Injuries: The Bread and Butter of DFS

One of the biggest factors of winning in DFS is maximizing the amount of points your lineup is expected to score per dollar. To do that, a DFS bettor must take advantage of players that are severely mispriced. Mispricing can be caused by a number of things, the most important and obvious being when a player on a team is injured.

When a player on a given team in a given sport is injured, that means that another player must pick up his statistical slack. That means that someone or multiple players on the team are going to have improved expected statistics, which are not going to be priced in by a DFS website like Draftkings or Draftstreet. Therefore, taking advantage of injury mispricing should be your #1 priority.

In week 10 of the 2013 NFL season, Tampa Bay had its starting running back Mike James fall to injury. That meant in week 11, a new running back would get the majority of snaps, creating severe under pricing of its backup running backs, Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard. Rainey ended up going off for 163 yards and 3 tds, and was by far the best value of the week.

What is clear is that when a sports team is riddled with an injury, you should target players on that team. But what is unclear is who to target. That’s not always easy to figure out. In the case of an injury to an NFL running back, the decision is very easy.

But when it comes to other positions or other sports its not always that simple. Here are a few important factors to consider when deciding who to pick.

The Bigger The Fantasy Player The Better

On 11/19/13, Paul Milisap of the Atlanta Hawks was out with an elbow injury. He had been averaging about 16 points and 8 rebounds a game, pretty solid fantasy statistics. His absence created a hole at power forward, allowing Mike Scott, who only had been averaging 14 minutes a game, to come in and play 27 minutes, scoring 15 points and 10 rebounds, easily worth his minimum price tag. Milisap had a lot of stats to be picked up, and Scott did so.

There hasn’t been a big injury to an NFL wide receiver is the 2013 season yet, but its easy to see why that injury could create such a large fantasy mispricing. Let’s imagine that Jimmy Graham is out for the New Orleans Saints. That means Drew Brees, one of the highest scoring and talented QBs in the NFL, is going to have to throw the ball somewhere else. Brees is still going to throw for a lot of yards and TDs, meaning WR’s like Kenny Stills and Marquees Colston could be expected to have better than expected games.

As a counter example, let’s imagine that Kenny Stills is out for the Saints and Graham is playing. Stills is a good WR, sure. But he has only averaged 2 receptions per game. Someone else is going to get those 2 receptions, but ultimately that isn’t going to be a lot of points.

Injuries are important, but make sure you highly value the big time injuries, and don’t care as much when the average fantasy joes are out.

Pick For Potential

Let’s go back to the Milisap example on 11/19/13. With Milisap out, the starter in his place was Gustavo Ayon, who a lot of DFS players picked for a value play. However, there was a lot not to like about Ayon. He was relatively old at 28, only averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes, and had not shown much improvement in his time in the league. On the other hand, Mike Scott was going into his 2nd year in the league, and had per 36 stats of 18 and 10. Scott clearly had more potential than Ayon, and it showed when he got minutes. Ayon ended up faring poorly, only managing 4 points and 6 rebounds with 3 turnovers.

Very bad bench players may get more playing team because of an injury, but that may mean someone else is going to have to carry the team more, and that’s the player that’s going to get a stat boost. If a bad RB is starting that may mean that the passing game is going to be relied upon more. If a bad bench player is getting more minutes in an NBA game, that may mean someone is going to have to take a bigger role and therefore get more fantasy points.

What Type of Player is Injured

When player type is injured, in most instances you want to choose another player of that type on the team to improve the most. The most obvious example is a running back or quarterback. If a running back or
quarterback is injured that means the backup is going to get a hell of a lot more snaps. This is similar to when a point guard in basketball gets injured. Since a point guard holds the ball so much, its very likely when a backup point guard does play, his stats are going to scale pretty well with his minutes.

However, when a shooting guard or small forward is injured, you don’t always want to target the backup. A guy like Kevin Durant is a talented player who creates his own shot and is a great rebounder, passer and shot blocker. Those stats aren’t just going to be handed Thabo Sefolosha if Durant is out. You want to target the other shot creator on the team, Russell Westbrook, who will be forced to handle the ball more and create even more shots.

Same can go for NFL with a Wide Receiver. Let’s assume Andre Johnson, one of the most talented Wide Receivers in the league, is out for the Texans. Matt Schaub is by no means an elite quarterback, its likely that instead of other WR’s picking up the slack, Schaub will just be less effective. In that case, you may not want to value a Texans WR that highly, unless they have another top caliber receiver on the team.

Big men in the NBA tend to have the most transferrable stats. Rebounding is more of a function of being close to the basket than being skilled. Everytime a player misses a shot, someone has to grab a rebound. If Andre Drummond is injured and not around to pick up his 12 rebounds, Monroe or someone else on the team is probably going to. In those cases, it makes a lot of sense to choose a backup or other starting big man on the team.


Injuries are the bread and butter of daily fantasy sports betting. Evaluating their impact on other players fantasy production involves mostly three considerations. One, the quality of the players who will receive increased playing time. Two, how good that player is statistically. And lastly, what type of player is injured. These are some of the main factors you’ll want to consider when picking whom will get the
biggest boost in fantasy value because of injuries. If you are able to make the right picks when injuries occur, you’ll be able to make a lot of money in daily fantasy sports betting with that skill alone.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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