – while surrendering a lot of the goal line work and snaps to the other two backs. All factors considered, I decided to go with the cheaper alternative: Alfred Blue, who as I mentioned previously, played around 40% of the snaps and ate up all of Lamar Miller’s goal line work. This turned out to be a great play, as the Steelers (since losing Ryan Shazier) had given up more rushing touchdowns than they had through the air.
With a last glance at my roster, I realized that I had no Eagles players except slated except for their D/ST. Expecting them to put up at least a couple of touchdowns, I decided to look at the skill player matchups for the Eagles. With the Raiders limiting slot wide receivers all year, and their big physical CBs matching up well against strong outside receivers, I had no interest in either Agholor, or Jeffery. That left Zach Ertz and speedy outside receiver Torrey Smith, who had both projected very well against the Raiders. That left me with enough money to pay up for Big Ben, whom I did not see as a must play at the time, but was the most secure QB play on the slate by far.
With the playoffs ongoing, and Oaktown’s recent piece on short slates, I want to share and suggest some of the methodology that I used to take down this contest:
Filter out “must-plays” by workload and opportunity.
Hopkins, Bell and JuJu figured to have a much bigger workload, more valuable touches, and absolutely no dependency on game script. Behind each of these plays there was a huge drop off in opportunity, which made it impossible to fade any of them.
Find value plays with an up-trend in opportunity and a profitable matchup.
McDonald and Blue were both cheap plays in favorable matchups who saw an uptick in usage over the previous weeks and were primed to explode.
Round up your lineup!
For the last part, the round up, you need to have an idea about what you think is going to be each team’s final score, and make sure that you cover most of your grounds. By expecting the Eagles to score at least a couple of touchdowns, and not having any Eagles in my lineup, I rounded out my roster with both a huge red zone threat, and a deep threat in Torrey Smith to increase my equity in one of those TDs.
I hope that this analysis was helpful, and that you gained a little more insight into my process for cashing in single entry contests. As always, make sure you to follow the DailyPlayAction to receive the know-how necessary to cash, and if you follow my roster construction rules, I’m sure we will see each other atop of the leaderboards in no time!
The DailyPlayAction encourages success stories to be shared and celebrated with the DPA community. Please submit any positive outcomes in DraftKings for us for review, and we will be sure to share!