This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.
For those who regularly play showdown/single game contests on DraftKings and FanDuel, the biggest difference for the Super Bowl is that there will be significantly more entries than we're used to seeing on a stand-alone Thursday, Sunday night or Monday. Because of this, lineup uniqueness is tournaments is even harder, with DraftKings' main GPP having 470,588 entries while FanDuel's has 396,825. Both tournaments pay $1,000,000 to first place, with DraftKings requiring a $10 entry fee, with a maximum of 150 entries, while FanDuel's is $9 and also 150-max. Lineup uniqueness should be the primary focus of anyone who is trying to build a lineup to win the top prize, but it's also important to consider that there will likely be more than 100 people in each contest with 150 lineups. The main tournaments are where the DFS pros will be, as well as any casual player who wants to have a little fun during the game. However, trying to win $1,000,000 doesn't have to be the only way to participate on DraftKings and FanDuel, and it's important to know what you're playing for and, more importantly, who you are competing against.
Playing against 470,587 entries while trying to win $1,000,000 is much different than trying to beat the 20 people at your Super Bowl party who agreed to play in a DraftKings or FanDuel contest because it makes the game a little more exciting. If you're someone in the latter group, lineup uniqueness isn't nearly as important when trying to finish first because you only have to beat 19 other people instead of nearly half a million. In the instance of a party contest, playing a more optimal lineup that would be used in cash games (they have those too for the Super Bowl, of course) is the route to go, especially if your group is filled with people who don't regularly (or ever) play DFS. You obviously have to consider how high certain players will be owned in each type of contest, but you can use that knowledge to beat your friends or attack a large GPP. There is already a ton of content about the game, and while finding a deep sleeper or two who could deliver a monster pay-day is always fun, using those types of players may not be needed if you're simply trying to win your friends' money.
With that said, a high-scoring Super Bowl is expected, with the game total moving between 54.0 and 54.5, depending on the site, with the Chiefs favored by either 1.0 or 1.5. The 49ers' defense was arguably the best in the NFL this season, while the Chiefs' offense can put up a plethora of points. Then again, the 49ers actually outscored the Chiefs this season (479 to 451), while the Chiefs' defense allowed fewer points (308 to 310). I won't go into any detail here, as Chris Liss broke it all down in his Beating the Book column previewing the Super Bowl, but the 49ers' defense is absolutely elite, even if the Chiefs are still likely to put up some points.
The two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl finished with very similar cumulative stats this season, though that's only because Patrick Mahomes ($12,600 DK, $16,000 FD) was injured in one game and missed two others while Jimmy Garoppolo ($8,000 DK, $14,000 FD) played all 16 games. In the end, Mahomes threw only eight more passes for 53 more yards, and his 26 passing touchdowns were one fewer than Garoppolo. Given the game difference, it's no surprise the 49ers finished with the fourth-fewest pass attempts in the NFL while the Chiefs had the 15th-most.
Despite having the highest salary on both sites, Mahomes figures to be one of, if not the, most popular player in the game. He has tremendous passing upside in an offense that likes to throw the ball, and we only have to look at their two playoff games to see what he can do, throwing for 321 yards and five touchdowns against the Texans in the divisional round and then 294 yards and three touchdowns, plus a rushing score, against the Titans in the AFC Championship Game. It's worth noting the Texans went up 24-0 in the first half, which created the perfect storm for Mahomes to air it out, but they were mostly in control of the Titans and he still had a big game. If anything, we know that when the Chiefs have great games it's because of Mahomes. His captain salary on DraftKings is $18,900, which accounts for 37.8 percent of the salary cap, but if you don't want to rely on getting the Chiefs' receivers right, then you may as well roster the guy throwing the ball. That's one of the simplest reasons why he is going to be highly owned: casuals know he's great and it's simply easier to have him on your team without worrying about getting the pass catchers right.
That line of thinking obviously makes him a great player to fade in big tournaments because if he doesn't have a huge game then you get a big advantage on the field. Making Mahomes MVP on FanDuel isn't as detrimental salary-wise because there is no salary multiplier, so there's little doubt he'll be the most popular MVP. Simply put: if he's the highest-scoring player in the game, then getting 150 percent of his fantasy points is pretty ideal.
On the other side is Garoppolo, who threw only eight passes in the NFC Championship game, a 37-20 win over the Packers. Rarely known for his passing volume, Garoppolo does have a few big games this season, highlighted by Week 11 against the Cardinals when he threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns, one of three times this season with four passing scores (though two of those were against Arizona). It's tough to see the 49ers game-planning to have Garoppolo throw a ton of passes, so his fantasy upside is more tied to efficiency than volume. In fact, he threw at least 35 passes only four times this season, including those two games against the Cardinals, and that lack of volume meant he finished the regular season with only three games with at least 300 passing yards. The expectation is obviously that he's not going to have a big game, even if the 49ers win, something we can see in his player prop on FanDuel of only 240.5 passing yards versus Mahomes' 300.5 (I know player props are not great for determining potential fantasy points, but the comparison is worth acknowledging).
