Another blow to the credibility of Daily Fantasy Sports

What do these recent NFL performances have in common?

  • Tom Brady throws for 358 yards in week 3
  • Carson Palmer, 352 yards in week 4
  • Drew Brees, 335 yards in week 5

Or how about receivers:

  • Rob Gronkowski adds 101 yards in week 3
  • Odell Beckham, 121 yards in week 5
  • Brandon Marshall, 111 yards week 6

And finally, some running backs:

  • Adrian Peterson pounds out 126 rushing yards in week 3
  • Le’Veon Bell, 129 yards in week 4
  • Justin Forsett, 121 yards in week 5
  • Devonta Freeman 100 yards in week 6

You’re probably thinking they all had amazing games. And of course you’re right. But there’s something else:
They all failed to qualify for the single stat challenge.
If you bet on these studs to have big games that week, you lost.

Surely there’s a mistake, right?

Well, there is, but it isn’t what you might think.

First let me explain what’s SSC is:

DraftOps is a new daily fantasy sports site, similar to but different than the ones you likely are familiar with. It is backed by Rich Eisen, a popular TV sports personality. In their “Single Stat Challenge” game, each week you are give the choice of about 90 NFL players. Each has an assigned yardage requirement for either passing (QBs), receiving (WR and TE) or rushing (RB). You pick between 3 and 10 players.

If ALL of the players you pick go over that yardage requirement in that category (RBs only get credit rush yards. They don’t get credit for receiving yards), then you win money. The payout varies based on how many players you pick. It is similar to a parlay:

  • pick 3 → pays 6 to 1
  • pick 4 → pays 10 to 1
  • pick 5 → pays 20 to 1
  • pick 6 → pays 40 to 1
  • pick 7 → pays 50 to 1
  • pick 8 → pays 75 to 1
  • pick 9 → pays 100 to 1
  • pick 10 → pays 150 to 1

And unlike most daily fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, you’re playing against the house here. Which means if you win, they lose. Or, as they prefer it, if you lose, they win. So they set the yardage requirement, and you pick the players.

Let’s look at the pick-4 option. 10 to 1 may sound appealing, but remember you have to pick all 4 correctly. If we’re talking 50–50 odds, that happens 1 in 16 tries. So even if the odds of each player hitting their requirement was 50%, you’re at a significant disadvantage.
But it gets worse. Move up to the 10 player payout. That pays 150 to 1. The odds of hitting ten 50% chances out of ten tries is 1 in 1,024. So the house cut here is over 85%!

But what’s even more appalling is the yardage requirements. These numbers are way, way off from any realistic projections. Who thought Mick Vick was going to throw for 300 yards in week 5? (he had 203 passing yards) Or that Eddy Lacy would rush for 126 yards in week 6? (he had 3 rushing yards)

I first noticed the insane numbers in week 3 after seeing TV commercials for the site. I decided to see just how often players were able to achieve these yardage requirements. So for weeks 3–6*, I tracked them vs the actual output.

I’ll even be generous and throw out all the players who scored zero points. Most of those didn’t play due to injury, but some did play and just didn’t catch a ball. But let’s say you knew not to pick those guys.

Out of all the plays they offered*, there were 70 winners and…wait for it….241 losers. You have a 22.5% chance of picking a winner. And remember, ALL your picks have to be winners in order to get paid.

Let’s revisit that pick-4 for 10 to 1 payoff.

Since we’re no longer talking about a 50–50 chance, the odds go from 1 in 16 to 1 in 390. That’s a house hold rate of 97.2%. That means for every $100 you play, your expected outcome is to lose $97.20 of that $100 and have $2.80 left. Great deal huh?

Somehow, it gets worse:

At the pick 10 level, it pays 150 to 1, and the odds are 1 in 3 million. That is a house hold rate of 99.995%.

In other words, if you play the draftops SSC at all, you’re giving your money away. You have no chance to win.

I emailed them asking if the SSC was designed to win at a 50% rate per player, and what the historical win rate was for players. They did not reply.

I also asked them if they would allow users to select that players would get LESS yards than their requirement. Again, they did not reply.

There is a difference between DraftOps and the rest of the Daily Fantasy sites like FanDuel and DraftKings. At FD and DK, you pay a fee in order to compete with other people. If you’re good enough (the bar is pretty high with their juice, but I’ll get into that another time), you can beat someone via a fun mix of skill and luck. FD and DK make money by providing a place for players to find contests and compete against each other. Draftops’ Single Stat Challenge game makes money by taking it from users with a bad understanding of math and probability. Their users lose so that they can win.

That would be fine if the odds were fair, like a sportsbook. See, sportsbooks will put out a line, and you can take whichever side you want. The ability for users to pick either side keeps the sportsbooks honest. At DraftOps, you can ONLY take the “over” on yardage, and so they jack up the yardage requirements, ensuring you lose, and they win.

Obviously it is a horrible business model that has no sustainability. They are literally taking 97%+ of all money wagered on the SSC. Who would stick around for that?

And what really concerns me, among tales of insider information being used at DK and FD, is this:

If DraftOps is willing to let users play a game where they have essentially no chance at winning, and profit from those loses, what else are they willing to do in the name of profit?

I would not trust Draftops in any way. I wonder if @richeisen knows he is backing a site that essentially scams its clients?

People say that fantasy sports is a skill. In most cases I agree. But in the case of Draftops, I can confidently say that the only skill required is to avoid playing with them.

**I was unable to track the Thursday games for week 3 or week 5, and draftops did not reply to my request for the historical offerings. So about 10 out of 340 picks are missing**

Data used:
Week 3 SSC offerings
Week 4 SSC offerings
Week 5 SSC offerings
Week 6 SSC offerings
Offering vs Actual Analysis

Updates: Week 7 Update

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