Before we dive into the article, I’d like to promote DonkeyTeeth and my YouTube show: Fantasy Football Malpractice! We talk about all things fantasy football, from trade theory to our favorite player we’ve ever rostered. Give it a test run, and then subscribe to the channel for more goodness in the weeks to come! 

What is Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)?

The DFS game is a one week fantasy contest where players create rosters (typically via a salary cap) to score points for one week. Once the week is over, everything is wiped clean and a new slate of choices and salaries are available for the next week. DFS enthusiasts pour their entire week of research into specific edges that only pertain to a single matchup. Draft Kings and FanDuel are the main platforms that have become very popular over the last few years. With this growth, many fantasy sites have created specialized DFS content.

As the daily industry has expanded, more “traditional” sites are adding DFS columns and other content. If you have never made a DFS lineup in your life but play season long fantasy, you should still be using DFS information to cherry pick available players for little to no cost on the wire. 

While thinking about this article, I had a hunch that many season long players do not use this valuable information to aid in building the strongest roster they can. This Twitter poll says it all:

Why DFS give you an edge

Because the goal of DFS is to only win in a given week, the research methods that writers are using are laser focused on very specific details that season long players don’t have time for. However, they are doing the heavy lifting for you! DFS columns often highlight lesser known players (with low DFS salaries) that have premium matchups. This is important when making a roster with a salary cap but these players are often overlooked in traditional leagues because they are not long term adds. 

Most traditional “waiver wire” articles will rank players in terms of sustained value. So, if Dalvin Cook tears his ACL, Alexander Mattison will be #1 on that week’s waiver rankings because he can be the starter for the rest of the season. Similarly, wide receivers will usually be hot pickups only if they appear to be emerging as consistent top targets for their teams. 

However through the eyes of a DFS player there are many single-use plays at WR and TE that may have a particularly good matchup. This type of player won’t be trending as a standard waiver wire pickup but is available at very low cost and you can add/drop many throughout the season. 

Despite the “season long” descriptor, we are still playing a week to week game in traditional fantasy football. We just need a W to move on to the next opponent and closer to a playoff birth. DFS can help get us there. The great Pete Overzet parodied the rise of sharp DFS content in a hilarious video last year. Take a moment for a good laugh, but the concept rings true… these DFS players are getting very good. And their research is becoming more and more available.  

 

How does DFS apply to my league?

While I am comfortable heading into a season knowing I will take the high risk path of starting weekly fliers on a regular basis, that’s not the only way to use this information. You can play conservatively and still reap the benefits of using DFS scouting to your advantage. 

The ability to identify free pickups that can perform like a starters opens up so much flexibility in how you can play the game. Depending on the league structure, DFS content can help you in a variety of ways:

  • Stars and scrubs roster build (more applicable in auction drafts)
    • Pay up for the studs you want and draft a bunch of $1 risks
    • Trust DFS plays to guide fill-ins week to week until one of your value draftees develops
  • Drafting for upside 
    • Take big swings on potential bellcow RB handcuffs or cheaper rookies that could pop
    • Drafting for floor becomes irrelevant if you trust your ability to find spot starts on the wire
  • Aggressive trading
    • Don’t fear gutting team depth to land a star difference maker
    • There will always be a one week starter available to fill holes
  • Start/Sit help
    • Even if you don’t need fill in starters, start/sit can be a dilemma
    • DFS content can point you in the right direction 
  • Injury relief
    • Don’t be chained to one “backup” in case of injury
    • Use DFS information to explore the entire player pool for emergency starters

This sounds great but…

I know, I know. Too good to be true right? You be the judge! The Sporting News is a traditional source for sports info that also has some free DFS content. I checked weeks 10-12 (crucial for the playoff push) to see if any players mentioned were likely on waiver wires and returned startable production. Take a look at cheap salary options from their weekly “Projected DFS ownership” column:

Week 10 Plays PPR points Additional Notes
Larry Fitzgerald 15.1   previous 3 weeks had 12.8 points combined
Gerald Everett 14.8   previous 3 weeks were 21.4 points combined
Week 11 Plays    
Phillip Dorsett 12.3    
Ross Dwelley 17.4  injury spot starter
Week 12 Plays    
Dede Westbrook 14.9   most catches in a game all season
N’Keal Harry first TD of the season
Allen Hurns 14.2   best game all season
Mike Gesecki 11.8 first TD of the season

That’s just one free site chosen at random. The column did not focus specifically on cheap plays, so the choices were somewhat limited. However, all those likely unrostered players above had spike weeks called out by a DFS writer. For one glorious week they performed like a mid range starter, and that’s all you need.  

