Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor for Super Bowl LIV
Everybody wants a close game. Blowouts are boring, and having drama all the way to the end will always leave a more cuddly feeling in your stomach.
At first glance, Super Bowl LIV is shaping up to be exactly that. The spread for Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers is the Chiefs by 1.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook, and you can get it down to just a point at some other books. That's about as tight as you can get.
Bookmakers are really good at what they do, and it's abundantly necessary that we put stock into what they say about the way a game will play out. Therefore, our baseline assumption should be that this is a tight, higher-scoring game with the total up at 54.5.
But that's not going to happen every time. Sometimes, it'll be the Chiefs' passing game lighting up the scoreboard, and others, the 49ers will use their nasty ground attack and smothering defense to pull away for a win. It's not our preferred outcome, but it could very easily happen, and we have to account for that when building lineups for daily fantasy football.
When you're playing single-game DFS, you're not building a lineup for how things could play out. You're building it for who would benefit if things play out in a specific way. It's either a blowout, or it's not, and our lineups should align with how we see things happening.
If you're filling out just one lineup, congratulations on your restraint. Make your best guess for how you think the game will go down and build a lineup with players who would interact well together if you were to wind up being right. Hedging makes you feel better when you are building, but it's not going to lead to a profit.
Because of this, we're going to change things up within this week's piece. Usually, we just run through the various injuries and usage changes impacting the slate; instead, we'll run through various game scenarios and discuss which players would benefit most from a game playing out that way.
All salaries referenced will be from the FanDuel single-game slate. For those of you who haven't played single-game offerings on FanDuel before, the MVP slot is a player who receives a 1.5x multiplier on their FanDuel-point total, and the salary to use them in the MVP slot is the same as it would be if you wanted to use them in a regular slot.
Because bookmakers are good at what they do, let's start here. The most likely outcome seems to be a back-and-forth affair in which the game comes down to the final few possessions, so let's run through who would benefit if this does, in fact, happen.
The big benefactor here would seemingly be Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo has thrown a grand total of 27 passes during the postseason, largely because his team has put the game on ice from the jump. They've still been super run-heavy with just a 37% pass rate when the game has been within a score, according to Sharp Football Stats, but Garoppolo's volume has clearly been capped due to the script.
The big question we have here is what the 49ers will do when the game is close. Will they continue to lean on the ground attack, or will they finally let Garoppolo out of his cage?
The Chiefs finished the year ranked 28th against the rush, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP is the metric numberFire uses to track the expected points added or subtracted on each play throughout the year, giving us a measure of each team's and player's efficiency. For the full season, the Chiefs were pretty brutal here.
They did get better as the season went along, though, and we saw them shut down Derrick Henry in the conference championship. Some of the credit for that likely belongs to Mike Pennel, whom the team signed mid-season and thrust on the field in Week 8.
Pennel was nowhere near an every-down player, so looking at his on-off splits will be a bit deceptive. However, when Pennel was on the field, the team allowed just 3.74 yards per carry, according to The Quant Edge's injury tool. If we take a broader look and just check out how the team performed prior to Pennel's arrival versus after, attempting to account for the times he wasn't on the field, here's what we get. "Success Rate" is the percentage of rush attempts that increased the team's expected points for the drive.
|RBs vs. Chiefs||Yards Per Carry||Rushing NEP per Carry||Rushing Success Rate|
|Weeks 1 to 7||4.99||0.07||51.1%|
|Week 8 On||4.58||0.07||43.4%|
Teams still had above-average metrics against the Chiefs after Pennel joined the team, so this is not a good rush defense, and you can attack them on the ground. It's just not as glaring of a weakness as it was previously.
Pennel and Chris Jones also provide strength where the 49ers' offensive line is weakest: up the gut. They lost center Weston Richburg for the season back in Week 14 and haven't really felt the effects yet. It's possible Pennel and Jones could expose that weakness and at least slightly restrict the 49ers' ground game.
There are two effects there. The first is that it should boost our expected volume for Garoppolo, especially in the assumed neutral script here. The second is that it may make Raheem Mostert less appealing in this scenario.
Mostert would be the assumed every-down back if Tevin Coleman were to miss this game. But Coleman is reportedly making progress in his recovery from a shoulder injury and is questionable to play on Sunday. If Coleman goes, that might divide up some of the early-down work.
That's concerning with Mostert because he doesn't get work as a pass-catcher, netting no more than three targets in any game this year. Obviously, Mostert is a rockstar play in the lineups where we assume the 49ers cruise, but with his salary at $13,500, he's not a must-use play in an assumed neutral script.
