The Rundown: FantasyScore Week 6

A weekly guide to FantasyScore's Draft-and-Go contests.

The past few weeks in this space, I've been experimenting with various redraft strategies to see if they work in FantasyScore's Draft-N-Gos (DNG). Does the zero running back strategy work? Find out here. Is it smart to wait until the last round to select your defense? Find out here. Today, I'm going to examine a strategy based on a well-known concept in DFS circles: upside. To be sure, drafting for upside is a strategy used in redrafts, but it's mainly used for selecting reserves; in DNGs, there are no reserves.

I've mentioned in previous articles that a FantasyScore DNG is the DFS equivalent of a poker Sit-N-Go (SNG). But now let me be more specific: An 8-person, 3-prize DNG is most equivalent to a poker SNG, which typically consists of nine people and (also) pays the top three finishers. Because of this setup, where all of the profit comes from finishing first or second out of nine (3rd place only wins their entry fee back), the game theory-optimal strategy is often to play more aggressively and to speculate more with drawing hands. These two tactics, aggression and speculation, translate to "drafting for upside" in the language of DFS, which means that such a strategy might work as well in 8-person DNGs as it does in a 9-person SNG.

As is my wont, we can do an experiment to find out.

week 6 draft lists

As always, before I present the results of my experiment, I first need to give you the Week 6 draft lists:

2-Player DNG  5-Player DNG  8-Player DNG  
Rob Gronkowski TE NWE Le'Veon Bell RB PIT DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU
DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU Le'Veon Bell RB PIT
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI Rob Gronkowski TE NWE Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI
Le'Veon Bell RB PIT Matt Forte RB CHI Julian Edelman WR NWE
Tom Brady QB NWE Adrian Peterson RB MIN Matt Forte RB CHI
Julian Edelman WR NWE Arian Foster RB HOU Adrian Peterson RB MIN
Brandon Marshall WR NYJ Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI Arian Foster RB HOU
Matt Forte RB CHI Dion Lewis RB NWE Rob Gronkowski TE NWE
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN Julian Edelman WR NWE Brandon Marshall WR NYJ
A.J. Green WR CIN Tom Brady QB NWE Demaryius Thomas WR DEN
Jeremy Maclin WR KAN Brandon Marshall WR NYJ A.J. Green WR CIN
Adrian Peterson RB MIN Demaryius Thomas WR DEN Jeremy Maclin WR KAN
Aaron Rodgers QB GNB A.J. Green WR CIN Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN
Arian Foster RB HOU Jeremy Maclin WR KAN Odell Beckham Jr Jr WR NYG
Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN Dion Lewis RB NWE
Antonio Gates TE SDG Odell Beckham Jr Jr WR NYG Antonio Brown WR PIT
Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA Justin Forsett RB BAL Allen Robinson WR JAC
NY Jets DEF NYJ Aaron Rodgers QB GNB Randall Cobb WR GNB
      Antonio Brown WR PIT Calvin Johnson WR DET
      Allen Robinson WR JAC Keenan Allen WR SDG
      DeMarco Murray RB PHI Eric Decker WR NYJ
      Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA T.Y. Hilton WR IND
      NY Jets DEF NYJ Tom Brady QB NWE
      Randall Cobb WR GNB Allen Hurns WR JAC
      Calvin Johnson WR DET Justin Forsett RB BAL
      Antonio Gates TE SDG Kamar Aiken WR BAL
      Keenan Allen WR SDG Jarvis Landry WR MIA
      Eric Decker WR NYJ Jordan Matthews WR PHI
      Greg Olsen TE CAR DeMarco Murray RB PHI
      T.Y. Hilton WR IND Donte Moncrief WR IND
      Tyler Eifert TE CIN Aaron Rodgers QB GNB
      Allen Hurns WR JAC Antonio Gates TE SDG
      Denver Broncos DEF DEN Greg Olsen TE CAR
      Marshawn Lynch RB SEA John Brown WR ARI
      Cam Newton QB CAR Tyler Eifert TE CIN
      Giovani Bernard RB CIN Marshawn Lynch RB SEA
      Carson Palmer QB ARI James Jones WR GNB
      Kamar Aiken WR BAL Giovani Bernard RB CIN
      Jarvis Landry WR MIA Anquan Boldin WR SFO
      Tennessee Titans DEF TEN Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA
      Eli Manning QB NYG NY Jets DEF NYJ
      Jordan Matthews WR PHI Kendall Wright WR TEN
      Eddie Lacy RB GNB Eddie Lacy RB GNB
      Travis Kelce TE KAN Mike Wallace WR MIN
      Green Bay Packers DEF GNB Frank Gore RB IND
            Cam Newton QB CAR
            Carson Palmer QB ARI
            Travis Benjamin WR CLE
            Travis Kelce TE KAN
            Gary Barnidge TE CLE
            Chris Ivory RB NYJ
            Duke Johnson Jr RB CLE
            Eli Manning QB NYG
            Golden Tate WR DET
            Danny Woodhead RB SDG
            Carlos Hyde RB SFO
            Denver Broncos DEF DEN
            Ted Ginn Jr WR CAR
            Rueben Randle WR NYG
            Andy Dalton QB CIN
            Jamison Crowder WR WAS
            Tennessee Titans DEF TEN
            Green Bay Packers DEF GNB
            Cincinnati Bengals DEF CIN
            Minnesota Vikings DEF MIN
            Andrew Luck QB IND
            Delanie Walker TE TEN
            Russell Wilson QB SEA
            Charcandrick West RB KAN
            Larry Donnell TE NYG
            Marquess Wilson WR CHI
            Arizona Cardinals DEF ARI

