Picking The Best Daily Football Wide Receivers, Plus Secret Tips To Win At DFS
With DFS Football heading towards its biggest season ever, people want to get every edge they can to help take home a cool million. Or wait; make that $2 million on DraftKings this year. They’ve upped the ante with $2 million to first and $1 million to second for the opening week. Whoa, buddy. Maybe I should keep all the advice to myself.
Don’t worry. I’ve been called a lot of things on Twitter, but never deceptive. I pride myself on my integrity and also on giving you the best possible advice, and I’m still dolling out advice every week for you here. This week, it’s time to talk receivers.
For the previous advice pieces, just click away.
There are tons of statistics already at your fingertips for football. You could pick your favorite site (ESPN, NFL.com, CBS Sports, etc.) and find nearly any basic offensive and defensive stat you want. While they are commonplace, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Plays Run, Yards, Points
Who do you think has a better chance to put up Fantasy points? A Titans receiver or Eagles receiver? Hopefully, you immediately said the Eagles receiver. If not, you need to watch a bit more football. Last year, the Eagles ran 1,127 plays – 70.4 per game – while the Titans ran just 919, or 57.4 per game. Forget the talent on each team for a minute. The Titans had 13 less chances each game to score/register stats.
Since we’re talking receivers, you obviously want to go a step deeper and focus on passing plays. We’ll stick with the same two teams. The Eagles attempted 621 passes last year (38.8 per) and the Titans 513 (32.1) – still a significant gap. That’s nearly seven more targets heading the way of the Top 3 passing game weapons, which are all but guaranteed to include the No. 1 and 2 receivers.
Some other simple stats to include are team yards per game, plays of 20-plus or 40-plus yards (for the team and/or player himself) and points per game. Again, these are your simple, “every-man” stats, and while they’re easily accessible, they’re also valuable in starting your analysis.
Last year, the Eagles ran 1,127 plays – 70.4 per game
Red Zone Statistics
Let’s tick it up a notch, and while red zone numbers aren’t a secret or much harder to find, they are exceptionally valuable – quite possibly, more important than any of the simple stats listed already. In fact, I use these regularly even in my seasonal pieces at RotoExperts.com; they’re that important.
Would you rather have receiver A with 70 catches, 1,002 yards and two touchdowns, or receiver B with 49 catches, 767 yards and 11 touchdowns? You likely picked the right answer because you’re 1) a quality Fantasy player and 2) understand the importance of touchdowns. But let me break down the answer, which is obviously receiver B. The first receiver was Vincent Jackson, and the second was Torrey Smith. The most interesting part is that not only did Smith out-perform VJax in 2014, he did so by 32.5 points. That’s a big gap. In fact, Smith was the 19th best receiver last year, and Jackson 38th. Obviously, we care about weekly performances since this is DFS, and Smith averaged 12.8 FPPG, while VJax had 11.4 (using Yahoo! PPR scoring to avoid differences in bonuses, etc. between DFS sites). Touchdowns matter! … a lot!
If you head over to NFLsavant.com, you get all the info you ever wanted on Red Zone targets. Did you know that Demaryius Thomas led the NFL with 40 last year, seven more than second place Antonio Brown? Yes, Brown, who most see as just a chain-moving, between-the-20s receiver. An assumed big-name receiver, Dez Bryant, was just 27th, 24 RZ targets behind Thomas. This list includes tight ends, but you can filter those out and look at completion percentage, touchdowns from RZ targets, all passing targets and ooo, even Red Zone rushing attempts. Shh, you might want to keep this site to yourself.
Touchdowns matter! … a lot!
If you’re smart, you don’t stop with offensive statistics. After all, if a Top 10 offense is facing the most difficult defense against the pass, but a mid-pack offense is facing the worst defense, you probably want to take someone from that mid-pack team instead.
PPG Allowed, Plays Run Against, etc.
Keeping it simple to start again, these are obvious but necessary statistics when analyzing the receiver’s matchup. Does your potential pick face the Seahawks, allowing just 15.9 PPG, 267.1 yards (185.6 passing) and a measly 57.8 plays per game? Or, does he face the Raiders allowing 28.2/357.6/238.1/65.1? Quite the impact and quite the easy way to see how much more favorable a matchup can be.
You can dig much deeper and find extremely valuable metrics for the weekly matchups. My favorite landing spot? FootballOutsiders.com. This is where you truly get that extra edge. If you head over to their Defensive Efficiency Ratings, you can see a stat called DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). In simple terms, it looks to evaluate defenses on equal “playing fields.” It’s basically taking all plays and comparing it against the league average, so if a team faced Antonio Brown every week or just Cecil Shorts, you could still compare the defensive effectiveness even though Brown is going to make things much more difficult. The in-depth explanation can be found here.
