DFS Quarterback Strategy: DraftKings 2015 Year in Review

DFS Quarterback Strategy: DraftKings 2015 Year in Review

By Chris Raybon (Senior Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Sep 2, 2016

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Chris Raybon is the Senior Daily Fantasy Editor at 4for4 Fantasy Football.

Follow Chris Raybon on Twitter: @ChrisRaybon.

I compiled data on the performance of QBs on DraftKings relative to their salary in 2015 to see what we can learn going forward.

I broke salaries down into $500 increments and looked at points scored per $1,000 of salary, percentage of time hitting cash game value, and percentage of time hitting tournament value. I also took a look at how each individual QB performed.

I looked at 504 QB games from 2015 (essentially every game where a starting QB had a salary). The QB data will be compared across salary ranges and across positions.  

There's a ton of data. I'll lay it out below and follow it up with a few key points, and then I'll sum up the actionable takeaways at the end of the article.

Note: The sample sizes for each salary tier can be found in the appendix at the end of the article.

 

A Note on the DraftKings QB Price Increase

One thing to keep in mind as you go through the data here is that (if Week 1 pricing is any indication) DraftKings has raised QB prices for 2016.

Whereas in 2015, 5.5 QBs per week were priced $7,000 or above, there are 11 QBs on the Week 1 Sunday-only slate alone priced $7,000 or higher.

In 2015, 57.3 percent of the startable QBs in my 504-QB sample were priced under $6,000. On the 2016 Week 1 slate, the only QBs under $6,000 that are projected to start are Ryan Tannehill ($5,900 at Seahawks) and Robert Griffin III ($5,600 at Eagles).

Since DraftKings raised the floor on QB salaries, what it does is compress salaries and reduce the difference between the cheapest and most expensive QBs. In 2015, an average of 10.3 QBs per week were in the $6,000-$7,400 price range. But in the Sunday-only Week 1 slate alone, there are 21 QBs in the $6,000-$7,400 range. 

What does this mean as far as analyzing last year's data and looking ahead to 2016?

Last year, you'll see that the data shows that you should unequivocally target cheaper QBs. In fact, those QBs under $6,000 that barely exist anymore were the most valuable selections. Now that salaries are more compressed, I think price sensitivity will be de-emphasized in QB selection, and things like projected points, Vegas odds, matchup, etc. will become more important.

Of course, it's possible that DraftKings will lower QB pricing as the season wears on. In Week 1 of last season, there were 15 QBs priced at $7,000 or above, and only 79 combined in the other 16 weeks.

I wrote this article from the perspective that the pricing increase will stick, but I will still provide takeaways that pertain to last year's data as well.

 

Salary vs. Performance

Average DraftKings Value Per Game Returned by Salary Range & Position, 2015
Salary QB RB WR TE D/ST
$9,000+     2.28    
$8,500-$8,900 2.64 2.03 2.69    
$8,000-$8,400 2.86 1.93 2.28 2.83  
$7,500-$7,900 2.86 2.45 2.28 1.84  
$7,000-$7,400 2.73 2.11 2.37 2.47  
$6,500-$6,900 3.04 2.28 2.46 2.46  
$6,000-$6,400 3.09 2.16 2.55 2.05  
$5,500-$5,900 3.43 2.62 2.40 2.89  
$5,000-$5,400 3.22 2.61 2.49 2.16  
$4,500-$4,900   2.73 2.73 2.61  
$4,000-$4,400   2.86 2.50 2.93 2.04
$3,500-$3,900   2.75 3.46 2.75 2.82
$3,000-$3,400   3.28 3.40 3.05 2.62
$2,500-$2,900       2.95 2.66
$2,000-$2,400         2.86
  • There was a clear downward trend in QB value on DraftKings as salary increased, which will likely be smoothed out if the across-the-board QB salary increases remain intact beyond Week 1.
  • QBs in the $5,500-$5,900 range were the single most valuable commodities on DraftKings in 2015, but now it looks like the cupboard may be bare in that salary tier in 2016. QBs who end up making spot starts due to injuries to the starters may end up being priced in this tier and could provide value. Last season, these QBs weren't as valuable because there were more established options already in this price range.

