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Projecting the Pros

A guide to playing roster percentages like the pros.

Welcome to this new, weekly Draftkings feature on Footballguys. As the title suggests, the goal of this feature is to predict how DFS professionals will tweak their player exposures -- in either a bullish (or bearish) direction -- for the Sunday Main slate on Draftkings.

But who are the DFS professionals?

The pro roster percentages you will see in the tables below are based on a statistical algorithm that attempted to differentiate elite DFS players on Draftkings from the rest of the population. Based on a multitude of factors, this algorithm identified 205 "professionals" who play in low-to-mid stakes Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournaments. The primary characteristics that differentiated them were their percentage of max entry and their median top finish in a contest. Specifically, the vast majority of pros enter at least 90% of the entry maximum in a given GPP. If the contest allows for 150 lineups, they enter at least 135; if it allows for 20 lineups, they enter at least 18; etc. In addition, the vast majority of pros have their highest-finishing lineup end up in the Top 4% of entries in a given context.

In short, a low-to-mid stakes Draftkings GPP pro appears to be a player who plays the percentages more optimally than the rest. They apply a ton of volume, what's called "mass multi-entry" in a DFS context, and diversify their lineups enough to make it more likely than not that at least one entry finishes near the top of the standings -- where payouts are highest.

OK, but how can one possibly project the mass multi-entry roster percentages pros use to effect this profitable strategy?

Well, it turns out that, based on an analysis of historical contest entry data, pros reliably increase or decrease their exposures to players according to a small number of factors. The effects of these factors differ across positions, but a surprisingly short list gets you most of the way there:

  • Steve Buzzard's projected roster percentages. The higher Buzzard's projection, the higher a pro roster percentage will be for a given player.
  • This author's value probabilities. This system uses salaries and Footballguys' point projections to calculate the likelihood that players achieve the 4x GPP value threshold (e.g., a $4,000 player must score 16 points to achieve value). The higher the value probability, the higher a pro roster percentage will be for a given player.
  • Projected roster percentage for the opponent's defense. The lower Buzzard's projection for a defense, the higher a pro roster percentage will be for a given player facing that defense.
  • For quarterbacks and running backs, projected roster percentage for the same team's wide receivers. The higher Buzzard's projection for a wide receiver, the higher a pro roster percentage will be for his quarterback. The opposite is true for running backs.
  • For defenses, projected roster percentage for the opponent's quarterback. The lower Buzzard's projection for a quarterback, the higher a pro roster percentage will be for a given defense facing that quarterback.

If one were to step back and view these factors affecting pro roster percentages from 30,000 feet, one will notice the following: Pros gain their edge by exploiting inefficiencies in the interactions between positions. For example, they see a quarterback and their opposing defense both projected for a low roster percentage and realize that can't be correct. If the defense does well, the quarterback won't; and vice versa. One should be highly rostered and the other not. This observation is intuitive and not reflective of some wizardly wisdom. Rather, what sets the pros apart is that, by virtue of their mass multi-entry strategy, they're able to finely tune their exposures to the quarterback and defense in this example.

So with the methods of this madness explained, it's time to try to project the pros, one position at a time.

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