Projecting the Pros on DraftKings: Week 5

A guide to playing roster percentages like the pros.

NOTE: The pro projections below are first posted on Thursday, then updated on Saturday afternoon. On Thursday, commentary will be limited to early impressions. A more-detailed discussion of specific players will be added on Saturday afternoon.

Welcome back for Week 5 of Footballguys' new feature that uses a statistical model to project the roster percentages of "professional" tournament players on Draftkings. If you're curious about the full methodological details of the model, click here. The most important detail to keep in mind, however, is that the "professionals" in question were identified using a clustering algorithm and can be characterized by the following statement: Compared to the rest of the population, these 205 pros play more, they win more, and they do both consistently.

Quarterbacks

Below is the table for quarterbacks. In this and all subsequent tables, "Overall" is Steve Buzzard's projection of roster percentage. "Pros" is the model's projection of roster percentage for Draftkings pros only.

Thursday Early Impressions

The Steelers-Falcons game appears to be top of the pops among both the public and pros, so let's look elsewhere. Jared Goff figures to be rostered more frequently by the pros than the overall public. From the model's perspective, Goff is one of five quarterbacks going against a defense projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups. Even more consequential is that his wide receivers are projected for a 32.7% aggregate roster percentage. That ranks third among quarterbacks in the main slate.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Nope, Goff's standing has changed for the worse since Thursday. This is entirely due to the aggregate roster percentage for his wide receivers dropping all the way to 25.1%, which now ranks fifth instead of third. Back to the drawing board we go...

Blake Bortles ($5,500, 5.8% Overall Roster Percentage, 6.0% Pro Roster Percentage)

Yes, this is an incredibly thin value call, but the model doesn't provide much guidance this week outside of Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan. The two factors Bortles has going for him are that he a) has a top-ranked 36.8% probability of achieving 4x value, and b) has a wide receiver corps projected to have the seventh-highest aggregate roster percentage among the overall public (20.6%).

Three other data points, though not included in the model, nevertheless are indicators that support the play. First and foremost, the Chiefs defense has allowed the fifth-most Draftkings points to opposing quarterbacks. In addition, although Jacksonville's great pass defense is good enough to slow the Mahomes train down, they're not going to stop it altogether. This means there's a good chance for Bortles and company to be chasing points all game. Which relates to the third data point; namely their tendency to be less of a ground-and-pound offense when Leonard Fourtnette is out.

One important consideration before moving on: The forecast in Kansas City calls for rain on Sunday, so monitor the weather, and transfer your exposure away from Bortles and towards the quarterback below.

Carson Wentz ($5,800, 2.0%, 2.6%)

Like Bortles, Wentz is another contrarian, shot-in-the-dark kind of play this week. He ranks in the middle of the pack among quarterbacks in terms of the projected roster percentages for his wide receivers and opposing defense. However, where he does stand out is that his 29.3% value probability is highest among the ultra-low overall projections at the bottom of the table. Also similar to Bortles is that Wentz is facing the fourth-worst defense in Draftkings points allowed to quarterbacks in a game where a strong case exists for higher scoring than is generally assumed. Both defenses rank in the bottom quartile of wide receiver points allowed, while also ranking in the top quartile of running back points allowed.

Running Backs

Below is the table for running backs:

Thursday Early Impressions

Because Jared Goff's a favorite, it makes sense that Todd Gurley is not. What's more peculiar at this early stage is James Conner's "fade" roster percentage among pros given the dual open secrets of 1) the Steelers offense is playing at home, and 2) the Falcons pass defense cannot or chooses not to cover opposing running backs.

Also surprising is the non-endersoment of T.J. Yeldon, who meets the "other viable running back isn't available for this game" criteria that pros seem to prefer.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Gurley and Conner remain "fade" candidates according to the Saturday version of the model. Likewise, the model remains relatively neutral on Yeldon.

Christian McCaffrey ($8,000, 24.7%, 29.3%)

McCaffrey's 4x value probability (14.3%) is middle-of-the-road, but he hits the exacta of 1) going against a defense projected to appear in less than one percent of GPP lineups, and 2) having wide receiver teammates projected for only a combined 6.6% rostering. And then there are the non-model indicators. First, he's at home as a touchdown favorite. Second, his increased usage this season is well known, but he pulled off the incredibly rare-for-a-running-back 100.0% snap rate in Week 4. Third, the Giants defense gave up 44.1 points to the similarly situated Alvin Kamara in Week 4.

Melvin Gordon III ($8,600, 23.1%, 25.2%)

Gordon's situation mirrors MCaffrey's. Mediocre (14.9%) value probability? Check. Facing a microscopically rostered defense? Check. Said defense gives up tons of points against opposing running backs? Check. Home favorite? Check. Besides a slightly higher salary, literally the only difference between the two is that the Chargers' wide receivers are projected to combine for double the roster percentage vis-à-vis Carolina's.

Joe Mixon ($6,900, 13.4%, 9.5%)

Mixon's 14.5% value probability is almost identical to McCaffrey's and Gordon's. Furthermore, he's also facing a defense projected for less than one percent rostering. So what gives? Why does the model consider him a "fade?" Well, the answer is that Bengals wide receivers are projected to combine for a 28.5% roster percentage among the overall public, which ranks fourth-highest on the Sunday Main slate. If they do well, his receiving production, which is crucial for running backs on Draftkings, will be curtailed. Along those lines, it also doesn't help that Marvin Lewis indicated Mixon, though healthy enough to play, will cede time on passing downs to Mark Walton.