Instead, we might want to opt for members of the 49ers' pass-catching corps there. The muted volume during the playoffs has pushed George Kittle's salary down to $11,500, and both Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders are below $9,000. If the 49ers throw more than they have, all three shape up as bargains.
Kittle and Samuel seem to stand out most there. Our most relevant sample on these players is from Week 13 on. That was when Samuel's involvement shot up as he played 96.5% of the snaps, his highest mark of the year. Samuel has played at least 78.0% of the snaps in each game since, a number he hit only three times prior to Week 13.
If we narrow the scope to just Week 13 on, here's the target distribution for the 49ers' pass-catchers, with a "deep" target being at least 16 yards downfield.
|Week 13 On||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Kittle has been the clear target monster here, both in the overall sense and in tight near the goal line. In scripts where you assume the 49ers throw even a bit, he's highly desirable, and you can consider him at times for your MVP slot.
Samuel is $1,000 more than Sanders, so they're in roughly the same ballpark. Straight up, Samuel is the better option because he gets more high-leverage targets and adds in rushing volume to boot. If you need the savings, though, Sanders has still been involved enough to pay off if the 49ers throw more than 20 times.
As for Kendrick Bourne, he's only $500 less than Sanders, and his snap rate craters when the team goes into a rush-heavy attack. Bourne's main appeal seems to be in scenarios where you expect the 49ers to have to throw a bunch, making him an option in an assumed Chiefs blowout. Otherwise, we should likely find the $500 to get up to Sanders.
On the Chiefs' side, a back-and-forth affair means Patrick Mahomes will be involved the entire time. Whereas Garoppolo becomes viable in this assumed game script, Mahomes becomes a must-use player and the top option for your MVP slot.
Between the regular season and playoffs combined, the Chiefs threw 64% of the time when the game was within one score, the second-highest rate in the league. They ran just six times the entire first half of the AFC Championship, and half of those were by Mahomes. Unless the Chiefs get up big, they're going to put the game in Mahomes' hands, as well they should.
One aspect that could give you pause about going all in on Mahomes is the matchup. The 49ers finished the regular season ranked second against the pass, according to numberFire's metrics, and they gave Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins a world of trouble en route to the Super Bowl. Mahomes, though, was matchup-proof in the regular season.
Overall, Mahomes had just three games against top-10 pass defenses. But in those games, he had 0.34 Passing NEP per drop back, the best mark of anybody in football with at least 100 drop backs against that tough of an opponent. The second-best mark came from Matthew Stafford at 0.24, so Mahomes wasn't only the best; he was an outlier.
Mahomes has also been adding to his fantasy appeal recently by using his legs more often. Through Week 16, Mahomes' maximum rushing attempts in a game this year was six. Week 17 was a must-win game if they wanted to get a bye, and he ran seven times there. He then ran seven times in the divisional round and eight in their win over the Tennessee Titans. His 42.3 rushing yards per game in that span equates to an additional passing touchdown, which provides a boost to both his floor and his ceiling.
Our baseline assumption going in should be that Mahomes will move the ball through the air efficiently, and he'll add juice with his rushing. In a neutral script, that's MVP material, and he should be a fixture in that slot when this is your assumed game flow.
With Mostert, there was risk around him in a neutral script because he doesn't get work as a receiver and may lose some touches to Coleman. Neither of those concerns apply to Damien Williams, meaning he works well alongside Mahomes in these lineups.
In the two playoff games, Williams has played 96.9% and 85.3% of the snaps, respectively. He has been the lone ranger in that backfield, and it has allowed him to average 14.5 carries and 6.0 targets per game. Williams had more targets in the conference championship than Mostert has in the past four games combined.
Clearly, there's a ton of juice in the ground-game work Mostert gets, and he would project to get a ton of volume there, as well, if the 49ers were to pull ahead. But if we're assuming a neutral script like we are here, then Williams has a major leg up on Mostert for only $500 more.
The Chiefs' pass-catchers -- for obvious reasons -- won't come at the same discount as the 49ers'. Travis Kelce is $12,500, Tyreek Hill is $12,000, and Sammy Watkins is $10,500, meaning they're all at least $2,000 more expensive than Samuel. So, when we're deciding to splurge, what's our best outlet for doing so?
The best sample we'll get here is from the two playoff games. The Chiefs would rotate receivers a bit during the regular season so that Hill and Watkins could catch a breather. Hill's playoff snap rates rank first and third for the full season in games where Mahomes played, so Mahomes' 70 pass attempts during the playoffs should give us the best idea of what to expect on Sunday.
|During Playoffs||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
This table further bolsters the case for using Williams regardless of script. It may also push you toward Kelce and away from Hill, but we might not quite want to take that step.
