Exclamation Point! Yahoo Week 1

A weekly guide to finding value in Yahoo's DFS contests.

Welcome to Footballguys' weekly feature on Yahoo!'s DFS contests. For those of you who have played DFS before, just not on Yahoo!, their rules are a combination of the familiar and completely alien. With respect to the familiar, entry fees for both cash games (i.e., head-to-head and 50/50) and guaranteed prize pool tournaments (GPPs) run anywhere from $1 to several thousand. Their featured GPP each week is the Baller, which costs $10 to enter and pays $500,000 to the winner. Yahoo! also features a smaller GPP that costs $25 and pays $100,000 for first place. Also familiar are Yahoo!'s lineup requirements and scoring system. In short, they mix DraftKings' model for lineups (i.e., one flex, no kicker) with FanDuel's model for scoring (i.e., 0.5 PPR and no milestone bonuses).

In terms of the unfamiliar, it's a big one: Pricing, and therefore the salary cap, is orders of magnitude smaller than FanDuel's $60,000 or DraftKings' $50,000. Specifically, it's $200, which makes cost decisions more akin to what one encounters in a typical full-season auction league, just without the "auction" part, and with the minimum "bid" being $20 for quarterbacks and $10 for all other positions. As an illustration of relative positional costs, here are the highest-priced players at each position in Week 1's $500K Baller GPP:

  • QB = $36 (Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson)
  • RB = $32 (David Johnson)
  • WR = $36 (Antonio Brown)
  • TE = $27 (Rob Gronkowski)
  • DST = $16 (Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs)
As you'll see in the coming paragraphs, this pricing structure tends to produce more value at running back than at quarterback or wide receiver, as well as making the identification of value at defense an absolute must.
 
Outside of these similarities and differences with FanDuel and DraftKings, the only other important aspect of Yahoo! DFS that bears noting is that it's not available in several states. Therefore, make sure to check here to see if your it's operating in your state of residence, or use the following rule of thumb: If you can play on both FanDuel and DraftKings, then you can play on Yahoo! -- unless you live in Florida.
 
OK. With the basic game parameters out of the way, let's move on to identifying value at each position in Week 1.
 

So the first question you might ask is, "How do you define and identify value, Danny?" Well, it's all based on a system I developed last season and wrote about for one of our previous featured DFS articles. You can read more about the methodology by clicking this link, so I'll just give the Cliffs Notes version here. At its most basic, the system answers the question, "What is the probability that a specific player achieves his value threshold this week?" And it does so via the following steps:

  1. Based on salaries and average winning scores, what's the value multiplier for the site? Yahoo! scoring is the same as FanDuel's so you're looking for around 120 points in cash games and around 180 in tournaments. Because of its salary structure, however, that doesn't translate to FanDuel's multipliers of 2x and 3x. Instead, it's 0.67x and 0.90x.
  2. Apply the appropriate multiplier to each player's salary. For instance, Antonio Brown's Week 1 salary is $36, which means he needs to score 24.0 points to achieve value in a cash game (36 times 0.67) and 32.4 to do so in a tournament (36 times 0.90).
  3. Grab each player's average projected points according to our Interactive Value Chart. In Brown's case, that's 20.8.
  4. Using the value thresholds in Step 2, the projections in Step 3, the standard deviation of player scoring at each position, and the appropriate statistical distribution (normal for quarterbacks, log-normal for other positions), calculate the probability that a player's actual point total will meet or exceed his value threshold. For Brown, this means calculating the likelihood that he outscores his Footballguys' projection by at least 3.2 points in cash games (i.e., 24.0 minus 20.8) or by 11.6 points in tournaments (i.e., 32.4 minus 20.8).
  5. Rank players at each position according to these value probabilities.
So, finishing up the Brown example, it turns out that his likelihood of achieving cash game value is 40.5%, while his likelihood of achieving value in tournaments is 24.2%. Among the Top 80 projected wide receiver this week, those probabilities rank 32nd and 46th, respectively.
 
That's how I define and identify value. Let's apply the system to Yahoo!'s Week 1 Sunday-Monday slate, shall we?
 

Quarterbacks

Below are the quarterbacks with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Robert Griffin III CLE 25 16.3 47.2% Blaine Gabbert SF 25 17.5 19.4%
Alex Smith KC 28 16.5 35.2% Jimmy Garoppolo NE 28 17.7 9.7%
Aaron Rodgers GB 34 20.3 34.1% Alex Smith KC 28 17.6 9.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Eli Manning NYG 35 17.5 15.7% Eli Manning NYG 35 18.1 1.0%
Kirk Cousins WAS 35 18.0 18.0% Kirk Cousins WAS 35 18.3 1.1%
Drew Brees NO 36 19.1 19.7% Drew Brees NO 36 19.9 1.5%

Robert Griffin III (cash games) and Blaine Gabbert (GPPs) are by far the most valuable quarterbacks this week, but several factors combine to make me wary of relying on them. First, they're both starting their first regular season game in a new offense. There may come a week that Griffin or Gabbert win DFS contests for you, but it's more likely to happen when they've developed a mastery of the scheme and a rapport with their teammates while executing it, both of which are required to put up big numbers. A second, possibly related, factor is that Football Outsiders projects Cleveland and San Francisco to be the worst two offenses in the NFL

In Gabbert's case, a third factor works against him: The defense he's facing. Per Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, the Rams finished 7th in defensive efficiency last season and are projected to improve to 4th this season. They also allowed the 12th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2015.

