FantasyDraft: Thanksgiving Slate – A Near Optimized Lineup

Happy Thanksgiving! I don’t know about you, but this is a crazy week around my house. My wife and two kids are off from school, and we hosted my daughter’s 8th birthday, a sleepover. Due to time restraints, I’m taking a different approach to the FantasyDraft lineup construction this week and relying heavily on the FantasyPros optimizer.

Optimizers tend to get more powerful as the season progresses because there is more data to pull from to make accurate projections. I have found that optimizers tend to be most accurate on short slates because there are fewer variables and lesser likelihood for an outlier performance.

I’ve had success using the FantasyPros optimizer in the two-game Sunday night – Monday night prime-time slate.

When using an optimizer, it’s important to first evaluate the lineup the computer spits out and determine if it makes sense to you.  The second thing I tend to do is swap out one player that may be slightly cheaper and has a projection for a fraction of point less than the original player. This move dramatically heightens the likelihood the lineup you are using is unique for the tournament you are entering,

For this lineup, I switched out CHI WR Allen Robinson II ($12,100) for DAL WR Amari Cooper ($11,300). Robinson has a projected ceiling of 19.4 points while Cooper is 18.8. Cooper has a better CB matchup than Robinson, so I disagree with the projections and believe this move provides an advantage. It also meant that I was able to leave $700 on the table.  Leaving this much on a short slate also increases the chances your lineup will be unique.

You may notice that this lineup for Thanksgiving uses two WRs in the flex instead of two RBs as I typically do. This is because there is a crop of WRs in these games than have been more constant in their production at a high level than the RBs.

QB (Salary on FantasyDraft)

NO QB Drew Brees ($12,700) has the highest projected ceiling of the QBs on the slate at 27.3 points. The risk here is Brees only scored11.48 points against the Falcons in Week 10 as the Saints surprisingly got beat 29-6. We think that the game was an anomaly and the results on Thursday should be dramatically different. The Falcons have allowed on average a fifth-most 25.2 points to opposing QBs this season. Taking out Week 2 when Brees got hurt, he is scoring at least 21.12 points or higher in every other game except his performance against the Falcons.

WRs/Flex (Salary on FantasyDraft)

NO WR Michael Thomas ($17,900) will probably be the highest owned player on the slate, but it’s unwise to fade him. He has scored 25.10 to 44.2 points in six of the last seven games. The low score in that range was still 16.90. Thomas scored 31.2 against the Falcons in Week 10 and he did not score a TD.

ATL WR Calvin Ridley ($13,600) may be the number one WR for the Falcons on Thursday if WR Julio Jones ($14,200) does not play (shoulder, questionable). Ridley has scored a TD in back-to-back games while scoring 31.3 and 22.0 fantasy points.

DAL WR Amari Cooper ($11,300) is coming off a miserable game against the Patriots where he failed to haul in one pass in the rain. Don’t expect a repeat this week. While the Bears have the third-best defense against WRs that has only allowed an average of 29.6 points a game to the position, Cooper has one of the more favorable CB matchups on the slate. Cooper should faceoff against CB Levi Wallace who has allowed a 65.7% catch rate and 1.75 fantasy points per target through. If you didn’t play Cooper last Thanks Giving, you probably didn’t cash. He had his best performance as a Cowboy when he had 10 catches for 217 yards and three TDs to score 52.70 fantasy points against the Eagles.

Note: The CB numbers are through the first 11 weeks and had not been updated for Week 12 as of the time of writing.

Update: Mike Woellert of 4for4 is reporting that  DAL WR Michael Gallup ($11,000) will be covered by Wallace and Cooper will be shadowed by CB Tre’Davious White. “QBs have a 32.5 QBR when throwing in his direction and he is allowing just 5.7 YPA,” wrote Woellert. “That’s why I’m focusing on Gallup. Even though Gallup is the secondary receiver, he’s getting targeted like a WR1 and has a 13.6 target per snap rate. Wallace has struggled in coverage this season, as he’s allowed 45 of 47 catchable targets to be caught. He’s been responsible for four TDs and is allowing and 1.7 fantasy points per target.”

The switch from Gallup to Cooper frees up an additional $300 for a total of $1,000 leftover. This is high. The ideal upgrade would be to move from Calvin Ridley to Julio Jones if he is active. FantasyDraft does not have a late swap and NO vs, ATL is the last game on the slate. Jones may have a low ownership rate because of his injury and thus a huge advantage, but is a huge risk.

