Stacking a quarterback with his wide receivers is the most elementary strategy in DraftKings tournaments. We’ve arrived at a point in the game’s evolution where individual player ownership is important, but thinking of projected ownership through the lens of stacks is even more crucial. A way to differentiate a stack is by including a less obvious player — a No. 3 wideout or a No. 2 tight end. By understanding coaching tendencies and personnel, we can make educated guesses on usage. Thanks to the folks at SportsInfoSolutions for much of the data used below.
NO. 3 WIDEOUTS
These teams had at least three wide receivers on the field for passing plays at the highest rate last season:
1. Rams: At least three WRs on field for 96% of pass plays
2. Steelers: 88%
T3. Packers: 84%
T3. Vikings: 84%
T3. Jaguars: 84%
T3. Panthers: 84%
Note that there are plenty of changes here. The Steelers lost Antonio Brown. The Packers have a new scheme headed by Matt LaFleur. The Jaguars have a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo. Still, this gives us a base to work off of. These are the teams I project to have the most valuable situations for No. 3 wideouts:
RAMSSean McVay is so committed to “11” personnel — one running back, one tight end and three wideouts — he stuck with it after Cooper Kupp’s ACL tear last year. He stuck with it even though Jared Goff’s production tailed off sharply without Kupp and stuck with it even in the Super Bowl, when it was clear Bill Belichick’s defense had the answer for it. There’s little reason to think McVay will change things up now, particularly with Kupp reportedly on track for Week 1. If Kupp isn’t ready, Josh Reynolds likely will be on the field for almost every snap as he was down the stretch last season.
PACKERSExpect a brand new scheme in Green Bay with Mike McCarthy gone. But what is unlikely to change is the Packers’ reliance on 3-WR formations. New coach Matt LaFleur only used three or more wideouts on 70% of dropbacks as the Titans’ offensive coordinator last year, but I suspect that was largely driven by personnel. He had Marcus Mariota/Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, a shaky WR1 in Corey Davis and very little at the secondary wideout position. In Green Bay, we know Aaron Rodgers likes having three wideouts on the field, Jimmy Graham is in sharp decline and Geronimo Allison’s return from injury balances out the wideout corps. Perhaps most importantly, LaFleur spent the 2017 season as the Rams’ OC under “11” personnel maven McVay. I’ll be watching the camp battle between Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimous St. Brown and others closely.
CARDINALSWe can throw out last year’s Cardinals stats as they replaced the ancient Steve Wilks regime with Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. We can expect up-tempo, shotgun-laden, WR-heavy sets as a base. The Cardinals addressed this shift in offensive scheme in the draft, adding Andy Isabella (Round 2), Hakeem Butler (Round 4) and Keesean Johnson (Round 6) to Larry Fitzgerald and 2018 No. 47 overall pick Christian Kirk. With Patrick Peterson suspended for the first six weeks, this defense is going to get its offense into some shootouts. Presumed “No. 1” Fitzgerald is 36 years old and an underneath complementary piece at best. The battle for pecking order between Kirk, Isabella, Butler and Johnson is worth watching, but know three of them will be on the field plenty.
COLTSThe Colts ranked ninth in dropbacks out of 3-WR sets last season despite having almost nothing behind TY Hilton. They forced the likes of Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant and Zach Pascal onto the field. But now they’ve added Devin Funchess in free agency and Parris Campbell via the second round of the draft. It makes their three-wide set far more formidable and allows them to use Eric Ebron in the preferred red zone/third-down role. Even with Jack Doyle (hip) back, we still can project a three-wide base offense for the Colts.
NO. 2 TIGHT ENDS
Ever since Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 169 catches, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011, people have been hoping for more. Every time there are two good tight ends on a team, the narrative is they’ll be used “like Gronk and Hernandez.” The truth is that just doesn’t happen. NFL teams rarely throw the football out of “12” aka 2-TE formations. The Eagles led the entire league last year in pass attempts from 2-TE sets, but they only did it 37% of the time. The full list:
1. Eagles: Two TEs on field for 37% of their pass attempts
2. Texans: 34%
3. Chiefs: 28%
4. Ravens: 24%
5. Giants: 21%
Those numbers also can be a bit misleading as oftentimes teams will have two tight ends on the field for a pass play, but one will stay in-line to block. And as more teams adjust to the rules, which make aggressive passing so much more efficient than running, there will be even fewer opportunities for secondary tight ends. So we need to be very careful with the following talented but blocked tight ends:
EAGLESYes, the Eagles led the entire league in passing out of 2-TE sets. But Dallas Goedert still never played on more than 67% of the snaps in a game and averaged a meager 2.75 targets per game. So we’ll continue to hear about how the Eagles plan to use Zach Ertz and Goedert together, how Goedert is an amazing talent who must be part of the weekly plan. And that’s all true. But the small package of plays that feature Ertz split wide and Goedert in-line won’t be enough to sustain weekly value.
COLTSJack Doyle was healthy for five games last season. In those games, Eric Ebron only played on 45, 26, 21, 38 and 40 percent of the snaps. In other words, the Colts preferred to give snaps to the likes of Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant and Zach Pascal rather than go to a 2-TE base. So although we are well aware of Ebron’s natural talent and Andrew Luck’s affinity for him in the red zone, we have to project a major step back. Doyle, Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell entering the fray not only will limit Ebron’s snap rate, but also his market share of targets.
BUCSOJ Howard and Cam Brate shared the Bucs’ tight end role for the first half of last season. Howard was the 1A, but still only topped a 66% snap rate in 2-of-10 games. Still, his talent combined with the Bucs’ perfect pass-offense situation led to a 34-565-5 line in those 10 games before getting hurt. Now comes a new Bruce Arians scheme that has a reputation for ignoring tight ends in the pass game but also a reputation for maximizing talent. As the No. 3 wideout spot for the Bucs remains unsettled (Brashad Perriman? Scotty Miller?), Arians knows the most effective formations always will include the ridiculously talented Howard. So while we can’t expect many 2-TE formations, we should expect Arians to feature Howard more than the previous regime did. Arians’ Cardinals teams ranked 24th, 22nd and 28th in pass attempts out of 3-WR sets during his final three years with the team (2015-17). Howard’s role is secure. Brate’s is not.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.