Week 1 DFS Lessons Learned

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Week 1 DFS Lessons Learned

My Week 1 cash game article, as I mention in the piece, was the first official DFS-only article I’ve ever written. So while I’ve played plenty of DFS over the last 4-5 years, I’m still very new to actually sticking my neck out in an article with predictions, recommendations, etc. And when I stick my neck out and wind up being wrong, I don’t like that… so I want to pay careful attention to the mistakes I make, so I don’t make them again.

Week 1 wasn’t considered a good week for DFS, and my picks and lineups weren’t great, but I did score 151.5 and 150.5 for the two lineups published Saturday that are 100% over. I find that ironic, since I said my goal with my lineups was to average a rock-solid 150 points on the season. I will probably be just a shade under that 150 goal after tonight’s games, but Week 1 could have been worse.

But since I quickly recognized some of the mistakes I made, I thought it will be a good exercise to write about them so I can learn from those mistakes, and hopefully you can learn with me. I’ll do this in some way, shape, or form here every Monday. Hopefully, the article gets shorter and shorter as the season progresses, meaning I’ll be making fewer and fewer mistakes.

I have some smaller lessons below, but I can summarize Week 1 with one very simple lesson:

If a player is chalk but also has some legit issues/concerns, you’re probably better off passing him on him.

I haven’t paid too much attention to the whole chalk thing because I’m not looking to take down any big tournaments, but I should have listened to my gut when I saw that DeSean Jackson was the “chalkiest” pick of the week on DK on our DFS Ownership Projections. The problem was, this information can’t be and isn’t posted until Saturday, and I was already 3-4 days into being “all-in” on Jackson for the week, so I didn’t want to bail at the last minute. But I should have because, when our NFL Insider Adam Caplan told me Saturday that Jalen Reagor was going to play a lot (he played 60% of the snaps), my spidey sense went off and told me Jackson was going to crap the bed. What ultimately happened was that Jackson’s snaps were somewhat limited, perhaps due to it being their first real game (other teams limited snaps around the league, too). In retrospect, it’s easy to say that his snap percentage was a concern in the first game of 2020, but Jackson’s obviously a guy who can do a lot with a little, so snaps weren’t as big of a problem as their decimated OL and tough matchup upfront. Sure, the Redskin secondary is vulnerable--it’s the main reason I liked D-Jax in the first place--but it’s a moot point if the OL can’t protect the QB making deep drops, and that was the main problem for Carson Wentz and the Eagles in Week 1.

Jackson was dirt cheap, so it’s unfair to say he was a bad play now that the results are in. But the fact that he was the chalkiest guy on DK this week set off an alarm in my brain, and I should have PIVOTED to someone else once I saw RT Lane Johnson was out (he was all kinds of banged up even if he played). So the lesson learned is, I’m not entirely against going with chalk in a cash game, but if there are legit concerns about negative factors affecting the player, I think I’m fading chalky plays going forward. Fading Jackson this past week would have increased my chances of winning, since Jackson crapped so many beds in Week 1.

As for Hayden Hurst, I actually wrote, when I picked him as a player prop for this week, that he “seemed too good to be true” in this matchup, and I was right about that because his QB threw the ball 54 damn times and racked up 450 yards passing. Hurt’s prop was freaking 38.5 yards, which I thought was very low, and I lost that one by a half a yard. Hurst did come close to scoring a TD, which would have salvaged his day and won me the prop pick, but Hurst, in retrospect, was a shakier play in his first game as a Falcon. Although Matt Ryan has loved working with him this summer and the vibes have been great, it was Hurst’s first game as a Falcon with the bullets flying for real. These next 2-3 games should be revealing for Hurst, who I continue to root for as a person but who continues to underwhelm as an actual fantasy asset. At some point, the guy has to, you know, actually do something.

Chalky fill-in RBs are dangerous

With this one I feel like the chalk factor is the biggest problem because a backup RB who is dirt cheap and thrust into a larger role due to an injury ahead of him can certainly come through nicely for you. But similar to Jackson, Boston Scott was both chalky and also dealing with a negative factor that looked like it could be seriously detrimental. So again, if I like a chalky pick in the future, I’m going to be careful to take a close look at the situation in case there are some negative elements in play for the player, like Scott’s decimated OL.

And for what it’s worth, it feels like these fill-in types have come up small way more often than they have come through lately, dating back to last year. It’s just so tempting to get behind a dirt-cheap RB who’s cheap in DFS because he’s not locked into a large role when the salary is set early in the week, and then he’s theoretically thrust into a large role due to an injury ahead of him on the depth chart. Scott did come through in three of the four games late last year, when his role increased dramatically, which I was certainly considering when recommending him, but again, his team’s OL issues brought him down. So again: Chalk + downside concerns = avoid.

