Daily Fantasy Football 2015: Predicting Top DraftKings DST

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

With just over three weeks until the NFL regular season officially kicks off, it’s time to start getting into gear for another season of DraftKings daily fantasy sports (DFS) football.

One of the more overlooked positions in DFS is defense and special teams (DST). A solid DST can often be the difference between making and losing money.

The trouble is that defensive performances are often difficult to predict in the NFL. Last year’s go-to No. 1 defense Seattle finished the season as the eighth-best DST, behind surprises like Green Bay and Houston.

A lot of a defense’s performance in fantasy is due to turnovers, which are hard to predict. Last year’s top DraftKings DST, the Philadelphia Eagles, were actually ranked 28th in total defense, allowing more than 375 yards per game.

But the Eagles were at or near the top in the other defensive categories that give points to DSTs. Each interception and fumble is worth two points, and every sack is worth one point.

Philly was slightly below league average with 12 interceptions but was second in sacks with 49 and led the league in fumble recoveries with 16. The Eagles were also near the top of the league in defensive touchdowns and led the league in special teams return touchdowns.

While turnovers are difficult to predict, they’re not necessarily impossible. Like all things DFS, matchups play a key role in determining who to start at DST in any given week.

Here are the teams with the most turnovers in 2014:

Some of the teams on this list are also high-octane, fast-paced, high-scoring offenses. Some, however, are just inept when it comes to turning the ball over.

Here are the worst scoring offenses in 2014:

And the worst offenses in terms of total yardage:

Combining the stats from giveaways with total offense and scoring numbers, it’s obvious which teams provide opposing DSTs with the best opportunity to score points. Teams that appear on all three lists are likely good sources for opposing DST points every week.

At the beginning of the season, a little more guesswork is required. For example, Tampa Bay is probably going to be a good opponent to rack up DST points against this season, because the only real change the Buccaneers made was at quarterback, where they’re expected to start a likely turnover-prone rookie.

Good, old-fashioned hard-nosed defense is a good indicator as to how a DST will perform too. Teams that allow the fewest yards also typically allow fewer points, limiting losses to their DST scores each week.

Here are the top total-points defenses from 2014. Until 2015 starts to take shape, defensive performances should mostly be based on 2014 numbers.

Obviously, contextualized predictions based on rookies and free agents should be accounted for as well, but defensive performances don’t stray much from previous years. The San Francisco 49ers may be an exception to that rule this season as a result of all their losses.

The “any given Sunday” mantra still exists, but that’s true of anything in fantasy. Given the parameters we’ve laid out and the 2015 matchups, these are the top five projected DSTs for DraftKings in 2015.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs finished 2014 as the 21st-best scoring DST in DraftKings, so their inclusion may be surprising. But Kansas City is on this list for a couple of reasons.

The team allowed the seventh-fewest yards per game in 2014 and the second-fewest points per game. The reason the Chiefs finished so low in DFS scoring was because of a lack of turnovers.

As we mentioned, turnovers can be difficult to predict, but the Chiefs do have the luxury of playing the sixth-most turnover-prone team, the Raiders, twice. If the Chiefs can increase their defensive turnovers, they should be a top DST in DFS this season.

4. Denver Broncos

Denver sat in the middle of the pack last season in points allowed per game (16th) but was the third-best defense in yards allowed per game. The Broncos were also just one takeaway shy of cracking the top 10 in that category as well.

The Broncos not only get to face the Raiders twice, but they also square off against 2014’s eighth-worst yardage offense, Kansas City, twice. In addition, Denver will take on two other low-scoring offenses in 2014, the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears.

Plus, they say the best defense is a good offense, and Denver should have one of the top offenses in football in 2015.

3. Houston Texans

The Texans have J.J. Watt. That should be enough.

They also get to play the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars a total of four times. In addition, Houston plays Indy twice; as high-flying as the Colts were in 2014 (third in yards and sixth in scoring), they also turned the ball over 31 times, which was bad enough for third-most.

The Texans can thrive off turnovers, as they reeled in a league-high 34 last season to go along with allowing the seventh-fewest points last season.

2. Seattle Seahawks

This is where the Seahawks earn their money. Unfortunately, that will also likely come with a heftier price tag as well.

Seattle was the only team in the NFL to allow fewer than 300 yards per game last season, and it did so by allowing 33.8 fewer yards than the second-best team. It’s also the only team to allow less than 300 yards per game in either of the last two seasons.

