How to Execute the “Punt Play” in DFS (Fantasy Football)

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Punting isn’t just an activity for special teams units. This is a tool in the toolbelt of anyone who wants to win consistently in DFS.

Were you among the many who boarded the train known as Olamide Zaccheaus in DFS for Week 5? The wee little man (he’s only 5’8″ so the joke holds water) was the cash game lock of the week topping out over 60% in some 50/50 contests I was in.  After catching one pass for 13 yards, I had a couple of people on Twitter message me asking: did I do something wrong? 

First off, hindsight is always 20/20 so on Monday it’s easy to overreact especially when money is involved. Let’s walk through the process of properly executing a punt play in DFS, one of the winning tips & strategies we recommend for DFS.

Note: This article is a FREE* DFS article. For our DraftKings & FanDuel weekly picks, our Pace of Play article complete with dart throws which highlighted Chase Claypool this past week, and our lineup generator, check out the Ultimate DFS Pass.

Punt plays are based on expected opportunity.

Before we go any further, “punting” a position in DFS allows you to pay up at other positions and end up with a roster with a higher floor. You are rostering a player near-minimum salary with some indicators that opportunity and value are present. Usually, it is a starter who goes down (George Kittle) that opens up opportunity for the backup (Jordan Reed) to come through in a big way at a near rock-bottom price tag. It may be obvious but punting the RB position is utter insanity. In fact, there are no such things as an RB punt because the cheap RBs that fall into our laps are going to be chalk. Mike Davis is a stud at this point and after Christian McCaffrey‘s injury, he was priced up the next week. For punt plays, we’re sifting through mostly tight-ends, wide receivers, and the occasional defense.

Let’s take a look back at our buddy Olamide Zaccheaus. Was the “punt” at $3,000 on DraftKings a whiff or part of a process that says cheap opportunity is king in DFS?

That’s exactly the type of opportunity, in terms of being on the field, that you wanted for Zaccheaus. But as I’ll discuss below, I don’t think Zaccheaus’ 2.3 DK points is what cost your team from cashing. Of the ten different cash contests I entered on DraftKings this past week, I cashed in 9-of-10 and missed out on another by five points. When I look up and down my roster, I can point out two other guys that came up short on my expectations.

Punt plays are floor plays for CASH contests. Don’t expect a ceiling.

Normally, you can point your nose to the sky in disgust whenever you see weekly projections for DFS. Median projections are at best a guess about what is an average of the range of outcomes. In other words, you aren’t going to see boom-or-bust games in anyone’s median projections. They are just that: in the middle. But for cash game plays, median projections need to come further into focus because what we care about is assembling a lineup that has a high floor. This is where punt plays help us accomplish what we want to do in cash games. For developing a cash game mindset, listen to an offseason episode Matthew Betz and myself unpacked DFS Winning Tips & Strategies.

To put this into practice, I want to peel back the curtain. Through five weeks, here are the cash game plays I personally have used on DraftKings for my cash lineups.

Week Player Position DK Salary Roster % DK Points Value
1 P. Campbell WR $3900 6% 14.0 3.6x
L. Thomas TE $2800 3% 13.7 4.9x
WSH DEF $2000 30% 15.0 7.5x
2 J. Reed TE $2600 12% 24.0 9.2x
3 T. Kroft TE $2900 0.20% 18.4 6.3x
KJ Hamler WR $3000 17% 5.8 1.9x
4 A. Trautman TE $2500 42% 0.0
5 O. Zaccheaus WR $3000 60% 2.3 0.76x

This is a small sample and to be honest, things have worked out better than I could’ve dreamed of punting the position thus far for 2020. What this should point out to you is that punting the position is viable IF you can identify the players with the right opportunity. If a punt player 2xes on their salary, you should be ecstatic. I rostered K.J. Hamler in Week 3 and was more than happy knowing I had saved at the WR position and was able to pay up with a couple of studs. I only punt ONE player per lineup. When you try to fit in two punt plays, I find those teams end up one player short.

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Week 4 was a tough one for me and I recommended Trautman on Twitter because he was the stone-cold minimum with Jared Cook declared out. Did his zero cost you? It hurt definitely but I found that those lineups took a bath because the RBs (Kenyan Drake) busted. You’re hoping for five points from Trautman so my expectations weren’t dashed when he didn’t come through. Make sure your punt play is going to see the snaps and runs enough routes to justify playing them. For TEs, I want to see them on the field 60+ percent of the time and running 20+ routes.

Punt Plays Unleash the Beasts

The real reason we want to punt the position is to make room in our lineups for the true studs. High-end RBs and WRs are the true difference-makers in DFS and I want to try to get three in my lineups every single week. How confident do you feel going into the lock time with guys such as Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Jacobs, and DeAndre Hopkins while still having enough to fill out a roster capable of 150+ points?

Compare the following scenarios when constructing your cash game lineups:

Option 1 Middle Tier RB Middle Tier WR Middle Tier TE
Salary $6,200 $6,200 $4,800 $17,200
Exp. Pts 14.4 13.5 9.1 37
Option 2 Stud RB Punt WR Stud TE
Salary $7,500 $3,000 $6,700 $17,200
Exp. Pts 21 3.6 13.6 38.2
Option 3 Stud RB Stud WR Punt TE
Salary $7,500 $7,000 $2,700 $17,200
Exp. Pts 21 18.2 2.7 41.9

Obviously, this comparison isn’t perfect and is player dependent. You are assembling a group of eight players and a defense. But for our example, if we were to use the same exact salaries for these three positions, how would you feel about these trios. Could Option 1 outscore the other in this scenario? Of course. But we’re shooting for a team that with the type of expected median projection that far outpaces people that trying to get too cute with their roster constructions. Play your studs and punt away especially at TE if the opportunity presents itself.

Ignore the Roster %

For tournaments, please take this advice and punch me in the face. For GPPs with multiple entries or even single entry tournaments, predicting how popular a player is matters. But for cash purposes, I almost completely ignore it. For cash, I mostly play 50/50s with large fields (100-2,000+) where I’m not trying to hit the nuts with that lineup.

There is so much GroupThink that happens on twitter especially when we are inundated with people’s opinions. But for cash, I’m not trying to differentiate myself to the point of trying to get cute. Make sure you listen to the Footballers DFS podcast each week as we discuss our cash game locks each week.


Jlieb336 says:

Great article and solid advice! Thanks for all you guys do

Bigdawson60 says:

I absolutely love this article! Thank you for the tips on how to successfully “punt” a position! It makes so much more sense now! Keep up the great work!

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