DFS Running Back Strategy: DraftKings 2015 Year in Review

DFS Running Back Strategy: DraftKings 2015 Year in Review

By Chris Raybon (Senior Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Aug 17, 2016

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

Follow Chris Raybon on Twitter: @ChrisRaybon.

It's important to be price sensitive at running back in DFS. High-priced studs with reliable workloads might make you comfortable, but the key to the RB position is finding inexpensive RBs slated to get major volume.

In 2015, there were 257 instances when 4for4 had an RB projected for at least 18 touches. Of those 257, 107 cost $6,000 or more and 150 cost less than $6,000. That was pretty much the only difference between the two groups, as the cheaper group averaged 15.7 DraftKings points per game -- only 0.4 less than the more expensive group

I compiled data on the performance of RBs 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 RB performed.

I looked at 611 RB games from 2015 (every game where an RB had a salary and was projected for 8.5 DraftKings points or more by 4for4). The RB data will be compared across salary ranges and across positions.  

I'll lay out the data 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.

 

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
  • As I alluded to in the intro, there is a large dropoff in value at $6,000 and above. 
  • With what looks like an across-the-board increase in QB pricing in 2016, finding value at RB could be even more important this season.

 

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%
  • Don't pay much attention to the $8,000 and above range for RBs, as there were only eight instances all year where RBs were priced that high (compared to 71 instances for WRs).
  • Paying up for an RB in the $7,500-$7,900 tier returned good value (although there was a relatively small sample size of 22 there as well), but you could get similar value by sticking with much cheaper RBs.
  • As I mentioned in the DFS Playbook 2016: RB Strategy article, 4for4 had a running back projected for at least 18 touches at a salary of $4,500 or below 43 times, or 2.5 times per week, in 2015. Those RBs averaged 14.5 points and returned an average value of 3.57 points per $1,000. You have to nail these situations when they arise.
  • 214 RBs hit 3x value in 2015, or 12.6 per week.

Of the 214 RBs to hit 3x value:

  • the average spread was -0.88, the average over/under was 45.1, and the average team total was 23.0.
  • 55.6 percent were favorites, 52.3 percent were at home, and 40.1 percent had a team total of 24 or higher.
  • the average amount of touches was 19.9, and 60.7 percent had 18 or more touches.

 

Tournament Value

You are generally aiming 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 score 250, 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%
  • In GPPs, the importance of finding value at RB really shows. While the higher salary tiers favor spending at WR, RBs in the $4,000-$5,900 range performed comparable or better than WRs in the same range in terms of reaching 4x value. Only 20 percent of RBs in winning lineups of the DraftKings Millionaire Maker tournament in 2015 cost $6,000 or more.
  • In 2015, there were 115 RBs who hit 4x value, or 6.8 per week.

Of the 115 RBs to hit 4x value:

  • the average spread was -1.30, the average over/under was 45.3, and the average team total was 23.3.
  • 56.5 percent were at home, 55.6 percent were favorites, and 43.5 percent had a team total of 24 or above.
  • the average amount of touches was 20.4, and 60.9 percent had at least 18 touches.
  • 83.5 percent scored at least one TD.

 