upside experiment

For today's experiment, we're going to focus on the 8-person draft list and make the following assumptions:

  1. Everyone selects a wide receiver as their flex starter.
  2. Everyone selects the best player available unless they've already filled that player's position in their lineup.
  3. Everyone uses the 8-person draft list shown above.
  4. Except us. We're using an upside draft list, not the one shown above.
What's the difference between our upside draft list and the non-upside list everyone else is using? In short, theirs is based on the average Footballguys projection for Week 6, while ours is based on the maximum projection. There are far more sophisticated statistical ways to determine upside, but it's best to start simple then get more complex than vice versa.
If you go to our Interactive Value Charts page for FantasyScore, you'll find projections from Maurile Tremblay (MT), David Dodds (DD), and Sigmund Bloom (SB); and you'll also find the average of the three. I use that average to construct the draft lists above. What you won't find, but can easily identify is the highest (i.e., maximum) projection of the three. For instance, the maximum projection for Tom Brady this week is Tremblay's 25.4, which is nearly a full point higher than Dodds' or Bloom's. Because its the rosiest outlook among the three, we'll consider 25.4 points to be Brady's upside projection.
If we do this for every player and calculate VBD based on upside (i.e., maximum) projections rather than average projections, then we end up with an 8-person upside draft list that's different from the above-shown lists that everyone else will be using.
Alright, so on to the experiment. As always, here's the baseline draft where everyone, including us, is using the non-upside draft list. Remember, we need this result to compare against when we start experimenting with using the upside draft list:
RdPick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8
1 DeAndre Hopkins Le'Veon Bell Larry Fitzgerald Julian Edelman Matt Forte Adrian Peterson Arian Foster Rob Gronkowski
2 Antonio Brown Dion Lewis Odell Beckham Jr Jr Emmanuel Sanders Jeremy Maclin A.J. Green Demaryius Thomas Brandon Marshall
3 Allen Robinson Randall Cobb Calvin Johnson Keenan Allen Eric Decker T.Y. Hilton Tom Brady Allen Hurns
4 Antonio Gates Aaron Rodgers Donte Moncrief DeMarco Murray Jordan Matthews Jarvis Landry Kamar Aiken Justin Forsett
5 John Brown Greg Olsen Tyler Eifert Marshawn Lynch James Jones Giovani Bernard Anquan Boldin Seattle Seahawks
6 Carson Palmer Travis Benjamin Frank Gore Cam Newton Eddie Lacy Mike Wallace NY Jets Kendall Wright
7 Chris Ivory Golden Tate Duke Johnson Jr Travis Kelce Gary Barnidge Eli Manning Golden Tate Danny Woodhead
8 Green Bay Packers Jamison Crowder Tennessee Titans Rueben Randle Andy Dalton Denver Broncos Carlos Hyde Ted Ginn Jr
9 Charcandrick West Cincinnati Bengals Andrew Luck Minnesota Vikings Arizona Cardinals Delanie Walker Larry Donnell Russell Wilson
Avg Proj Pts 138.0 138.8 138.7 138.3 138.4 138.1 137.9 137.5
Max Proj Pts 145.8 149.9 149.1 146.6 145.8 148.1 149.2 147.8
Upside +7.0 +11.1 +10.4 +8.3 +7.4 +10.0 +11.3 +10.3

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll immediately notice something different from previous weeks: Pick 1 isn't the projected winner in a baseline draft, regardless of whether we calculate their projection using the average or the maximum. Not only that; they finish last using maximum projections. This happens because using the non-upside draft list, as we've done here, produces a lineup for Pick 1 that's the "safest" compared to everyone else. It does fine at maximizing Pick 1's average score, but fails miserably at maximizing their upside. This is laid bare in the bottom row of the table, which represents the difference between each lineup's average projection and maximum projection: Pick 1's +7.0 upside is the lowest of the bunch.

