Based on how big of a success the Monday Night Madness contest was, Underdog decided to continue with that format releasing a Thursday and Sunday Night Football 2 game slate contest. The contest titled Thursday Night Knockout consists of 33,996 entries at a $5 entry point with $30k to first place. It is the same format that we saw on Monday night with the same roster size of the Main Slate contest but with only 4 drafters instead of 6. For this week, we get the Steelers traveling to Cleveland to face the Browns (-4.5) with a 38.5 o/u on Thursday and the 49ers (-1.5) traveling to Denver to face the Broncos with a 45 o/u on Sunday Night.
Let’s dig in.
Draft Strategy for Week 2 Thursday and Sunday Night Football – Steelers @ Browns & 49ers @ Broncos
One of the main differences (other than the rosters) between this slate and the main slate & showdown slates is the slate doesn’t have an updating average draft position (ADP). Drafts are still operating under the aspect that only 12 players will be drafted instead of 24 players which is why players have a max ADP of 12 and are very closely lumped together.
With two relatively low over/unders on this slate, people are naturally gravitating toward the running backs. Nick Chubb, Javonte Williams, and Najee Harris all go in the first 5/6 picks with some combination of Deebo Samuel, Courtland Sutton, and Diontae Johnson mixed in with them. This isn’t much of a surprise as the Browns and 49ers rank in the bottom 3 in pass rate over expectation (PROE). Naturally, these teams want to run the ball early and often, slowing down the game, this leads to the low o/us for the games. The Broncos have thrown slightly more often than average but are nearly at expectation through 2 weeks. Drafters tend to believe these games will be slow due to the first 5 players being drafted. You can make an argument that Deebo is considered a RB with the additional injury to Tyrion Davis-Price after Elijah Mitchell got hurt in week 1, leaving the 49ers’ depth at the position thin. He has handled 12 carries through 2 weeks.
It will be interesting to see how the 49ers shift their game plan with the season-ending injury to Trey Lance. Will they be more pass-heavy with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm? Or do they continue to be a run-first team and only pass when necessary? A major key to the slate could be the impending return of George Kittle to the lineup, allowing the 49ers to open up their offense. Kittle is currently going as the 4th TE off the board around the end of drafts behind the likes of Pat Friermuth, David Njoku, and Albert Okwuegbunam. With the presumed increase in pass rate (due to a non-rushing QB), Brandon Aiyuk becomes a key target in drafts. If they stay run heavy, both Jeff Wilson and Jordan Mason will be heavily involved and had immense TD upside. Tyrion Davis-Price was the primary goal-line back in week 2.
Going up against the 49ers, we have the severely struggling Broncos. Off-season QB acquisition, Russell Wilson, has not looked like the QB the Broncos had expected to receive when they traded multiple 1st and 2nd round draft picks plus players for him this offseason. He still capitalizes on a relatively weak QB grouping providing by far the highest ceiling out of him, Jimmy, Jacoby Brissett, and Mitchell Trubisky. With the rib injury taking Jerry Jeudy out of the game in week 2, there are some initial concerns he may miss week 3. If that is the case, Kendall Hinton or KJ Hamler (if healthy himself) will take on WR2 duties for the Broncos and Russell Wilson. Both players are typically undrafted and could be the skeleton key to the slate. On top of them, Melvin Gordon, typically goes late in drafts and is playing around 40% of the time. He can easily steal goal-line work from Javonte and give you a leg up on the field.
Speaking of backup running backs, we have seen the field gravitate toward recent performance (recency bias), this has caused Chubb to be the preferred option for the Browns. Yes, he scored 3 touchdowns, but only played 54% of snaps. At least one of those touchdowns could have easily gone to Kareem Hunt, who like Gordon is going toward the end of drafts (the RB position is deep).
With the depressed over/unders, it will be imperative to lock down most if not all of the touchdowns for these two slates. Players currently undervalued that have long-TD upside include Chase Claypool, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jauan Jennings, and George Pickens. Take fliers on these guys to help differentiate yourself in the later rounds.
Top Plays for Drafts
- Russell Wilson – Best QB on the slate with the best WR core.
- Deebo Samuel – Combo RB/WR with plenty of HVT upside
- Jerry Jeudy – Undervalued as he is currently overcoming an injury. Was targeted on 3 of his 5 routes run last Sunday.
- Diontae Johnson – Even with Trubisky, he is commanding targets at an elite level. Negative game-script potential.
Players That Could Differentiate Your Lineup
- Kendall Hinton – Depends on the health of Hamler and Jeudy
- Jordan Mason – potential RB2 with goal-line upside on one of the most run-heavy teams in the league
- Ross Dwelley – undrafted currently. This depends on the practice routine of George Kittle. If Kittle is out, Dwelley could be involved with Jimmy at the helm.