There are two types of weekly fantasy football players: those who create lineups using their gut and those who do the math.
When we talk about “doing the math,” we’re referring to looking for value.
We have a salary cap, and want to get maximum mileage from the cash at our disposal.
If you’re the type of fantasy player who’d rather go blind than break out your calculator, this tutorial isn’t for you.
However, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and crunch a few numbers, I’ll show you how to gain an edge over other players.
That edge can mean the difference between earning a juicy payout and losing yet another contest.
Let’s start by defining “value” in the context of weekly fantasy football.
What Does “Value” Mean In Fantasy Football?
At its simplest, value reflects how much fantasy point production you can expect to receive for the money you’re shelling out for players.
For example, suppose you’re paying top dollar for Tom Brady.
You can expect him to perform well because he’s consistent.
The question is, how many points is he likely to earn for your lineup this week? And how does Brady’s potential production compare to that of other draft picks?
In other words, are you squeezing as much fantasy point production as possible from your available salary?
That’s what finding value means.
The idea is that if you’re maximizing your lineup’s value, you’ll have a better-than-fair chance of beating the majority of the field.
Now the question becomes, how do you find great value plays for your weekly fantasy football lineups?
It’s not difficult.
Nor is it complicated. Just follow the seven steps laid out below to identify undervalued players your competition is likely to miss.
7 Steps To Finding Great Value For Your Fantasy NFL Lineups
Before we start, it’s worth noting that the following “system” has been streamlined to produce the information you need in the least amount of time possible.
I’m sure you’ve noticed there’s a metric ton of stats you can analyze for each week’s fantasy NFL contests.
We’re going to ignore most of them.
If you focus on finding undervalued players, you’ll outwit, outplay, and outlast most of your competition.
And you only need to crunch a few numbers and study a few details to do that.
First up: player matchups.
#1 – Scrutinize Player Matchups
A player’s performance doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
A lot depends on the players covering him. For this reason, it’s important to look at player matchups while creating your lineups.
For example, suppose you’re thinking about drafting Dez Bryant for one of your wide receiver slots.
You have high hopes of snagging solid performance for a reasonable salary. He managed to start the season without injuries or contractual problems, which only makes him look more promising.
But let’s suppose that Bryant is scheduled to play against Philadelphia.
That means there’s a good chance he’ll be covered by Patrick Robinson, arguably one of the most effective cornerbacks on the field this season (2017/2018 if you are reading this in the future).
That’s not going to be good for Bryant’s fantasy production. If Robinson manages to shut him down over and over, he’s going to end up being dead weight for your lineup.
Before you add a player to your roster, check out who’s going to cover him in this week’s game. You might avoid a lot of heartache.
#2 – Look For Starter Injuries To Exploit
Injuries are important in the context of knowing who NOT to draft.
For example, you don’t want to pay big bucks to slot Gronkowski only to learn he’s been sidelined with a thigh injury.
But there’s another way to leverage NFL injuries in weekly fantasy football: look for replacements who are expected to benefit from injured starters’ absences.
For example, suppose Gronk’s a late addition to this week’s injury report.
You obviously don’t want him on your roster. But before you look elsewhere for a tight-end, consider who’s going to start in his place and who might see more action in his absence.
There’s a chance you can draft that player for a salary that undervalues his newfound opportunity.
Will the spotlight be on Dwayne Allen?
He hasn’t been especially productive this season, but putting him in Gronk’s spot could still be a boon to your roster.
Or might the new guy, Jacob Hollister, get more field time due to the unexpected vacuum left by Gronk’s absence?
The NFL injury report is full of opportunities for the savvy fantasy football player.
You can plumb a lot of value if you keep your eyes open for late additions.
#3 – Review Players’ Projected Points
Value is based on performance.
You need to predict how many points a player is likely score in this week’s game to know whether you’re getting good value for your money.
How do you predict performance with reasonable accuracy?
You have a couple options.
First, you can rely on sites like ESPN. They post player projections each week.
Or you can use sites like STATS.com, which sell these data. Whichever site you use, the biggest question is whether the projections are accurate. ESPN is fairly dependable (and free).
A second option is to calculate players’ projected points on your own.
This is tougher, of course. But you might find it worthwhile, especially if you have more confidence in YOUR numbers than you do in ESPN’s numbers.
You’d need to look at players’ past fantasy point production (both FanDuel and DraftKings display these data in each player’s stats).
Then, you’d need to consider the matchups (ref. to #1 above).
Then, you’d need to take variance into account.
Variance is a tricky animal. It’s basically a way to gauge unpredictability – the missed tackle, the unexpected interception, the surprise tackle at the 1-yard line, etc. It measures player consistency.