That being said, Garoppolo seems to be a perfect contrarian candidate, especially as a captain or MVP. He could still be owned because people like to play both quarterbacks, but if you're in a situation where you're really trying to be different, Garoppolo certainly has that advantage over Mahomes. Then again, fading both isn't a terrible strategy either, especially because their high salaries (at least on FanDuel) open up the possibilities of rostering their favorite pass catchers and/or the running backs, the latter of whom are heavily used by the 49ers.
The Vikings were the only team in the NFL to give more rushing attempts to their running backs than the 49ers, which sounds great until you realize none of them had more than 137 carries or 800 yards. Raheem Mostert ($9,400 DK, $13,500 FD) and Tevin Coleman ($6,400 DK, $10,000 FD) led the team with 137 carries each, with the former finishing with 772 yards while the latter had 544. To put that into perspective, 31 players had more than 137 carries this season, and the 49ers also gave 123 rushing attempts to Matt Breida ($3,200 DK, $7,500 FD), who actually led the team with two 100-yard rushing games. Injuries helped determine the workload of their lead backs in the past two games, as Mostert suffered a calf injury in the divisional round against the Vikings, which led to Coleman rushing a career-high 22 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. However, Coleman suffered a shoulder injury during the NFC Championship Game, which led to Mostert rushing 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. If we learned anything it's that Breida doesn't really have a big role when one of Mostert or Coleman is healthy, a situation that needs to be monitored heading into the Super Bowl.
Specifically, Coleman seems like he's going to try to play after suffering a dislocated shoulder against the Packers, and while he got positive news after an MRI, it's clear that he is far from 100 percent. Despite the share of carries, their respective prices on DraftKings and FanDuel certainly indicate that Mostert is expected to get more work, so we unfortunately don't get any kind of discount given the uncertainty. If Coleman is ultimately ruled out, Mostert figures to be really highly owned as the lead back for a team that runs the ball a ton, and he will surely be a popular captain/MVP play after his explosive performance in the NFC Championship Game. A Coleman absence also opens up the possibility of rostering Breida, though that seems like a move much more suited for those playing multiple lineups. It's a risky endeavor, for sure, but if Coleman ends up not playing and Mostert gets hurt early in the game, the backfield will belong to Breida.
We also can't ignore that the Chiefs allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs on DraftKings and the fourth-most on FanDuel during the regular season, though a lot of those struggles came early in the season, as they allowed more than 100 rushing yards just once in the last six games, including just three rushing touchdowns over that span. A decent amount of those fantasy points came in the passing game, however, as the Chiefs allowed the most receiving yards, fourth-most catches and fifth-most receiving touchdowns to running backs. The reason that's important is that the 49ers don't pass that much anyway, and doing so to their running backs isn't a big part of their plan, as Coleman led the running backs with 30 targets this season, while Mostert and Breida each had 22. That isn't to say we can't get great production out of Mostert (or Breida or Coleman), but we're relying more on their carries than their catches.
The Chiefs' situation is significantly clearer, as Damien Williams ($9,800 DK, $14,000 FD) has been dominating the backfield touches ahead of Darwin Thompson ($1,800 DK, $6,000 FD) and LeSean McCoy ($1,400 DK, $6,000 FD). There was some talk that McCoy's reduced usage toward the end of the regular season was to get him fully healthy for the playoffs, but after being inactive in Weeks 16 and 17, McCoy got one snap (zero touches) in the divisional round and was then inactive for the AFC Championship Game reportedly due to an illness. Meanwhile, Thompson has played 12 offensive snaps in their two playoff games, rushing once for seven yards. Neither Thompson nor McCoy should be a serious consideration for those playing in smaller contests, as it's certainly likely they combine for fewer than three touches, with Williams getting nearly all of the work. And because of that, Williams could be really popular because of his expected touches. Those playing many lineups, or simply like to take on significant risk, shouldn't exclude Thompson (or McCoy, I guess) from their player pool in the event Williams gets hurt, but you at least need to understand the probability of zero points is much higher than one of them reaching 20.