 

Cash Game Value 

Scores needed to cash will vary by week, but generally, if your lineup scores three points per $1,000, you'll reach 150 points, which is usually good enough to place in a 50/50 league or win just over half of your head-to-heads.

Percentage of Time Reaching 3x Value on DraftKings by Salary & Position, 2015

Salary QB 3x % RB 3x % WR 3x % TE 3x % D/ST 3x %
$9,000+     30.4%    
$8,500-$8,900 20.0% 50.0% 43.3%    
$8,000-$8,400 40.0% 0.0% 27.8% 75.0%  
$7,500-$7,900 40.0% 36.4% 30.2% 0.0%  
$7,000-$7,400 37.0% 24.2% 29.2% 40.0%  
$6,500-$6,900 50.0% 22.2% 29.9% 28.6%  
$6,000-$6,400 52.8% 22.6% 35.2% 14.3%  
$5,500-$5,900 55.7% 30.4% 30.1% 50.0%  
$5,000-$5,400 53.0% 31.7% 29.5% 21.4%  
$4,500-$4,900   37.5% 40.8% 32.2%  
$4,000-$4,400   45.5% 31.4% 44.4% 25.0%
$3,500-$3,900   36.4% 50.6% 36.4% 41.2%
$3,000-$3,400   46.7% 48.1% 45.4% 35.3%
$2,500-$2,900       41.9% 37.6%
$2,000-$2,400         40.6%
  • Spending more than $6,900 on a QB in cash games generally wasn't a +EV strategy on DraftKings in 2015.
  • QBs are the most statistically consistent position on a week-to-week basis, so it's no surprise that they return more value than the other positions. But note how the gap between the other positions and QB closes as you get higher up in the pricing tiers.
  • Since QBs score more than other positions, a more appropriate indicator of cash game value is reaching 3.5x.
  • 186 QBs hit 3.5x value in 2015, or 10.9 per week.
  • Of the 186 QBs to hit 3.5x value in 2015, the average spread was -0.38, the average over/under was 45.2, and the average team total was 22.8.
  • Of the 186 QBs to hit 3.5x value in 2015, 55.3 percent were at home, 54.3 percent were favorites, and 36.6 percent had a team total over 24.
  • The average passing line was 24.6 completions, 37.6 attempts, 306.0 yards, 2.5 TD, and 0.6 interceptions, with 3.4/16.4/0.2 rushing.

Vegas can point you in the right direction as far as QB production (and especially big games), but last year's data suggests you don't have to be as selective as you might think at QB in cash games. Probably due at least in part to the league-wide trend towards passing, there tended to be a plethora of cash game-viable QBs each week at every salary range. If the QB salary increase sticks, there is still likely to be a plethora of options, but it will be more important to choose the "right" ones since everyone will be priced closer together. If that's the case, we could see Vegas odds take on increased importance, and could see average Vegas odds become more favorable for QBs who hit value.

 

Tournament Value

You're generally looking to score at least 200 points to place highly in a tournament, and you'll usually need around 250 points to win. If your lineup scores four points per $1,000, you'll have a score of 200, which is the value point I'll use to examine tournament performance:

