Analyzing the QB-WR Stack

At the beginning of every week, FanDuel emails all their members newsletters about the prior weekend in fantasy. If you haven’t seen these newsletters before, they are short articles that recap the prior week in fantasy, show you the theoretical “perfect” lineup, and show random facts relating to the fantasy year so far. I usually don’t read this, but something compelled me to look at it today. While I was scanning the newsletter, one fact caught my eye: for 5 out of the first 6 weeks on FanDuel this year, the perfect lineup did not include a QB and WR stack.

For those of you who don’t know, a QB-WR stack is a lineup that includes a QB and a WR on the same team, effectively “stacking” their performances. This was one of the first concepts I learned when I started playing daily fantasy football, and when you look at a random sample of lineups in the FanDuel Sunday Million, you will almost never see a lineup without a QB-WR stack. It’s a popular concept, and seeing that for most of the time this year the stack was not in the perfect lineup, was a little shocking.

Now, I almost never take a random statistic like this one from the FanDuel newsletter seriously, and this stat doesn’t really prove anything about validity of the stacking concept. It’s just one, rogue stat. But it did make me think about the QB-WR stack in general. The common wisdom behind the stack is simple: Since QBs and WRs essentially gain fantasy points together, it’s smart to use a stack in a large-field, Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournaments. You want all of your players in your lineup to perform well at the same time. Stacking a QB and a WR, players have concluded, ensures two of your players have great (or poor) games in the same lineup. And since your goal in GPP’s is to get 1st, maximizing your boom or bust potential is good. But while this sounds simple and smart, this actually isn’t always true, and using this concept in the wrong way can limit us in our GPP lineups.


When You Should Not Use a QB-WR stack


As we stated earlier in this article, the goal of a QB-WR stack is to help your entire team to do well at the same time, by connecting two player’s peformances on your team. The wisdom is if your QB does well, your WR will also do well, and vice-versa. But when is this not true? One common scenario is when your QB and receiver combo are both highly priced. Take the example of Peyton Manning and Julius Thomas last weekend. This combo, one would think, was great. Julius Thomas caught 2 of Manning’s 3 TDs, something you hope for when you make a stack like this. But the value of both players was lacking, as illustrated by one of my lineups on FanDuel.

manning thomas

Julius Thomas did very well, scoring 19.1 points, good for about 2.4 points per $1,000. Thomas was one of the highest scoring TEs of the week, something you’re hoping for when you choose a high salary TE like Thomas. But look at Manning. He scored 21.48 points (which, of course, isn’t bad) but produced only 2.1 points per $1,000 (an average number for a QB on FanDuel). So while our TE performs better than we hoped, our QB actually performs worse. While Manning and Thomas’ performances are obviously correlated (just like any QB-WR combo), they actually are not that likely to have great games at the same time. Even if Thomas had 100 yards to go with his 2 TDs (an exceptional game), Manning still would not have had the performance we were looking for. The goal of a stack is to have two players exceed their values at the same time, but when you’re using two high salary players, this is going to be rarer than you think. This totally defeats the purpose of a stack, so I feel there is no need to use Manning with Thomas here. Using another QB would have given me a lot more flexibility and increased my chance of making a great lineup, and I would’ve sacrificed nothing.


When you should use a QB-WR Stack


As we learned in the previous paragraphs, salary is very important when considering which players to stack. So let’s consider another stack this past weekend, Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace.



As you can see, Wallace performs at a similar level to Julius Thomas, producing around 2.2-2.3 points per $1000, and he didn’t even have a great game (clearly, a nice value play). Tannehill, whose salary of $7,000 is much cheaper than Peyton Manning’s, scores 20.66 fantasy points, good for almost 3 points per $1,000. Now that’s more like it! The great part about the Wallace-Tannehill combo, is that when Mike Wallace has a good game, let’s say 70-100 yards and a TD, Tannehill is already almost halfway to having a great game, since he only needs 2 TDs, 200+ yards, and some rushing yards to achieve what we need. When a QBs price is low, using one of his WRs is a great idea, since it’s almost certain that they both exceed their value when the WR does well. In general, when thinking about stacking QB and WRs, don’t think about how the QB relates to the WR, think about how the WR relates to the QB. Ask yourself, “If my WR has a great game, is it highly likely my QB will as well?” If the answer is no, there’s no need to make the stack.


Should I Ever Stack Two WRs with a QB?

This is a controversial topic. The common wisdom is that you don’t play two position players on the same team, because they have reverse correlations to each other (the reason for this is if one WR catches a ball, other WR can’t). But, the winner of the DraftKings Millionaire Maker 2 weeks ago and the winner of FanDuel’s Sunday Million this week both used 2 WR-QB stacks, which throws a wrench into that philosophy. In the end, I think using the 2WR-QB stack is a poor move, and here’s why:

For SamEnole, the winner of the Millionaire Maker, his Peyton Manning, Emmanuel Sanders, and Demaryius Thomas stack worked out very well. But he needed a once in a season game from Demaryius Thomas for this to work out, and while exceptional performances like this are usually what put our lineups toward the top of a tournament, we want to be able to win without a performance like Thomas’. I feel like SamEnole’s lineup, this was essentially impossible. In the winning lineup of the Sunday Million this past weekend, FanDuel player Abracadabra used Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Torrey Smith in the same time, but he needed a record-breaking game from Flacco in order for this to work out. I do like his stack better than SamEnole’s though, because in this case all the players were great value. Torrey Smith, at $5,200 is a steal, and Steve Smith is a reasonable price for a player who is one of the most highly targeted in the NFL. Lastly, at only $7,000 against the Buccaneers, Joe Flacco is fantastic value given his upside. When you can spend a very reasonable portion of your total salary on a stack like this, you don’t need to have an exceptional game from anyone in order to win (If Flacco had only 21 points, with the right lineup Abracadabra could have still easily won). Still, I don’t think this is the best way to maximize our chances of winning big.


Thinking about lineup construction is very smart when attempting to gain an edge in GPPs. Significant money (in the case of the Millionaire Maker, almost half of the money) in the prizepools of these tournaments are in 1st place, so making an effort to maximize your chances of getting 1st is a great idea. But be careful of some concepts that seem correct but are not proven. In the case of the QB-WR stack, it could cost you.

View all posts by Max J Steinberg
Max J Steinberg

About the Author

Max J Steinberg Max Steinberg is a professional poker player and a top Daily Fantasy player who uses his creativity and mathematical abilities he cultivated as a poker player to win money on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He already has several big tournament scores to his name including the Victiv Bowl and countless MLB Monster wins. Follow him on twitter @maxjsteinberg.

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