The strength of the 49ers' defense is in its ability to shut down the middle of the field. No team allowed fewer receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season than the 49ers. They also allowed the fourth-fewest yards to wide receivers because their defense was so good, but they're equipped well to counter someone like Kelce.
When you start to look at the players who did get volume against the 49ers, a theme starts to pop up. A lot of them were guys with lethal speed.
The 49ers allowed at least eight targets to 11 different wide receivers this year. Five of them had a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 or better at the combine (a 95th-percentile mark for a wide receiver, according to Player Profiler), and the median 40-time was 4.42. That would seem to bode well for Hill.
Truthfully, this just bodes well for the Chiefs in general. Watkins ran a 4.43 40 at the combine, and Mecole Hardman was at 4.33. The way to beat the 49ers is with speed, and the Chiefs have that flowing out of their ears. The speed element is part of why we should favor Hill over Kelce in a more neutral script, but it also boosts our inclination to load up on Mahomes.
Speaking of Hardman, if you want to jam Mahomes and Garoppolo into the same lineup, you're going to need value. That could be Samuel or Sanders, but Hardman is also super intriguing at $6,000.
In the conference championship, Hardman ran 22 routes, according to Pro Football Focus. That was his most the entire season in a game where Hill was fully healthy, and it came the week after Demarcus Robinson struggled mightily with drops. It probably wasn't a coincidence. Now, it makes schematic sense to get Hardman involved.
The Chiefs occasionally get the ball in Hardman's hands in creative ways, and he has the talent to convert those into points. If you get one big play out of a guy at $6,000, you're sitting pretty. Among the super cheap value options, Hardman seems to be the one with the most luster, and he works really well in these neutral-script lineups where we're trying to jam in the most expensive players of the slate.
In the back-and-forth games, it makes a lot of sense to slot Mahomes in as your MVP because that would imply he's getting volume aplenty as a passer. He should still be your most-utilized MVP in Chiefs-heavy lineups. But Williams climbs steadily up the ladder in those scenarios.
Because of the high-leverage targets we saw out of Williams earlier, it's clear that touchdowns are firmly within his grasp. That helps him boast a ceiling without big yardage.
But if the Chiefs also manage to build a lead -- potentially thanks to Williams' touchdowns -- it'll inflate his volume late in the game. As mentioned, the Chiefs ran Williams just three times in the first half against the Titans, but he still finished that game with 17 carries as they tried to ice things away late.
In all this year, Williams has played at least two-thirds of the snaps in six games (a mark he cleared by a wide margin in the two playoff games). In those six games, Williams has averaged 19.9 FanDuel points per game, including 29.4 in their regular season finale. Williams is a really intriguing MVP option in the lineups where you assume the Chiefs roll.
You could make a case for Hill and Kelce in those scenarios because both have clear paths to a ceiling game. If you're filling out a bunch of lineups, Mahomes, Williams, Hill, and Kelce all make sense as the MVP in a heavy Chiefs lineup. If you're doing a more limited number (or playing in a single-entry contest), then Mahomes and Williams are your best bets.
This is also the type of build where you'll want to check out the Chiefs' kicker, Harrison Butker. Butker is $9,500, making him $1,000 cheaper than Watkins. That's good value for someone who would clearly be involved if the game breaks this way.
The Chiefs won seven games during the regular season by 10 or more points. In those games, Butker had double-digit points five times, maxing out at 17 and averaging 10.1. Having a path to 10 to 15 points out of a player in Butker's salary tier is valuable, and his best script is a game where the Chiefs have the luxury to kick field goals late.
For each lineup you play, you must include at least one player on each team. For the Chiefs-heavy lineups, you'll want to max them out at four players most of the time. In those lineups, the best route is likely spending down for your San Francisco player and targeting either Samuel or Sanders.
Both Garoppolo and Kittle would project for more volume in this script, which is valuable for them. But if the Chiefs are running away with it, it implies that the 49ers aren't finding the end zone offensively, which puts a major dent in the appeal of the entire team, especially a touchdown-dependent position like quarterback.
Because of this, our goal should be to spend as little as possible on the opposing team. That's what ups the appeal in Samuel and Sanders as they're $3,000 and $4,000 cheaper than Kittle, respectively. Kittle's the clear-cut top option in other scripts, even accounting for his salary, but in this scenario, we'll likely want to spend down most of the time.
