What are the five things you should know before you dive into daily fantasy football contests on DraftKings? The list could certainly be longer, but let’s start with these focal points for you to lock down when building your lineups.
1) Game script affects player production
If we can predict how a game will go, we can be deadly accurate with our projections. For example, NFL teams pass 51 percent of the time when they are ahead on the scoreboard versus 69 percent of the time when they are behind. So we don’t want to use a quarterback on a team we expect to be winning for the entire second half. In fact, data shows that quarterbacks perform far better as an underdog. Simply using the game’s Vegas line to be predictive regarding game flow is a good place to start.
2) Last week means nothing
A surefire way to light your bankroll on fire is to assume that what happened last week will happen this week. Here’s a pro tip: The million dollar roster from Week 1 won’t win a million in Week 2. In fact, many of the players from that winning Week X lineup will be poor plays in Week X+1. That’s because they will be more expensive, they’ll have a higher ownership percentage and they’ll be unlikely to repeat their previous heroics. It’s a different matchup and game-to-game performances are very volatile for the vast majority of NFL players. Avoid recency bias and stay one step ahead of the herd.
3) All lineups are not created equal
A cash game (head-to-head, 50/50, double up) lineup is simple in theory. We don’t worry about ownership percentages or game theory at all. We just take our highest projected median scorers and align them to fit the positional requirements. However, a tournament lineup (any game in which less than 30 percent of the field is paid out) is a different beast. If we use a player that is owned by 50 percent of the field, we gain virtually nothing if they go off. We are no closer to winning the tournament. But if that player fails, we immediately eliminate half the field. Your tournament lineup should take more risks and you should always be thinking about ownership percentages.
4) There are no “punts”
“Punting” is a DFS-specific term that refers to rostering a min-priced player in order to gain access to more high-priced stars. It’s a viable strategy in baseball, where a zero doesn’t hurt you too bad and just about any player can run into a home run. It’s not nearly as viable in football, where a zero is a death blow. Thanks to the constant flow of injuries in the NFL (more on that in No. 5), we can almost always find high-upside plays at cheaper prices. Don’t ever just give up on a position.
5) Injuries open value
When large men try to bring other large men to the ground repeatedly, injuries are going to happen. Lots of ‘em. The best DFS players are the ones that are the best at reacting to these injuries. That’s because the backups are often grossly underpriced, as DraftKings will publish week’s salaries on Tuesday – well before the extent of injuries are known. We are looking for talented players that are suddenly met with a spike in opportunity and have a good matchup. This trio of circumstances intersects more often than you think – be on the lookout for it.