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DraftKings Showdown: New York Giants vs. Cleveland Browns Sunday Night Football

Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) reacts after a called fumble is confirmed on a play during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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 New York GiantsCleveland Browns as an illustration of the matching process: 2016 Week 9 DolphinsJets, featuring Ryan Tannehill as Baker Mayfield and Ryan Fitzpatrick playing the role of Colt McCoy.
  • 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 Tannehill QB MIA Baker Mayfield QB CLE
Jay Ajayi RB MIA Nick Chubb RB CLE
Jarvis Landry WR MIA Jarvis Landry WR CLE
MarQueis Gray TE MIA Austin Hooper TE CLE
Ryan Fitzpatrick QB NYJ Colt McCoy QB NYG
Matt Forte RB NYJ Wayne Gallman Jr. RB NYG
Brandon Marshall WR NYJ Sterling Shepard WR NYG
Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE NYJ Evan Engram TE NYG

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Dolphins -3.5, 45.5 O/U versus this matchup at Browns -6.5, 44 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
Jay Ajayi MIA RB CPT 25.0
Matt Forte NYJ RB FLEX 16.7
Jalin Marshall NYJ WR FLEX 14.9
Dominique Jones MIA TE FLEX 13.2
MIA DST MIA DST FLEX 13.0
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ QB FLEX 12.4

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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