The most critical decision you’ll make in creating your daily fantasy football lineup is in selecting your keeper. That doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. In fact, keeper scoring is highly volatile, but we’re going to give you as much information as possible to help cut down on that variance.
The most important start to evaluating your options and making this decision is to understand the site’s scoring that you are playing on. As usual, we will use Mondogoal as an example. Here is their keeper specific scoring:
Price is going to be critically important but first we must come up with some sort of projection. From the listed stats, the most valuable to chase are the goal prevention bonuses (Clean Sheet and 1 Goal Allowed). We would rank the factors to consider in this order:
1) Likelihood of Clean Sheet / 1 Goal Against
2) Defensive Quality – Shot Prevention
3) Opponent Quality – Shots Per Game
4) Keeper Quality v. Site Value of the Keeper
5) Home or Away
Let’s go through each factor one by one.
Likelihood of Clean Sheet / 1 Goal Against
Getting these bonus points is crucial. Determining which keepers are most likely to keep clean sheets is best learned by examining the quality of the keeper’s defence and the opponent’s attack Shots on target and chances created are good indicators of this quality.
Additionally, we will look at the odds on a clean sheet offered by the bookmakers. We find it quite logical to defer to the guys with millions of pounds on the line at all times. Sure, there will be biases to consider with form and popularity of particular sides but generally these will be solid numbers.
Keepers can score 6 for a CS and 3 for 1GA, though that will also include a 2 point deduction for the goal allowed, so in reality it is 1 point. For instance, a keeper could be leading 1-0 late in the match and have 3 saves. If that game ends you’re looking at a stellar 9 points (6 for the CS, 3 for the 3 saves). But if he concedes a late goal he loses 6 points for the clean sheet, while also receiving the -2 penalty for allowing a goal. If just the one goal is let in then they are still eligible for the 1GA bonus of 3 points. Your GPP-winning caliber keeper just went from 9 down to a more pedestrian 4 points. This sort of varied distribution is what makes keeper projections very difficult and why if you are going to enter several teams in a GPP you should consider using different keepers even if you are absolutely certain there is no way that a relegation threatened club is going to score against likely champions, because they still might! The best we can do in advance is evaluate the probability of these scenarios and predict accordingly.
Quality of the Defence – Shot Prevention
Again, we’re going to look at some odds to see how many projected goals the total suggests. But we are also going to look at how many shots per game and shots on target per game our defence is allowing. We are mainly concerned with the quality of the chances thekeeper’s defence is giving up. This has proved to be a repeatable skill as some defences force opposing forwards to shoot from more difficult positions, meaning a lower percentage of shots on target and therefore fewer goals.
Quality of the Opponents – Shots Per Game
Naturally, we also want to know who our keeper is up against. Consider the odds again, and consider the quality of the opponent’s strikers and attacking forwards. How many shots are they having per game? How many on target? How about recent form? If you are looking for a clean sheet then you’ll want to go up against weak attacking teams. If you’re chasing saves and are confident in the quality of your keeper and defence, you may want to choose a strong opponent that will have shots but may be held scoreless or to just one goal.
Keeper Quality vs. Site Value of the Keeper
Determining just how good each keeper is can be a fools’ errand. Much of it is result-oriented and contingent on tactics and defence. Checking save percentage can be helpful but does not always capture form if you’re looking at overall career, and can be too small a sample when you look in a season. It’s not foolproof but we also like to use transfer prices as a start for perceived quality. The big spending clubs will certainly skew this data, but they’ll also pay for the top keepers, so there is likely something there.
The other factor we will look at for keeper quality is the recent form of the team and keeper. While some of this is noise, there does seem to be some consistency in form that we need to consider and we will dig deeper into this later.
This also ties into price. If a keeper is in poor form his price will likely be down, and conversely, if a keeper is in good form his price will have gone up. We will use our projections to evaluate whether the price is one to take advantage of or not.
Home or Away
Where the game is being played will be considered by the bookmaker’s numbers as well, but in general we obviously like to lean towards home keepers and avoid away keepers. Home or away can serve as a tiebreaker if you are finding it hard to choose between two keepers.
Whether a team is tactically fouling or lacks discipline is important to track and to distinguish. We are in the process of collecting data to see if red cards are something predictive. If it’s not predictive then you’ll just have to hope it doesn’t happen to your keeper!
Choosing keepers can often end in frustration as the variance between scores is so pronounced. We are just scratching the surface with what we know about statistics in football and how to apply them, particularly as they relate to keepers. There is a big advantage to be had if you can select a keeper who holds their opponent scoreless whilst securing several saves. But even the most favoured teams in the Premier League will only be expected to keep a clean sheet against a poor opponent 50-70% of the time, leaving considerable room for disappointment.