This is the 162nd installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.
You might’ve noticed that recently we’ve introduced the FantasyLabs Player Props Tool. I don’t want to exaggerate, but it’s the San Diego of Labs Tools: It’s the greatest Labs Tool in the world. We’re going to release some content in support of the Props Tool, as there is a variety of ways in which DFS players can use the tool to enhance their sports investments.
In this piece I want to touch upon one of the great features of this tool and of player props in general: You have a means to invest against the players you want to fade.
White Swans Revisited
One of my favorite Labs pieces is on strong inference. Here’s the basic idea of that piece: While most DFS participants focus on finding the players they want to roster, it’s just as important (if not more important) to focus on identifying the players to fade. Players can be fadable — and “fadable” is (or should) be a word — for a number of reasons:
- They have tough matchups.
- They are projected to have unreasonably high ownership.
- They have low ratings in our Pro Models.
- They have negative matches in our Trends Tool.
- They are too expensive and thus likely to have negative Plus/Minus values.
There are a lot of legitimate reasons for fading players — or not investing in players — and in the long run a negative approach that focuses on eliminating players from consideration can be rewarding.
But that approach isn’t fun. If you avoid the landmine that it is an overowned or overpriced player, you don’t get a lot of excitement from it. You just manage not to get blown up. Surviving is its own reward, avoiding the loss of money is Warren Buffett’s No. 1 DFS rule, and maneuvering around trap players can lead to big wins in guaranteed prize pools — but all of this is more akin to dodging bullets than to shooting bullseyes.
By the way, I’m still not sure if I should spell that as “bullseyes,” “bulls-eyes,” “bull’s-eyes,” or “bulls’-eyes.” It probably doesn’t matter.
Big picture: If you play DFS, it’s important to know which players not to play so you don’t lose money and maybe so you can win money based on the mistakes of others DFS players, but that’s about it. When people talk about ‘buying’ or ‘selling’ players in a DFS context, they’re speaking loosely. They can buy players by rostering them, but they can’t actually sell or short them. DFS isn’t that kind of market. They can only buy or not buy. But DFS participants can’t sell players. To do that, they need to enter a different market.
Selling the White Swans
One great way our Props Tool offers value is by highlighting the potential DFS fades who are also mispriced (read: overvalued) in the props market. Now, instead of just avoiding (not investing in) players on DraftKings or FanDuel, sports investors can actively sell (invest against) players by quickly consulting our Props Tool.
As I write this sentence, it’s about 9:45 AM ET on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. It’s Week 11 of the NFL season. The Chargers are on the road against the Jaguars, who easily have the best defense in the NFL. They are holding opponents to a league-low 14.63 points per game. The Jags have a league-best +5.47 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. Defensive ends Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr., and Yannick Ngakoue have combined for 23 sacks, weakside linebacker Telvin Smith is Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 run defender at his position, and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are both top-10 PFF cover men.
The Jags defense is legit, and it’s particularly strong against the pass, ranking first in that phase of the game in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. The Jags have held opposing quarterbacks to just four touchdown passes on the season. That’s 0.5 touchdowns allowed per game. That’s unbelievable.
So let’s say that, as a DFS player, you want to fade Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. That’s probably not a dumb move, especially since so much of the Chargers offense goes through running back Melvin Gordon and the Jags are more susceptible to the run than the pass.
Most DFS players will leave it at that. They’ll ‘sell’ Rivers by not investing in him. Labs subscribers, however, can go to our Props Tool and quickly see if there’s the opportunity to invest against Rivers in the prop markets. Right now our Props Tool identifies value on both the touchdown and yardage props. At one sportsbook, Rivers has over/unders of 1.5 touchdowns and 135.5 yards with -130 and -115 on the unders. We have Rivers projected for 1.2 touchdowns and 220.5 yards, and so our Props Tool has assigned the unders on these props a “Bet Quality” of eight and seven (on a 1-10 scale).
If you think that Rivers is going to get destroyed today by the Jags defense, it’s smart not to put DFS money on him. It’s probably even smarter to put some prop money against him. If you’re looking to make money by investing in players you like, you might as well look to make a little more money by investing against players you dislike.
Bull’s-Eye-ing the Future
Did you see what I did there? — anyway, with an eye to the future be sure to look for more pieces on our Props Tool and ways that DFS players can use it to enhance their sports investing avenues and to leverage the knowledge they already possess.
Be sure to check out the Props Tool and the rest of the Labs Tools for yourself. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with how quickly our site adds value to your DFS process.
The Labyrinthian: 2017.67, 162
Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian. Previous installments of the series can be accessed via the series archive.