Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor for Super Bowl LV
Sitting here on Thursday, there are still a bunch of ways Super Bowl LV could play out.
The Kansas City Chiefs could do what they did to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their regular-season meeting and go full nuclear, breaking records in the first half. The Bucs' defense could take advantage of the Chiefs' offensive-line injuries and keep the game low-scoring. It could be a shootout with the winner being decided on the final drive.
Those are all possibilities right now. But when the clock hits zero on Sunday night, there will be just one reality.
We're not going to have 60% odds that the Chiefs won then; it's going to be either they won or they lost. The game was high-scoring or not. Instead of having multiple paths, we'll have just one outcome.
Clearly, those paths are going to influence the way we build lineups for single-game daily fantasy. If the Chiefs win in a blowout, we probably shouldn't make Tom Brady our MVP selection. If the Bucs win, the value in taking stabs at their backfield goes up. Jamming in both quarterbacks for a shootout has more appeal than when the game falls short of the total. We should allow these differences to guide us as we fill out our rosters.
In other words, we need to make assumptions. Before you fill out a lineup, first figure out how you see the game playing out. You could have the bookmakers absolutely nailing this, in which case you'd assume it's a high-scoring, tight game. Alternatively, you could deviate from the consensus and have one team winning in a landslide or have it be a game starved for points.
This means when making these assumptions, you have to be okay with being wrong. You have to be comfortable with filling out lineups that look wretched after the fact. But with all the top-heavy tournaments for Sunday, there's no difference between finishing dead last and just outside the cash line. If you multi-enter and don't have bad lineups after the fact, you are either dabbling in dark magic or losing money long-term.
So, although we're going to break down how various injuries and role changes are impacting each player's outlook for Sunday's game, that's not the most important thing here. First, you've got to decide how this game will play out. Simply picking an obscure path there can allow you to be different from the crowd without picking sub-optimal players. We'll talk about how various players fit within each assumption throughout the piece, but this is where lineup-building begins.
With that disclaimer in hand, let's actually dive into Super Bowl LV and dissect how we should view the various players involved. We'll start things off in the MVP slot and then run through how to fill out the other four slots on your roster.
Mahomes v. Brady
The narrative around this Super Bowl is bound to center around the two quarterbacks, and it's for good reason. One is the best of all time, and the other is firmly on the path to challenging him for that throne. It's easy to see why this discussion is happening.
The discussion is similar when deciding who to plug into your MVP slot.
On FanDuel, the goal of the MVP slot is simply picking who will be the highest-scoring player in the game. The player you use in the MVP slot has the same salary as if you were to use them anywhere else, so you're just picking the guy who hangs the most points. Easy.
Most of the time, that guy will be one of the quarterbacks.
To illustrate this, let's look back at each team's highest-scorer for their games thus far. This will be based on just raw FanDuel points. Because of the role game script plays, the chart also includes the final margin and the total points scored in the game. Here's that breakdown for the Chiefs, excluding when they sat starters in Week 17.
And here's the same for the Bucs.
Mahomes was the Chiefs' leading scorer in 11 of 17 relevant games; Brady had the top honor 13 of 19 times. In total, that's 66.7% of the time where it was one of those two guys. Our MVP allocation should likely reflect that rate.
The quarterback discussion isn't as noteworthy, though, because that's likely what most people will do at the MVP position. numberFire's Brandon Gdula did a writeup of single-game lineups before the season and found that people use a quarterback at MVP 49.9% of the time. The second most common position, though, is running back, and that's a tougher sell with these two specific teams, so we can safely assume the public will have either Brady or Mahomes in the MVP slot at minimum two-thirds of the time. So, in what types of presumed scripts should we deviate?
A tighter, high-scoring game seems to be the optimal situation for using either Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill. Mahomes was the highest scorer in 6 of 10 games (60.0%) decided by one score compared to 5 of 7 (71.4%) when the Chiefs won by wider margins. In the six games where Kelce or Hill were the top performers, the average total points for both sides was 56.0, right in line with Sunday's total. It was 49.2 in the games where Mahomes topped the charts. So, in the spots where you assume the game plays out the way bookmakers view it, you have increased wiggle room to deviate from Mahomes.
Things are a bit different on the Bucs' side. They had eight one-score games this year; Brady was the top scorer in seven of those. The six non-Brady games featured point differentials of +14, +28, -35, -3, +40, and +17. When it was at the extremes, it was often a secondary piece; in a tight script, Brady was the guy. There was minimal difference in the game-wide scoring averages for Brady versus non-Brady lineups.