Individual RB Value 

DraftKings RB Stats, 2015
Rk RB Avg. Val. DK Pts/G Avg. Sal. 3x% 4x% G
1 Tim Hightower 5.04 21.2 $4,225 75.0% 50.0% 4
2 Thomas Rawls 4.76 19.7 $4,383 66.7% 50.0% 6
3 Benny Cunningham 4.40 13.2 $3,000 100.0% 50.0% 2
4 David Johnson 4.22 20.5 $4,867 66.7% 50.0% 6
5 Bilal Powell 4.06 14.2 $3,540 80.0% 60.0% 5
6 Donald Brown 3.92 12.6 $3,250 100.0% 50.0% 2
7 DeAngelo Williams 3.89 22.5 $5,990 70.0% 50.0% 10
8 Dion Lewis 3.82 17.7 $5,167 66.7% 50.0% 6
9 Devonta Freeman 3.68 23.8 $7,200 38.5% 30.8% 13
10 Spencer Ware 3.67 14.4 $4,150 50.0% 50.0% 2
11 Javorius Allen 3.63 17.4 $4,733 50.0% 50.0% 6
12 Danny Woodhead 3.43 15.3 $4,575 43.8% 37.5% 16
13 Theo Riddick 3.29 11.4 $3,555 54.5% 27.3% 11
14 Charles Sims 3.12 10.9 $3,520 40.0% 20.0% 10
15 Darren McFadden 3.06 14.0 $4,692 50.0% 25.0% 12
16 Todd Gurley 3.02 18.4 $6,536 36.4% 36.4% 11
17 Jeremy Langford 3.02 13.7 $4,511 22.2% 22.2% 9
18 Chris Thompson 2.97 9.8 $3,300 0.0% 0.0% 1
19 Lamar Miller 2.93 15.2 $5,475 37.5% 18.8% 16
20 Karlos Williams 2.90 11.7 $4,140 60.0% 20.0% 5
21 T.J. Yeldon 2.87 13.5 $4,742 33.3% 16.7% 12
22 Jamaal Charles 2.84 21.6 $7,660 40.0% 20.0% 5
23 Mark Ingram 2.81 17.2 $6,158 41.7% 8.3% 12
24 Denard Robinson 2.79 13.8 $5,000 50.0% 0.0% 2
25 Chris Ivory 2.79 14.4 $5,293 33.3% 20.0% 15
26 Chris Johnson 2.78 12.0 $4,410 40.0% 20.0% 10
27 Duke Johnson 2.78 10.5 $3,836 14.3% 7.1% 14
28 Shaun Draughn 2.77 11.4 $4,300 50.0% 25.0% 4
29 Charcandrick West 2.77 13.0 $4,870 40.0% 30.0% 10
30 LeSean McCoy 2.76 15.8 $5,892 41.7% 25.0% 12
31 Doug Martin 2.75 15.1 $5,647 20.0% 20.0% 15
32 Arian Foster 2.75 19.8 $7,125 50.0% 0.0% 4
33 Frank Gore 2.74 12.5 $4,606 31.3% 18.8% 16
34 Ronnie Hillman 2.73 11.9 $4,458 50.0% 16.7% 12
35 Jonathan Stewart 2.66 12.6 $4,858 41.7% 8.3% 12
36 James White 2.59 11.1 $4,067 50.0% 16.7% 6
37 Ryan Mathews 2.59 9.1 $3,629 28.6% 14.3% 7
38 Giovani Bernard 2.56 11.7 $4,569 31.3% 12.5% 16
39 Rashad Jennings 2.55 10.3 $4,209 18.2% 18.2% 11
40 Alfred Blue 2.51 9.7 $3,925 50.0% 12.5% 8
41 LeGarrette Blount 2.51 11.4 $4,736 36.4% 27.3% 11
42 Bishop Sankey 2.51 11.0 $4,467 33.3% 33.3% 3
43 LeVeon Bell 2.50 20.0 $8,150 50.0% 16.7% 6
44 Adrian Peterson 2.46 18.0 $7,306 37.5% 12.5% 16
45 Darren Sproles 2.43 9.2 $3,900 50.0% 10.0% 10
46 Mike Gillislee 2.42 10.9 $4,450 50.0% 50.0% 2
47 Matt Jones 2.42 8.7 $3,830 10.0% 10.0% 10
48 Latavius Murray 2.41 13.3 $5,556 25.0% 18.8% 16
49 Cameron Artis-Payne 2.41 10.4 $4,300 50.0% 0.0% 2
50 DeMarco Murray 2.40 15.1 $6,280 30.0% 30.0% 10
51 Matt Forte 2.40 16.7 $7,000 38.5% 0.0% 13
52 Carlos Hyde 2.37 12.0 $5,000 28.6% 14.3% 7
53 James Starks 2.33 10.0 $4,263 25.0% 12.5% 8
54 Tevin Coleman 2.32 10.4 $4,533 33.3% 0.0% 3
55 Anthony Dixon 2.30 6.9 $3,000 0.0% 0.0% 1
56 Joseph Randle 2.25 12.3 $5,600 16.7% 16.7% 6
57 Justin Forsett 2.12 12.8 $6,060 20.0% 10.0% 10
58 Isaiah Crowell 2.07 8.8 $4,186 42.9% 14.3% 7
59 Jeremy Hill 2.02 10.9 $5,600 31.3% 6.3% 16
60 Ameer Abdullah 1.94 7.9 $4,113 12.5% 12.5% 8
61 Brandon Bolden 1.93 6.5 $3,400 0.0% 0.0% 2
