There are a lot of opinions out there on how to choose a QB in NFL DFS. So what makes my take different? For starters, I’m not an industry expert, and I’m not writing on behalf of a company with lots of money and access to unlimited data and tools. I’m a regular guy grinding away, trying to win with limited resources. At any rate…
In case you’re new to DFS, here are terms you should know:
GPP (guaranteed prize pool), also known as tournament: These have higher payouts but fewer winners. The “milly-maker” is probably the most popular version of this type of contest.
Cash game: Usually the top 50% wins, but they all win the same amount
Head-to-head: 1-on-1, winner takes all.
Be sure to read my guide on building a player pool:
The QB selection process for GPPs
If you’ve read my article on how to construct a player pool, you know that I typically like to include 4-5 QB’s on a weekly basis. I base my decisions on the following factors:
- Game environment: the more scoring upside, the better. Vegas is the best guide for this, as we are not going to want QB’s from slow-paced, defensive battles with low projected Vegas totals. For example, the following game set to take place during week 13, 2023, is one to avoid in terms of selecting a QB for GPPs:
This game has all of the makings of a defensive battle, and neither passing game has GPP appeal.
Here are the types of games to target:
- The games with the highest totals are obvious choices, but not our only choices
- Games with mid-range over/unders and close spreads (under 5 points) are a great place to look, too.
- Games with heavy favorites can be a gold mine, too. For example, Miami is a 10-point favorite over Washington for week 13, and Washington’s pass defense is horrible. While the game might not be competitive, Tua, Hill, and Waddle will score plenty of points if this game ends up being a blowout.
- Be sure to check the weather, as heavy rain or snow can impact passing games
Example and Specifics: First Round of Cuts
I am going to take you through my week 13, 2023 quarterback selection process to illustrate the how and why I build my QB pool. I will make an initial round of cuts based on my first looks for the week.
I will run through each game for this weekend’s main slate, and will include images of the matchups/implied point totals.
Eight wide receivers have surpassed 90 yards versus Washington’s terrible pass defense this season, and they’ve given up six 300-yard passing performances. Tua is pricey, but must be added to the pool due to slate-breaking upside. While I’m not adding Sam Howell to my pool just yet, he’s a maybe for now as he’s surpassed 20 Draftkings points in four consecutive games.
Colts at Titans has the making of a low-scoring slog, so I am cutting Levis and Minshew from my QB pool.
Falcons at Jets is another one that has the makings of a low-scoring battle. Boyle has little upside and Ridder is facing a solid Jets secondary. I’ve cut both from my player pool.
Kenny Pickett hasn’t shown much upside, and although the Steelers’ defense isn’t stout, they are solid in the red zone. Kyler Murray at 7k on Draftkings just isn’t worth it on the road in Pittsburgh IN DECEMBER nonetheless. Both have been cut from my pool.
Now here’s an interesting game’ the Lions have the 4th most passing yards in the NFL and the Saints rank 11th. The Saints have not allowed a single 300-yard passing performance so far this season, and Detroit has only permitted two. I’m inclined to cut Goff and Carr from my pool, but will keep as “maybes” for now.
The New England offense is a mess, and I don’t think they’ll capitalize on a poor Chargers’ secondary. Mac Jones only threw for 220 yards and 1 TD against a terrible Commanders pass-defense, so there’s not much upside.
Conversely, Justin Herbert is capable of 300-yards and multiple touchdowns weekly, but I don’t foresee a ceiling-type game on the road in Foxboro. At a price of $8k on Draftkings, you want ideal conditions for a ceiling game. December in Foxboro isn’t it for me. I’ve cut both from my pool.
Russell Wilson is game manager these days, so he’s cut. C.J. Stroud seems to be a sure thing these days, but Denver is red hot and they’ve recently held Allen and Mahomes to under 250 yards each. I’m cutting both from my pool.
Carolina is bad but their pass defense ranks fifth overall in the NFL. Bryce Young is experiencing growing pains. There’s not much scoring upside to this game, so I’ve cut Young and Mayfield from my pool.
