Projecting the Pros on DraftKings: Week 7

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 7 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.

Early Impressions

In what will turn out to be a decidedly Rams-heavy article, let's start with their quarterback. Jared Goff seems poised to make it three consecutive weeks where pros are likely to roster the most expensive quarterback the most often. This is also the second consecutive week where there's a distinct top tier comprised of two passers, with Jameis Winston showing up as a repeat member. Unlike last week, however, Winston is more of a "fade" because both his wide receiver corps and Cleveland's defense rank in the middle of the pack with respect to projected rostering. If the former's increases or the latter's decreases over the next couple of days, Winston will move out of "fade" status.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Goff is still a pro play and Winston's still a pro fade.

Cam Newton ($5,900, 6.8% Overall Roster Percentage, 4.9% Pro Roster Percentage)

Almost all of the quarterbacks have pro projections in line with their overall projections, so there isn't much to discuss outside of Goff and Winston. The closest to noteworthy is Cam Newton, who's on the road against the Eagles. Earlier in the week, Philadelphia's defense was projected to appear in 5.4% of GPP lineups. Now they're at 7.2%, which is why Newton's even more of a fade now than he was on Thursday. Whether or not that increase is due to more of the public catching wind of the weather forecast, Newton's passes will be catching wind on Sunday, so reducing exposure to him is the route pros are likely to take. One final factor in favor of a fade is that Carolina's offense seems to track alongside Christian McCaffrey's effectiveness, and Philadelphia's one of the stingiest defenses in the league when it comes to running back scoring, be it via rushing or receiving.

Running Backs

Below is the table for running backs:

Early Impressions

Todd Gurley is lapping the field right now because his Week 7 salary is way too low. Last week, he was at $10,000, and then scored 39.5 points. After that performance, Gurley faces a 49ers defense this week that ranks fifth-worst on the Main Slate in terms of Dratfkings points allowed to opposing running backs. And his salary goes down by $200? Weird.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Gurley's overall and pro projections have become more aligned since Thursday, when they were 33.2% and 37.0%, respectively. The reason is diminishing returns. Once a player gets this high in terms of his overall projection, there's less room for growth based on the projection model's predictive variables. Gurley is definitely not a "fade" this week (or really ever), but the model is less sanguine about him than it was earlier in the week.

Kerryon Johnson ($4,500, 23.0% Overall, 24.8% Pro)

Nick Chubb is going to be uber-popular on Sunday, and for good reason, so Johnson may fly a tad under the radar. Despite a salary $900 higher, his 4x value probability (37.8%) is actually higher than Chubb's (30.2%). Not only that, Johnson's is the highest of the week among running backs. He also gets a boost vis-à-vis Chubb because Miami's defense (2.4%) is projected for nearly half the roster percentage of Tampa Bay's (4.2%). It remains to be seen whether or not Johnson will get the targets vacated by an injured Theo Riddick, but we know Chubb will cede all of the receiving work to Duke Johnson Jr.

Peyton Barber ($3,800, 6.0% Overall, 6.4% Pro)

Speaking of Tampa Bay, Barber has the second-highest 4x value probability of the week at 34.0%, which you'll notice is also higher than Chubb's. Barber's pro roster percentage projection would be even higher if not for the Buccaneers wide receiver corps having the fifth highest aggregate projection. Remember, when a team's wide receivers blow up, it's harder for their running back to blow up as a receiver, and so you should roster the running back less often. That said, at $3,800, his salary is simply too cheap to pass up such immense projected value.

Christian McCaffrey ($7,700, 10.6% Overall, 6.4% Pro)

The model says that, despite his prolific usage, this is not the week to roster McCaffrey heavily. In a bad matchup on the road, his probability of achieving 4x value is a mere 6.8%, which ranks 28th out of the 34 running backs in the table. McCaffrey's projected roster percentage among pros is also negatively affected by the fact that Ezekiell Elliott's salary is only $400 more, and he's in a much more favorable matchup at a similar level of touch volume.

Wide Receivers

Below is the table for wide receivers:

Early Impressions

The Rams' wide receivers have a 51.9% aggregate roster percentage projection for the overall public. This rivals last week's 55.4% projected for the Falcons' wide receivers. According to the pro projection model, it appears that Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds will be the preferred Rams receivers in lineups stacked with Jared Goff.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Woods is still preferred, but now Reynolds is not. And with Brandin Cooks also looking like a pro "fade," perhaps it's best this week to stack Goff with Woods and Gurley rather than with Woods and another wide receiver.

