By Gerry Love - SPM Staff
When it comes to winning at fantasy football, whether you are talking about full-season leagues or DFS contests, there are as many different strategies as there are games from which to choose. No matter how you boil it down, though, and no matter what fancy names you want to give your analytics and strategies, to have a legitimate shot to win you need to build your core with players who provide the greatest value and are most likely to get a high-volume of touches for the lowest price.
If you can surround consistency with more expensive high-upside players who have favorable matchups on a weekly basis, then you are on to something. But how is this accomplished when most of us don’t have the time or resources at our disposal to break down all the available information and come up with a formula that works.
Well, there are a lot of smart people out there doing all the legwork and producing great information that can be used to simplify the process. The information is easy to find, and it’s as accurate as anything any of us could put together, so why not take advantage of it, right?
If you are serious about winning at fantasy sports consistently you will need to dedicate some time to it each week, but there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel or stress yourself out by trying to do all the work yourself.
As anyone who ever has gambled on a point spread or an over/under total is aware, the algorithms that sportsbooks use are incredibly accurate. The number of times that a game comes right down to the wire and is within a point of the spread or the over/under total truly is amazing. Those same sportsbooks have formulas that create very accurate individual NFL player prop bets such as over/under totals for a player’s passing yards, rushing yards and receptions, as well as a player’s odds of scoring a touchdown, for most games, too.
Like they say, Vegas doesn’t have all those big buildings because the sportsbooks have been losing regularly for the last century. Likewise, online DFS websites like FanDuel and Draft Kings aren’t able to offer multi-million-dollar prizes because they are losing money, so you can bet their algorithms also are pretty darn accurate.
Consistency is the key to winning, and their information is better than the what the public can scrounge up on a consistent basis. And it’s readily available to all of us, so why not take advantage of it?
By comparing the data provided such as average fantasy points and salaries on the two major DFS sites, Draft Kings and FanDuel, some discrepancies in player value can readily be found. When one player’s value is much higher on one of the sites, one of them has to be right while the other is wrong. Once the larger differences are discovered, you can analyze a specific player’s weekly rankings across many platforms, the player’s matchup for that week and any prop-bet lines that are available.
That exercise should provide you with the top value plays of the week, which will allow you to establish a core group of players to build around. Sometimes it might even provide you with a full lineup!
Below are the raw numbers for this week, including player values on both Draft Kings and Fan Duel, a matchup rating, players’ average weekly rankings across many platforms and any applicable individual prop bets.
DFS salaries were taken from the “classic” game model, but you can be assured that the relative values are similar across all the DFS games offered on a particular platform. Because in “classic” mode Draft Kings works off of a $50,000 salary cap while DraftKings uses as $60K cap, for comparison we have provided each player’s value as a percentage of the salary cap on each site.
Those percentages are listed below, followed a column for difference. A difference of DK7, for instance, means that the percentage of the salary cap a player would eat up in “classic” game would be seven points higher on Draft Kings that it would be on FanDuel. Likewise, FD10 would mean the percentage of the salary cap the player would utilize on FanDuel is 10 points higher.
We have grouped the players that have the highest differential toward one side or the other together along with the players that are valued equally on both platforms. On average, Draft Kings ranks its running backs and receivers about 9 points higher than FanDuel, so for those positions we considered a differential of 9 the mean when determining whether a player was valued equally or has a higher value on one platform in comparison to the other.
After the differential column you will find a matchup grade for each player, the player’s average fantasy rank for the week across more than 100 platforms (compiled by FantasyPros.com) and any relevant prop bets. There is an explanation and analysis of what all the data means below each position category.
We will continue to add props and update this chart as the weekend approaches, but we wanted to get a preliminary report out in time for the long-awaited Thursday-night NFL opener between Houston and Kansas City.
Welcome back football … ENJOY!