This is a scenario that's going to depend heavily on the news we get on Coleman prior to kickoff.
If Coleman is out, then we should expect to see a whole lotta Mostert, as we did in the conference championship. There, Mostert played a whopping 81.8% of the snaps, getting 29 carries and 2 targets. Matt Breida was active, but it didn't matter; Mostert was their bellcow.
If Coleman sits, then Mostert is intriguing in a neutral script, and he becomes the top MVP candidate in your lineups where you assume the 49ers roll. His appeal there is massive.
If Coleman plays, it's a bit more of a question mark. After all, Coleman was out-carrying Mostert, 17-12, in the divisional round before Mostert left due to a cramp. It was also Coleman who got the first carry of the game in the conference championship, and the two had six carries apiece at the time of Coleman's departure. It's possible Coleman wouldn't be able to handle a full load if he were active, but we should at least expect things to be split a bit.
Because of this, things get murky at the MVP slot in the lineups where Coleman is active and we assume the 49ers roll. Mostert's still viable for your MVP slot (Coleman showed in the divisional round that a back on this team can be the highest-scorer even without 100% of the work), but it definitely makes that a shakier proposition.
Garoppolo is also a bit of a tough sell in those scenarios. In games the 49ers won by 10 or more points this year, Garoppolo averaged 13.3 FanDuel points per game. That's opposed to 18.9 in the games they won by a tighter margin. He's like Mostert where he's a legit option if you assume the 49ers roll because the touchdowns could easily break in his favor, but nobody here is a slam dunk.
As a result of all of these factors, this script may be the one where we use Kittle most heavily in the MVP slot. He'd likely still be a hair behind Mostert and Garoppolo, but he'd be spicy for sure.
As mentioned before, Kittle has been a focal points for the 49ers' offense of late, getting a ton of overall looks and plenty near the end zone. It's easy to envision a multi-touchdown day coming his way.
He also gets an elite matchup. The Chiefs allowed the fifth-most receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season while allowing the fewest to wide receivers. You have to assume the Chiefs will have Tyrann Mathieu covering Kittle at times, but Kittle has a 60-pound, seven-inch advantage over Mathieu. From a matchup perspective, Kittle brings a lot to the table.
Whereas we concentrated the MVP slot pretty heavily on Mahomes and Williams with the Chiefs-heavy lineups, when we stack up the 49ers, it makes more sense to spread things out. Mostert, Garoppolo, and Kittle all have paths to being the highest scorer, but they've also all got their flaws. It's wise to account for that in our MVP allocations.
A scenario where the 49ers win in a blowout is unlikely to lead to major fantasy outputs for anybody, unless that guy is Mostert if Coleman sits. In other words, our pool of players who will put up double-digit points is likely to be pretty small in this scenario. As such, Robbie Gould is a borderline must-play if we go this route.
Gould averaged 9.6 FanDuel points per game in those the 49ers won by 10 or more points, up from 8.5 in games they won by tighter margins. In this scenario, he's likely to be one of the five highest-scoring players on the slate, putting him in a good spot to pay off his $9,000 salary.
If you want a Hardman-esque option in the value tier for the 49ers, Kyle Juszczyk is likely your guy. He has had multiple targets in seven of 14 games this year, and he actually has four deep targets. You could use Jeff Wilson in the event Coleman sits, praying for a goal-line touchdown, but Juszczyk is a bigger lock to be on the field and wouldn't need much to come through. At $6,000, that would certainly work, and he fits with this strategy well where you assume the 49ers put up a big number.
Given how aggressive people have been in betting up the total, it seems unlikely that this one happens. But it also means builds that assume a low-scoring game will be more contrarian, so it's at least worth discussing.
In a game where you assume points are at a premium, you want to focus on players who are less dependent on touchdowns. In other words, you want to downgrade the quarterbacks significantly because the position is so skewed toward scoring.
In last year's 13-3 win for the New England Patriots, neither quarterback hit double digits in scoring, nor did either kicker. Instead, it was the skill-position players who came out with the fewest bruises.
This is a scenario where you want to put a heavy emphasis on yardage instead of points. Think about the players who can get chunk yardage and who get enough volume to naturally stumble their way into yardage. Those are the ones who will fit best.
This is a build where it may make sense to utilize both Williams and Mostert. Mostert has high efficiency levels as a rusher, and Williams can get his yardage as a pass-catcher. You don't have to eliminate Mahomes and Garoppolo from your pool entirely in these spots -- especially with Mahomes' rushing being up -- but we should just consciously put a premium on yardage when we assume points are few and far between.