NO Ted Ginn Jr. ($7,400) is dirt cheap and has the best CB matchup of any WR on the slate. Ginn will likely faceoff ATL CB Desmond Trufant who has allowed a whopping 2.62 fantasy points per target. Ginn is not a high volume receiver, but he is always a threat for a big play. He has the matchup to exploit for a long TD.

TE (Salary on FantasyDraft)

BUF Dawson Knox ($5,700) has at least two receptions in four straight games and has scored one TD in that stretch. Knox faces a Cowboys defense that has allowed an eighth-most 13.9 points on average to TEs.

RBs/Flex (Salary on FantasyDraft)

NO Alvin Kamara ($15,900) had just one total yard though the first half of last week’s game against the Panthers, and still managed to finish the day with 19.20 points. Most of his production came on the final drive. Kamara has six to 10 receptions in all but two games this season. He has also had at least 11 rushing attempts in all but one game. Kamara faces a Falcons defense that is in the middle of the pack against RBs with a 24.5 fantasy points a game average.

BUF Devin Singletary ($10,900) carried the ball 21 times for 106 yards and had one reception for 8 yards against the Broncos last week. It was the second time in four games Singletary has exceeded 20 touches. Singeltary faces a Cowboys defense that has also allowed 24.5 fantasy points a game to RBs. If Singletary receives 20 or more touches in this game, he has a solid chance to have 2X or greater performance.

Team Defense (Salary on FantayDraft)

The pricing for the Bears Defense ($4,500) against Detroit doesn’t make much sense. They are full $2,000 cheaper than then Saints ($6,500) against Atlanta. They will likely have heavy ownership, but the price opens up options and they may just be the top-performing defense on the day.

Putting it all Together


QB Drew Brees has the highest project ceiling of 27.3 points on fantasy pros. WRs Thomas/Ridley/Cooper could be the top three targeted WRs on the day. WR Ginn is a near boom or bust play but is in a good position to put up decent numbers. TE Knox is cheap and will provide at somewhat of a small floor, so he is unlikely to post a zero while having TD upside.  RB Kamara always has the potential for a big day and is a good GPP play. RB Singletary should provide 20 touches in a decent matchup at a reasonable price. The Bears defense is cheap and as capable of any of the other team defenses of putting up a big day. There is no offense vs, defense in this lineup, so any offensive scores will not hurt the defensive score.

Down Side: It has no exposure to the Bears RBs who are facing one of the weakest run defenses in Bengals. I’m especially concerned about CHI Rb Tarik Cohen ($9,800) having a big day. Not playing DAL RB Ezekiel Elliott ($16,800) is always a huge risk in a short slate, but Elliott has a tough matchup and based on his price has not produced at a 2X level this season. This lineup has no exposure to CHI WR Allen Robinson II who is a consistent heavy target.  Not being exposed to NO TE Jared Cook ($9,300) or ATL TE Austin Hooper ($11,900, questionable) is a risk, but their price prohibits other good players.

Update – New Lineup

Sometimes one piece of information can create a cascading effect that completely changes a DFS lineup. This was the case when we learned BUF CB Levi Wallace will cover DAL WR Michael Gallup and not Amari Cooper. We locked Gallup and Brees into the optimizer and came up with this new lineup that maxes out at $100,000. In this new lineup,  DET RB Bo Scarbrough ($8,900) was substituted in for BUF RB Devin Singletary and DAL TE Blake Jarwin ($5,500) was substituted in over Dawson Knox. Scarbrough has a tougher matchup, but may also approach 20 touches. Jarwin will likely be targeted 3-5 times, in the same range as Knox. With these additional savings, we are able to swap in Dal RB Ezekiel Elliott for WR Calvin Ridley. Both have high upside, but Elliott likely provides both a higher floor and ceiling than Ridley.

Mix It Up

To protect yourself from a duplicate lineup, it’s wise to not exactly play any lineup you find on-line. This lineup will be entered into the FantasyDraft Thanksgiving Hooters $500 K ($5k to 1st) Main Event and likely at least one other contest. If you are playing on FantasyDraft, please switch out at least one player.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @sandiegosports.

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