NFL Week 11 WR Picks: An Explanation of How to Determine EV+

A guide to EV+ and how we calculate it

When we assess players on a weekly basis, we look for opportunity, weigh talent, and then factor in matchup to calculate expected value. O+T+M = EV. Targets give us insight into opportunity. DVOA numbers give is insight on matchup, and talent is simply a product of past results. We know Antonio Brown has talent. Sometimes talent trumps matchup, but it rarely trumps opportunity. Sometimes talented players are neutralized by circumstances.

Why QB Talent Matters

The WR position is interesting because EV is directly correlated to QB talent. A WR like DeAndre Hopkins is talented enough to overcome average QB play. When QB becomes very poor, even a highly talented WR suffers.

Demaryius Thomas is a great example of talent being neutralized by circumstances. WR value is directly proportional to QB talent. If Peyton Manning is a good QB, Demaryius Thomas is quite valuable. If Peyton Manning is a terrible QB, Demaryius Thomas is nowhere near as valuable. if Ben Roethlisberger is playing, Antonio Brown is immensely valuable. If Michael Vick is the starting QB, Antonio Brown is virtually worthless. So our equation for WRs becomes O+QBT+T+M = EV. Demaryius Thomas is talented enough to produce, even with Peyton Manning being awful, but even he can't overcome extremely negative QBT.

Peyton Manning and Michael Vick are examples of QBT- this year. So we know that QBT is an important variable for assessing WR EV. QBT- limits upside and production, but QBT+ can raise an otherwise mediocre talent into a EV+ play.

New England WR Danny Amendola this week is an EV+ play. Why? First of all, he has arguably the best QBT+ in Tom Brady, opportunity will be increased with the absence of Julian Edelman, and the Bills' secondary is strong on the outside, but is softer against the slot, where Amendola will primarily line up. Talent is somewhat irrelevant here. QBT+ + O + M = EV+. Positive QB talent, opportunity, and matchup are all favorable. Now consider Amendola is only priced at $4000 on DraftKings. Now we have our final variable: Price.

QBT + Matchup + O + P - T. Talent is the only thing working against Amendola. But in this case, the QB talent and opportunity are so high, that it lessens Amendola's talent factor in the equation. We know he's talented enough to run routes and catch footballs. We can call his talent a wash, not positive or negative, but somewhere in the median average to NFL WRs. That is about all we need here. A lower talent number however, does limit upside. It is hard to fathom Amendola putting up a massive 40 point day, but if he hits 24 points, he's given us an exceptional 6X ROI. 9 catches for 90 yards and 1 TD doesn't seem completely out of the question as his ceilling. It's all about value. If Amendola was Julian Edelman, he'd cost twice as much.

Putting the Variables Together

QBT = +, Matchup = +, Opportunity = +, Price = +, Talent = +/-

So assessing the 5 variables here, Amendola has 4 positives and 1 wash. This is how we come up with EV+. Expected Value is positive because we have 4 positives and 1 neutral. Even if we call talent a negative, it is still 4 to 1. This is how we determine the positive expected value or EV+.

Now let's look at the Raiders WRs. Derek Carr is producing a lot of passing TDs so far on the season, so we'll call that QBT+, the matchup is favorable as Detroit's defense is poor against the pass. Now we assess talent. Amari Cooper is priced higher because of his talent, but he is still a rookie with only 9 games under his belt. Michael Crabtree is more of a known commodity. Talent is working against his pricing based on past results, but this year we see that Crabtree's production is actually better than Cooper's.

Now, let's analyze matchup a little further. We need to understand who the WRs will be matched up against. Amari Cooper is expected to be shadowed by Darius Slay, who is Detroit's best cover corner, and actually one of the better rated CBs in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Crabtree on the other hand will likely be facing a 3rd string CB most of the day. Matchup advantage = Crabtree. As far as opportunity, they should both see around the same number of targets with another slight advantage given to Crabtree.

The EV+ Chart

Let's construct a basic little chart for calculating EV+.

We can go a step further an assign a value on a 10 point scale to each variable with 10 being the highest of positive and 1 being the lowest of negative. To keep it simple, we will weigh all 5 variables evenly. 50 would be the maximum score and 5 would be the lowest.

