Exploiting Market Inconsistencies to Win Fantasy Baseball

On Wednesday, I outlined some of the flaws in the way that fantasy experts rank players. Simply put, most experts don’t understand how to assess a player’s real value, and the experts who know how to do this falsely believe that the information isn’t valuable because it’s not practical.  

I disagree with this stance completely. Last season, I used my understanding of categorical inflation to design a draft strategy which brought me three league championships in three tries (a return of $1320 for a $220 investment), and this article is basically a primer for using this strategy.

Now, you might be asking yourself, why does a fantasy baseball strategy need a 2,500 word primer? The answer is simple: not only is this strategy unconventional, but it also flies in the face of perceived fantasy baseball wisdom. In other words, if I’m going to convince you that this approach works, I need to show you why it works, and doing so requires me to poke some holes into what is more or less the hidden side of fantasy baseball. Namely, assigning player values. I therefore begin with a brief synopsis of how to calculate player values, and then move onto a section that explains what the market inflates and what it devalues. Then, in the final section, I’ll explain how to exploit these inconsistences in order to win your next fantasy league. If you’re not particularly interested in why this works, feel free to skip to the section titled “Exploiting Market Inconsistencies” to read how the strategy works. Just know that without an understanding of why the approach works, you’re far more likely to disregard it as a feasible approach to winning fantasy baseball.


Calculating Player Values

As Larry Schechter explains in his fantastic book, Winning Fantasy Baseball, there are three basic approaches to calculating player values. You can calculate Standings Gain Points (SGPs), you can calculate value using a Percentage Value Method (PVM) or you can use a Standard Deviation Method (SDM).

Schechter prefers SGP because it is the most practical. In this method, you use historical league data to calculate player value based on how much each player will help you in the standings (thus: the name standings gain points). For example, if you typically move up in the standings for every seven homeruns, a player who hits 35 homeruns would be worth 5 SGPs. SGPs are logical and easy to use, but they get a lot more complicated when calculating batting average, WHIP, and ERA. There are also some challenges with using this method such as the need for historical data, and there are some questions about the validity of this value method, such as why are there more than twice the amount of SGPs for runs than for stolen bases, or why are stolen bases worth roughly the same as homeruns despite being a more scarce commodity?

PVM and SDM are alternate approaches to determining player value. One of the advantages to these approaches is that they don’t require any historical league data. In PVM, you calculate the percentage of the total projected statistics that a player will acquire. For instance, if you project that your league will have a total of 1000 saves, and you project Craig Kimbrel will have forty saves, then Kimbrel’s percentage value for saves is 4% (40 out of 1000). SDM is a similar approach where you use deviation from the mean rather than percentage to determine a player’s value.

One of the perceived flaws in PVM and SDM is that they spit out numbers that aren’t aligned to how players are actually valued on the fantasy baseball market. For starters, batting average, stolen bases, and saves seem to be weighted far too much.   With regards to batting average, I believe this is due to an actual flaw in how people are calculating value.   Since batting average (and WHIP and ERA) aren’t counting stats, you need to find a way to quantify these numbers as if they were counting stats. The way people have been doing this is by subtracting a player’s batting average from the median average for the player pool and multiplying the result by the player’s at bats. If that approach doesn’t make sense to you, it’s because the approach doesn’t make sense.

Instead of calculating PVM for batting average using this flawed method, I calculated how much each player’s batting average would affect the final batting average of his team. For example, if you had a team with an average amount of at bats and all players who hit for the mean batting average, and then you placed Mike Trout on this team, how much would he affect the final team batting average. This is not an entirely novel approach. This is actually how you calculate SGPs for batting average, WHIP, and ERA, but for whatever reason, it seems people haven’t applied this perfectly logical approach to PVM or SDM.

The last thing you need to know about calculating fantasy player values is that before experts create their rankings, they arbitrarily assign more value to hitters. Every ranking system assigns somewhere between 66% and 70% of the total league resources to hitters, leaving the remaining 30%-34% for the league’s pitchers. For a 12 team league with a $260 salary cap, there is $3,210 of total salary available. If you assign 70% of the auction values to the hitters on your big board, you are assigning $2,184 across your player pool. Pitchers would therefore account for the remaining $936.

The million dollar question is why we as a community are spending 70% of our resources to win 5 of categories? Pitching categories and hitting categories are weighted the same, so you could argue that you should spend 50% of your resources trying to win pitching categories and 50% of your resources trying to win hitting categories. You could also make the argument that you should spend roughly 57% of your salary on hitters because 57% of the starters in standard leagues are hitters (55% if you play in Yahoo leagues). But 70%? There is only one reason to do this, and that reason is because everyone else does it. If you use a 50/50 split, you’d simply head into your draft or auction thinking everyone was undervaluing pitchers. You’d end up spending your entire bank roll on the ten best pitchers available and you’d have nothing left for hitting. For this reason, everyone keeps artificially inflating hitters’ value by shifting 70% of their resources towards hitting. The important thing for you to realize is that everyone does this.  

Identifying Market Inconsistencies

The best way to identify errors in market values is by identifying the real value of players. By real value, I simply mean how much each player will actually help your team. In fantasy baseball, you can set targets for each category knowing that if you meet those targets, you will probably win. A player’s real value depends on how much he helps you reach those targets. Since each target is worth the same, each category is valued the same. It therefore doesn’t matter if a player helps you win saves or runs – his value is simply tied to how much he helps you reach your target numbers.

In order to calculate real value, the first thing we have to do is eliminate the artificial inflation that is assigned to hitting categories by allocating 70% of the league resources for hitting. This is easy to do when you create your own values, because it simply means you don’t do it! After eliminating artificial inflation, all we need to do is calculate a player’s projected value based on how much he helps in each category. To do this, PVM seems to make the most sense.

