DFS NFL Strategy: QB Selection for Cash Games

Posted on August 31, 2016

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NFL season is right around the corner, and that means Daily Fantasy Football is back. Saahil Sud, formerly Maxdalury, has created a strategy on how to approach selecting each position for your lineups, in both cash games and tournaments. Over the next few weeks, we will be going over these strategies in detail. Next up is Saahil’s strategy for how to pick quarterbacks for cash games.

Key Stats

There are several key stats that you must look at before selecting your quarterback for cash games. The first one is average yards per attempt. This stat gives you an idea of how good your quarterback is, how good his teammates are, and in general, will be one of the best stats to give you a feel on what the quarterback is capable of doing and how many fantasy points he’s going to put up. You want to look for a lot of yards per attempt, as this shows that the quarterback goes for the big play that will lead to a lot of fantasy points. Any quarterback that averages under 7.0 yards per attempt is usually a situation you want to avoid, while any quarterback with a higher average than 7.0 will provide many opportunities for big plays.

The next important stat is playcall distribution. You must look at how often a team throws the ball before selecting that team’s quarterback for your lineup. This will tell you the number of attempts you can expect from the quarterback each game. If you then multiply the number of attempts with the average yards per attempt, and that will give you a baseline yards projection.

Next statistic up is the opposing defense. Before you choose your QB, you have to look at how good of an opposing defense he is facing that week. Is it a defense that really tries to limit an offense’s pass attempts, but tends to allow more rushing yards? Do they have a weak secondary and let up a lot of passing yards? Of course, looking at this stat is not groundbreaking, but as Saahil says in this NFL cash game QB strategy video, you really need to pay attention to the opposing defense.

Strength of schedule is also important to look into, as it can give you some context to a quarterback’s stats, especially in the beginning of the season. If he’s performing poorly, is that because he’s gone up against some of the top defenses? Or on the other hand, are his stats inflated from playing against easy competition?

Salary is the next important stat to look at before selecting a QB. In cash games, generally the rule is you don’t want to pay up for high-priced QB’s. Obviously every slate is different, and so there are some cases in which you would pay for a high-priced QB, but in general you should be able to get a good value for a decent salary from a quarterback in a good matchup that may not be a top player at the position.

Vegas and Advanced Stats

To help narrow down your choices at quarterback, you really want to take a look at some key Vegas and advanced stats. Team projected points is the first thing you want to look into. A team’s projected points relates to the opponent and how good their defense is, so it helps predict the game flow between the two teams. It also gives you an idea of which team’s are projected to score the most points each week. The more points an offense is supposed to score, the better the quarterback is projected to perform.

Another significant stat is red zone attempts. The number of red zone attempts a team averages per game is the number of touches a team has inside the scoring area (inside the opposing team’s 2o-yard line). This is important to research as it will tell you if a team likes throwing the ball in the red zone (which is obviously beneficial to the quarterback), or if a team strongly prefers running the ball when inside the 20, which would not help the QB. You want to look at the tendencies of the offense to see what they are more likely to do in the red zone. You also want to look at what the opposing defense tends to do in the red zone. Do they stack the box every time the offense is inside the 5-yard line in order to stop the run, or is the defense more balanced? Do your research on this before selecting your quarterback.

Game flow is the next advanced stat that is important to choosing a quarterback for your daily fantasy lineups. If a team is a heavy favorite, they may not be passing the ball too often in the second half, which obviously would lower your fantasy expectations for your quarterback. The ideal scenario is a close game between two fast-paced offenses, so in the fourth quarter you could benefit from a shootout with both teams scoring multiple touchdowns in the last 10 minutes. This doesn’t happen a lot, but if you can take advantage of it when it does happen, it will give your team a big boost.

The last stat to look at is the weather. If a stadium is expecting high winds and a lot of precipitation, then that is clearly not a great situation for throwing the ball. Thus, you probably will want to avoid the quarterbacks in that game. High winds make it very tough to throw any deep passes, which takes away from a quarterback’s fantasy potential.

In Saahil’s NFL cash game QB strategy video, there is a visual showing the average QB fantasy points for DFS leagues based on the Vegas over/under line, and which team was favored by the point spread. This graph shows that for games with a lower over/under (around 40), you can expect a low amount of fantasy points from the quarterback. In games with over/under’s 39 or lower, it is fair to expect a total of around 26 fantasy points between both quarterbacks. At the other end of the spectrum, if you have a game with an over/under above 50, you can expect about 50% more production out of the quarterback position. In games with higher over/unders, the quarterbacks average around 38 combined fantasy points. The other thing to look at is the quarterback on the team that is favored will likely do slightly better than the quarterback on the underdog’s team. Teams that are close favorites are likely to give you the most fantasy points.

