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Daily Fantasy CFL – It’s About to Get Real in 2017
Chris Kay
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On June 22nd of last year I wrote my very first Daily Fantasy CFL article, picking the best options in week one for DraftKings. I come into this 2017 season fully prepared for what is about to hit us, and have fully immersed myself into Canadian culture to try to gain every edge possible. That means I’ve eaten a lot of bacon with maple syrup and drank plenty of LaBatt Blue in the past month. Honestly, it’s amazing that I’m sitting here today after how much I’ve bought into Canadian culture. One thing I will not buy into though is spelling offense/defense with a “c.” Sorry Ben, but like you never rostering Dionte Spencer for $8,100, that’s something I will never do.

Before we embark on this magnificent journey that is the 2017 season, I have looked back on four different strategy pieces from last season to help us make all of the monies. While these pieces were not ground breaking, we learned a great deal in the inaugural DFS CFL season…

Impact on Pace of Play for DFS

Last season Ben took a deeper look into pace of play and “expected pace” in the CFL. This strategy piece was inspired in part by Mike Leone’s look at the same stat in DailyRoto’s premium work with the NFL. What Ben discovered, while not monumental, was beneficial in lineup creation and the dreaded final “Player A” or “Player B” debate fantasy players always seem to have before lineups lock.

When we talk about pace of play in the CFL, we’re talking about the amount of plays per game a team runs on offense or allows on defense. If we’re looking at Saskatchewan and Montreal in week one we’ll create “expected pace” by multiplying one’s offense against the other’s defense and then dividing by the league average (in 2016 it was 65.8). This number will give us their expected pace and if it’s better than their average output offensively then we should expect more plays for that team’s offense. Conversely, if that number is lower than their offensive pace of play average then we should expect fewer plays run by that team’s offense.

So, what does this all mean? What we have discovered is that we can find offensive players who could see a higher usage rate than usual because of an expected pace that is higher than their offensive pace of play average. And while this may result in only 3-4 more (or less if the expected pace is lower than the team’s average) plays run, it can become very helpful when looking at two specific players.

Receiving Efficiency

In the first half of the season I created a statistic called “Price per Target,” hoping to find value according to how many targets a receiver sees. While this stat was very simple (too simple in fact), it was Ben’s idea (I’m going to talk about Ben being smart a lot this season so get used to it) to inject this one with PEDs and out came “Target Efficiency.” Take a look at this excerpt to see the exact formula he came up with:

“Our original attempt at a metric gave us a $/tar price to work from. This time we’re coming at it from the opposite direction and looking at how many targets you’re getting per dollar and then factoring in yards per target as well: [(Targets per game/$) x Yards per Target] x 1000. Multiplying by 1000 just gives us a much more workable number.”

What we discovered last season is that while targets are great, it’s what the receiver does with them that makes them the most valuable. There is one example Ben wrote about that should explain exactly how this stat benefits us moving forward.

At one point last season Greg Ellingson was averaging 7.4 targets per game and 11.64 yards per target. At the same time, Andy Fantuz was averaging 7.9 targets per game to go along with 7.76 yards per target. Ellingson was priced at $7,400 to Fantuz’s $7,200 on DraftKings. What we found was that Ellingson was way more valuable of a receiver as his Target Efficiency Score came in at 11.73 (third best on the slate) compared to Fantuz’s 8.74 score (fifth worst on the slate). If we looked at their price per target scores though we see that they are fairly comparable with Fantuz’s $911 price per target having the advantage over Ellingson’s $1,000. In that week’s CFL action, Ellingson generated 22.2-Fantasy points on a stat line of 5/142/0 compared to Fantuz who generated 11.3-Fantasy points after recording 6 receptions for 53 yards.

How to Spend on Defenses

One of the most enjoyable strategy pieces I wrote last season talked defense. Spending as much time as I did on the matter seemed unnecessary at the time, but it proved beneficial to us. I waited until week eight to compile defensive data into an Excel spreadsheet and looked at how teams were scoring their points, who allowed for the most points and what price range was beneficial to attack when picking a defense.

Through seven weeks of CFL action last season 71% of scoring for the position came from turnovers and sacks. This meant that it was beneficial to target teams like Hamilton and Montreal who were at the time struggling mightily on offense and/or had a backup quarterback under center. On the other side of things, elite quarterback play told us to refrain from using the other team’s defense. Edmonton and Calgary were led by two of the best quarterbacks in the CFL and picking against them through week seven meant your defense averaged just 3.3 and 5.0 fantasy points.

One of the most interesting things I discovered was that punting the position was not only a beneficial strategy, but also it was the best strategy to that point in the season. The 10 teams that were priced $4,500 or less until that time generated an average of 10.60-Fantasy points, just over two fantasy points more than paying up for the position ($5,000 or higher).

Value of Returners in DFS CFL

The very first CFL strategy piece I wrote took a look at return men north of the border. With CFL scoring including return yardage (.05 points per yard gained) it was important to take a look at how this impacted the landscape of lineup creation. What we discovered was that returners gained minimal benefit unless they were thrown into the lineup as a starting receiver or running back.

Players typically generated 3-4 fantasy points from returning punts or kicks, making the benefit nominal. There were times when it was fun to see Chris Williams receive chances at returning punts before going on offense as the team’s best receiver, but those moments were few and far between. Unless your returner scored a touchdown picking one was fool’s gold.

The 2016 season provided plenty of excitement and this upcoming season should provide more of the same. Thursday is only a few days away and so it’s important that we get all our ducks in a row as we finalize our lineups. It feels like forever away, but go ahead and prepare yourself for the 2017 season by reading Ben’s Primer that was posted the other day and hop into the forums for ongoing CFL talk. Until then, I’ll be jamming out to Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weekend to keep the good Canadian vibes going.

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