We’re at the point in the NFL season when there is now a 1 in front of each week and now we have a clear picture of who these teams are as they head into the second half of their 2018 campaigns. Let’s take a moment to step back and reflect on the first half of the season from a DFS perspective by analyzing the perfect lineups from the first nine weeks courtesy of numberfire.com.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to look at the perfect DraftKings lineups; I will go into a comprehensive analysis of Fanduel’s lineups in the offseason. Keep in mind, some of the strategies and principles in this article can be applied when putting together lineups on FanDuel. I will identify key trends and lineup construction pointers that will help you in the second half of your DFS seasons whether you have found success or struggled through the first nine weeks or whether you are a beginner to DFS or a seasoned veteran.
EIGHT OF NINE PERFECT QUARTERBACKS WERE PRICED UNDER $6500
In redraft leagues, waiting to draft a quarterback has become an ideal strategy as the position can certainly be streamed on a weekly basis. In fact, there have been 94 instances in which a quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes has posted a 20+ fantasy point performance in 2018. With that being said, you don’t have to pay up for the top tier at quarterback as there are options below $6500 weekly that have proven viable. Further, five of the nine perfect quarterbacks were priced below $6000; Mitchell Trubisky comes to mind as he has made the perfect lineup twice.
EIGHT OF NINE QUARTERBACKS THREW FOR OVER 300 PASSING YARDS AND THREE OR MORE TOUCHDOWNS
No surprise here as the league has been geared towards more offense. There have been 66 instances where a defense has allowed 3+ touchdown passes so far, an average of 7.33 times per week. Don’t forget the importance of the 300 yard passer bonus. All points add up and can be the difference between profit and loss.
EIGHT OF NINE QUARTERBACKS WERE PART OF A TEAM STACK
Simply put, unless it’s a running quarterback like DeShaun Watson, Cam Newton, or Russell Wilson, there was a player that helped get that quarterback get to his 300+ passing yards and/or 3+ touchdown passes. Quarterback stacking should be a focus in lineup construction as a QB-WR stack was part of the perfect lineup four times followed by a QB-TE stack occurring twice and QB-RB-WR and QB-WR-TE stacks each featured once.
EIGHT OF NINE QUARTERBACKS PLAYED IN GAMES WITH A GAME TOTAL OF 50 OR HIGHER
From a lineup construction perspective, targeting the games with the highest game totals is one of the best strategies to utilize when selecting a quarterback. Vegas can give us a good gauge for the type of game to expect with their game totals. Also, targeting games with a total over 50 and a spread of three or lower has proven successful as that indicates a shootout that should remain close for the duration of the game. Quarterbacks with spreads under 3 and a total over 50 made the perfect lineup 6 times, a 66% success rate.
19 OF THE 22 PERFECT RUNNING BACKS WON THEIR GAMES STRAIGHT UP
This is one of the most important trends to take from this article. By predicting who will win the game, you can eliminate half of the running backs on a slate to select from. Even if a running back has a great matchup on paper, if you don’t think his team will win the game unless involved in negative gamescript when his team is trailing, there’s no sense in wasting the roster spot.
With a total of 59 between the Rams and the Saints in week 9, it was tempting to roster both Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara. However, very rarely does it happen where running backs from opposing teams both end up in the perfect lineup. Alvin Kamara was perfect but for the first time in what has been a 2006 LaDainian Tomlinsonesque season, Todd Gurley finished with less than 20 fantasy points in the Rams first loss of the season.
ONLY 1 OF THE 22 RUNNING BACKS WAS WORSE THAN A 1.5 POINT UNDERDOG
This coincides with the aforementioned point listed above, running backs that are favorites are those that are expected to win their games and if their respective teams play as they should, increased volume and opportunity should both present itself. Starting an underdog in redraft leagues is one thing as reliable options at the position are limited but when the whole player pool is available, absolutely be selective, even if it means paying up as high as $9000, which leads to the next trend.