The Seahawks gave up a league-low 15.9 points per game. They finished as the eighth-best defense in DraftKings last season, despite finishing 23rd in takeaways.

Just imagine if they start forcing turnovers again.

1. Buffalo Bills

The Bills were the second-best DST in DFS last season, averaging just less than 11 points per game in DraftKings.

They did so by allowing the fourth-fewest points and yards per game, as well as amassing the third-most turnovers (30).

The Bills get the New York Jets twice and a (potentially) Tom Brady-less New England Pats once. Added bonus: Buffalo also plays the Titans and Jaguars this season.

As noted with the Broncos, the best defense is a good offense, and while the Bills will likely not have a great one (who’s their quarterback again?), they will probably have a solid run game, which should help them shorten the time their opponents are on the field.

Trust a Rex Ryan-led defense.

All stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

2014 DraftKings fantasy points courtesy of RotoGuru.

Follow Aaron Brand on Twitter @AaronBrand47.


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Fantasy Football 2015: Mock Draft Strategy, Cheatsheet Info for Preseason Prep

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

As NFL teams begin to ramp up their preparations with the regular season on the horizon, draft season is beginning to heat up in the world of fantasy football. While the pros play exhibition games to get ready, fantasy owners can use mock drafts.

It’s always easy to pinpoint which participants are prepared for the draft and which ones are looking at a set of rankings for the first time on draft day. Going through the mock process is a crucial part of getting acclimated with this season’s outlook.

With that in mind, let’s check out some popular cheatsheet alternatives fantasy owners can utilize as part of their prep. That’s followed by some tips for how to maximize the effectiveness of mock drafts.

Cheatsheet Options

ESPN CBS Sports Fox Sports NFL.com
Yahoo Sports Fantasy Pros Scout FF Today

Strategy Tips for Mock Drafts

Vary Approach and Pick Location

Every fantasy owner possesses an ideal scenario for how the draft will play out. Whether it starts with going first overall to grab a running back or dropping lower in the order to grab a player from another position like Aaron Rodgers or Antonio Brown, everyone has “Plan A.”

Very rarely do things go smoothly, though. That’s why being flexible is vital to success. The more mock drafts you do, the more comfortable you become with any possible twists the draft may throw your way, and usually there’s a bunch.

Doing at least one mock from each draft position, and preferably more if possible, is going to provide invaluable experience. Not so much for the first round, but more in terms of what type of players are available once the draft circles back around in Round 2 and beyond.

Also, make sure to change your approach to see how to potentially increase the value of certain picks. The results of a mock don’t mean anything, just like the NFL preseason, so it’s a testing ground; whatever doesn’t work can get tossed out. But don’t leave any stones unturned.

Take Note of Important Trends

When doing a mock draft, don’t simply pay attention to what players you take. That only paints an extremely limited picture of how the draft played out. Since most people target the same group of players in each draft, it can cause them to miss key information.

Being able to get a feel for when certain things are going to happen is a major advantage. A couple of key points in every draft this year will be when quarterbacks start flying off the board and when the tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, who will go early, begin to be taken.

Of course, the edge comes into play because at the real draft fantasy owners can then beat the rush and start the run rather than get caught at the back end of it. Des Bieler of the Washington Post noted one trend he’s seen play out in the outlet’s 10-team mock draft.

“Selecting a wide receiver early is a perfectly reasonable draft strategy, but it does appear that there’s something of a bottomless well at this position,” Bieler wrote. “Here’s a short list of guys who weren’t even drafted (in no particular order): Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Doug Baldwin and Brian Quick.”

If you feel comfortable with the wideouts still available in the latter rounds, you can then load up at other positions in the early going. Discovering those types of details and how they match your draft strategy shouldn’t be overlooked.

Stay For Entire Draft

One curious decision that occurs in nearly every mock draft is people leaving the room after the first round. There’s really not much to learn at that stage because everything is pretty straightforward, so it makes little sense to only stay that long, as Matthew Berry of ESPN noted.

“Oh, and if you join a mock draft, don’t leave until it’s over. The people that join a mock draft and then leave early are among the worst people in fantasy football,” Berry wrote. “If you don’t have time, don’t do it. But if you join, stick it out.”

You’ll probably never land in a mock draft where all 10 or 12 participants stay for the entire mock. That said, the more that stay, the more realistic the results become compared to when it’s mostly autodrafted in the second half of the draft.

Staying for the entire draft is particularly essential when it comes to sleepers. In the Internet era, most fantasy owners are reading the same information, so the hype train can really take off for certain players who you may think are flying under the radar.

