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2019 NFL DFS Chalk Talk Week 1

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Welcome class to Week 1 of the 2019 NFL DFS Chalk Talk symposium!

This is our new weekly installment where I’ll discuss the chalky options and whether or not I believe they are worth rostering in GPP formats.

It is not a list of my favorite plays.

This is not a list of guys I don’t like.

In general, even if I give a player a negative review, they are still guys I probably like.

Chalk is chalk for a reason.  That reason is chalk is good.

There’s a lot of “bad chalk” that is still a must in cash and I’m primarily a cash game player so I could easily be heavy on a lot of these guys even if I think they are bad GPP options.

Chalk 101

Imagine if you will that DFS is a game show from an earlier generation.  In the show, there are two doorways available, each with a prize behind them.  10 contestants are going to select a door for the prize and their choices are secret.  The catch is that the contestants share the prize behind each door with the other contestants who also chose the same door.

  1. Door A has a prize of 100
  2. Door B has a prize of 50

While Door A could probably get the most choices and offers the safest option, with each additional person to choose A, B becomes the more desirable choice.  If it’s 50/50 split then A is a much better choice with twice the prize.  But if 70% of the contestants are going to choose A then B becomes the better payout.  This is why ownership matters.  We all know Julio is better wide receiver than Sanu.  But if everyone is on Julio, then at some point it becomes a better decision to take the lesser receiver.

Then throw in that player outcomes aren’t predetermined like in that scenario but operate on a sliding scale.  There will be games where Julio is also outperformed by Sanu.   Obviously, you want the best lineup out there, but if Julio has 100 yards and 2 TDs one week and Sanu has 100 yards and 2 TD the next week, those who played Sanu will have likely won more money.

If we knew the results of outcomes, ownership wouldn’t matter and we’d just choose the highest scoring lineup, but since none of us really know what the optimal lineup will be, it’s probably better to choose the one where we share the prize with fewer people if it’s a good one.

For perspective, Yahoo will give 1 million dollars out to anyone who manages to submit a perfect lineup in their freeroll.  They’ve been doing this for years now.  Hundreds of thousands of lineups have been submitted into the Yahoo Cup each week and not once has anyone had a perfect lineup.  Hence, why they feel so comfortable offering out that free million because they know that it’s extremely unlikely anyone will ever do it.  Since we can’t possibly know what makes a good lineup, we should at least submit the best possible one we can while still choosing Door B over Door A where possible.

A Note About This Article

We’re getting this out way too early.  There’s going to be a lot of breaking news coming out in next few days that will drastically change the definition of which players are or aren’t chalk.  You should view this as a living article.  We will be updating this report as more information becomes available.

This is not meant to be for any specific site since relative pricing varies quite a bit site to site.  Furthermore, in GPP, the relative price of an individual isn’t really that big a deal.  They are either going to in a normal price range for a starter or in a mismatched price range because they weren’t expected to be the starter when salaries were released.

For example, Jameis Winston is the 3rd most expensive on DK but in a 4-way tie for 12th on Yahoo.  Likewise, Philip Rivers is 2nd most expensive on Yahoo but tied for 15th most expensive on DK.  However, those seemingly large relative gaps aren’t nearly as big a deal in GPP as they are in cash.

One could make two arguments here and they are both correct because different people interpret pricing differently.

  1. Jameis will have greater ownership on Yahoo compared to DK because on Yahoo he’s priced cheaper.
  2. Jameis will have lower ownership on Yahoo compared to DK because on Yahoo he’s not treated as a premium option

In the end, the actual difference in relative prices between Jameis on the two sites is pretty insignificant.

People do equate a player’s price as an endorsement of their ability.  Likewise, with salaries capped, they will still need to make cuts here or there.  So we can’t assume that a general population will treat QB this slate as the premium buy or the cost-cutting position.  Thus, I’m not even going to attempt to do that myself.  The lone exceptions are with guys who aren’t priced as starters such as Jacoby Brissett and Tony Pollard.  If both those guys start in Week 1 then their ownership will be significantly higher than in Week 2 where they will have significantly higher prices.