Best QB Value
1. Mahomes – DK
2. Wilson – FD & DK
3. Brees – FD & DK
4. Newton – FD & DK
5. Garoppolo – FD & DK
6. Bridgewater – DK
7. Taylor – FD & DK
8. Goff – DK
9, Brady – FD
Interestingly, Jackson and Mahomes have rather large differentials, with Jackson’s skewed toward Draft Kings and a larger differential for Mahomes in favor of FanDuel. Both have good matchups, but Mahomes’ is a little better. These are two players everyone wants int their lineups,so you really can’t go wrong here, but their ownership can be on the lower side because of the high salary attached to each. If Mahomes goes just over his props you’re looking at 30+ points. He won’t let you down, but he must put up 30 or more to be worth the money. We like his value in Draft Kings games. Jackson and the Ravens have struggled at times vs. Cleveland, so he is a much bigger risk at a his high price.
Russell Wilson is a standby and takes up less than 15% of a team’s payroll. You can’t miss with him, but if you take the higher-priced players at QB you’ll need to find good value in other spots. Brees is usually a solid pick and has a great matchup with a fair price. The much-maligned Garoppolo has a favorable matchup and a good price. Bridgewater and Taylor could be huge bargains with favorable matchups and multiple ways to earn points. Goff is consistent and has a fair price. Brady’s matchup is a little riskier, but the price is right for a Hall of Famer with great weapons around him. The Bucs and Saints have been known to produce at least one shootout per season; we’re willing to bet that the offenses will be ahead of the defenses in Week 1.
Top-Tier RB Value
1. Elliott – FD & DK
2. Cook – FD & DK
3. McCaffery – FD
Best Overall RB Value
1. Jacobs – FD & DK
2. Edwards-Helaire – FD & DK
3. Ingram – FD & DK
4. Connor – FD
5. Mostert – FD
6. D. Johnson – FD
7. Gordon – FD & DK
8. Gurley – FD & DK
9. White – FD
Everyone wants at least one of the “stud” running backs in every lineup. McCaffrey is a no-brainer in FanDuel, but might be a stretch for some folks at 20% of the salary cap in Draft Kings. Zeke Elliott only has a “C” matchup, but is a consensus top-three RB pick for the week, is below 15% of the payroll in Fan Duel and is worth a shot at 16% in Draft Kings based on volume alone. Dalvin Cook, with a 14.5% salary in FanDuel and an average ranking of 3.8, is a FD no-brainer and worth a shot at 15.8 percent in DK. We don’t think you can go wrong with any of those three.
We love “almost stud” Josh Jacobs, who has a great matchup, a price below 15% in both formats and a top-five overall ranking. Looking at the others, it’s hard to ignore James Connor in FanDeul with just a 13 % hit and a top-12 overall rating. His “C” matchup makes his DK price a little tough to swallow. Helaire’s low price and favorable matchup makes him a great FD choice and a decent value in DK given his No. 1 status in a prolific offense. Ingram has a top-20 rating, a great matchup and should get goal-line carries and 15-plus touches.
A word about James White. He has a great matchup against the Dolphin and figures to be a favorite target of Cam Netown as the QB gets comfortable with the Patriots’ offense. Flex him in FanDuel so you can stack the rest of your lineup. If he has a decent day and you select the right high-value players, it could put you in the money.
Note – RBs are rated on average 9 points higher by Draft Kings, so those who were favored by DK by 7, 8 and 9 were considered “equal.”
