Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/content/85/8979285/html/wp-includes/post-thumbnail-template.php:1) in /home/content/85/8979285/html/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase2.php on line 62
- Part 2

The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 93: How to Win $1 Million in Week 6, Part II

At rotoViz, I published some analysis on how to be a contrarian to win the Millionaire Maker on DraftKings this weekend:


Imagine that a player is such an incredible value that everyone uses him—no really, all 92,400 lineups have this player. If that were the case, the player might have theoretical value in that his price is too cheap for his expected production, but his usable value would be zero; no matter how well he performs, it wouldn’t help or hurt anyone. Now consider the opposite—a player in just one lineup (yours)—that has a monster game. In that scenario, the player’s usable value would be at its peak; you benefit when no one else does.

It follows that the lower a player’s usage, the better the odds of him increasing your lineup’s win probability if he performs well. Of course, the Catch-22 is that the least popular players are typically among the least valuable, too. So we’re forced into this conundrum of either emphasizing value or going contrarian on players who offer less value but will be in fewer lineups. Value-based strategies provide the greatest potential for a high-scoring lineup, while contrarian-based lineups trade in some of that expected production for lower anticipated usage rates.

Check out the entire post.

I gave five more tips over at PokerNews. Here are the first two:


Three of the top four lineups in the Week 5 Millionaire Maker had Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas—a duo that exploded for over 81 fantasy points—and the majority of the best lineups paired a quarterback with at least one of his receivers.

The reason that you should pair a quarterback and a wide receiver (or tight end) is because it increases the upside of your lineup. The production of your receiver is obviously dependent on how your quarterback performs, so pairing them creates a symbiotic relationship within your lineup that makes it higher-variance—a good thing in a big tournament.

You’ll need to hit on a high-upside quarterback/receiver pairing to win in Week 6, but don’t be afraid to use the same pair in multiple lineups. If you really like Manning and Thomas again this week, use them in a few lineups with different groups of players around them.

The idea is that, if Manning and Thomas have a big game, you’ll be rewarded for hitting on that stack because at least one of the combinations of players around them will be good enough to help you cash. You don’t need to diversify to the point that you’re playing anyone, but certainly mix and match your core values around your favorite QB/WR tandem to act as a hedge and to ensure that the success of those lineups mirrors the quality of the duo.


Again, the name of the game here is creating as high of a ceiling as possible. You don’t want ‘good,’ you want ‘elite.’ Basically, you’re trying to use astute roster construction to improve your odds of hitting on a really high-scoring lineup.

To demonstrate the thinking behind this idea, here’s a sample distribution of DraftKings scores using both a low- and high-variance approach.

With the high-variance approach, you generate greater access to both outstanding and horrible scores, which is a positive in a tournament. A wise man once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” and the Ricky Bobby approach to daily fantasy sports is actually a smart one in certain situations, i.e. when you crave upside.

When I’m creating a tournament lineup, I ask myself, “Can this player score two touchdowns on a semi-consistent basis?” If the player is somewhat dependent on touchdowns for production, he can make for a smart tournament play because his points will tend to come in bunches. That’s in contrast to a slot receiver, for example, who sees a bunch of short targets (and thus has a high level of consistency), but doesn’t have much touchdown upside.

Note: weight is the best physical predictor of touchdowns for receivers. All else equal, target heavier receivers.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 92: Matchup Analysis + Week 6 Plays

At DraftKings, I posted an article on how quarterbacks and wide receivers perform versus top five defenses.

I also gave some thoughts on Week 6 on DraftKings over at 4for4.


High QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay at Miami, $8400

The choice here for me is between Rodgers and Peyton Manning. I think Manning is the safer choice against the Jets and I’ll have some exposure to him as well, but I’d really like to pay up for running backs this week, too, and Rodgers allows for $1,000 in cap relief as compared to Manning.

DraftKings has Rodgers’ matchup with the Dolphins ranked as the seventh-worst, but we have it as just the 21st-most difficult after accounting for Miami’s opponents. My only concern is that Rodgers has thrown the ball more than 33 times just once this year, but I think that’s due more to weird game scripts than anything else.

Low QB: Nick Foles, Philadelphia vs NY Giants, $6800

Of all the cheap quarterbacks, Foles must be the most reliable, especially in terms of his anticipated workload. He’s thrown at least 37 passes in every game this year and, despite struggling in terms of efficiency, he’s still actually a low-end QB1 on DraftKings in terms of fantasy PPG.

