Daily fantasy football is unique in that there are really a whole bunch of different ways to be successful. Some players are stat heads who use analytics, while others break down film and exploit matchups.
I personally lean heavily on stats, which needs to be done carefully in a sport like football. In baseball, numbers are so important because, with the large sample size of games, they’re very trustworthy; we know about how many homers Mike Trout will hit or how many strikeouts Clayton Kershaw will have each year.
Football is more volatile over the course of a season, but actually more consistent from game to game. Our job is to separate what’s real from what’s just noise, and certain stats can help do that better than others. If we can effectively use a small amount of information to draw accurate conclusions about player value, we can have a lot of success playing daily fantasy football on DraftKings.
There are all kinds of stats out there to help assess talent, but all of them are ultimately designed to help predict one of two things: Workload or efficiency. When projecting fantasy football scoring, all you need to worry about is how many opportunities a player will get to make plays and how efficient he will be with those opportunities.
With that said, let’s look at three very basic categories of stats for daily fantasy football.
Opportunities are extremely important. As much as player talent matters, workload is even more important, especially at certain positions. For running backs, for example, almost all of their fantasy scoring comes from simply getting touches; basically, any back can be an effective fantasy scorer if he’s given enough opportunities.
For quarterbacks, we care primarily about passing attempts, but don’t overlook rushing attempts, too. Russell Wilson is an example of a player who doesn’t air the ball out much but still has immense fantasy value because of his ability as a runner.
For running backs, carries and targets are important. The latter has more value on DraftKings than other sites because DraftKings uses full point-per-reception scoring. Pass-catching backs who maybe don’t see a ton of carries can still offer a lot of value in such a format.
For pass-catchers, targets are obviously what matters. I’d say actual talent level is the most important for receivers, and the least important for running backs -— but for every position, the first thing you try to project, week in and week out, should be opportunities.
Injuries are a huge component of this, too. Injuries open the door for players to step up and take on heavier workloads (especially at the running back position). Thus, so much of your ability to project fantasy value will come down to assessing injuries and how missing players can affect the balance of an offense.
FANTASY POINTS PER OPPORTUNITY
There are a variety of ways to project efficiency. A player’s supporting cast is obviously important, as is the offensive scheme. One of my favorite simple stats to analyze is fantasy points per opportunity; on a per-opportunity basis, how many points has this player scored in the past, and how might that compare to the future?
I like fantasy points per opportunity because it automatically accounts for the value a player has on DraftKings. We don’t need to try to figure out the relative weight of things like pass-catching ability or touchdown upside because those will automatically be factored into past per-opportunity fantasy production.
This is especially useful to study for players in new situations or guys who are likely to see an increased workload. When a backup running back is thrust into the starting lineup or when a wide receiver gets traded to a new offense, I like to study fantasy points per opportunity to see how efficient they’ve been in the past and how that will affect their fantasy production given a change in workload or situation.
RED ZONE STATS
Opportunities and efficiency are the fundamental components of every player’s projection, but where a player’s opportunities come on the field and how he performs in those areas is very important. Specifically, we want players who 1) have access to opportunities for touchdowns and 2) have the ability to consistently convert those opportunities into scores.
For each player, it is important to know how often his team relies on him in the red zone (and also inside the 10-yard line and even closer to the goal line). What is his market share of red zone opportunities? How often does a quarterback throw when near the goal line? What percentage of his team’s red zone targets does a receiver get?
If a running back doesn’t get goalline work, that’s a huge blow to his value. Similarly, if a particular team almost always runs the ball when inside the five-yard line, that’s a big hit to the quarterback’s value.
Especially in tournaments in which you need upside, touchdowns are king and you should try to maximize your exposure to scoring opportunities.
Certain players are also much more efficient at scoring than others. That’s especially true for pass-catchers, with big, heavy players often scoring at a much higher rate than smaller receivers. I love to analyze red zone touchdown rate -— what percentage of a player’s past red zone looks he’s been able to convert into touchdowns -— to help determine how effective he is near the goal line and how likely he is to put the ball into the end zone.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is bales) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.