In early February, I did exactly this. Here are the top ten most valuable players according to what I call “Real Value.”

  1. Craig Kimbrel

  2. Kenley Jansen

  3. Greg Holland

  4. Mike Trout

  5. Koji Uehara

  6. Clayton Kershaw

  7. Trevor Rosenthal

  8. Dave Robertson

  9. Addison Reed

  10. Joe Nathan

You don’t need to look at that list more than once to notice the most striking trend. Eight of the top ten players according to real value are closers. But every serious fantasy baseball manager knows that you shouldn’t pay for saves, so how can this be?

To make sense of this, consider that after creating player projections for more than 400 players, my player pool had roughly 4,000 homeruns, 2,000 stolen bases, and 1,000 saves. Stolen bases, in other words, were twice as scarce as homeruns, and saves were twice as scarce as stolen bases. Mathematically, this means that a player who had 30 saves would be twice as valuable as a player with 30 stolen bases, and a player with 30 stolen bases would be twice as valuable as a player with 30 home runs.

Now before you jump ship and call me a lunatic, let me explain again that what I’m discussing is a player’s real value completely removed from a player’s value on the fantasy baseball market. In a typical league, if there are 1,000 saves, 2000 SB, and 4000 HR, the average team in a 12 team league would have 83 saves, 167 SB, and 333 HR. If a player is projected to hit 33 HR, then he gives me 10% of the HR I need to be average. If a player saves 42 games, he gives me more than 50% of the saves I need to win the category. Which player do you think is truly more valuable?

From a mathematical standpoint, it would make sense for the beginning of a fantasy baseball draft to be as heavy on closers as your fantasy football draft is on running backs, but be careful not to read too much into this. Just because saves are incredibly undervalued isn’t a reason to grab Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and Greg Holland in every league. The mantra “Don’t pay for saves” still applies, and it applies because closers like Jose Veras and John Axford represent much better value than the elite closers. Think of it this way: in Yahoo auctions, you can build a relief staff of guys like Nate Jones, Jose Veras, John Axford, and Tommy Hunter for around $12. Sure, some of these guys will likely lose their job, but for that $12, you are placing yourself above the league average in projected saves. If you project these players for 21 saves each, which would take into consideration the fickle nature of closer’s job security, you’d still exceed your projection for an average team of 83 saves. In other words, for $12 you’ve created a team which will be very competitive in saves. If you could do the same for the other nine categories, you’d, have a team that was above average, and you’d still have over half of your bankroll left. Talk about market inconsistencies!

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that saves are wildly undervalued, let’s remove closers from the picture altogether and take a look at the top 30 hitters and starting pitchers according to their actual impact on your fantasy team. These players are:  

  1. Mike Trout

  2. Clayton Kershaw

  3. Miguel Cabrera

  4. Jacoby Ellsbury

  5. Billy Hamilton

  6. Andrew McCutchen

  7. Madison Bumgarner

  8. Alex Rios

  9. Carlos Gonzalez

  10. Hanley Ramirez

  11. Yu Darvish

  12. Carlos Gomez

  13. Paul Goldschmidt

  14. Adam Jones

  15. Everth Cabrera

  16. Chris Sale

  17. Edwin Encarnacion

  18. Jean Segura

  19. Jose Fernandez

  20. Justin Verlander

  21. Stephen Strasburg

  22. Chris Davis

  23. Jason Kipnis

  24. Hunter Pence

  25. Max Scherzer

  26. Ryan Braun

  27. Cliff Lee

  28. David Price

  29. Cole Hamels

  30. Ben Revere

There are two things worth noting here. First, you can see the clear influx of base stealers in the top thirty. My projections for Billy Hamilton are for 65 R, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 66 SB, and a .242 average. In other words, Hamilton doesn’t check in as the fourth most valuable hitter because I have wild projections for him – he projects as the fourth most valuable hitter because stealing 60 bases would make him incredibly valuable. Meanwhile, Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Davis are the only two hiters who cracked the top 30 while projecting for less than 12 stolen bases.

The second thing worth noting about these rankings are that there is also an influx of starting pitching. In Yahoo leagues, there are currently six pitchers being drafted in the top thirty spots, but this analysis of real value suggests that eleven pitchers should be drafted in the top thirty.

While saves and stolen bases are being undervalued due to scarcity, starting pitching is being undervalued because the fantasy baseball community artificially shifts 70% of its resources towards hitting. Remove this artificial inflation and naturally enough, pitchers start being worth as much as hitters.


Exploiting Market Inconsistencies

Knowing that saves, stolen bases, and starting pitching are undervalued can be extremely helpful, but how helpful this will be depends on the type of league you are playing.

In rotisserie leagues, this can be helpful because it tells you the best places to allocate your resources. While many fantasy pundits preach the need to chase power, I’d suggest that HR and RBI are the two categories you are best off sacrificing. The reason everyone feels you need to chase HR and RBI is that everyone overvalues them. In other words, they disappear faster than they should, so you better get in there and get some. But the point is this, you only need some HR and some RBI. You don’t want to spend the majority of your resources on the categories which are the most expensive to win, you want to spend your money on the categories which are the cheapest. This is simple logic, but it’s also counterintuitive to human nature. Further, it opposes what you read and hear from every fantasy expert. For this reason, it will work exceptionally well.  

While understanding categorical inconsistencies in value can be useful in rotisserie leagues, it can be an absolute game changer in head to head leagues. After all, if you can go 6-4 every week of the season in a head to head league, you are going to win your league championship. If HR and RBI are vastly overvalued, which we know to be true, the obvious solution is to punt these two categories and spend your entire bank roll on the other eight categories. Sure, you forfeit two categories every week, but you forfeit the two categories that everyone is tying all of their money into. Meanwhile, you build a team that is carefully designed to dominate in the other 8 categories.

While the idea of punting HRs and RBIs seems crazy, the math supports it. Further, I’ve won three league championships using this approach in three tries, and while I’m not so naïve to suggest it will always work, I think it’s clear that this strategy gives you a clear upper hand. That said, using this approach isn’t as simple as going into a draft and ignoring HR and RBIs. There are a number of pitfalls that you must avoid along the way, and there is definitely an art to creating the perfect speed team. In my next article, I will explain how to build a head to head team which will dominate your opposition.

2014 Fantasy Baseball Big Board

Before you read my 2014 Fantasy Baseball Big Board, you need to take a moment to understand how most big boards are made.  To be exact, you need to understand how terrible most ranking systems are.  Determining player values in fantasy baseball is incredibly complicated, and most fantasy experts simply don’t know how to do it. 

To get an idea of how complicated it is, let’s consider the value of two hypothetical players.  Which player would you rather have on your team?

  • Player A: 85 Runs, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 20 SB, .250 average
  • Player B: 90 Runs, 10 HR, 65 RBI, 30 SB, .290 average

If I had to wager a guess, I’d bet that most fantasy players would take Player A, and they would do so based on the hunch that Player A’s superiority in home runs and RBIs will offset what he loses in stolen bases and average.  But is this hunch correct?  And isn’t there a better way to answer this question than relying on a hunch? 

If you really want to calculate which player is more valuable, you’re going to need some more data.  First, you need to know how many at bats each player had, and you also need to know how many at bats the rest of his fantasy team accumulated.  Only then can you determine how much Player A’s .250 batting average would hurt his value and how much Player B’s .290 average improves his value.  Since we’re actually talking about projecting value, it gets a little more complicated.  Now we have to project at bats for a typical fantasy team,  which means we need to consider things such as roster format and a league’s rules regarding things like player substitutions.  Then, and only then, can anyone tell you which player is more valuable.  Now consider that comparing two hitters is infinitely easier than trying to compare a hitter with a pitcher.  Is a 2.80 ERA across 180 innings more or less valuable than a .315 batting average over 575 at bats?  And how many home runs is a player with a 1.20 WHIP and a projection of 200 innings worth?  What if the same pitcher is a closer and he’s only projected to throw 65 innings?   

The good news is that despite the complexity of all of this, there are a number of mathematical models you can use to gauge real value, and there’s a handful of nerds out there who actually enjoy determining this.  Don’t believe me?  Well, I have a proof: I’m one of them. 

The bad news is that the ranking system you’ve been using probably doesn’t account for any of this complexity, and even more troubling, the few nerds who sit down and figure these sorts of things out often ignore their findings.  Let me explain by using another hypothetical example.  In this instance, consider Players C and D:

  • Player C: 80 runs, 25 HR, 80 RBIs, 0 SB, .300
  • Player D: 80 runs, 0 HR, 80 RBIs, 25 SB, .300

Which player is more valuable?  In virtually every ranking system, Player C would be rated higher than Player D, and nearly every fantasy manager would tell you the same thing.  But nearly every ranking system and every fantasy manager is wrong.  Stolen bases are a scarcer commodity than homeruns, so 25 stolen bases are more valuable than 25 HR.  Case closed.   

So why do we ignore this as fantasy baseball players?  Writers such as Larry Schechter argue that you have to adjust for market inaccuracy because you need to have a balanced team.  According to his theory, stolen bases may be undervalued, but so what?  A team made up entirely of guys like Leonys Martin, Rajai Davis, and Dee Gordon isn’t going to win you any championships.  Larry’s won more expert leagues than anyone, so you think he’d know, and I respect his work immensely, but in this case, I’m sure that he’s wrong.  First off, Larry (and almost every fantasy expert out there) forgets that while they play in rotisserie leagues, a large share of the general public plays in head to head leagues.  I proved last year that you can win H2H leagues with guys like Davis and Gordon when I punted HR and RBIs in three leagues and won first place in each of the leagues.  But even if you play in rotisserie leagues, Schechter is still wrong.  Knowing where the market value skews from actual value is still incredibly valuable.  If stolen bases are undervalued, doesn’t it make sense to make sure my team is dominant in that category, since it will cost me the least amount of resources to make this my team’s strength?  This would then free up more resources to spread across the other nine categories.    

While I could break down the types of market inconsistencies that occur as well as why they occur in detail, that’s not the point of this post.  Instead, I simply want you to know that most of the rankings you see are severely flawed, and that my own are flawed simply because you have to make some adjustments for the wackiness that is the fantasy baseball market.  That said, knowing how the market is flawed can help you capitalize on the greatest bargains, and my rankings account for this as much as any big board can.  For example, I have Ben Revere ranked fourteen spots higher than Matt Carpenter, yet in Yahoo leagues, Revere is being drafted more than 150 spots after Carpenter.  This seems out of whack, but I promise you, this big board was created using a sophisticated projection system and an understanding of true player value.  In other words, I’m confident that Ben Revere will be more valuable to your fantasy baseball team than Matt Carpenter, and I can be confident because I created my rankings using logic and math rather than hunches and guesses.  How you choose to use them is ultimately up to you.

One last caveat: please realize that these rankings were created for Yahoo H2H leagues.  Yahoo utilizes a rather bizarre roster format, and their head to head rules allow managers to heavily stream pitchers.  While adjusting my rankings for use in another league won’t lead to massive changes, it would certainly result in some changes.   If you would like to see numbers for another league, email me and I can provide you an adjusted big board for your league.  I’d also be happy to share an excel spread sheet broken down by positions and tiers.  This spreadsheet includes all of my actual projections, as well as a team analysis tracker to use during your draft.  Simply email me any requests at robert.h.adams@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to send my resources your way.


