DFS Big Game Profiles: Quarterback

DFS Big Game Profiles: Quarterback

By TJ Hernandez (Director of DFS), last update Jul 16, 2017

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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 someone can theoretically pick a perfect lineup. In practice, though, that virtually never happens, even in massive 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 all of the top players 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.

Defining a Top Daily Fantasy Quarterback

With just one quarterback in play on both FanDuel and DraftKings, nailing down a signal caller that finishes in the top four each week is usually sufficient to keep you in contention in even the largest tournament fields. I took the average weekly top-four quarterback score from 2015 (29.9 FD points and 32 DK points) and went back three seasons and pulled all quarterbacks that met that point threshold.  This threshold methodology provided a significant sample size (88 FD quarterbacks, 91 DK quarterbacks), and weeds out players that snuck into the top four on unusually low-scoring weeks. 

Average FanDuel Stat Line

Top FanDuel Quarterback Averages, 2013-2015
Completions Attempts Yards TD Int Spread O/U Implied Points
25.8 37.6 354.2 4.0 0.4 -2.8 47.2 25.0

Home Team: 56.8%                             300+ Yards: 79.6%
Winning Team: 80.7%                         3+ TD: 88.6%        
Vegas Favorite: 65.9%                        4+ TD: 65.9%        
O/U 46+: 61.4%                                   < 2 INT: 90.9%    
Implied Total 24+: 61.4%                   0 INT: 65.9%
Opp. aFPA Rank 17+: 70.5%

Average DraftKings Stat Line

Top DraftKings Quarterback Averages, 2013-2015
Completions Attempts Yards TD Int Spread O/U Implied Points
26.7 38.6 364.5 3.9 0.4 -3.1 47.2 25.1

Home Team: 58.2%                           300+ Yards: 89%
Winning Team: 80.2%                       3+ TD: 87.9%
Vegas Favorite: 70.3%                      4+ TD: 64.8%
O/U 46+: 62.6%                                  < 2 INT: 91.2%
Implied Total 24+: 62.6%                 0 INT: 65.9%
Opp. aFPA Rank 17+: 65.9%

How to Choose a Quarterback in DFS That Will Have a Big Game

Because FanDuel and DraftKings quarterback scoring is virtually identical, outside of the DK 300-yard bonus, there was very little variance between the sites in the quarterback big game profiles. 

The general consensus on picking DFS quarterbacks is usually that you want someone that is going to be throwing in a shootout, but it doesn’t necessarily matter which side of the shootout he is on. In fact, some recommendations might even suggest targeting the quarterback that is likely going to be behind, with the logic being that they will have to throw to keep pace with the other team. While this idea might hold some weight when targeting cheap quarterbacks in very small fields or cash games, if you are trying to best thousands of other players, you are going to want the signal caller on the winning side of the ball. 

We can routinely pinpoint that winning quarterback by simply targeting a Vegas favorite, often on the home team, though a fair amount of top scorers of late have come on the road as well. As we’ll see when we examine the other positions, a game with an over/under of at least 46 points is usually the minimum that you want to shoot for, but this is especially relevant for quarterbacks, as top scorers at the position played in games with a 47 point O/U, on average.

Overall, no position was affected by matchup as much as quarterback, with nearly two-thirds of DK top performances and 70 percent of FD big games coming against teams that finished the season ranked in the bottom half of 4for4 Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA) to the position.

With so many favorable factors in play, it’s no surprise that top quarterbacks on both sites almost always threw for at least three touchdowns, and more often than not found the end zone four or more times. 

300-yard games were commonplace in big games on both FD and DK, but there was enough of a difference between the two to take a closer look. The most obvious explanation -- which ties back to matchup as well -- is the effect of the DK bonus. A three-point bump for reaching the 300-yard mark is a big enough factor that it made reaching the threshold on DK a virtual necessity, while a decent amount of quarterbacks turned in top games on FD with their touchdown numbers alone.

One other stat that should be noted, but is often overlooked, is how often top signal callers avoided turnovers. Quite a few quarterbacks were able to overcome just one interception and turn in a top game, but rostering a signal caller that turns it over two or more times could virtually eliminate your chance of taking down a large prize.

Possessions are so valuable -- and scoring opportunities so rare -- that targeting a quarterback who isn’t likely to turn the ball over might be as valuable as any aspect of roster construction for large field GPPs.

Recapping How to Identify Quarterbacks That Have Big Games in DFS

  • The highest-scoring quarterbacks come from winning teams -- garbage time is rarely a justification for rostering a  signal caller in large fields.
  • We can pinpoint winning quarterbacks by following the Vegas lines.
  • Matchup matters for quarterbacks more than any other position.
  • 300-yard upside is a must when playing in large fields on DraftKings -- the bonus is worth almost an extra touchdown pass.
  • Avoiding quarterbacks that are likely to throw interceptions is essential and often overlooked when building rosters for large field GPPs.

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