Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor for the Pro Bowl
The stakes don't get any higher.
Two teams enter, searching for glory. One will emerge victorious, etching its name into the history books. The other will see its season end in misery, left hoping they're back in the same spot next year to avenge the defeat.
Gird your loins, ladies and gents. It's Pro Bowl week. The intensity is about to get kicked up a notch.
For those of you resistant to the charms of a low-contact, low-effort exhibition, you've at least still got daily fantasy to keep you occupied. FanDuel has single-game slates available where you pick five players of any position to fill out a roster, one of which is your MVP, who gets a 1.5x multiplier on their point total. If you played single-game during the regular season, you've likely got a handle on that, but a high-profile event such as the Pro Bowl should bring new faces to the format.
The big difference between the regular season and the Pro Bowl is the value of different positions. Whereas it's generally hard to lay off of quarterbacks in the regular season because of their high-floor scoring distributions, the Pro Bowl features multiple passers per team. You're not getting that ever-so-valuable safety anywhere.
Because of this, the Pro Bowl is a different beast, and the only way to prepare for it from a DFS perspective is to look back at past Pro Bowls to see how the format has altered the scoring distribution. Let's take a look at that now so that we can formulate a strategy for our rosters overall and that MVP slot heading into Sunday's monster game.
Pass-Catchers Over Everything
During the regular season, pass-catchers are the devil of DFS. They don't touch the ball as often as quarterbacks and running backs, making their output harder to predict.
During the Pro Bowl, they're the princes who were promised.
Because nobody is safe in a format like this where the playing time will be hard to predict, we're just hunting for upside. We want to find players who have the ability to have a big game, single-handedly pushing us toward what should be a fairly low cash line.
The table below shows how often players at each position have hit various FanDuel-point thresholds over the past six Pro Bowls. If you're looking for a player to get you double digits, your best bet is locking in those volatility overlords.
|Position||Scoring 10+ Points||Scoring 15+ Points||Scoring 20+ Points|
Initially, this may seem a bit weird, given how these positions operate during the regular season. It's a lot easier to understand once you look at the Pro Bowl rules.
For each offensive snap, teams are required to have at least one tight end and one running back on the field. If they go with one of each, that leaves them with three wide receivers, as well.
The result of this is a higher percentage of pass-catchers on the roster being on the field at a given time. While there are three active quarterbacks and running backs, you'll probably have just one out there at a time. But three of the four wide receivers on the roster will be playing, and one of the two tight ends will be, as well. It's just a numbers game; using players at the more heavily-utilized positions means you're increasing the snap count of your roster.
The other reason pass-catchers get a bump here -- at least relative to running backs -- is that teams don't run much during the game. No running back in our six-game sample had more than 11 rushing attempts, and nobody has had more than five attempts since 2016. If you want a running back to pay off, they'd better do so via the passing game.
The lack of rushing is true for quarterbacks, as well, which is pertinent when you see that Lamar Jackson is on the AFC roster. No quarterback has run more than two times in the past six Pro Bowls. Jackson could change that, but in general, a quarterback is going to need the touchdowns to break in his favor in order to post a respectable number.
This means that if we're picking just one position out of a hat, it should be either a wide receiver or a tight end. They are on the field more often, which boosts both their floor and their upside. We can consider quarterbacks and running backs, but we need to know that the odds they get minimal volume are substantial.
Positional Roster Distribution
We know now that pass-catchers hold a pretty serious advantage and that we should target them liberally. What does that mean as it pertains to picking the five best players for a roster?
To get a feel for this, we can look at each Pro Bowl individually to see which five players were the highest-scoring for the game. The salary cap is unlikely to be an issue, so we can just shoot straight up for the five highest-scoring players of the game.
Here's the breakdown of that for the past six Pro Bowls. As you can probably tell, the "First" column shows the position of the highest-scoring player in that game, and so on.