Big Board (Yahoo H2H Auction Values in Parenthesis)  


  1. Mike Trout (60.1)
  2. Miguel Cabrera (57.7)

  3. Andrew McCutchen (42.9)

  4. Paul Goldschmidt (40.9)

  5. Clayton Kershaw (39)

  6. Chris Davis (38.3)

  7. Jacoby Ellsbury (38.2)

  8. Ryan Braun (37.1)

  9. Adam Jones (37.0)

  10. Carlos Gonzalez (35.7)

  11. Edwin Encarnacion (33.2)

  12. Hanley Ramirez (33.1)

  13. Adrian Beltre (32.0)

  14. David Wright (30.7)

  15. Freddie Freeman (30.3)

  16. Madison Bumgarner (29.5)

  17. Dustin Pedroia (29.3)

  18. Alex Rios (28.9)

  19. Jason Kipnis (28.9)

  20. Carlos Gomez (28.5)

  21. Joey Votto (26.3)

  22. Justin Verlander (25.6)

  23. Stephen Strasburg (25.4)

  24. Max Scherzer (25.3)

  25. Adam Wainwright (25.2)

  26. Chris Sale (25.0)

  27. Cliff Lee (24.9)

  28. Hunter Pence (24.8)

  29. Matt Holliday (24.7)

  30. Prince Fielder (23.5)

  31. Robinson Cano (23.5)

  32. Shin-Soo Choo (23.4)

  33. Bryce Harper (23.1)

  34. Ian Desmond (22.9)

  35. Jose Bautista (22.3)

  36. Albert Pujols (21.9)

  37. Felix Hernandez (21.6)

  38. Jose Fernandez (21.6)

  39. Craig Kimbrel (21.4)

  40. Yu Darvish (20.9)

  41. David Ortiz (20.6)

  42. David Price (20.3)

  43. Troy Tulowitzki (20.1)

  44. Justin Upton (20.0)

  45. Yasiel Puig (20.0)

  46. Allen Craig (19.9)

  47. Eric Hosmer (19.6)

  48. Jean Segura (19.1)

  49. Jordan Zimmerman (18.9)

  50. Evan Longoria (18.3)

  51. Joe Mauer (18.3)

  52. Gio Gonzalez (18.3)

  53. Kenley Jansen (18.1)

  54. Mat Latos (17.9)

  55. Homer Bailey (17.9)

  56. James Shields (17.8)
  57. Billy Hamilton (17.6)

  58. Giancarlo Stanton (17.1)

  59. Anibal Sanchez (17.1)

  60. Jayston Werth (17.0)

  61. Jay Bruce (17.0)

  62. Ryan Zimmerman (17.0)

  63. Masahiro Tanaka (16.7)

  64.  Wil Myers (16.6)

  65. Cole Hamels (16.6)

  66. Mike Minor (16.5) 

  67. Domonic Brown (16.5)

  68. Doug Fister (16.4)

  69. Elvis Andrus (15.8)

  70. Yoenis Cespedes (15.7)

  71. Hisashi Iwakuma (15.7)

  72. Michael Wacha (15.4)

  73. Shelby Miller (15.3)

  74. Hyun-Jin Ryu (15.2)

  75. Jose Abreu (15.1)

  76. Billy Butler (15.0)

  77. Alex Gordon (14.9)

  78. Julio Teheran (14.9)

  79. Carlos Beltran (13.9)

  80. Adrian Gonzalez (13.9)

  81. Ben Revere (13.9)

  82. Koji Uehara (13.8)

  83. Jose Altuve (13.8)

  84. Yadier Molina (13.6)

  85. Everth Cabrera (13.6)

  86. Greg Holland (13.6)

  87. R.A. Dickey (13.6)

  88. Danny Salazar (13.5)

  89. Matt Cain (13.5)

  90.  Jose Reyes (13.5)

  91. Ervin Santana (13.5)

  92. Michael Cuddyer (13.5)

  93. Starling Marte (13.4)

  94. Justin Masterson (12.9)

  95. Matt Carpenter (12.8)

  96. Trevor Rosenthal (12.8)

  97. Alex Cobb (12.7)

  98. Brandon Belt (12.6)

  99. Ben Zobrist (12.5)

  100. Brandon Moss (12.4)

  101. Hiroki Kuroda (12.3)

  102. Brandon Phillips (12.3)

  103. Zack Greinke (12.3)

  104. Jason Heyward (12.3)

  105. Dave Robertson (12.2)

  106. Chris Archer (12.1)

  107. Gerrit Cole (12.0)

  108.  C.C. Sabathia  (11.9)

  109. Jered Weaver (11.9)

  110. Shane Victorino (11.8)

  111. Ian Kinsler (11.8)

  112. Matt Kemp (11.8)

  113. Josh Hamilton (11.8)

  114. Tim Lincecum (11.8)

  115. Mark Trumbo (11.7)

  116. Brett Lawrie (11.7)

  117. Jedd Gyorko (11.3)

  118. Johnny Cueto (11.3)

  119. Jeff Samardzija (11.2)

  120. Kyle Lohse (11.2)

  121. Dan Haren (11.2)

  122. Buster Posey (11.1)

  123. Josh Donaldson (11.1)

  124. Addison Reed (11.1)

  125. Kyle Seager (11.0)

  126. Sonny Gray (11.0)

  127. Anthony Rizzo (11.0)

  128. C.J. Wilson (10.8)

  129. Daniel Murphy (10.8)

  130. Pablo Sandoval (10.6)

  131. Jonathan Lucroy (10.5)

  132. Tony Cingrani (10.5)

  133. Joe Nathan (10.5)

  134. Austin Jackson (10.5)

  135. Desmond Jennings (10.2)

  136. Matt Moore (10.2)

  137. Alfonso Soriano (10.1)

  138. Craig Gentry (10.1)

  139. Brett Gardner (10.1)

  140. Nelson Cruz (10.0)

  141. Wilin Rosario (9.9)

  142. Dan Straily (9.8)

  143. Christian Yelich (9.7) 

  144. Aaron Hill (9.6)

  145. A.J. Griffin (9.5)

  146. Jose Quintana (9.5)

  147. Adam Eaton (9.0)

  148. Carlos Santana (9.0)

  149. Manny Machado (8.8)

  150. Norchika Aoki (8.5)

  151. Serio Romo (8.3)

  152. Leonys Martin (8.3)

  153. Casey Janssen (8.3)

  154. Victor Martinez (8.1)

  155. Aroldis Chapman (8.1)

  156. Andrew Cashner (8.1)

  157. Curtis Granderson (8.0)

  158. Steve Cishek (8.0)

  159. Howie Kendrick (7.9)

  160. Matt Adams (7.8)

  161. Kole Calhoun (7.8)

  162. Coco Crisp (7.8)

  163. Aramis Ramirez (7.8)

  164. Jon Lester (7.7.)

  165. Jason Grilli (7.7)

  166. Brian McCann (7.7)

  167. Chris Tillman (7.3)

  168. Lance Lynn (7.2)

  169. Jim Johnson (7.0)

  170. Travis Wood (6.9)

  171. Ernesto Frieri (6.9)

  172. Jim Henderson (6.8)

  173. Glen Perkins (6.8)

  174. Brad Miller (6.7)

  175. Matt Garza (6.5)

  176. John Lackey (6.5)

  177. Martin Prado (6.4)

  178. Salvador Perez (6.3)

  179. Will Middlebrooks (6.2)

  180. Jonathan Papelbon (6.0)

  181. Tyson Ross (5.8)

  182. Rafael Soriano (5.7)

  183. Grant Balfour (5.7)

  184. Fernando Rodney (5.7)

  185. Alex Wood (5.6)

  186. John Axford (5.6)

  187. Bobby Parnell (5.4)

  188. Pedro Alvarez (5.4)

  189. Joakim  Soria (5.2)

  190. Michael Brantley (5.1)

  191. Will Venable (5.0)

  192. Alejandro de Aza (5.0)
  193. Tommy Hunter (4.7)

  194. Denard Span (4.7)

  195. Bronson Arroyo (4.6)

  196. Nate Jones (4.5)

  197. Angel Pagan (4.3)

  198. A.J. Burnett (4.2)

  199. Chris Johnson (4.2)

  200. Adam Lind (4.1)

  201. Jonathan Villar (3.9)

  202. Avisail Garcia (3.7)

  203. Jose Veras (3.7)

  204. Marco Estrada (3.4)

  205. Jason Castro (3.3)

  206. Ubaldo Jimenez (3.2)

  207. Huston Street (3.1)

  208. Gerardo Parra (3.0)

  209. Miguel Montero (2.7)

  210. Alexei Ramirez (2.4)

  211. Scott Kazmir (2.2)

  212. Franciso Liriano (2.2)

  213. Ivan Nova (2.0)

  214. Tim Hudson (1.7)

  215. Wade Miley (1.6)

  216. Zack Wheeler (1.3)

  217. Mark Buehrle (1.2)

  218. Ian Kennedy (1.2)

  219. Rick Porcello (1.2)

  220. Bartolo Colon (1.2)

  221. Brandon Morrow (1.2)

  222. Wandy Rodriguez (1.2)

  223. Miguel Gonzalez (1.2)

  224. Brandon McCarthy (1.2)

  225. Martin Perez (1.1)

  226. Zach McAllister (1.1)

  227. Kolten Wong (1.1)

  228. Ricky Nolasco (1.1)

  229. Matt Harrison (1.1)

  230. Taijuan Walker (1.1)

  231. Latroy Hawkins (1.1)

  232. Xander Bogaerts (1.1)

  233. Paul Maholm (1.1)

  234. Corey Kluber (1.1)

  235. Nathan Eovaldi (1.1)

  236. Jonathan Niese (1.1)

  237. Carl Crawford (1.1)

  238. Rex Brothers (1.1)

  239. Joaquin Benoit (1.1)

  240. Nick Swisher (1.1)

  241. Erick Aybar (1.1)

  242. Michael Bourn (1.1)

  243. J.J. Hardy (1.1)

  244. Jed Lowrie (1.1)

  245. Michael Morse (1.1)

  246. Andrelton Simmons (1.1)

  247. Nolan Arenado (1.1)

  248. Colby Rasmus (1.1)

  249. Ryan Howard (1.1)

  250. Neil Walker (1.1)

  251. Melky Cabrera (1.1)

  252. Chris Carter (1.1)

  253. Nate Schierholtz (1.0)

  254. Nick Markakis (1.0)

  255. Josh Willingham (1.0)

  256. Mark Teixeira (1.0)

  257. Evan Gattis (1.0)

  258. Matt Dominguez (1.0)

  259. Torii Hunter (1.0)

  260. Chase Headley (1.0)

  261. Corey Hart (1.0)

  262. Matt Wieters (1.0)

  263. Asdrubal Cabrera (1.0)

  264. Marlin Byrd (1.0)

  265. Justin Morneau (1.0)

  266. Chase Utley (1.0)

  267. Mike Napoli (1.0)

  268. Josh Reddick (1.0)

  269. Khris Davis (1.0)

  270. Peter Bourjos (1.0)

  271. J.J. Hoover (1.0)

Draftstreet Week 16 Overview and Optimal Lineups

For week 16, you need to spend the bulk of your money on your running backs while saving on tight ends and receivers.  LeSean McCoy, Dennis Johnson, Phillip Rivers, and Miles Austin should find their way into your line up.  Since the announcement that Wes Welker will be out, Andre Caldwell’s stock has risen significantly.  He’s now the fourth ranked option in terms of value at wide receiver, and the second option I would look to use after Miles Austin. 

