Daily Fantasy Football Range-of-Outcome Projections: Week 15

Fantasy football is a volatile game.

Sometimes, a shoelace tackle is the difference between a 10-yard catch and a 70-yard touchdown, and sometimes goal-line carries go to backup players.

It happens. A lot.

And, don't get me wrong -- median projections are quite valuable and capture the most-likely scenario. Setting your lineups based on 90th-percentile projections isn't the right way to handle things for a head-to-head lineup, but if you want to figure out which players can bust a slate open, then you'll have to embrace some risk.

That's why I've started simulating NFL weeks and seeing what happens when the slate is played out 1,000 times. Here are some things that popped at each position this week, based on my simulations, which factor in numberFire's projections and my own tweaks.

Table Terms

FanDuel Salary: A player's main slate salary on FanDuel.
Median FDP: A player's median FanDuel projection across the 1,000 slate simulations.
Value: Projected median FanDuel points per $1,000 in salary. All quarterbacks generally have a 2.00 FanDuel-point-per-$1,000 rate at the low end, which implies 2-times value, or 2x value. On a full slate of 13 games, roughly 13 running backs tend to have a 2x value projection. On a full slate of 13 games, a small handful of receivers may get to a 2x median projection, and just more than 30 will be at 1.5x. On a full slate of 13 games, few tight ends will get to a 2x median value, and anything above 1.5x is generally a top-six projection. It's important to understand the different value expectations across positions.
25th Pct: The player's 25th-percentile FanDuel point projection, meant to show a low-end (or floor) outcome. Every player's true floor is zero.
75th Pct: The player's 75th-percentile FanDuel point projection, meant to show a somewhat attainable/projectable high-end (or ceiling) outcome without simply looking at true outlier performances.
FDP%: The frequency with which a player surpassed a certain raw projection threshold, meant to show a raw ceiling outcome. This doesn't adjust for salary and is a different value for each position.
Boom/Bust Ratio: The frequency with which a player had a "boom" game compared to a "bust" game based on historical, position-based value outcomes. For quarterbacks, this measures games with 2.75x value versus games with worse than 2x value. For running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, it's 2x versus less than 1.5x. Think of it as a simple floor-versus-ceiling rating. Higher is better, and they should be compared only within the same position.


Simulation Results

Player FanDuel
Value 25th
Lamar Jackson $8,200 23.02.8017.428.038.3%1.94
Patrick Mahomes $8,900 22.32.5016.827.537.0%1.00
Kyler Murray $8,000 22.02.7516.127.436.8%1.74
Deshaun Watson $8,100 20.72.5515.626.029.1%1.19
Russell Wilson $8,400 19.72.3414.825.024.7%0.71
Jared Goff $7,800 19.22.4713.724.523.4%0.94
Tom Brady $7,900 19.02.4113.824.624.0%0.87
Ryan Tannehill $7,700 18.52.4013.324.322.9%0.81
Taysom Hill $7,500 17.92.3912.622.917.1%0.74
Cam Newton $7,300 17.52.4012.122.815.0%0.82
Jalen Hurts $6,900 17.02.4611.822.816.1%0.99
Philip Rivers $7,100 17.02.3912.122.417.0%0.90
Tua Tagovailoa $6,800 16.92.4911.722.215.5%1.02
Mitchell Trubisky $7,000 16.92.4111.422.014.1%0.82
Kirk Cousins $7,200 16.72.3111.722.316.1%0.69
Nick Mullens $6,800 15.52.2811.220.711.2%0.66
Matt Ryan $7,400
Andy Dalton $6,700
Gardner Minshew $6,600
Alex Smith $6,500


We've got numerous quarterbacks with paths to big ceilings this week, and four in particular came out with 50th-percentile projections of at least 20.0 FanDuel points.

A little surprisingly (because of a massive point spread), Lamar Jackson sits at the top there, followed by Patrick Mahomes in a tough on-paper matchup, Kyler Murray, and Deshaun Watson. It's also Jackson, Murray, and Watson ranking top-three in boom/bust ratio with Tua Tagovailoa sneaking in at fourth over Mahomes. If I'm bumping below $7,000 for a quarterback, though, I'm looking to Jalen Hurts, fresh off an 18-carry, 106-yard performance.

Anyway, despite that, Mahomes is probably my pick for a single-entry tournament, given his matchup with the New Orleans Saints. In six games against top-12 adjusted pass defenses (New Orleans is 4th, per numberFire's metrics), Mahomes is averaging 24.4 FanDuel points per game with 332.3 yards and 2.2 touchdowns. He's been matchup-proof, and we could get lower popularity rates on him as a result of the opponent.