EXCLUDING THE FLEX POSITION, 13 OF THE 18 RUNNING BACKS WERE PRICED ABOVE $7000
Not shocking as Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, and James Conner have frequented the perfect lineup numerous times this year. Most of the backs in this salary range are bell-cow backs that play for efficient offenses. When we get to the wide receiver trends, it will make paying up for the top-tier running backs not as daunting or difficult as it may seem.
THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF TOUCHES PER GAME FOR THE PERFECT RUNNING BACKS WAS 23.91
The running back that made the list with the fewest touches was Matt Breida in week 2 against a Lions team that he shredded with just 14 touches. Volume is critical for a DFS running back and with DraftKings full PPR scoring, targeting those that are involved in the passing game is something to be cognizant of each week. 12 of the 22 perfect running backs saw at least five receptions in those games they made the list.
One idea of importance to mention as it relates to volume is when a transaction occurs during the week leading up to the game or a running back being downgraded to out occurs after the salaries release on Sunday night. While it breaks the rule of selecting backs that should win the game, in most cases, the backup that will assume the lead back duties could be extremely inexpensive for the amount of potential volume he will see. Nick Chubb is a good example of this as he was priced at $3600 before Carlos Hyde was traded the Friday before Cleveland’s game against Tampa Bay. These scenarios are welcomed in order to open up salary for other positions of need.
CLEVELAND AND ATLANTA HAVE ALLOWED AT LEAST THREE RUNNING BACKS IN THE PERFECT LINEUP
In fact, Cleveland has allowed four running backs to enter weekly perfection as no team has allowed more rushing touchdowns upon the conclusion of week 9 than the Browns. Joe Mixon has yet to face them and will do so twice along with Christian McCaffery getting the Browns in Cleveland in week 14.
Atlanta was another team that allowed three perfect running backs as the Falcons have been a team to attack in recent years due to their struggles against pass catching backs. Running backs on tap in Atlanta’s final eight games include Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Christian McCaffery; unfortunately, Alvin Kamara’s juicy matchup lands on Thanksgiving night and leaves him off the week 12 main slate.
Other teams that allowed multiple perfect runners include the Buccaneers, Broncos, and Lions. Don’t be shocked to find the Cardinals on this list at the end of the season as they’ve allowed 80+ rushing yards in every game along with 10 touchdowns on the ground through eight games.
WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE PERFECT LINEUP WENT 15-13-2 STRAIGHT UP
Compared to the running backs where winning was a strong trend among the perfect ones, there was a lot more volatility among the receivers that made the list. There are much more variables in consideration to include cornerback matchups, how offenses operate when leading or trailing, or defenses that bolster rush-stopping ability and force teams to throw more. It’s the one position that requires extensive work and research with so much variability each week.
29 OF THE 30 WIDE RECEIVERS SCORED AT LEAST ONE TOUCHDOWN
Maurice Harris was the exception in week 9 as he easily returned value at an inexpensive cost and was a nice building block for the very few that rostered him. The top fantasy receivers each week are much more touchdown-dependent than the running backs that see more touches. With fewer opportunities, they need to capitalize on the targets they see and crossing the pylons is definitely an easy boost of fantasy production. One strategy to consider is targeting the weaker cornerbacks of 2018 that are allowing the most touchdowns in their coverage to include Malcolm Butler, Janoris Jenkins, Marcus Peters, P.J. Williams, and M.J. Stewart to name a few.
27 OF THE 30 WIDE RECEIVERS WENT FOR OVER 100 YARDS
Reiterating the point above, volume is critical for receivers as opportunity can be limited in some weeks. Not to mention 100 yards activates the three point bonus on DraftKings. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Danny Amendola, and Adam Humphries were the three that didn’t get to 100 yards but what they had in common in the weeks they made the perfect lineup was being priced under $4000 in which access to the necessary expensive options was possible which is further elaborated below.
20 OF THE 30 WIDE RECEIVERS WERE PRICED AT $6000 OR LOWER
Back around 2015 when both FanDuel and DraftKings were investing heavily in advertising, the DraftKings commercial would ask who your sleeper would be to win you $1,000,000. That old commercial holds up as there is a sleeper every week and is necessary to win the Milly Maker. No position has more sleepers that make the perfect lineups than the wide receiver.