When in-game performance is everything, you may have nothing

Yes, even more chalk talk! I, along with several other million people, got burned by Antonio Gibson yesterday. I did my best to stay conservative with his actual projection, giving him only 8 carries and 3 catches. He had 9 carries and 2 catches, so I actually did get the touch total exactly right at 11. Given his explosiveness, though, I gave him way too many yards per catch and carry, but the real issue was him playing only 26% of the snaps.

I actually did know that his snaps and touches would likely be determined by his in-game performance, that’s mostly common sense in his first game with no preseason game action under his belt. But I was overly excited about his prospects in general. And again, Gibson was the fourth chalkiest play on the board in Week 1, which, if it happened this week, would give me serious pause given how things played out in Week 1. A lot of people went in blind with no real handle on his playing time, and they all got burned. So in the future, if there’s no real handle on playing and he’s chaky, I’m probably out.

Sometimes, logic is overrated

And that’s not good for me, since I hang my hat on basic logic more than most. While I actually wrote in Chris Thompson’s blurb that it was “a little scary for me to advocate because it feels like it’s been a decade since he had any fantasy juice,” logic said he was a play, as the Jags were 7.5 underdogs against the Colts, who gave up the most catches to RBs last year. And we know Thompson played for OC Jay Gruden, that James Robinson was just a rookie, etc. Thompson may be fine in future weeks, but the logic didn’t work out in Week 1. It’s possible Gardner Minshew isn’t going to be good for Thompson, but the real issue was the fact that he threw it only 20 times. Thompson was also pretty chalky, though, and he’s Chris Thompson, who hasn’t had a big game in like 24 months.

Some other smaller lessons learned from Week 1:

  • I probably need to bail on some guys who might be affected by late-breaking injury news - with Jimmy Garoppolo, I did say that he should get a solid 18-20 DK points, which he did, but I didn’t know he would not have Brandon Aiyuk on Sunday, so I got a little lucky thanks to Raheem Mostert’s 76-yard TD pass.

  • Bengals gonna Bengal - I thought I was being slick by backing rookie Joe Burrow Week 1, but that was not slick, and “Bengals gonna Bengal” was my thought after the game. I also had Joe Mixon in one of my lineups, and Mixon continues to be hurt by his shaky situation… namely his poor OL and a lack of work in the passing game. For now, we know Gio Bernard is very much in play in the passing game. Burrow’s first NFL throw was a pass to Mixon, but it’s not like they were playing from way behind and using Gio in that environment, so it’s a concern for Mixon.

  • I didn’t write him up, but I did list Mark Ingram, who was affordable, with the comment: “always a threat for multiple scores.” Apparently, JK Dobbins is also a threat for that, so last week may be the last time I even list Ingram. Of course, I also may not list Dobbins, who did actually outsnap Ingram barely in a blowout win, but still had only 7 opportunities. They both had 0 targets, so it’s all about who gets lucky with the short TDs.

Otherwise, while it wasn’t a very good week, I can live with some of other the “mistakes” like:

  • Backing Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee - Goff and the Rams looked good overall, so what can you do? Robert Woods, who I did love this summer and who we ranked over Kupp this preseason, did look amazing.

  • Going for it with Marvin Jones, who was very chalky. Obviously, no Kenny Golladay was huge, but it didn’t work out for Jones. That’s football for you.

  • I’m still trying to figure out how to predict injuries, so I can’t beat myself up over endorsing Marlon Mack and George Kittle, although the Mack recommendation wasn’t great with Nyheim Hines lurking and being very capable. Mack is lost for the season, so things should be cleared up from this point forward.

I did have some solid hits like Mitchell Trubisky (I hated myself for two hours Sunday for listing him), Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Ryan, Josh Jacobs, Marquise Brown, Davante Adams, Jamison Crowder, Anthony Miller, DK Metcalf, Mark Andrews, and TJ Hockenson, and some other decent picks, but I need my MNF recommendations of James Conner, Diontae Johnson, AJ Brown, Noah Fant, and Ryan Tannehill to pan out to salvage the week. If 3-4 of those five pop, it’ll go down as a solid week in a week that was, overall, not great for DFS.

Armed with Week 1’s lessons learned, I’ll be back in Week 2, and hopefully with some better picks!

Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer John Hansen has been an industry leader and pioneer since 1995, when he launched Fantasy Guru. His content has been found over the years on ESPN.com, NFL.com, SiriusXM, DirecTV, Yahoo!, among others outlets. In 2015 he sold Fantasy Guru and in 2020 founded FantasyPoints.com.