FanDuel DFS: These Strategic Thoughts Can Help You Be Successful

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We already broke down the basics of Fanduel DFS. Now it’s time to take it a step further. Let’s dive into some unique and different strategies you can utilize depending on the type of contest entered. Then, I will go over ten important realizations I have made over the last three years playing DFS. Practice makes perfect no matter what the activity is, and this is no different. Throughout my ups and downs playing DFS, I have constantly tried to learn from my mistakes in order to become a better player. These tips are meant to help you hit the ground running and not make the same mistakes I have in the past. The main goal should be to have fun while playing DFS, but this article is also intended to give you an edge on the competition to hopefully put a little bit of money in your pocket as well. Let’s get to it.

Cash Game vs. Tournament Strategies

Cash Games (Multipliers and 50/50 contests)
Remember, in most cash game contests half of the field, or close to it, win money. The amount won is exactly the same whether you finish in first place or just barely in the money. Thus, the goal is essentially for your lineup to finish in the top half of entries no matter what. When building cash game lineups, the main focus should be on building a reliable and trustworthy team. Players that have guaranteed roles on their team and are projected to get lots of opportunities should be the targets. High floor players should be more coveted than high ceiling players because all you need to do is finish in the money to be successful. Volatility is not your friend in cash games because one player having a disappointing week could sink your entire lineup.

Jarvis Landry was a perfect example of a cash game player last season. He almost always delivered for fantasy owners because he saw plenty of targets from Ryan Tannehill on a week to week basis. He had a high floor because of this, which is what you should be looking for. It didn’t necessarily matter that Landry lacked tremendous upside and a high ceiling because again, those traits are not required in cash games.

GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) Tournaments

GPP Tournaments require a completely different way of thinking in order to be successful. Remember, only about 19-25% of entrants win cash. Not only that but the better your finish, the more money you win. Because of this, the goal should always be to finish at the top of the standings when playing in these contests. In order for that to happen, your lineup is going to have to be unique in order to rise above the rest. In DFS circles, the term contrarian is used when talking about being unique and making lineups with players that are projected to have a low ownership percentage. Embracing volatility is key. High floor players become less valuable and players with high ceilings become much more important. You should absolutely never be afraid for your tournament lineups to fail. The odds are already stacked against you anyway, playing scared isn’t going to do you any good.

Now, in no way am I saying high floor players cannot be utilized in tournaments. We all know there are plenty of players that contain both a high floor and a high ceiling. Plus, having some trustworthy guys in your lineups is never a bad thing. However, tough decisions are going to have to be made at some point. Picking and choosing your spots with boom or bust players is crucial because those volatile players with high variance generally have a low ownership percentage in tournaments. Those are the kinds of contrarian plays that we’re looking for. If you’re able to hit on a volatile player and he’s only owned by 2.3% of the field, you’ve put yourself in a good position to rise to the top of the standings at that point if all of your other players produce as well. Being successful in tournaments is not an easy thing to do. However, if you stick to this process and strategic way of thinking, you’ll put yourself in a position to succeed.

Important Realizations

Salaries Can Be Extremely Detrimental
Your FanDuel DFS lineup must fit under the $60,000 salary cap. Thus, looking at salaries for each individual player is a must. However, if you’re like me, looking at salaries is an easy way to cloud your judgment because, in a way, you let a player’s price tag determine if you should play them or not. This has hindered me in the past and I have had more success when I minimized the importance of player’s salaries. For example, it does not matter if a guy you want to play has a very expensive price tag. If you have a strong feeling he is going to have a good week, you need to find a way to get him in your lineup. However, seeing his expensive price tag early in the week might ultimately lead you to utilize a cheaper option, but one you don’t have as much faith in. My advice would be to analyze every game for the week, determine who you want to play, and then incorporate salaries into the equation after all of that has already taken place.

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Study The Landscape Of The Plays At Each Position
After analyzing all of the games for the week, you should list out or rank all of the players you are considering at each position. This will help you visualize the landscape of these positions which should ultimately make your decisions easier. Is one specific position extremely top heavy meaning you should probably pay up for those players? Does one position underwhelm meaning you can likely go cheap at that position and get away with it? These are the kinds of questions utilizing this strategy in your process can help to answer.

Quality Over Quantity
With every player available to you and so many options to choose from, it can be very tempting to try to cover your bases by making a lot of lineups with a lot of different players. You’re asking for mediocrity and to lose money if you do that. Instead, if you are making multiple lineups, every week you should choose a few players you believe in that are going to be in all of your lineups. Once you’ve decided on your foundation, you can sprinkle in other players you’re not as confident in. Bottom line: you have to make tough decisions every week playing DFS if you want to be successful. That means riding with a few players as the foundation of your teams no matter what.

