The Deshaun Watson Case Study by KamG333
What is up Nation!
Well, I think we can all agree that the first thing that stood out on this weekend’s slate is the price of my boy Deshaun Watson. 9.6k, nearly 1/6th of your salary on FanDuel, is a lot to spend on 1 player. However, he has been worth it. In 3 of the 6 games that Watson has started this year the National Football League he has gone for 3x+ (our target score) of his current salary of 9.6k. In those respective games, he has scored (34.72) (35.54) (35.78). Going down the list that is a box that needs to be checked and he will allow me to do that. Watson has performed in the previous games this year so we know he can live up to that salary. Many of you might not notice this but FanDuel sometimes has players priced at salaries where they would have to put up a score they have never produced all year just to hit 2x (Ex: Matt Ryan, Keenen Allen). Deshaun Watson has proven he has the upside to surpass his salary so we can move to the next step in the process.
The next argument will be that the Houston Texans are 13-point home favorites vs the Indianapolis Colts. They will say that game script is going to lean in the favor of a slower paced game and that Houston will become more run oriented. Well, I would like to examine the way Houston plays when they are leading games. First, the Houston Texans in the 1st half of games are the 6th fastest paced team in the league. Usually, the 1st half pace of your team is the way your coaching staff wants to run the offense. What this should tell us is that the Texans want to play fast and maximize the amount of plays they want to run. Now, the spread of -13 allows us to hypothesis that in this game Houston should be leading by more than 7 points throughout the game, I think this is safe to say from what we have seen throughout the season. With this, many will say that Houston will become more run oriented and slow down the game to run clock. However, the numbers tell a different story. Houston has actually the 7th fastest pace in the NFL when leading by 7 or more at 28.85 seconds/play. The league average is 27.62. When compared to their 1st half pace, which is 26.16 seconds per play, they are taking about 2.69 seconds longer per play. So, what does this tell us. It tells is that Houston is naturally a fast-paced team and when they get a large lead they do slow down. However, them slowing down is only 1 second off league average pace per play.
Another interesting thing I found is that Watson is not losing pass attempts due to the fact that his team is leading by a lot of points. For instance, this year in his 6 starts he has had 24 attempts (on Thursday night in his 1st start), and after that has thrown 33,34,31,29, and 30 times. Two of those games were when the Texans were leading by 30 points at half (34 attempts) and 24 points at half (29 attempts). This shows me that even if this game against the Colts is a blow out, Deshaun Watson will still get his normal number of attempts and opportunities needed to hit his value.
Now I am going to go into the defensive matchup’s vs the colts and how they compare to the teams he has hit 3x+ value against. The Colts run a 3-4 base defense and put responsibilities on their secondary and linebackers to play in man-to man converge. This is a positive for Watson as he has potential to use his legs when scrambling. The Colts this year have played SEA, CLE, and TEN in their 8 matchups. These 3 matchups would be the ones I deem to be against running QB’s. Marcus Mariota, Russell Wilson, and DeShone Kizer. The other 5 matchups were against the Rams, Cardinals, 49ers, Jaguars, and Bengals. While you might argue Blake Bortles and Andy Dalton are running QB’s they only have 20 and 21 attempts this year respectively and I will leave my threshold at 30 attempts. Now let’s dive in, in the matchups vs these running QB’s the Colts have given up 2 rushing touchdowns in 3 games, while yielding 0 yards on 2 attempts to Marcus Mariota who had an injured hamstring and could barely move. Russell Wilson and DesShone Kizer were able to combine for 82 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in their 2 games. On average this is 41 rushing yards and 1 touchdown, 10 fantasy points. So, what does this tell us so far? When the Colts are facing a QB that has the ability to utilize their legs, they are giving up nearly 10 fantasy points a game just on rushing alone. However, it is not as easy as that to project Watson will do the same. I will now look at what Watson has done to similar defenses as the Colts in regards to his rushing statistics. Deshaun Watson has had 3 of his 7 starts where he has gone over 40 yards rushing. One of those three games were in games where he went over 3x+ value and the two others were where he did not. First, let’s see what kind of defenses these teams run to see if there is a correlation between defensive scheme and Watson’s rushing outcomes. First, I would like to note that the Cincinnati game Watson had a 49-yard touchdown run, this should not be ignored as it shows his ability to do so, yet it was fluky. However, I want to see if Cincy runs a similar defense as the Colts do to see if Watson could replicate a run of that sorts. I found that the Bengals run a 4-3 base defense with a pass coverage scheme that uses a Zone coverage style. This is far different that the Colts defensive scheme. The second 40+ rushing performance was thanks to the New England Patriots. The Patriots run a hybrid defense and scheme for a team, therefore they do not have a set defense. However, in this one the read option and lack of gap control for the Patriots was an issue. The third game where Watson went 40+ yards was against the Seahawks last week who run a 4-3 base defense with a hybrid zone coverage. Therefore, we can conclude much of the games he has gone over 40+ rushing yards has been against teams in a 4-3 style defense. Although the defensive schemes do not matchup on paper, I believe the Colts run similar pass coverage schemes as these teams do, meaning they drop back in coverage more and rely on the front lineman for pass rush rather than brining sets of pressure. I think it is interesting to note that Watson is getting a matchup vs a Colts defense that when presented with athletic QB’s, has struggled containing them on the ground. If Watson can hit the averages of Deshone Kizer and Russell Wilson he will be left with 18.8 points needed through the air to hit 3x value. So let’s move onto the pass game matchup.
