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Identifying potential Week 9 blowup performances for DFS

Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) and wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrate a touchdown during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In its most boiled-down form, DFS involves the process of identifying the highest-scoring players at each position in a given week. With close to 20 playable options at the quarterback and tight end positions, along with even more at the running back and wide receiver positions, it is a feat in itself to identify one position correctly.

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To finish at the top of a DFS contest, you must hit on basically all skill positions and circumvent the randomness associated with selecting defenses. Doing all of this while also fitting under the confines of a salary cap makes DFS one of the most difficult setups to beat consistently, especially in large-field tournaments.

Being first and foremost a data company, PFF has the ability to build and train models not only on public data but also PFF specific data, such as receiving grades and pass routes run, among a litany of other variables. Utilizing specific variables, we can build a model tuned to predict performances where a pass-catcher goes over a certain site-specific scoring threshold. This threshold is defined at 25 DraftKings, 20 FanDuel or 20 Yahoo receiving fantasy points.

This model provides the percentage chance that each receiver will meet or exceed our fantasy-point threshold for the site given the historical opportunity they have been given. The model won’t be right on every player, but it is useful in identifying the performances that we want to unearth in our DFS lineups. 

Week 8 felt like the first slate that wasn’t a hit from the blowup model. Two high salary stars carried the wide receiver position, with our model identifying only three players who finished in the top 10 of wide receiver scoring. Both Viking wide receivers had weather-related issues, while Kenny Golladay had his disastrous day cut short due to injury. 


Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron were obvious hits at the tight end position, but avoiding the George Kittle injury was key for DFS success. 

Week 9 has fewer weather-related issues, which means all plays listed should be good to rely on for fantasy production — outside of injuries. Let’s dive into the best plays based on our model probabilities for who could explode with a quality fantasy performance on DraftKings, FanDuel or Yahoo. 

JULIO JONES ($7,200)

It's clear why Jones will be the top-owned wide receiver on the main DFS slate this weekend. Over the past three games, he has run a route on over 90% of dropbacks and been targeted on 26% of those routes for a 40% air-yard share. If Calvin Ridley is inactive, Jones' opportunity and ownership will skyrocket.

The question becomes, at what point does the ownership actually outweigh the chances of Jones being the top-scoring wide receiver? He has the second-best advantage of any wide receiver, according to PFF's matchup chart, so ownership is the only viable reason for fading Jones this weekend. 

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