Projecting the Pros on DraftKings: Week 15

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 15 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 another unusually flat week in terms of quarterback rostership on the Sunday Main slate, Andrew Luck is the early "chalk." However, the pro projection model doesn't view him favorably, primarily because his 4x value probability (24.2%) ranks 15th right now. What might change things between now and Saturday is if the Colts wide receiver corps becomes even more popular among the overall public. (They already have the fourth-highest aggregate rostership.)

SATURDAY UPDATE: As anticipated, Luck's situation has changed since Thursday. What wasn't anticipated is that he's dropped out of the top spot because his wide receivers became less popular. Among quarterbacks, he still has the sixth-highest aggregate wide receiver rostership, but the actual figure has dropped a hefty 5.4%, from 26.5% to 21.1%.

Ben Roethlisberger ($6,600 salary, 10.2% overall roster percentage, 11.7% pro roster percentage)

Roethlisberger was already viewed favorably by the pro projection model on Thursday, but the overall/pro gap has grown -- and he's ascended to the top of the table -- because of slight changes to two positive factors in the model. Most importantly, Roethlisberger's probability of achieving 4x value increased, from 26.2% to 27.1%, which vaulted him from 11th to 7th in terms of rankings. Second, and less consequential, is that a tiny dip in the projected overall rostership for New England's defense, from 2.5% to 2.4%, has moved Roethlisberger from facing the ninth-lowest defense in terms of rostership to the seventh-lowest. And speaking of the Patriots, they've allowed opposing quarterbacks to score 29% more fantasy points than league average over their past five games, which ranks dead last among defenses on the Sunday Main slate.

One final non-model stat that seems relevant given Roethlisberger's rib injury is that, according to Pro Football Focus, Pittsburgh's offensive line has the fifth-largest matchup advantage in pass protection of the season.

Tom Brady ($5,900 salary, 7.0%, 8.1%)

Roethlisberger's counterpart in what Las Vegas has as the highest-scoring game on the slate is perhaps an even better play because of his lower salary. And indeed, the main factor affecting Brady's large, positive overall/pro gap is partially based on salary, i.e., his 4x value probability. Namely, at 33.7%, he ranks first among quarterbacks. Brady also benefits in the model because Pittsburgh has one of only three defenses that are projected to appear in less than one percent of tournament lineups.

Dak Prescott ($5,500 salary, 8.9%, 10.6%)

There's no need to inform you that Prescott has been on fire ever since Dallas acquired Amari Cooper. So strictly in terms of the pro projection model, he's an ideal pivot away from the more-expensive, higher-rostered Ben Roethlisberger. At 27.1%, Prescott ranks just behind Big Ben -- in second -- with respect to the aggregate projected rostership of his wide receiver corps. Better than Big Ben, his 32.9% probability of achieving 4x value ranks third among quarterbacks on the Sunday Main slate.

Running Backs

Below is the table for running backs:

Early Impressions

Well this is different! After week upon week of inexpensive new starters occupying the top of the table, there's a bona fide stud there in Week 15. And the pro projection model likes him as well! It might not sound like much, but Ezekiel Elliott's No. 16 ranking in 4x value probability (13.4%) is actually a huge outlier for an expensive running back. For instance, fellow $9,000-plus running back Saquon Barkley ranks 29th at 7.2%.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Alas, it was too good to be true, as Elliott's dropped out of the top spot. This is because he's dropped form 16th to 19th with respect to 4x value probability.

Joe Mixon ($6,100 salary, 35.4% overall roster percentage, 42.7% pro roster percentage)

Well, it wasn't just Elliott's drop that moved him to the No. 2 spot in the table. It was Mixon jumping from second on Thursday (26.4%) to first today (27.2%) in terms of 4x value probability. And as small as it may be, Mixon has also benefited from the overall rostership projection for Oakland's defense dropping from 3.1% to 2.9%, whereas Elliott's opponent, Indianapolis, has risen from 1.8% to 2.5%.

That said, the Raiders defense has surrendered running back points at about the league average over the course of the 2018 season, a figure that has improved to sixth-best over the past five games. But then again, Cincinatti has relied on Mixon ever since Jeff Driskel assumed the starting quarterback role because of Andy Dalton's season-ending injury.

