This article is part of our DFS Football 101 series.
A player's fantasy potential in virtually any DFS sport is largely predicated on one factor: opportunity. Considering how often they have the ball in their hands during a typical game, quarterbacks are more often the most dependable source of fantasy scoring in NFL DFS. Last season, the top half of NFL teams ran roughly 65 to 70 plays per game, giving signal-callers around the league plenty of chances to generate fantasy production with both their arms, and at times, their legs.
Therefore, it's essential to become familiar with some techniques for targeting quarterbacks based on their matchups to make better DFS lineup decisions. There are several specific factors that can help you hone in on which quarterbacks are potentially in the most fertile environments for production in any given week, so let's dive in:
Targeting Based on Defensive Rankings
The good news for new NFL DFS players is that some of the same logic you apply when making strategic "start 'em/sit 'em" decisions in your season-long leagues can serve as a solid foundation for daily fantasy football research. After all, building a daily fantasy football roster is somewhat analogous to deciding the make-up of your season-long lineup week-to-week, with the main difference being that you're working with the full pool of candidates.
For example, in a season-long league when you have to decide among 2-3 quarterbacks of similar ability and potential, you'll often look to one factor to serve as a tie-breaker: matchup.
The same applies in NFL DFS. Just as you might opt to tab, say, Tony Romo over Matthew Stafford for your season-long team one week because Romo is facing a vulnerable Saints secondary while Stafford is up against the Panthers, you can identify the most optimal arm to tab for your daily fantasy football lineup by vetting the defense that will oppose them.
Checking the opposing secondary's ability, or lack thereof, in stopping the pass is naturally the first piece of information we can examine. Team defense ratings against both the run and pass are readily available through a plethora of online sources, including ESPN.com and NFL.com, and provide you a window as to how generous or stingy a team is when defending opposing air attacks.
Using Vegas as a Tool
As is often the case when conducting daily fantasy football research, the odds makers can also serve as a source of enlightenment in a couple of different ways. Projected team scoring totals is one of those, as they help identify where you're likely to find the most offensive production and points in any given week. Naturally, targeting quarterbacks on teams with high projected totals is recommended.
When a team is expected to score a substantial number of points, you can certainly expect that the guy behind center is going to benefit from a good portion of that. It's also within reason to assume that a lot of that scoring may originate from the arm of the player who's very likely to have the ball in his hands the most throughout the game.
Granted, becoming familiar with that team's running attack and how often it's deployed in the red zone is also pertinent data to consider when performing your due diligence. There are backs around the league that are leaned on heavily near the goal line and can therefore "vulture" some touchdown opportunities. However, the overriding takeaway is that a high projected total is always a good starting point for identifying potential sources of prolific fantasy production.
Along the same lines, your best opportunity for a nice haul of points from your quarterback in daily fantasy football often comes in situations when they have to keep the ball in the air for all four quarters. Therefore, games with a notable underdog can actually be an appealing situation to exploit.
Any team that is playing from behind will be forced to pass the ball more in an effort to catch up. This is often tantamount to fantasy gold for your lineup's prospects because, as we emphasized at the onset, more opportunities very often equal more fantasy points.
Using Your QB's Personnel to Make Lineup Decisions
Naturally, quarterbacks who are blessed with superior talent at the skill positions tend to benefit greatly from the presence of those players. A glance at some of the superior fantasy producers at quarterback each year often reveals that they have a formidable top receiving option, such as is the case with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. In other situations, the quarterback may have a pair of terrific weapons, like Blake Bortles last season with both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns at his disposal.
Tabbing quarterbacks who have highly appealing targets is pretty much common sense. However, the quality of a much less obvious area of a quarterback's team that can also help guide your DFS lineup decisions: the defense.
It can be particularly helpful to familiarize yourself with how porous the defensive unit, especially the secondary, on a quarterback's team is when conducting daily fantasy football research. It stands to reason that the more likely they are to pave the way for points for the opposing team, the harder he'll have to work to make up for it. Just a quick look at last year's team passing offense and defense stats bears this out.
Last year's bottom-five secondaries in terms of passing yards allowed per game—the Eagles, Jaguars, Steelers, Saints and Giants—all placed within the top 12 in passing offense as well, with only the Eagles outside the top 10. Furthermore, the Saints and Steelers were No. 1 and 3 throwing the ball, respectively.
Running to the Top
One other vital factor to consider that plays heavily into the opportunity mantra is the ability of a quarterback to generate offense on the ground. Mobile quarterbacks, particularly those whose offenses actually have plays especially designed for them to carry the ball, can vastly increase the value of a daily fantasy football lineup.
A look at last year's top scorers at the QB position on both FanDuel and DraftKings helps corroborate. You'll find two such players, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, at the top and third position, respectively, and two other rushing-proficient players, Aaron Rodgers and Blake Bortles, in the top 10 as well. Not only can multi-skilled quarterbacks such as these obviously pick up extra fantasy points throughout a game with the occasional scramble or designed run, they also are more likely to bring you a rushing touchdown or two in addition to their passing production.