62 Antonio Andrews 1.91 6.7 $3,571 42.9% 0.0% 7
63 Shane Vereen 1.90 8.0 $4,217 25.0% 16.7% 12
64 Melvin Gordon 1.84 8.1 $4,436 9.1% 0.0% 11
65 Tre Mason 1.83 6.5 $4,000 33.3% 0.0% 3
66 C.J. Spiller 1.81 6.9 $3,767 16.7% 16.7% 6
67 Eddie Lacy 1.80 9.9 $5,936 21.4% 14.3% 14
68 Marshawn Lynch 1.70 12.0 $7,071 14.3% 0.0% 7
69 Andre Ellington 1.69 9.5 $5,133 0.0% 0.0% 3
70 Alfred Morris 1.50 6.4 $4,163 12.5% 0.0% 8
71 C.J. Anderson 1.42 6.6 $4,973 9.1% 9.1% 11
72 Fred Jackson 1.40 4.2 $3,000 0.0% 0.0% 1
73 Joique Bell 1.17 6.1 $5,200 0.0% 0.0% 1
74 Christine Michael 0.91 4.0 $4,400 0.0% 0.0% 1
75 Lorenzo Taliaferro 0.53 1.6 $3,000 0.0% 0.0% 1
76 Chris Polk 0.15 0.5 $3,400 0.0% 0.0% 1
77 Reggie Bush 0.00 0.0 $3,200 0.0% 0.0% 1
  • The top of the list is almost exclusively comprised of RBs taking over the starting role (remember there was an 8.5 projected point threshold for the sample, which helps isolate these situations and remove the instances where RBs wouldn't be viewed as startable in DFS).
  • After RBs who gained starting roles, the next group consists of receiving backs with prominent roles in their offense. I've repeatedly seen the question posed of when the best time to play these pass-catching RBs is, and often the logical hypothesis is to play them when their team is an underdog and will likely have to pass more. To test this hypothesis, I looked at the combined 2015 results of Danny Woodhead, Theo Riddick, Charles Sims, Chris Thompson, Bilal PowellShane Vereen, and Giovani Bernard. In the games where they hit 3x value, their teams were favorites 65 percent of the time -- more than the sample overall (55.6). It's up for debate whether the sample is truly meaningful (there were 29 instances of 3x value combined among the aforementioned RBs),but either way, it would only confirm what we already knew: that RBs perform better as favorites. Because of their workload, a cheap starting RB is more predictable -- and therefore more valuable -- than a cheap pass-catching RB.
  • Some RBs with high preseason ADPs that appear on the bottom of the list -- namely Eddie Lacy, C.J. Anderson, and Jeremy Hill -- serve as reminders that preseason expectations influence salaries early in the year, which can lead to some instances where players are grossly overvalued.

 

Final Takeaways

It's extremely important to be price-sensitive at RB on DraftKings, as most shiny new inexpensive RBs slated to see a good amount of touches (usually 18 or more) will be capable matching the output of those who are far more established and expensive. Furthermore, while RBs skew toward better performances with favorable Vegas odds, those odds aren't predictive enough to just blindly use Vegas odds to pick RBs without looking at projected touches, which is the best predictor of RB value.


Appendix

RB Sample Size
Salary Count
8500-8900 2
8000-8400 6
7500-7900 22
7000-7400 33
6500-6900 27
6000-6400 53
5500-5900 56
5000-5400 63
4500-4900 128
4000-4400 99
3500-3900 77
3000-3400 45
Total 611

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