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 14 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.
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.
Jameis Winston is the pro projection model's early-week chalk at quarterback. Although he does have the fourth-highest probability of achieving 4x value, his high projected roster percentage among pros is mostly due to the popularity of his wide receiver corps. Chris Godwin (26.2%), Mike Evans (10.9%), and Adam Humphries (9.1%) combine for a 46.2% aggregate roster percentage, which is the highest of any team by a country mile this week.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Winston still has the highest projected pro rostership, and the overall/pro gap has increased. This is mainly due to his wide receiver corps now having an aggregate roster percentage projection of 50.1%.
Deshaun Watson ($5,900, 9.6% Overall Roster Percentage, 10.3% Pro Roster Percentage)
At 40.5%, Watson has the highest probability of achieving 4x value among quarterbacks on the Sunday Main slate. Furthermore, his wide receiver corps also ranks fourth in aggregate projected roster percentage (21.4%), and he'll be facing a Colts defense projected to appear in less than one percent of GPP lineups. Speaking of Indianapolis, they're allowing opposing quarterbacks to enjoy a third-worst 21 percent more fantasy production than league average over their past 5 games.
Philip Rivers ($6,500, 5.3%, 5.6%)
Other than an 18th-ranked probability of achieving 4x value (25.7%), all other indicators are favorable to Rivers: a) the 29.7% aggregate rostership of his wide receiver corps ranks third; b) he faces a Bengals defense projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups; and (c) Cincinnati's allowing 15 percent more fantasy production than league average over their past 5 games, which ranks 27th.
Below is the table for running backs:
Given the proven replaceable production associated with Pittsburgh's starter, whoever he may be, it's not surprising that Jaylen Samuels is currently setting the pace at running back this week. He's viewed so favorably by the pro projection model because he has the highest probability of achieving 4x value (49.4%) and will be facing a Raiders defense projected to appear in less than one percent of tournament lineups.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Samuels' pro projection has decreased by 5.0%, and the overall/pro gap has also decreased from +9.4% to +8.9%. The latter is due to his probability of achieving 4x value dropping to only 47.8%.
Jeff Wilson ($3,800, 25.6% Overall Roster Percentage, 31.1% Pro Roster Percentage)
At 39.4%, Wilson's 4x value probability ranks behind only Samuels among running backs on the Sunday Main slate. The other model factor that bodes well for Wilson is that 49ers wide receivers are projected to combine for only 6.6% rostership, which ranks ninth-lowest. One peripheral factor that may prove important is the likelihood that San Francisco will rely on the run against Denver. And although the Broncos have allowed the second-lowest running back production over their past 5 games, Pro Football Focus actually views this matchup in the trenches as favorable for San Francisco.
LeSean McCoy ($5,000, 2.4%, 4.2%)
At home? Check. Favored? Check. Going against a run defense that's allowed the fourth-most running back production over the past 5 games? Check. Playing around 70 percent of snaps? Check. Low projected rostership? Check. There's a lot to like here. And indeed, the model likes McCoy a great deal. His 4x value probability ranks eighth at the position (24.3%), and Bills wide receivers are projected to combine for only 9.0% rostership.
Saquon Barkley ($8,900, 18.9%, 14.3%)
You might notice that, despite Odell Beckham Jr being out this week, the pro projection model really doesn't like Barkley. This is simply by virtue of his exorbitant salary, which combined with his point projection (24.1) produces a 4x value probability (13.5%) that ranks 23rd among running backs in the table. It should be noted, however, that the model factor related to aggregate rostership for Giants wide receivers is actually a positive for Barkley as 2.2% ranks fourth-lowest.
Below is the table for wide receivers:
Chris Godwin may sit atop the table, but the model actually views Courtland Sutton as a sharper play, as indicated by the gap between his overall and pro projections. It now sits at +6.2% because he has the highest 4x value probability among wide receivers (34.3%) and will be facing a 49ers defense projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Godwin's pro projection has increased by 3.0%, and the overall/pro gap has also increased from +3.4% to +3.9%. The latter is due to his probability of achieving 4x value increasing to 25.7%, as well as the overall projection for New Orleans' defense decreasing from 5.0% to 4.7%. Meanwhile, Sutton's standing according to the model has basically stayed the same. Although his overall/pro gap has decreased to +5.0%, his 4x value probability still ranks first among wide receivers, having actually increased to 35.1%.
