NFL DFS – Building Your Lineup: Quarterbacks

The quarterback position is often the building block of your lineup. Without a relatively stable performance from your signal caller, it’s going to be a lot harder to cash a winning lineup each week.

Quarterbacks offer the most consistency in DFS compared to any other position. This is because they touch the ball far more than any other player and, therefore, have many more scoring opportunities compared to other spots in your lineup.

In this article, I will go over the aspects to consider when selecting a quarterback for your lineup in both cash games and tournaments.

Sportsbook Odds and Game Script

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it should be clear that the oddsmakers know far more about how a game might play out than any of the ESPN analysts or any other industry “experts.” Remember, these guys make their living by getting the numbers right.

So, what do we look for in Vegas odds when it comes to deciding on which quarterbacks to roster? Well, as is the case with every position in DFS, aside from picking a defense, the more points projected to be scored in a game, the better.

The point spread is also a significant factor. Many might look at teams that are underdogs as better options because the game script would force more throwing later in the game. This may true some of the time, but it doesn’t directly translate into a large boost in production.

If we look at purely from a statistical standpoint, a team that is throwing the ball late in the game likely struggled earlier with their passing efficiency. It is correct that that there may be more passing attempts later in the game with quarterbacks on underdog teams, but few remember to factor in the lost production that occurred earlier in the first half.

When it comes to above-average or highly proficient passing offenses, their production earlier in the game usually makes up for the fact that they might be running the ball late. If your quarterback already has 300 yards and three touchdowns by the time the fourth quarter starts, he’s almost certainly surpassed his salary expectations. It’s unfortunate if they have a huge lead and are running the ball, but the production is already there.

There is one situation in relation to Vegas lines where quarterback upside is slightly capped. This occurs when a team is a double-digit favorite. Quarterbacks in these games have shown to throw significantly less than in games with lower totals.

It doesn’t mean that players should avoid rostering quarterbacks in their lineups if there is a double-digit spread, but should be a consideration. However, double-digit point spreads are generally situations where rostering a running back from the game may be the stronger play.

Matchups

Aside from Vegas totals and implied team totals based on point spreads, we can look at fantasy points allowed and other statistics regarding team defenses. I still think sportsbook lines will ultimately provide you with the most accurate predictions of points scored, but the key for DFS is how the points will be scored.

Since we’re rostering a quarterback, we want a matchup that offers plenty of upside for points through the air. The ideal situation for a DFS quarterback is a defense that is strong against the run, but awful against the pass.

Offensive philosophy and gameplan is also another factor to consider. Many teams throw the ball far more often than others. Their play-calling inside the 20-yard line is particularly vital to note. This may be due to the offense they run or because injuries to their offensive line may have hurt their run game.

It’s always important to look at how much a team is throwing the ball and how well they are converting in the red zone. Passing attempts matter, even if they aren’t necessarily being completed at a high percentage. Every time your quarterback has the ball in his hands, there’s an opportunity for more fantasy points.

Rushing Upside

Sometimes forgotten about by the masses are the floor and upside that a running quarterback can offer. Due to the scoring at most daily fantasy sites, rushing yards out of your QB is a weapon to consider when building your lineups.

Let’s take for example at DraftKings, where 25 yards passing is worth 1.0 DK Points. Rushing yards, regardless of position, are worth 1.0 DK Points per 10 yards rushing. That’s quite the substantial difference. 40 yards rushing out of your quarterback position is worth 100 yards passing.

Quarterbacks who regularly rush for even 20-30 yards are going to have a higher floor than those who provide no rushing upside. One of the best situations in DFS is having a rushing quarterback who is playing from behind. Not only is he making throws downfield, but he can make plays with his legs as well.

The difference between a rushing and passing TD is another area where value can be gained from rushing quarterbacks. For instance, passing touchdowns are worth 4.0 points at DraftKings while rushing and receiving touchdowns are worth 6.0 DK Points.

This does not mean that you should force running quarterbacks into your rosters ahead of more traditional pocket passers. Look for strong matchups and the above criteria, but note the bonus rushing QBs can offer when deciding between two players that have strong matchups.

Cash Games

For our cash games, we want consistency and high floor players on our rosters. Paying up at quarterback makes sense in this format for that reason, but depending on the pricing that week – that’s not a requirement.

Pricing at sites varies wildly. For instance, during the 2015 NFL Season at DraftKings, quarterback pricing was extremely soft. There were several quarterbacks under $7,000 most weeks that were easily cash game viable. However, at FanDuel the pricing was considerably sharper.

Regardless of the site, it can make sense to pay up for quarterback provided you can get value elsewhere. The projections on high priced QBs might not always be fantastic from a value perspective, but the high floors you will get from guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in games with high totals may not be available elsewhere.

Utilizing Vegas spreads and totals, we can get implied team totals fairly quickly. It’s quite rare that I would select a cash game quarterback with a team total lower than 21 points. Ideally, we would want this higher, but it’s tough to consider a quarterback for cash games with a team total that is lower than three touchdowns.

Tournaments

In tournaments, we are shooting for higher ceilings, but our criteria from an odds and the statistical base won’t differ too much compared to cash games. I still wouldn’t recommend taking quarterbacks from teams with extremely low point totals according to Vegas lines, even if they would be contrarian compared to what might be highly played selections in tournaments.

For quarterbacks, ownership percentages are going to be a lot more important. There are usually some clear cut options each week for cash games, but if you go just slightly out of the elite tier, there should be plenty of options with ownership levels that are considerably lower.