Defensively, it's not nearly as good looking a matchup for Williams & Co., as the Niners allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, including the third-fewest catches, second-fewest receiving yards and fewest receiving touchdowns. Williams hasn't been a highly targeted player this season, though he has had at least six passes thrown to him in each of the past three games, including one that turned into a touchdown against the Texans. With so much emphasis on the Kansas City passing game, captaining/MVPing Williams is likely to be a less popular move, though one that could surely pay off if everyone else focuses on Mahomes, the Kansas City pass catchers or someone from San Francisco.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
Given the success of the Chiefs' passing game, getting access to some of their pass catchers should be worthwhile. Tight end Travis Kelce ($9,600 DK, $12,500 FD) has been the most reliable this season, leading the team in targets (136), receptions (97), receiving yards (1,229) and air yards (1,208), figures that also led the NFL among guys at his position. However, as a tight end, he doesn't account for many long-yardage plays, even though he led the team with 13 catches of at least 20 yards, as his 8.9 aDOT is the sixth-highest on the team, and no one below him had more than 91 air yards for the entire regular season. Nevertheless, Kelce could be one of the more popular Chiefs pass-catching options because of his reliability, so trying to get differentiation in their offense likely has to come elsewhere.
One place people will surely look is top wide receiver Tyreek Hill ($11,000 DK, $12,000 FD), who has tremendous upside, though his target floor continues to trail other receivers who are similarly priced in other contests. He's the top Chiefs wide receiver, but that doesn't necessarily mean he needs to be owned, especially in cash games. A salary in his range is usually reserved for players who regularly get double-digit targets, a level Hill reached just twice this season (he reached nine in two other games and eight in two others). However, he's eclipsed 100 yards just twice this season, and he's yet to have even 75 receiving yards since Week 10. You can obviously look at his two touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game to see his upside value, but five catches on seven targets for 67 yards really isn't great for the second-most expensive player on DraftKings and sixth-most on FanDuel. Plus, he's hardly the only big-play receiver on the team.
Hill's 12.7 aDOT was the second-highest on the team, trailing Demarcus Robinson's ($2,600 DK, $6,500 FD) 13.4, though the latter had only 55 targets all season, last reaching five in a game back in Week 10, which was also the last time he had more than two catches. Robinson is an obvious roster candidate for those who play multiple lineups, as he can provide solid upside with limited touches. Those limited opportunities are why he's probably not best suited for people who play one or only a handful of lineups, a situation that also applies to Mecole Hardman ($2,200 DK, $6,000 FD), whose 11.0 aDOT was the fourth-highest on the team during the regular season. Hardman is also far from a high-volume option, as he had more than two targets just once in the last seven games, and that was the divisional round game against Houston when he caught two of four targets for 19 yards. If anything, he's ahead of Byron Pringle ($200 DK, $5,000 FD), who finished the regular season with an 11.2 aDOT, though he hasn't been targeted since Week 14. It's really tough to make a case for Pringle other than no one is likely to have him, but Hardman and Robinson are surely in consideration for those looking for one big play.
The guy who stands out a bit because of his volume and price is Sammy Watkins ($7,000 DK, $10,500 FD), who led the team with seven catches on 10 targets for 114 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game. Watkins' targets aren't as consistent as Kelce's, and he only scored touchdowns in two games this season (Week 1 and their last game), but the price difference between him and Hill seems big enough that people may roster Watkins as part of their Chiefs' passing game exposure because of the salary flexibility it provides elsewhere. Watkins surely feels like a reasonable piece of a lineup for those playing smaller contests (not that he can't be valuable in huge GPPs either), as he has just as much single-play upside as any other Kansas City wideout and you're not relying on paying all the way down for backup tight end Blake Bell ($800 DK, $5,000 FD), who surely won't get enough volume to be a huge contributor, even if his price is interesting for a guy who had multiple catches (but had more than 15 yards just once) in three of their last five games.
Similarly to the Chiefs, the 49ers' best pass catcher is their tight end, George Kittle ($8,400 DK, $11,500 FD), who led them in targets (107), receptions (85), receiving yards (1,053), air yards (617) and receiving touchdowns (tied with five). The issue with Kittle is that his targets aren't nearly as consistent as Kelce's because the 49ers simply prefer to run the ball more than they pass. While he had eight games this season with at least eight targets, only twice did he have more than eight. Priced more than any wide receiver on his team, Kittle will need to have a peak game against a Chiefs defense that allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season, including the second-most targets and receptions, as well as the fourth-most receiving yards. There's no questioning that Kittle is the first place you go if you want exposure to the 49ers' pass catchers, but his salary makes more sense for those who are expecting a lot from the San Francisco offense and not much from Kansas City's.
