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Week 16 NFL DFS + Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown Column With Matt Savoca

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Matt Savoca gives you the most in-depth data for Week 16 NFL DFS slate and breaks down NFL DFS Picks for DraftKings + FanDuel lineups

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(43.5) Cleveland Browns (25) @ New York Jets (18.5)

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of Data, Click Graphs to Enlarge

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Team Passing and Pace

First, let’s take a look at the possibility of this game turning into a shootout, as teams that play faster and pass more than average tend to score more fantasy points. When both teams play aggressively, it often creates a game environment perfect for fantasy scoring. Games have a higher probability of going over their Vegas total as well. Ideally, we’re seeking matchups where both teams are in the upper-right quadrant of the chart below (see the chart’s caption for more details).

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

Despite picking up their first win of the season in Week 15, the Jets, from a play-calling perspective remain one of the least-exciting offenses in football, choosing to focus on clock-control and incremental gains on the ground. While Cleveland ranks below league-average in game-adjusted pace of play, they make up for that lack of speed by opting to throw deeper than most teams in neutral situations, breathing unexpected upside into an offense that remains centered around its two-headed rushing attack

Recent Quarterback Performance

Next, let’s examine the starting quarterbacks’ recent play. Sustained drives in the NFL rely on efficiency at the quarterback position, so I’ve identified my three favorite performance indicators for assessing quarterback performance. The three bar charts below (see the graph’s caption for more detail) represent a quarterback’s per-drive efficiency (left bar-chart), per-play efficiency including rushes/scrambles (center) and per-pass efficiency (right). Higher rankings from both players indicate a higher likelihood of efficient play, thus a higher probability of fantasy points.

The three columns represent my three primary performance indicators for quarterbacks. Furthest left (tDSR) is True Drive Success Rate, a drive-based efficiency metric that measures a quarterback’s ability to turn drives into touchdowns, regressed based on sample size. The middle column, Expected Points Added (EPA), is a measure of per-play efficiency and includes scrambles and designed runs. Finally, on the right is per-pass efficiency, Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) based on the publicly available completion percentage model included in the NFLFastR package.

Baker Mayfield is playing the best football of his career. While it’s clear coach Kevin Stefanski and Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt have created an offense that focuses on the ground game and doesn’t ask too much of their quarterback, Mayfield has responded with top-tier efficiency on a per-drive, per-pass, and per-play basis over the last five weeks. Sam Darnold is still struggling overall but seems to have found his touch as a passer recently, ranking just below Deshaun Watson in completion percentage above expectation, the chart on the right.

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NFL DFS Player Pool Picker: Upside Analysis

Now, let’s examine the primary skill players from each offense. Unless participating in a large-field tournament, these are the players you should be focusing on in your daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, I’ve made it easy to compare their per-game fantasy (in column 3) to their DraftKings main slate salary ranking (in column 2). Column 4 ranks the player using my favorite position-specific volume metric: Expected fantasy points, which is curated by PFF.  The Defense vs. Position column is an extremely helpful position-specific and player-group specific (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) metric that helps determine if an offensive player is likely to be in a position to exceed their expected fantasy points. Higher numbers in the Defense vs. Position column indicate easier matchups for the offense, while numbers closer to one indicate a stout defense against that specific position-group.

The final column, Expected Projection, combines a player’s expected fantasy points with their weekly matchup into one helpful value metric. Apart from the Awesemo projections (which should still carry the most weight in determining player value), Expected Projection is one of my favorite metrics to help me narrow down my favorite plays of the week. The rankings are always specific to the slate, meaning if a player or team is ranked No. 1 at a specific metric, they may not necessarily be ranked No. 1 in the NFL, but they are for this specific slate.

Cleveland Browns NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
CLE Baker Mayfield, QB #8 #11 #18 #32 20.5 Fpts (QB6)
CLE Nick Chubb, RB #1 #2 #5 #13 19.5 Fpts (RB2)
CLE Jarvis Landry, WR #7 #18 #22 #32 15.5 Fpts (WR8)
CLE Kareem Hunt, RB #15 #17 #21 #13 12.5 Fpts (RB12)
CLE Rashard Higgins, WR #28 #23 #43 #23 11.5 Fpts (WR24)
CLE Austin Hooper, TE #12 #10 #18 #32 9.5 Fpts (TE8)

New York Jets NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
NYJ Sam Darnold, QB #18 #17 #27 #16 15.5 Fpts (QB14)
NYJ Jamison Crowder, WR #32 #32 #55 #4 9.5 Fpts (WR34)
NYJ Denzel Mims, WR #51 #55 #72 #31 8 Fpts (WR48)
NYJ Frank Gore, RB #31 #31 #41 #8 6.5 Fpts (RB27)
NYJ Breshad Perriman, WR #44 #21 #40 #14 11 Fpts (WR27)

While the Browns have certainly been “priced-up” for their matchup against the Jets, it’s excellent to see all of the Browns primary options’ expected projections right in line with their salary-based expectations. Chubb will be difficult to fit into lineups, as the highest salary back on the slate, but presents arguably the highest floor at the position this weekend without Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook on the main slate. For the Jets, the lower-salary receivers, Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman, seem like the strongest value-plays on the New York side of the ball. Mims seems to have an especially favorable matchup and has a salary outside the top 50 wide receivers.

