You Don't Need to Roster Volatile Players to Win a DFS Tournament

You Don't Need to Roster Volatile Players to Win a DFS Tournament

By Chris Raybon (Senior Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Sep 1, 2017

Chris Raybon's picture

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

Follow Chris Raybon on Twitter: @ChrisRaybon.

"Select volatile players in GPPs" has always seemed like a sound strategy.

But is it?

The conventional logic goes that while you should be maximizing your floor in cash games with safe plays like Jarvis Landry, you should be taking on more risk in GPPs, such as on boom-or-bust guys like Torrey Smith, due to a GPP's top-heavy payout structure. The problem is, many casual players take this strategy too far, frequently rostering players that can be classified as no better than a "dart throw".

How Do We Measure Volatility?

We can measure player consistency by calculating their coefficient of variation (CV) of fantasy points. CV is calculated by dividing the standard deviation into the mean, and the lower the resulting percentage, the more consistent, or less volatile, a player is, and vice-versa. For more on CV and positional consistency, check out my article on leveraging weekly player consistency in NFL DFS.

If the theory about selecting volatile players in GPPs is true, we should see players in winning GPP lineups with higher than average CVs -- the guys who have high the highest highs and lowest lows, so to speak.

How Volatile Were Players in Winning GPP Lineups?

It turns out that's not exactly the case. The tables below compare the average CV of players found in the grand prize winning lineups from the DraftKings Millionaire Maker and the FanDuel Sunday Million in 2015 to the average CV of all players at the position.1 

Note: A negative figure in the +/- column indicates that the average player in a grand prize winning lineup was more consistent than the average player at his position.

CV in DraftKings Winning Millionaire Maker Lineups vs. Avg. CV (2015)
Pos Avg CV in Winning LUs Avg CV +/-
QB 47% 44% 3%
RB 62% 63% -1%
WR 55% 60% -5%
TE 65% 68% -3%
D 70% 71% -1%
CV in FanDuel Winning Sunday Million Lineups vs. Avg. CV (2015)
Pos Avg CV in Winning LUs Avg CV +/-
QB 38% 41% -3%
RB 57% 63% -6%
WR 57% 61% -4%
TE 60% 70% -10%
D 74% 71% 3%
K 48% 49% -1%

For four of the five positions on DraftKings and five of the six positions on FanDuel, players in the grand prize winning tournament lineups were actually more consistent than the average player at their position. In other words, people aren't winning tournaments by choosing volatile, hard to predict dart throws. More often than not, they're actually choosing the boring, consistent players.

Let's now take a closer look, going site-by-site.

Editor's Note: This article is a FREE sample of weekly content included in 4for4's DFS Subscription. Sign up or upgrade here!

DraftKings Millionaire Maker

QBs in DK Winning Millionaire Maker Lineups (2015)
QB Count Average CV
Russell Wilson 2 35%
Sam Bradford 1 35%
Cam Newton 3 38%
Blake Bortles 1 39%
Philip Rivers 1 44%
Matthew Stafford 1 45%
Ben Roethlisberger 2 46%
Drew Brees 1 46%
Kirk Cousins 1 50%
Marcus Mariota 2 66%
Tony Romo 1 89%
Total - 11 Unique 16 47%

The average DraftKings QB CV is 44%, and eight of the 16 QB selections were at 44% or below. Still, QB was the only position where the winning lineup CV was greater than the positional average, mostly due to Tony Romo's small sample CV. QB CV is relatively flat, so I'd focus more on finding a low-owned (but not necessarily inconsistent) selection here -- median ownership in the grand prize winning lineups was 6.9%, and only two slots had lower median ownership.

RBs in DK Winning Millionaire Maker Lineups (2015)
RB Count Average CV
Mark Ingram 1 26%
LeSean McCoy 1 38%
Matt Forte 1 42%
Giovani Bernard 1 47%
Darren McFadden 1 47%
DeAngelo Williams 3 51%
Adrian Peterson 2 51%
Jeremy Langford 1 54%
Devonta Freeman 4 54%
Todd Gurley 2 58%
Justin Forsett 1 59%
Doug Martin 1 59%
Thomas Rawls 2 63%
David Johnson 1 63%
Chris Ivory 3 63%
Rashad Jennings 1 64%
Danny Woodhead 2 64%
Javorius Allen 1 65%
Lamar Miller 2 71%
Charcandrick West 1 74%
Chris Johnson 1 77%
Joseph Randle 1 79%
Shane Vereen 1 79%
Eddie Lacy 2 83%
LeGarrette Blount 1 91%
Isaiah Crowell 1 91%
Carlos Hyde 1 93%
Total - 27 Unique 40 62%

Twenty-one of the 40 selections had a CV at or below the RB average CV of 63%. The important thing with RBs will always be volume. Even if an RB hasn't necessarily demonstrated consistency in the past, a large workload is a reliable indicator of fantasy production.

