I started playing DFS on DraftStreet in 2013. For the next six years, I primarily played cash games because I was in love with the slow, methodical grind, along with the safety that comes from playing a format where you only have to beat one other person or roughly half the field if you’re in 50/50s or double-ups.
Nowadays, I’ve decided to pull the ripcord on the safety net so that I could seek out more upside.
The hardest part of switching to GPP only? Getting comfortable with losing … a lot more often. However, with proper game selection and bankroll management, all you need is one or two nice scores to be in the black when the season ends.
And when you’re mainly targeting small-field GPPs, your lineups don’t need to be as perfect compared to when you’re entering these larger fields. Personally, I consider a small field as a tournament with 500 or fewer people, but some DFS players may have a broader definition.
And typically, I am playing in tournaments with 300 or fewer people.
Additionally, our Lineup Builder is the perfect tool to use when hand-building your lineups.
My overall strategy for these formats is quite simple. I try to find the best spots to correlate and utilize the Leverage Scores in our Player Models to find pivots off of players who are projected for higher rostership.
A lot of the time, when looking for games to target, you land on high-total games because that’s where we’d expect the most points to be scored. Naturally, high-total games come with higher projected ownership on certain players. However, it’s still possible to have unique builds when targeting these games, and we can still insert other one-off plays to differentiate our lineups.
You don’t need a whole lineup of contrarian plays to win a small-field tournament, though it helps to pivot in the right spots. I also tend to rely on the Ceiling Projections instead of Median Projections when I am making my lineup decisions.
Also, keep in mind the projected ownership levels in the models are geared toward large-field GPPs, so there is some guesswork on estimating ownership projections for smaller fields.
Note: I play these small-field tournaments on DraftKings, so that’s what this analysis will focus on.
Games I’m Targeting
Kansas City Chiefs (30.75) vs. Washington Football Team (23.75)
We have a smaller slate this week with just 10 games on tap for Sunday’s main slate. The Chiefs-Football Team game is one of the more obvious ones to target on the slate as it has the highest total on the slate at 54.5 points.
There are a few injury concerns to monitor as Tyreek Hill (quad) got in just one limited practice on Friday, and Terry McLaurin (hamstring) didn’t practice on Friday. That said, if Hill is active, I’m not hesitating to use him in tournaments, especially if the injury designation depresses his Ownership Projection.
One of the great features of being a FantasyLabs Pro member is that you can apply different weights to our NFL projections from some of our partners (may require separate purchases) to create an aggregate set to your specifications (you can also upload your own):
At the time of writing, Hill has a moderate 13% Ownership Projection. In my custom FantasyLabs Model with my blended projection inputs, Hill leads all receivers with his Ceiling Projection.
With some of the value that has opened up this week, it is possible to run out double-stacks of Hill and Travis Kelce with Patrick Mahomes. If I can’t make that expensive double work, I may work in Mecole Hardman for some savings so I can pay up elsewhere. Hardman is third on the team with a 17% target share and offers a way to get exposure to this game without breaking the bank.
Injury pending, McLaurin and Ricky Seals-Jones figure to be the go-to bring-back options for people stacking the Chiefs. While both currently project to be popular, you could opt to stack DeAndre Carter for $3,000 if you want some salary relief. Using Carter is also a way to get exposure to this solid game environment while still being unique. He’ll give you leverage off both McLaurin and RSJ. RSJ is the same exact price as Carter.
Carter is a thin play, but with Curtis Samuel leaving early last week, Carter averaged 1.82 targets per route run and ran a route on 71% of Taylor Heinicke’s dropbacks. His targets per route run were second on the team in Week 5.
Saturday night update: with Dyami Brown looking like he’s going to play, he’d be my preferred punt over Carter if you’re looking to go that route.
That said, you could still stack the popular pieces in this game and then differentiate your rosters elsewhere.
Minnesota Vikings (24) vs. Carolina Panthers (21.5)
This isn’t normally a game environment I would target, but there aren’t many appealing games this week.
What makes this game intriguing is the low-to-moderate Projected Ownership on a lot of these players. Sam Darnold is in a bounce-back spot after his dud against the Eagles last week and has the 10th-highest Ceiling Projection and an 84% Leverage Rating in my model.
My favorite way to stack this game is Darnold + Justin Jefferson + D.J. Moore. The matchups for both of these players aren’t ideal, but we’re getting elite receivers with elite usage, which is usually a good spot to go contrarian. Moore leads the Panthers with a 30% target share and a 36% air yards share. He also has a top-four Leverage Score in our models.