The most important reason to forego Griffin and Gabbert's value, however, is that there's plenty of more attractive value options at other positions, especially running back, so you can allocate more of your budget on your quarterback this week. That's especially true in cash games, where we have the rare occurrence of a pricey player like Aaron Rodgers nevertheless representing Top 3 value. The alternative is less clear in GPPs, what with the underwhelming duo of Jimmy Garoppolo (first start plus bad matchup) and Alex Smith (great matchup, but the very definition of "low ceiling") ranking No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Ranking a respectable 7th in GPP value likelihood (4.5%), Rodgers may actually be the right play in both formats.

Running Backs

Below are the running backs with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Spencer Ware KC 12 13.3 80.5% Spencer Ware KC 12 14.6 69.5%
Christine Michael SEA 10 9.9 74.6% Christine Michael SEA 10 11.3 65.0%
James White NE 10 9.0 69.4% James White NE 10 10.2 58.4%
Charles Sims TB 11 8.9 62.8% C.J. Spiller NO 10 9.1 50.7%
Arian Foster MIA 14 10.1 55.5% Charles Sims TB 11 9.1 44.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Thomas Rawls SEA 21 5.6 6.0% Thomas Rawls SEA 21 6.8 4.2%
Chris Johnson ARI 11 3.7 12.4% Shane Vereen NYG 15 6.9 12.9%
Jordan Howard CHI 10 3.6 14.5% Jay Ajayi MIA 13 6.2 14.2%
C.J. Prosise SEA 10 3.6 14.5% Chris Ivory JAX 15 7.5 16.1%
Shane Vereen NYG 15 5.6 16.6% Devonta Freeman ATL 31 15.6 16.3%

If you've read anything else DFS-related over the past few days, then it should come as no surprise to see Spencer Ware's value ranked 1st on both sides of the table. The problem, at least in GPPs, is that everyone and their extended family will also be rostering Ware for value. Therefore, even though you'll be getting great bang for your buck in terms of lineup dollars (i.e., budget), using Ware will be less of a bang in terms of actual dollars (i.e., prize money). All of the above can also be said for Christine Michael, although to a far lesser degree.

If you choose to only go with one of Ware and Michael, then the most attractive alternative for your second running back is Charles Sims. He'll be facing a Falcons defense that Football Outsiders projects to finish 28th this season and that actually did finish dead last in pass defense against running backs last season. And in terms of fantasy points allowed, the ranked 4th-worst. Even though Yahoo! only gives 0.5 PPR, that last bit is still important given that Sims does the vast majority of his damage as a receiver. 

Wide Receivers

Below are the wide receivers with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Mike Wallace BAL 11 9.2 64.7% Terrelle Pryor CLE 10 9.9 56.4%
Phillip Dorsett IND 10 8.1 62.9% Kenny Britt LA 10 9.2 51.5%
Tajae Sharpe TEN 10 7.8 60.4% Will Fuller HOU 11 10.0 50.7%
Kenny Stills MIA 11 8.4 58.8% Tajae Sharpe TEN 10 9.0 50.0%
Kenny Britt LA 10 7.5 57.9% Mike Wallace BAL 11 9.8 49.3%
Donte Moncrief IND 16 11.9 57.5% Phillip Dorsett IND 10 8.9 49.2%
Chris Hogan NE 10 7.4 57.0% Kenny Stills MIA 11 9.3 45.8%
Will Fuller HOU 11 8.1 56.9% Chris Hogan NE 10 8.3 44.6%
Kamar Aiken BAL 12 8.3 52.7% Donte Moncrief IND 16 12.5 40.6%
Mohamed Sanu ATL 11 7.6 52.1% Kamar Aiken BAL 12 8.9 37.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Davante Adams GB 12 4.8 19.5% Dez Bryant DAL 28 13.9 15.8%
Brandon Marshall NYJ 32 13.3 21.2% Jordan Matthews PHI 21 10.4 15.7%
Andre Holmes OAK 10 4.2 21.4% Brandin Cooks NO 26 12.8 15.5%
Eric Decker NYJ 26 11.1 22.6% Allen Hurns JAX 21 10.0 14.2%
Terrance Williams DAL 14 6.0 22.8% Doug Baldwin SEA 26 12.3 13.9%
Albert Wilson KC 10 4.3 23.4% Keenan Allen SD 30 14.0 13.4%
Marqise Lee JAX 10 4.4 23.8% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 24 11.2 13.4%
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 34 15.1 24.7% DeAndre Hopkins HOU 34 15.7 13.0%
Anquan Boldin DET 14 6.2 24.8% Eric Decker NYJ 26 11.9 12.7%
Steve Smith BAL 19 8.5 24.9% Brandon Marshall NYJ 32 13.5 10.1%