Percentage of Time Reaching 4x Value on DraftKings by Salary & Position, 2015

Salary QB 4x % RB 4x % WR 4x % TE 4x % D/ST 4x %
$9,000+     21.7%    
$8,500-$8,900 0.0% 0.0% 16.7%    
$8,000-$8,400 30.0% 0.0% 11.1% 0.0%  
$7,500-$7,900 16.0% 4.5% 9.4% 0.0%  
$7,000-$7,400 9.3% 12.1% 13.8% 20.0%  
$6,500-$6,900 26.5% 7.4% 14.9% 14.3%  
$6,000-$6,400 26.4% 11.3% 22.5% 0.0%  
$5,500-$5,900 30.0% 16.1% 17.8% 21.4%  
$5,000-$5,400 28.3% 19.0% 15.9% 10.7%  
$4,500-$4,900   20.3% 22.4% 13.6%  
$4,000-$4,400   26.3% 19.6% 19.4% 12.5%
$3,500-$3,900   18.2% 41.4% 22.7% 23.5%
$3,000-$3,400   33.3% 38.5% 27.8% 23.5%
$2,500-$2,900       24.2% 26.6%
$2,000-$2,400         27.8%
  • Again we see the relative superiority in terms of value of QBs below $6,000.
  • Don't let the outlying small-sample spike at $8,000-$8,400 fool you -- there was a huge dropoff in value at $7,000 and above. The rate of QBs who cost $7,000 or more hitting 4x was 12.7 percent, compared to 28.0 percent for those who cost less than $7,000.
  • Since QBs score more than other positions, 4.5x is a better indicator of tournament value for them.
  • 81 QBs hit 4.5x value in 2015, or 4.8 per week.
  • Of the 81 QBs to hit 4.5x value in 2015, the average spread was -0.27, the average over/under was 45.1, and the average team total was 22.7.
  • Of the 81 QBs to hit 4.5x value in 2015, 55.5 percent were at home, 54.3 percent were favorites, and 33.3 percent had team totals of 24 or more.
  • The average passing line was 25.0 completions, 37.5 attempts, 323.4 yards, 3.2 TD, and 0.5 interceptions, with 3.3/17.0/0.3 rushing.
  • 77.7 percent had three or more total TDs, and 98.7 percent had at least two. 66.7 percent had 300 or more passing yards. 59.2 percent had no interceptions, and 88.9 percent had less than two interceptions.

Again we see that QB value can come from a variety of situations and that the inexpensive QBs can be fruitful. If the price increase sticks, however, QBs in the upper tier of pricing could become more valuable in tournaments in particular. These QBs are priced expensively because they tend to have the highest upside, but you won't have to pay up as much relative to the mid-tier and low-end QBs to secure that upside as you would have had to last season.

 