Wide Receivers

Below is the table for wide receivers:

Thursday Early Impressions

The Top 3 slots in the table are occupied by wide receivers in the Steelers-Falcons game. And given James Conner's non-chalkiness, the wide receiver table therefore suggests that pros figure this to be an aerial affair.

Similarly, Jared Goff's wide receivers are not a "fade," but project rather for pro roster percentages commensurate with the overall public.

We'll wait and see on the pro-favored likes of Christian Kirk, Taywan Taylor, and Courtland Sutton, but Keelan Cole's projected pro roster percentage is worth noting. If Kansas City's offense can come even close to their performance over the past four weeks, then Jacksonville will have to pass more often than usual and will be doing so against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

SATURDAY UPDATE: It turns out that Calvin Ridley morphed that Steelers-Falcons game trio all in a row at the top of the table into a quartet. Elsewhere, pro projections for the Rams receivers remain in line with the overall public. Finally regarding the quartet of wait-and-see wide receivers, Sutton now has an overall projection below one percent, and Cole's pro projection is not as high compared to his overall projection as it used to be. Therefore, Kirk and Taylor are all that remain, so let's start off by digging into their details.

Christian Kirk ($3,700, 2.8%, 5.2%)

and Taywan Taylor ($4,000, 6.2%, 7.4%)

Both Kirk and Taylor benefit considerably from the same model factor: 4x value value probability. Specifically, Kirk's is 26.3%, while Taylor's is 26.2%. In terms of the other model factors, Kirk (5.6%) slightly outpaces Taylor (7.5%) with respect to projected roster percentage for opposing defense. And in terms of non-model factors, said opposing defenses, San Francisco and Buffalo, literally rank right next to each other smack dab in the middle of the pack for the Sunday Main slate -- 12th and 13th -- with respect to points allowed to opposing wide receivers.

Tyler Boyd ($5,700, 17.6%, 21.5%)

Boyd has the sixth-highest 4x value probability among wide receivers this week (20.7%) and also faces one of the six defenses projected to appear in less than one percent of GPP lineups. There was some concern earlier in the week about the weather forecast for this game, but it's shaping up to be a clear Sunday in Cincinnati, so it's all systems go for Boyd.

Adam Thielen ($7,700, 9.4%, 7.6%)

and Stefon Diggs ($7,000, 8.5%, 7.3%)

In Week 5, the elite Vikings duo will pose a test of the so-called "funnel defense" concept in fantasy football. For the uninitiated, a funnel defense is one that funnels offensive production almost exclusively towards the passing game or the running game. The reason why this will be a test is because the Eagles are one such defense, specifically funneling fantasy points towards their opponent's passing game. To wit, they rank second-to-last in Draftkings points allowed to opposing wide receivers.

But this won't be just a test of funnel theory. It will also be a test of whether such a concept should be incorporated into the model going forward. That's because Philadelphia's defense as a whole has the fourth-highest overall roster percentage projection on the slate, which the model views as a negative factor for wide receivers. If there were such a thing as projected roster percentage for pass defense only, the model would probably not consider Thielen and Diggs to be "fades" as clearly as it does.

Tight Ends

Below is the table for tight ends:

Thursday Early Impressions

On the Sunday Main slate, San Francisco currently ranks as the sixth-worst pass defense against opposing tight ends.Therefore, Ricky Seals-Jones seems like a viable punt play at the position. Similarly, the Rams rank eighth-worst and the stars have (unfortunately) aligned from an injury perspective, so Nick Vanett is another punt play option. With respect to the model, both benefit from high 4x value probabilities. Seals-Jones also benefits from a low aggregate roster percentage for Cardinals wide receivers.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Seals-Jones and Vannett both retained their statuses as the top low-cost, punt plays.

Austin Hooper ($3,000, 5.7%, 6.2%)

Hooper is just about the only under-the-radar offensive player in the Steelers-Falcons game, so he's an ideal way to reduce the amount of chalk in your GPP lineups. At 27.9%, Hooper has the fifth-highest probability of achieving 4x value among tight ends. He's also one of only five tight ends facing a defense that's projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups. Apart from model factors, it's also a plus that Pittsburgh ranks dead last in Draftkings points allowed to opposing tight ends.

David Njoku ($3,400, 6.2%, 4.6%)

Given the mediocre start to his season, as well as Baltimore's defense ranking eighth on the slate in tight end points allowed, it's a wonder why Njoku has the sixth-highest projected roster percentage for the overall public. According to the pro projection model, Njoku's hurt primarily by facing the aforementioned Ravens, who have the highest projected roster percentage among defenses. Njoku himself ranks 10th in 4x value probability, which again, is a lower ranking than his overall roster percentage projection.

Defenses

Below is the table for defenses:

Thursday Early Impressions

Projected roster percentages, both among the overall public and the pros, seem to be flatter (i.e., more uniform) than normal for 2018.

The home defense that stands out is the New York Jets. They're the only defense in the table that will be facing a quarterback projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups. The Jets defense also has the third-highest probability of achieving 4x value among defenses this week.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Yep, Jets are still the call, so let's look elsewhere.

San Francisco 49ers ($3,000, 3.4%, 4.1%)

You could do worse in tournaments than a home defense playing against the fifth-lowest rostered quarterback -- who's also a rookie -- this week. And in a pleasant bit of symmetry, the 49ers themselves have the fifth-highest probability of achieving 4x value (42.1%). It's also worth noting that they're getting safety Jaquiski Tartt back from injury on Sunday.