Fantasy Football: How To Play DraftKings
All hail NFL DFS! There’s simply nothing better. DraftKings is my go-to site. Here are all the ins and outs and reasons why:
If you’re new to DraftKings, you can start by playing in Beginner Contests. These contests are only available to players who have entered 50 contests or less, regardless of when they registered and set up their account. More experienced players are not allowed to play which will allow you to get up to speed at your own pace while playing against others with similar experience levels. These contests are labeled and are easy to find.
Clear contest entry limits have been set to put a cap on the number of lineups one user can enter into a single contest. This has been done to help maintain a competitive balance for all involved. The entry caps vary by contest:
- Single entry contests – Just as the name states, only one entry is allowed.
- Multi entry contests – These contests allow players to submit a lot of lineups. However, there are still limits. In order to find multi-entry contests, look for the M next to the number of entries like so:
In order to determine how many lineups each user can enter, you’ll need to click on the number of entries. That will bring up a page that looks like this:
The number right next to the words Multi-Entry is the maximum amount of entries each user is allowed. Therefore, in this specific example, each user is allowed 20 entries max. This maximum entry number fluctuates depending on the size of the contest.
Experienced players are now designated on DraftKings. This allows you to see beforehand whether you’ll be going up against more experienced players and it will help you decide whether you ultimately want to enter that contest or not. The levels of experience and badges that accompany most of them are as follows:
- Beginner – Have not entered more than 50 contests
- Casual – Have entered more than 50 contests but have yet to earn an experience badge
- 500 Contests – Have competed in more than 500 contests
- 1,000 Contests – Have competed in more than 1,000 contests
- Big Win – Have had more than 3 entries payout $1,000 or more OR won a total of $2,500 or more and have payouts from 5 or more entries
- 500 Plus Big Win – Have competed in more than 500 contests and won $1,000 in 3 or more contests, or w0n a total of $2,500 in 5 contests
- 1,000 Plus Big Win – Have competed in more than 1,000 contests and won $1,000 in 3 or more contests, or won a total of $2,500 in 5 contests
The rules and details of every possible contest are clearly defined. Information such as the entry cost, number of entrants, scoring system, prize pool (how many people get paid), and payout structure (how much the winners win) are all available in advance of every contest. This allows you to do some research before deciding on which contests to enter. In order to find all of this information, simply click on the name of a contest and it will all pop up for you like so:
- You’re given a $50,000 salary cap which equates out to about $5,555 per player.
- You must fill a starting lineup that consists of 1QB, 2RBs, 3WRs, 1TE, 1FLEX (RB/WR/TE), and 1D. Thus, the RB position is emphasized because you are required to start two but can start up to three by utilizing one in the flex position. Similarly, the WR position is vital because you must start three but can start up to four.
- Every player involved in the slate (games within the contest you enter) are available to you.
- Every player costs a certain dollar amount. The most expensive (Generally considered to be the best) players at each position cost way more than $5,555 and the cheapest (Generally considered to be the worst) players at each position cost way less than $6,667.
- You must complete your lineup while staying under the $50,000 salary cap budget.
- Lineups must include players from at least 2 different NFL teams and that represent at least 2 different NFL games.
- You are allowed to pick up to 8 players from the same team.
- “Late swap” is allowed. This means each individual player in your lineup is not locked until their specific game starts, regardless if some of the other games in the slate (games within the contest you enter) have already started or not. This allows for more roster flexibility.
The NFL DraftKings scoring system is as follows:
- Notable scoring settings:
- FULL PPR
- 3 points for a 300-yard passing game
- 3 points for a 100-yard rushing game
- 3 points for a 100-yard receiving game
- 4 points per TD pass
- Only -1 point per INT
These details are what truly sets DraftKings apart from the competition. While 0.5 PPR is great for redraft purposes in order to balance out the RB and WR positions, it’s actually full PPR that maintains that parity between the positions in DFS. Why? With multiple RBs that carry large workload projections available week-in and week-out, the full PPR provides a boost to the WR position and increases their value despite their overall weekly volatility. Ultimately, RBs are emphasized in this scoring system due to the abundance of points they can rack up on the ground and through the air and WRs are emphasized as well thanks to full PPR. Plus, the three bonus points for 100+ yard rushers and receivers should never go overlooked. QBs should be viewed in this same light since 300+ yard passers receive the three-point bump as well.
