To gain an edge on your opponents in daily fantasy, you’re going to have to look beyond traditional numbers. This means using advanced statistics and metrics, instead of using the standard rankings listed on mainstream sites, such as fantasy points allowed and NFL.com’s rankings when it comes to defense and offense.
One of the biggest mistakes made by DFS players is focusing on a defense’s rank against a position versus relying on advanced statistics. There is still a use for this data — and it should be something you look at researching your lineups — but it is more often than not, heavily misleading.
For instance, on DraftKings, there is a column under the lineup editor that is “Opponent’s Rank vs. Position” (OPRK). You can often predict how popular a player might be based on this ranking. If a quarterback is facing a defense that is ranked 31st against QB scoring (e.g. they’ve given up the 2nd most points to quarterbacks) you can guess that people will gravitate towards playing them that weekend.
As I mentioned above, this logic isn’t necessarily flawed in all cases, but it’s surely not something we want to use as the foundation of our research. Shockingly enough, these rankings are enough for people to immediately slot in some players without considering other factors.
If winning money at DFS was as simple as looking at defensive position rankings, we would all be millionaires! My point here is that these numbers and most other “stats” that are utilized by most season-long, casual fantasy players aren’t going to get the job done when it comes to winning at NFL DFS.
In this article, I will go over some of my favorite statistics and tools for daily fantasy players to put themselves in a position to win when lineups lock.
Football Outsiders has some of the best statistics online for not just pro football, but the college game as well. My favorite statistic for fantasy purposes is DVOA, Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. The nitty-gritty of DVOA can be viewed here, but the statistic itself measures team efficiency based on the strength of schedule. All fumbles are counted equally, whether they are lost or recovered.
DVOA becomes more and more accurate as the season goes along. At the beginning of the season, preseason projections are heavily weighted, but that stops after Week 8. Put it simply, there is no better statistic for measuring a team’s defensive ranking as a whole.
Each team is ranked overall, but also in their ability against both the run and the pass. Too many DFS players not only take defensive ranking without adjusting for strength of opponent, but they fail to look at where a team’s strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to allowing points.
One of the best situations we can run into when building our rosters is finding a team that is middling or excels in one area but is extremely poor in another. For instance, if a team defends the pass well, but is awful against the run, well, we target the running backs. On the flip side, if a team defends the run well, we can target a quarterback and his receivers.
The DVOA metric at Football Outsiders should be the baseline for your research each week, along with Vegas odds. Building your fantasy rosters each week is much easier when we know which teams have bad defenses where they are most vulnerable. The best thing about the stats at Football Outsiders is that are totally free as well!
Pro Football Focus (ProFootballFocus.com)
Pro Football Focus has become the pinnacle of football statistics and analysis over the last few years. Started nine years ago, by an Englishmen, no less, there probably isn’t a better set of football minds than the guys over at “PFF.”
PFF grades every player, both on offense and defense, after each game, analyzing every play. Their player grades aren’t going to be directly tied to fantasy production, but they are the best barometer in finding out how a team or player is performing.
Don’t take my word for it. PFF has about half the NFL teams in the league as premium clients. They used to offer more extensive premium stats for all users, but these are now exclusive to NFL teams that subscribe to their service and are unavailable to regular subscribers.
They have expanded their DFS section as of late, which includes perks such as lineup optimizers and weekly pick articles written by their staff. Their collection of statistics, on the whole, is still the main reason to purchase a subscription, however.
Their cornerback and wide receiver grades — along with their weekly article on cornerback shadows and WR vs. CB matchups — is one of my favorite articles each week. Individual match-ups mean a lot when it comes to picking wide receivers in DFS.
It’s shockingly accurate and often the receivers with the biggest advantages rated by PFF end up with the biggest weekends when it’s all said and done. Their offensive line ratings are also a huge help in determining run game production, in addition to elusive ratings for halfbacks.
Even though PFF rankings are the best determination of a player and team’s talent, it’s worth noting that their stats can be misleading at times. A single player that is performing at a high level may drive up the ranking of an entire defense and skew their overall ability. Edge rushers also seem to have much higher grades than middle linebackers who are often in coverage.
PFF’s data is best utilized with the above-mentioned DVOA rankings. Using both will give players a DFS football combination that will be deadly to their opponents.
NFL.com GamePass (NFL.com/GamePass)
NFL GamePass isn’t an advanced statistic or new-age metric. Instead, it’s a product provided by the league. GamePass offers condensed versions of every NFL game, including the playoffs.
I utilize Redzone Channel myself as I was unable to get satellite, but I used to watch the 8-game mix at a friend’s house. You certainly get a better feel for the games when watching most of them at once, but it’s also a bit of sensory overload. You’re also typically not in “study mode.”
Instead, if you’re like me, you’re kicking back with your buddies and having a few beers while you root for the guys in your lineups. Sundays are about football, beer, and daily fantasy sports. That’s why I love GamePass.
It allows you to watch every game, on demand, including past seasons, without commercials. You can even utilize coaches’ film, including an “All-22” camera that offers an impressive view of the whole field. Film study can take your game to the next level each week, and it’s just a click away.
Roto Grinders (RotoGrinders.com)
RotoGrinders calls themselves the “the daily fantasy authority,” and it’s for good reason. They premiered on the scene many years before we started seeing FanDuel and DraftKings ads every two minutes on ESPN. They were one of the pioneers of DFS related content and are one of the market leaders today.
Everything from strategy articles on game theory, daily picks for each sport, including NFL football, and GrindersLive shows featuring game by game breakdowns are available. I’ve profited heavily from their advice. Maybe the best part about RG is the community, however. Their forums and chat are excellent for both insight and hilarity.