Fanduel Tournament Plays and Strategies: Week 7

A weekly look into my DFS gameplan with tips, strategies, lessons learned, and GPP plays.

The Different Levels of Risks in your Cash Lineups

In the DFS community we throw around the term cash game or GPP lineup quite often. I do this all the time too. But it is important to take a step back every now and then and remember that even within the cash game realm there are different lineups that we want to consider and they are head to head (H2H) and 50/50 games. I know at times I get caught up thinking that I want my H2H games to be as risk free as possible but that’s not really the right objective, maximizing points is.

Let’s start out by looking back at the article that I wrote in the preseason on optimizing lineups. Here is where I showed what I believe is one of the most important graphs at Fanduel which shows your odds of winning given a specific score over the long run of thousands of games. Please note that this isn’t your odds of winning any specific week as scores vary greatly each week but if you play enough games it should represent a good average. Also this doesn’t apply if you are only playing heads up with one person each week. That is essentially a 50/50.

Nothing in this graph screams at me “Play it safe dummy”. Every extra point that we score we improve our odds of winning and every point we miss out on scoring decreases our odds of winning. It is true there is a law of diminishing returns where if you score over 140 or below 80 you aren’t likely to move on the scale much but that is a pretty big gap to be aggressive within. In fact this graph looks a lot like the odds of making a field goal where every additional yard you gain increases your odds of making the field goal. Conservative coaches get this wrong all the time and we don’t want to fall into the same trap. 

Now let’s compare that to your odds of winning within a large 50/50, again over the long term. Without a fancy graph it looks basically like this.

  • 112 Points = 0%
  • 113 Points = 50%
  • 114 Point = 100%

We can see here that safety is of utmost importance. If we don’t get to our baseline score needed we are going to lose all our money. If we are a good player and can typically score 113 points or more we want to be conservative and shoot for that line. Any additional risk we take on is wasted. This looks nothing like the H2H graph meaning we should treat these two types of cash games slightly different even if our target breakeven score is approximately the same. Remember in this same article I showed that the average score you would achieve using Footballguys projections last year was 117 which was good enough for a consistent profit, especially in 50/50’s and could even take safer picks to get to the 114 points we were looking for.

What is the best way to take advantage of these differences? First of all in 50/50’s you are looking for the players with the best floor no questions asked.

  1. Pay up at quarterback because it is by far the safest position in fantasy football.  We can see this be the fact that they score our target score (2X of salary) greater than 60% of the time while all other positions are under 50%. Quarterbacks score well at such a high rate because they touch the ball on every snap whereas all other positions see a small fraction of these. In addition at Fanduel they price quarterbacks in such a way that they want th eaverage player to pay up for quarterback.
  2. Pay up for runnning backs that catch passes. This is important because it allows your running back to stay on the field no matter how the game script goes. For example, Matt Forte is going to be in the game and involved just as much if the Bears are winning or losing. Alfred Morris on the other hand, will be out of the game quite a bit if the Redskins are trailing.
  3. Pay attention to percentage of team snaps and team targets. If  you follow me on Twitter you probably notice that snaps and targets are two of my favorite go to stats for wide receivers, tight ends, and to a lesser extent running backs. Players that get more targets are more likely to avoid the games that kill our chances at getting our goal.
  4. Very rarely stack players from the same team.  Stacking players from the same team increases your risk no matter how good of a value they are.  See the Giants this past week whom everyone on their team was allegedly good value. You would have lost a lot quickly with a team full of Giants. 

In H2H games I want to ease up on these requirements significantly. Here I want to really look for the best value at every position. This best value is often derived from some of the same concepts above such as the number of targets, snaps, and running backs that can catch passes. But here we are willing to start paying more for touchdown capacity and big play capability. I still prefer to pay up for quarterbacks but can make an exception for great values in relatively safe spots. Finally, I am willing to start stacking players from the same team. More on this in an upcoming article.

The main take away I want to impress isn’t necessarily to play aggressively in H2Hs but instead to simply play more aggressively in H2Hs than you are in 50/50s, just like you wouldn’t use the same cash game lineup in a GPP you shouldn’t blindly use the same lineup within these different types of cash games because the ultimate goal isn’t the same.

