In horse racing, the “chalk” is the horse that is receiving the greatest amount of bets. Back before computers, odds were written in chalk on a large board, hence the term. And oftentimes, the chalk was an overrated horse that underperformed.
Does that same concept hold true in daily fantasy sports? Is the top rated player are a certain position not worth your salary dollars?
Unfortunately, there’s not really an easy answer to this question. Just like in horse racing, the answer is that it depends on the situation.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail.
The top rated player is there for a reason. Maybe they are leading the league in home runs and have a low strikeout rate, or maybe they just cannot miss their target when looking downfield to the receivers. These factors are good ones that you want to take advantage of. But, they aren’t the only ones that influence fantasy value. For example, many types of leagues factor past popularity into fantasy pricing. That’s why a top ranked QB can miss the first several weeks of the season and then be the most expensive QB in the field—even after not playing a single game yet that season. Leagues know that players like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Andrew Luck are going to be popular, so even if they miss time, they’re still going to be very expensive. Sometimes they are worth it, sometimes they aren’t.
To get a more detailed perspective, we need to address the concept of value first. Basically, you want to maximize your fantasy point expectation while minimizing the amount that you pay per point. There is only a limited amount of salary money to go around, and that means that you will need to make sacrifices. You can’t have a team full of top tier players. But if you can find a top tier player that should be even more expensive than they are, then an opportunity has presented itself.
First, look at what the value of the player in question is. How much are you spending per point? You might find that the top rated running back at your DFS site is actually cheaper per expected point than the next most expensive player. You might even find that they have a higher fantasy point expectation. If you can buy 20 points for $5,000, or 15 points for $4,800, the extra $200 is buying you a lot more. You are actually saving $70 per point, while getting a bonus 5 points. In this case, the more expensive player is well worth it.
Other situations exist where it might be tougher to make a smart decision. These gray areas require a deeper knowledge of the sport. For example, what happens when we take the situation above and add the fact that the top ranked RB had to sit out a practice day because of a sore hamstring a few days ago? Or, what if the second highest ranked RB is going against a team with a very weak rushing defense this week for the first time all season? These are situations where your insight into the sport will give you an advantage over those that just hammer out the math. Math skills are a strong asset in daily fantasy sports, but they aren’t the only thing that will help you win tournaments.
Variance is also something that you’ll want to eventually try to address. This is the concept that players do not perform at the same level from week to week. Even if their competition was exactly the same, there would be a varying amount of fantasy points from week to week. In a perfect world, your expensive chalk players would have no variance. Since that’s not possible, if you are going to splurge on a costly player, be sure that you have the best chance possible of a high fantasy point return.