Welcome to another offseason in which we track how many Sundays until football graces our TVs once again. The NFL season is such a whirlwind that Week 1 turns into another Super Bowl champion in the blink of an eye. Now that it’s over and the Patriots have returned to championship glory, it’s time to reflect on 2018 and begin preparations for the 2019 season.
Compared to the other three major American sports, the NFL allows us a week in-between main slates for quality preparation and research. For some, that may not be enough time for those who have work and family obligations that consume large chunks of time. However, there is enough time from the moment you’re reading this until the first Sunday of football on September 8th to invest time in preparing for the 2019 campaign. At 15-30 minutes per week, you’re already putting in more time than the masses that will resurface from their fantasy football slumber around the end of July/beginning of August.
This first article in a five-part series will cover the DraftKings perfect lineups from the 17 main slates in 2018; this will not cover the ones that won the Milly Makers. It will identify and highlight some of the stronger trends and observations from those lineups that may prove useful in weekly lineup construction beginning with the quarterback position. While FanDuel and Yahoo aren’t covered in this writing and some of those perfect lineups may be slightly different due to different pricing and PPR formats between the sites, some of the same principles and ideas can be utilized on those DFS platforms as well. For those that want to access each site’s perfect lineups, they can be found on numberfire.com
Before we dwell any further, it’s important to clarify what perfect means for the purpose of this article. The perfect lineup reflects the best possible fantasy score per week on DraftKings given the $50000 salary cap. This differs from the best weekly lineup in redraft leagues that various sites put together that consists of the top QB, top 2 RBs, top 3 WRs, top TE, top flex option, and top DEF. While there are some weeks when the DK perfect lineup and redraft perfect lineup are identical, most will have a few player variances.
This article is intended to shed some light on lineup construction tips for the novice players that are just getting their feet in daily fantasy and intermediate players that are beginning to find their groove and possibly need an extra boost.
14 OF THE 17 PERFECT QUARTERBACKS WERE PART OF GAMES THAT WENT OVER THE GAME TOTAL
Of those 14 games, 10 of them featured a game total of 50 or higher that saw the over go 7-2-1. Targeting quarterbacks in games with a high over/under has been and will continue to be a strategy worth consideration each week, especially those games that combine high totals with lower spreads that possibly indicate a shootout.
Overall, there were 73 instances in 2018 with a game total of 50 with the over going just 33-38-2. Of the 146 quarterbacks involved, only 46 of them went over 25 DK points. More than ever, the NFL has become a passing league which would lead you to believe that there would be more than those 46 to surpass 25 fantasy points. This demonstrates that opportunities also exist with game totals under 50 where there is great potential for that matchup to eclipse the number.
Mitchell Trubisky shredded a Buccaneers defense that surrendered 35.75 points per game away from Raymond James Stadium in 2018 en route to the best fantasy performance from a quarterback in 2018. The Bears covered not just their team total but also the game total of 46 by themselves back in Week 4. Fast forward to Week 16 where both the Packers and Jets were out of playoff contention with nothing to lose and possessed secondaries that were hemorrhaging fantasy points to wide receivers. The teams comfortably hit the total of 47 points in the third quarter as Aaron Rodgers was the QB1 for that week with 45.88 DK points.
As these two scenarios illustrate, some of the games with lower totals can yield as much fantasy goodness as the low-hanging fruit of the 50+ game totals. Be prepared for some of those games with the high total to bust as 38 of them did in 2018. The ability to pivot from the rest of the field when that happens can prove extremely effective if you project low ownership for players in games with lower totals that shows signs of a sneaky shootout.
12 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS THREW FOR OVER 300 PASSING YARDS AND THREE OR MORE TOUCHDOWNS
The other five quarterbacks who didn’t meet this benchmark achieved a spot in the perfect lineup by utilizing their legs; Josh Allen comes to mind as he made it in both matchups against a Dolphins team that he slaughtered for a combined 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Rushing upside can compensate for what isn’t achieved through the passing game and makes quarterbacks like Allen and Lamar Jackson intriguing options. Cam Newton and DeShaun Watson warrant weekly consideration as they can do it with both their arm and legs on a weekly basis.