Additionally, Jefferson’s $8,000 price tag is going to depress his rostership. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that his low Ownership Projection and top-seven Ceiling Projection gives him the second-best Leverage Score on the slate among receivers.
Jefferson has tremendous upside every week and leads the Vikings with a 25% target share and 42% air yards share.
This three-player combination will give you a unique build right off the bat, allowing you to be more flexible about the cumulative rostership for the rest of your lineup.
Usually, these one-off plays are where I am looking to differentiate my roster from everyone else, especially if the stacks I am targeting project to be highly rostered.
My reasoning behind these plays is rather minimalistic — I look at projected ownership and Ceiling Projections. Those two things combined are where we get our Leverage Scores and Ratings.
The emergence of Kareem Hunt with the Nick Chubb injury should depress some of the rostership of running backs that are in his similar price range. On a side note, I have no issues playing Hunt at his massive ownership because he has an enticing ceiling and still has a neutral Leverage Score. It’s similar to the Alexander Mattison situation last week. We don’t need to fade the chalk everywhere.
Anyway, there are a few intriguing one-off running back plays on this slate. The first being Jonathan Taylor. Taylor still has a rather high Ownership Projection, but it’s still half the projection we have for Hunt. Taylor owns the fifth-highest Ceiling Projection on the slate, and his 17.4 touches per game ranks 13th in the league. This spot should set up well for him as the Colts are massive 10.5-point favorites over the Texans.
Joe Mixon is listed as questionable, but the Bengals are expecting him to play. They also expect he’ll be back to his full workload. Mixon’s Ceiling Projection is just behind Taylor, resulting in a 70% Leverage Rating.
Darrel Williams doesn’t have a positive Leverage Score, but he’s an intriguing pivot off the chalkier Khalil Herbert. With everyone targeting the passing attack on the Chiefs, Williams should also provide some leverage off their passing game. That said, if Mahomes has a ceiling game, Williams is likely to suffer.
Darrell Henderson is my preferred Darrell on the slate. Even though we’re not getting a rostership discount on him, as I mentioned before, I don’t mind eating the chalk at running back. Henderson’s 17.5 touches per game are 12th in the league, and the Rams are eight-point favorites vs. the lowly Giants.
The wide receiver position is actually quite gross this week, and there aren’t a ton of options that I love. One intriguing option is Rondale Moore. Moore has been hit or miss, but nothing too alarming for a rookie wide receiver. He has still exceeded salary-based expectations in 60% of his games this season.
There are reported wind concerns in the Cardinals-Browns game, which wouldn’t impact Moore’s role in this offense since his average depth of target (aDOT) is just 2.9 yards. Maxx Williams‘ absence frees up 11% of their targets, which could benefit Moore as Williams’ 5.3 aDOT isn’t far off from Moore’s. Moore presently owns the 14th-best Leverage Score in our models.
My other wide receiver plays align with Ryan Hodge’s choices in his Concise Conviction article.
With people either paying up for Kelce or down to Seals-Jones, the entire mid-tier for tight ends will likely go overlooked. This is evident when you look at our Leverage Ratings:
My favorite leverage plays of that group are Tyler Higbee, Noah Fant, and Dalton Schultz.
Other Viable One-Off Plays with a Positive Leverage Scores
- Austin Ekeler
- D’Andre Swift
- D.J. Moore
- Justin Jefferson
- Keenan Allen
- Hunter Renfrow
- Courtland Sutton
Sunday Morning Update
After having another day to collect my thoughts, I’m warming up to the idea of targeting the Rams offense. I like the idea of targeting Matthew Stafford as the Rams have one of the higher implied totals on the slate. He’s also popping with a 96% Leverage Rating. I think you could run it back with either Sterling Shepard or Kadrius Toney. Cooper Kupp is expected to be the highest rostered pass-catcher on the Rams. Robert Woods has about half the projected ownership of Kupp, while Higbee offers the most leverage, but Higbee has the shakiest floor of the three. I think which guy you stack Stafford with just depends on how the rest of your roster is shaking out.
Players I added to my pool this morning: Tee Higgins, Mark Andrews, Michael Pittman.
f you’re struggling to get a feel for the slate, we also have some optimizer templates in our Lineup Optimizer that you can use to see where the raw projections are leaning for stacks: