NFL DFS Week 5 (2021)

With 4 weeks into the new season, it's time to run the QB and DST regression models I developed a few years ago. The DST model is quite simple. I compare the DVOA metrics (from Football Outsiders) for each team's defense and opposing offense. FYI, a positive DVOA for a team's offense is considered strong whereas a negative DVOA indicates an inferior offense. The opposite is true for defense. For example, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive DVOA in 2020 was 23.9% while the NY Jets offensive DVOA was -20.5%. If you are not aware of the Chiefs' offensive prowess and the Jets' offensive ineptitude, just stop reading! Defensive DVOA was -17.0% for the LA Rams in 2020, arguably one of the most feared defenses in the NFL that season, and 15.2% for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team which could not stop anyone.

When it comes to the DST model, I add each team's defensive DVOA with the opposition's offensive DVOA. That sum serves as the input for the model with predicted DK score as the output (this model can also be applied to FD). A negative sum is considered favorable for the DST while we want to steer clear of DST with a positive sum. I also divide each team's DK salary by the predicted DST score to see which teams represent the best value. The table below displays the DST predictions for Week 5.


So why spend all of this time discussing DST when we all know that a strong QB/WR/TE stack as well as rostering dominant RBs will lead to DFS glory? Often times the teams that finish at the top of most GPPs typically had the best DST that day. There is a good deal of variance in fantasy football but DST tends to have more consistency than other positions given that a DST represents an amalgamation of players. I am not suggesting to start your DFS build with a DST but definitely be mindful of who you roster for DST. For Week 5, there are several DST that are WAY overpriced. New England and Tampa Bay are two good examples with their exorbitant DK salaries: $4900 and $4700. If you spend that much on a DST, you will need to sacrifice big time at the other positions, especially when you can get the same, if not better, production from a DST that is at least $2000 cheaper.

For Week 5, New Orleans seems to have the best value but the Saints DST has not been terribly consistent. Las Vegas is an intriguing option, especially playing at home against a rookie QB. Still, I would prefer more savings by going with Houston. Of course this is risky since the Texans have a poor offense meanings several 3-and-outs which can wear down that team's defense since the offense is hardly giving the defense a breather. However, the Patriots are missing FOUR of their starting offensive linemen. Let that sink in for a bit. FOUR! This game is also in Houston and the Texans defense is actually quite decent. At $2300 on DK and $3200 on FD, you will be able to play up for other positions. Should the Texans DST tee off on New England, you will be sitting pretty since I expect the Texans DST to have very low ownership. This is a gamble but isn't DFS gambling?!

OK, enough with DST! How about QB?! Check out the table below which shows the results of my QB model.


This model is much more complex than the DST model since it is multiple linear regression, not simply linear regression. That means that there is more than one input variable. The variables are the following: Road/Home, natural logarithm of DK salary, Vegas point total for each team and its opponent, first downs, percent of total plays going for passes, turnovers, 3rd down conversion percentage, passing completion percentage, and sacks allowed. For the counting stats, I will average the team's per game average for each category and per game average the opposition allows for those stats. As I said, this model is complex but it works! I will also consider the DK salary/predicted DK score ratio (same can be applied for FD).

The model loves Kyler Murray as it should. He is the highest priced QB on the slate and the model will give a lot of weight to DK salary. After all, DK is very good at pricing players and the super cheap QBs will most likely be a waste of your time and money. The model also likes Tom Brady and Dak Prescott. My issue with Brady is that he is missing Rob Gronkowski, his security blanket for the past decade. Prescott is tricky since I am not sure how to pair him. Amari Cooper has been inconsistent and has a questionable tag. CeeDee Lamb has also been inconsistent. Plus Dallas has shown more of a penchant towards the run game. As for Murray, we know he is pricey as well as his top WR DeAndre Hopkins. Another issue with both Murray and Prescott is that they like to run it into the end zone themselves making a stack not viable. Both will be at high ownership as well.

Next on the list is Sam Darnold and I like him a lot. He is 3-1 in Carolina and has passed for 300 yards three times. Last year Darnold started 12 games (three times as much as the number of starts this season) but won just twice and never cracked 300 yards. Clearly he has found new life in Carolina and has established a fantastic rapport with WR DJ Moore.

I am going to firmly plant my flag on the Eagles-Panthers game given the favorable pricing and potentially suppressed ownership. Now that we are settled with QB, all else falls into place such as which WR/TE to combine with our QB and which opposing offensive player we add to our stack. That is where I like to use the Player Correlation app on the Advanced Sports Analytics (ASA) site. The link is below.

Both Darnold and Moore have a strong correlation even though the sample size is still small. Check out the correlation table as well as the scatter plot below using ASA's correlation app.



A bigger reason why I love both Darnold and Moore is their matchup against Philadelphia. During Week 3, the Eagles allowed the Cowboys to tear them apart. Prescott passed for 238 yards and 3 TDs with 2 of those TDs going to TE Dalton Schultz. Elliott and Pollard combined for 28 carries, 155 yards, and 2 TDs. Last week Tyreek Hill nearly matched his career day against Tampa Bay the year before: 11 receptions, 186 yards, and 3 TDs. Mahomes wasn't too shabby either with 278 passing yards and 5 passing TDs. Overall the Chiefs ground game combined for 32 carries, 200 yards, and 1 TD. Even though the Eagles only allowed 6 points to an anemic Atlanta offense and just 17 points to an underachieving 49ers squad, both teams still managed over 100 rushing yards. Clearly the Eagles defense is getting demolished which sets things up nicely for Darnold and Moore to continue their impressive starts to the 2021 season. It's also a home game for Carolina which helps.

On the way back, I would grab Devonta Smith. Right now it's easy to say that the Panthers defense has looked good but consider the Panthers first three opponents: Jets, Saints, and Texans. I don't need to tell you how bad the Jets and Texans offenses are right now. As for the Saints, they were out of sorts with half of the coaching staff out due to COVID. When the Panthers finally played a decent offense, they regressed back to the mean by giving up 36 points and over 200 rushing yards. Even though the Eagles defense is awful, they can move the ball through the air and have the makings of a dynamic offense. Smith was arguably one of the best route runners in college football during the last 15 - 20 years. He is finding ways to get open and Eagles QB Jalen Hurts has a very strong and accurate arm. Smith is already leading his team with targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He should be strongly considered for offensive rookie of the year and you should consider playing him in your DFS lineups. At a price of just $5900 on DK and $6000 on FD, he is nearly a must start and just eat the chalk with him. I can see him easily reaching 4x value on DK and 3x value on FD.

Now that we are settled with our QB stack and DST and found great value there, let's move onto other value plays. I love both Kenny Golladay and Ross Dwelley. The reason is opportunity. The NY Giants are missing both Darius Slay and Sterling Shepard and Golladay is too talented of a WR for Giants QB Daniel Jones to ignore. His pricing is great on DK ($5900) and FD ($6200).

Same can be said about Dwelley. Pro Bowl TE George Kittle is now on the IR for at least a month meaning that Dwelley steps into the starting TE role. While Dwelley didn't do much with his starting opportunities last season, the 49ers also had a QB carousel. That is not the case this season with heralded rookie QB Trey Lance ready to take over the reins for the 49ers. Lance is a way more talented passer than Jimmy Garoppolo. Of course Lance has shown a penchant to hit WR Deebo Samuel for some big plays this season but you still have to like Dwelley's pricing and potential boost in snap percentage. Also, Dwelley is a local kid (having played in high school football in the greater Sacramento area) and is on a one year contract. You better believe he will want to make the most of this golden opportunity ahead of him. Furthermore, Dwelley has been with the 49ers for four seasons so he knows Kyle Shanahan's play book quite well. Finally, Dwelley put up strong numbers while playing college football at the University of San Diego. He caught 10 TDs in each of his last two seasons in San Diego so clearly the talent is there. I am confident Lance can help Dwelley realize his fullest potential in the NFL.

Now we are done with our value plays, let's go on a shopping spree with RBs! On FD, we can grab three high priced and uber talented RBs. You could pay all the way up to Derrick Henry but I would much prefer the following three RBs: Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, and Austin Ekeler. Each can easily put up 20 fantasy points and have the potential for cracking 30 or even 40 fantasy points. What I also love about those three RBs is the fact that they see the field for nearly 75 - 80% of their team's offensive snaps, usually touch the ball at least 20 times, and are heavily involved in the passing game.

On DK, the pricing is a bit tricky so we can't get all three of those RBs. I will stick with Jones given that he has already had a monster game this season and has a soft match up against the Bengals. Plus he is a good pivot from what could be a popular Rodgers/Adams stack. You could get good opportunities from Leonard Fournette and James Robinson. With Fournette, you have a RB who tends to get several red zone / goal line carries and plays on a team that should win by at least 10 points at home against a team that is going through a downward spiral. With Robinson, he doesn't play on a good team but gets a lot of touches and has quickly become a trusted weapon for Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence. For the same price on DK, you can also go with a full Panthers stack by rostering RB Chuba Hubbard. He disappointed last week but the game script was not conducive for the run game with Carolina playing from behind for the entire game. That should not be the case today.

Sample lineups for both DK and FD are shown below. Please comment on who you like this week and your thoughts on these lineups. Good luck today!