DFS Big Game Profiles: Wide Receivers

DFS Big Game Profiles: Wide Receivers

By TJ Hernandez (Associate Editor), last updated Sep 12, 2016

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TJ is a former full-time poker player who has been playing fantasy football for more than a decade. After online poker was outlawed, TJ ended his poker career and dedicated himself to fantasy football. His background in poker statistics and analytics translates to success in both daily and season-long fantasy football.

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Having access to the entire player pool in DFS means that on any given day a player can theoretically pick a perfect lineup. In practice, though, that virtually never happens, even in massive field tournaments. The most likely scenario is that the top player in a large field might have one or two players that finished tops at their position, with a roster of other players that performed very well, but not number one overall. 

Because it’s virtually impossible to peg the top player at each position in a given week, a useful exercise is to build a profile for top players at each position and look for commonalities among those top performers, hopefully giving us a better idea of which stats are really important to target and which ones might be common traps to avoid.

Big game profiles for quarterbacks can be found here, and running backs here.

Defining Top Wide Receivers

Over the last three seasons, rostering at least a pair of top-eight wide receivers has usually been sufficient to stay in contention in even the largest field tournaments on both FanDuel and DraftKings. For this study, I took the average weekly top-eight WR score from 2015 (24.8 FD points and 31.2 DK points), then went back three seasons and pulled all WRs who met those point thresholds. This threshold methodology provided a large sample (173 FD WRs, 176 DK WRs) and eliminated any players that might have scored as a top wide receiver on an unusually low scoring week. 

Average FD Stat Line

Top FanDuel Wide Receiver Averages, 2013-2015
Receptions Yards TD Spread O/U Implied Pts
8.4 147.3 1.8 -0.8 46.6 23.7

Home Team: 54.9%                     100+ Rec Yards: 89.0%
Winning Team: 61.3%                 125+ Rec yards: 67.1%
Vegas Favorite: 56.7%                7+ Receptions : 74.6%
O/U 46+: 52.0%                             8+ Receptions: 61.3%
Implied Total 24+: 49.1%            2+ TD: 66.5%
Opp. aFPA 17+: 57.8%

Average DK Stat Line

Top DraftKings Wide Receiver Averages, 2013-2015
Receptions Yards TD Spread O/U Implied Pts
8.8 150.5 1.7 -0.8 46.4 23.6

Home Team: 51.7%                     100+ Rec Yards: 94.3%
Winning Team: 59.7%                 125+ Rec yards: 72.7%
Vegas Favorite: 57.4%                7+ Receptions : 81.3%
O/U 46+: 51.1%                             8+ Receptions: 68.8%
Implied Total 24+: 47.7%            2+ TD: 58.5%
Opp. aFPA 17+: 59.1%

Notable Takeaways

Being able to identify a wide receiver on the winning team has been somewhat significant when searching for big game players in recent years, while home/away splits and Vegas lines offered little insight as to when a receiver might have a huge fantasy day. Implied point total, which is often referenced when discussing possible big games, may actually be a stat that owners want to ignore altogether when targeting receivers, as the majority of big games came from WRs on teams projected to have a low team total (below 24 points).

It’s not surprising that matchup wasn’t terribly important when looking for big-game receivers -- less than 60 percent of top games came against defenses that finished in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Most dominant receivers can fill up the stat sheet in unfavorable situations against even the best competition. 

Catches, yards, and touchdowns are obviously the drivers in big games for wide outs, but the subtle differences between hit rates for each stat highlight the scoring differences between FanDuel and DraftKings and illustrate why a slightly different approach should be taken on each site when rostering the position in large-field tournaments.

On DraftKings, the presence of the 100-yard bonus and full point-per-reception scoring somewhat mitigates the importance of multi-touchdown games, whereas getting into the end zone more than once carries more weight for top scoring receivers on FanDuel. Keep in mind that targeting volume is much more reliable than searching for the two-touchdown game.

In 2015, there were 138 instances of a receiver catching eight or more balls, but just 52 individual receivers made up those games. A receiver scored twice in a game 71 times last season, but 47 different players made up that group. In other words, it's very hard for a wide receiver to have a multi-touchdown game more than once, but they can replicate their volume fairly consistently.

Noting these subtle differences suggests that, when deciding between similarly valued players, owners should favor heavily-targeted, high volume plays on DK, while red zone usage is going to be especially important on FanDuel. 

Recapping Big Game Wide Receivers

  • Finding a wide receiver on the winning team is important in large-field tournaments, but not to the extent of other skill positions.
  • High projected point totals have not proven to be predictive of top-scoring wide receivers. It might even be best to ignore point totals when looking for a big-game receiver.
  • In general, matchup shouldn't be an overwhelming factor in picking wide receivers in large-field DFS contests.
  • Volume is important on both FanDuel and DraftKings, but to varying degrees -- DraftKings scoring lends itself to catch volume slightly more than FanDuel scoring, while we should consider touchdown upside more on FanDuel.


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Filed Under: Preseason, 2016

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