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NFL DFS Backfield Values: Running Back Opportunities

Nailing the running back position in your fantasy football lineups is vitally important. There are many metrics that help fantasy gamers determine which running backs earn higher-value touches than their peers, but my favorite is Quality Opportunities per game. It only counts running back looks that come via the receiving game (as receptions are much more valuable on a per-play basis than rushes) or via goal line rushes (inside the opponent’s 10-yard line) since there isn’t anything more valuable than a touchdown.

 

This chart measures Quality Opportunities per Game (Targets or Goal line carries), and its variant, Quality Opportunity Share, which are both key performance indicators for running backs. This metric helps filter so-called “empty touches” from a running back’s workload and highlights the opportunities that are most likely to be successful for fantasy football. It includes injured players, in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

With Frank Gore and Ty Johnson splitting the workload for the Jets, the only running backs worth considering in daily fantasy football lineups are Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hunt, despite playing on just over half of the Browns’ snaps, continues to be heavily utilized when on the field, commanding nearly as many quality opportunities as Chubb. Both could score multiple times in this plus-matchup.

NFL DFS Receiving Values: Skill Position Opportunity Ranges

The wide receiver and tight end positions are two of the higher-variance positions in all of daily fantasy football, so it’s important to consider both floor and ceiling when predicting a player’s usage. Players with unexpectedly high opportunity in the passing game often have the best chances to outperform their projections, so I created a chart that measures a player’s opportunity range of outcomes (see the caption of the graph for more details on how this is calculated.). The horizontal bars represent a player’s expected opportunity range, while the center dot represents their average opportunity.

This chart measures the mathematical uncertainty in each player’s true weighted opportunity metric (the metric is explained in the caption of the Game Opportunity Chart above), providing an insight into a player’s range of outcomes related to receiving opportunity. For each player, the team-color dot is the “true” metric, while the red dot indicates the “observed” stat. The bars represent a player’s 95% credible interval, which we can use to measure the uncertainty (both positive and negative) related to their expected workload through the air.

Two things stand out from the chart on the left. First, It appears that Denzel Mims (when he’s on the field) and Breshad Perriman have more upside than Jamison Crowder, despite Crowder posting monster target numbers to begin the season. Second, when factoring-in air yards to the Browns’ passing attack, Rashard Higgins appears to have equal upside to presumed primary receiver Jarvis Landry. Higgins is absolutely in play in small-field tournaments and can even be considered in cash games as a budget-receiver option.

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NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

In daily fantasy football, depending on the size and type of contest you’re playing, it’s often advantageous to expand your player pool to less-utilized offensive players. In this section, we examine every part-time player’s usage based on playing time, opportunity and (again) defensive matchup. For each player, I create an Opportunity Score, which scales a position-specific opportunity metric between zero (least valuable) and 100 (most valuable). Scores above 50 tend to indicate starter-level opportunity, while scores over 80 indicate star-level usage. Finally, I categorize the players as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Cleveland Browns NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
CLE Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR 37% 54 #8 MME-only
CLE David Njoku, TE 51% 58 #32 MME-only
CLE Harrison Bryant, TE 60% 77 #32 MME-only
CLE KhaDarel Hodge, WR 51% 59 #8 Look Elsewhere

New York Jets NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
NYJ Ty Johnson, RB 29% 80 #8 Look Elsewhere
NYJ Chris Herndon, TE 68% 58 #29 Look Elsewhere
NYJ Josh Adams, RB 14% 68 #8 Look Elsewhere
NYJ Ryan Griffin, TE 47% 57 #29 Look Elsewhere

With the Jets struggling mightily over the middle of the field, and ranking dead last against opposing tight ends, fantasy gamers can absolutely consider the Browns’ auxiliary passing game options in large-field contests, as Donavon Peoples-Jones, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant look particularly strong in the chart above.

Final Thoughts

Don’t expect an encore victory for the Jets. The Browns will control this one from start to finish, making Chubb and Hunt the most valuable plays, by far, in this contest. Alternatively, no one should be surprised if Baker Mayfield throws for another four touchdowns.

Prediction: Browns 27, Jets 16


Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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