Getting a feel for when those players come off the board can help decide whether they still represent good value or if you should search for other late picks. After all, while the foundation for a championship is set in the early rounds, hitting on some sleepers usually puts a team over the top.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

Fantasy Football 2015: Players Who Get the Biggest Boost in PPR Leagues

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

There are purists who believe that playing in points-per-reception leagues rewards a player for the simple act of catching the football regardless of the yardage.

Then, there are people like me who believe that fantasy football should be a lot of fun and more points means more fun.

I’m not here to have that argument. Instead, I’ll focus on the players who get a significant boost from the PPR format, as I’ll demonstrate with a look at roles and a comparison of average draft positions between PPR leagues and non-PPR leagues.

With so many teams using a version of the West Coast offense, getting the ball out quick and accurately is a necessity, which is why we’ve seen a rise in pass-catching specialists out of the backfield, like Danny Woodhead in San Diego, and a bigger need for sure-handed slot receivers, like Eddie Royal in Chicago. As a result, more players have fantasy value, especially in PPR formats.

Before we begin, I’ll note that players who are likely to be drafted in the first four rounds regardless of the format won’t be included in this list because the PPR boost doesn’t significantly change their value. Instead, the focus will be on players you’d be more willing to draft because of their increased role in the passing game.

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Cam Newton, Devin Funchess’ Fantasy Outlook After Kelvin Benjamins ACL Injury

Fantasy Football
August 19, 2015

The Carolina Panthers’ worst fears have been realized. After going down with a non-contact knee injury at Wednesday morning’s practice, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has been diagnosed with a torn ACL, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Benjamin confirmed that he would miss the season via a Facebook post late Wednesday afternoon.

Not only does the diagnosis deal a major blow to Carolina’s depth on the outside, but it undeniably hurts quarterback Cam Newton’s fantasy stock.

For a team that was already thin at receiver, the Panthers are now left without a big, physical weapon on the outside who could torment defenses, as NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling observed:

Sans Benjamin, Newton will have few viable downfield threats to work with.

Last season, the former Florida State stud accounted for eight of the team’s 14 receptions of at least 20 yards downfield, per ESPN Stats & Info. Benjamin was also Newton’s go-to threat in the red zone, where he could be relied on to outjump opposing corners and haul in back-shoulder throws and post-up fades.

Now Newton will have rookie receiver Devin Funchess, tight end Greg Olsen and the platoon of Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. to work with in a wideout rotation.

And as RotoExperts’ Jennifer Millman pointed out, Funchess is the guy primed for a stock surge with Benjamin sidelined:

The 2015 first-round pick certainly looks the part of a primary weapon at 6’5″ and 230 pounds, but he’ll need to display steady hands and a consistent ability to separate from coverage downfield.

Since Funchess is by far the most physically imposing wideout the Panthers have left, he should shoot up draft boards before the regular season gets underway. At present, he’s being drafted as the 68th receiver off the board, per FantasyPros.com.

That number should at the very least shoot into the mid-to-high 30s, where players such as Torrey Smith, Brandon LaFell and Larry Fitzgerald are being selected.

As for Newton, he’s currently being drafted ninth overall among quarterbacks, per FantasyPros. Without Benjamin, that’s a bit rich.

Although rushing numbers will provide solace for owners who draft Newton, his passing numbers could be pretty volatile on a week-to-week basis. With quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill and Philip Rivers, who have more polished receiving corps, being drafted behind Newton, his stock should tumble in the coming weeks as owners look to dodge uncertainty under center.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

Daily Fantasy Football 2015: Predicting Top 10 DraftKings TE Projections

Fantasy Football
August 19, 2015

Injuries, suspensions and new locations are the biggest factors for predicting the top 10 DraftKings tight end projections. Greg Olsen ($5,300), Jimmy Graham ($5,600) and Rob Gronkowski (n/a) headline a top-heavy list of reliable daily fantasy contributors at tight end in 2015.

Tight end as a whole can be a frustratingly inconsistent position to predict since most players’ values depend strongly on scoring touchdowns. This reality is reflected in DraftKings’ player prices in which the top Week 1 tight end—Graham—sits thousands of dollars below the top prospects at the other big four positions: quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($8,600), running back Jamaal Charles ($7,900) and wide receiver Julio Jones ($9,300).

The following list outlines what to expect from the top 10 daily fantasy tight ends over the course of the 2015 season.

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