The first two entries in our DFS Tools Series -- The Data Dominator and Target Stats -- focused on finding and analyzing stats that best predict player opportunity. As those articles (and the accompanying videos) demonstrated, opportunity is often the driving factor behind fantasy performance. How many chances a player gets to rush, catch, or throw the ball should absolutely be your primary concern in DFS, but how efficient they’ll be with those opportunities clearly matters, especially when considering a player’s ceiling for use in GPPs.
We can use the player's past performance to help forecast potential efficiency, but the opposing defense plays an obvious role from week-to-week. The star of today’s show -- Footballguys’ Game Log Dominator -- is the tool I use to analyze both recent past performance and defensive match-up. An interesting side effect of using the Game Log Dominator for DFS last year was it helped provide a window into ownership percentage, which gave me an edge in tournament play.
2015 Use Case
As usual, before I show you how to use the Game Log Dominator, I’ll frame it with a use case from last season:
It was Week 8, and I began my research the same way I always do -- by reviewing the Vegas lines (John Lee posts a handy Vegas Value Chart that sums the slate up nicely each week). One of the first things to jump out at me was the 49.5 point opening line in the Giants at Saints game -- the second highest over/under on the slate. The spread was New Orleans -3, so while the Saints offense was especially appealing, the implied game script suggested New York should also put a fair amount of points on the board (23.25 by the odds).
Drew Brees and Eli Manning immediately became quarterbacks of interest to me, so I decided to dig into the defensive matchup for both players. It could be argued everything you need to know about defensive matchups for quarterbacks can be gleaned from the Vegas team totals. While it’s true matchups are baked into the Vegas lines (and therefore the projections you’ll find on any decent fantasy football website, Footballguys included), you run the risk of missing outliers by relying on a singular number.
Each Tuesday during the regular season, Austin Lee posts his interactive Normalized Strength of Schedule chart, which instead of using raw matchup data, adjusts past and future matchup statistics to better represent each team’s true performance. In Week 8, filtering Austin’s chart by "Defense > Positional Fantasy Points > YTD > Normalized", showed New Orleans allowed the most normalized fantasy points per game to the quarterback position. New York’s normalized fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks was middle of the road, but when I adjusted the filter to show all normalized statistics rather than just fantasy points, I found the Giants allowed the most pass attempts, completions, and second-most passing yards per game according to Austin’s formula. Some apparent luck in the touchdown department seemed to be suppressing New York’s normalized fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
All the green on Austin’s chart, combined with the high over/under screamed Giants vs. Saints would be a bloodbath for both pass defenses. Still, I wanted to look at some of the detail behind Austin’s normalized numbers and that’s where the Game Log Dominator shined:
The Game Log Dominator reinforced my confidence in the opposing defensive matchups for both Brees and Manning in Week 8, but what about their own recent performance?
What Does This Have to do With Ownership Percentage?
Recency bias is defined as the phenomenon of a person most easily remembering something that has happened recently, compared to remembering something that may have occurred a while back.
When we looked at the game logs for Drew Brees, he was more or less coming off consecutive games in which he finished as the week's 20th best quarterback. Casual DFS players focused solely on Brees’ recent fantasy output (and the money he may have cost them in the last two games) reasoned he was playing poorly.
But a little bit of context painted a different picture. It was obvious Brees played just fine in those easy Saints wins (he completed 77% of his passes in the Atlanta game!), but fell victim to touchdown variance, as New Orleans running backs combined to score five touchdowns against the Falcons and Colts.
Brees’ price on DraftKings even reflected poor play! His $6,700 Week 8 salary was down a whopping $1,300 from the season opener and $300 from the previous week. When a player’s salary drops dramatically, it’s often a great indicator of low tournament ownership in and of itself. When a salary drop lines up with Vegas predicting a shootout, the opponent’s normalized fantasy points against the position showing a whole bunch of green, and “beyond the box-score analysis” suggesting the player has been a bit unlucky, congratulations -- you’ve just uncovered a low-owned tournament gem.
I had Brees’ ownership pegged in the 6%-10% range. I was wrong. It was 3% in the Week 8 Millionaire Maker and Brees went on to lead all scorers with 50 fantasy points.
The game logs made the case for Manning’s low ownership even easier. He was having an up-and-down season, and coming off two truly poor games. But unlike Brees, Manning’s salary was no bargain. He was the same price as Philip Rivers and $600 more than Andy Dalton, both of whom ranked as cumulative top-4 fantasy quarterbacks through the first seven weeks.
Even with the Saints being the best matchup on the board for quarterbacks and Vegas projecting a solid game for the Giants offense, the crowd wanted nothing to do with Manning. I predicted less than 5% ownership, and only 3.7% of Millionaire Maker entrants actually enjoyed his 41 fantasy points in Week 8.
So to answer the question in the header, the stats shown in the Game Log Dominator don’t predict ownership percentage on their own. But if you view them through the lens of how your opponents are likely to make logical decisions (and do a just bit more digging), it is possible to gain a predictive advantage when it comes to ownership percentage by reviewing game logs.
Nothing I showed you in the Game Log Dominator videos should come off as an earth shattering revelation. And as I’ve already stated, it wasn’t the dominator alone that landed me on Brees and Manning in Week 8. Vegas lines, Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule, researching salary trends, paying attention to what actually happened in the games, and even trying to predict cognitive bias in human beings, combined with the Game Log Dominator to deliver my most profitable week of the 2015 season.
Of course, I never expected the Giants vs. Saints game to total over 100 points in Week 8. The notion of Brees and Manning combining for 13 touchdowns would have sounded ridiculous before the game, even after all my research pointed to a shootout. But the Game Log Dominator helped me nail the highest scoring game on the slate, and stacking Giants and Saints across multiple tournament lineups put me in a better position for success than the vast majority of my opponents. Besides a little luck, there isn’t much else you can ask for in GPPs.
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