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The DFS Accountant - Week 5

Ownership Percentages and Why They’re Important

In this week’s edition of the DFS Accountant I’m going to cover ownership percentages and why you should be thinking about them as your construct your GPP lineups. This topic isn’t all that relevant for cash games so when you’re reading this piece remember that. Ownership percentage refers to the percentage that the player is drafted in that contest. You’ll see a number next to the player and this can range from 0.1% to 30% in some instances where this is an obvious value and everyone is playing him.

Daily fantasy football seems extremely simple with the one goal being get as many points as possible using the given salaries. In some ways this is correct, but it’s far from the only piece of the puzzle and pro dfs players understand this well. Pro’s understand that when you go against 10,000 other people the goal is to have a score higher than that of as many opponents as possible. Take a second and read that again because it’s extremely important.

As an example. Let’s say you’re playing your friend in a game of basketball and you each get 5 shots. A layup is 1 point, a three pointer is worth 5 points and a half court shot is worth 15 points. You can use those 5 shots to shoot wherever you’d like. In theory to win the game you’d want to score as high as possible right? But if you saw him go first and he only scored 2 points, your selection of shots has now changed dramatically. The optimal strategy isn’t the same strategy as scoring the most possible points. The goal of the game is to beat your opponent, not score as high as possible. So instead of thinking you’re Steph Curry, you decide to park it down low and shoot 5 lay ups for the win assuming you’re a rational person.

Let’s think of it at the extreme level. Let’s say you’re in a tournament where Antonio Brown is 100% owned. No matter what happens with Antonio Brown on that day, everyone will be on the exact same playing field and nobody gains an advantage. His outcome is completely irrelevant in determining the winner. If however he was 10% owned and you’re one of the people who own him, he will gain or lose you ground relative to 90% of the field who didn’t choose him. By going with a lower owned player, you have the ability to gain a big advantage on those that didn’t roster him if that player does well.

How do we use ownership projections when creating our rosters? This is where it gets tricky. Highly owned players are highly owned for a reason. They’re either underpriced and a great value or they’re in a great matchup. These players appear to be in great spots to have solid games and usually they do. But we have to remember that predicting sports is extremely difficult. Football is an event based game with a ton of variance on any given Sunday. Sure, over time this usually balances out in season long leagues, but we’re playing daily fantasy sports where randomness is king and we have to put ourselves in the best position to take advantage of that. When a player with high ownership, like 40%, puts up a dud of maybe 2.3 points, those 40% of the contestants are almost certainly dead unless they have other people who go off to make up for it.

So we just fade every highly owned player? Not quite. Creating a roster is a balancing act of chalky players and lower owned guys. You still obviously want as many points as possible, but you need to do it in a way that uses a few low owned guys who go off that can separate you from the pack. You have to pick and choose your spots where you think a highly owned player might not do as well as what the crowd thinks and this happens much more often than you realize. Almost everybody was on Eli Manning in week 2 when he was facing the awful New Orleans Saints defense. Eli ended up not throwing a touchdown and really hurting the herds of people who rostered him.

Take a look at the DraftKings Week 1 $1 Million lineup. As you can see you don’t need to completely avoid the chalk guys. Spencer Ware was nearly 30% owned and he still had him in his lineup. He differentiated himself from the pack by choosing Theo Riddick and A.J. Green. Both players were under 5% owned and both of them absolutely went off. This happens almost every single week, it’s just a matter of doing your research to find a few of those players you feel might do the same.  

Using ownership projections to your advantage can make you a much better dfs player. You don’t need to fade every single guy you know will be highly owned, but you need to limit your exposure to some of them that you feel might not produce that week. Hopefully those that you do fade end up having a bad game, which can vault you up a leaderboard if you hit on a player you chose instead. It’s only a small part of the equation, but definitely something you need to be thinking about.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Keagan28