When putting together a lineup, you’ll first want to know which kind of contest you’re playing because the strategies and mindset for cash games and tournaments are not the same. Let’s analyze the differences:
Cash Game Mindset
In most cash game contests half of the field, or close to it, double their money regardless of whether they finish in first or just inside the cut line. Thus, there is no extra incentive for finishing at the top of the leaderboard. With that in mind, the goal is to create a steady lineup that will find a way to finish in the top half of entries (in the money). Because of this, the main focus should be on building a reliable and trustworthy team when building cash game lineups. And there is nothing more reliable in fantasy football than guaranteed opportunity. Thus, players that have guaranteed roles on their team and are projected to get lots of opportunities should be your targets. While high ceiling players are great when they hit, high floor players should receive more of your focus in cash games. Volatility is not your friend in this format because one player having a disappointing week could sink your entire lineup.
Tournament (GPP) Mindset
In tournaments, generally, only 19-25% of entrants win cash which means 75%+ entries will win absolutely nothing. On top of that, the majority of payouts are similar to cash game payouts. So what’s the point? Well, the higher up the leaderboard you finish, the more money you win. Winning a tournament or finishing anywhere in the top five to ten can net you a life-changing amount of cash and generally will give you an insane amount of positive return on investment. Thus, the goal should ALWAYS be to finish at the top of the standings because that’s the only result that makes playing in tournaments worth it. And since you’re usually playing against hundreds or thousands of competitors, your lineup is going to have to be unique in order to rise above the rest.
So how do we create a unique lineup? The foundation of doing this is NOT making predicting what is going to happen on the field priority number 1. The majority of your competition will do this by creating lineups using the philosophy of predicting what they think is going to happen AND many will predict similar results. However, predicting what is going to happen in a given week is extremely difficult thanks to the high amount of year-to-year and especially week-to-week variance in the NFL due to small sample sizes. Thus, it’s crucial to be contrarian and pivot away from that line of thinking.
Instead, predicting ownership percentages and targeting low owned players is the way to go. In order to do this volatility must be embraced. Why? Because you’re ONLY playing to hit your ceiling and the highest range of outcomes. So the players in your lineup should reflect that line of thinking. While the majority of your competition is too afraid to roster a player like Ted Ginn Jr. because he may get them a zero in their lineup, you’ll be focused on what matters – Ted Ginn’s ceiling and that his style of play gives him a chance to catch two 50+ yard TDs in any given week. And if Ginn does hit that ceiling, he’ll do it at a low ownership percentage, putting you in a good position to rise to the top of the standings.
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.
The Flex Position
Once your mindset is right, you can focus on building your lineup and a unique aspect of DraftKings is the flex position. The Flex is amazing because it offers us the flexibility we can use to diversity our lineups. That’s because it makes creating rosters with three RBs, four WRs, or two TEs possible. So which is the best to employ? That answer is subject to change weekly since each slate of games is its own unique puzzle that must be put together. And some of the most important pieces of the puzzle are matchups, salaries, and projected opportunities. Ultimately, the Golden Rule in DFS is that opportunity is king. You’re picking players to be successful and score fantasy points for just one week. And the best chance for that to happen is for your players to touch the ball early and often.
How To Win
Stacks Win Tournaments
For those unfamiliar, a “Stack” is essentially any combo of at least two different players in your lineup where a correlation exists. There are different kinds of stacks but the main one is definitely pairing a WR with his Quarterback. That way, if the WR has a big game, you’ll get all of their points on top of the “double points” the QB scores for you. For example, if your WR/QB stack connects for a TD, you’re essentially getting points for two TDs for the price of one.
