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Understanding DraftKings' NFL Bonuses

I just want to do a quick post on the potential bonus points you can accrue on DraftKings in NFL games. DraftKings awards three points when you have a player exceed 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, or 100 yards receiving. These bonuses can go overlooked…

I just want to do a quick post on the potential bonus points you can accrue on DraftKings in NFL games. DraftKings awards three points when you have a player exceed 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, or 100 yards receiving. These bonuses can go overlooked because they’re somewhat fluky on the individual level, but I still think there are some potential strategies you can employ to exploit the bonus levels and milk a few more points out of your lineups.

Bonus Consistency, Frequency, and Scarcity

Predicting bonuses on the individual level is difficult, but you can still gain an edge by exposing yourself to positive situations. We’re always trying to put ourselves on the right side of variance so that, if things get a little chaotic, we can be the ones to benefit.

We can’t predict with great accuracy whether or not an individual player will obtain bonus points in a given week, but we know that certain player types and positions are of course more likely to do it than others. Elite quarterbacks are more likely to surpass 300 passing yards than elite running backs are to reach 100 yards rushing, for example.

Here’s a look at the trend of DraftKings bonuses…

While 100-yard rushing performances have been flat since 2008, 100-yard receiving and 300-yard passing games are on the rise. This adds a little extra value to the quarterback and receiver positions by creating scarcity. We know that the elite players at a position are more likely than the average players at the same position to hit the DraftKings bonus levels. Well, that just increases the deviation in projected points between those players; the three-point passing bonus gives Peyton Manning more value over someone like Alex Smith. With that gap increasing at the quarterback and wide receiver spots, it makes sense that you should try to gain exposure to 300-yard passing and 100-yard receiving performances as much as possible, perhaps even ahead of seeking 100-yard rushing performances.

Position Value in the Flex

The 100-yard rushing and receiving bonuses also have a lot of weight when you’re considering flex decisions. Take a look at the probability of winning a head-to-head NFL game on DraftKings based on which position you put into the flex spot.

There are a number of factors at play here, but the bonus levels are certainly part of the puzzle. Tight ends are simply very unlikely to reach the 100-yard mark—certainly much more so than running backs and receivers—and thus can offer a little less value than what initially appears to be the case. Also note that the increasing frequency of 100-yard receiving performances could be part of the reason that wide receivers have typically been better flex plays than running backs in GPPs. With the PPR scoring and 100-yard receiving bonus, elite wide receivers have a ton of upside on DraftKings. That makes them excellent flex plays in tournaments.

A Balanced Attack

Also, note that the presence of these bonus levels could lend more credence to a balanced approach to lineup construction in certain situations. Basically, you want as much exposure to the bonuses as possible. Even though it’s tough to predict bonuses on the individual level, someone who consistently utilizes players with, say, a 30 percent chance of generating bonus points will beat out someone who uses players with just a 10 percent chance.

With that said, using a balanced approach might be the best way to maximize exposure to bonus points. It’s a simple math problem. When you use elite players who cost a lot of money, you necessarily need to move down the salaries to find very cheap players, too. While the elite players of course offer the highest probability of reaching the bonus, cheap players counteract that by giving you very little opportunity for bonus points, depending on their situation.

Let’s say you’re deciding between a Tyreek Hill/Kendrick Bourne pairing (one elite player with a “scrub”) or a balanced approach with Deebo Samuel and Damien Williams. You estimate the players with the following probabilities of reaching their respective bonus levels:

Hill: 70 percent

Bourne: 10 percent

Samuel: 40 percent

Williams: 40 percent

Now, what’s the probability that both players in each pair will reach 100 yards? For Johnson and Sankey, it’s only seven percent. For Decker and Spiller, it’s more than twice that—16 percent. So while the Johnson/Sankey gives you access to a stud, it also decreases your upside a bit, as it’s less likely that both players reach the bonus. In GPPs, you need big-time contributions from basically every player, which means you should be looking to maximize the likelihood of that happening across the board.

A Different Strategy for H2H?

Note that I said that a high-low sort of pairing—like Johnson and Sankey—might limit your upside if the scrub doesn’t have a very high ceiling. That’s of course detrimental in a tournament, where you need as much upside as you can get.

But what about in cash games? Your goal there isn’t necessarily to score as many points as possible all the time, but to consistently score a good number of points to win as many games as you can. You need good, not great.

In those leagues, it could make sense to actually use a high-low strategy more often than a balanced one. While the probability of both Johnson and Sankey going crazy is low, the likelihood of one of them doing it is higher than the Decker/Spiller pairing.

Actually, the probability of either Megatron or Sankey reaching the bonus, assuming the same odds used above, is 73 percent, while the likelihood of either Decker or Spiller doing it is just 64 percent. If your goal is to increase the floor of your team, a Megatron/Sankey pairing could arguably be better.

Thus, the “best” lineup construction approach (as it relates to bonuses) depends on what you want. If you want upside, as is the case in a GPP, you need to improve the chances of hitting on the majority of your players. You can do that with a balanced approach.

Meanwhile, your goal in cash games is more just to get players who will return value. You don’t need an elite score, in which case a high-low strategy has more merits.