As most of the running backs that make it are above $7000, 20 of the 30 perfect wide receivers thus far have been $6000 or lower. Better than that, 17 of the 30 have been $5000 or lower and of those 17, nine have posted 30+ DK points. The tools and resources available to DFS players regarding WR/CB matchups and performance metrics in various scenarios and situations has never been more accessible. The key is putting in quality time and research to make the correct rostering decisions.
DETROIT, CAROLINA, AND NEW ORLEANS HAVE ALLOWED THREE WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE PERFECT LINEUP
The Panthers secondary has struggled against both receivers and tight ends through the first half of the 2018 season. They have yet to see Michael Thomas but will do so in weeks 15 and 17, along with Julio Jones, Kenny Golladay, and Mike Evans in their final seven games.
The Saints can keep up on offense with anyone but they have found themselves in three shooutouts so far as they are surrendering the most FPA to wide receivers as we enter week 10. Receivers to keep an eye on for the rest of the Saints schedule include Tyler Boyd, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster; Julio Jones and Amari Cooper both land on Thursday night games and won’t be featured on the main slate.
The Lions were guilty of allowing two Packer receivers in the perfect lineup in the same week as Aaron Rodgers has enjoyed success against Detroit, tossing 11 touchdowns in his last three against his NFC North rival. Keep in mind that the Packers finish the regular season against the Lions at Lambeau Field. However, opponents have played to Detroit’s weakness but utilizing their running backs which explains its 6th fewest FPA to receivers. Future Lions opponents include the triple threat of the Rams and the dual threat of the Vikings.
FIVE OF NINE PERFECT LINEUPS HAVE FEATURED EITHER ZACH ERTZ OR TRAVIS KELCE
Redraft and DFS players can both agree how disappointing Rob Gronkowski has been since posting his best week of the season all the way back in week 1. Last year, nearly every perfect lineup featured either Gronk, Ertz, or Kelce. This year, the position is even more a dumpster fire and it shows the importance of paying up for the consistency of Ertz and Kelce, especially when bargains at the wide receiver position exist on a weekly basis. Theoretically, take away week 6 as both were off the main slate and you could say they have been in five of the eight perfect lineups when at least one of them was available. That scenario plays itself out again in week 15 as both are once again unavailable, leaving the DFS community to choose between Gronk against a Pittsburgh he has crushed throughout his career or one of the other options.
ALL OF THE TIGHT ENDS CAUGHT A MINIMUM OF FIVE PASSES
The floor for the tight ends in the perfect lineup was five catches for 70 yards which equates to 12 fantasy points in DraftKings scoring. Targeting defenses that have struggled against tight ends was also a consistent trend as nine of the eleven achieved perfection against teams in the top 10 in surrendering FPA to the position. Ertz and Kelce were the two that did it against teams outside the top 10 in FPA, further illustrating they are nearly matchup-proof and worth consideration every week.
9 OF THE 11 TIGHT ENDS SCORED AT LEAST ONE TOUCHDOWN
If your tight end scores a touchdown, more likely than not, that player has returned value for the week. Kelce and Ertz are used frequently enough in their offenses that nine catches for 90 yards without a touchdown is a great week that you can live with. The rest of the field is touchdown-dependent in having a decent chance to win a 50/50 or GPP.
8 OF THE 11 TIGHT ENDS PLAYED IN GAMES WITH A GAME TOTAL OF 50 OR MORE
There was a stronger correlation with tight ends making the perfect lineup in games with game totals over 50 than there was with wide receivers in games with game totals over 50. 73% of the tight ends made it compared to just 33% of the wide receivers. Regardless, targeting players in games with the highest totals should be a strategy that is in consideration every week
CLEVELAND HAS ALLOWED TWO TIGHT ENDS IN THE PERFECT LINEUP
In 2017, if you rostered tight ends against the Browns, Broncos, or Giants, you usually found success in those decisions. Cleveland has performed much better against the position this year but still shows flashes of their 2017 weakness. Greg Olsen is the only tight end remaining on the Browns schedule that may cause a headache.