Jermaine Kearse ($4,100, 16.4% Overall, 19.4% Pro)

By virtue of Quincy Enunwa's injury and Robby Anderson getting shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes, Kearse is in position to see a slew of targets on Sunday. That much volume translates to an average Footballguys projection of 13.3 points. And at a salary of $4,100, said projection translates to a 4x value probability of 35.1%, which ranks No. 1 among wide receivers this week. Perhaps even more interesting, or at least paradoxical, is that Kearse benefits from the Vikings' lower-than-usual roster percentage projection. One would think Minnesota would be more popular given the matchup. So if the public (and pros) don't think they're worth rostering at a higher rate, then Kearse is.

Willie Snead IV ($4,000, 5.8% Overall, 7.4% Pro)

At 29.3%, Snead's 4x value probability ranks second behind Kearse. The Saints defense is projected to be among the least rostered on the Sunday Main slate. Running his routes against cornerback P.J. Williams, Snead has the most favorable matchup among Ravens wide receivers according to Pro Football Focus. This one's a no-brainer, folks.

Jarvis Landry ($7,300, 13.1% Overall, 8.4% Pro)

And Mike Evans ($7,700, 11.2% Overall, 6.8% Pro)

Landry and Evans are grouped together here because they're the two No. 1 wide receivers in Buccaneers-Browns and their "fade" status is a byproduct of the same model factor; namely, value probability. For Landry, his 16.7 projected points at $7,300 translates to a 7.7% chance of achieving 4x. Similarly, Evans' 16.1 projected points at $7,700 translates to a 5.9% chance. These two value probabilities rank 44th, and 47th, respectively, among wide receivers in the table. This isn't to say that they -- especially Landry -- won't score well on Sunday. Rather, it's just highly unlikely they'll score 30+ points needed to justify cost. And besides, why not just increase exposure to Robert Woods at $7,000 instead?

Tight Ends

Below is the table for tight ends:

Early Impressions

David Njoku is the tight end of choice right now, primarily based on his position-leading 29.7% probability of achieving 4x value. A 12.7-point projection at $4,200 is simply too much value to pass up at a lineup spot where paying down is usually a good strategy.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Njoku's lead over No. 2 in pro roster percentage has exploded from 7.3% to a whopping 20.9%. This is Eric Ebron circa Week 3 territory. This is due to the projection for Cleveland wide receivers having gone down, while Njoku's 4x value probability went up.

O.J. Howard ($3,600, 4.0% Overall, 4.7% Pro)

With Njoku consuming most of the oxygen, the vast majority of other No. 1 tight ends are "fading" into unconsciousness -- except Howard. He's a pro play based on two factors in the projection model. First, his 26.2% probability of achieving 4x value ranks second among tight ends, only behind Njoku. Second, the overall roster percentage projection for Cleveland's defense has decreased from 4.5% to 4.0% since Thursday. It's also worth noting that the Browns' ranking in Draftkings points allowed to tight ends is misleading, as they've faced whatever the opposite of a murderer's row is. Indeed, the one time they faced a legitimate opponent at the position, Jared Cook scored 34.0 points.

Defenses

Below is the table for defenses:

Early Impressions

Indianapolis is the early favorite for extensive pro rostering on Sunday. With Buffalo actually choosing to start a quarterback that's thrown 168 regular season passes in the past seven years, preferring the Colts makes perfect sense.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Apparently, the other side of that game has become popular as well over the past couple of days, as Buffalo's shot up from around seven percent earlier in the week. This is because Andrew Luck's projected roster percentage decreased from 5.3% to 3.4% among the overall public. And if you're going to roster Luck less, then you should roster the Bills defense more.

Los Angeles Rams ($3,500, 5.2% Overall, 3.5% Pro)

In-week movement has cut the Rams' pro projection nearly in half, from 6.8% to 3.5%. This is entirely due to the public coming around to C.J. Beathard. On Thursday, Beathard was projected for 4.4% rostering; he's now at 8.0%. If this game ends up being a shootout, you're going to want to stack as many of the offensive players as possible in as many GPP lineups as possible, which therefore means you won't be using either of the defenses as much. The suspicion here is that that's exactly what the pros are likely to do on Sunday.