And speaking of their other pass catchers, Deebo Samuel ($7,600 DK, $8,500 FD) has been the guy recently, though some of that has to do with the fact that they give him a few rushing attempts per game, making his touch volume higher than Emmanuel Sanders ($5,200 DK, $7,500 FD). Sanders actually had a higher aDOT than Samuel during the regular season (10.9 versus 7.4), but it's not high enough to really consider him a big-play threat. Since catching seven of nine targets for 157 yards and a touchdown against the Saints in Week 14, Sanders really hasn't done much, failing to reach even four catches or 65 yards. Samuel doesn't get significantly more targets, but he's been able to add at least 20 rushing yards in all but two games since Week 13, which is obviously why he's priced higher. Samuel figures to be more popular than Sanders simply because he gets more opportunities, though the differences in the passing game aren't big enough where you shouldn't consider paying down if you need the salary. And speaking of paying down, third wideout Kendrick Bourne ($3,400 DK, $7,000 FD) is an interesting play because his targets aren't that far behind Samuel and Sanders, and he's been getting some end-zone looks. In fact, his three receiving touchdowns since Week 14 are more than the other two guys combined. Given his low salary, Bourne could certainly be a helpful differential piece because he can make an impact on limited volume.
Otherwise, it's really tough to make a case for any of the really cheap 49ers' pass catchers. Dante Pettis ($600 DK, $5,000 FD) hasn't been targeted since Week 9, Richie James ($200 DK, $5,000 FD) hasn't had a pass thrown his way since Week 11 and backup tight end Ross Dwelley ($400 DK, $5,500) had once target in his last eight games. If anything, fullback Kyle Juszczyk ($1,200 DK, $6,000 FD) could be a long-shot cheap target, though he's unlikely to score on a long touchdown if he gets a look or two.
In the end, captaining/MVPing one of the 49ers' receivers will surely be a differential move, and doing it with someone like Bourne really opens up salary for other playmakers in the flex spots. Unfortunately, Bourne is likely to be worthless unless he scores a touchdown, which could have people feeling more comfortable using Kittle or Samuel in the multiplier spot.
While there are no kickers in classic DraftKings and FanDuel contests, you better believe they show up in showdown/single game contests. Admittedly, there isn't much excitement when it comes to rostering kickers, but the benefit of having them is for their floors, which makes them better options for cash games or other smaller contest types. You don't have to worry about picking the right receiver or paying up for the correct running back because each team only has one kicker, and if there are points scored they likely include a field goal or an extra point.
Both Robbie Gould ($4,000 DK, $9,000 FD) and Harrison Butker ($4,200 DK, $9,500 FD) have been solid this season, and while the latter only has two field goal attempts in his last three games, he was still able to provide some value thanks to 15 PATs. Gould, on the other hand, had multiple made field goals in six straight games, and he's also gotten plenty of PAT work, connecting on all 13 of his opportunities in the past four games. Rostering kickers comes down to whether you want to focus on floor or upside, as they don't have the potential to score touchdowns like the third-string running backs and wide receivers they are priced near.
However, they can also provide some significant differentiation, and specifically in this game, as those who build lineups expecting only a few points will get a big leg up (no pun intended) on the field if most of the points scored by both teams are by their kickers. With bettors hammering the over 54.5, there's little reason to think DFS players will be going out of their ways to roster Butker and/or Gould, so doing so will be a solid way to get unique while still having a decent floor in terms of fantasy points. Captaining either one seems a bit insane, but if you luck out with a 16-9 game, it could really pay off.
DraftKings is the only site that uses defense/special teams, and while they are often overlooked like kickers, they can provide some decent upside because of their abilities to score touchdowns. The 49ers ($3,600 DK) had arguably the best defense in the league this season, though the upside for defenses comes from scoring touchdowns off turnovers, which may not be that easy against Mahomes, who threw just five interceptions on his 484 pass attempts. San Francisco does do a great job of getting to the quarterback, picking up nine sacks in the past two games, but Mahomes was sacked just 17 times in 14 games, the fewest of any quarterback with at least 12 starts. That isn't to say the 49ers defense is a bad play Sunday, but the upside may be with Kansas City.
The Chiefs ($3,000) have also been solid at getting through opposing offensive lines, picking up 14 sacks in the past four games, and while they had only three turnovers over that span, they are now facing Garoppolo, who threw the eighth-most interceptions and had the eighth-most fumbles among quarterbacks. He certainly wasn't as turnover-prone as someone like Jameis Winston, but Garoppolo seems to offer much more turnover upside for a defense as opposed to Mahomes.
Additionally, if you want to keep going the differential route, playing both kickers and both defenses could be a pretty wild scenario in the hopes of a low-scoring game. Even if there aren't many turnovers, the lack of points scored not only helps the defense but also keeps offensive players' scores low. Even in the event of a high-scoring game, rostering a defense isn't out of the question because they can also contribute to those points, and their floors are slightly higher than the third-string offensive players in their price range.