On paper this is a great spot for Watson vs a Colts defense who ranks 30th in DVOA vs the pass. The Colts also give up the 3rd most points to fantasy QB’s this season, averaging 20.9 points per game. The quarterbacks the Colts have faced have been Jared Goff, Carson Palmer, DeShone Kizer, Russell Wilson, Brian Hoyer, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, and Andy Dalton. The Colts have an adjusted sack rate of 5.7% which is 23rd in the league. This resembles the Seahawks (5.6%), Kansas City (6.1%), Cleveland Browns (6%) and New England (5.9%), all of which are teams he has played this year. In the games against the teams with these similar pass rush’s as the Colts, Watson has gone for 3x+ value twice and rushed for over 40+ yards (the threshold we are talking about and the average the Colts have given up) twice as well. With the combination of the pass rush and pass coverage scheme, I believe Watson has the experience vs this kind of pressure to put up his value needed.
So, we have concluded that Watson should have time to throw and scramble if needed so we should examine how the matchups on the outside with the WR’s vs Secondary will end up. 1st of all I have no question in DeAndre Hopkins and his ability to beat Vontae Davis. The numbers back this up as the Colts rank 20th in DVOA vs the #1 WR. No sweat here. Next, Will Fuller gets a matchup on the outside that is very favorable as the Colts rank 28th vs the #2 WR and 27th vs the slot WR where Fuller can lineup time to time. The kicker here is that the Colts rank 29th in DVOA vs the deep pass which is 4th worst in the NFL. The Houston Texans have been throwing the ball deep at a phenomenal rate in which I think the Texans can use to Torch the Colts on Sunday. Since Deshaun Watson has been named the starter, the Texans have been throwing the ball deep a lot, and mainly on 1st and 2nd downs. The NFL averages for deep passes this year are 39% on 1st Down, 32% on 2nd Down, and 27% on 3rd Down. Now, the Texans are far from the mean. With Deshaun Watson, 40% of the Texans deep balls have been thrown in 1st down, 47% of their deep balls on 2nd down, and 11% on 3rd down (per @sharpfootball). This works great for Watson in this matchup and just in general as well as he is facing a team that A. is weak vs the pass and B. is one of the worst vs the deep ball. The Texans throwing on deep on 1st and 2nd downs allow them to take risks down the field without jeopardizing a drive as a whole. If he misses on 1st and 2nd down deep to Will Fuller, he will still have a 3rd and manageable situation to convert vs a 30th ranked pass defense in the league, that as a below average adjusted sack rate. This gives the Texans and Watson/Fantasy owners the best of both worlds. He is taking shots down field in early down situations which is giving still leaving them opportunities to convert and save drives on 3rd down, increasing the positive Excepted Value (+EV) of each drive. All things we want to hear for fantasy purposes.
So, Nation, I know that was long but I wanted to conquer one of the big questions of this week in DFS, to fade or play Deshaun Watson? I want to finish with a summary of what we have learned to allow you to make your own informed decision.
- Deshaun Watson needs 28.8 fantasy points for 3x (our target value).
- Deshaun Watson has hit over 28.8 fantasy points in 3 games this year.
- 72 vs TEN
- 54 vs KC
- 78 vs SEA
- In the games Deshaun Watson has gone for 3x+ value…
- W- 57-14 vs TEN (Blowout)
- L- 34-42 vs KC (Blowout)
- L- 38-41 vs SEA
- In the games that Watson has blown out teams or have been blown out (TEN, KC, and CLE) he still was within (plus-minus) 4 of his average pass attempts (30.1).
- TEN- 34 attempts
- KC- 31 attempts
- CLE- 29 attempts
- The Colts have given up an average of 41 yards rushing and 1 rusing touchdown to the QB in 2 games vs QB’s that scramble and use their legs.
- Russell Wilson
- 38 yards and 1 touchdown
- DeShone Kizer
- 44 yards and 1 touchdown
- The Man to Man converge scheme of the Colts boosts Watson’s rush yard projection when scrambling.
- There is not a resemblance in defensive scheme between the Colts and the teams Deshaun Watson has run for over 40+ yards on.
- The Colts rank 30th in DVOA vs the Pass and 29th in DVOA vs the Deep Pass this year
- The Houston Texans when they chose to throw the deep ball do it on early downs (87% on 1st and 2nd downs) which increases the +EV of fantasy points Deshaun Watson will score on each drive.
- Russell Wilson
There is the summary Nation and I hope this helps you make an informed decision on this hot topic in DFS this week! I will be back with the FanDuel GPP article on Saturday… and of course Happy Halloween!