High RB: Matt Forte, Chicago at Atlanta, $8800

Even as the most expensive running back this week, Forte offers sensational value against the league’s worst run defense. The projected total in this game is 54, and the spread is close such that the game script should be favorable for basically everyone.

Forte’s ability to contribute as a receiver in Marc Trestman’s offense gives him such a high floor from week to week, as we saw in Week 5 when the Bears were trailing. Forte is second in the NFL in targets among all players.

I also really like LeVeon Bell for the same reasons.

Low RB: Ronnie Hillman, Denver at NY Jets, $3000

This one is obvious, right? Hillman saw the bulk of the snaps last week when Montee Ball went down, so we’d expect that to be the case against the Jets as well. I’m not at all opposed to playing both Hillman and other Denver players in the same lineup because I think there will be enough points to go around for cash games, although I’d shy away from that in tournaments just because it will probably limit your ceiling.

And here’s a look at my favorite wide receiver plays.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 91: How to Win $1 Million in Week 6

DraftKings made someone a millionaire on a $27 entry last week, and they’re doing it again in Week 6.

At DraftKings‘ Playbook blog, I posted breakdowns of the quarterback (here) and wide receiver (here) positions to help you make your lineups this weekend.

Good luck in the chase for second place behind me.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 90: Making a Consistent DraftKings Lineup

At RotoGrinders, I broke down how to make a consistent NFL lineup on DraftKings.


In a past article, I explained why emphasizing consistency can work out in cash games. Basically, you’re trying to narrow down the range of possible outcomes as much as possible, taking a low-variance approach that will result in as many possible scores near the mean (with that average of course being as high as possible). Here’s how it might look in terms of a range of scores onDraftKings.

We want our cash game lineups to come close to resembling that blue line. We can do that by fielding a consistent lineup.

One way to create more consistent lineups is to pay more money for the most consistent positions. I researched the weekly consistency for each position using, looking at the top 12 quarterbacks, tight ends, and defenses, and the top 24 running backs and receivers in terms of end-of-year points. Here’s how often those players finished within those ranks on weekly basis.

For week-to-week, you can use the RotoGrinders’ Consistency Tool to research how consistent a player has been performing.

Top-12 quarterbacks have around a three-in-five chance of finishing in the top 12 at the quarterback position in a given week. The exact percentages here don’t matter as much as the fact that quarterback and running back are the most consistent positions on a weekly basis. That makes sense when you consider how touches are distributed in a typical game; quarterbacks and running backs see more relevant plays than the other positions, and thus have greater week-to-week consistency.

Because of that, sharp fantasy players typically “pay up” for those two positions in cash games. By going with elite or second-tier players at the quarterback and running back positions, you can narrow down the range of potential outcomes for your team, giving you greater consistency and increasing your win rate in cash games.


One of the reasons I sort players into buckets and analyze them like that is because I think individual player evaluation can sometimes be misleading. It’s really difficult to determine an individual player’s consistency because there’s a lot of variance in those results. Even a player who has been in the league for four years and played every game, for example, has just 64 games to study. The difference between 50 percent startable weeks and 60 percent would be around six games, which is pretty flimsy. We especially can’t trust individual consistency for rookies or second-year players.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 89: Week 5 Stats & The Importance of TDs

At RotoWorld, I posted a breakdown of Week 5′s interesting stats, as well as a look at the important of touchdowns in daily fantasy football.

Predicting WR Touchdowns
Again and again, we see the same receiver types scoring the majority of the touchdowns. That type is ‘big.’ While many people focus on wide receiver height, there’s actually a stronger correlation between weight and red zone efficiency.

That makes sense if you think about it. Big, strong receivers are able to get off of the line, fight for the ball in traffic, and otherwise not let defenders fight through them. Height matters, too, but there’s a limited supply of red zone touchdowns that are the direct result of a receiver going up to get the football; the majority of the time, it’s about being physical and out-muscling the defender.

Here’s a look at red zone efficiency broken down by weight for wide receivers and tight ends.

That’s a pretty obvious relationship. Here’s how it looks sorted into buckets based on weight.

There’s an improvement in red zone productivity in every weight class. Overall, receivers in the 217-244-pound range have been over 30 percent more likely to convert one of their red zone targets into a touchdown than a sub-198-pound receiver.

And take a look at the most efficient red zone receivers since 2000.

