This preseason has not been great for the wide receiver position. In fact, it’s been a blood bath. With Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin definitely out for the season and several others banged up, I thought now would be a good time to see what happened in 2014 when a team was missing an elite WR. I was originally going to look at both rushing and passing attacks, but in the interest of keeping this article’s length manageable, I’m going to focus solely on QBs and receivers in this article. I may revisit how running backs were affected in a future article.

I chose three specific receivers because these were the elite WRs who missed or were limited in multiple games last year. Beckham was excluded because the games he missed were prior to his breakout and Brandon Marshall was excluded because Cutler also got hurt at the end of the season and skewed the results for the Bears.

Starting with Detroit, Calvin Johnson missed games six, seven, and eight for the Lions last season. One of the most interesting things I observed in this study is how differently FanDuel and DraftKings appear to handle pricing a team when a key component is missing. The sample size is small and there are other things going on, but still, a correlation seems evident.

Take a look at what happens to Matthew Stafford’s pricing on FanDuel and DraftKings once Johnson is out (missed games vs MIN, NO, ATL). The first week Calvin is out, Stafford’s price drops $600 ($50,000 cap) on DraftKings and $200 ($60,000 cap) on FanDuel. From there, his price on FanDuel hovers around the same area while Stafford’s price on DraftKings plummets.


WR Trends



WR Trends


Stafford wasn’t winning people GPPs while Calvin was out, but he fared decently against the Saints and Falcons. Both of those teams were bottom-five pass defenses on the year, so his passing numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. That’s what’s even more interesting about how the two sites priced Stafford during this time. Even with a great matchup on tap, DraftKings dropped Stafford by an enormous $1200.

The sites also disagreed on how Golden Tate should be priced. If you remember back to last October, there was actually more to the story than Calvin being inactive for three games. There was also that annoying couple games of “Calvin Johnson as a decoy” that the Lions tried before he actually started sitting games out. Golden Tate picked up the slack in a big way in the Calvin Decoy Game, totaling 134 yards and a touchdown.

The big game coupled with Johnson’s anticipated absence sent his DraftKings price through the roof, increasing by $1400 before the game against the Vikings. Meanwhile, his price on FanDuel increased by $100. While Johnson was out, Tate posted WR1 numbers:

WR Trends


The next example is A.J. Green, who missed Weeks 6, 7, and 8 last season. This one is a little different than the previous example because Green was questionable all week leading up to the Bengals’ matchup with Carolina and was not declared inactive until Sunday. Andy Dalton’s DK price dropped by $300 following a Week 5 matchup with New England in which he just about hit his expected point total on the nose (17.76) in a game that A.J. played. His price on FanDuel remained the same the following week.

Dalton actually performed pretty well in two of the three games without Green, scoring 22 and 24 DK points vs. Carolina and Baltimore. In between those games, he had a bad – REALLY BAD – game against the Colts (a game that the Bengals lost 27-0).

Mohamed Sanu had already picked up the slack for the Bengals while Marvin Jones was out due to injury and was having a great start to the season. Actually, that’s a huge understatement. According to Fantasy Labs Plus/Minus, he was the fifth-most valuable WR on DraftKings among players who played the first six weeks.

WR Trends


His strong play coupled with Green’s injury sent Sanu’s price skyrocketing by $2300 in two weeks. His price on FanDuel remained the same during Green’s first game missed, then increased by $1200 just in time for the clunker against the Colts. As you can see by Sanu’s game log, DraftKings had absolutely no idea how to price Sanu from there, but nonetheless, he was a very strong play in games that A.J. Green missed.

WR Trends


Finally, T.Y. Hilton missed Week 16 (@DAL) for the Colts and was limited in Week 17 (@TEN), playing only the first half and finishing with zero receptions. Without his top option, Andrew Luck failed to come anywhere near reaching value, despite being priced at his lowest DK salary since Week 5. Since the Colts lacked a true second option who would be the beneficiary of Hilton’s absence, neither site dramatically increased the Colts’ WR prices while Hilton was out. It turned out to be the right call, as only Hakeem Nicks posted usable numbers in these games.

Despite the very small sample sizes, each of these quarterbacks had at least one game in which he failed to reach even 65% of his expected points in games his top receiving option missed. Looking at the WR2 from each team, Sanu and Tate clearly benefitted while the WR1 was out due to injury. The DFS site prices adjusted at different rates, making these players basically must-plays on FanDuel and strong plays on DraftKings.