DFS Defense/Special Teams Strategy: FanDuel 2015 Year in Review
Selecting the right D/ST is all about leveraging the Vegas lines, but there are some pricing intricacies unique to FanDuel that you should be aware of as you make lineup decisions. Before we get into all that, I will describe the methodology for first-time readers of this series.
I compiled data on the performance of D/STs relative to their FanDuel salary in 2015. Salaries were broken down into $500 increments, then I calculated points scored per $1,000 of salary, percentage of time hitting cash game value, and percentage of time hitting tournament value. How each individual team D/ST performed was also analyzed.
I ended up with a sample of 511 D/ST games from 2015 (essentially every game where a D/ST had a FanDuel salary). The D/ST data will be compared across salary ranges and across positions, with an emphasis on the comparison to kickers. (Note that for the other positions, only RBs and WRs projected for 8.0 or more FanDuel points and TEs projected for 6.0 or more in a given week were included. All starting QBs and kickers were included.)
I will present the data below and follow it up with some key points, and then I'll sum up the actionable takeaways at the end of the article.
Salary vs. Performance
|Salary||QB Avg||RB Avg||WR Avg||TE Avg||K Avg||D/ST Avg|
- There is a bigger discrepancy between pricing tiers at D/ST than at kicker. However, there is more to it. As you'll see in a moment, the higher points-per-dollar figure comes from the fact that D/STs have lower floors but higher ceilings than kickers.
Cash Game Value
The exact score you need to cash will vary on a weekly basis, but generally, if your lineup scores two points per $1,000, you'll reach 120 points, which is usually enough to place in a 50/50 league or win just over half of your head-to-heads.
|Salary||QB 2x %||RB 2x %||WR 2x %||TE 2x %||K 2x %||D/ST 2x %|
- The more expensive D/STs did not have as safe of a floor as the more expensive kickers in terms of hitting 2x value.
- There were 176 D/STs have hit 2x value in 2015, or 10.4 per week.
Of the 176 D/STs that hit 2x value:
- the average spread was -0.34, the average team total was 22.6, and the average opposing implied team total was 22.3. The average over/under was 44.9.
- 52.8 percent were favorites, 43.8 percent were at home. As I mentioned in the D/ST edition of the 2016 DFS Playbook series, whether at home or on the road, favorites returned more value than underdogs. FanDuel is seemingly overvaluing home teams when setting D/ST salaries.
- 69.3 percent had an opposing team total under 24, and 36.9 percent had an opposing team total under 21.
You're generally aiming to score at least 180 points to place highly in a tournament, and you'll likely need 200 or more points to win. If your lineup scores three points per $1,000, you'll have a score of 180, which is the value point I will use to examine tournament performance:
|Salary||QB 3x%||RB 3x%||WR 3x%||TE 3x%||K 3x%||D/ST 3x%|
- D/STs have far more upside than kickers -- even D/STs under $4,500 hit 3x value more than kickers priced $5,000 and above.
- There were 82 D/STs that hit 3x value in 2015, or 4.8 per week.
Of the 82 D/STs to hit 3x value:
- the average spread was -1.43, the average team total was 23.1, and the average opposing team total was 21.6. The average over/under was 44.7. The average spread was over one point higher for D/STs that hit 3x as compared to D/STs that hit 2x.
- 62.9 percent were favorites, and 45.1 percent were at home.
- 77.0 percent had a team total under 24, and 45.1 percent had a team total under 21.
|Salary||Avg. Val||FD Pts/G||2x%||3x%||Amt.|
- The most common salary range for a D/ST was between $4,400 and $4,600), but D/STs in that range hit 3x value only 13.3 percent of the time, compared to 17.5 percent of the time at all other salaries.
- With most positions there's a dip in percentage of time hitting 3x value as salary increases -- not so for D/ST. D/STs $5,000 and above hit 3x value at a rate of 21.6 percent, compared to 15.4 percent for those under $5,000.
- It could be due to small-sample noise, but there were some gems at minimum price. It was not merely a case of good D/STs being underpriced early in the season, either -- 57.1 percent of minimum-priced D/STs that hit 2x value did so in Week 10 or later.
Individual D/ST Value
|Rk||D/ST||Avg. Val||FD Pts/G||Avg. Sal.||2x%||3x%|
- The top five D/STs in points per dollar averaged 11.8 wins. For more on why winning leads to strong D/ST performance, check out my article Vegas Odds Will Give You an Edge in Your Fantasy Football Draft.
- Only two winning teams (Packers, Jets) didn't finish in the top half in terms of points per dollar.
The most important takeaway here is that when selecting a D/ST, you should be looking at Vegas odds, but not paying as much mind to whether or not a team is at home. For whatever reason, FanDuel has been overpricing home teams. Of course, this could change, but either way, Vegas lines will be instrumental because D/STs thrive when the team has a lead and the opposition is forced to attempt more passing plays, which of course lead to more sacks, turnovers, and defensive return TDs.
The importance of Vegas odds can be seen in the large discrepancy between instances of hitting 2x value versus instances of hitting 3x value in terms of spread, percentage of time favored, and percentage of opposing team totals under 24. You can get away with moderately favorable odds for D/STs in cash games, but to maximize upside, you'll generally need highly favorable Vegas odds.
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- DFS Running Back Strategy: FanDuel 2015 Year in Review
- DFS Quarterback Strategy: FanDuel 2015 Year in Review
- The Definitive Guide to Stacking on FanDuel
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- Vegas Odds Will Give You an Edge in Your Fantasy Football Draft