We’re simply going to look at the players who I’ve seen get a lot of mentions and expect to be popular plays.

A Note on Methodology

I go into DFS with a Jon Snow outlook.  I know nothing.

Make zero assumptions.  Everything is data-driven.   That data needs to be relevant too.

If it’s Week 1 that means that there’s basically nothing actionable.  I don’t care if a team was good or bad last year, I don’t care about CB matchups, I really only care about perceived talent and perceived opportunity.  Likewise, in Week 2, we will really only have Week 1 to use for data.  However, as the season goes on, we can look less and less at one-off performances.

If a team gave up lots of points in Week 10 but was otherwise a solid defense Weeks 1-9 then we’ll discount and ignore Week 10.

Essentially, I’m not going to be talking about X tight end ranked Y amount in Red Zone looks among TEs last year.  None of that matters. That’s just noise written down by someone who needs some data to justify a decision.  They should instead just say, I like this guy and think he’ll do well.

We’ll only be dealing with the main slate for purposes of these articles.

2019 NFL DFS Chalk Talk Week 1

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Quarterbacks

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Patrick Mahomes

While Vegas certainly believes Mahomes and the Chiefs are matchup proof, I’m happy to skip out on him on an away game at Jacksonville.

Lamar Jackson

So much hype and has a great floor.  But QB ceilings in GPP wins are those of hundreds of yards passing and 3/4+ TDs.   Yes, it’s possible, yes I’ll be heavy on him in cash.  But he’s possibly going to be the highest owned QB and with so much parity at QB, I’m looking elsewhere for GPP.

Carson Wentz

I don’t see how he doesn’t have a great game at home vs Washington.  But then again, things could get out of hand pretty quick and they soon start grinding out the clock with the run game and their army of backs.

Kyler Murray

I’m buying the hype for the course of the season but someone’s first NFL start is not the time to be part of the ownership surge.

Jamies Winston

Jameis is getting a lot of love but I don’t think San Francisco will be all that terrible (we at F6P actually believe the Niners will go 10-6). They lost a lot of their air weapons and have a new coach so if I keep seeing lots of chatter on Jameis then I’ll be happy to pass.

Baker Mayfield

He’s good but if I learned anything from my best ball drafts this year, it’s that people are absurdly high on this guy.  I like him, the data likes him, but general fans love him to an even greater extent.  If his ownership is anywhere near chalk then I could possibly go all season without rostering him in GPP.

Jacoby Brissett

Jacoby is a late addition here.  I wasn’t expecting him as chalk but there’s been plenty of talk about him this week.  I think Jacoby could be sneaky good this year, he has the weapons, he has the o-line, he has some running equity, everything is in place for him to succeed.  I’ll probably run at least one Jacoby line out there.

Running Backs

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Nick Chubb

Tennesee isn’t nearly as bad as people think it is.  Cleveland isn’t nearly as good as people think it is.  I’m not saying he has a bad matchup, I just don’t think this is going to be the cakewalk that’s being advertised.

Devin Singletary

Cutting McCoy in no way means that Singletary either has the starting job or will be a productive fantasy option.  With no inkling of either, I’m not touching this.

Edit: see what happened in CHI for more examples of why if he’s chalk, he should be ignored

Austin Ekeler

Ekeler could be good but won’t have a dominant role as he’ll split carries with others.  But hurting him, even more, is that Gordon’s problem was baked into his pricing and he’s not the smash value that he otherwise could be.

Chris Carson

Seeing him getting a lot of hype because the most run-heavy team in the NFL will be facing what should one of the worst teams at home.  This is basically about as good as it gets for a running back matchup.  Penny’s presence is a bit of a wild card here but Carson seems to be decent chalk worth eating.