The Panthers will continue to be a team to target each week as they’ve allowed tight ends to score at least one touchdown in six of eight games. Also, keep an eye on the Rams as they face one of the hardest remaining schedules against the position as Ertz, Kelce, and George Kittle are some of their future opponents, though Kelce will be off the main slate for that Monday night showdown in Mexico City.
NO DEFENSE IN THE PERFECT LINEUP LOST ITS GAME
The crazy part is seeing Cleveland and Green Bay make the list in games they tied. In any case, selecting defenses that should win against teams with low team totals is an effective strategy. It’s very rare to see a defense make the perfect lineup in a game that it lost.
SEVEN OF THE NINE DEFENSES WERE PRICED UNDER $3000
Starting defenses against a historically bad Buffalo team has been a successful strategy in both redraft leagues and DFS. However, the problem is DraftKings aggressively pricing up any defense that has the honor of facing the Bills where that additional salary has needs in other areas. Fortunately, cheaper options are available and have been just as effective as defenses against the Bills, so much so that five of the nine were $2500 or cheaper.
SEVEN OF THE NINE DEFENSES FORCED MULTIPLE TURNOVERS
Self explanatory as turnovers can lead to defensive touchdowns, all key components of fantasy production at the defensive position. Also consider using defenses against teams with porous offensive lines as eight of the nine perfect defenses forced at least three sacks in their respective games.
SIX OF THE NINE DEFENSES WERE FAVORED HEADING INTO THEIR RESPECTIVE GAMES
The first few weeks of an NFL season are the ones with the most upsets as both Vegas and DFS players are learning about the new versions of the 32 teams. Games in which a 16.5-point favorite loses outright as the Vikings did against the Bills in week 3 typically don’t occur past week 4. Thus, from week 4 on, defenses that were favorites were the ones that made the perfect lineup and I anticipate by the end of the season that this figure should be 12 or 13 out of 17.
OTHER NOTABLE TRENDS
ALL NINE PERFECT LINEUPS FEATURED AT LEAST ONE TEAM STACK
There were a total 15 team stacks in the first nine weeks of 2018 with five of the nine weeks featuring multiple team stacks in the perfect lineup. The two most common ones were either a QB-WR stack or RB-WR stack, both featured four times thus far. Simply put, these figures show the importance of stacking and should be part of lineup construction weekly.
EIGHT OF THE NINE LINEUPS USED AT LEAST $49500 OF THE SALARY CAP
With the exception of week 1 when DraftKings releases the salaries a month prior to the start of the season and the week of the trade deadline, the pricing is extremely tight with very few bargains available. This is why we were seeing scores of 270 and 280 to start the season because with James Conner being $4500, it made more expensive players like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara easily available to us. Once DraftKings makes their adjustments, it makes it imperative to use all of the $50000 and not leave anything on the table.
SEVEN OF THE NINE PERFECT LINEUPS FEATURED GAME STACKS
Four of the seven game stacks had game totals of above 50 and if you bring that number down a half-point to 49.5, it would be five out of seven as Chicago and New England ended up in a shootout. It makes perfect sense to target the games with the highest totals as these games are expected to generate the most offense that leads to high amounts of fantasy production.
THE AVERAGE COST OF THE FLEX POSITION WAS $4000.
This reiterates the idea in the wide receiver section of the article that the sleeper exists every week. Running backs made up four of the nine flex spots followed by wide receiver at three and tight end with two.
One of the beauties of daily fantasy is the availability of all players to the entire field. An injury of two in a redraft league can wreck havoc to one’s season; DFS works where you can rebound from injuries every week. The information above shouldn’t be treated as gospel as the unpredictability and parody of the NFL can ruin even the best lineups that you feel like should win cash games or the Milly Maker. If anything, treat this article as additional tools in your toolbox when putting together your lineups.