DraftKings NFL Showdown Week 1: Captain Mode Strategy
Article has been updated to reflect a change in methodology that boosted results for QBs and subsequent confirmation that Nick Foles is starting in the place of Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery will not be starting
2018 will be the year of the Showdown at DraftKings. The company offered a $1M-to-first Super Bowl contest at the end of last season, and now the Showdown is back for the first game of the 2018 season with a $2.5M total, $1M-to-first single-game contest where you combine six players from the Eagles and Falcons.
The 2018 Super Bowl contest presented a new opportunity to study the format and get your strategy ahead of the competition. We analyzed the 4-offensive, 2-defensive player lineup possibilities and found what would have been the most common winning lineups from similar historical matchups.
The biggest wrinkle in the Super Bowl contest was adding individual defensive players (IDP) into the mix. This year IDP is out, but kickers are in along with the innovative “Captain” (CPT) designation that allows players to designate one player for enhanced (1.5x) scoring and salary. The designation allows you to stake a higher claim on one individual player, and it also increases the number of possible rosters, thereby reducing the number of duplicate winners.
I’ve already put the NBA and MLB Showdown contests under the microscope, with great results for those who adopted the optimal strategies before the crowd.
My approach to analyzing the Kickoff Showdown contest is similar to what I did for the Super Bowl contest. Yet this time I’m focusing more on the insights for analyzing the 100 most similar historical matchups from a high level, not focusing too heavily on specific lineups.
I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2005-2017 and found the closest analogies to the PHI-ATL matchups according to the following parameters: Betting spread, over/under, average fantasy points scoring for the top-ranked positional players of both rosters (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1).
I won’t detail every matchup that falls into the top-100, but for illustration let’s look at the most similar matchup: 2016 Week 16, Eagles-Giants.
Ironically, the game features the injured Carson Wentz in the role of Nick Foles, though it is rookie-year Wentz who was a more Foles-like player than the MVP-level play we saw from Wentz last season. The spread and over/under are very similar (Eagles -1.5, 43.5 O/U versus Eagles -2.5, 45.5 O/U). We have Odell Beckham as a proxy for Julio Jones, Zach Ertz playing himself, and Jordan Mathews as a lower-scoring WR1 like Nelson Agholor.
For this game and 99 other similar matchups, I calculated every possible combination that fits with Showdown rules (one CPT, at least one offensive player from each team) and would fall under the $50K salary threshold assuming the salaries for the historical similar matchups are the same as those for the 2018 kickoff contest.
Choosing the right captain
The most unique part of the format, and therefore the biggest opportunity for competitive advantage is choosing your CPT. Should you always choose a QB who typically has the highest absolute fantasy scoring? Are defenses and kickers viable options? RB vs WR? I went through the millions of possible lineup combinations for the 100 most similar matchups and found who the CPT selections were on the top-5 scoring lineups for each matchup. Here are the 500 CPT from those matchups by position rank according to salary.
It’s nearly impossible to highlight all the important takeaways from these results, but I’ll hit what jumps out to me.
- WR1 comes in at the top as the highest upside position, with QB, RB1 and WR2 trailing.
- TE1 is a bit lower, but that might be more about the lack of true scoring TEs to comp Ertz to than this particular matchup.
- WR >>>> RB. The combined CPT selection for total WRs is much higher than RBs.
- You might think kickers have some appeal as an uber-contrarian play, but it hasn’t paid off often enough to justify the selection.
Digging in further to WR/TE
It good to know that WR1 and QB are the most common CPT selection for optimal lineups, but surprisingly the WR1 CPT is most often from the favorite, or in this case being Agholor, not Julio Jones who trails slightly. As you’d expect, the TE1 from the favorite (Ertz) is much more often the CPT than that from the underdog (Hooper). Foles also looks more compelling than Matt Ryan.
In fact, nearly across the board for positions, the favorite team has the largest concentration of players who were the optimal CPT. This doesn’t mean that we should completely fade the Falcons for CPT, but it’s something to keep in mind.
More to come
In subsequent articles during the weeks leading up until kickoff, I’m going to go deeper into the individual selections and stacks used in the optimal lineups for similar matchups. There is so much to explore with this format, and there won’t be a better time than Week 1 to apply insights and profit versus the rest of the field who are still trying to figure things out.