DFS Strategy: How to Approach Each Position & Gain an Edge (Fantasy Football)
We need to think about DFS a bit differently than other formats (redraft, dynasty, best ball, etc.) because the market prices for these players remain fixed. It would be nice to be able to stack a roster and “play the best plays” but for each site (DraftKings- $50,000 and FanDuel-$60,000) you know exactly what you have to work with. But within this type of “market” we also must think of what kind of roster percentage each player will carry.
So, how can you be better than the field?
- Learning correct contest selection which we detailed on the recent DFS Mistakes to Avoid podcast.
- Playing the roster percentage game detailed in our Roster Percentage Report in the DFS Pass.
- Thinking about positions differently.
The latter statement is the subject of this article to give you some in-depth language to work with and develop a new mindset for playing DFS long-term. I’ll quickly highlight each of the four main positions (QB/RB/WR/TE)
QBs: The Most Interchangeability in DFS
This is both a blessing & a curse playing DFS. The roster percentages for QBs are relatively flat where it’s rare to see a QB approach 15-20 percent. However, you can also tell yourself a story with almost any QB. We know how interchangeable QBs can be as anyone can score 25 points in a given week. The 300-yard bonus on DraftKings is well within reach. In 2020, there were 38 different QBs who registered a top-12 performance this year including some unlikely fellows such as Brandon Allen, Marcus Mariota, and Nick Mullens.
I detailed this in the 25 QB Statistics article earlier in the off-season but QB scoring as a whole was up in 2020 compared to the previous year. A total of 74 more passing TDs were thrown despite only 154 more attempts. The efficiency went from a TD rate of 4.4 percent to 4.8 percent across the board.
There isn’t a huge difference in salaries for QBs as roster percentages stay low because everyone is starting just one each week. Therefore the place to get different isn’t so much at QB but who you are stacking your players with. QBs tend to be more consistent and offer higher upside when playing at home and when playing as the favorite. Both of these factors are positive indicators of success and in GPPs you might want to simply mix up using the WR2 with the QB instead of the WR1 that week.
What are you looking for?
Cash: 20 points are the bare minimum and you can find this type of floor with rushing QBs easily. Kyler Murray and Josh Allen were perfect examples last year where the high-end QBs that you had to pay up were often good plays. It felt weird devoting that kind of salary. You’re looking for 250 yards and two TDs as the floor.
GPP: We want a QB to 4x or more on their salary. The cheaper guys ($5,000 on DraftKings) can get away with 20+ points but the ceiling games where you are stacking them with the appropriate pass-catchers. Consider the QB and his stacking options and then add up roster percentage. You can find stacks with similar ceilings but there is a huge discrepancy in their combined roster percentage.
RBs: The Most Predictability in DFS
These guys are the money-makers. I don’t have to tell you every week to “Play Dalvin Cook“. We feel pretty confident in the amount of volume RBs are going to see especially those on a team Vegas likes as a favorite. The plays get thin real fast and while you can squint your eyes and try to tell yourself a story, expecting Giovani Bernard to break the slate is a shot in the dark compared to paying up for guaranteed volume.
2020 was a bit of an anomaly if we’re comparing the last decade of RB scoring. Last year marked the fewest RB receiving fantasy points (“running through the air” as Jason coined it) since 2012. RBs averaged just 1.48 fantasy pts per reception. RB receiving yards hit rock bottom avg. 7.4 yards per reception, the lowest in the last decade. On the other hand, RBs averaged 0.66 fantasy points per rush, the highest in the last 10 years. While we want RBs who catch the ball which gives us access to a higher ceiling, last year there was efficiency related to pounding the rock we haven’t seen in years.
What are you looking for?
Cash: Guaranteed Volume. I know it sounds so elementary but the easiest way to do this is project touches for the week, give receiving work more than double the weight (as explained above), and then divide by salary. Who is giving you the most $ per touch among RBs? Paying up really is worth it at the RB position.