Of the 15 best scorers, only one has checked in below the league-average receiver weight of 203 pounds. The majority of these players—Dez Bryant, Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson, Vincent Jackson—have been substantially heavier than the league-average weight.

I also taped a “Game of Inches” segment explaining why I like Travis Kelce moving forward.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 88: If you play poker, you can win at DFS.

I did a guest post at PokerNews that explained some of the reasons poker players should be naturally good daily fantasy players. Here’s an excerpt:


Perhaps the biggest recent strides in advanced poker strategy have come in the area of game theory. There are all kinds of game theory elements involved in daily fantasy sports, too, particularly in the massive tournaments with a lot of users. In this weekend’s Millionaire Maker on DraftKings, for example, there’s a very good chance that the winner is going to hit on an obscure player that isn’t in a lot of other lineups.

Those usage rates are extremely important in daily fantasy sports. Basically, there are two types of value. The first is strict dollar-per-point value: how many dollars you need to spend (you must work within the confines of a salary cap) for each point you can be projected to score. All else equal, you want to secure as much value as possible.

But “all else” isn’t always equal. Imagine you enter a tournament and there’s such an obvious value that every single user has him in their lineup. It wouldn’t matter if that player scored zero points or 100 points because it would affect everyone in the same way. Thus, that player would have none of the second type of value: usable value.

To acquire the most usable value, you need to balance pure dollar-per-point value with expected usage. The latter task obviously invokes elements of game theory. In tournaments, you should be trying to balance value with ownership; you want the best players, but you also want to create a unique lineup.

Creating a unique lineup is very much akin to leaving yourself ‘outs’ in poker. You give yourself ways to bounce back if things don’t go as expected. If you’re in 50th place with one player left to play, who would you rather have: the top value who is in 25 lineups that are ahead of you, or a little bit worse value who isn’t in any other lineups? The highest you can finish in the first scenario is 26th. In the latter, it’s first.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say something to the tune of “I’m not starting Player X this week. I started him last week and he was horrible!”

Poker players have a natural understanding of “good process.” That’s something that you quickly develop after a few bad beats. Poker players understand that the game is governed by probabilities, and you can make smart moves that don’t work out in the same way that you can play really stupidly and have the chips fall your way.

In the end, those who play the percentages are rewarded. It’s the same way in daily fantasy sports. Like a single hand of poker, there can be a lot of short-term variance, but after awhile, the variance dissipates and the true winners are left standing.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 87: Studying Week 5 WRs + How to Overcome a Slow Start

At DraftKings, I broke down some of the wide receiver options in Week 5.

At RotoWorld, I wrote about how to overcome a slow start to the season. It’s a subscriber-only article, but here’s an excerpt:

Pair a QB and WR

In the daily fantasy sports world, it is very common to see players pair a quarterback with one or more of his receivers in big tournaments because it increases the ceiling of a lineup. That’s because the production of receivers is obviously tied to that of their quarterback.

Below, I charted the probability of certain levels of performance for quarterbacks and their receivers. If the distribution of points on a team were completely random, we’d expect that there would be a 25 percent chance that a WR1 would have a top-four game if his QB had the same. Instead, it’s 40 percent.


The same goes for bottom-four performances, too. They exceed what we’d expect from randomness alone.


This shouldn’t be surprising—of course quarterback and wide receiver production is connected—but it seems like many season-long owners overlook the effect that pairing teammates together can have on your fantasy lineup.

If you’re seeking variance after a slow start, I’d recommend trying to pair a quarterback with his WR1, if possible. That might mean picking up someone off of waivers or making a trade, but creating that symbiotic relationship within your lineup can give you upside.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 86: Winning the Millionaire Maker

I’ve made it a goal to finish this 100-day series within 200 days, and I ALWAYS accomplish my goals.

At DraftKings, I published a quick guide on how to attack this weekend’s Millionaire Maker. Here’s an excerpt:

Law No. 7: Go against the grain as a contrarian thinker.

You don’t need to bypass every obvious value to go against the grain, but jumping on one or two players you know won’t be highly owned can provide you with the lineup differentiation that you’ll need in a tournament. One of the shrewd moves that I see again and again from the game’s top pros is playing elite players in tough matchups; A.J. Green can get his numbers against any defense, but he won’t necessarily be a popular choice against one of the league’s top Ds.