Keenan Allen ($7,400, 24.6% Overall Roster Percentage, 25.5% Pro Roster Percentage)
Apparently, the pro projection model suggests a Rivers-Allen stack in tournament lineups on Sunday. With respect to model factors, Allen has a 22.2% probability of achieving 4x value, which ranks 10th among wide receivers. And like Rivers, of course, Allen's also going against a Bengals defense projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups. Finally, Allen has the fourth-most favorable individual matchup according to Pro Football Focus.
DaeSean Hamilton ($3,000, 6.1%, 7.7%)
Much of the focus is (understandably) on Courtland Sutton, which makes Hamilton an attractive, cheap pivot play. What makes Hamilton even more attractive is that, whereas Sutton has the highest 4x value probability among wide receivers, Hamilton has the second-highest, at 34.1%. And of course, like Sutton, Hamilton's facing a 49ers defense projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups. Really, the only difference between the two is that Pro Football Focus projects a much tougher matchup for Hamilton (mainly against Richard Sherman) than for Sutton (mainly against Ahkello Witherspoon). However, this problem will be mitigated if he ends up playing significant snaps out of the slot (against K'Waun Williams).
Sterling Shepard ($4,400, 2.4%, 4.1%)
It doesn't take a statistical model to know that Shepard benefits greatly from Odell Beckham Jr's absence. Still, the pro projection model does help insofar as telling us that Shepard's seventh-ranked probability of achieving 4x value (23.9%) means he's likely to be under-rostered on Sunday.
Below is the table for tight ends:
For the fourth time this season, Travis Kelce has the highest pro roster percentage projection among tight ends on the Sunday Main slate. Despite his position-high salary, Kelce's outsized point projection (20.1) means he still ranks second in 4x value probability (26.4%). In addition, he'll be facing a Ravens defense that's projected to appear in less than one percent of tournament lineups.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Both Kelce's overall projection and pro projection have increased by 5.8% since Thursday, so the gap between the two remains the same. This is because a slight increase in Kelce's 4x value probability (to 27.2%) was offset by the Ravens defense now being projected for 1.9% overall rostership.
Cameron Brate ($3,500, 5.2% Overall Roster Percentage, 5.5% Pro Roster Percentage)
At 32.7%, Brate's 4x value probability ranks first among tight ends. That's enough to overcome several negative indicators. First, in the Saints, he's facing one of the more popular defenses on the Sunday Main slate (4.7%). Second, in terms of points allowed to tight ends, New Orleans ranks second for the full season and fourth over their past 5 games.
Evan Engram ($3,700, 2.3%, 3.4%)
This may sound familiar:
At 23.7%, Engam's 4x value probability ranks first among tight ends. That's enough to overcome several negative indicators. First, in Washington, he's facing one of the more popular defenses on the Sunday Main slate (5.7%). Second, in terms of points allowed to tight ends, Washington ranks 10th for the full season and 1st over their past 5 games.
Of course, unlike Brate (who will also be playing in rain and wind), Engram has a peripheral factor working in his favor. Namely, with Odell Beckham Jr declared out, Engram figures to see increased targets on Sunday. This is baked into his 4x value probability somewhat, but the effect of increase usage isn't linear. It increases a player's floor, but can massively increase their ceiling, as we saw with Engram when Beckham was injured in 2017.
Below is the table for defenses:
With no defenses in double digits, this is the flattest that pro rostership projections have been all season. The reason is because defenses favored by the overall public don't show well according to the model's influential factors. For instance, the Steelers and Chargers are popular overall, but they rank 14th and 16th, respectively, in 4x value probability. Similarly, neither is facing a quarterback projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Confirming suspicions from earlier in the week, the Chargers and (especially) Steelers have fallen out of favor according to the pro projection model.
Buffalo Bills ($3,200, 6.1% Overall Roster Percentage, 6.4% Pro Roster Percentage)
The Bills' 42.3% probability of achieving 4x value ranks eighth among defenses. Even more favorable according to the model is that they're facing a quarterback, Sam Darnold, who is projected to appear in less than one percent of lineups. And as a unit, the Jets offense has allowed 8.5 Draftkings points per game to opposing defenses this season, which is ranks sixth-worst on the Sunday Main Slate.
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