From there, I did the usual procedure in these experiments. First, I gave us Pick 1, made selections using the upside draft list, and making selections for everyone else using the non-upside draft list. Then, I gave us Pick 2, and did the same; then Pick 3, and so on. For each iteration, I calculated the maximum projection for each team, and compared it to the maximum projection in the baseline draft. All of these iteration results are in the table below: 

ScenarioPick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8
Baseline 145.8 149.9 149.1 146.6 145.8 148.1 149.2 147.8
Pick 1 Upside +5.5 -1.7 -3.3 -0.6 +0.2 0.0 -2.1 +1.8
Pick 2 Upside 0.0 +0.2 -1.7 +0.4 +0.4 -0.5 -2.0 +3.0
Pick 3 Upside +0.2 +0.9 +0.6 -0.2 +0.4 +2.0 -4.1 0.0
Pick 4 Upside +0.2 +0.9 -0.9 +1.5 +1.5 +0.7 -4.1 0.0
Pick 5 Upside 0.0 -0.4 +0.9 -0.1 +3.6 -1.3 -4.7 +1.8
Pick 6 Upside +0.3 +0.1 -0.6 0.0 -0.3 +3.4 -4.7 +1.6
Pick 7 Upside +0.3 0.0 -0.8 +2.5 -0.3 -1.6 +1.1 -1.4
Pick 8 Upside +0.5 +0.1 -0.7 +0.8 -0.3 -1.6 -2.0 +3.0

Well, this is interesting. Unlike the previous ones I've tested, drafting for upside is a net-positive strategy at every pick (as indicated by the green cells). That is, if we're the one using the upside strategy, everyone else isn't, then we end up with a better lineup no matter where we pick.

In addition, given what we saw in the baseline draft, it should come as no surprise that Pick 1 benefits the most from the upside strategy by far. But here's the kicker: They go from dead last at baseline to actually winning the DNG. Furthermore, it turns out that Pick 1 benefits (or at least doesn't suffer) when anyone else in the draft employs the upside strategy.

The bottom line here doesn't require its own section: In an 8-person, 3-prize DNG, always use the upside draft list, especially if you're randomly assigned to the first pick.

upside draft list for 8-person dngs

I know, I know. You're wondering, "But Danny, you haven't given us the upside draft list for this week!" Well, here you go:

DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU
Le'Veon Bell RB PIT
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI
Adrian Peterson RB MIN
Julian Edelman WR NWE
Matt Forte RB CHI
Rob Gronkowski TE NWE
Jeremy Maclin WR KAN
Arian Foster RB HOU
Brandon Marshall WR NYJ
A.J. Green WR CIN
Dion Lewis RB NWE
Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN
Odell Beckham Jr Jr WR NYG
Calvin Johnson WR DET
T.Y. Hilton WR IND
Allen Robinson WR JAC
Eric Decker WR NYJ
Tom Brady QB NWE
Justin Forsett RB BAL
Antonio Brown WR PIT
Allen Hurns WR JAC
Keenan Allen WR SDG
Kamar Aiken WR BAL
Randall Cobb WR GNB
Jarvis Landry WR MIA
Aaron Rodgers QB GNB
DeMarco Murray RB PHI
Marshawn Lynch RB SEA
Jordan Matthews WR PHI
Donte Moncrief WR IND
Carlos Hyde RB SFO
Greg Olsen TE CAR
Andrew Luck QB IND
John Brown WR ARI
James Jones WR GNB
Antonio Gates TE SDG
Mike Wallace WR MIN
Tyler Eifert TE CIN
Golden Tate WR DET
Cam Newton QB CAR
Kendall Wright WR TEN
Danny Woodhead RB SDG
Marquess Wilson WR CHI
Carson Palmer QB ARI
Eddie Lacy RB GNB
Duke Johnson Jr RB CLE
Anquan Boldin WR SFO
Travis Benjamin WR CLE
Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA
Jamison Crowder WR WAS
Eli Manning QB NYG
Giovani Bernard RB CIN
Travis Kelce TE KAN
Frank Gore RB IND
Ted Ginn Jr WR CAR
Gary Barnidge TE CLE
Denver Broncos DEF DEN
Andy Dalton QB CIN
Larry Donnell TE NYG
Tennessee Titans DEF TEN
Chris Ivory RB NYJ
Minnesota Vikings DEF MIN
Green Bay Packers DEF GNB
Cincinnati Bengals DEF CIN
Russell Wilson QB SEA
Charcandrick West RB KAN
Delanie Walker TE TEN
Rueben Randle WR NYG
Arizona Cardinals DEF ARI

If you wish, you can dig into the details of how this draft list differs from the earlier one. I'll simply give you the names of players that, due to large differences between their maximum projection and average projection, repeatedly ended up among our upside draft selections: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Carlos Hyde, Calvin Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, Golden Tate, Marquess Wilson, and Larry Donnell.

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