Win Cash Consistently in Weekly Fantasy Football
Wining in the world of weekly fantasy football boils down to making accurate predictions. It can be a difficult task, but our ultimate goal is to predict the future as accurately as we can.
Exactly what we’re trying to predict depends on the DraftKings leagues we enter, though. In big tournaments, where 1st place prizes could be $1 million, we need to be concerned primarily with player ceilings—how often they’ll have access to elite production. In cash games, it’s all about projecting a floor—the typical “worst-case scenario.”
The two outcomes are different, but they’re both linked to the idea of consistency; how consistently will Player X reach Y production? We’re basically trying to project a range of potential outcomes, then figure out how those outcomes will be distributed and which players have the most access to certain levels of fantasy production.
One way to project consistency is to, duh, look at a player’s past consistency. The problem with this approach is that we generally don’t have the necessary sample size of games to identify consistency with any sort of accuracy. Even with a player who has been in the NFL for three years, we have no more than 48 games to dissect. When the difference between ‘consistent’ and ‘volatile’ might be a handful of those games, there’s a lot of variance when trying to determine individual consistency.
We can overcome this issue of sample size by sorting players into buckets and then analyzing them like that. So instead of looking at Le’Veon Bell’s game-to-game consistency, I might instead try to analyze how young, pass-catching running backs have performed in the past.
The most basic bucket into which we can sort a player is of course his position. Here’s how often the typical “starting” player (top 12 quarterback, tight end, and defense and top 24 running back and receiver) have finished in that group on a weekly basis.
You can see that quarterbacks and running backs have been the most consistency positions, by far. These are the numbers we should be concerned about when playing in cash games—head-to-heads, 50/50s, and three-man leagues.
This data shoudn’t be very surprising knowing how often each position touches the ball. Quarterbacks and running backs have far more opportunities than pass-catchers to make plays, so their fantasy stats subsequently have more of a chance to regress toward the mean, i.e. those positions will “show their true colors” on a weekly basis with more consistency than the others.
Given that quarterback and running back are the most consistent positions, it makes sense to allocate the most cap space to those positions in DraftKings cash games, all else equal. It can make some sense to go a different direction in tournaments when you want to embrace volatility, particularly if it will help to be contrarian to generate a unique lineup, but consistency is king in cash games.
Analyzing players on the positional level will give us a lot of insight as to how consistent they’ll be on a weekly basis, but we can break things down further by sorting players into buckets based on their “type.” I’ve done a lot of research on this topic and there are two primary player types that stand out as being low-variance, and thus possessing weekly consistency.
The first is pass-catching running backs. Running backs who see a lot of targets have a high degree of consistency because they aren’t dependent on a specific game script for their production. A player like Matt Forte can contribute fantasy points regardless of the score, which gives him more consistency than a player like Alfred Morris who doesn’t catch passes (even relative to their own individual levels of overall production). When possible, you should target pass-catching backs in cash games, especially on DraftKings, which is a full PPR site.
The second type of players with a lot of week-to-week consistency are receivers who have a short average target length. Players like Antonio Brown, for example, are so consistent from game to game (and he’s truly one of the most consistent players we’ve ever seen) because their targets are generally high-percentage passes, which lead to a high catch rate. When Brown sees targets like quick screens that have, say, a 90 percent chance of being completed, it’s no wonder he has such a high floor.
Compare that to someone like Vincent Jackson, whose targets generally come much further down the field. Jackson currently has a career catch rate of just 52.8 percent (compared to 63.8 percent for Brown). Brown even sees a healthy number of downfield targets, too. Now consider that Wes Welker—a player who rarely runs downfield—has a remarkable career catch rate of 74.2 percent!
If your goal is to narrow down the range of potential outcomes to increase the floor of your lineup in cash games, the numbers suggest you should consider these three tips:
1) Allocate a lot of cap space to quarterbacks and running backs
2) Target pass-catching running backs
3) Target wide receivers who see short targets