WR QB Talent Opportunity Matchup Price Talent Total Points
Crabtree 7 7.5 8 5 7 34.5
Cooper 7 7 3 5 8 30

Let's assume based on these variables that 50 is the highest possible score, like Antonio Brown facing the Raiders in Week 9. All his variables leading into that day would have produced a score somewhere in the 40s. QB Talent is obviously constant between both WRs. Opportunity slightly favors Crabtree given target totals on the season. Matchup strongly favors Crabtree with Cooper matched up with Slay. Price is the expected cost per point based on projections, which is currently average for both WRs, so I am using 5 points there. For talent, I will give Cooper a slight edge.

What we see here from this table is that Crabtree scores higher and therefore will rank higher as an EV+ play. You will notice that this is almost solely based on matchup. The difference between Cooper and Crabtree is matchup. But Cooper's talent is also high, which means he may be immune to good coverage. So that is another variable we have to consider. He did produce earlier in the year against Joe Haden.

Now we think about price. Crabtree is listed at $6000 on DK, while Cooper is $6800. Cooper is projected at 17.7 points and Crabtree at 15.6, making their projected CPP about the same. Does this seem right based on what we've just analyzed? No. It doesn't. Crabtree is probably going to have a higher ceiling and floor in this matchup. So if we tilt the Price variable to 7 in Crabtree's favor and bump Cooper down to 4, we see an even wider gap.

Ownership Percentages and EV+

The final variable in our equation is ownership percentage. This is what we try to determine when selecting our players. EV+ is very relevant to ownership percentage. If a player is projected to see high ownership, we don't immediately fade him. We weigh his EV+ and determine if we can get similar value with a lesser-owned player, or if his EV+ is so high, it means we risk falling significantly behind the pack by fading him. Consider Antonio Brown in week 9. Even though he was about as chalky as we've ever seen, it would have been suicide to fade him that week because he actually exceeded ceiling. Don't simply weigh high projected ownership as a reason to be contrarian. If your player has 40+ on the EV chart, you play him no matter what the ownership percentages are. Remember, your goal isn't to build a team that is going to score the most points, your goal is to build a team that has the opportunity to score more points than your opponents.

This should give you a good idea of what the experts are talking about when they discuss EV+ plays. Now, does this mean I'm telling you Michael Crabtree is without a doubt going to have a better game than Amari Cooper? No. What I'm telling you is that based on our analysis, if this game was played 100 times, Crabtree would probably have the better game 80 out of 100 times.
The odds are in our favor. That is what we want in DFS.

Week 11 WR plays

Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Michael Crabtree, Mike Evans, Danny Amendola, Eric Decker, and Stevie Johnson are all plays I'm on this week.

Megatron facing a bad Raiders secondary is the narrative, but with Nate Allen returning at SS, TJ Carrie slides back over to CB. Last week, the Raiders were gashed on the ground by Adrian Peterson, although 40% of his 200 yards were on a long 80 yard TD late in the game. The Lions are the worst rushing offense in football. They will have to take to the air in this game, and that means a lot of opportunity for Megatron, Golden Tate, and to a lesser extent Theo Riddick, Lance Moore, and Eric Ebron. We know Matt Stafford isn't a great QB anymore, but in this case, matchup trumps talent. This game could turn into a points feast for Megatron, Tate, Crabtree, and Cooper.

We already discussed Amendola and Tate, but Stevie Johnson is another cheap WR with EV+ this week. He's got a QB that is forced to throw because of a bad running game, and injuries mean he's virtually the only WR on the field with any sort of talent. QBT, opportunity and price are all very positive here.

We also have Mike Evans who will continue to be a target machine with the absence of Vincent Jackson. Like Davante Adams, Evans has seen a huge amount of opportunity over the last couple weeks and that should continue against the Eagles. Eric Decker is also another option. All Eric Decker does is catch touchdowns, and while the Texans have been a revelation defensively the last few weeks, they still have problems holding a team's 2nd WR. Decker has been remarkably consistent all year and makes for a fine cash game play.

I hope this has been enlightening for you, and I'd love to hear any thoughts or theories or questions you may have, so feel free to use the comments section below.

Next Up: Week 11 TE, D, and Stacks

Side Note: A lot of the DFS knowledge I've gleaned is because of the articles I've read by JMToWin over at Rotogrinders.com. I highly recommend you checking out anything and everything he writes.

-- DF

Derek Finley

Existing in a world of psychotic monkeys. Writing about sports for passion. Thirsting for knowledge and beer.