Staking Bales: Player Exposure and Week 6 Value Plays

Staking Bales: Player Exposure and Week 6 Value Plays

By Jonathan Bales (Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Oct 12, 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.

Josh Moore and I were talking the other day and he had an awesome idea of creating a Venn diagram-esque visualization of player usage. I’m a master of browsing sports sites on the web, typing in Word, using Excel... and that’s it. The only visualizations I can create are 800 words in paragraph form.

But the concept behind Josh’s thought is an important one: actual lineups don’t matter nearly as much as picking valuable players and getting the best ones into lots of leagues. When it comes down to it, much of the lineup creation process is kind of just random. We always want to maximize upside in tournaments (by stacking or choosing high-variance players) and minimize downside in head-to-head leagues (by doing just the opposite), but for the most part, the exact player combinations are kind of overrated.

Instead, we’re just looking to obtain as much exposure to the best values that we can. Last week, I put tight end Julius Thomas into all of my DraftKings lineups (I’m hardly bragging since Week 5 was my worst all year). I rarely put one player into every league, typically hedging at least a bit to minimize my risk, but Thomas was so undervalued that I needed as much exposure to him as possible.

So as you play daily fantasy, remember that there’s a whole lot of week-to-week variance. You can have awesome projections and lose money just because you weren’t lucky in constructing your lineups. Or you could have a kick-ass lineup and lose to a handful of even better ones. That stuff happens.

So instead of assessing each and every lineup, grading it based on your results, let’s take a more process-oriented approach, understanding that continually getting the best values into your lineups will eventually pay off. You might get lucky one week and unlucky the next, but those peaks and valleys even out over the long-term. Focus more on your player exposure, playing the best values in the most lineups and the moderate values in fewer, and you’ll maximize your long-term gains.


Week 6 Value Plays

QB Terrelle Pryor @ KC

I already labeled Pryor as a value play on DraftKings, but I’m listing him here because he’s underpriced across all sites. You might want to go with a quarterback with more passing upside in a tournament, but Pryor should be in at least some of your heads-up lineups.

As I mentioned the other day, Pryor has a high floor because of his rushing ability. And playing against the aggressive Chiefs D, Pryor should be able to sneak out for some long runs, just as Michael Vick did against Kansas City a couple weeks ago.


RB Ray Rice vs. GB

Rice is the perfect example of how playing daily fantasy football is different from other sports. Whereas players truly get hot or cold in sports like baseball and basketball, football players play so infrequently and are so dependent on their teammates that the majority of what we perceive as streaky play is just noise.

Further, even if streaky play exists in the NFL, it’s really difficult to identify and predict. By the time we could confirm that a player is up (or down) because of something inherent to his game rather than simple randomness, it would be too late.

Well, Rice has played like utter crap this year, averaging only 2.9 YPC. And his salary reflects that. But there’s not much to worry about in Baltimore: he’s still the lead back, he can still score, and he’s still catching passes. I’ll personally send each of you 100 dollars if Rice is still averaging 2.9 YPC at the end of the year. Not real dollars. Internet dollars. But still, dollars.


WR Antonio Brown @ NYJ

I’ll have more exposure to Brown this week than perhaps any other player, assuming cornerback Antonio Cromartie is out. If not, I’ll still have Brown in some lineups because he’s valuable anyway.

The reason that I like Brown is because he’s one of the few players with a crazy high ceiling and a high floor. He’s the focal point of the Steelers’ offense, averaging eight catches per game this year. He’s going to see a huge number of targets and, even better, lots of those are always screens. That gives Brown PPR safety to complement his big-play ability.

Thus, while other undersized, speedy receivers, like Mike Wallace, are semi-dependent on big plays for production, Brown isn’t, making him a good heads-up and tournament play.


TE Garrett Graham vs. STL

With Owen Daniels healthy, Graham had 20 targets on the season. Now, he’s set to take over a healthy portion of Daniels’ 7.8 targets per game.

While Graham doesn’t have great long-term value, he’s a quality play this week as someone priced near the minimum on most sites. He’s a better heads-up option than tournament play.

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