Last week in the OWS Discord’s Reflection channel, there was an exchange that I found very interesting and also extremely relevant to this weekly reflection article that I am doing. A member brought up the phrase, “Trust the Process,” and there was some discussion about how the phrase is often misused. People justify their bad results by thinking it is variance and just continue with “their process” even though it is often a bad process. So how do we know if our process is good?
I am a basketball coach, and last week I came across this photo that was shared on Twitter by a well-respected coach/trainer who was relating it to shooting a basketball, and how most coaches try to train players to do certain things that will help you make shots, rather than eliminating the things that cause you to miss shots.
When I saw the photo, I immediately thought of how it pertains to DFS. Our “Survivorship Bias” tendencies in DFS are to examine what went right in a given week in regards to on-field results, whether there were things we were accurate on or things that other people nailed that we missed. Our tendency is to feel good about our lineups that do well. If we don’t have a good week, we check out the winning lineups and compare them to ours to try to figure out “what 3v3s could I have had different to make my bad lineup cash, or make my good lineup great”? This can be a fun (or wildly infuriating) exercise, but in the end, this is usually a fruitless endeavor.
So how can we tie the photo/basketball analogy into the initial question about “trusting the process?” We need to understand what a good process looks like. To me, a sound process is more about eliminating misses than finding makes. In order to do that, we need to know what “misses” look like, and not just in the box score. Our “process” and reflection should have ALMOST NOTHING to do with how our lineups actually fared in regards to fantasy points in a given week.
The best example I can think of from this week about what a miss looks like is Cooper Kupp. I didn’t play any Kupp in my 11-lineup roster block I use for my SE/3-Max/5-Max tournaments. Kupp showed heavy usage in Week 1 and projected well, especially for his salary, which made him a strong “in a vacuum” play for Week 2. Here was my reasoning for not using Kupp:
When evaluating the Kupp decision, it is a mistake to just say “he scored 39 DK points, I obviously should have played him.” That is easy to say in hindsight and does nothing to help us going forward. The real mistake for me was in understanding how he would be used. It turned out that Kupp was around 15% ownership in most tournaments, rather than the 30% I expected. I used DK Metcalf and Justin Jefferson, thinking their ownerships would be about 8% and 4% respectively. Instead, Metcalf ended at around 16% and Jefferson close to 8%.
My mistake wasn’t that Kupp had a better week than Metcalf and Jefferson. My mistake was that I ended up playing WRs with similar projections to Kupp for more salary while not gaining any advantage via ownership. Had I known that Metcalf would actually be MORE OWNED than Kupp in these contests, I almost certainly would have preferred Kupp and used the extra salary elsewhere.
The lesson here for me is to think of ownership projections in more fragile terms. We talk and hear all the time about the need to consider alternate outcomes on the field. As we play GPPs, we are constantly challenging the target/touch, yardage, and TD projections for players and evaluating different ways that things can play out. We should be equally, IF NOT MORE, aware of different ways that ownership could swing. I treated the ownership projections to be set in stone and made decisions based on that, which was a “miss” for me this week. Being able to identify the real reason WHY not playing Kupp was a miss will help me going forward. My guess is the field focused heavily on late games just like I did and Kupp’s ownership dropped as a result. Most DFS players would evaluate this situation and say “I knew Kupp was a great play at his price. I should have played him in that spot . . . next time I won’t make that same mistake regardless of ownership.” That’s where you will get into trouble though and start chasing your tail with FOMO of the “best plays” and just blindly playing very chalky lineups. Next time, it is very possible, if not likely, that the top projected WR in that spot ends up 30%+ owned and scores 15 points, rather than 15% owned and scoring 30+ points.
If you are only focusing on the “ones that made it back” (AKA “makes”), you won’t understand where/why you actually missed. This is how we are able to “Trust the Process” – by making sure our process evaluates all aspects of our “misses” rather than just wishing for “makes.”