One situation you need to be aware of this week involves the Chicago Bears.  Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are mathematically two of the best options this week, but the Bears play Sunday night in what could be a game devoid of playoff implications.  If the Steelers beat the Packers and the Giants upset Detroit, the Bears’ playoff fate will hinge solely upon their week 17 matchup versus the Packers.  If this scenario were to play out, Bears’ Coach Mark Trestman has hinted that he would rest his starters.

Using Vegas odds, we can calculate the chance that both the Steelers (2 point dogs) and Giants (10 point dogs) pull off road upsets to be roughly ten percent.  Since we don’t know for sure if Trestman would rest his starters, this means there is a better than 90% chance that Forte and Cutler play.   Those are good enough odds for me, and I’m going to play my Bears with just the slightest reservation.  At the same time, I couldn’t fault someone for avoiding Bears when setting their lineup.


Week 16 Options Overview

When filling out your week 16 lineup, consider the following players:

QB: Jay Cutler, Phillip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, and Andy Dalton.

RB: LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Dennis Johnson, Jordan Todman, and Rashad Jennings

WR: A.J. Green, Pierre Garcon, Robert Woods, Miles Austin, Andre Caldwell, Michael Crabtree, and Kendall Wright

TE: Delanie Walker, Logan Paulsen, Zach Ertz, Zack Miller, Marcedes Lewis, Ryan Griffin

DST: Browns, Chiefs, Bills, Seahawks, Patriots


Week 16 Sample Lineups:

Lineup 1

QB: Cutler, Rivers

RB: McCoy, Forte, D. Johnson, Lacy

WR: Green, Austin

TE: Paulsen

DST: Browns

Analysis: This lineup has two Bears and I have some reservations about starting Green in what is likely to be a blow out, but there is a ton of talent on this team.  The Browns are the 4th ranked defense for this week, and Paulsen has touchdowns in two out of the last three games.


Lineup 2

QB: Rivers, Cousins (sub in Dalton if you prefer)

RB: McCoy, Bell, Lacy, D. Johnson

WR: Green, Caldwell (If you play Austin instead of Caldwell, you can upgrade to Seahawks at Def)

TE: Paulsen

DST: Bills

Analysis: This lineup avoids Bears.  Is it really much worse thn the previous lineup?  Swap out Cutler for your choice of Cousins or Dalton.  Upgrade Miles Austin to Andre Caldwell and down grade your defense a bit.  Or play Austin and the Seahawks if you prefer those two over Austin and the Bills.


Lineup 3

QB: P. Manning, Rivers

RB: McCoy, Bell, Lacy, D. Johnson

WR: Caldwell, Austin

TE: H. Miller

DST: Chiefs

Analysis: If you swap out A.J. Greeen and play Caldwell and Austin at WR, you give yourself a lot of freedom.  In this example, I went with Peyton and could still afford a good tight end and great defense.  If you want to play Forte instead of Bell, you can easily do so by downgrading your defense to the Browns and playing Zach Miller at tight end.  (Zach is actually projected to score more points than Heath despite having a lower salary.  Ideally, I’d play Zach Miller and the Seahawks defense with this lineup, but the salary comes in a frustrating $100 over the cap.)  Also, note that this lineup doesn’t have any Bears.  You could easily fit Forte in this lineup with a slight downgrade at tight end.

Week 16 Elite Flex Options for Draftstreet Daily Fantasy Football

If you’re looking for elite running backs to use in your week 16 Draftstreet lineup, you can find the four best options playing in either Philadelphia or Green Bay. LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, and Le’Veon Bell are the best running options this week, while A.J. Green and Pierre Garcon are the only receivers I’d consider spending a significant portion of my salary on.

WR Analysis

A.J. Green ($13278, +2.3 Projected Value)

Green is an elite talent, he’s playing at home in a game with playoff implications for his team, and he’s facing a porous defense. It doesn’t get better than that, right? Based on my composite projections, Green presents the best value of any elite flex option this week, but as I wrote about in my Fanduel receiver post, the Bengals have a tendency to shy away from Green when winning. Green averages 16 targets per game when the Bengals lose, but in their nine wins, he averages only 8.6 targets per game. When the Bengals win by two or more touchdowns, he averages a mere seven targets. The Bengals are ten point favorites this week. I love the matchup, but the possibility of a blowout in Cincinnati should dampen expectations to a bit.

Pierre Garcon ($12,665, +1.2 Projected Value)

The Cowboys – Redskins game this week has the second highest over/under of any game, and Garcon could easily produce big numbers in what figures to be a high scoring affair. Garcon has between 11 and 13 targets each of the past eight weeks, and as Cousins has proven that he can throw the deep ball, there’s every reason to believe Garcon will have a big day against his division rival.


Running Back Options

LeSean McCoy ($15,554, +1.8 Projected Value)

It’s hard not to love McCoy this week. After watching Edwin Baker join the Browns midweek only to scamper his way to more than a five yard per carry average, it’s hard to imagine anything besides a huge performance for McCoy. As McCoy proved two weeks ago and Jamal Charles reminded us last week, a dominant performance by a running back can carry your team to victory. McCoy is more likely than anyone to perform at this level in week 16. Find a way to put him on your team.