I think this last “law” is really important for the Millionaire Maker. With nearly 100,000 lineups, we are going to see more similar lineups than we’ve ever witnessed. Even if a player has 10 percent usage, that’s over 9,000 lineups!

It’s more important than ever to create a unique lineup, finding upside where others aren’t looking. Normally, it makes sense to try to hit on one player, maybe two, who you know will be underutilized. Well, this might be the time to load your roster with contrarian plays.

Last week, I emphasized the mathematics behind using a more balanced strategy in tournaments—as opposed to using a couple scrubs and elite players—because it maximizes the probability of hitting on everyone.

Well, this might be a time to disregard that advice. Not only will you need to hit on every player, but you’ll need to hit on players who aren’t in a ton of lineups, too. That’s why I think a high-low strategy with maybe three or so players who are close to min-priced is the way to go. If you can identify that talent and hit on it, you’ll have 1) a unique source of points others don’t have and 2) a whole lot of cap space left to fit the elite players into your lineup.

Personally, I will be spending the majority of my time this week researching under-the-radar players at the bottom of the salary lists—guys like Justin Hunter, Austin Davis, Bishop Sankey, Jared Cook, and so on. By emphasizing those sorts of low-usage players (maybe not those exact guys in particular) and spending big elsewhere, I think you’ll put yourself in the best position to benefit from variance in Week 5.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 85: Week 5 QB Options

At DraftKings, I broke down some of the QB options for Week 5.

Five Mid-Priced Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler, Chicago at Carolina, $7700 – Cutler appears to have a quality matchup against the Panthers—a team that just got torched by the Ravens through the air. A lot of those yards and scores came from really fluky plays, however, and Carolina was really good in the first three games of the season.

This is an example of one outlier game perhaps throwing off overall stats early in the year. In the first three weeks of the season, the Panthers allowed fewer than 200 passing yards twice and 253 yards to the explosive Detroit Lions. With Brandon Marshall appearing unhealthy, I think this might be a situation to avoid.


Russell Wilson, Seattle at Washington, $7600 – The Redskins defense looked formidable right out of the gate in 2014, but they also played the Jags and Texans. After facing the Eagles and Giants over the past two weeks, Washington has come back to Earth, allowing well over 600 passing yards in those games.

I love Wilson as a high-efficiency play in just about any game, but this is yet another contest in which he’s unlikely to see enough attempts to give you a truly elite ceiling. Wilson is probably a nice play in cash games, but I don’t like him much as a GPP play given that he hasn’t thrown more than 34 passes in a game all year.


Eli Manning, NY Giants vs Atlanta, $7500 – Even though the Falcons D is horrific, I think Manning’s price jumped too much for Week 5. He’s currently priced $200 cheaper than Jay Cutler and $500 higher than both Tony Romo and Philip Rivers. The Manning-to-Donnell tandem looks enticing and maybe there’s merit to playing it in the Millionaire Maker, but I don’t like Manning at all in cash games.


Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh at Jacksonville, $7400 – You have the league’s worst pass defense, by far, facing a relatively streaky quarterback coming off of his biggest game of the year. I actually like Roethlisberger more in cash games than tournaments because his upside might be capped, but Antonio Brown is very much in play everywhere.


Cam Newton, Carolina vs Chicago, $7200 – The Bears have allowed the sixth-most points to opposing quarterbacks this year. Newton hasn’t been good with only 15.1 fantasy points per game, but he also hasn’t been forced to air it out much. This is the sort of game in which he might be asked to do that. We should also see a season-high in rushing yards for Newton, who hasn’t topped 19 all year.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 84: Using Late Swap on DraftKings

At RotoGrinders, I broke down how to utilize the late swap feature on DraftKings.

One of the cool aspects of playing on DraftKings is the late swap feature, which gives you the ability to remove anyone from your lineup whose game has not yet started, replacing him with any other eligible player who also hasn’t started playing. You can remove a player in the Sunday night football game just before kickoff, for example, and replace him with any other player from that game or the Monday night game (assuming it’s in the same position and doesn’t cause you to exceed the salary cap).

I believe the late swap feature is one of the most underappreciated components of DraftKings game strategy. Overall, it’s used on just over five percent of all NFL lineups.

The primary purpose of late swap is of course to remove players who are late scratches or otherwise not playing. That’s a really nice feature that allows you to field the best possible lineup without worrying about questionable players not suiting up.

In addition to the obvious late swap uses, here are a few other aspects of how it can and should affect your strategy on DraftKings.

Read the rest here.