WRs in DK Winning Millionaire Maker Lineups (2015)
WR Count Average CV
Demaryius Thomas 1 37%
Brandon Marshall 3 38%
Julian Edelman 3 40%
Julio Jones 5 43%
DeAndre Hopkins 2 44%
Jarvis Landry 3 46%
Odell Beckham 3 47%
John Brown 1 49%
Kamar Aiken 1 51%
Larry Fitzgerald 3 52%
Michael Crabtree 1 53%
Alshon Jeffery 2 53%
Allen Robinson 3 53%
Mike Evans 1 54%
Allen Hurns 1 55%
Jeremy Maclin 1 57%
Calvin Johnson 1 59%
Antonio Brown 5 59%
T.Y. Hilton 1 62%
Travis Benjamin 1 64%
Terrance Williams 1 65%
Doug Baldwin 2 66%
Emmanuel Sanders 1 66%
Ted Ginn 1 66%
Martavis Bryant 2 68%
Tavon Austin 1 68%
Stefon Diggs 1 71%
Amari Cooper 1 72%
James Jones 1 74%
Danny Amendola 1 76%
Dontrelle Inman 1 77%
Steve Smith 1 77%
Total - 32 Unique 56 55%

WR is the position where you can really see the "select volatile options" theory turned on its head. The average WR CV on DraftKings is 60%, and 40-of-56 WRs, or 71%, came in below that mark. Furthermore, many of the most consistent WRs made multiple appearances in winning lineups. Of 56 WR selections (includes flex), only 32, or 57%, were unique. Eight WRs appeared in at least three lineups, and most of them are a who's who of consistency at WR: Antonio Brown and Julio Jones (5), and Brandon Marshall, Julian Edelman, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Larry Fitzgerald, and Allen Robinson (3).

Worried about ownership when rostering these consistent studs? Don't be. The median ownership for the highest owned WR in a grand prize winning lineup was 32%, and the average ownership for the second highest owned WR was 14%. There's another theory turned on its head: that you need a super contrarian lineup at every position. You need to mix in some low owned plays for sure, but you don't necessarily have to do it at all of your WR slots.

TEs in DK Winning Millionaire Maker Lineups (2015)
TE Count Average CV
Delanie Walker 1 36%
Rob Gronkowski 3 50%
Jordan Reed 1 52%
Antonio Gates 1 59%
Greg Olsen 2 64%
Tyler Eifert 1 68%
Zach Ertz 1 68%
Ben Watson 1 73%
Charles Clay 1 75%
Julius Thomas 3 84%
Scott Chandler 1 89%
Total - 11 Unique 16 65%

Ten of the 16 TEs, or 63%, were at least as consistent as the average TE on DraftKings. In the case of TEs, the reason consistent players pop up in the grand prize winning lineups more often than not has to do with the fact that TE is a low-volume position, and most of the more consistent ones are also the highest-scoring ones, as they are more involved in the offensive game plan on a weekly basis.

FanDuel Sunday Million

QBs in FD Winning Sunday Million Lineups (2015)
QB Count Avg CV
Carson Palmer 1 26%
Andrew Luck 1 28%
Alex Smith 1 29%
Russell Wilson 3 34%
Cam Newton 3 35%
Philip Rivers 1 39%
Matthew Stafford 1 41%
Ben Roethlisberger 2 44%
Eli Manning 2 44%
Brock Osweiler 1 46%
Drew Brees 1 46%
Total - 11 Unique 17 38%

Eleven of 17 QBs matched or bested the QB average CV of 41%. The most volatile QBs in the grand prize winning lineups were only five percentage points higher than the average. As I mentioned earlier, QB consistency is relatively flat, I'd focus more on finding a contrarian selection here -- the median ownership of QBs in grand prize winning lineups was only 4.7% in 2015.

RBs in FD Winning Sunday Million Lineups (2015)
RB Count Average CV
Mark Ingram 1 25%
Jamaal Charles 1 38%
Matt Forte 1 40%
Dion Lewis 1 44%
Latavius Murray 1 44%
Tim Hightower 3 45%
Jeremy Langford 1 49%
Adrian Peterson 3 52%
DeAngelo Williams 3 53%
Todd Gurley 2 56%
Devonta Freeman 3 56%
Doug Martin 1 57%
Chris Ivory 2 58%
Ronnie Hillman 1 61%
Javorius Allen 1 62%
Rashad Jennings 1 63%
David Johnson 2 64%
Thomas Rawls 1 73%
Lamar Miller 2 74%
Karlos Williams 1 79%
Joseph Randle 1 82%
Carlos Hyde 1 92%
Total - 22 Unique 34 57%

RB on FanDuel had the second largest disparity between average CV in grand prize winning lineups and average positional CV. Seventy-four percent of RBs in grand prize wining lineups were more consistent than the average RB. The median ownership for the top owned RB in grand prize winning lineups was 22%, so you don't have to let potentially high ownership necessarily move you off a consistent play.

