Mitigating Risk: Week 1 DraftKings Cash Game Plays September 9, 2016  |  Justin Edwards


The time to grind is here, boys and girls. While we throw our hard-earned money at DFS and hope to become the next Milly Maker, it is prudent for us to allocate a good amount of that into “safe” (or at least much ‘safer’) Cash Games. You can portion your weekly payroll however you see fit but I prefer the tried and true 80%/20% split. I’m putting most of my money trying to double-up my investment and I’m always looking for new ways to make that something a bit closer to a guarantee. Some of my favorite work of the offseason was done by Evan Silva (Identifying Top Scorers) and was later revamped a little bit by Sean Fakete (The RB/WR and QB/TE Profile). What I’ve done with the amazing prep work by these guys is picked the 5 most predictive categories and found the player (or players) who fit the most, if not all, of them in the upcoming week. The end goal will be to find guys who should have some of the highest floors for the Sunday slate and turn them into profitable lineups that can scoop Head-to-Heads and 50-50s/Double-ups alike.

I’ll explain the inclusion of a category below each position and briefly explain the importance. I strongly suggest you read the above articles if you have not; they both give you a much more intricate explanation than what you’ll read here. The point of this exercise is to try and predict who will definitely check a box (Something like “Home Team” is always a straight Yes or No) and at the same time find someone who might or should check a box (Adrian Peterson had 18 or more touches in 13 of 16 games last year, barring injury he’ll get that checkmark more often than not).

 

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QB

Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12
Pass Attempts > 35 67% 55% 53%
Favorite 69% 64% 59%
Home 61% 57% 53%
*Pass Defense >= 15th
69% 67% 64%
Team Total > 22.5 67% 58% 52%

*Opposing Pass Defense ranked 15th or worse in Football Outsiders’ DVOA; data will be used from ’15 for the beginning of the 2016 season.

We’re looking for signal callers who typically chuck the ball around, on a team with a high implied team point total, playing a defense ranked in the bottom half of the league. Pretty simple, right? Surprisingly, my list of QBs quickly dwindled until I was left with only three on this slate that meet all of the parameters.

Andrew Luck, IND ($8,300)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (19th) Yes (27.25)
  • -Throwing 41.9 passes in his 7 games last season and never throwing less than 30, Luck would have led the league in pass attempts if he stayed on that pace for the entire season.
  • -Detroit surrendered 400 total points last season, good for 10th most in the league
  • -In the highest O/U of the week, Indianapolis will have to score some points. If their 89.9 rushing yards/game from last season (29th in NFL) are any indication, they’ll need to score through the air.

Matt Ryan, ATL ($7,100)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (26th) Yes (25.25)
  • -While he was mostly inefficient with his passes, Ryan was still forced to throw the ball an average of 38 times a game. In 7 of his 16 games he scored 20+ fantasy points, including the first three games of the season and a Week 8 game against TB in which he chucked the ball 45 times and ended up with a 397-2-1 stat line.
  • -Tampa Bay shouldn’t have much problem moving the ball and putting points on the board, a sign that Atlanta won’t be able to hand the ball off and drain the clock. Not that they would want to; the Bucs allowed an entire team to accumulate over 125 rushing yards just four times in 2015.

Joe Flacco, BAL ($6,700)

Pass Att > 35 Favorite Home DVOA  Team Total > 22.5
Yes Yes Yes Yes (18th) Yes (23.75)
  • -Another QB who went down while experiencing a high-volume year was Mr. Flacco who averaged 41 attempts a game and tossed the ball less than 35 times just twice. The Ravens as a whole lead the league in pass attempts.
  • -Even though Buffalo will likely be the toughest matchup between the three of these options, the discount you get with the Baltimore QB is enough for me to lean towards him a little bit. If I’ve got any interest in the Ravens’ pass catchers, I’m probably just going to default to Joe to save some heartburn.

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RB

Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12 Top 24
18+ Touches 92% 73% 66% 53%
Favorite 71% 63% 60% 54%
Home 61% 56% 55% 53%
*RB Defense >= 15th 75% 67% 66% 62%
3+ receptions 76% 71% 67% 58%

*Opposing Rushing Defense ranked 15th or worse in Football Outsiders’ DVOA; data will be used from ’15 for the beginning of the 2016 season.