As outlined in my +EV Primer course (you can find in the Marketplace – either by itself or in the bundle with my player pool course), one of my approaches that keeps me from getting too high or low week-to-week is playing consistent contests and approaching them from a season-long perspective and using that to evaluate my play and ROI. This season, in this article, I will be tracking my progress on a weekly basis as I play the Single Entry (SE), 3-max, and 5-max tournaments in the $20 to $150 price range on DraftKings main slate for all 18 weeks. Rather than sweating or worrying about my ROI every week and “hoping to cash,” my goal for the season is to maximize profit relative to that long-term investment total. The results of a given week are irrelevant.
Each week I will review the best and worst of my 11 lineups from my “Roster Block” of SE/3-Max/5-Max. Below are this week’s results and you can find more information about my process/theory for this in my Week 1 Process Points article.
The “story” I was telling: I wanted to be heavy on the afternoon games which were set to be high scoring (but also popular) and the core stack here was a spot I thought would differentiate me significantly from the field, which it did. I was very heavy on Pitts in Week 1 and wanted to go back to him in Week 2 at a quarter of the ownership and in a better spot against the pass funnel defense of the Bucs. I ended up playing Pitts in 8 of 11 lineups this week. With so much Pitts exposure, it felt right to have at least 1 Ryan lineup because if Pitts did have his breakout game here, there was a very high chance it would result in Ryan having 300+ and 2-3 TD’s at a low $5,600 price tag. Evans was my preferred TB receiver because he was overshadowed in Week 1 and wasn’t generating much buzz across the industry. His ceiling for his price was just too good to pass up as a correlation piece. With the low ownership of that core stack, I was fine with ignoring ownership and just plugging in my two favorite plays from the DAL-LAC game in Allen and Lamb. DK Metcalf is a play I was very high on this week for his ceiling and as leverage off Chris Carson. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Lockett’s week again. With so much salary going to the WR/TE/Flex spots, I had to go value hunting at RB and Defense. Javonte and Edmonds were good prices for what I believe are the best RBs in split backfields so I was willing to bet on them in favorable game scripts to make the rest of the roster work. The story for Carolina D was exactly what happened; they were at home, underrated, and Jameis’ Week 1 performance was fool’s gold.
The “story” I was telling: This lineup wasn’t technically my “worst” lineup by points scored, but I wanted to review this specific lineup because there are valuable lessons here. I went with a cheap Tua/Waddle stack in the early games with six players in the late games. I will talk more about that below, but Tua’s injury put me in a tough spot and needing a miracle to try to cash so I made some swaps:
It wasn’t quite enough to get me there but the changes gave me a chance. The initial lineup had a very unique and cheap stack with Tua/Waddle, so I was happy to game stack DAL/LAC with two players from each side at higher ownership. After the MIA game fell apart, however, a roster construction like that from my remaining players had no chance to hit at the level it would need to while also gaining on the field. I ended up with two mini-correlations at lower ownership (Moore/Jefferson and Ekeler/Cooper), along with two strong stand-alone plays (Carson and Pitts). It didn’t end up mattering here, but understanding and using late swap to give yourself a chance to cash a lineup that is otherwise dead can provide a large boost to your EV over time.
I did infinitely better in Week 2 than I did in Week 1. No, really. I went from zero lineups cashing to one lineup cashing! Baby steps. In all seriousness, this is somewhat par for the course in GPPs. You are going to have some bad swings especially if you are building to win and not just building to cash. This week, I was heavy on afternoon exposure but didn’t line things up right from those games. Almost all of my early game exposure was to defenses and the BUF/MIA game (three Josh Allen lineups and two Tua lineups out of the 11 we are evaluating). Unfortunately, the Tua injury short-circuited that entire game and made it an uphill battle this week. Had Tua played the entire game, there is a very good chance the Dolphins would score 20+ points and the Bills would have played more aggressively as well. With the way DAL-LAC played out, this actually could have been the great leverage spot I thought it was going to be in the scenario of a 38-24 Bills win powered by their normal pass first mindset, rather than the 35-0 dud of a game environment it ended up as. But, that’s football, and we’ll never know “what could have been” — on to Week 3!!
Week 2 Investment: $792
Week 1 Winnings: $75
Estimated Yearly Investment: $14,000
Yearly Winnings: $75