DFS Lessons Learned From 2018 – Running Backs
Achieving consistent success in the Daily Fantasy Sports landscape is hard. With the vast amount of DFS information available nowadays, the edge continues to get smaller with each passing NFL season. But just because the gap is getting smaller, it does not mean one can not be obtained. In fact, a nice way to get ahead of the competition is to not look forward but instead by taking a look back.
While the rest of the industry spends the off-season looking at free agency moves and the new toys courtesy of the NFL Draft, look the other way. It is good practice to always review the previous season’s results. This process helps DFS players get ahead of the curve. They discover new trends that may put them on a certain player in the future before the masses can discover it.
As we continue our lessons learned from 2018 series, this piece will focus on the running back position. By examining the top scoring running backs from each of the first 16 weeks on the 2018 NFL season some interesting nuggets appear. Hopefully these will help us better understand how to pick the position for our DFS lineups in 2019. The overall theme of this look at the 2018 running back DFS production is that it is important to understand the scoring system that the DFS site you are playing on implements.
Not all DFS sites’ scoring systems are created equal. The biggest difference, of course, is the points per reception (PPR) scoring. For example, FanDuel offers just 0.5 points per reception, while a site like DraftKings offers a full point per reception. A 0.5 point difference per catch does not appear to be a big difference on the surface. But the difference in scoring has major implications on what running backs you should be choosing for your DFS lineups.
Does Winning the Game Matter?
There is an old theory in DFS circles. The theory suggests that when picking your running back for your DFS lineups, you want to pick a back that is expected to be on the winning team. Here is the theory in a nutshell: The thought is that the winning team will try to control the clock by handing the ball off to the running back. This will result in extra touches for the ball carrier, leading to more DFS points.
So is the theory correct? The short answer is that it depends. And it depends on what DFS site you are playing on. On half-point sites, like FanDuel, the theory stood pretty true in 2018. Last season, in half-point PPR scoring systems, 14 of the 16 weekly top running back scorers played for a team that won its game.
But in full-point PPR situations, you can’t say the same. The 16 weekly top scorers’ teams were winners in just nine of those games. The logic behind that seems pretty straightforward. In full-point PPR the idea is to target running backs that will catch a lot of passes. When are teams likely to pass the ball? In close games or games that they are trailing.
So do not immediately put an emphasis on finding a running back from a winning team. But first focus on what DFS site you are using. And most importantly what their scoring system looks like.
Using the Spread
Another tool used to help select DFS running backs is the spread of the game. But more so than the spread itself, the question is does having your running back play for a team that covers the spread mean anything? And just like it did with the question, does winning matter, the answer is it depends. What DFS site you are playing on matters.
In half-point scoring systems, the top weekly scoring running backs were part of a team that was able to cover the spread in 12 of the 16 weeks being examined. While the running backs in the full-point PPR scoring system were part of a team that covered the spread just nine times.
Again before worrying about the spread, be sure you know the scoring system of your DFS site.
Using the Over/Under
Another popular strategy of DFS players is to focus on games that they feel will have game totals that reach the over. But this strategy did not seem to have much stickiness in 2018. But if you feel like it is a useful strategy for picking your running backs, you will want to implement the strategy only on full PPR DFS sites. 11 of the 16 weekly top scoring ball carriers on full point PPR sites were part of a game that hit the over in 2018.
This strategy did not show its worth on half-point PPR site. Only nine of the 16 weekly top scoring running backs on these sites were part of a game that reached the over.
Playing at Home
Finally, there is a thought in the DFS community that running backs playing at home are more valuable. What does 2018 have to say about that? Well, you guessed it, it depends. Once again there was a discrepancy between half-point and full-point PPR sites.
The full-point PPR scoring sites saw 12 of the 16 weekly top running back scorers playing at home. While on the half-point PPR sites, just nine of the 16 top weekly scorers were on their home turf.
Based on the 2018 top weekly scoring running backs for Weeks 1 through 16, you can draw some conclusions. Such as you want to target running backs playing at home and in games that are expected to hit the over if you are playing on full-point PPR sites. If dabbling on half-point PPR DFS sites, you are looking to target runnings backs that will be playing for a team that is expected to win as well as cover the spread, based on the look at the top weekly scorers of 2018.
Hopefully, these trends from the 2018 season will be able to help you better identify strong running back plays in the future for your weekly DFS contests.