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Tony Pollard

This will be a very simple decision as we will know well in advance of game time if the Ezekiel Elliott problem has been sorted out.  If Zeke is not available, Pollard should probably be in all cash lineups without any question.  However, Alfred Morris spent 2 seasons in Dallas and was the guy I presumed would take the sticks.  I only am even looking at Pollard because touts and analysts seem to be unanimous on Pollard getting the job if there’s no Zeke.  Yet we can’t make regular season projections based off preseason rotations.  I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Morris led the team in carries Week 1 or it was pretty close to an even split.  Pollard’s price makes him a must in cash but for GPP I’m perfectly fine skipping out on the “free square” that he’s been advertised to be.

Edit: It seems Zeke has come on board but could be on a pitch count.  I think this kills Pollard as a chalk option.  While he could have a sneaky role, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he still gets inflated ownership at a part time role just from all the casual DFSers who submitted dummy lineups and likely won’t get around to changing them.

Kalen Ballage

Unclear situation aside, this is still a terrible Miami team against a traditionally dominant defense.  Normally this is a low ownership spot but people are so psyched about finding preseason value that I’ve seen this listed as chalk a troubling amount of times.

Saquon Barkley

Beast and matchup proof.  I’ll be riding him heavily in GPP regardless of ownership and pricing.  I can find other pivots elsewhere.

Christian McCaffrey

Tough matchup against the Rams but the Rams offense should also play to CMC’s strength as a pass-catcher.  Like Saquon, he’s someone I’ll be utilizing heavily most weeks regardless of ownership or price.

Leonard Fournette

People are looking at the vegas total and looking to jam in players from that game.  You can buy the o on that o/u all you want, but you really think the running back on the team expected to be playing from behind is the one who’s going to have a big piece of that pie?

LeSean McCoy / Damien Williams

If the news is solid and reliable that X player will dominate carries then that’s a pretty good chalk option.  Having said that, I doubt the situation will be clear.  The Chiefs probably won’t even know themselves until midway through the season who their starter is.  It’s a situation I’ll likely avoid if I hear X player will be heavily owned unless I’m 100% certain he’s really going to have a clearly dominant role.  Where’s Jeff Gillooly when he’s needed?

Wide Receivers

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Julio Jones

I don’t care what people say about his lack of TDs, Julio is a great option.  I’m unlikely to get him but that’s more because I prefer to eat chalk at RB in general.

edit: apparently he may not play now

Calvin Ridley

Nope.  I like Ridley but other than a few monster games he was pretty marginal last year.  Until he shows me more consistently awesome production, I’m happy to roll the dice on other guys without the brand name who can also provide a huge game periodically… oh right, that’s literally everyone.  This stance will bite me in the ass some weeks but I’m likely never playing Ridley this year unless his ownership drops to accurately reflect his production instead of his hype.

edit: if Jones is out, Ridley will be mega chalk, but I’ll fade him still and pivot elsewhere

Mohamed Sanu

This is the ATL chalk I’ll be craving.  Will likely come at a lower ownership and price and than the others and yet when you look at his production last year, it was pretty darn good.  He’s an Ibanez all star who can win you gpps.

Tyler Boyd

Should be primary receiving option on a team that’s likely going to be throwing it a lot to play catch up.  This is chalk I’ll eat.

Chris Godwin

Nope, this is Ridley all over again.  A talented receiver but comes at premium ownership not worthy of his production.  Easy fade and will likely fade all year unless he puts up a bunch of stinkers and loses the support.

Mike Evans

Significantly better than Godwin, significantly lower owned, not significantly more expensive.  This is a viable option if you believe in the flying TB machine.

Christian Kirk

Really nothing about him was all that special last year.  Yes, he should improve as most receivers do their second year, but he also has a rookie QB throwing him the ball.  Another case of a talented guy who will have far more ownership due to touting and hype than his actual numbers should garner.

Curtis Samuel

I believe in the guys who are behind the hype train on this guy.  Very advanced stat oriented and highly analytical people are touting him very hard.  Yet, I don’t believe that even the Curtis Samuel hype train conductor believes he should be one of the top ownership charts though.  There is a big difference between “look out for this guy” and “he’s the best DFS option in Week 1.”