GPP: We want contrarian plays at RB that have similar projections in terms of their ceiling but their roster percentages are much lower. Safety is what you want in cash but a path to a ceiling with fewer people plugging that player in their lineup is a beautiful thing. If the chalk RB fails, you have yourself set up with a capable RB waiting in the wings. Often, these are RBs that have perceived worse matchups or those who don’t profile as pass-catchers. Nick Chubb had a stretch last year where he was undervalued because he was getting so few targets but we know he’s capable of 100+ yards and two TDs anytime he touches the field. Define a narrative & run with it. Take advantage where people are “confident” in workload and go the other way.
WRs: The Most Volatility in DFS
The WR1 for a team should be easy to spot where you see the player with the most volume. But because DFS is a weekly game it can shift where the WR2 or 3 is the one with the monster game. There’s so much volatility at the WR position and 2020 was no different. Every single WR had at least one week outside the top-50 in 2020. In other words, everyone busted, and apart from Davante Adams, who essentially functioned as a weekly “cash game RB”, there was way more variance than you might’ve realized. This is both a blessing and curse.
Let’s take Stefon Diggs as an example. His 2020 was b-nanas if you somehow drafted him in redraft and in DFS he was so safe all year long. But for ceiling purposes, he hit over 25 PPR pts in only five weeks. That total is still insane compared to the rest of the field but still, there were a majority of weeks where Diggs didn’t help you win a GPP. We need that perspective
One of the most valuable pieces of information related to WRs is roster percentage. We highlight this in our Roster Percentage Report in the DFS Pass weekly and WRs clearly has the most competition of who could be a tournament winner each week. Seriously, you could tell yourself a story each
What are you looking for?
Cash: Take advantage of cheap DK salary ($2,500-$4,000) for WRs who can see 5-6 targets and rack up some PPR points. Because you have to select three starting WRs at a minimum, I often find myself selecting one WR in this price range. Last year, Jakobi Meyers was seeing the type of volume I wanted with a weekly floor that was enticing in cash. After Week 7, he was on a 90+ reception pace. Obviously, we all want the studs but if you are paying up at RB then WR is basically where you have to sacrifice.
GPP: Fading popular WRs in GPPs is part of the gambit of DFS. Locate the 2nd or 3rd WR on the team. They will have their due. Anyone can pop off for 100 yards and a score to make your day/life.
TEs: The Most Polarity in DFS
The tight-end position is an extreme polarization and we subscribe (mostly) to two forms of action: pay up or punt. Mid-range TEs is the syrup of ipecac of DFS as they incur vomit-inducing results most of the time while sucking away at your salary. Don’t do it.
If you want the safety of a Kelce or Waller in cash, it makes a ton of sense. Most weeks their production far outweighs the field in a way where you have a true difference-maker. However, punting the position altogether gives you access to some basement level prices (hello $2,500 in DraftKings) while a similar outcome of a TD-or-bust. We played Irv Smith Jr. a ton last year with positive results. Even if the “punt TE” doesn’t always work out, in cash games you are still not in a whole because TE scoring is just so low across the board. Check out my full outline on How to Execute the Punt Play in DFS I wrote up last year.
What are you looking for?
Cash: Please just 2x your salary! Ok, you would love more than that but if a $4,000 TE hits double-digit points you gotta be jumping for joy.
GPP: The access to the ceiling games is rare because only a handful of TEs can actually command the type of targets we want in fantasy. However, I love stacking my TEs with my QB in GPPs because the only time this type of stack performs well, the TE must carry some weight. It’s an all-or-nothing strategy and I explained something similar with Hayden Hurts. He was so bad last year despite the opportunity and volume but whenever Hurst did well, you could bank on Ryan having a good game. Their correlation (0.81) was more indicative of Hurst than Ryan because there were tons of games where Ryan went off and Hurst was just straight chilling on five fantasy points.
DSTs: The Most Sensitivity in DFS
Ok, here is a quick freebie at the end. Defenses are price-specific. That’s it.
There is so much variance at play here as nobody or their mama can predict when a punt return goes for a TD. Or a sack-fumble into a score. Just not a predictable part of the game. If you have a futuristic model for predicting defensive scores, please let me know. You would be the first.
Also, fade chalk defense a majority of the time. They likely won’t return their salary in a way that is slate-breaking. You can win even with a dud or negative performance from a defense but it depends on the week.