Running Back

Simulation Results

Player FanDuel
Value 25th
Derrick Henry $10,200 23.32.2916.630.764.9%3.10
Dalvin Cook $9,400 20.92.2213.928.152.9%2.22
Alvin Kamara $7,800 15.82.0310.621.631.8%1.70
James Robinson $7,000
Jonathan Taylor $7,400 14.71.989.220.125.4%1.53
Cam Akers $6,700
Leonard Fournette $5,500 13.82.518.419.422.0%2.53
Kenyan Drake $6,600
Ezekiel Elliott $7,000 13.21.888.118.318.6%1.27
Miles Sanders $6,800 13.11.937.518.517.7%1.34
Chris Carson $7,600 13.11.728.218.920.1%1.00
Raheem Mostert $6,900 13.01.897.718.518.9%1.29
D'Andre Swift $6,700 12.91.927.618.218.8%1.35
Clyde Edwards-Helaire $6,400 12.61.977.117.417.2%1.41
David Montgomery $7,300 12.11.667.317.315.7%0.86
J.K. Dobbins $5,900 11.71.986.416.412.0%1.35
J.D. McKissic $5,800 11.11.916.215.910.2%1.26
Nyheim Hines $6,200 10.51.696.014.97.2%0.93
Todd Gurley $6,100 9.81.615.414.25.9%0.75
David Johnson $5,900 9.61.625.613.43.8%0.78
La'Mical Perine $5,000 9.21.835.013.64.1%1.18
Jeff Wilson $5,800 8.61.494.412.42.4%0.59
Chase Edmonds $5,300 8.31.564.612.32.7%0.73
Salvon Ahmed $5,100 7.81.533.711.51.6%0.68
Peyton Barber $5,000 7.41.484.211.20.9%0.64
Latavius Murray $5,300 7.01.323.510.20.2%0.39
James White $5,200 6.81.323.410.20.3%0.41
Gus Edwards $5,500
Sony Michel $5,000
Tony Pollard $4,700 6.21.323.19.10.1%0.42
Duke Johnson $5,700
Cordarrelle Patterson $5,200
DeAndre Washington $5,400
Ito Smith $4,800
Le'Veon Bell $5,200
Carlos Hyde $5,600 5.10.912.37.60.0%0.07


It's hard to model running backs projected for 23.3 FanDuel points as a median outcome. There's a lot of room to underperform that if we bake in injury risk, but that's where Derrick Henry is this week, and we have enough historical data to know what happens when a running back is projected in that range. He's roughly three times more likely to have a boom game than a bust game, based on hitting value thresholds foregrounded in the intro. The Detroit Lions are 30th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs.

Next in line from the floor/ceiling perspective is actually now Leonard Fournette, given news that Ronald Jones (on the reserve/COVID-19 list and dealing with a finger injury) may not play. In that event, Fournette -- a healthy scratch a week ago -- would start, per head coach Bruce Arians.

Dalvin Cook, James Robinson (in a dreadful matchup as an 11.5-point underdog), and Cam Akers round out the top five in floor/ceiling rating. Cook rates as an elite pivot away from Henry in tournaments (occasionally, not in every lineup).

Akers is a building block this week at his salary. Overall, the arbitrary mid-range running backs have a lot of viability this week, as Jim Sannes and I discussed on this week's Heat Check podcast that previews the main slate.