The pickings are much slimmer at wide receiver because almost all of the high-value players are in tough situations. Will Fuller and Tajae Sharpe are rookies playing their first NFL game, with the latter also facing a tough defense in Vegas' lowest-scoring game of the week. Kenny Stills and Chris Hogan are (arguably), the fourth receiving options on their teams and are facing two of the best defenses in the NFL. Kenny Britt has a favorable matchup, but his quarterback is Case Keenum and the Rams offense begins and ends with Todd Gurley. Mike Wallace is Mike Wallace; trust him at your own peril.

That leaves Kamar Aiken, Mohamed Sanu, and my preferred value options, the Colts duo of Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett. There are three factors at play here. First, Indianapolis-Detroit has the highest over-under of the week. Second, the Colts' defense is paper thin due to injuries, so their offense will likely be in the position of having to chase scores with Detroit. Finally, and most importantly, Pro Football Focus projects Lions cornerback Darius Slay to shadow T.Y. Hilton, which means Moncrief and Dorsett are likely going to receive the lion's share of wide receiver targets (pun totally intended).

Although I recommend exposure to both across all my lineups, Moncrief's higher floor suggests tending to roster him more in cash games and Dorsett more in GPPs.

Tight Ends

Below are the tight ends with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Dwayne Allen IND 13 7.9 41.5% Jared Cook GB 10 7.1 29.2%
Jesse James PIT 11 6.6 39.9% Jesse James PIT 11 7.4 25.1%
Jared Cook GB 10 5.6 34.9% Dwayne Allen IND 13 8.6 23.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Gary Barnidge CLE 21 8.1 10.2% Delanie Walker TEN 23 9.7 4.0%
Delanie Walker TEN 23 9.2 11.9% Gary Barnidge CLE 21 9.0 4.3%
Jason Witten DAL 17 7.0 13.1% Rob Gronkowski NE 27 11.8 4.8%

The above discussion of Colts-Lions applies here insofar that Dwayne Allen also figures to benefit target-wise from Hilton's unfavorable matchup. Another factor in Allen's favor is that, although Detroit ranked 19th in pass defense efficiency last season (per DVOA), they ranked 29th on targets to opposing tight ends. They also ranked 28th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Nothing they've done this offseason, except for hoping linebacker DeAndre Levy returns to his pre-injury form, suggests massive improvement in these rankings.

An equally good, cheaper option, especially in GPPs is Jesse James. With Ladarius Green out for an unclear amount of time due to an unclear injury (or injuries), James gets first dibs on replacing Heath Miller as Pittsburgh's pass-catching tight end. Having only run 76 routes with the Steelers, he's somewhat of an unknown with respect to performance, but two things. First, as I showed in last week's True Fantasy Points article, James "true" performance stats -- receptions per route run, yards per route run, and touchdowns per route run -- rank higher than many pricier tight ends (e.g., Jordan Cameron, Eric Ebron, among others). Second, because we're talking GPPs here, being an unknown makes James more attractive as a value option. In the parlance of DFS, more unknown means higher variance means good value option in a GPP.

Defenses

Below are the defenses with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Philadelphia Eagles PHI 12 10.0 65.6% Atlanta Falcons ATL 10 8.6 46.7%
Atlanta Falcons ATL 10 7.7 58.4% Tennessee Titans TEN 10 8.6 46.7%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 15 10.8 56.1% Philadelphia Eagles PHI 12 10.3 45.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Houston Texans HOU 16 8.8 34.6% Indianapolis Colts IND 15 8.4 14.7%
Indianapolis Colts IND 15 8.3 35.9% Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 14 8.1 17.7%
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 14 7.8 37.2% Houston Texans HOU 16 10.0 18.2%

Before getting into specifics, it's worth noting the underlying message of this table: Don't spend on defenses, as there's value everywhere. Indeed, although I've only listed the Top 3 here, six defenses have a value likelihood of at least 50 percent in cash games, while eight defenses are at 33 percent or higher in GPPs.

Combining this value-heavy strategy with what I wrote earlier about Atlanta's bad defense (re choosing Sims), Philadelphia is the clear value play, especially in cash games To boot, using them also fits with what I wrote earlier about the bad offense of their Week 1 opponent, Robert Griffin's Cleveland Browns.


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