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How to Pick a RB in Daily Fantasy Football

Choosing which RB to put in your DraftKings or FanDuel lineup doesn’t have to be a grueling, complicated process. Many people have asked me how I make my picks in DFS, and it’s actually way more simple than one might expect. And by simple, I don’t mean that I have some computer algorithm spit out my picks for me.  I do use advanced statistics and tools across the internet, but they’re actually quite easy to use and are 100% free.

If you don’t like the read, there are 2 videos I put up on youtube that go over everything I’m about to write, and they are embedded in this article (Part 1 is below). Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the read!

Sportsbook Projection Tool

Our first task when trying to find top RB plays is to narrow our choices down. We can do this by finding teams that should have success on the ground. Many DFSers do this by using DvP stats, Profootballfocus.com defensive ratings, or Footballoutsiders.com DVOA. While these stats are helpful, I find that they’re a bit hit or miss from week to week. For example, prior to week 11, the Philadelphia Eagles were top 5 in DVOA against the run, a team we seemingly did not want to use our RBs against. But in week 11, they allowed 235 yards to Doug Martin. The updated DVOA stats in week 12 had the Eagles back towards the bottom of the list.

The only stat that I find to be most accurate week after week is our Sportsbook Projection Tool, which you can find here. Instead of relying on a few stats, the Sportsbook Projection Tool turns the spreads and over/unders that you can find at any Las Vegas or online sportsbook and makes it into a “Run Point Projection” and “Pass Point Projection.” Basically, it turns sports betting lines into a projection we can use for Daily Fantasy purposes. The higher the Run Point Projection, the better a teams RBs should perform.

Notice that I wrote RBs (plural). The reason is that teams have multiple RBs (and sometimes running QBs), so a team’s lead back isn’t necessary going to get all those fantasy points. So how do we figure out what the distribution of those points will be? By using a couple of other free to use Fantasy Football tools.

Snap Counts

Finding out how often a RB is used by a specific team is very simple. If you go to the Footballoutsiders.com snap count page, you can search by team and position, and find what percentage on snaps a certain player had in his teams previous game. In the example below, I looked at Jonathan Stewart, who’s Panthers team has the highest run point share this week at 13.70.

FOSnapcounts

Stewart comes in with a snap percentage of 78%, which is very high in today’s NFL where most teams don’t use a workhorse RB. When we see a snap count like this, we feel good about playing Stewart given the Panthers large run share.

Keep in mind, however, this process isn’t perfect. Just because a player has a high snap count in the previous game, doesn’t mean he’ll have one the next game. And injuries make a difference as well. For example, Ronnie Hillman of the Denver Broncos had 50% of the snaps in Week 13, but that number could rise big time if C.J. Anderson is out in week 14. Snap counts from the previous week are a great bench mark for determining future snaps, but injuries, performance, and even talk from coaches play a big part as well.

Not all snaps are created equal as well. As a RB moves closer to the endzone, the more each of his runs is worth, since he becomes from likely to score a Touchdown. Because of this, we need a way to gauge how often a player gets used close to the goal line. But don’t worry, we can find this information very easily.

Red Zone Rushes

Red Zone Rushes (RZR) are an easy way to find how often a RB is used in high probability TD situations. We can find this information on nflsavant.com. When we look at RZR, we need to look more at a RBs numbers over the season, and more of the percentage he’s used in the redzone, instead of looking at pure volume or numbers from his last game. In this example, Stewart actually leads the league in RZR (good), but only gets 50% of his teams RZR (not good). Compare this with Chris Ivory, who gets 70% of the Jets RZR.

The reason that Stewart’s RZR % is so low actually makes sense. His QB, Cam Newton, is used a ton as a runner in the red zone and eats up some of Stewart’s RZR opportunities. On a different team, Stewart might have a lot more TDs.

Just like Snap Counts though, RZR is not a perfect stat. Most of the best RB values of the week are injury replacements, meaning that we’re not going to know exactly how they are going to be used in the Red Zone. But for RBs in stable situations, the RZR stats on NFL Savant can be very helpful.

Receptions

Receptions are a very helpful stat for RBs, especially on DraftKings, because they help a RBs fantasy floor. Jonathan Stewart could fail to score a TD, but by getting 3 receptions for 30 yards, he makes up for that failure completely. I estimate receptions in two ways.

Stewart

1) By just looking at a players game log. If we see that player has had several multi reception games, we’re happy, but if he has several 0 or 1 reception games, we shouldn’t expect much of him. For Stewart, we see a few 3 reception games, but also some donuts. We shouldn’t project him at more than 1 or 2 receptions this week.

2) By looking at the spread. If a team is likely to be trailing in a game, they will likely pass the the RB more often in hurry up situations. The issue is this means the RB will probably get less carries, but since we get a full point per reception on DraftKings, we like this scenario quite a bit.

Receptions are a small but valuable piece to the puzzle when choosing a RB.

Salary

Even though Salary is the last section of this article, it’s actually by far the most important aspect of choosing a RB, or choosing any position in Daily Fantasy really. It can be simply illustrated by just comparing two RBs this week: David Johnson and Jonathan Stewart.

Stewart and Johnson both rate similarly when looking at Run Point Share, Snap Counts, and RZR, but they have a vastly different price. Stewart is $5,800, while Johnson is only $4,300. The way I estimate value from a players price is by multiplying that players salary by 3, and using that a bench mark for fantasy performance. For Stewart, this means he needs to score about 17 fantasy points to “Hit Value.” That’s a modest, attainable number. But contrast that with Johnson, who we project similarly to Stewart but needs only 13 fantasy points to hit value. Because of this discrepency, we like Johnson a lot more than Stewart this week even though we could make the argument that Stewart is a better overall play.

This isn’t even taking to account other benefits of saving money at RB. By using the cheaper RB, we can afford higher upside WRs, players that are invaluable for winning GPPs. Salary is by far my biggest consideration when choosing a RB.

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Sometimes, Daily Fantasy Football (DFS) can feel like a complete feel game. But by using the steps I laid out above, you can take the feel out of making NFL picks and trust the facts. In my experience, this method of picking RBs is very accurate from week to week, so trust the process and I think you’ll find that profiting in DFS is a lot easier than you might expect. Good luck with your lineups!

 

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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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