Fanduel GPP plays

Below are my weekly GPP plays at Fanduel. Throughout the season I will be employing strategies mentioned in Week 1 about contrarian plays. My goal will be to highlight players owned less than 10% to give you a contrarian option unless the player is such a good value that you should play him anyway. But remember that if you think a player will score three times their salary at a higher rate than their ownership level they are still a good buy. It is also important to remember you don’t need to go contrarian on everyone one of your positions. Additionally I will take the approach outlined in my preseason article about the best approach to allocating money in my lineups. In this article, I showed that in general it was best to spend on studs at wide receiver and to a lesser extent quarterback and save your money at running back and tight end.

Jay Cutler ($8,700) 4% - The Dolphins aren’t an easy passing defense to target but with a projected point total of 26 and a game that Vegas expects to be close the Bears should be in passing mode a lot of the game. If you didn’t know, the Bears like to pass the ball a lot ranking 4th in my pass identity ratio. Even when they give the ball to Matt Forte it is through the pass 32% of the time. Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, and Martellus Bennet are about as healthy have they have been all year so the arrow on the passing game is certainly pointing up. At Cutler’s reasonable price we only need about 26 points out of him. He hasn’t done that yet this year but with his receivers getting healthy and his extremely low ownership I like his odds of reaching that goal way more than 4% of the time.

Colin Kaepernick $7,800 5% - There are three quarterbacks that I really like at under 10% owned in GPPs this week and it doesn’t even include Cam Newton who I went most heavily in on my Thursday GPPs. Kaepernick is the second of those three. Teams are passing the ball against the Broncos very aggressively with a defensive situational neutral pass identity (SNPR) of 8th. This despite the fact that their passing defense has improved greatly this year as they are only giving up 83% of the league average yards per pass attempt. The 49ers are only projected to score 22 points in this game but they are heavy underdogs. Frank Gore and the 49ers running game won’t be able to keep up with the Broncos which means Kaepernick will be asked to pass and run quite a bit.

Derek Carr $6,800 2% - I thought Carr would have been owned a lot more coming off his 282 yard 4 TD game last week against the formidable Chargers. This week he gets a much easier match up against the surprisingly week defense of the Cardinals. The Cardinals are giving up yards through the air at 117% of the league average and are stuffing the run only allowing 76% of the league average on the ground. The league has caught on to this and is attacking the Cardinals through the air quite frequently with an SNPR of 5th most often. The Raiders rushing offense has struggled all year and they are leaning on the passing game as well. As a 3.5 point underdog and a healthy Carson Palmer back for the Cardinals expect that trend to continue.

Giovani Bernard $8,900 3% - It is going to be very tough for Bernard to achieve his value of $8,900 as he will be required to about 27 points which is very difficult for RBs to do. However, this is one game that I think he could get close which will allow you to spend down at some other positions where it is typically easier to reach value. Last week just as predicted in this article Bernard and Mohamed Sanu were the focal points of the Bengals offense which scored 37 points against the Panthers. This week they go into Indianapolis where they are 3 points underdogs. This typically means they might fade out the running game a bit but if the Colts use Vontae Davis, who has been extremely good this year, on Sanu there won’t be any other play makers for Dalton to rely on which makes Bernard and maybe even Jeremy Hill sneaky and their prices and ownership levels.

Rueben Randle $6,500 5% - Randle and the Giants passing defense let us all down last week and people are hesitant to go back to the well again. So far this year the Cowboys defense is looking a lot better than we all expected since they are giving up the 14th most points in the league which is basically average. However, that is primarily because the Demarco Murray is doing such a good job keeping the other team off the field allowing the Cowboys defense to see only the 26th most plays. On a per play basis the defense is still giving up the 4th most yards per play. Being a divisional game and the Cowboys coming off such a big win and the Giants coming off such a big loss I expect the Giants to exploit this inefficiency and get Randle involved heavily with the loss of Victor Cruz for the season and Rashad Jennings still out for the game. Given the above I think Andre Williams makes a good cheaper option at running back as well.

Travis Kelce $5,800 4% - Normally being a numbers guy it feels a little odd picking so many guys on hunches this week but last week I told you how important it was to build a story for your GPP plays and go all in on those stories since most of the time we won’t be getting value on these plays anyway. In this case the Chiefs are coming off a bye and prior to the bye Kelce has been averaging 48% of the snaps on the season which was up to 58% during his 5th game. If the Chiefs took a step back during the bye and realized they are sitting at 2-3 because they aren’t getting the ball to their two best play makers. Then we could see Kelce’s snaps increase considerably to the 75-80% range which would make him an immediate force. Rationale coaching, especially with Andy Reid isn’t something I like to rely on but it is something I will take a chance on in a GPP.

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