You don’t have to stop with just one pass catcher though. Stacking two, three, or even four pass catchers with their QB is a way to be even more contrarian in which you will put yourself in an extreme position to benefit if that offense hits its high range of outcomes. In some ways, this approach actually allows us to decrease variance in our roster by asking fewer offenses to succeed rather than putting a lineup together of nine players in nine different situations.
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.
The Back and Forth Bonanza Stack: The time to stack players on both sides of the ball in the same game is when two good passing offenses are going against two bad passing defenses. That is a combination that can produce fireworks. Your hope is that the game becomes a shootout and both teams put up points in bunches. If you think you’ve identified a back and forth bonanza, the QBs, pass catching RBs, WRs, and TEs in that game are all in play.
The Domination Bonanza Stack: This is when you stack most players on one team because you believe they’re going to completely destroy their opponent. You’re looking for an elite offense with an overall favorable matchup meaning they’re going against a team with not only a bad offense, but a bad defense as well. Your hope is that the team you’ve identified to dominate puts up points in bunches and because the other offense is futile, will have the ball for the majority of the game as well. If you think you’ve identified a domination bonanza, the QB, RBs, WRs, TEs, K, and D for that team are all in play.
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.
Pay Attention To Injuries and Suspensions
Injuries occur all the time in football and because of this, the DFS landscape is constantly changing. Weekly and season-long injuries must always be considered when creating lineups because they give us the ability to roster players with increased opportunities at affordable salaries. This is because salaries are generally set a week in advance and are not adjusted until after a player performs well. Whereas you maybe wouldn’t have been able to before, rostering an affordable player with increased projected opportunity due to an injury to a teammate can allow you the ability to fit multiple other studs into your lineup. Plus, being proactive about injuries and predicting a breakout player before it happens offers an opportunity to take advantage of a player’s ownership percentage since the masses need to see it first before they believe.
Matchups Mean Everything
Unlike in season-long leagues where you play your studs no matter who their opposition is, 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. It’s vital to know who the best and worst defenses are against the pass and the run. Additionally, cornerback matchups are key as well. Tough matchups should generally be avoided at all costs in cash games but they present an intriguing buying opportunity in tournaments since a tough matchup usually equals a low ownership percentage.
How To Attack The QB Position
QB is the one position where volume actually isn’t everything in fantasy football. Efficiency matters. 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. Of course, volume never hurts thought and Chris Meaney goes into more detail here.
How To Attack The RB Position
RBs, in general, see more touches than WRs and TEs. This increases their sample size, gives us more data to work with on a year-to-year and week-to-week basis, and ultimately makes the position one of the easiest to predict in DFS. Thus, paying up for bell-cow RBs with high projected workloads is the way to go. The exception here is if injuries unlock cheap RBs that project to see a healthy amount of touches since there is no easier one-to-one replacement in fantasy football than at the RB position. I go into much greater detail here.
How To Attack The WR Position
Every player is at risk of suffering from variance due to the nature of the sport. However, pass catchers, and specifically, WRs tend to be the most volatile and subject to the most variance. Mainly, it just comes down to WRs receiving fewer opportunities than QBs and RBs on a weekly basis. It’s extremely vital in DFS to fade counting stats at the WR position and instead focus on opportunity statistics such as targets and target share, which is the overall percentage of targets a WR is receiving on their own team compared to their teammates. For a deep dive into the strategy behind picking WRs, check out my in-depth article here.
How To Attack The TE Position
These WR strategies correlate with how to attack the TE position as well. Additionally, like at the RB position, we want to utilize an extremes approach here where we pay up for the elites at the position or save salary by rostering an underpriced TE that has a chance to catch a TD because as Chris Meaney explains here, TDs are extremely crucial at the TE position due to their overall lack of opportunities on a weekly basis.