Adam Thielen

Adam had a troublingly polarized season last year.  After an utterly incredible start, he tailed off with a whimper in the second half.  I still don’t know if that’s means abandon ship or buy low.  Given that it’s GPP and Minnesota is thin at WR, I’ll probably be dipping into Thielen to find out the hard way.

Sterling Shepard

These next 4 games should clearly have a stranglehold on passing targets for the Giants.  The real question is how much is that worth?  I’ll probably have some but don’t think it’ll be all that much Shepard in my lines.

Odell Beckham

Getting tons of love this offseason and is now embedded with Mr. Swagger himself.  At nosebleed prices, I’d rather wait a few games to see how it pans out in Cleveland before investing.

Edit: reports of his injury make this a much easier decision to fade him as his ownership will still be high if he’s playing.

Kenny Golladay

He’s in my dummy line right now.  I’m expecting a nice leap forward this year given both expected improvement and that Stafford should regress to the mean as well.  Arizona also a nice matchup, especially if the hype on their offense is even remotely accurate.

Dede Westbrook

I mentioned earlier that Fournette is not the piece of Jacksonville to grab this week.  While we still have no idea which receivers will get the lion’s share or if there will even be a lion’s share, I’ll probably have some Westbrook in GPP but not cash.

DK Metcalf

Rookie WR, first game, highly owned, nope.

Albert Wilson

Nostalgia doesn’t make someone chalk.  Let Albert earn that ownership by proving he’s legit.  He used to be a great low owned pivot, now he’s just irrational chalk.

Tyrell Williams

Another late addition to chalk talk.  The AB suspension looks serious.  Not just that, but Vegas moved it from a pickem to DEN -3.  A single player moving the line by 3 points because he might get suspended is a testimony to how truly amazing he is.  To the best of my knowledge, only 2 RB have the ability to move Vegas lines and they are Saquon and Ezekiel.  With Carr needing to throw it to someone, Raiders receivers are all going to get massive ownership boosts.  I’ll be monitoring this, I think Williams will be primary beneficiary if AB is out, but it’s still not an easy matchup and he could struggle as DEN game plans against him as the main receiving threat.  I’ll probably play some of him unless the talk on him is nonstop.

edit: now it seems that AB will play in week 1 afterall.  This is a murky situation, which is why it could be a decent gpp flyer if there isn’t much talk about him leading up to game time

Tight Ends

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Travis Kelce

Safe and reliable.  The only weeks I don’t go heavy on Kelce will be when pricing at other positions make affording him feasible or not.

George Kittle

The stars aligned for George last year.  Having said that, it’s a game against TB so this Week I can understand but I’d still rather spend a little more for Kelce or a lot less on someone else.

Hunter Henry

Popular choice but he’s got a lot of rust to shake off.  I know I mentioned pricing differences between sites doesn’t matter too much but on DK he’s just so absurdly cheap that it’s hard to fade.

Evan Engram

He’s going to quite reasonably get a lot of targets on a depleted receiving corps.  I can get behind this kind of chalk.

Austin Hooper

I get that he’s a cheap option but don’t like all the discussion of him being a good player.  If you are playing Hooper that’s very reasonable, but if you’re playing him because of “talent” and not price then you’re going to have a difficult time consistently winning in DFS.  Anyone can have a good week, that doesn’t make you good.  This isn’t a knock on Hooper, just reality that he’s not anywhere close to as good as people make him out to be at times.

edit: reports that Julio may not play give him a much bigger ownership boost than production boost, even more reason to fade in my mind




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About DFSx42

DFSx42 is a tech consultant who built his own models for DFS. He's a cash game specialist that primarily plays on Yahoo as "Adam" where you can see his H2Hs for every sport and every slate. Recently finished 5th overall in the Yahoo Cup, a season long DFS league with over 100k competitors. Yahoo Cup Standings

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