Perhaps there’s value in examining patterns with home/road splits (and the further impact of Vegas favorites/underdogs) that can help us uncover value or contrarian situations to target in the future.
Baseline Trend and Floor Projections
Our signature metric at FantasyLabs is Plus/Minus, which shows how players perform in the context of their salary-based expectations, and we’ve spent a lot of time working on our ceiling/floor projections for NFL based on similarity scores. I described those projections in detail back in Part 2.
For the purpose of this study, I filtered the sample to wide receivers with a floor projection of 5.0 DraftKings points or higher. Those players have traditionally performed above expectations:
What happens if we break things down by home/away splits and favorites/underdogs according to Vegas?
Wide receivers provided the most value as home favorites, but what stands out right away is the lack of consistency from the position as a whole — especially in comparison to quarterbacks and running backs.
Intuitively, wide receiver may be a position to chase lower ownership in tournaments and embrace variance. Let’s see if we can find an edge by diving deeper into splits and situations from 2016.
When the season starts, be sure to keep an eye on our NFL Matchups Dashboard as well as our NFL News feed to see which wide receivers are in favorable situations to see targets. Let’s start with those given a floor projection of five or more DraftKings points but also five or more games played last season:
Unsurprisingly, alpha dogs Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones have been some of the most consistent fantasy options at home and the highest-owned. You’re paying a high price for targets, but volume security at the wide receiver position is appealing.
The next tier, ownership-wise, is Doug Baldwin and Michael Thomas. The latter was extremely consistent overall, but Baldwin had especially drastic splits in 2016, falling to a -1.93 Plus/Minus on the road with a 22.2 percent Consistency Rating at similar ownership levels.
Sterling Shepard and Donte Moncrief were very consistent at home, but their value was quite reliant on red zone involvement and touchdowns. Shepard’s 19.7 percent target share inside the 20 was dwarfed by the aforementioned Beckham (34.4, highest in the NFL), but the rookie saw just three fewer targets inside the 10. In just nine games played, Moncrief had only three fewer red zone targets than T.Y. Hilton, and he led the Colts with six touchdowns on six targets inside the 10-yard line.
Let’s take this one step further. Here are the trends for those same wide receivers, but this time as a Vegas favorite or underdog:
Small samples are a huge problem in NFL, but in regards to game theory, we can still find some potential takeaways.
- Rishard Matthews was a very strong wide receiver play as a home favorite; he exemplified the trifecta of value, consistency, and low ownership.
- Brandin Cooks was popular in the Coors Field of NFL DFS, but more value came in a small sample of rostering the speedster as an underdog at lower ownership.
When can we roster wide receivers on the road?
Unlike quarterbacks and running backs, it may not make sense to look down upon wide receivers on the road. Their consistency is very comparable, and a few options definitely stand out from last year:
The ownership is more spread out on the road, so that could be the edge at a less consistent position like wide receiver.
Terrelle Pryor was far better on the road than at home — basically the inverse of Baldwin. Be on the lookout for these players.
It’s interesting to see more possession-type receivers show consistency on the road at a high rate. For example, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, and Julian Edelman were very consistent, but guys like Beckham and Brown performed much better at home.
Finally, here’s the road wide receivers separated as favorites and underdogs:
With sample sizes getting thin, here are some actionable takeaways:
- The aforementioned Crowder was much more valuable and consistent as an underdog. Perhaps game script means a lot for players who make their living in the slot catching short passes.
- The same could be said for Garcon, Cole Beasley, and Stefon Diggs.
- Dez Bryant provided an edge at low ownership as a road underdog last year. It’s possible efficient players with big upside like Bryant should be targeted in suboptimal situations for the ownership discount opposed to when they are chalky.
- Jordy Nelson was a huge red zone threat, so it makes sense to target these players from elite offenses in games they are favored on the road, but it’s still not very contrarian.
- Julio has had a massive salary to pay off, even on the road, and it’s not easy to be consistent even though raw points matter. Elite wide receivers as road favorites could be worthy of a fade at high ownership.
Wide receivers at home and favored by Vegas historically provided the most value, but there was no real consistency edge. It’s possible at a position with more variance it makes sense to chase upside and low ownership in tournaments.
Alpha dogs like Beckham, Brown, and Jones have been some of the most consistent fantasy options at home — but they have lacked that same consistency on the road without a significant ownership discount.
It makes sense to roster boom-or-bust wide receivers like Cooks and Bryant at low ownership; their consistency doesn’t always match their ownership. That should be the best way to take advantage of their ceiling.
Ownership is more spread out on the road, which could be an edge in tournaments due to the position’s lack of consistency.