300 passing yards and three touchdowns equates to 27 DK points, a solid floor that Patrick Mahomes achieved seven times in what was a MVP season for the first-year starter. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston combined to do this five times for a Buccaneers offense that struggled mightily to establish any sort of running game. Put the two of them together and you have the QB2 for 2018.
Whether it’s operating in a pass-heavy offense, facing a stingy rush defense that forces passing attempts, or dueling in a shootout, you’re looking for a quarterback that’s going to sling the ball early and often and produce as this next subject will expand upon.
10 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS PLAYED IN GAMES WHERE NO RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS WERE SCORED UNLESS REGISTERED BY THEMSELVES
Excluding the formality of the extra point, these 10 quarterbacks accounted for 84.18% of the points on the scoreboard. Naturally, this makes perfect sense as a quarterback can throw for 400 yards but without passing or rushing touchdowns to compliment that production, it’s a wasted fantasy effort.
With a lethal aerial attack but an inefficient running back corps that scored just seven rushing touchdowns, the Buccaneers certainly didn’t have as dynamic of an offense as the Chiefs. However, whether it was Winston or Fitzpatrick under center, Tampa Bay could throw with the best of them as the two quarterbacks joined to throw for the most passing yards and third most passing touchdowns last year. Not including the extra point, the two accounted for 68.42% of Tampa Bay’s total points scored. Depending on who started, each made for a viable quarterback option nearly every week as neither was priced over $6200 at any point.
15 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS WERE PART OF A TEAM STACK
Stacking your quarterback with another teammate should be a fundamental tactic in weekly lineup construction as these figures show. More likely than not, a quarterback needs a sidekick in order to secure a spot in the perfect lineup.
A QB-WR stack was unsurprisingly the most frequent stack with 10 occurrences, three of them as part of a QB-RB-WR stack. QB-TE was the other common pairing which happened three times along with a QB-RB and QB-DEF stack each making an appearance once.
14 OF THE 17 QUARTERBACKS PLAYED IN GAMES WITH EXPECTED WIND SPEEDS OF 10 MPH OR LESS
Of these 14 quarterbacks, nine played in a fast-paced dome where the elements didn’t play a role in the outcome. When elevated wind speeds, gusts, and inclement weather become a factor in a game, it shrinks the playbook as running games along with dump-offs and short passes increase while deep throws are either reduced or rendered useless in extreme circumstances.
Running backs typically aren’t affected in these conditions as rushing attempts typically rise and they see more work out of the backfield. Tight ends don’t see much of an effect as you usually don’t see that position stretching the field for 40+ yard completions. The shorter passing game works in their favor in these circumstances.
As quarterbacks are affected in these situations, so are the wide receivers as 48 of the 55 to make the perfect lineup also played in games with wind speeds of less than 10 mph. Monitoring weather reports should be a weekly ritual right around Saturday morning heading into Sunday before the first set of games begin.
82.35% of quarterbacks and 87.27% of wide receivers that were perfect is enough of a correlation to ensure rostering players in ideal passing conditions. Further, in 42 games with wind speeds over 10 mph or temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit in 2018, the average FPPG of the 84 quarterbacks was 16.56. The other 150 outdoor games that were played with less than 10 mph winds and no inclement weather saw those 300 quarterbacks post 18.55 FPPG, a +1.99 FPPG differential in outdoor games played in ideal football conditions.
2018 may have felt like the year of Mahomes but Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger quietly put together QB2 and QB3 campaigns with the former overcoming what had become drastic home/road splits in prior years. DeShaun Watson and Andrew Luck returned from their respective injuries to post solid numbers as the QB4 and QB5.
The league won’t directly say they want more games like the Chiefs-Rams slugfest that took place in Week 11 but with more offenses trending towards more pass-centric gameplans, the future of the fantasy quarterback has never looked brighter. 39 different quarterbacks reached 20 fantasy points at some point in 2018 with each team having at least one representative in that club. As long as this trend continues, it shows that paying down at quarterback can be just as effective as paying up for the top-tier each week.