For those wanting to dive in a little deeper, here at Razzball we have Rudy’s award winning tools that offer weekly projections for all fantasy relevant players. Combing through weekly projections would be a great way to find value pickups.

For Week 10 of 2019 I have listed below his WR and TE targets projected for 8.5 or more points and priced at $4000 or below on Draft Kings, meaning they were probably available in standard leagues. I made 8.5 PPR points the bar for WR “startability” and 6.5 the bar for TE “startability”:

Week 10 Position Rudy’s PPR Projection Actual PPR Startable? Additional Notes
Adam Humphries WR 12.3 9.3 Yes 1st TD of the season
Auden Tate WR 12 6.6 No  
Demaryius Thomas WR 11.5 14.4 Yes best game of the season
Alex Erickson WR 11.3 0 No  
Jack Doyle TE 11.1 13.4  Yes 2nd best game of the season
Albert Wilson WR 11.1 1 No  
Vance McDonald TE 10.1 4.1 No  
Mike Gesicki TE 9.9 5.8 No  
Jonnu Smith TE 9.7 7 Yes  
Deebo Samuel WR 9.5 19.2 Yes Most targets in a game all season
Jason Witten TE 9.1 3.7 No  
Randall Cobb WR 8.9 24.6  Yes Best game of the season
Ted Ginn Jr WR 8.9 0.5 No  
Taylor Gabriel WR 8.7 13.9  Yes  
Josh Reynolds WR 8.7 7.9 No  

For week 10, there were 7 startable players out of 15 choices which is a 46% hit rate. Given the pool of players to choose from, I think this is a pretty strong showing. Josh Reynolds (7.9) and Auden Tate (6.6) wouldn’t have hurt too bad so counting them would make the hit rate 60%. 

Sometimes you will need to use your own analysis despite the projections. For instance, from this group I would probably have ruled out McDonald because by this point in the season we knew the Steelers QB situation was so bad that no one could come out alive. Additionally, the Bengals receivers Tate and Erickson were extra risky with rookie QB Ryan Finely making his very first NFL start. Removing them would increase the hit rate as well. 

Since no one likes a small sample size, let’s use Rudy’s projections for week 11 and see what the hit rate is:

Week 11 Position Rudy’s PPR Projection Actual PPR Startable? Additional Notes
Deebo Samuel WR 13 21.4 Yes best game of the season, but may have been picked up on the waiver run
Demaryius Thomas WR 12.4 8.4 No  
Eric Ebron TE 11.4 6.7 Yes  
Greg Olsen TE 11.3 10.7 Yes  
Josh Reynolds WR 11.3 8.5 Yes 2nd best game of the season
Jason Witten TE 10.3 8.3 Yes  
Dallas Goedert TE 10.2 12.6 Yes  
Taylor Gabriel WR 9.4 12.7 Yes most targets & receptions in a game all season
Mike Gesicki TE 9.2 5.8 No  
Hunter Renfrow WR 9.2 11.6 Yes  
Vance McDonald TE 9.1 6.3 No  
OJ Howard TE 9.1 0 No  
Russel Gage WR 8.9 5.2 No  
Allen Hurns WR 8.9 9.3 Yes best game of season to date
Isaiah McKenzie WR 8.6 6.1 No most targets in a game all season
Irv Smith TE 8.5 11 Yes best game of the season

Week 11 was even better than week 10! There were 10 out of 16 (63%) startable players from the pool. Unfortunately for McKenzie his season high in opportunity didn’t turn into fantasy points, but Rudy was on to something. 

Closing argument

There is obviously a lot of risk picking from a pool of cast offs that no one else wants, but when you can get a usable score 50% of the time that’s about as good as you can reasonably hope for. Whether you’re intentionally employing a high risk “Stars and Scrubs” strategy or are desperate for an injury fill-in, DFS projections can help identify cheap options from week to week. If the rest of your team performs, it will help you win matchups and make the playoffs.