Matt Forte ($14,310, +1.8 Projected Value)

The Bears and Eagles have great offenses and porous defenses. It’d be hard to fault you for taking multiple players in this contest which has the highest over/under for week 16. Forte is as consistent as anyone in the game. You can play him this week with confidence.

Eddie Lacy ($11,817, +1.7 Projected Value)

Eddie Lacy’s turned in six fantasy games with at least 16 points in his last nine contests. The three times he failed to score sixteen points were against the 3rd ranked, 7th ranked, and 14th ranked defenses. This week, he plays the Steelers, who rank 20th against run.

Le’Veon Bell ($12,369, +1.3 Projected Value)

Opposite Eddie Lacy will be another rookie turning in a great season. Le’Veon Bell has at least twenty touches in seven straight contests, he’s scored double digit fantasy points in nine straight, and he has seventeen receptions in the past three games. He’s facing the league’s fifth worst defense at defending the run and the eighth worst defense at defending pass receiving backs. Bell’s a more solid play this week than his projected value suggests.


A Note About Rankings: All of my rankings are based on the composite projections of a number of reputable fantasy experts. Over time, the consensus projections of experts tend to be more accurate than the projections of any single analyst. To calculate player values, I use a simple formula where a player’s weekly value is equal to his consensus projection minus 1.33 times multiplied by his salary. On Draftstreet, players typically need to return 1.33 points for every $1,000 of salary for you to be in the top 50% of Draftstreet football leagues, and this formula identifies the players who will exceed that ratio by the greatest margin. Also, unless otherwise noted, all references to defensive rankings are based on Football Outsiders’ rankings, as I find their advanced metrics capture team performance better than other ranking systems.

Week 16 Draftstreet Flex Bargains

Bargain Flex Plays for Draftstreet Leagues

Building a successful Draftstreet lineup requires targeting a few players who are relatively cheap but who will outperform the expectations set by their pricetag.  This week, you will want to rely heavily on running backs in your flex options.  Recall that running back production is the easiest to forecast, and this week, the matchups simply worked out in many running backs favor.  There simply aren’t any tight end options to consider using this week, so you’ll find none listed her.  Dennis Johnson, Jordan Todman, Miles Austin, and Kendall Wright represent, in my opinion, are the best bargain plays this week.

 Running Back Options

Dennis Johnson ($6697, +3.7 Projected Value)

As I wrote about in my post about this week’s must start players, Dennis Johnson should be in your lineup.  He represents, by a substantial margin, the best value this week.

Jordan Todman ($9983, +2.0 Projected Value)

It looks as if Maurice Jones-Drew will be unable to go Sunday, making Jordan Todman a strong play for the second week in a row.  Last week against a good Bills’ unit, Jacksonville showed their willingness to channel ther offense through Todman.  If Todman approaches the 25 carries and four receptions that he had last week, he’ll likely produce well over the 11.4 points he needs to be a worthwhile starter.

 Rashad Jennings ($9879, +1.8 Projected Value)

According to Football Outsiders, San Diego has the worst rushing defense in the league.  Jennings has played very well in Darren McFadden’s absence, scoring double digit points in all six of his starts and outscoring the 13.1 points he would need to produce a positive return in five of his six starts.  Darren McFadden is expected to return this week, but Jennings has played well enough to continue as the team’s lead back.  Whether or not he will, of course, is unclear.

Donald Brown ($6132, +1.4 Projected Value)

Trent Richardson has looked better as of late and Brown plays the Chiefs, so outside of Brown’s very affordable salary, there’s not a whole lot to actually like here.  If you have a lineup you love and only $6200 left to spend on a flex player, Brown is a viable option.


Wide Receiver Options

Robert Woods ($4897, +2.7 Projected Value)

Due to the passing of his mother, Stevie Johnson isn’t playing Sunday.  This makes Woods the number one target in Buffalo.  While the price tag is attractive, Thad Lewis will be under center for the Bills this week.  In three games with Thad Lewis under center, Woods had a combined six receptions for 40 yards.   The price tag and number one receiver ranking makes him worth a shot, but I’m not expecting the moon.

Miles Austin ($2588, +2.5 Projected Value)

Like Dennis Johnson, I recommended Miles Austin as a must start player this week.  He’s been horrible, but he can have another horrible week and return the three and a half points you need from him.  He’s also been on the field for all of the Cowboys snaps in recent week and could easily have six grabs and a touchdown, which would be a huge return.  With Terrence Williams’ nagging hamstring injury, there’s enough to like here to give Austin a shot.

Marvin Jones ($4900, +1.8 Projected Value)

Marvin Jones has become relevant again with scores in each of the last two weeks.  Last week he was targeted an impressive twelve times.  His $4900 salary and matchup with the Vikings make him a worthy flex consideration.

Michael Crabtree ($8608, +1.8 Projected Value)

Crabtree has been far from spectacular since returning to the field three weeks ago, but he has produced passable numbers against better than average pass defenses.  This week’s tilt with the Falcons is his first opportunity to exploit a weak secondary.  6 receptions 75 yards, and a touchdown is certainly within the realm of possibility, and a stat line such as this would present a five point return on investment.

Kendall Wright ($8669, +1.7 Projected Value)

 Wright needs to score 8.1 fantasy points to make him a worthy investment.  He’s done this in nine of his last ten starts.  Last week’s 12 reception, 150 yard performance solidified his role as the team’s number one receiver.  Although unlikely to score, Wright should catch enough passes to make him a worthy starter.

