Tyler Boyd and the Short Targets You Shouldn't Overlook in DFS
Tyler Boyd is the least interesting player on perhaps the most interesting team in football. As praise pours in for the readiness of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, fantasy eyes focus on A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, and John Ross. Can Green make it healthy through the season and be the No. 1 receiver for Burrow that he was for Andy Dalton? Or can Higgins? He drew comparisons to Green before the Bengals even called his name. Can Ross finally fulfill his first-round potential with a quarterback better suited to complement his deep speed?
As the Bengals collapsed from a six-win team in 2018 to a two-win team last season (and not in a compelling way like the Dolphins did), Boyd continued his quiet productivity. He was the 17th-best PPR receiver in 2018. He was 18th best in 2019. With his relative success, he seems to deserve better than to play fourth fiddle to his inconsistent and unproven teammates. But Boyd's nearly identical final numbers the last two seasons hide their own inconsistencies that I believe stem from his role in the Bengals offense. And while that role motivates his pessimistic KUBIAK ranking of 33rd at the position this season, it and the public disinterest in him make Boyd a perfect player with whom to play matchups in daily fantasy this season.
A couple of my recent articles have detailed the defense factors that our weekly projections and, in aggregate, KUBIAK projections use to make their matchup adjustments. We take the same approach with venues.
These yards-per-target factors are just one set of the many more we use to provide venue context to skill players at every position and role for their catch, yardage, and touchdown efficiencies. They all look a bit different, but by and large they follow the same pattern of improved efficiency at home versus on the road and in a dome versus outside. That likely matches your expectations. But take a closer look at the slot and deep receiver yards-per-target factors. Over a two-year trail that should hopefully diminish the biases of small samples, the former players show the biggest differences in their home and road performance, and the latter players show the smallest differences. And it turns out that's true across all of the fantasy-relevant receiving statistics and not exclusively for the players who neatly wear those slot and deep labels. On average, the shallower a receiver's average depth of target (aDOT), the more extreme his home/road splits will be.
|Wide Receiver Surpluses at Home vs. on the Road, 2009-19|
|9.0 to 11.0||-0.12||0.10||1.74||0.016||0.37|
|11.0 to 13.0||-0.15||-0.05||-0.13||0.030||0.12|
In the past, I have tended to focus my home/road matchup decisions on the players that play in domes. Amari Cooper (11.0) and Michael Thomas (8.1) have had the most extreme home-field fantasy point advantages among receivers the last two seasons, and their tendencies match those of their quarterbacks and most of their teammates. But Dalton has historically been one of the least home-field-dependent fantasy quarterbacks -- blame his home stadium or maybe the home fans that booed him -- and Boyd (4.4) has shown extreme home/road splits anyway.
Burrow and by proxy Boyd may not have to worry about vocal fan criticism in 2020. The team has already announced it will play its home opener without fans in attendance. But home-field advantage has always been trickier than it seems at first blush, Is it the fans that create the marked splits? Or is it the planes, the hotels, the unfamiliar stadiums and sightlines, or some combination of everything? Without any modern precedent, my default assumption is that the splits will continue. And that makes projected receiver aDOTs relevant levers for their matchup consideration.
Boyd's relative anonymity may make him the least identifiably "slot" receiver on fantasy radars -- he had a 77% slot rate in 2019. But even obvious slot targets such as Cooper Kupp (2.4), Russell Gage (2.7), and Danny Amendola (2.7) have overlooked recent histories of fantasy superiority in their home games. Meanwhile, a handful of star receivers such as Thomas and Keenan Allen (2.1) have similar histories and low aDOTs that suggest their home surpluses will continue. Those players should never leave your full-season lineups, but in daily, avoid them on the road when you can.
Some deep threats such as James Washington (3.0) and Kenny Golladay (1.9) have shown positive home/road splits that run counter to the broader tendencies. That may just be noise with little predictive value. In their cases, specifically, it may be due to properties of their home fields that do not extend to other stadiums or cities. Either way, when you play matchups for your deeper targets, you may instead want to look for opponents with slower or shorter corners. Or just reference our weekly projections, which split out their projected matchup gains and losses based on the venue and other factors.