Wide Receiver

Simulation Results

Player FanDuel
Value 25th
Tyreek Hill $9,300 16.31.7610.622.835.4%1.05
DeAndre Hopkins $8,600 15.21.7710.020.527.1%1.07
Calvin Ridley $8,400 14.11.687.520.426.6%0.85
A.J. Brown $8,300 13.31.618.218.219.2%0.73
Brandon Aiyuk $6,900 13.21.917.118.619.9%1.17
Allen Robinson $7,300 13.11.808.319.021.1%1.17
Robert Woods $7,400 13.11.768.018.219.0%1.05
Michael Thomas $7,000 12.91.857.718.318.7%1.19
Brandin Cooks $6,600 12.81.947.718.418.1%1.39
D.K. Metcalf $8,200 12.71.556.319.222.4%0.71
Justin Jefferson $7,600 12.61.666.018.922.4%0.87
Cooper Kupp $7,100 12.61.776.517.415.4%0.99
Terry McLaurin $6,900 12.21.786.517.716.7%1.02
Adam Thielen $7,500 12.11.615.518.619.9%0.84
Chris Godwin $7,200 11.31.576.017.115.0%0.77
Amari Cooper $6,700 11.31.695.817.014.7%0.93
Tyler Lockett $7,400 10.81.465.815.610.8%0.58
Corey Davis $6,800 10.71.585.116.011.1%0.76
DeVante Parker $6,300 10.71.695.415.811.7%0.94
Mike Evans $7,100 10.61.505.415.810.7%0.62
T.Y. Hilton $6,800 10.51.545.115.811.4%0.70
Keke Coutee $5,900 10.41.775.615.69.4%1.00
Antonio Brown $6,500 10.01.544.314.78.8%0.69
CeeDee Lamb $5,800 9.71.674.714.08.5%0.87
Marquise Brown $6,000 9.71.613.916.414.1%0.89
Marvin Jones $6,100 9.41.543.615.812.4%0.82
Michael Pittman Jr. $5,500 9.31.704.714.37.3%0.94
Jakobi Meyers $5,600 9.11.634.314.07.3%0.81
D.J. Chark $5,800 9.01.553.214.510.9%0.75
Denzel Mims $5,500 8.41.523.013.56.5%0.75
Damiere Byrd $5,400 8.11.513.312.23.8%0.66
Willie Snead $5,400 7.71.433.112.12.9%0.60
Christian Kirk $5,300 7.61.442.513.36.4%0.69
Russell Gage $5,700 7.61.333.411.72.5%0.47
Kendrick Bourne $4,800 7.41.553.112.12.7%0.75
Michael Gallup $5,200 7.41.421.612.55.9%0.67
Jamison Crowder $6,400
Breshad Perriman $5,700
Danny Amendola $5,300 7.11.332.811.72.2%0.55
Larry Fitzgerald $4,900 7.01.433.110.91.4%0.63
Chad Hansen $5,600
Anthony Miller $4,900 7.01.422.711.42.0%0.63
Darnell Mooney $5,300
Jalen Reagor $5,500
N'Keal Harry $5,300
Keelan Cole $5,400
Laviska Shenault $5,200
Josh Reynolds $5,300
Richie James $4,700 6.61.402.611.01.4%0.63
Sammy Watkins $5,600
Kenny Golladay $6,500 6.30.972.010.31.6%0.19
Julio Jones $7,500 6.20.832.310.10.3%0.07
Greg Ward $4,800
Jakeem Grant $4,800
Emmanuel Sanders $5,500
Zach Pascal $4,600
Collin Johnson $5,200
Mecole Hardman $5,400 5.00.931.58.40.3%0.17


Two things jump out at receiver this week. First, there are some big names but not that many big salaries. Second, the $6,000 range is quite barren (and if you remove Brandon Aiyuk and Terry McLaurin at the very top of that range [$6,900], there may be just one receiver I'd want to roster [Brandin Cooks at $6,600]).

So a lot of the top median projections are just nestled in the $7,000 range, but the top boom/bust ratings come from Cooks, Michael Thomas, Aiyuk, Allen Robinson, and DeAndre Hopkins.

The top-tier 20-plus FanDuel point odds below $6,000 come from Marquise Brown and D.J. Chark, but it's Keke Coutee and Michael Pittman Jr. with the best boom/bust ratings below that salary cutoff.

Tight End

Simulation Results

Player FanDuel
Value 25th
Travis Kelce $8,500 14.61.7210.119.046.1%0.88
Mark Andrews $6,800 12.21.807.516.232.6%1.05
T.J. Hockenson $6,200 8.71.414.212.915.3%0.50
Dallas Goedert $5,900 8.31.424.112.613.9%0.56
Rob Gronkowski $6,300 8.21.304.012.011.9%0.37
Zach Ertz $5,300 7.41.404.011.29.2%0.54
Logan Thomas $5,600 7.41.333.411.410.1%0.46
Jonnu Smith $5,300 7.11.343.310.57.0%0.44
Jordan Reed $5,100 6.81.343.210.57.6%0.47
Irv Smith Jr. $5,400
Hayden Hurst $5,500
Gerald Everett $5,000
Tyler Higbee $5,700
Dalton Schultz $5,200
Cole Kmet $5,100
Jordan Akins $5,000
Anthony Firkser $4,600
Trey Burton $5,400 5.20.962.58.31.6%0.14
Tyler Eifert $4,600
Jared Cook $5,600 5.10.922.27.91.2%0.11
Durham Smythe $4,700 4.70.991.97.20.5%0.15
Jimmy Graham $5,500 4.50.832.07.10.6%0.07
Jacob Hollister $4,700 4.30.921.86.90.3%0.12
Adam Shaheen $4,800 4.20.871.86.30.0%0.06
Mo Alie-Cox $4,500 4.10.901.76.30.4%0.09
Dan Arnold $5,200 4.00.761.56.30.1%0.05


There are two big dogs on the slate at tight end with Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews both projected for at least 12.2 FanDuel points as a median outcome. The salary gap is quite massive, though, with Kelce at $8,500 and Andrews at $6,800. The algorithm views Andrews as the better floor/ceiling play when considering salary.

Behind them, things get gross in a hurry. Andrews' boom/bust ratio is 1.05, and Kelce's is 0.88. Next up is Dallas Goedert at 0.56. There is a ton of bust potential at every turn, basically, with tight end this week.

Of the lower-salaried options, my preference is some combination of Logan Thomas, who leads the position in route rate over the past five weeks, Cole Kmet, who has 14 targets over the past two games, and Irv Smith Jr., who should be freed up without Kyle Rudolph again (Rudolph missed Thursday's practice).