The NFL is back and so is the staple of the modern fantasy football era: The DraftKings Fantasy Football Millionaire contest. Formerly known as the Milly Maker – the top prize of this massive, 1.2 million-entry guaranteed pool prize (GPP) contest being $1 million – this NFL daily fantasy contest is the crown jewel of the industry, and it made another million-dollar winner on Sunday.
At SportsIntel.com, we will break down the winning entry each week to try and learn from the decisions made that led to the winning score. In the process, we will look to explode the myths and reinforce the truths about DFS strategy that could give you an edge toward cashing in Daily Fantasy’s greatest treasure.
The Week 1 winner went by the handle “Chumleigh54” and finished first with a total of 255.86 points. The lineup looked like this:
Right away we can put to rest one of the most persistent myths about how to win a contest with over a million entries: You don’t need to go crazy contrarian (i.e. lucky) to win. The Week 1 contest had an entry size of 1.2 million because the contest itself had a special $5 entry, a user-friendly gesture to welcome back NFL DFS players after the spring and summer of coronavirus.
In Week 2, the entry fee is back to the usual $20 and the pool size is chopped dramatically down to 266,100 entries, but the prevailing sentiment is still the same among many new players: That the only way to finish first is to play someone completely off the radar and get lucky that this extremely low-owned player goes nuts for three touchdowns, or some such outsized fantasy day.
I’m sure throughout Sunday, most players assumed that Indianapolis’ Nyheim Hines, who came out of nowhere to rack up 27.3 DraftKings points, was part of the winning Millionaire lineup. Not only was that not the case with Chumleigh54, there are no off-the-wall plays in this lineup. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the lowest-owned player in this lineup at 2.6 percent, but is hardly an unknown entity.
It’s not the unknown player who wins these contests, it’s the overlooked player.
The DFS quarterback buzz heading into Week 1 was taking a boom-or-bust approach. Either you spent up to $8,100 for Lamar Jackson or you looked to spend down to sub-$6K options like Mitchell Trubisky or Dwayne Haskins. There was also considerable love for the anticipated shootout between Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, and both came through with big games. But sitting in the no-man’s land between the mid-range of Wilson and Ryan and the super-values under $6K was Rodgers at $6,300.
In this instance, as is so often the case in large-entry GPPs, that player hiding in plain sight is the killer waiting to strike. His top receiver, Davante Adams, was getting all sorts of love this week as a top wide-receiver option – an ideal pivot off top-priced Michael Thomas and Julio Jones. And Adams’ ownership reflected that at 19 percent.
Chumliegh54 saw the value in Adams and simply took it to its logical conclusion: If Adams was going to smash in this spot against a suspect Vikings secondary, it only stood to reason that his quarterback would be equally successful. And since it’s been proven year after year that a multi-position stack (QB-2 WR) is far-more likely to appear in a winning Milly Maker lineup than a single stack (or no stack at all), Chumleigh54 added a second Packers wideout, Allen Lazard, and was rewarded with the expected massive total for Adams (44.6), the coattail production of Rodgers (33.76) and the needed third leg of the stack with Lazard scoring and putting up an 18.2.
And with any good stack, you always want to bring it back with a correlation play from the other team, and Chumleigh54 succeeded there, as well, countering with Minnesota;s Adam Thielen and his huge day with 34 points.
Playing Adams at 19-percent ownership also exploded another Milly Maker myth: You have to avoid the chalk.
Not only did Chumleigh54 go with a highly-owned wide receiver, he (or she) tossed ownership concerns aside and banked on the can’t-miss production of Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. The Carolina run defense is and will be atrocious this season and everyone knows it. Jacobs was among the highest-owned players overall on Sunday at a discounted price of $6,800, appearing on 25.4 percent of Milly Maker lineups. And Jacobs did not disappoint, scoring 35.9 points. The lesson here is that a little chalk is acceptable from an individual player, as long as you diversify the rest of your lineup. Even with 44 percent ownership combined with Adams and Jacobs, Chumleigh54’s other seven players combined had virtually the same number, for a total lineup ownership total of 89, ever-so-slightly less than a 10-percent average per player across the board.
At the other running back, Chumleigh54 showed the value of tracking the news, right up to gameday. Because of the devastating fires on the West Coast, there were concerns the Cardinals-49ers game in Santa Clara might have to be postponed, due to poor air quality. As it turned out, the game was played without incident. But it was widely understood that 49ers running back Tevin Coleman, because of medical concerns, would likely be unable to play in such poor breathing conditions, opening the door for Raheem Mostert to get the bulk of the workload. And even though Jerick McKinnon also played significant snaps, Mostert converted a 76-yard TD reception into a 25.1-point day at an ownership of 8.4 percent – a number likely suppressed because people did not think through the implications of the fires and Coleman’s resulting absence.
Chumleigh54 thought it through. You can, too.
As we’ve seen, being overly contrarian was not the secret to winning the million dollars in Week 1. But a little contrarian never hurts. Rodgers, despite his reputation, was a contrarian play because the sharps were focused in other areas. The same went for tight end Greg Olsen. The former Panther, now a Seahawk, was another player who went overlooked because of his no-man’s-land salary. If you weren’t paying all the way up for George Kittle or Mark Andrews, you were probably paying all the way down to Chris Herndon or Logan Thomas. And Thomas, at $2,800 and equally miniscule ownership, seemed likely to find a spot on the Millionaire-winning roster. But it was Olsen, who scored 12.4 points, who occupied that vital seat, taking advantage of Wilson’s targeting of his tight ends that made Will Dissly a household fantasy name last season.
As mentioned, that Seattle-Atlanta game was expected to be the shootout of the day, and though Chumliegh54 main-stacked the Packers-Vikings, he brought it back with two pieces from the Seattle-Atlanta game, adding Calvin Ridley as his flex.
That left our Million-Dollar Hero with $2,100 for the defense, and Chumleigh54 was able to leverage a serendipitous situation in Washington, where the Football Team’s defense and its ferocious front four was priced at $2,000 against a Philadelphia offense decimated with injuries to its offensive line and starting running back. The result was eight sacks, two picks, a fumble recovery and 15 points overall.
Put it all together and you got 255.86 points and a Million Dollar prize.
Apply the lessons learned and maybe you can get one of those oversized checks this season.