Staking Bales: Who to Start in Week 14 and a Preview of My New Book

Staking Bales: Who to Start in Week 14 and a Preview of My New Book

By Jonathan Bales (Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Dec 6, 2013

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Jonathan Bales is a DraftKings Pro and the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series. His latest book, How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports, is a data-driven guide to winning on DraftKings. He is also (unofficially) sponsored by GrubHub.

Follow Jonathan Bales on Twitter: @BalesFootball.

It’s here! My new daily fantasy book Fantasy Football (and Baseball) for Smart People: How to Turn Your Hobby into a Fortune is for sale on my site. It will be on Amazon within a few days, but I’d prefer you buy it directly from me since, you know, I get more money. The only thing on the line is my ability to feed my children, give them a memorable Christmas, and just provide for my family in general. That’s all.

Nah, I don’t have kids, but I do like money. And you probably like money too, right? See, I feel like we’ve grown to know each other so well throughout the year.

And since you like money, the $5.99 price for the book, which is cheaper than what it will be on Amazon, should help you justify it as an investment. Kind of like what I do with living in New York City. It takes money to make money, right?

I won’t get into specifics on the book—there’s plenty of info on it right here—but I bring it up because 1) um, sales and 2) I want to post a section from it in relation to today’s Staking Bales post. This is an excerpt I wrote for the chapter on head-to-head and 50/50 strategies:

For the most part, daily fantasy players don’t pay much for kickers. Amateurs and pros alike understand that it’s usually senseless to pay top-dollar for a position that’s not consistent from week to week. It doesn’t matter how many points a player scores and it doesn’t matter how scarce those points are if you can’t predict his performance.

We all seem to intuitively know that we shouldn’t pay for kickers, but few people extend this argument to the other positions. In leagues in which safety is the name of the game, there should be a strong positive correlation between the percentage of cap space you’re willing to spend on a player and your ability to accurately project his performance.

It’s not like any of the skill positions are unpredictable in the same way as kickers, but there’s still varying degrees of predictability. Those should undoubtedly have an influence on your decision-making. All other things equal, you could maximize your team’s long-term floor by allocating a higher percentage of the cap to the safest players.

In my first book on daily fantasy, I calculated the consistency of each position. I’m going to use the same methodology here, but with updated results. To obtain the numbers, I looked at the top fantasy scorers over the past four years. They are the players who would typically cost the most money on daily fantasy sites.

I charted the number of “startable” weeks for the players at each position. A “startable” week was defined as finishing in the top 33 percent at the position (among the top 30 quarterbacks, tight ends, defenses, and kickers and the top 75 running backs and wide receivers).

You can see that running backs have been by far the most consistent position, with the best of the bunch giving you a top 10 performance 67.0 percent of the time. Quarterbacks aren’t far behind at 61.1 percent, but no other position is close.

When you think about it, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Consider the number of opportunities each position has per game. For quarterbacks, it might be 35 attempts. For top running backs, it’s in the range of 15 to 25 touches.

Meanwhile, wide receivers and tight ends might be lucky to see 10 targets in a game, and it’s often much fewer. Just based on those numbers alone, you’d expect quarterbacks and running backs to be more consistent, and thus more predictable. It’s like asking if a baseball player will come closer to hitting at his career average after five games or after 20 games; there’s just no contest.

Taking it a step further, I analyzed the percentage of “top-tier” weeks turned in by each position. I defined “top-tier” as a top two finish for quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers, and defenses or a top five finish for running backs and wide receivers (the top 6.7 percent for each position).

Again, no contest. Quarterbacks and running backs are just far more consistent on a week-to-week basis than all other positions. When you’re paying for reliability, you should start with the quarterback and running back positions.

Every week is unique and there are times when you can find reliable bargain bin players at quarterback and running back, but over the long-run, I think you need to be allocating a higher percentage of your salary cap to those positions in head-to-head and 50/50 leagues (and there’s a lot more data in the book that shows that lineups that pay for those positions win more frequently than those that go higher at the other spots).

So with that said, here are my high-floor plays in Week 14—one player at each position who I believe to be a reliable heads-up play.


Week 14 High-Floor Plays

QB Matthew Stafford @ PHI

Matthew Stafford is expensive. I love the idea of pairing him with Calvin Johnson in tourneys, but the duo is so pricey that you might not be able to do it.

In head-to-head leagues, though, Stafford is worth the price tag. From a pure $/point standpoint, he might or might not offer value based on where you’re playing. But again, we need to consider both value and the probability of players meeting a certain threshold.

Stafford has thrown for 200 yards in every game this season, 300 yards in six games, and 350 yards in five. He also has at least three touchdowns in five of his last seven games. Playing against one of the league’s worst pass defenses, Stafford is as close to a “sure thing” as you’ll get in Week 14.


RB Le’Veon Bell vs. MIA

Bell is going to be good to go after suffering a concussion last week. That might scare some players away, but I don’t think it makes him much riskier than normal this week; if he’s playing, he’s going to see his normal workload.

And that workload includes at least 16 carries in each of the past five games—a period during which Bell has scored only twice. He’s going to get into the end zone more often, and he’s also catching passes—at least three the past six games and seven last week alone.

I really like Bell because you can acquire the safety of a top-tier back for the price of a second or third-tier one.


WR Kendall Wright @DEN

Playing in Denver, Wright should see double-digit targets on Sunday. He’s already a PPR machine, and this is a game in which the Titans will almost certainly be down against one of the league’s most pass-friendly defenses.

Wright is pretty cheap on most daily fantasy sites, so you can plug him in as your WR2. If you go relatively low with your top receiver, too, you’ll be able to secure plenty of safety and maybe still get Stafford, Bell, and an elite running back into your lineup.


TE Julius Thomas vs. TEN

Tight end is such a unique position because you have two players who are clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack. And if you’re playing on a site that doesn’t price them accordingly, you can’t match the combination of safety and upside that Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski offer.

So paying for those guys is certainly an option, but it will cost you. And if it costs you so much that you need to sacrifice a high floor at other positions, you at least need to consider other tight ends. The problem is that they’re all pretty much a crapshoot, so you’d typically either pay up for Graham/Gronk or just punt the position.

One second-tier option who is intriguing to me, though, is Julius Thomas. He practiced on Thursday after missing two games, the most recent of which the Broncos said he could have played in. His salary has dropped a bit on most sites due to the time away, but he’s still an elite type of athlete with Peyton Manning throwing him passes.

The best part? He scores. A lot. Thomas has at least one touchdown in eight of his 10 games this year. He’s such an awesome bet to score that, even with a moderate amount of targets, he offers a higher floor than those tight ends priced around him.

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