The Browns might start Joe Flacco this weekend. Regardless, their passing game is a fade. Also, I see no reason to play Stafford against an excellent Browns defense. Both have been cut from my pool.
The Eagles defense ranks 29th in the NFL versus the pass. The 49ers defense is better, but Jalen Hurts can get it done through the air and on the ground. At this time, both will remain in my player pool, as this game should stay competitive, and could shoot out.
Step one is over; I’ve made plenty of cuts, and these are the quarterbacks remaining (plus their Draftkings salaries):
Now that I have a short list, I will want to pair this down even more before Sunday. I’ll do this by answering the following questions:
- What does a ceiling game look like for these quarterbacks? Let’s take a look:
- Derek Carr’s best week yielded 22 Draftkings points, and he’s only had three multi-touchdown games this season. He’s exceeded 20 DK points three times in ’23.
- Brock Purdy, in contrast, has five multi-touchdown games, and has exceeded 20 DK points six times, with a ceiling game of 29 points!
- Sam Howell has exceeded 20 DK points seven times, with five multi-touchdown games. He has exceeded 28 DK points THREE times!
- Jared Goff has exceeded 20 DK points five times with five multi-touchdown games. His ceiling so far this season is 27 points.
- Tua and Hurts are know, elite options. No need for a deeper dive.
Based on this analysis alone, I’m cutting Derek Carr from my player pool. He rarely has GPP-worthy outings, and when he does, he’s unlikely to break a slate. I’m also removing Goff, as I don’t see the point of playing him at $6500 against a stout Saints defense when both Purdy and Howell are cheaper with more upside.
Each week, I check to see if there are any worthy risks around the $5,000 range, especially if multiple starting QBs are set to miss time due to injury. These low-cost gambles allow you to pay up for studs elsewhere, and if they come close to or exceed 20 points, it is worth it on a point-per-dollar basis.
For week 13 of 2023, Kenny Pickett of all people stands out as the best cheap option. He’s had zero 300-yard games and he’s only thrown for six scores, but the Steelers offense looked good last week after the dismissal of Matt Canada near Thanksgiving. IF Pickett is going to have a top-10 performance this season, it’ll happen against the putrid Cardinals’ defense. Again, this is a risky move not for the faint of heart.
I typically read articles from Rotogrinders, PFF, and various sources that I follow on Twitter/X to see if I may have missed anything. For example, several PFF writers love Russell Wilson this week against Houston. Additionally, a few writers from Rotogrinders also like Wilson. Seeing that multiple sources like Wilson, I’ll add him to my pool.
Don’t Force Stacks and Bringbacks
Generally speaking, we want our lineups to be well-correlated as the data shows it increases our odds of winning. There’s a lot of info out there are how various stacks perform. I usually like to stack my QB with one WR, and if the game looks good, I’ll “bring it back” with a WR from the opposing team in hopes that the game shoots out.
There are lots of ways to stack a lineup, but don’t fall into the trap of forcing stacks, as it can lead to bad decisions.
Playing a QB “naked” or without a stacking partner isn’t something I recommend every week, but sometimes it makes sense. Most commonly, people will play QBs with running upside naked, as their ceiling performances don’t always correlate with WR performance.
Another and often overlooked reason to play a QB naked is target distribution; for example, Sam Howell LOVES to spread the ball around. While he’s been an excellent GPP choice this season, his receivers haven’t. Terry McLaurin has zero 100-yard games and only a few touchdowns. Dotson gets red zone looks but not much else. The rest is a major guess. In these cases, don’t force it!
For me, quarterback requires the least amount of research because only one person is getting the reps sans injury. We don’t have to worry about workload share, target share, individual matchups, and other considerations as we do with positions like RB and WR.
Additionally, ownership % typically isn’t as much of a factor for quarterbacks as other positions, as ownership is generally spread out.
My hope is that this information will help you develop your own process for choosing your quarterbacks week-to-week.