Hello there! It has been quite a while since I last wrote anything about fantasy football, but I am finally back now after a long hiatus. My absence has not been totally devoid of attempts at fantasy football research and innovation. It’s actually been quite the opposite. Now I don’t have anything groundbreaking for you readers …… or at least I don’t know that yet.
The DFS Player’s Conundrum
Problem solving is a key to success at anything, and last season I recognized a problem effecting my weekly outcomes on Draft Kings. My process was non-existent. Well that sounds really bad. Perhaps it is better to say that my process was not well defined.
Do any of the following situations feel or sound familiar at any point in your daily fantasy career?
- Overwhelmed with statistical data
- Your personal value changes weekly on different types of metrics
- Price is your ultimate (or perhaps only) tiebreaker
- Your constantly tweak your roster last minute with no new information
There are many more things that I could mention, but the more I list, the more I despise myself for approaching this so foolishly. I feel my approach last season was not calculated at all and looked more like a blindfolded two year-old trying to bust open a pinata with a pool noodle; blindly flailing and even the infrequent contact with the target has little effect. This approach could work eventually, as they say, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.”
Approaching a Solution
Before moving on to my approach to solving the problem, you should know a little bit about me. I am an instructor of cyber skills related to the attack and defense of computer systems. This often requires a lot of time developing skills in several disciplines which includes scripting. One of the languages we script in is PowerShell and in order to learn it myself I leverage it to assist with fantasy football.
What does any of that have to do with DFS? Well I have already described that my lack of a process, and this issue virtually eliminates consistency while also preventing any possibility of evaluating my strategy for improvement. In order to force myself to be consistent in my roster construction strategy I use a PowerShell script to walk me through building a DFS roster every week. Sure I could use one of those DFS optimizer tools available on one of many websites, but since I don’t know what is baked into their recommendations, it’s hard identify whether or not there are considerations their models have not made. With this script I can ensure I am considering all of the data points that I deem pertinent.
The Data Points
One of the challenges mentioned earlier is the vast amount of data that exist for football. There is everything out there from yards per carry to air yards to betting lines, you name it. Unfortunately, not all of this data necessarily means anything when selecting players. We have to have a way to filter out the noise, and even after removing the less meaningful stats you still have to prioritize the data.
After doing some research here are the data points that I am looking at for selections:
- Touches (opportunities) per game
- DraftKings Price
- Fantasy points per game
- 16-game fantasy point pace
- Cost per opportunities/game
- Team Red Zone Attempts/10-zone Rush attempts
- Individual Red Zone targets/10-zone rush attempts
- Point Totals (Implied points)
- Air Yards
- DVOA vs WR1
- Projected Ownership Data
These data points were those that other DFS writers have found to have a solid correlation with winning rosters or fantasy points. I’m sure you can name some data points missing from this list, and they may or may not have value. The thing is that the wiseguys in Vegas are pretty good at their jobs when setting these lines which likely requires them to process a lot of the available data which may include your particular coveted statistic.
Now that we have the data points for use, this is the process I plan to stick to until at least week 9. This order of roster building may provoke many questions, but I’ll walk you through the logic behind it:
Most winning rosters had an RB1 of the Gurley, Bell, David Johnson, Kamara variety, so this is a foundational selection for your roster. Now, for the RB2 this will be the scrub to your stud RB, but we are looking for those low-cost RBs perhaps entering an opportunity vacuum due to an injury. These are going to be your RBs in the middle of the road price wise, but you want to see them have a consistent 3+ targets per game if possible. This is where we look if the opportunity vacuum doesn’t exist.
Defense?!? This early?!?!? Yes we do D/ST now because we can add an edge to our roster that few others have. Stacking our D/ST with one of our RB selections can be a sneaky way to differentiate in tournaments. If either of your ball carriers are likely to be in a ‘closer’ or ‘kill the clock’ type situation with a solid lead then perhaps the D/ST has been performing well.
Moving on to receivers, many winning rosters had two of the higher end (higher priced) options for WR1 and WR2 positions. There may be opportunities for a game stack with WRs facing off against each other in high-scoring, but close games. For the third receiver we typically look for a low-cost boom/bust receiver with air yards as the tiebreaker. Remember, we are looking for opportunities to score points. Consistent opportunities in air yards could allow us to take advantage of explosive plays, maximizing that variance. Red zone targets are another area of opportunity to look for sneaky value, but this is actually a better metric for our next position.
Next we are looking at tight ends. This is yet another area where we try to differentiate our roster by avoiding all the high-end players and look for a low-cost opportunity. Here we will focus on red zone targets, team red zone opportunities, and in rare cases air yards. We would also want to look for a high volume of opportunities at a lower cost as well because high receptions and yards still equal fantasy points. In most cases, you will not find a low-cost, high-volume, high-RZ target tight end, but that doesn’t mean it never exists.
Now we finally get around to our passer. “Why so late on the quarterback?” one may ask, and the answer is simple: it allows us to maximize stack opportunities. This actually eliminates the necessity of looking at more in-depth QB stats because of the implied success due to the complimentary receiving option we have already selected at this point. We will typically avoid the studs when possible to take advantage of the cost savings for our flex position and give our roster yet another edge. Home favorites or home dogs work (so long as the spread indicates a close and high scoring game).
Lastly, we select our flex filtering RBs and WRs by the remaining salary. Essentially here we are sorting the options in descending order of touches per game. If there are multiple players that are close then I use a calculated metric of Cost per Opportunities per Game (COG) as a tiebreaker.
The key COG
COG is a metric that I will use to identify potential value. Many players will look at the cost per projected fantasy points or fantasy point per game average, and while this is a fine metric for value there is one basic rule in fantasy sports that cannot be ignored: opportunity is king! In addition, looking backwards at what happened doesn’t always glance into the imaginations of the play callers as to what could have been. Therefore, I felt it made more sense to leverage avg opportunities per game and evaluate how much opportunity I am buying with my salary cap. Since I can evaluate this throughout the process, I can identify players that may be undervalued, especially when the metric is combined with the player’s current 16-game pace. While this metric may not be codified by the industry, I plan to track this over the season to see if there is any value there.
As we go through the season I will be building lineups using this methodology. Each week of the regular season and the playoffs, I will share a lineup with the public in an article format and include the selections that were not chosen for each slot. Also, it’s still in the works, but I may show up on the podcast as a guest in the future to discuss some of the nuances to my thought process for the posted lineup for your listening pleasure. Look forward to week 1 for DFS selections and REAL FOOTBALL!!! Man I can’t wait; it feels like Christmas, and I’m sure it does to all of you DFS fans.