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DraftKings Fantasy Football: Targeting Players Based on Injuries

Benjamin Slocum

Benjamin Slocum

Ben focuses on Daily Fantasy for the NFL, NBA and College Football. His tag is Bensloc5; feel free to challenge him to a contest. See Ben on Instagram at Bensloc5.


Daily fantasy football on DraftKings is a salary-based game. Each player has a given salary based on past performances and a prediction of future performances. Much like the stock market, buying low is the key to success in daily fantasy. This can be achieved though buying players with low salary because of recent subpar performances or finding players that will be given a much larger role in their offense because of an injury to a player that is above them on their depth chart. In this article, we will be focusing on injuries and how they affect the value of other players.

In season long fantasy football a popular strategy is the handcuff. This is when you draft a player early, then later in the draft you select their backup. When the starter gets hurt, you can plug in their backup and you are still able to get production out of that spot. The strategy sometimes pays off because the backup player is usually in a good place to succeed with a good offense around him and/or the opportunity for a lot of touches. In daily fantasy, a similar approach can be accomplished through selecting those backups when the starter is hurt or limited. Backups that are promoted based on injuries can have significantly cheaper salaries than their production.

Monitoring injuries in the NFL can be an adventure to say the least. Teams will often play games with their injury reports to keep their opposition guessing. This will also keep fantasy players guessing. I suggest monitoring injuries throughout the week on Rotowire. Look for trends: Does a player seem to be progressing or regressing? Has the player been downgraded or upgraded? If the player is "probable", there is a good chance he is playing; "questionable", he could go either way; "out", he probably isn't playing. Once a player is officially "out", you can safely assume their backup is now in play. When playing on DraftKings, I suggest creating multiple lineups, utilizing backups of questionable players during the week. As news comes in, you can change them and consolidated certain lineups based on injury updates. Do not try to create new lineups a few minutes before kickoff on a Sunday; instead, have a few different lineups ready to go and make changes to those when game time approaches. Below we will examine some of the injuries that would produce great value for their backup and other players on the team. Please note that training camp has just started, so monitor depth charts to see who wins key positional battles.

Quarterbacks Injuries to quarterbacks are the easiest for daily fantasy players to deal with. Usually, there is a clear No. 2 behind the starter. Also, figuring out if the starter will play is easier during the week because the position is so high-profile and garnishes much more media attention.

Injury to Robert Griffin III If RG3 was to go down, which is certainly a possibility, Kirk Cousins instantly becomes a great value. Cousins has some experience in this role already. He played the last three games of 2013 with mixed results. He had two terrible games, but he did have a game with 381 passing yards and three touchdowns. If you were able to get him in your lineup for that monster game at a very cheap price, you had a great foundation for a winning team.


Injury to Geno Smith As of this writing, Smith has not been named the starter over Michael Vick. However, there is a very good chance that Smith is the starter and Vick the backup. If Smith was to get hurt, Vick becomes a great daily fantasy option. Vick should be pretty cheap and has a chance at putting up huge fantasy performances because of his legs.

Running Backs Injuries to running backs happen a lot, so playing injury replacements at the position should be a relatively normal activity. However, running backs are often listed on injury reports, so it can be very hard to figure out if they will actually play on game day. Make sure to monitor the injury reports throughout the week.

Injury to Jamal Charles Knile Davis is the early favorite to be the number one handcuff in season-long fantasy football. If Charles were to get hurt, Davis should be very productive on a team that features its running back through the air and on the ground. With a name so similar to Miles Davis, peeing your pants is the coolest jokes would surely follow.

Injury to Frank Gore The starting running back for the San Francisco can be fantasy gold. San Francisco was third in the NFL in rushing attempts (31.6 Att/G), yards (137.6 Yrds/G) and forth in rushing touchdowns (18). The beneficiary of a Gore injury is still yet to be decided. With an apparent ACL tear, the former, popular San Francisco handcuff, Kendal Hunter is likely out for the season and this conversation. Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore should be the two 49ers battling for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart during training camp. The winner of that matchup should be in a very advantageous position, if Gore was to go down with an injury. Monitor the battle for this important position on the depth chart.

Wide Receivers It can be very difficult to predict the impact of an injury to a starting wide receiver. Unlike quarterbacks and running backs, a wide receiver injury will usually impact more than one player at the same position on the injured player's team. If a No. 1 receiver gets hurt, the No. 2 to as low as the No. 5 receiver may see a large jump in fantasy production. Each team is different, but high-powered passing offenses should see more players with increased value over more run-focused teams.

Injury to Julio Jones Julio has already had some injury problems in his short career. If he were to get hurt this year, both Harry Douglas and Roddy White would have a huge jump in fantasy value. Douglas benefited greatly from injuries to both Jones and White last year. He eclipsed previous highs of 39 receptions and 498 yards with 85 receptions and 1,067 yards in 2013. White has regressed into a No. 2 receiver. If Julio gets hurt, White should return back to an elite fantasy receiver at a No. 2 value. Both players would become great values if Julio Jones were to miss time in 2014.

Injury to any Green Bay Packer wide receiver Specifically, an injury to Randal Cobb and/or Jordy Nelson could impact a few receivers. The Packers love to pass and who wouldn't when you have Aaron Rodgers behind center. The Packer receivers will get numbers, no matter who is out there making catches for them. Monitor their training camp to see if any players pull away from their competition as the No. 3 and No. 4 receivers on the depth chart. Because of multiple injuries to the Green Bay wide receiver corps in 2013, the undrafted, Jarret Boykin came out of nowhere last season. He posted games of eight catches and 103 yards, eight catches and 112 yards, and six catches and 91 yards. He should be a factor is 2014, especially if Cobb or Nelson get injured. The rookie and second round pick, Davante Adams should be able to make an immediate impact for the Packers. As a Junior at Fresno State last year, he caught 131 balls for 1,719 yards and 24 touchdowns. He knows how to get the ball and what to do with it. Keep tabs on his progress during training camp. The Packers also drafted a local Wisconsin product, Jared Abbrederis. If he can get on the field, he will put up stats with Rodgers throwing to him.

Tight Ends Injuries to tight ends usually do not have much fantasy impact. Most backup tight ends are usually more blockers than receivers. Value can be found, but it is often much less than the other positions.

Injury to Antonio Gates Ladarius Green is a major sleeper pick in 2014. People are predicting a huge jump in production. There is only one problem, Antonio Gates. Gates is getting pretty old (34), but he can still make plays. He had 116 targets and 77 receptions in 2013. Green should be able to make some plays and put up solid stats this year; however, Gates will still demand attention from Phillip Rivers and get his. If Gates were to get inured, it would free things up for Green, increasing his value and making him a very interesting daily fantasy football investment.