Over & Undervalued Fantasy Football Players Based on Vegas Implied Totals
Ever hear of the phrase, “Don’t mess with Vegas?” There’s a reason for that. While there are some markets that are certainly beatable, namely player props, weekly lines are extremely efficient and difficult to beat. That’s why it’s important for fantasy managers playing DFS and best ball to use Vegas Win Totals, weekly spreads, and game lines to help us guide our decision-making process and to identify value because Vegas is usually right. That’s the primary goal of this article — to use Vegas implied totals to identify overvalued and undervalued players based on current best ball ADP.
By using Vegas lines, we can forecast what is most likely to happen, then base our decisions around this projection. Of course, there’s an error in how we as analysts project a game script to go. It’s not the only part of the equation, but it’s a resource that is probably being underutilized by novice fantasy managers. It’s a piece of the puzzle and can help us gain an edge against our opponents.
Last week on the DFS Podcast, Kyle and I talked about this concept, so be sure to check that out for a more detailed explanation. In addition, one of our writers, Matt DiSorbo, wrote an excellent article exploring this idea, highlighting that it’s actually more beneficial to correlate Vegas implied team totals with fantasy performance rather than predicting game script. This is something that I’ll personally be using when analyzing weekly DFS. I’d recommend reading that article before proceeding.
Average Weekly Implied Totals
Believe it or not, there are actually game lines available on some books for every week of the regular season. In the table below, I’ve taken every team’s implied total for Weeks 1-18 and calculated the average, then sorted the data based on the highest average team total.
|Team||Average Weekly Vegas Total|
To no one’s surprise, Kansas City leads the league in implied points, but right behind them…the defending Super Bowl champs. The Bucs’ 28.2 average implied total is the second-highest in football, which makes sense. Brady is entering his second season in Bruce Arians’ system after playing last year with a torn MCL, the team is deep at one of the most important positions in football at WR, and they return all 22 starters on both sides of the football.
Despite this massive total, Tom Brady stacks in best ball seem to be undervalued. Brady is currently going off the board as the QB10, yet we saw the team employ one of the pass happiest schemes in football down the stretch. Their 62% pass rate ranked 10th highest in football and he’s got three proven pass catchers at his disposal. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin continue to fall into the 4th round of drafts, while Antonio Brown usually falls to round 9 or 10. After averaging 30.8 points per game last year, it’s scary to think how good Tom Brady and the Bucs can be in 2021, especially after the adversity they faced last year. Tom Brady to win MVP at +1650 is one of my favorite bets of 2021. I also highlighted the Bucs in my favorite teams to target in Best Ball Mania for their playoff schedules.
The Colts’ 25.8 average implied total ranks 5th best in football, yet they have question marks all over the place on the offensive side of the football. Last season, Carson Wentz was PFF’s 33rd best-graded QB…otherwise known as worse than Drew Lock. Even so, Vegas seems to be banking on a bounce-back campaign from Wentz despite a lackluster group of pass-catchers at his disposal. The Colts were weirdly favored in 15-of-16 games last year, the only team to accomplish that feat despite many other guesses on Twitter.
There are some things working in his favor, however, as he reunites with his former offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, who is now the head coach in Indy. When Wentz was playing MVP caliber football in 2017 prior to his ACL injury, Reich was the OC for the Eagles, and we saw Indy’s offense produce 28.2 points per game last year, 9th best in football. If…and it’s a big if…Carson Wentz can return to form this year, the Colts are going to be on a lot of winning best ball rosters thanks to their low opportunity cost. As of mid-July, their current WR1 in terms of ADP is Michael Pittman Jr. at WR47 and he can be stacked with Wentz as your QB2 or 3 on a roster at a dirt-cheap price tag of QB22. T.Y. Hilton (WR63), Parris Campbell (WR64), and Nyheim Hines (RB45) are also discounted stacking options where the risk is already baked into their ADP. On a plus note, they also benefit from playing in one of the worst divisions in football. Indy gets to play six games against Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Houston, three of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Vegas expects Cleveland to continue to be a prolific offense in Kevin Stefanski’s second year at the helm. Their 25.2 average implied total is 8th best in football after averaging 25.5 points last year, and that includes two games with awful weather in Weeks 10 and 11 in which those respective games finished 16-6 and 10-7. In those weeks, Baker Mayfield completed a total of 24 passes. If you ask most analysts about the Browns, they’d probably tell you they were one of the most run-heavy teams in football last year, and statistically speaking, they absolutely were. Cleveland ran the ball at a 48% clip, 4th most in football.
However, in 2021, there’s optimism that we could see Baker Mayfield be more of a focal point in the passing game. If you exclude those two bad weather games from last year, Mayfield averaged 31.4 pass attempts per game. On a 16 game pace, this would have totaled 502 pass attempts, which would have ranked 16th in football. I’m not saying the Browns are going to abandon the run – they’re not. But, there is optimism that Mayfield will throw more in 2021 in his second year with Stefanski with a heavy play-action game plan where we can continue to expect efficiency with higher scoring games.
Last year, Cleveland played to the over 53% of the time and despite the 8th best-implied total according to Vegas, all Browns skill position players not named Nick Chubb are going after pick 50. Vegas is telling us this team is going to score points and based on their 2020 season, there’s no reason to think they won’t, yet all of their main guys are values. Taking Baker Mayfield as your QB2 in best ball at QB21 ADP to pair him with Jarvis Landry (WR40), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR28), or Kareem Hunt (RB26) makes a ton of sense. This projects to be an offense that scores a ton of points, and the ADP for Browns players doesn’t align.
To be transparent, I have a lot of exposure to Bengals stacks in best ball on teams where I drafted before this research. They project to be a pass-happy offense and they have one of the best WR groups in the NFL while also playing up-tempo. Last year, prior to Burrow’s knee injury, the Bengals ranked 1st in plays per game, ranked 8th in pace, and no QB dropped back to pass in the NFL more than Burrow prior to his Week 11 injury. On the surface, it should be a fantasy goldmine, so why is their average Vegas total the 6th lowest in football?
I’m likely to dial back my Bengals exposure moving forward, as the ADP on their main guys seems to be getting out of reach. Joe Burrow is currently the QB9 off the board and all four of his main weapons (Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd) are going in the top 7 rounds of drafts, top 5 if you don’t include Boyd. It’s a lot of draft capital with a high opportunity cost for a team that isn’t projected to score a ton of real-life points. Plus, when you consider that Joe Burrow is coming off a major knee surgery, there seems to be more downside with this team than best ball drafters are willing to admit. I wrote about Joe Burrow here as well as in the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit.
It’s easy to talk yourself into upside with a team like Washington, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm throwing passes to Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel on the perimeter and Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic out of the backfield. I do believe this offense has the potential to be prolific for fantasy, but it’s not an offense I’ll be making a priority to stack based on their average implied total of just 22.4 points, 8th lowest in the league.
Right now, Antonio Gibson (RB11) and Terry McLaurin (WR12) require premium draft capital to get them on your roster. Curtis Samuel (WR42), Dyami Brown (WR78), Logan Thomas (TE10), and J.D. McKissic (RB49) are much more affordable, so their opportunity cost isn’t much. However, Gibson and McLaurin’s ADP requires Washington’s offense to be great for fantasy, and Vegas doesn’t necessarily predict that.
In general, I’m comfortable going in on McLaurin and Gibson given their upside. However, this low average total from Vegas suggests that maybe we should pump the brakes on over-investing in Washington team stacks.