Yes, You Can Use Fantasy Statistics to Make Smart Player Prop Bets

justin tucker

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 1:51 PM GMT

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 1:51 PM GMT

If you play fantasy football, you are more inclined to bet on the game. If you are an NFL bettor, you are more likely to play fantasy football. So can you use fantasy knowledge to get ahead on wagers? Yep.

Why is the NFL so popular in America? It’s quite simple: fantasy football (DFS, ESPN, Yahoo, your own league, etc.) and betting – 71 percent of those who play fantasy football also bet on sports.

Back before the explosion of the Internet and the availability of betting at SBR’s top-rated offshore sportsbooks, the only “betting” fix most people could get was through fantasy football. If you are old enough, you likely had an old-school commissioner who had the laborious job of keep all those detailed stats each week via calculator and pad of paper.

For some reason, though, there are football fans who separate playing fantasy football and dropping a player prop wager on a given Sunday. That’s often a mistake. For example, it’s easy to look up that the Cleveland Browns had the NFL’s worst fantasy defense last year. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have blindly bet a prop for any skill position player against Cleveland.

Quarterbacks crushed the Browns with 36 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions for a rating of 101.8 in 2016. Tight ends feasted on them, too, with 94 catches for 1,102 yards and a league-high 13 touchdowns. Running backs totaled the second-most fantasy points vs. the Browns with 1,992 yards and 18 scores. Only San Francisco was worse.  But Cleveland was middle of the pack against wide receivers in surrendering 183 catches for 2,602 yards and 20 scores.

And you probably didn’t want to bet on a kicker against the Browns. Their defense was so bad that it usually allowed touchdowns instead of field goals. On the flip side, bettors who wagered on the long field goal prop (usually 43.5 yards) when it came to the Ravens cashed in often as Justin Tucker was an incredible 10-for-10 from 50-plus yards. He has earned the trust of Coach John Harbaugh to attempt almost any kick.

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The best team to bet on a kicker against in 2016? Jacksonville (also keep in mind no cold-weather home games for the Jags). It allowed a league-high 38 field goals on 41 tries. Tucker was 4-for-4 against the Jags. Speaking of the Jaguars, fantasy stats can be misleading too. Blake Bortles was a Top 10 quarterback last year in fantasy points because he racked up yardage in garbage time and ran a little bit. You don’t want to be betting Blake Bortles props often because he’s such a turnover machine.

Don’t overvalue guys who had unsustainable fantasy seasons, either. Miami’s Kenny Stills is the team’s No. 3 receiver behind Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. Yet Stills had a whopping nine touchdown catches in 2016 on just 47 receptions. That TD rate of 19.1 percent was 22nd among all players who have recorded at least 40 catches in a season over the past decade.  Of the 70 players who scored a TD on at least 15 percent of their receptions during the span, 65 scored fewer touchdowns the next season.

The average No. 1 receiver in 2016 saw 23 percent of his team’s targets, significantly higher than the No. 2 option (16 percent) and more than twice that of the No. 3 receiver (10 percent). On the Dolphins, Landry was targeted 131 times, Parker 90 and Stills 81.

Stick to betting No. 1 targets. Since 2014, no receiver has seen more of them than Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown with 528. You will want to bet on Brown Week 1 in Cleveland but perhaps not Week 2 vs. Minnesota, which allowed the fourth-fewest WR points in 2016. Or in either game vs. Cincinnati as the Bengals were third-best in that category.

Teams are throwing more than ever before, but consider against passing-related props against the Denver Broncos. They allowed a league-low 13 passing TDs in 2016 (only seven to receivers). The Giants (15) and Seahawks (16) were also excellent. What do they all have in common? Good pass rushes and great defensive backfields.

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