That sets us up with at least some takeaways with regards to the MVP slot.
1. Our baseline assumption should be that Brady or Mahomes will be the optimal MVP.
2. We should bump up Brady, Hill, and Kelce when we assume the game stays close.
3. Mahomes gets a boost if we assume the Chiefs roll.
4. The non-Brady players become enticing if we think the Bucs lay the hammer.
That's the broad thinking when it comes to the MVP slot, and it's where you should start your lineup-building. The MVP will be the slot most heavily influenced by the way the game plays out, so they're tied tightly to your assumed script. Let's dig into what you should do beyond that, starting with the moving pieces on the Chiefs' side.
Keeping Tabs on CEH and Watkins
As of today, it seems as though the Chiefs are trending toward full health among their skill-position players. That requires some tweaking from how we viewed them in the conference championships.
Specifically, the backfield dynamic is different now. Clyde Edwards-Helaire got in a full practice Wednesday, meaning he's far healthier than he was two weeks ago. There, he was limited throughout the week and listed as questionable. It allowed Darrel Williams to play a big role as he led the team with 13 carries to Edwards-Helaire's six.
Other numbers in that game, though, showed a tighter split. Here's the overall workload breakdown for the two. The "Adj. Opp." column stands for "adjusted opportunities," or carries plus two times the player's target total. That adjustment is made because targets are worth twice as much as carries for running backs on FanDuel.
|In Conference Championship||Snaps||Carries||Targets||Adj. Opp.||Yards||RZ Share|
Edwards-Helaire actually out-snapped Williams, and he ran seven more routes, according to Pro Football Focus. Four of those routes came when he was lined up as a wide receiver. So although Williams was the lead back, Edwards-Helaire was very much involved. Now, he's had two additional weeks to get healthy.
It also might make more sense to feature Edwards-Helaire in this game over Williams. He was used in the more versatile fashion in the conference championship, and the Chiefs also seemed to prefer him as a pass-blocker (seven pass-blocking snaps versus two, per PFF). If they're worried about protection with the injuries up front, that could skew things toward Edwards-Helaire. In a likely pass-heavy script against a stout rush defense, things do set up well for Edwards-Helaire.
Edwards-Helaire is the higher-salaried option between the two, which plays to our advantage. This will likely push the public more toward Williams than Edwards-Helaire when deciding between the two, allowing us to get Edwards-Helaire at decreased popularity. We should likely try to have more Edwards-Helaire on our rosters than the public does as a result of all of these factors.
As for Sammy Watkins' return, it would impact some of the value options on the Chiefs. We can reasonably consider all of Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson when trying to save salary. Watkins' return just makes it tougher to decide who would be the optimal choice.
The one guy who could be in play regardless of Watkins' status is Hardman. Watkins was able to play five games earlier in the year following his first injury, returning just in time for the first meeting between these two teams. In that five-game stretch, he and Hardman actually had equal target shares. Here, a "deep" target is one at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|Weeks 12 to 16||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Not only did Hardman equal Watkins in the overall department, but he was the guy getting the downfield looks. Hardman has 50-plus yards from scrimmage in both playoff games and has the ability to bust a long one. He's the preferred value option on the Chiefs' side.
Watkins' return would most negatively impact Pringle. In the conference championship, Pringle ran more routes and played more snaps than Robinson, and he's actually third on the team in targets during the playoffs. But Pringle ran 14 of 31 routes from the slot, per Pro Football Focus, a distribution similar to what Watkins does when healthy. Robinson -- as more of the outside receiver -- would likely undergo less of a role change. If Watkins can't go, Pringle is pretty enticing at $6,000. If Watkins does play, it puts a big dent in Pringle's appeal.
The main scenario where you have to obsess over the Chiefs' value options is when you're jamming in Mahomes. His salary is $16,500, and that does put some constraints on the rest of your roster, especially if you want Brady, Hill, or Kelce. There is one work-around, though, that can decrease our reliance on the value options.
During the playoffs, the Chiefs have absolutely pumped all volume possible to Hill and Kelce. They've handled a whopping 62.7% of the overall looks and almost all the high-leverage targets.
|In Playoffs||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
This means that almost every throw Mahomes makes will result in potential points for one of those two. And -- unless Mahomes gets a bunch of rushing production -- almost every point he scores will be tied to those two.