Whether you use ESPN or crunch your own numbers, the most important point is that you find some way to accurately project each player’s fantasy projection.
It’s the only way to know whether you’re getting good value for your money.
#4 – Compare Points Versus Salary
You’ve made projections regarding the expected fantasy point production for each player on your short list.
It’s time to use those projections to come up with valuations for player-by-player comparison based on salaries.
The math is very simple.
I’ll show you how it’s done with an example.
Let’s say you’re looking for receivers for this week’s game.
Here are some of your options, along with their respective salaries:
Antonio Brown, $9,300
Michael Thomas, $8,600
Julio Jones, $8,300
Mike Evans, $6,900
Will Fuller V, $5,200
Let’s say you’ve projected the following fantasy point production for these players:
Antonio Brown, 19 points
Michael Thomas, 17 points
Julio Jones, 13 points
Mike Evans, 16 points
Will Fuller V, 12 points
The first step is to divide the salaries by 1,000.
Doing so will yield easy numbers to work with:
Antonio Brown, 9.3
Michael Thomas, 8.6
Julio Jones, 8.3
Mike Evans, 6.9
Will Fuller V, 5.2
The next step is to divide each player’s projected points by his simplified salary number.
Doing so will generate projected values you can use for comparison. Here’s the math:
Antonio Brown, 19 points / 9.3 = 2.04
Michael Thomas, 17 points / 8.6 = 1.98
Julio Jones, 13 points / 8.3 = 1.57
Mike Evans, 16 points / 6.9 = 2.32
Will Fuller V, 12 points / 5.2 = 2.31
Now, it’s a simple matter of picking players who have the highest projected values.
It’s a way to make smart, informed decisions regarding where to spend your money.
For example, everyone loves Julio Jones.
It’s hard not to. But notice how his projected value compares to Mike Evans.
From the above numbers, it’s clear you’ll get more for your money by drafting Evans.
#5 – Check Out The Over/Under From Online Sportsbooks / Vegas
It stands to reason, the more points scored during a game, the better your lineup’s production. Ultimately, you want a game where both teams are logging a ton of points.
You want a shootout.
Consider the alternative: both teams fail to score points, and your players in the game fail to produce for your lineup.
For example, back in 2007, Pittsburgh faced off against Miami. The game’s final score is a paltry 3 to 0. If your lineup had included players from either team, those players were almost certain to be dead weights. Sure, you might have earned points via passing, receiving, and rushing yards. But with no TDs, it would have been a tough grind.
Oddsmakers publish over/unders for everyone to see.
Look for high numbers.
The higher, the better.
For example, in 2015, the Giants and Saints squared off during the regular season.
The game’s final score was 52 to 49, a total of 101 points.
It was almost impossible to draft starters from either of those teams who didn’t produce.
And if you happened to have stacked the QB from one of those teams with his receivers, you made out very well.
All to say, check the over/unders for all of the games your prospective players are going to play in.
#6 – Consider How Many Fantasy Points You Need To Win
Remember in step #3 where we projected each player’s expected fantasy point production?
We’re going to put those numbers to use once again.
If you look at data from the past few years at FanDuel and DraftKings, you’ll find that you need a certain number of points to cash.
The number varies by site and game type.
For example, suppose you’re competing in a large GPP (guaranteed prize pool) tournament.
If you’re playing at FanDuel, you’ll need to earn at least 150 points to come anywhere near a cash position. If you’re playing at DraftKings, you’ll need to earn at least 175 points.
It’s different for cash games, such as 50/50s and head-to-heads (H2Hs). At FanDuel, you can usually get by with 120 points. At DraftKings, you’ll need to earn 140+ points.
Is it possible to cash with fewer points? Sure, but it’s a good idea to plan conservatively.
#7 – Don’t Forget About The Weather
Believe it or not, inclement weather can dramatically affect your lineup’s production. If you know how to leverage the weather report, you can squeeze even more value from your lineups.
For example, suppose heavy rain is expected during one of this week’s games. How might that impact the players?
First, the rain might hamper both QBs’ passing games. They’re going to be more likely to run the rock than throwing it and risk incomplete passes or interceptions.
That, in turn, will squash the wide receivers’ production.
Meanwhile, the running backs might find themselves with a lot more opportunities. And the defensive teams might find it easier to log sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries.
The weather isn’t the most important factor in finding great value plays. But if you completely ignore it, you’re likely to miss opportunities.
Final Thoughts On Finding Value For Your Fantasy NFL Lineups
Value is a crucial ingredient to any winning fantasy football lineup. The good news is that it’s a perfect complement to a studs-and-scrubs draft regimen. Spend big on a few high-salary, elite players like Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski. Then, fill out the rest of your lineup with cheaper players who are undervalued by your competition.
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