While some of that should be pretty self-explanatory (’18+ Touches’ for example, means that the no. 1 RB had 18 or more touches in that given week; a Top 6 will have 18+ 73% of the time, a Top 12 66% of the time, etc.), something like the ranking of the defense the running back is going up against is a little more precise. Just as a quick example, if we are looking for a Top 12 back in a specific week, we are going to need a two-thirds chance of him catching at least 3 passes.

Devonta Freeman, ATL ($6,900) 

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes No (9th) Yes
  • -Feeding off the tidbit under Matt Ryan up above, even though Tampa Bay was great at limiting high yardage rushing outputs on a week to week basis, Freeman managed over 100 total yards in each of his two games against them, catching a ridiculous 16 passes.
  • -Devonta now has 103 receptions through 31 games, including 73 in 15 games last season.
  • -He easily meets our 18+ touch threshold, hitting that criteria in 11/15 games, including 8/10 after Tevin Coleman returned from injury. He may not be receiving hand-offs as much as he did in his breakout season, but he’ll still be receiving receptions.

 

Lamar Miller, HOU ($7,000)

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes Yes (32nd) Yes
  • -Criminally underutilized in 4 seasons with Miami, his time to shine has come. Houston has finished 5th and 1st in rushing attempts/game over the last two seasons. The only guy with any chance of stealing snaps is scat-back type, rookie Tyler Ervin.
  • -We’ll find out very soon whether Miller will be supplanted on 3rd downs, but his 82% catch rate on 57 targets should bode well for his chances to move the chains through the air.

 

Ryan Mathews, PHI ($5,700)

18+ Touches Favorite Home DVOA  3+ receptions
Yes Yes Yes Yes (26th) Unlikely
  • With Kenjon Barner listed as a third stringer and rookie Wendell Smallwood listed as a distant fourth, the carries in this offense are there for the taking for Ryan Mathews.
  • -While Mathews will definitely be in line for some receptions throughout the year (DeMarco had 44, albeit for a different coach) there’s no saying he’ll be getting them on a week-to-week basis with Darren Sproles behind him; he of 577 career rushes and 631 career targets.
  • -The Browns will be a fun team to watch develop as an offensive unit, but nothing has been done to improve their defense. In fact, it quite possibly just got younger and worse. Almost as good of a spot as you can ask for with Ryan in your lineup. Let’s just keep him healthy.
 

WR

Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12 Top 24 Top 36
6+ receptions 98% 86% 76% 63% 52%
Favorite 65% 57% 56% 54% 52%
O/U Result = Over 73% 64% 63% 58% 55%
*WR Defense >= 15th
63% 61% 63% 60% 59%
Age < 30 86% 85% 84% 84% 83%

*Opposing Team Defense ranked 15th or worse against that WR type in Football Outsiders’ DVOA; data will be used from ’15 for the beginning of the 2016 season.

So we get lots of points from big reception games in PPR scoring, huh? Who would’ve thunk it! What might come as a surprise is the fact that correctly guessing which games go over the Vegas total is much more predictive for WR output than the Vegas point total itself. Not only that, but it’s also more predictive than that player’s team total. Finding games that we see as a good bet to surpass the O/U will be a sneaky way to fall into some upside. I’m not going to pretend to be an incredible sports bettor, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find games that are more likely to end up as a shootout (DET vs. IND) than others (MIN vs. TEN)

Julio Jones, ATL ($9.400)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (16th) Yes
  • -This one is easy; Julio is the most consistent wideout in the league not named Antonio Brown. He scored less than 12 points three times last year and scored more than 20 ten times. If you want to pay up for the position, then he’s your guy.

 

Randall Cobb, GB ($7,600)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (24th) Yes
  • -In the three years prior to the disastrous (by their standards) 2015 season for the Green Bay Packers, Cobb averaged 18.5, 17.7 and 15.8 fantasy points per game. Last year’s disappointing 12.7 made him a low-end WR3, bad news for those of us who had aspirations of another fringe WR1 season.
  • -His ascension back into greatness will begin against a Jacksonville team that got beat up by WR2s last year. With Jordy demanding respect when he’s on the field, Randall should be in for a day of high-volume action. The ceiling here might not be wonderful with Jordy reportedly on a ‘snap count’, but if anything that will just raise Cobb’s short-to-intermediate target total.