The simple stat here is simply DVOA in pass defense situations. But you don’t want to stop there. Scroll down, and you can see how effective a defense is at stopping an opponent’s No. 1 receiver, No. 2, No. 3, the tight end and passes to running backs. Sometimes, teams might be terrific at shutting down an opponent’s top weapon but struggle to stop the secondary receiver. This could help you find receiver value by saving with the lower priced option that is more primed for a big game. On top of that, you can actually see how defenses fare with pass directions, which includes side of the field and depth. See, I told you there are tons of metrics to help you really dig in and find an edge.
On the flip side, you can look at the receivers themselves and use DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which is like basing a receiver’s performance against an average replacement level player, adjusting for situation and opponent. This is obviously an offensive stat, but it can fit in our defensive stat section since it’s from Football Outsiders, plus it tells you how good a receiver is at exploiting defenses.
Sometimes, teams might be terrific at shutting down an opponent’s top weapon but struggle to stop the secondary receiver.
Cash Versus GPP WRs
With DFS Football, you don’t have quite the disparity in attacking cash (50/50s, etc.) versus GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) lineups. In DFS Baseball, you often stack, which involves picking four or more hitters from the same team. The idea is that if that team hits (no pun intended), you’re going to get big scores at multiple positions while also increasing the odds that you don’t share a similar lineup with others. The problem in football is that unless a quarterback throws for four-plus touchdowns, it’s hard to have two receivers from the same team go big. If you want a shot at a big GPP tourney, you need touchdowns from every single player and two from many of them. If you take both receivers from the same team, you can see how your odds of each receiver notching two touchdowns are slim.
So where does the difference lie in cash versus GPP? In the type of receiver. Think about DeSean Jackson and Andre Johnson for a minute. They represent opposite ends of the receiver spectrum. In the seasonal format, Jackson finished with 14.0 FPPG and Johnson 13.1 (again using Yahoo!). Not much difference. That doesn’t tell you who to use in cash or GPP though, as on paper, you’d say, “Even though it’s not much, I’d obviously want Jackson and his extra 0.9 FPPG.” But it’s not so obvious.
Looking at the per game performances, we find Johnson with only four games under 12.5 Fantasy points and just one under 5.7. With Jackson, we have six games under that mark with two under 3.0! However, Jackson has six games with 19.4 or more FP, four of 21.0-plus, while Johnson has just two over 18.3 (one at 22.9 and one of 29.4). See the difference? Jackson is more boom-or-bust while Johnson is a steady producer. In a cash game, you want to grab upside with high floors, or receivers like Johnson. In GPP, because you have strike it big at every position, you want a DJax type. If he gets you just 2.9 FP, it’s not that much different from 11.9, as unless you hit the 20’s, you probably weren’t cashing in a GPP anyway.
When building your GPP lineup, after you’ve studied the offenses, defensive matchups and all of the metrics you can find, you then grab the receivers like DeSean Jackson – the T.Y. Hilton’s, Torrey Smith’s, even Maclom Floyd’s – in an attempt to hit it big. If you’re playing in a 50/50, you don’t want that heavy risk; there’s no need for it. A modest high score will have you cashing out, so you lean towards the Andre Johnson’s and Julian Edelman’s of the world.
In a cash game, you want to grab upside with high floors, or receivers like Johnson. In GPP, because you have strike it big at every position, you want a DJax type.
Lastly, and certainly not least, Vegas odds are a great tool for finding the potential high scorers. Look, Vegas has been at this a long time. They know what they’re doing. Smart DFS Baseball players use O/U lines to find teams to stack, and if you’re smart, you’ll look at the O/U for DFS Football too. Don’t stop with the O/U either. If a game has an O/U around 45 with the odds/money line barely in favor of one team, you can expect both teams to score around 20. However, if the odds/ML has one team as a major favorite, well, now you have the perfect target team for your receivers. Depending on the line, you could have one team projected for 30-plus and the other just 10 points. If you trying to decide between two receivers because they are similar, even after all of the metric study above, you’re last tiebreak comes from Vegas, and it’s one of the most valuable tools.
Vegas has been at this a long time. They know what they’re doing.
As you can see, there is a plethora of information out there to help you with your DFS Football lineup. You could simply pick players you like every week, but I’d rather you just mail me your money instead of giving it to some random player online. The way you start reaping rewards and having a shot at the million-dollar prize every week is by taking the extra time to study these stats and construct a team with the highest ceiling. Now, you can just send me a piece of your winnings as a thanks instead.