Plus/minus for big spread games is another factor we must look into before choosing a QB. If a team is a 10-point or higher favorite, the QB may not be a great pick, despite high team projected points, because of the game flow. If a team is up 14 points in the fourth quarter, they aren’t going to throw the ball very much. So losing those crunch time, fourth quarter points is pretty much going to account for the bulk of the difference. For the QB of an underdog, the difference is less significant, but still you want to avoid teams that aren’t expected to score a lot of points, though the QB on an underdog is likely to be throwing the ball for most (if not all) of the fourth quarter. But in this situation, it’s likely a very tough matchup if they are underdogs by 10 or more points.

Other Factors

Looking into home/away splits for NFL teams, it comes as no surprise that teams tend to do better at home than on the road. Teams score an average of 1.65 passing TDs at home, while the average of passing TDs on the road is 1.50. That’s going to account for .60 more fantasy points on both FanDuel and DraftKings, which can be the difference between a good and bad pick. Quarterback’s also have a higher QB rating at home than on the road. From 2013-2014, QBs had an average QB rating of 89.9 at home, while that number dropped to 85.2 on the road. If you look directly at fantasy QB value, you see that home teams are better picks on both DraftKings and FanDuel. So in a situation where you have two similar options, you are going to want to favor the quarterback that is playing at home.

Lineup Construction: Key Elements

Looking at QB CV, we know that higher priced quarterbacks are going to be more consistent. Players like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers are always going to get their opportunities each and every Sunday, both in the red zone and just in general. You won’t have to worry as much about those players than you would with lower priced QBs, but then again they take up a larger portion of your team’s salary. What Saahil likes to look for is lower priced QBs that are in very good matchups, who are likely to get a few touchdowns.

In cash games, you don’t have to worry about ownership. You simply want to select the team that you think is going to score the most points. However, player usage rates is something you want to look at. With quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, you aren’t going to expect many (if any) rushing yards each game. However with a quarterback like Cam Newton or Tyrod Taylor, these QBs are dual threats and are almost guaranteed to get solid rushing numbers. Especially with Taylor, he will get you rushing yards, the potential of a rushing TD as well, while putting up decent passing numbers and not costing you as much as one of the top QBs.

As we discussed before, you want to avoid quarterbacks that are in big, double-digit spreads. QBs in close games tend to be more consistent, as they continue to throw the ball throughout the entire game as opposed to QBs in games where their team is up big in the fourth quarter so they run the clock out. The more the QB is throwing the ball, the more opportunities you get to score fantasy points.

Days rest is also vital to fantasy success. Unless the matchup is really good, you generally want to avoid quarterbacks playing in Thursday night games. Historically the data has shown that these QBs are generally worse performers, and coaches tend to be a little more conservative with their game plan because they don’t have as much time to prepare.

Going back to the Coefficient of Variation (the standard deviation of a date set divided by its mean) for each position, quarterbacks come out to be the least variable of all the positions, because QBs have the ball in their hands every play. This makes them less subject to variation as a wide receiver or tight end, who are a lot more reliant on touchdowns.

NFL Cash Game Lineup Example

Taking a look at the lineup example from the video, Cam Newton is the quarterback in this lineup. Obviously Newton had a monster game, finishing with just over 40 fantasy points. A reason why he was such a good pick for this week is that the matchup was a close, high-scoring game between two highly-efficient offenses. Newton is also a QB that likes to run with the ball, as you can see by his 49 rushing yards in this game. That’s what makes Newton such a great play here, especially against the New Orleans defense which is known to be weak. While his ownership was quite high for a QB (29.3%), as we discussed before, in cash games, we do not have to worry about a player’s ownership.

More Daily Fantasy Research from RotoQL

RotoQL offers numerous different resources to help increase your chances at winning in Daily Fantasy Sports. You can check out our video tutorials on how to use RotoQL at the Zen Desk (rotoql.zendesk.com). If you have any specific questions, feel free to email us at support@rotoql.com. Finally if you are new to DFS or just need a refresher on some of the fundamentals, visit RotoU (/university). We hope you learned from Saahil’s strategy for how to pick quarterbacks for cash games!

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