DFS Turnaround - Week 17


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The dynamic game of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) requires much more than simply knowing the sport for which we're entering contests to be successful. We must be adaptable, precise, and open to learning from previous endeavors, the latter of which will be the primary focus of this weekly written piece. Game Theoretic methodologies will allow us to analyze and dissect the previous week's winner of the largest and most prestigious Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournament on DraftKings – the Millionaire Maker. These same tenets of Game Theory, which can most simply be explained as the development of decision-making processes given our own skill and knowledge, assumptions of the field based on the cumulative skill and knowledge of others playing the same game, and the rules and structure of the game itself, will allow us to further train our minds to see beyond the antiquated techniques of roster building being employed by a large portion of the field. Approaching improvement through these methods will give us insight into the anatomy of successful rosters and will help us develop repeatably profitable habit patterns for the coming weeks. We'll start by looking at the previous week's winning roster, extract any pertinent lessons for future utilization, and finish with a look ahead towards the coming main slate.

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Winning Roster

For the first time at least since I can remember, potentially in history, there was a tie atop the DraftKings Millionaire Maker on a full slate. Users dc05 and Phamilton014 duplicated each other's roster and shared the top two prizes in the contest.

Week 17 Milly Winner
Week 17 Milly Winner


Lessons Learned

Double Tight End

This section is probably not going where you thought it would be – fair warning up front. Leveraging our discussion on the theoretical aspects of player selection in the “onesies” positions (quarterback and tight end) from last week, would it ever be theoretically optimal to utilize two pay-down tight ends in a large field GPP? No – and here's why.

If we view players at those two positions as clumped into two groups – Group A are the players that can put the slate out of reach with their raw score (as in, you had to have them in order to win) while Group B are the players that can't (typically the lower-priced players at each respective position), the theoretical components of player selection within each grouping become glaringly evident. We play players from Group A because they are the players with a high enough ceiling within their respective ranges of outcomes to win you the slate. Playing players from Group B makes two wagers – (1) No player from Group A puts the slate out of reach, and (2) the player selected from Group B puts up a high enough salary multiplier matter, with the rest of the roster picking up the slack through salary allocation.

As such, it would never be theoretically optimal to utilize two pay-down tight ends on a roster (play a pay-down tight end in the FLEX position). Now, a lot more than those wave-top-level, theoretical aspects go into that assertion, most of which are explained in-depth in my works found at One Week Season, with a link in my bio. Suffice to say, the reason we see double pay-down tight end rosters winning large field contests has to do with the difference in optimal versus human-induced error, which has many contributing factors including, but not limited to, size of contest, slate dynamics, human psychology, ownership projections, crowd psychology, and size of slate (number of games on a slate).

Team Double Stack with Correlated Bring-Back

By far the two most common occurrences of roster construction overlap found amongst the optimal rosters and the winning rosters in the Milly Maker, from the data available to the public from DraftKings, were skinny stacks (a quarterback with one pass-catcher and no correlated bring-back) and double stacks with a correlated bring-back (a quarterback with two pass-catchers and a correlated bring-back). We've dissected the theoretical components of a skinny stack in this space previously – now we'll take some time on the latter.

The theoretical aspects that drive the usage of a double stack with correlated bring-back directly relate to the optimal exposure to a game environment that outperforms expectations. More specifically, this roster construction is the optimal way to attack a game environment where most of the production comes through the air, with the clear caveat that it can also include a pass-catching running back (which is typically utilized at a much lower frequency, generating leverage along the way).

Both dc05 and Phamilton014 utilized this technique masterfully with the insertion of a Tom Brady double stack (Chris Godwin and Mike Evans) with DJ Moore correlated bring-back, capturing the bulk of the offensive production in a game that outperformed expectations by almost two touchdowns.

The Value of Motivation

The main pieces of the winning roster (Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and DJ Moore) were playing for the division in Week 17, providing additional paths to fantasy eruption. The phrase “additional paths” can be thought of as additional “outs,” for all my poker players in the crowd. Basically, the ideas of motivation and a team having something to play for aren't necessarily pertinent to individual players, but they can be pertinent for how they can influence how teams react during a game. The best way to picture these additional paths to a game environment opening up is to consider how a team might act with their backs against the wall – with their season on the line. And while not a primary contributing factor to how a game could play out, this additional “motivation factor” could be what is needed to push a team, or environment, over the top.

Looking Ahead

Geno Smith + DK Metcalf + Tyler Lockett (The Value of Motivation / Team Double Stack with Correlated Bring-Back)

One of the few teams with everything to play for on the main slate is the Seattle Seahawks, who have to win and get some help from the Lions in order to punch their ticket to the postseason in Week 18. Since the Lions and Packers game has been flexed to Sunday Night Football, the only thing the Seahawks can control is to win their game against the Rams. The Seahawks led the league in overall pass rate from Weeks 13-16 before being gifted extreme positive game script against the Jets in Week 17, which highlights the drastic shift in offensive philosophy exhibited by this team over the second half of the season. Expect more of the same against a Rams team that has surprisingly come on of late with Baker Mayfield at quarterback. The state of the Rams (and their pass-catchers, in particular) makes this an interesting stack to run without a correlated bring-back, but those wishing to stack up this game environment could do worse than taking a flyer on Tyler Higbee against the team allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. That said, the veteran tight end ran only 22 routes in his Week 16 explosion against the Broncos, meaning the outburst is looking more and more like an extreme outlier rather than bankable production.

Double Tight End

Taking the discussion on double tight end and applying it to Week 18, we find that the “strategy” sees a further reduction in theoretical viability. Basically, the “strategy” asserts that the low salary of tight ends can be doubled down on, increasing the salary remaining to allocate to the rest of the roster. In Week 18, however, we are bound to have a multitude of near min-salary wide receivers due to teams with a greater chance at resting key players than on other weeks, players that carry a much higher theoretical ceiling than their tight end counterparts. It's simply too early in the week to know where those spots will be viable.

Joe Burrow + Ja'Marr Chase + Tee Higgins + Mark Andrews (The Value of Motivation / Team Double Stack with Correlated Bring-Back)

Before we get into this one, thoughts and prayers are with Damar Hamlin, his family, and the Bills organization. That frightening situation also leaves the status of this game up in the air. Assuming the game plays as scheduled, this one could decide the winner of the AFC North, pending the result of the Bills/Bengals game from Week 17. The Ravens took the first meeting between these two teams, meaning a Baltimore victory could force the two into the same record, with the Ravens then holding the tiebreaker via head-to-head record. That would leave this contest with some of the highest playoff implications on the slate. The upside of Burrow double stacks in undeniable, as has been shown throughout the season. Finally, Mark Andrews finally snapped out of his funk last week, hitting 100 yards receiving for the first time since Week 6.