This allows us to benefit from Mahomes' greatness without having him on our roster. By using both Hill and Kelce, our score is going up for most of the Chiefs' big plays, but we get to save a decent chunk of salary. It would also give us a different lineup construction with most rosters likely to include Mahomes.
This is not a must-use strategy by any means. As mentioned at the top, Mahomes is likely to be the highest-scoring player in the game (39.8% of the time, per numberFire's Brandon Gdula and his simulations), so we can't just toss him out of the player pool. But it is something to consider if you want to decrease your reliance on value plays without missing out on the Chiefs' dominance through the air.
Playoff Lenny and Monitoring Antonio Brown
The Bucs' side of things is almost a full copy of the Chiefs': guessing on the backfield and keeping tabs on a receiver.
The backfield side of things here is clearer than with the Chiefs, though. It seems as if Leonard Fournette has taken over as the team's preferred back.
Entering the conference championships, that was more up for debate. Ronald Jones had been questionable for the divisional round but still got some work as a rusher. Then, he practiced in full the Friday before the conference championship and was taken off the injury report.
It didn't matter. Jones' snap rate actually went down from where it had been the previous week, and Fournette dominated the backfield again. If we combine the past two games together, Fournette holds a clear advantage across the board.
|Past 2 Games||Snaps||Carries||Targets||Adj. Opp||Yards||RZ Share|
That workload for Fournette -- especially in the passing game -- is super valuable. If we assume he maintains it, he winds up being a high-quality option at $12,500.
Objectively, Fournette's salary is too high. The Chiefs are the favored side, and there's a chance Fournette doesn't keep that role. You'd hope he'd come at more of a discount.
But as with Edwards-Helaire, that means his popularity is more likely to remain in check. Having both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans right beneath him in salary will help with that cause, as well. As such, even with the salary being too high, Fournette is someone on whom we'll want to be overweight.
Fournette works well in scripts where you assume the score remains tight and where the Bucs get an early lead. Those were the two scenarios that played out the past two playoff games, and Fournette had an impressive role in both. You can turn to Jones under the assumption his role increases with more time off, but it's a lower-probability gamble. Fournette is the top running back both on this team and in the whole game.
As for the pass-catchers, it seems now as if Antonio Brown is on track to play after head coach Bruce Arians said Brown looked good during Thursday's practice. That shouldn't bother us too much when it comes to the other players here.
Brown played 45.2% of the snaps in the first round and 40.3% in the second round of the playoffs. This means we can expect that type of role at best on Sunday if he's active. He wasn't on the field at all times even before the injury.
He also wasn't taking up too many of the targets. In fact, he was at just 8.5% in the team's first two playoff games combined.
|First 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Brown was far behind both Godwin and Evans. They're the clear top options on the team whether Brown goes or not. This also means it'd be tough to justify Brown, himself, with his salary at $9,500.
As far as Godwin and Evans go, Godwin seems to hold the edge. The Chiefs' biggest issues with pass-catchers have come with slot receivers and faster players. Godwin checks both of those boxes. They've had more success against outside receivers, which is where Evans operates.
In most scenarios, we'd want to favor Evans. He gets more downfield looks and is a force near the goal line. But for this specific matchup, Godwin holds the edge between the two.
The other interesting name from that chart above is Cameron Brate. In the three playoff games, he has 149 receiving yards, and he has at least five targets in each. That's a wildly impressive role for someone with a salary of $7,000. (NOTE: Brate has since injured his back and did not practice on Friday. This lowers his outlook significantly and could result in an increased role for Gronkowski.)
We also saw the Bucs lean heavily on their tight ends the first time these two teams squared off.
|Week 12||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Gronkowski had the edge there and has run 10 more routes than Brate in the playoffs, per PFF. That at least makes Gronkowski a consideration. But with both volume and production skewing toward Brate during the playoffs, he's the top option here, and he's arguably the best value play on either team.
If Brown winds up sitting, it would give some appeal to Scotty Miller, though it's possible he'd be a bit more popular than he should be. Miller did run 20 routes in that game, so he was involved, and that's worth plenty. But he also had just three total targets, one of which turned into a long touchdown. That means he could be widely used even without a big role. That's why we should prefer Brate between the two, and that's true even if Brown can't ultimately suit up.