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DraftKings Showdown: Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers Saturday Night Football

Cardinals' Kyler Murray (1) celebrates scoring a rushing touchdown against the Eagles during the first half at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Dec. 20, 2020. Cardinals Vs Eagles

The changing DFS and fantasy football landscape is shifting toward single-game contests. At DraftKings, the biggest is their Showdown Captain Mode format. The format blends the ease of focusing on a single game with the ability to differentiate yourself from the competition by choosing a total of six players.

Editor's note: Now available to all PFF ELITE subscribers, the NFL DFS Optimizer gives both new and die-hard DFS players an opportunity to generate optimized single lineups and multiple lineups for DFS tournaments and contests on DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo DFS.

The biggest wrinkle of the format is the ability to choose one captain, who costs and is scored at 1.5 times the standard values. The CPT designation opens up another layer of strategy while exponentially increasing the number of possible lineup combinations, which is important for reducing duplicate winners and split prizes. I wrote a primer on playing this format, with details on historical positional trends and salary usage.

This season I’m going to analyze all of the NFL’s “island” games (TNF, SNF and MNF) and playoff matchups, utilizing PFF’s weekly projections, current betting lines and millions of simulated historical combinations to identify who are the best and worst values for an upcoming matchup.

There are five main components to each Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  • A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to Arizona CardinalsSan Francisco 49ers as an illustration of the matching process: 2020 Week 6 Miami DolphinsNew York Jets, featuring Ryan Fitzpatrick as Kyler Murray and Joe Flacco playing the role of C.J. Beathard.
  • Optimal lineup allocations (CPT and total roster) for both teams based on the results of similar historical matchups.
  • Comparison of player ownership projections for FLEX and CPT produced by a model trained on 2018-2020 Showdown contest results to optimal allocations.
  • Recent CPT ownership trends illustrated for both starting lineups.
  • A table showing the most common players on optimal lineups for each player. This allows you to see which other players are commonly found on the same optimal lineups as a player you’re interested in rostering. 

METHODOLOGY

To analyze this specific Showdown slate, I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2014-2020 and found the closest analogies to this matchup according to the following parameters: betting spread, over/under, average fantasy points scoring for the top-ranked positional players of both rosters (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1).

For this game, I won’t detail every matchup that falls into the top 100, but for illustration let’s look at the most similar matchup:

Historical Current
Player Pos Team Player Pos Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick QB MIA Kyler Murray QB ARI
Myles Gaskin RB MIA Kenyan Drake RB ARI
DeVante Parker WR MIA DeAndre Hopkins WR ARI
Mike Gesicki TE MIA Dan Arnold TE ARI
Joe Flacco QB NYJ C.J. Beathard QB SF
Frank Gore RB NYJ Jeff Wilson Jr. RB SF
Jamison Crowder WR NYJ Brandon Aiyuk WR SF
Ryan Griffin TE NYJ Jordan Reed TE SF

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Dolphins -8.5, 46.5 O/U versus this matchup at Cardinals -5, 49 O/U). All the players aren’t perfect matches, but that’s why we use 100 similar matchups and not just the single most similar.

The optimal roster for that historical matchup, assuming positional salaries equaled what they are for this Showdown slate, would have been:

Player Team Position Roster Position Fantasy Pts
Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA QB CPT 18.0
Myles Gaskin MIA RB FLEX 16.6
Dolphins DST MIA DST FLEX 15.0
Adam Shaheen MIA TE FLEX 14.1
Jamison Crowder NYJ WR FLEX 11.8
Frank Gore NYJ RB FLEX 11.0

For this game and 99 other similar matchups, I calculated every possible combination that fits with Showdown rules (one CPT, at least one offensive player from each team) and would fall under the $50K salary threshold assuming the salaries for the historical similar matchups are the same as those for this contest.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CAPTAIN

The most unique part of the format, and therefore the biggest opportunity for competitive advantage, is choosing your CPT. Should you always choose a QB who typically has the highest absolute fantasy scoring? Are defenses and kickers viable options? RB vs. WR?

I went through the millions of possible lineup combinations for the 100 most similar matchups and found who the CPT selections were on the top-five scoring lineups for each matchup. Here are the 500 CPT from those matchups by position rank according to salary.

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