The 2018 Pro Bowl had only pass-catchers among the top-five scorers, and receivers and tight ends occupied four of five roster slots in 2014, 2016, and 2017. If you combine all six years together, wide receivers and tight ends were among the top five scorers far more often than any other position.
|Position||Optimal Five Slots|
Because of this, we should worry less about having too many pass-catchers and more about having too many guys at other positions.
It's especially important not to gloss over the importance of tight ends in this format. We've had multiple tight ends among the top five in scoring in five of the past six Pro Bowls with last year being the lone exception. Last year's Pro Bowl was an odd duck, too, with fullback Anthony Sherman blowing up and Jalen Ramsey catching a touchdown. If you're going to write off any year as a fluke, it should probably be that one, pushing us toward having multiple tight ends in most lineups.
One position we haven't yet discussed is kicker, and as you can see, it did pop up a couple times in the optimal five. It's a valuable position because we know who will be kicking for each team. There is one downside to consider, though.
When you use a kicker in your lineup, you're taking away one of your cracks at identifying a slate-breaking wide receiver or tight end. Considering you get only five of those swings per lineup, the opportunity cost of a kicker is pretty big, and with only one kicker hitting double-digit points (and scoring exactly 10, at that), you're limiting the true upside of your lineup. It's definitely not a terrible thing to roster a kicker if you expect one side to control the game, but you shouldn't feel as if you're forced into using a kicker here.
How to Handle the MVP
This ties into the previous table about which positions wind up scoring the most points. Because there's no salary difference between using a player in your MVP slot versus other positions, you're just looking for the game's highest-scoring player. Usually, that's going to be a tight end or a wide receiver.
Sherman last year was the only running back to be the highest-scoring player in his game over the past six Pro Bowls, and he was pretty clearly a unique case. The other five optimal MVPs were all pass-catchers.
Of the 13 players who have scored at least 15 points in the past six Pro Bowls, nine were pass-catchers, two were quarterbacks, and two were running backs. Again, no kickers made the cut, so you can safely ignore the position when selecting your MVP.
If you decide to use a position other than wide receiver or tight end in your MVP -- something that should be done sparingly -- quarterback seems to be your best bet. A quarterback was almost the top scorer in both 2015 and 2016, and Sherman is the only Pro Bowl running back to score more than 15.1 FanDuel points. Matthew Stafford was at 19.64 in 2015, and Russell Wilson scored 18.76 in 2016. Outside of last year's fluke, the quarterbacks have been better investments, making them our one pivot at MVP outside of wide receiver and tight end.
Players Who Fit This Mold
When you're looking for players who fit this mold, you're basically just looking at the Pro Bowl rosters at tight end and wide receiver.
The tight ends on the NFC side are Jared Cook and Austin Hooper. On the AFC side, it's Mark Andrews and Jack Doyle. Cook and Andrews seem to have the most giddy-up of the group, slotting them into our top slots among the tight ends. Hooper and Doyle deserve to be in your player pool, though, if you're multi-entering.
The NFC wide receivers are going to be catching balls from Wilson, Drew Brees, and Kirk Cousins, which is pretty appealing. That means we should have a close eye on Michael Thomas, Amari Cooper, Kenny Golladay, and Davante Adams. Golladay was playing alongside Jeff Driskel and David Blough the second half of the year, so upgrading to Wilson and Brees is enticing. We also know he can go up and get it with the best of them, so everybody in this group comes with upside.
On the AFC side, we've got Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry, Courtland Sutton, and DJ Chark. Both Sutton and Chark are coming from teams that started multiple quarterbacks during the regular season and weren't all that effective. The talent is there, though. Similar to Golladay, these two guys are getting improved situations in the Pro Bowl, and we should covet them because of that.
As far as the running backs go, Alvin Kamara seems to stand out most because of his ability to contribute in the passing game. However, everybody in this group seems to sit a tier below the pass-catchers. It would be wise of us to focus most of our energies on the receivers and tight ends while just filtering in other positions purely for differentiation.