All Injuries Matter
Football is a violent game. Guys get injured all the time. Because of this, the DFS landscape is constantly changing. Weekly and season long injuries must always be considered when creating lineups. Fitting a lineup under the required salary cap can be difficult, but injuries open up opportunities for players with low salaries. FanDuel doesn’t generally adjust a player’s salary until after they have performed on the field. Thus, being proactive about injuries and predicting a breakout player before it happens not only provides legit bragging rights opportunities, but also plenty of chances to be successful in DFS as well. Whereas you maybe wouldn’t have been able to before, taking advantage of those cheap players can allow you the ability to fit multiple studs into your lineups. Every single player that benefits from an injured teammate should always be considered, which brings me to my next point:

Opportunity = Fantasy Points For WRs, TEs, and RBs
I’ve long been a proponent of the formula Opportunity + Situation = Fantasy Success. Obviously, players in good offenses receive a bump in value. However, the most important thing to remember, especially in DFS, is that opportunity is key. You’re picking players to be successful and score fantasy points for just one week. In order for that to happen, they’re going to need to touch the ball early and often.

The exception to this rule was already briefly touched on in the tournament strategy section. Since you’re embracing volatility in tournaments, playing boom or bust pass catchers that may not see a ton of targets, but have a chance to catch one or more long TDs are exactly the kind of players you should be considering in that format.

However, generally, you’re looking for players that are either going to get a lot of carries, see a ton of targets, or both. This makes paying attention to carry and target totals on a week to week and season-long basis very important. Keeping up with these trends can be extremely useful because they can guide you in the right direction in terms of opportunity for your DFS players.

Efficiency = Fantasy Points For QBs
Quarterback generally tends to be the easiest position to predict in fantasy football. That is why late round QB drafters and streamers of the QB position are still able to have so much success in fantasy football. While volume can’t hurt, it’s actually not as important for QBs as it is for other positions. Instead, efficiency generally helps predict QB success more consistently. We want our QBs to be comfortable out there on the field. That means having success doing whatever they want whether that’s throwing 12 passes on a drive that ends in a TD or 2 passes on a drive that ends with the same result. Look no further than the historical success of Aaron Rodgers, who plays in a balanced offense in Green Bay, yet has consistently finished at or near the top of the QB rankings the past few seasons. All of this points to the luxury fantasy football and DFS players have of being able to utilize QBs playing against the worst defenses in the league which brings me to my next point:

Matchups Mean Everything
Unlike in season long leagues where you play your studs no matter who they are playing against, that’s not necessarily the case in DFS. Since the best players cost more money and take up a higher percentage of your salary cap, you really have to be mindful of matchups. Knowing who each player is going against allows you to pick and choose your spots. This makes playing DFS even more fun in my opinion because it forces you to pay attention to things that just aren’t all that necessary in season long leagues. Knowing who the best and worst run and pass defenses are is vital. Cornerback matchups are key as well. Most people will likely fade (not play) A.J. Green Week 1 because he will be going up against Darrelle Revis. That is likely the smart thing to do. However, because Green is likely to be low owned, he does make for an interesting tournament play.

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Be Mindful Of “Recency Bias”
The NFL has by far the smallest sample size of games in a season for any major sport.  Because of this, overreactions can and do occur all of the time. If a player had a great game the week before, you can bet they’re going to have a high ownership percentage the following week. This can largely be attributed to “recency bias,” which is the phenomenon of a person most easily remembering something that has happened recently, compared to remembering something that may have occurred a while back. That doesn’t mean you should automatically fade that player. Instead, it means you need to study why that player had such a big week. Was it volume driven or was it unsustainable due to a few lucky plays breaking in that player’s favor? If you’re able to figure out that the player is unlikely to repeat their performance, fading him could give you a leg up on the majority of your competition. This should go without saying, but in DFS, it’s even more vital to play guys for what they’re going to do for you in the future, not what they’ve done in the past.

Stacking For Success
A stack is when you utilize two or more players on the same team in your lineup. The most popular stack is when a QB and one or more of his pass catchers (WR/TE/pass catching RB) are combined together. The logic behind that is simple. If you believe strongly one or more pass catchers on a team are going to do well, then the QB has to perform as well by association. By utilizing the stack, not only is production from your pass catcher(s) beneficial, but you essentially receive double the points because your QB is scoring as well.

There are some other more under the radar stacks that can be utilized as well:

RB/Defense stack: If the defense dominates the other team, that should put your RB in a favorable game script where they see more opportunities and have more success. If all goes according to plan, both positions will have solid fantasy days for your DFS lineup.

WR or RB that also returns kicks or punts/Defense stack: If the WR or RB takes a kick or a punt back for a touchdown, you get double points for that because not only does the WR or RB get credit for the TD, but the defense does as well.

Stacking an entire team or players on both sides of the ball in a potential shootout can also be beneficial stacks. Stacking is more important in tournaments when you are trying to create a unique/volatile lineup in order to rise to the top of the ranks, but it can also be utilized successfully in cash games as well.

Players Returning From Injury Always Have A Low Ownership Percentage
This goes back to the small sample size of the NFL and “recency bias.” Since each team only plays one game a week, a player missing two games due to injury means fantasy football players don’t get to watch them perform on the field for three weeks. Because of this, we forget about them and focus on the next best thing. Understanding this phenomenon can give you a major advantage in DFS, especially in tournaments. There is no better example to emphasize this point than Jordan Reed in Week 7 of last year. Reed had a very good start to the season. However, he suffered a concussion in week 4 and missed the next two games. Because nobody had seen him play for nearly a month, Reed was drastically under-owned in DFS tournaments. All he did that week was post 11 catches for 72 yards and 2 TDs. Reed won some people a lot of money that weekend.

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