Finding the Edge in Single-Game NFL DFS Slates

Aug 16, 2019
Finding the Edge in Single-Game NFL DFS Slates

It wasn’t long ago that there was a requirement of two games to be on a slate in order for a DFS contest to run. My how times have changed as the advent of the single-game slate has become a driving force in the FanDuel and DraftKings lobbies, especially for the Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night primetime games.

It is difficult to find the edge in these contests for two primary reasons. First, there is a limited player pool. Second, roster construction tends to be very similar as the best plays are generally well known. Over the course of the 2019 NFL season, my articles here at 4for4 are going to focus on how to find that edge and apply it.

Here is how I will break down each article:

  • Evaluation of Vegas spread and total
  • Likely game flow given the Vegas numbers
  • What players benefit most from each potential game flow situation
  • Pricing of players for the single-game slates
  • Evaluation of Captain/MVP/All-Star slots for roster construction
  • Evaluation of optimal lineup construction
  • Evaluation of potential low-owned difference makers
  • Roster construction utilizing the above information

Evaluation of Vegas Spread and Total

Vegas doesn’t always get it right, but they are accurate enough over the long-term that relying on the Vegas spread and total to determine likely outcomes and situations makes sense. The spread will give an indication of whether the game will be competitive or be a blowout. As I’ll highlight later, this will make a world of difference when it comes to roster construction. The total will allow us to focus in on how many points are going to be scored in the game. A lower scoring game will lead to us taking a different roster construction method then if the game is anticipated to be a shootout.

Likely Gameflow Given the Vegas Numbers

Using the spread and total, I’ll break down the game into a game flow probability using the following categories:

  • Close, low-scoring game (<40 points)
  • Close, average-scoring game (40-49 points)
  • Close, high-scoring game (50+ points)
  • Blowout for the home team, low-scoring game
  • Blowout for the home team, average-scoring game
  • Blowout for the home team, high-scoring game
  • Blowout for the away team, low-scoring game
  • Blowout for the away team, average-scoring game
  • Blowout for the away team, high-scoring game

What Players Benefit Most From Potential Gameflow

Utilizing the game flow probability, I’ll determine which players are most likely to benefit as a result. I’ll get more into the data behind this for the individual games themselves, but here are a few examples of how game flow typically affects player performance.

  • In a low-scoring game, the running back and defense for the favored team typically show up in optimal lineups.
  • Defenses and kickers typically fare better in low-scoring games.
  • In a close game, it is very close between the starting quarterback, running back, and WR1 for each team (meaning this game flow type is much harder to narrow down outliers).
  • In a high-scoring game, the quarterback is the position of emphasis by a wide margin and rostering two quarterbacks is often the correct play even at the cost of sacrificing other positions.
  • Kickers are typically great plays in low-scoring games with WR1 the preferred Captain/MVP.
  • In a likely blowout, I want to target the defense and starting running back as the Captain/MVP for the favored team.

Players Pricing

DraftKings and FanDuel make it impossible to roster all the best players in a lineup by pricing up the players with the highest projected value. I’ll be using some of the great tools here at 4for4 including player projections to help determine which players appear to have the most value and weed out those that are overpriced by the site. This will be a key factor in determining some of the lower-owned contrarian plays that will be needed in order to build a lineup that has the potential to be unique from the field.

Roster Construction

Putting together the roster is the best part of playing DFS in my opinion (other than winning all the money of course). It's part of the process where you take all the hard work from your research and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Utilizing all the information acquired above, I’ll look at four key components of roster construction.

  • The Captain/MVP/All-Star slots
  • Ownership
  • Potential low-owned difference makers
  • Optimal lineup construction

How we attack roster construction will also matter on a couple of other things. One consideration is whether we are entering a single lineup (i.e. a cash game lineup) or doing multi-entries (which will also be impacted by the number of lineups you are entering). The fewer entries, the more likely an optimal lineup construction approach will be utilized. The more entries you have, the more chances you can take with dart throws. Another consideration is how much safety we want in our lineup(s). If you’re playing a cash game lineup, you’ll want as much safety as possible, which will lead to using an optimal (best point-per-dollar lineup) approach.

Where’s the Edge?

The edge in single-game slates comes from understanding what the likely outcomes are and not just going with the crowd. If the Bears are playing the Ravens in an anticipated low-scoring close game, everyone will be all over the kickers and defenses in that game. My job will be to help you identify whether that is the correct approach to take. If it is, I’ll point out ways we can differentiate from the masses. If it’s not, I’ll tell you why and show you the methodology behind my thought processes in my weekly breakdowns.

I can’t wait to get started. I’m available anytime on Twitter at @aaronhendrix to answer any and all of your questions.

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