DFS Turnaround - Week 9

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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.

Winning Roster

Week 9 Milly Winner
Week 9 Milly Winner

Lessons Learned

Mobile Quarterback Correlation

Theoretically (and backed up by the data), the optimal way of playing a mobile quarterback is to pair him with one of his pass-catchers, something that is still vastly misunderstood from the field. Why is that the case? Think through how mobile quarterbacks achieve a ceiling output – we're looking for the potential for 100+ yards on the ground, one or more rushing scores, and the ability to pass for multiple touchdowns. Lamar Jackson has scored 43.4 points or more twice this season, and in each instance, he rushed for 100+ and one score, but in each instance, he also passed for three or more touchdowns. Justin Fields pulled his best Lamar Jackson impression this week, rushing for 178 yards and a score, but also passing for three touchdowns. So, Hilow, why do we want to limit our pass-catching correlation to one pass-catcher? Well, the low expected passing yardage output from these types of quarterbacks means the pass-catchers are deriving the majority of their fantasy upside from receptions and touchdowns, which provides a tighter needle to thread for multiple pass-catchers when compared to just one. Each week that Lamar wrecked the slate with an elite ceiling game, Mark Andrews also did – once via 100 yards and a touchdown and once with a two-touchdown game. No other Ravens pass-catcher was optimal in either week. Similarly, Cole Kmet caught two touchdowns from Justin Fields in Week 9 and was optimal along with his quarterback, with no other player cracking optimal correlation. Newly minted fantasy millionaire csears175 double-stacked his mobile quarterback through the utilization of both Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, a theoretical mistake that ended up not costing him a shot at the top prize.

The Poor Correlation of Running Back + D/ST

This methodology is a hangover from the early DFS days, a time when running backs were utilized differently in the NFL game. One of the quickest ways to get left behind by the field is to not adapt our processes with the changing NFL game, which I personally strive to do after each slate through my reflection process. In today's game, we can boil down the path to ceiling at the position through two paths – 100+ yards and multiple scores, or enough pass game volume to offset one of the required touchdowns. Take Rhamondre Stevenson, for example. Stevenson falls into the latter category, even with the backfield largely to himself this past week. His clearest path to a ceiling output was through 100+ yards rushing, pass game utilization, and a touchdown. Stevenson came into the game with five or more targets in five of his previous six games but had cracked 100 yards rushing only once all season. As such, he likely required his team running additional offensive plays to allow him the requisite volume to crack 100 yards on the ground due to the difficult rushing matchup against the Colts. Compare that game environment to the environment that led to the Patriots D/ST becoming optimal, with the way in which points are scored at the D/ST position in mind. Optimal path to scoring for D/ST includes pressure in the backfield, which generates sacks and leads to turnovers, which then provides the path to a defensive touchdown – all of which the Patriots accomplished against the Colts. That said, that path directly takes away from the expected volume of the offense, which then directly takes away from the expected volume of a running back likely to require additional volume to be optimal. The theoretics behind the pairing does not add up, and it all stems from our understanding of today's NFL game, running back utilization, and optimal practices. Of note, this thought experiment is not a results-based practice – we want to be consistently placing ourselves in optimal position to allow variance to work in our favor.

Quarterback + Tight End Correlation

As we've covered in this space before (but it bears repeating due to consistent misuse), tight ends in today's NFL game derive an immense amount of their fantasy value from touchdowns. If a tight end is scoring multiple touchdowns, it stands to reason that their quarterback is having a very nice day as well (because they have to throw those multiple touchdowns). In each instance that Mark Andrews was optimal this season, so too was Lamar Jackson. In each instance that Travis Kelce was optimal this season, so too was Patrick Mahomes. The week that TJ Hockenson was optimal? You guessed it! So too was Jared Goff. This week, Cole Kmet was optimal because he scored two touchdowns – and guess what!? So too was Justin Fields. Stacking a tight end with his quarterback provides a path to ceiling scoring while simultaneously reducing the number of variables we have to get right in order to capture bulk scoring on a path to an optimal roster. Stack those tight ends up with their quarterback!

Looking Ahead

Jacoby Brissett + David Njoku + Tyreek Hill (Quarterback + Tight End Correlation)

David Njoku was on a tear prior to injuring his ankle in Week 7, seeing six or more targets in five consecutive games. The Browns are coming off their bye week and Njoku wasn't fully ruled out in Week 8 until right up until inactives were released, meaning his ankle sprain is likely not of the more serious variety. With an additional two weeks to heal, it stands to reason that he has a good shot at suiting up against the Dolphins, whose defense has allowed the 10th most pass yards per game this season and the third most DraftKings points per game to opposing tight ends, including five touchdowns allowed to the position. If Njoku is scoring multiple touchdowns on his path to optimal, it is likely that touchdown variance is swinging in the favor of quarterback Jacoby Brissett as well. Bring it back with Tyreek Hill and his elite volume expectation for a nice and tidy game stack, in a way that the field is highly unlikely to utilize (generating leverage through the use of optimal practices is akin to the fantasy Holy Grail!).

Tua Tagovailoa + Tyreek Hill + Mike Gesicki (Quarterback + Tight End Correlation)

Mike Gesicki has seen his role decrease in Mike McDaniel's offense, but he still has a multi-touchdown game to his ledger this season. As we've established, if Gesicki ends up as optimal in Week 10, his quarterback is highly likely to be optimal as well. Tyreek Hill gives access to the yardage that will likely be missed with Gesicki and is a very natural way to generate exposure to the entire Miami offense against an opponent ceding 24.9 points per game (24th in the league in opponent scoring). As you can probably tell, this Browns/Dolphins game immediately jumps off the page as far as potential Week 10 game environments go.

Saquon Barkley or Dameon Pierce Without NYG or HOU D/ST (The Poor Correlation of Running Back + D/ST)

I tentatively expect Saquon Barkley + Giants D/ST and Dameon Pierce + Texans D/ST to garner relatively heavy ownership this coming week. Thinking back to our previous discussion, how are Barkley and Pierce generating a ceiling output? Well, the path to a ceiling game is different for each player. Saquon Barkley's path to ceiling incorporates enough pass game usage to decrease the number of required touchdowns by one, meaning he can rush for 100+ yards, score one touchdown, and catch four to six passes and “get there,” whereas Dameon Pierce requires 100+ yards rushing and multiple touchdowns. Each has a legitimate path to that ceiling in this matchup, with those paths most likely to converge in a game environment where additional offensive plays are able to pile up, as is not the case in a game environment where either defense is optimal.

Justin Fields +, Kyler Murray +, and Josh Allen + (Mobile Quarterback Correlation)

Sadly, we don't have many mobile quarterbacks on this slate, with only Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Justin Fields fitting the mold. That said, think through what we've talked about this week as far as mobile quarterback ceiling goes. With that, I pose a challenge. What are some ways to deploy these three this week that the field is unlikely to be utilizing, under the constraints that we must pair a mobile quarterback with exactly one pass-catcher? Hit me up on Twitter @HilowFF with your answer.