 

T.Y. Hilton, IND ($7,500)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
No Yes Yes Yes (24th) Yes
  • -This Detroit-Indy game is just gonna be a lot of fun.
  • -Luck will be the name of the game for both of these Colts receivers, and I’m fine with playing either one of them. T.Y. has a better chance of paying his price off with one huge play, but if you’re looking for a higher floor…….

 

Donte Moncrief, IND ($6,000)

6+ Receptions Favorite O/U = Over DVOA Age < 30
Yes Yes Yes Yes (18th) Yes
  • ….then you want the guy who actually costs $1,500 less.
  • -Looking poised to have a sophomore breakout before Andrew went down, Moncrief averaged 5 receptions and 13.87 points/game with Luck playing. He got to the 6 receptions benchmark in 4 of those 7 games.

 

TE

Category #1 Finish Top 6 Top 12
Home 63% 55% 51%
Favorite 62% 57% 53%
*TE Defense >= 15th 65% 63% 59%
**WR Defense >= 15th
62% 60% 58%
1+ TD 92% 81% 66%

*Opposing Team Defense ranked 15th or worse against TE in Football Outsiders’ DVOA; data will be used from ’15 for the beginning of the 2016 season.

**Opposing Team Defense ranked 15th or worse against WRs in Football Outsiders’ DVOA; data will be used from ’15 for the beginning of the 2016 season.

These percentages are much lower than other positions, helping to prove the fact that finding top tight ends is not a very easy process. I definitely subscribe to the “star” or “stud” mentality when selecting the big pass catchers and typically make that pick last when setting a lineup; opting to base the decision on price much more than the rest of my team. There is a massive correlation between startable TEs and scoring at least one TD; the great news is that getting into the end zone is often all we need to hit value, the bad news being the difficulty in predicting who actually scores. I found it interesting that Fakete included the opposing defenses prowess (or lack thereof) in defending the Wide Receiver in his TE profiles and can see how we can use that as a predictive value in our work here.

Travis Kelce, KC ($5,000)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (31st) Yes (20th) No
  • -There could be some nice upside for a touchdown, even if we know that KC will likely take to the ground to grind San Diego down. Two of the five scores he had in 2015 came in Week 1 against a Houston defense that wound up being very good. It was his only multi-score game of his career, and he now has 10 TDs in 33 games.
  • -Kelce caught 8 passes for 64 yards over two games against the Chargers last year.

 

Zach Ertz, PHI ($4,300)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (17th) Yes (19th) No
  • -We’re chasing touchdown upside some more here, which by all accounts is the name of the game when we’re selecting a TE in any format. The Browns allowed 10 scores to the big pass catchers, more than all but four other teams in 2015.
  • -With an unproven receiver corps and a rookie in Carson Wentz manning the offense, we could easily fall into the “rookies love checking down to tight ends” narrative. Whether that narrative is true or not doesn’t really matter; we’ve got a possible top-10 fantasy point scoring TE against a defense that allows touchdowns to TEs.

Jason Witten, DAL ($4,100)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (27th) Yes (15th) No
  • -This might have been the only name on the list if Romo hadn’t broken his back. In the last five years with Tony at the helm, Witten has smashed the Giants, averaging 6.2 catches, 0.7 TDs and 55.5 yards over the course of 10 games.
  • -See the Ertz bit above for practically the same situation, except Witten is much older. Giants gave up 11 TDs to tight ends last season and, well, the “rookies love checking down to tight ends” narrative.

 

Dwayne Allen, IND ($3,200)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes Yes (29th) Yes (24th) Yes
  • -Lest you be confused, I am not suggesting you stack the Colts offense in a cash game, I’m just saying almost all of them are perfectly fine options. Some more than others. Also, don’t disregard Detroit on the other side of the ball.
  • -I think Dwayne has the biggest TD upside with the lowest price this week. Easily the largest body running routes on the team, he shouldn’t have a lot of competition from other tight ends as Eric Swoope and Jack Doyle will likely be acting as ancillary players; at least for now. If Indy gets into the red zone as many times as expected Allen could show what he’s got with Coby Fleener out of the way.

Luke Willson, SEA ($2,700)

Home Favorite TE DVOA WR DVOA 1+ TD
Yes Yes No (11th) Yes (32nd) No
  • -For those that truly want to punt the position, “Double LL” will get the starting nod if Jimmy Graham does not.
  • -Miami’s secondary was just a whole lot of not good last season, and it might be hard to predict exactly who goes off on them.

 

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