Top-Tier WR Value
1. Michael Thomas – FD & DK
2. Chris Godwin – FD & DK
3. Tyreek Hill – FD
4. Davante Adams – FD & DK
Overall WR Value
1. Emmanuel Sanders – FD & DK
2. DeSean Jackson – FD & DK
3. Diontae Johnson – FD & DK
4. Calvin Ridley – FD & DK
5. Allen Robinson – FD & DK
6. Terry McLaurin – FD & DK
7. D.J. Moore – FD
8. Stefon Diggs – FD
9. D.J. Chark – FD
10. Keenan Allen – FD
11. Kenny Golladay –FD & DK
12. J.J. Smith-Schuster - FD
Michael Thomas is a FanDuel no brainer with a 14.8% salary-cap hit, a great matchup and a consensus No. 1 ranking. We think you have to take a chance on him for 18% in Draft Kings, too, since the higher price hould keep some folks away. Same story for Tyreek Hill in FD at 13.5%, but his DK price tag is too high. We love Godwin in both formats at 14.2% in DK and 12.8% in FD, with an “A” matchup and a top-6 ranking. Davante Adams, with his 2.9 overall rating and “A” matchup, seems to be a good value at 13.3% in FD, but is a bit of a risk at 14.6% in DK. Given all the factors in his favor, and since he’s under 15%, we suggest taking a stab in both.
Emmanuel Sanders, who has been productive everywhere he’s gone despite never really playing in a true high-end offense, has been extremely undervalued in most preseason draft rankings. He has a great matchup this week and an amazing price in both formats. Take him as a flex and stack him with Thomas, Kamara or Cook – or use the money you save to select other high-end guys. Another player to flex so you can save for other positions is DeSean Jackson. When he’s healthy his numbers are phenomenal, and this may be the only game of the season where we know for sure that he’s healthy. He also happens to have a “B” matchup and a price below 10% of the cap on both platforms. Diontae Johnson has similar credentials and an “A” matchup with high upside. Flex him and load up on other positions.
Calvin Ridley appears ready to take over the No. 1 spot in Atlanta and figures to benefit by finally having a completely healthy Julio Jones on the field with him. He has a top-15 rating and is affordable in both formats despite a “C” matchup. Allen Robinson’s top-10 ranking and “A” matchup are hard to ignore despite a price a little higher than some of the others. Another No. 1 receiver who is a great value this week with a “B” matchup, a top 20 ranking and a price tag below 11.2% in both formats Is Terry McLaurin. And it’s hard to ignore a red-zone and high-volume target priced at 12.4 and 12.2% with a top-10 ranking like Kenny Golladay – even with a “D” matchup.
Note – WRs are rated on average 9 points higher by Draft Kings, so those who were favored by DK by 8, 9 and 10 and 11 were considered “equal.”
Overall TE Value
1. Hayden Hurst – FD & DK
2. Eric Ebron – FD & DK
3. Jared Cook – FD
5. Zach Ertz – FD & DK
6. Gerald Everett – FD & DK
We prefer to pick the best value players at 10% of the cap or below at the TE position so that we can spend more at other positions that generally have higher upside. The top-tier TEs – Kittle and Kelce – are great players and very consistent, but if you can find the players on a weekly basis with a chance to put up similar numbers at a much lower price you can make your team considerably stronger across the board.
This week we like Hayden Hurst, who finally gets to emerge from former teammate Mark Andrews’ shadow to be a No. 1 in Atlanta, as the top value TE lay on both platforms given his price tag of under 9% of the total payroll, an “A” matchup and a No. 8 overall ranking. Eric Ebron had a big year two seasons ago and slides into a potentially prolific Pittsburgh offense. We think he will thrive surrounded by so many weapons as an athletic dump-off outlet for the aging Ben Roethlisberger Ebron is a good value at a price of 9.2% or below in both Draft Kings and FanDuel and with a “B” matchup. Jared Cook has an A- matchup, a top-10 ranking and a price tag below 10% in FanDuel.
The only truly elite-level tight end we like as a solid value pick this week is Zach Ertz, who always seems to kill the Washington Football team and carries a No. 4 ranking as evidence. We feel strongly enough that he will put up double-digit points to make the 12-16% of your cap that you’ll have to spend to get him worth it. And we think taking Gerald Everett as a super-cheap potential upside play while stacking other positions is worth a gamble for one or more of your teams in either format.