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DFS data dive: The highest fantasy ceilings of Week 5

Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) motions for a first down during the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the advantages of being a “data scientist” is that everyone assumes you know what you’re talking about. While that has its privileges, more important to the craft is the ability to leverage statistical programming packages like R and Python and apply them to almost any questions that can be answered through data.

Recently I started publishing analyses on the single-game DraftKings showdown slates that use the combination of current projections, historical game results and similarity algorithms to simulate an upcoming game by looking back at the most similar historical matchups. In this analysis I’m taking the same outline and applying it instead to the DFS main slate by projecting the likelihood each individual QB, RB, WR, TE, and DST option will be the highest-scoring of the slate. In doing this, we can find the unlikely tournament plays who may not have been on your radar.

British statistician George E.P. Box once said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful,” and that’s the mindframe you should bring to this analysis. The numbers below are not “right” in the traditional sense of maximizing accuracy, which would only mimic the recommendations you’ll find throughout the DFS toutersphere. The numbers below are harnessing the unexpected connections and reactions between players that have actually happened over the past several years, and thereby points to under/overvalued players that won’t be identified through traditional projections and logical deduction.


For each game on the DFS Sunday main slate, I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2012-2018 and found the closest analogies according to the following parameters: Betting spread, over/under, average fantasy points scoring for the top-ranked positional players of both rosters (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1).

Once I find the 75 most similar matchups for each upcoming game, I then simulate the main slate 10K times by randomly choosing one of the 75 matchups for each game and then find the highest-scoring QB, RB, WR, TE and DST on the entire slate.

Every match of historical and current games is not perfect, but by matching 75 different matchups to each game and simulating 10K times we can smooth out the bumps and get a strong picture of how a slate of similar games would have played out.

The last step is totaling up the number of times that a particular team shows up as the top option for the slate at each position and divide by the total simulations. That number is what I call “highest-scoring %” in the bar charts below labeled by team. Below the bar charts by team, I join the highest projected player on that team for the position and list his projected fantasy points and salaries for DraftKings and FanDuel.


Pos Highest % Player Team DK Fpts DK Salary FD Fpts FD Salary
QB 8.50 Deshaun Watson HST 23.1 6,700 21.7 8,000
QB 8.11 Teddy Bridgewater NO 16.4 5,200 15.4 7,200
QB 7.11 Andy Dalton CIN 19.9 5,700 18.7 7,500
QB 6.39 Lamar Jackson BLT 21.6 7,100 20.4 8,300
QB 6.25 Tom Brady NE 20.4 6,500 18.9 7,600
QB 5.94 Kyler Murray ARZ 17.4 6,300 16.7 7,400
QB 5.65 Carson Wentz PHI 21.0 6,100 19.4 7,800
QB 5.37 Joe Flacco DEN 14.7 4,700 13.7 6,600
QB 5.30 Jameis Winston TB 21.2 6,200 19.3 7,600
QB 5.14 Dak Prescott DAL 20.7 6,000 19.6 8,200
QB 5.03 Aaron Rodgers GB 18.0 6,000 17.0 7,800
QB 4.92 Mason Rudolph PIT 16.0 5,100 15.2 6,500
QB 4.76 Matt Ryan ATL 19.7 5,900 18.2 7,700
QB 4.61 Kyle Allen CAR 17.8 5,100 16.9 6,500
QB 3.94 Philip Rivers LAC 19.9 5,800 18.6 7,700
QB 3.70 Matt Barkley BUF 13.7 4,600 13.0 6,300
QB 2.29 Daniel Jones NYG 16.2 5,600 15.3 7,000
QB 2.13 Gardner Minshew JAX 14.7 5,300 14.1 6,600
QB 1.86 Derek Carr OAK 16.6 5,000 15.4 6,600
QB 1.43 Kirk Cousins MIN 18.8 5,300 17.6 6,800
QB 0.88 Case Keenum WAS 14.1 4,600 13.1 6,400
QB 0.85 Marcus Mariota TEN 17.3 4,900 16.5 6,900
QB 0.79 Chase Daniel CHI 18.3 4,800 17.3 6,500
QB 0.78 Sam Darnold NYJ 14.3 5,400 13.7 6,700

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