WRs in FD Winning Sunday Million Lineups (2015)
WR Count Average CV
Brandon Marshall 2 36%
Demaryius Thomas 2 38%
Pierre Garcon 1 41%
Julian Edelman 1 44%
Julio Jones 4 45%
DeAndre Hopkins 5 45%
John Brown 1 46%
Odell Beckham 4 50%
Larry Fitzgerald 1 54%
Allen Robinson 2 54%
Keenan Allen 3 57%
Sammy Watkins 1 57%
Brandin Cooks 2 59%
Antonio Brown 6 61%
Jordan Matthews 1 65%
Travis Benjamin 1 67%
T.Y. Hilton 1 67%
Emmanuel Sanders 1 68%
Keshawn Martin 1 68%
Martavis Bryant 2 70%
Randall Cobb 1 70%
Doug Baldwin 2 70%
James Jones 1 73%
Stefon Diggs 2 74%
Danny Amendola 1 77%
Steve Smith 1 79%
Percy Harvin 1 83%
Total - 27 Unique 51 57%

Thirty-five of 51, or 69%, of WRs in grand prize winning lineups were at least as consistent as the average WR on FanDuel. Only 53% were unique. When you have roughly a one-in-a-million shot to win, it's incredible to see guys like Antonio Brown (6), DeAndre Hopkins (5), Julio Jones (4), and Odell Beckham all in at least one-in-four winning lineups. This is why I recommend paying up at two WR slots in GPPs. WR is a position where paying up gets you the most consistency relative to others at the position, as well as the most upside overall. 

And again, if you're worried about ownership when rostering these studs, don't be. In the grand prize winning lineups, the highest owned WR had a median ownership of 26%, and the second highest owned WR had a median ownership of 13%. In other words, one chalk play and one moderately owned play at WR has been perfectly viable.

TEs in FD Winning Sunday Million Lineups (2015)
Row Labels Count Average CV
Delanie Walker 2 41%
Rob Gronkowski 1 51%
Jordan Reed 3 54%
Travis Kelce 1 60%
Greg Olsen 4 63%
Antonio Gates 1 64%
Zach Ertz 1 65%
Tyler Eifert 1 68%
Martellus Bennett 1 73%
Will Tye 1 76%
Ladarius Green 1 77%
Total - 11 Unique 17 60%

At 10 percentage points, TE is the position with the biggest disparity between average grand prize winning CV and average positional CV. Only three times in 17 weeks was a TE in a grand prize winning lineup more volatile than the average TE on FanDuel.

The Bottom Line

Tournament grand prize winners aren't rostering a bunch of volatile players. Instead, they're rostering players that tend to be more consistent than the average player at his position. Furthermore, many of the consistent players appear in grand prize winning lineups over and over.

The DFS analyst code for "I have no idea how this (inconsistent) player is going to perform so roster him at your own risk" is "he's GPP-only for me". In reality, we should be spending less time analyzing who the perfect dart throw is, and more time analyzing which consistent players we are overlooking, especially at WR.

Now, of course, the methodology here isn't perfect, as we're measuring year-long consistency instead of consistency of a player up until the point at which he was in a winning lineup, but the takeaways remain relevant. Scan the lists of the players in winning lineups and you'll see a lot more players who exhibit average or above average consistency than you'll see volatile dart throws, especially for the players who have been in winning lineups multiple times. It's not that volatile players are completely absent from the grand prize winning lineups, but they do not appear as frequently as conventional wisdom might suggest. Deploy volatile players sparingly.

Editor's Note: This article is a FREE sample of weekly content included in 4for4's DFS SubscriptionSign up or upgrade here!


Footnotes

1Included in the sample used to calculate the average positional CV were players who played in six or more games. Point per game cut-offs were as follows: quarterbacks who averaged 10.0 FanDuel points per game, running backs/wide receivers who averaged 8.0, and tight ends who averaged 6.0. To better capture true consistency, running backs who played as both starters and reserves had only their games as starters used when calculating CV.


Related Articles

 

Filed Under:
w1
,
2016

We are your friend's secret weapon.

  • Get 4 FREE downloads
  • Receive breaking news alerts & analysis
  • BONUS: Learn how to play DFS.
  • Battle-Tested by 40,000+ fantasy football diehards since 1999.