If you're been playing daily fantasy sports for more than a week, chances are you know the name Saahil Sud, formerly known as "maxdalury" on FanDuel and DraftKings. Taking it a step further, if you've been playing DFS more than a week, chances are you've lost money to Sud.
Sud is a fantasy sports legend, arguably the most successful player in the history of DFS. The guy has piled up millions in winnings, and now, he's giving back to the community from which he has lifted so much cash. His help comes in the form of his strategy site, RotoQL, which offers tools and resources for DFS players. For the NFL season, Sud has produced a series of strategy videos, and we'll go over them here in the next few weeks.
Last week, Sud walked us through how he goes about picking his QBs on his NFL DFS teams. We learned which metrics he feels are most predictive and what to look for in terms of factors such as betting lines, weather, etc. This week, Sud talks RBs.
Cash games are all about consistency, and the No. 1 thing Sud looks for in a DFS RB is touches. As long as there is touches, there is a decent floor, and it's important to target players who will get a lot of opportunities to carry or catch the ball and accrue fantasy points. Other pluses obviously include a weak rush defense and an RB with high yards per carry. Generally speaking, Sud isn't looking to pay up too high at RB, particularly later in the season when injuries begin to pile up and there is obvious value in backups pushed into bigger roles.
Sud outlined in his QB video how QBs are at their most fantasy productive as favorites, but not too big of favorites — close games are important for a team to continue to air it out. In contrast to that, when looking at RBs, Sud wants game with both a high total and a high spread. Teams expected to score a lot of points and have the lead create ideal situations for RBs as they'll have TD opportunities and also the chance to pile up carries while protecting the lead in the fourth quarter, leading to more fantasy points.
About those TDs. They're obviously key to the value of RBs, and Sud's historical charts outline exactly how key. RBs who get 15-20 points on DraftKings — a fairly modest total, really — scored a TD about 60 percent of the time. On FD, where the TD is even more crucial, that figure is nearly 80 percent. When it comes to TDs on the ground, the success rate is only even 30 percent if a team is at the 3-yard line or better, so it's absolutely critical to target RBs who get carries there and don't cede touches to vulture backs.
One interesting note is that in stark contrast to QBs, who perform far worse on short rest, RBs perform a bit better than normal on Thursday night games. That may be due to run-heavy game plans on short preparation.
When it comes to selecting RBs in GPPs, many of the same concepts apply. Sud is still looking primarily at home favorites, as those create the most opportunities for RBs to rack up fantasy points. Favorites average more than 12 more yards per game for their RBs than underdogs, and their RBs score at least one TD 59 percent of the time compared to 47 percent for underdogs. Game script is the main driver, as coaches call running plays 51 percent of the time with a lead compared to just 34 percent when trailing.
However, one major difference in GPPs is that it's almost a must to have an RB with receiving upside. Nearly all monster games by RBs contain some receiving yards, and while total yards has the highest correlation with RB success in DFS, receiving yards had a surprisingly high correlation as well.
When planning for your flex in a GPP lineup, Sud suggests looking away from RBs and targeting WRs. RBs have a much worse points per dollar ratio than WRs, as they simply have more upside. The variance in WR scores is higher, and nearly all of the top scores from flex-eligible players last season came from WRs.
Stacking is also an option as RBs have correlation with a couple of other positions. Sud's primary stack with RBs is with their team defenses, as RBs tend to accumulate most value when winning, and that means the other team's scoring is probably limited, so the RB's defense is likely racking up points. Another potential stack is with a team's WR. Sud shies away from these as a general rule, but they can be an option is a true shootout is expected.
As far as ownership goes, Sud outlines a typical ownership chart for a given week. He notes that, similar to QBs, most of the ownership is concentrated in the top three, maybe top five guys. So, try to identify those to figure where ownership is likely to be.
The biggest key when looking for RBs in DFS is going to be opportunity to score touchdowns, and that's almost always going to mean looking at RBs whose teams are favored. Trailing teams just don't run the ball enough to give RBs good fantasy upside, and in cash games in particular, you need RBs you can safely assume will be handed the ball inside the 5-yard line. Later in the season, when injuries abound, it's critical to find value with backup RBs.
When it comes to GPPs, a big driver of fantasy upside is going to be receiving totals. Sud loves to get RBs who are every-down players and can catch passes on third down to pump up their fantasy totals. However, don't look to play a RB as your flex in most cases, as WRs typically make for higher-upside plays there and should be the preferred option in general.
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