Wide Receivers

Below is the table for wide receivers:

Early Impressions

Unlike Luck, the pro projection model is in love with his No. 1 wide receiver. This is because, at 22.7%, T.Y. Hilton currently ranks fifth in 4x value probability. And like Ezekiel Elliott above, this is a huge outlier for a player at Hilton's salary level. One has to go all the way down to 26th -- Amari Cooper at 13.3% -- just to find another wide receiver that's even priced above $6,000, let alone Hilton's $6,800.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Hilton's 4x value probability has increased from 22.7% to 23.6%, and the projected rostership of his opponent defense, Dallas, has fallen from 2.9% to 2.8%. These two model factors have been enough to keep him atop the table.

Tyler Boyd ($5,700 salary, 11.7% overall roster percentage, 12.3% pro roster percentage)

Boyd has a bunch of indicators going for him. First, he ranks fourth among wide receivers on the Sunday Main slate with respect to probability of achieving 4x value (24.1%). And working primarily against Raiders cornerback Marcus Gilchrist on Sunday, Pro Football Focus projects Boyd to have the third-most favorable individual matchup.

Dede Westbrook ($4,500, 7.0%, 8.3%)

Similarly, Wesbtrook has the second-highest 4x value probability among wide receivers on the Sunday Main slate (27.3%), as well as the fifth-best individual matchup according to Pro Football Focus.

Tight Ends

Below is the table for tight ends:

Early Impressions

We can safely sum up the 2018 season for tight ends on Draftkings with the following statement: If Travis Kelce's n the Sunday Main slate, he's the chalk. If not, Eric Ebron is the chalk. Same as it (almost) always is, Ebron's at the top of the table because of his 4x value probability (25.7%, ranked 2nd). It really is amazing that, even as Draftkings has increased Ebron's salary by nearly $2,000 over the past two weeks, he's still both incredibly popular and incredibly valuable.

Speaking of incredibly popular, if you haven't noticed, Luck-Hilton-Ebron superstack lineups appear poised to abound on Sunday.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Not much has changed since Thursday. His 4x value probability still ranks second, but has actually increased slightly to 26.5%.

Vernon Davis ($3,200 salary, 7.8 overall roster percentage, 8.2% pro roster percentage)

Or C.J. Uzomah ($3,600, 3.5%, 4.0%)

Besides Ebron, both of these tight ends have similar statistical profiles according to the pro projection model, so we'll lump them together. If you utilize the mass multi-entry strategy that this article is tailored to, the straightforward advice here is to have more exposure to Davis and Uzomah than the overall public, but not way more.

In terms of 4x value probability, Davis ranks first at 36,2%, whereas Uzomah ranks fourth at 19.7%. On ther other hand, in terms of the projected overall rostership for their opposing defenses, Uzomah (2.9%) is in a far better situation than Davis (7.7%).

Most of the stats outside the pro projection model provide little guidance. For instance, Davis and Uzomah rank back-to-back with respect to Draftkings points per game. According to Pro Football Focus, their individual matchups are almost identically unfavorable. The only thing distinguishing the two seems to be that, according to Austin Lee's normalized strength of schedule , Oakland's defense has allowed the second-most tight end production compared to league average over their past five games, whereas Jacksonville's has surrendered right around the league average.

Defenses

Below is the table for defenses:

Early Impressions

Both pros and the overall public are likely to go to the Buffalo Bills well once more this week. Their salary has decreased $400 despite another home matchup againts a moribund offense, so their 4x value probability has actually increased from 42.3% last week to 51.2% as it stands right now this week.

SATURDAY UPDATE: The Bills' pro rostership projection has decreased since Thursday, from 14.9% to 13.0%, but that's only because their overall projection decreased as well. As far as the model-only factors go, Buffalo's 4x value probability and opponent quarterback rostership have not changed whatsoever.

Baltimore Ravens ($3,000 salary, 12.5% overall roster percentage, 12.9% pro roster percentage)

Baltimore has the sixth-highest probability of achieving 4x value among defenses on the Sunday Main slate (43.8%). But given that defense has been where the pro projection model has performed the worst this season, let's look at a couple of outside factors. First and foremost, the Ravens' defense ranks 9th in Draftkings points this season. Next, Baltimore is a home favorite, and their opponent, Tampa Bay, has the sixth-lowest implied point total according to Las Vegas. Third, Pro Football Focus pegs the Buccaneers offensive line as operating at a large disadvantage on Sunday. Football Outsiders agrees, as Baltimore's front seven ranks fourth on the slate in terms of Adjusted Sack Rate. Finally, Football Outsiders also has both Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the Top 4 of situation-neutral pace, which means the Ravens --and even the Buccaneers, for that matter -- will have ample opportunity to register sacks and interceptions.


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