As I’ve mentioned, I recently released Fantasy Football (and Baseball) for Smart People: How to Turn Your Hobby into a Fortune. I’ve been doing a bunch of guest posts to promote it:
At the New York Times, I discussed some Week 15 flex plays:
Week 15 Flex Plays
With season-long owners now in the playoffs and likely to be facing head-to-head matchups, most should be coveting safety — high-floor players who will “guarantee” a certain level of production.
In daily leagues, you should be seeking low-variance players when in head-to-head games (or other small leagues that require safe play). The following are flex options who make for excellent season-long options and also offer value on DraftKings:
Running Back: Rashad Jennings (OAK) vs. Kansas City (DraftKings: $6,000;DraftStreet: $8,468; FanDuel: $7,000) — There are a lot of question marks surrounding Jennings right now. He didn’t play on Sunday, but the Raiders have already said he’ll be the starter in Week 15.
The bigger issue with Jennings is that the Raiders play the Chiefs. That sounds like a horrible matchup and will scare people away, but Kansas City’s run defense is not unbeatable. Actually, the Chiefs rank seventh-worst in yards-per-carry allowed.
Jennings might not be the best high-upside play, but his heavy projected workload in a matchup that’s of average difficulty makes him a surprisingly safe play.
Wide Receiver: Torrey Smith (BAL) vs. Detroit (DraftKings: $6,300; DraftStreet: $10,017; FanDuel: $6,000) — Smith had just one reception in a good matchup in Week 14, but the game was also played in poor weather. Smith thrives on big plays and the Ravens couldn’t generate any in the elements last week, but they play inside against the Lions in Week 15.
With 55 catches and 963 yards in 2013, Smith should have more than four touchdowns, especially because he’s big enough to be a relevant red zone player. In a friendly matchup, consider Smith a high-upside flex play this weekend.
Tight End: Vernon Davis (SF) vs. Tampa Bay (DraftKings: $5,100; DraftStreet: $9,944; FanDuel: $6,100) — In daily fantasy, you can start a tight end in the flex because they have cheap salaries. Spending on Jimmy Graham at tight end and then pairing him with Davis in the flex is a legitimate strategy. To give you an idea of Davis’s value, consider that his salary is less than Cordarrelle Patterson’s and Tavon Austin’s on DraftKings, and just $100 more than Aaron Dobson.
Again, the numbers suggest that tight ends might not be the best plays for safety over the long run, but a Graham-Davis combination could provide enough upside (and be cheap enough to allow for flexibility elsewhere) to win a big tournament in Week 15.
At Business Insider, I talked about the importance of “stacking” in daily fantasy tournaments:
In tournaments, a mediocre score isn’t going to do you much good. You need greatness, so median player projections are basically worthless. You must know each player’s ceiling — the maximum possible points he could score — and how likely he is to reach that ceiling.
One way to do that is to understand position and individual stat consistency numbers. If you know that there’s a more linear relationship between running back points and their salaries than there is between wide receiver points and their salaries, for example, that can be used in all different league types.
Unlike in head-to-head leagues, though, you actually want to seek volatility in tournaments. You want those boom-or-bust players in your lineup — the wide receiver who could give you next to nothing or could explode for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
If you examine the NFL consistency stats from the previous chapter, you’ll find that top wide receivers are far less consistent than running backs from week to week. That means wide receivers’ points tend to come in bunches — there’s a pretty big deviation between their best weeks and worst weeks — so they’ll typically have higher ceilings (relative to their average level of production) than the backs.
For tournaments, qualifiers, and other large-field leagues that pay out a relatively small portion of entrants, you should sacrifice stability and consistency for volatility. That means spending for elite wide receivers saving at running back.
Stacking the Deck
If upside is what you crave, the manner in which you structure your lineups will be of the utmost importance to you. Namely, you want to create dependent relationships within your lineup — situations through which the superiority of one player increases the probability of another player (or multiple players) producing for you.
When you enter a big tournament that pays out a small percentage of entrants, it doesn’t matter if you have a score in the 30th percentile — you need great, not just good — so your goal should really be to shoot for the moon. That will increase the ceiling of your team. The act of pairing teammates to increase upside is known as “stacking” in the world of daily fantasy sports.
When playing daily fantasy football, you can increase upside by pairing your quarterback with one of his receivers. If the quarterback has a big day, which is pretty much a prerequisite for taking down a tourney, it’s highly likely that your pass-catcher will produce as well.
At rotoViz, I discussed some of my favorite tournament plays this week:
QB Andy Dalton @PIT $6400
Coming off of a big performance in Week 14, you’d think Dalton’s salary would jump. At $6400, though, he’s just the 22nd-priciest quarterback on DraftKings. He also has a nice matchup in Pittsburgh (but just monitor the weather situation). Plus, the data suggests going low at quarterback in tournaments is the right move, assuming the value is there.
RB Rashad Jennings vs. KC $6000
Like quarterback, running back is a position at which bargain bin players have led to tournament success. Jennings isn’t unbelievably cheap, but he’s still priced as a low-end RB2. In that range, you’re not going to find many players with the same expected workload. The Raiders have said Jennings, who missed Week 14, will resume his normal duties.
If the matchup scares you away, look again. The Chiefs have the seventh-least efficient run defense in the NFL. The only worry is that Oakland will get down big early, but Jennings is versatile enough to still give you production as a receiver.
WR A.J. Green @PIT $8100
The data suggests that pairing an elite wide receiver with a low-priced quarterback on his team is the way to go in large-field leagues. Green is the fifth-priciest receiver on DraftKings.
Another QB-WR stack to jump on? Tony Romo to Dez Bryant.
TE Jimmy Graham @STL $7500
At $7,500, Graham costs 23.0 percent more than the second most expensive tight end. Over the long-run, though, I think he’ll more than make up for that difference in price. DraftKings typically underprices their elite players just a tad, especially at tight end. Go with either Graham or Vernon Davis in your GPPs and don’t look back.
More to come. You can buy the book in paperback, on Kindle, or as a PDF.