A Note About Rankings: All of my rankings are based on the composite projections of a number of reputable fantasy experts.  Over time, the consensus projections of experts tend to be more accurate than the projections of any single analyst.  To calculate player values, I use a simple formula where a player’s weekly value is equal to his consensus projection minus 1.33 times multiplied by his salary.  On Draftstreet, players typically need to return 1.33 points for every $1,000 of salary for you to be in the top 50% of Draftstreet football leagues, and this formula identifies the players who will exceed that ratio by the greatest margin.  Also, unless otherwise noted, all references to defensive rankings are based on Football Outsiders’ rankings, as I find their advanced metrics capture team performance better than other ranking systems. 

Week 16 Draftstreet Must Start Players

Different daily fantasy sites use different forecasting tools to set player values for the week.  When it comes to forecasting values, Fanduel does a rather poor job.  Each week there are perhaps ten to 20 players who represent clear value over their peers.  Draftstreet, on the other hand, does a great job of forecasting values.  When playing on Draftstreet, you’re lucky to find more than two or three players who represent clear value.  If you find these players, it is essential that you get these players into your lineup.  This week, if you don’t have Jay Cutler, Dennis Johnson, and Miles Austin in your lineup, you’re placing yourself at a distinct disadvantage.


Player Analysis

Dennis Johnson ($6697, +3.7 Projected Value)

The most obvious strategy to exploit in daily fantasy leagues is to target running backs who get unexpected starts.  Enter Dennis Johnson.  Sure, he plays the Broncos, but his ability to catch the ball should help him stay involved even if the Texans fall behind, which they likely will.

Jay Cutler ($13028, +2.9 Projected Value) or Phillip Rivers ($13189, +.85 Value)

Cousins presents great value this week against the Cowboys lineup, and I’m even pinning my season long championship hopes to him.  But is he as valuable as Jay Cutler or Phillip Rivers?  These three players are within a $180 range with regards to salary, but the match ups and body of work for Cutler and Rivers make them much better options than Cousins.  Cutler plays the Eagles in what is projected to be the highest scoring game of the week, and while Rivers’ composite projections aren’t overwhelming, he is currently ranked the fourth best passing option for week sixteen according to Fantasy Pros’ cumulative ranking system.  This is simply too much value to pass up, and its essential to play at least one of these two in your Draftstreet lineup.

Miles Austin ($2588, + 2.5 Projected Value)

Since week one when he hauled in ten balls on 12 targets, Miles Austin has been awful.  He missed a month with a hamstring injury and in the four weeks since his return, he’s averaging 1.5 catches for 22 yards.  So why play Austin?  His $2588 salary means he only needs to score 3.5 points to net a return.  2 catches for 25 yards means he met his floor, and a matchup against the Redskins and Terrance Williams’ nagging hamstring injury (he practiced for the first time this week on Friday) could mean a slight uptick in his value.  Austin can only cost you three and a half points, he represents legitimate upside, and he allows you to fit more studs in your lineup.  Roll with him.


A Note About Rankings: All of my rankings are based on the composite projections of a number of reputable fantasy experts.  Over time, the consensus projections of experts tend to be more accurate than the projections of any single analyst.  To calculate player values, I use a simple formula where a player’s weekly value is equal to his consensus projection minus 1.33 times multiplied by his salary.  On Draftstreet, players typically need to return 1.33 points for every $1,000 of salary for you to be in the top 50% of Draftstreet football leagues, and this formula identifies the players who will exceed that ratio by the greatest margin.  Also, unless otherwise noted, all references to defensive rankings are based on Football Outsiders’ rankings, as I find their advanced metrics capture team performance better than other ranking systems. 

Week 16 Fanduel Kicker and Defense Options

When choosing which kicker or defense to play, projections aren’t very valuable.  I prefer to use consensus rankings and then create a scatter chart comparing the top 12 kickers/defense versus their salaries.  I then create a trendline and calculate how far above or below the trend line each player is.  This is called a residual value, and it basically suggests which players are over or under priced in comparison to each other.  After creating residual values, the only other thing I consider when choosing a kicker is the weather.  This week’s kicker options include:

Ryan Succop ($5000, ranked 7th)

Sunday’s Kansas City forecast is a high of 28, chance of snow, and 15 mph winds.

Nick Novak ($5200, ranked 3rd)

Sunday’s San Diego forecast is a high of 67, sunny, with 5 mph winds.

Justin Tucker ($5300, ranked 5th)

Sunday’s Baltimore forecast is 72 degrees, chance of showers, 20 mph winds

Kai Forbath ($5000, ranked 10th)

Sunday’s D.C. forecast is 72 degrees with a chance of showers and 15 mph winds

Robbie Gould ($5000, ranked 11th)

Sunday’s Philadelphis forecase is 69 degrees with a chance of showers and 15 mph winds.



When I began playing daily football leagues, I tried to skimp on defenses.  As I’ve learned, this is only a route worth pursing when there are cheap options you can trust.  This week, the Dolphins ($5100) facing Thad Lewis are the only cheap option I’m comfortable playing.  The Rams, Lions, and Bengals are mid-tier defenses worth their price tag.  If you want to play a top defense, go with the 49ers or the Seahawks.  Because of a lack of viable options last week, I only played the Panthers and Seahawks.  This week, I’m most comfortable paying $6200 for the Seahawks against the Cardinals, but I have no qualms with playing any of these units:

  •  Miami Dolphins at Buffalo($5100, ranked 7th)
  •  St. Louis Rams versus Tampa Bay ($5500, ranked 6th)
  •  San Francisco 49ers versus Atlanta ($5900, ranked 4th)
  •  Detroit Lions versus the Giants ($5700, ranked 5th)
  •  Cincinnati Bengals versus the Bengals ($5600, ranked 8th)
  •  Seattle Seahawks versus Arizona ($6200, ranked 1st)