Individual QB Value

DraftKings QB Stats, 2015
Rk QB Avg. Val. DK Pts/G Avg. Salary 3x% 4x% G
1 E.J. Manuel 4.30 21.7 $5,050 100.0% 100.0% 2
2 Josh McCown 4.17 21.3 $5,114 57.1% 57.1% 7
3 Blake Bortles 3.98 22.5 $5,700 75.0% 56.3% 16
4 Ryan Fitzpatrick 3.90 20.3 $5,220 80.0% 40.0% 15
5 Kirk Cousins 3.86 20.3 $5,263 56.3% 43.8% 16
6 Andy Dalton 3.69 22.1 $6,058 83.3% 25.0% 12
7 Kellen Moore 3.67 18.4 $5,000 50.0% 50.0% 2
8 Cam Newton 3.66 26.2 $7,144 62.5% 37.5% 16
9 Blaine Gabbert 3.61 18.1 $5,025 75.0% 25.0% 8
10 Marcus Mariota 3.60 20.3 $5,682 63.6% 27.3% 11
11 Tyrod Taylor 3.60 19.7 $5,479 64.3% 35.7% 14
12 Jameis Winston 3.51 18.6 $5,331 62.5% 18.8% 16
13 Derek Carr 3.43 19.1 $5,656 50.0% 37.5% 16
14 Russell Wilson 3.40 22.1 $6,644 56.3% 25.0% 16
15 Matthew Stafford 3.36 19.8 $5,931 62.5% 18.8% 16
16 Drew Brees 3.31 23.3 $7,120 53.3% 26.7% 15
17 Jay Cutler 3.31 17.4 $5,307 64.3% 28.6% 14
18 Joe Flacco 3.30 19.1 $5,880 60.0% 30.0% 10
19 Alex Smith 3.27 17.3 $5,344 56.3% 18.8% 16
20 Matt Schaub 3.27 16.8 $5,150 100.0% 0.0% 2
21 Brock Osweiler 3.26 16.7 $5,143 57.1% 14.3% 7
22 Mark Sanchez 3.26 16.6 $5,100 100.0% 0.0% 2
23 Carson Palmer 3.26 22.0 $6,744 56.3% 25.0% 16
24 Brian Hoyer 3.19 16.3 $5,150 50.0% 40.0% 10
25 Ryan Tannehill 3.19 18.0 $5,713 56.3% 18.8% 16
26 Johnny Manziel 3.16 16.0 $5,067 50.0% 16.7% 6
27 Eli Manning 3.16 20.5 $6,563 50.0% 31.3% 16
28 Philip Rivers 3.16 19.9 $6,344 56.3% 37.5% 16
29 Ben Roethlisberger 2.99 20.3 $6,836 54.5% 27.3% 11
30 Tom Brady 2.91 23.3 $7,981 50.0% 18.8% 16
31 Sam Bradford 2.88 16.4 $5,821 35.7% 28.6% 14
32 Luke McCown 2.88 14.4 $5,000 0.0% 0.0% 1
33 Andrew Luck 2.78 21.3 $7,714 42.9% 14.3% 7
34 Colin Kaepernick 2.68 15.2 $5,700 37.5% 25.0% 8
35 Brandon Weeden 2.64 13.5 $5,125 25.0% 25.0% 4
36 Aaron Rodgers 2.62 19.9 $7,569 25.0% 12.5% 16
37 Teddy Bridgewater 2.59 13.7 $5,381 25.0% 25.0% 16
38 AJ McCarron 2.57 13.5 $5,267 0.0% 0.0% 3
39 Matt Ryan 2.57 17.1 $6,694 25.0% 6.3% 16
40 Michael Vick 2.55 12.9 $5,050 0.0% 0.0% 2
41 Matt Hasselbeck 2.47 12.9 $5,188 37.5% 12.5% 8
42 Jimmy Clausen 2.25 11.3 $5,000 33.3% 33.3% 3
43 Ryan Mallett 2.20 11.1 $5,017 16.7% 0.0% 6
44 Matt Cassel 2.08 10.5 $5,033 16.7% 16.7% 6
45 Landry Jones 1.99 10.2 $5,100 0.0% 0.0% 1
46 Tony Romo 1.94 13.2 $6,550 25.0% 0.0% 4
47 Case Keenum 1.93 9.7 $5,040 20.0% 0.0% 5
48 T.J. Yates 1.91 9.5 $5,000 50.0% 0.0% 2
49 Nick Foles 1.90 9.8 $5,145 18.2% 9.1% 11
50 Austin Davis 1.84 9.2 $5,000 0.0% 0.0% 2
51 Peyton Manning 1.77 12.4 $6,978 11.1% 0.0% 9
52 Zach Mettenberger 1.71 8.7 $5,075 0.0% 0.0% 4
  • None of the top-10 QBs in 2015 preseason ADP (via FantasyFootballCalculator.com) ended up being a top-10 value over the season in 2015. Of course, with the newly elevated and compressed pricing, we could see a lot more of the top QBs returning top value in 2016.
  • Anchoring your lineup with a stud QB might feel like the safe thing to do in cash games, but it was not the safe thing to do in 2015. The percentage of time a top-6 QB hit 3x value went as low as 11.1% (Peyton) and topped out at 54.5% (Roethlisberger) -- a mark bested by the likes of McCown, Bortles, Fitzpatrick, Cousins, Dalton, Gabbert, Mariota, Taylor, Winston, Stafford, Cutler, Flacco, Smith, and Tannehill. Again, if the salary increase sticks, expect more of the top QBs to be stronger options.

 

Final Takeaways

When it came to constructing lineups on DraftKings in 2015, understanding that cheaper QBs were actually safer picks that returned more value than their more expensive counterparts was key in 2015. Any psychological comfort you might have gotten from locking a stud QB into your lineup was unwarranted.

The upshot was that you shouldn't prioritize paying up for a QB -- especially not over a WR, a position that has higher upside and requires triple to quadruple the number of roster slots. There was an ample supply of high-floor options at QB littered throughout the lower pricing tiers, so you could be flexible when choosing a QB no matter the contest type.

While all that may remain true if DraftKings lowers QB salaries after Week 1 like they did in 2015, it's possible the QB salary increase sticks. In that case, things won't be as simple as finding the best cheap QB in a given week. Since all the salaries will be more compressed, it might not make sense to avoid paying an extra $500 or so to lock in a higher floor or ceiling, and Vegas odds and matchup will come into play even more. 

How DraftKings QB pricing changes as the season wears on will be something to closely monitor.

 

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Appendix

QB Sample Size
Salary Count
8500-8900 5
8000-8400 10
7500-7900 25
7000-7400 54
6500-6900 68
6000-6400 53
5500-5900 70
5000-5400 219
Total 504

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