You’ve heard talk about daily fantasy and how it’s taking over the world and you’re wondering what all the hubbub is about. First off, it’s fun. There’s no getting around that. I’ve been playing FanDuel since it launched and the mix of dynasty, redraft and daily gives me the best of all fantasy football worlds.
If you’ve never played daily before (often referred to as DFS or Daily Fantasy Sports), then the first thing you need to wrap your brain around is the idea of a salary cap. In FanDuel each player has a specific price each week. That price is based on how well he has played in the past. The idea is that you have $60,000 to start and you must build the best possible team for that week while staying under or exactly on budget. Simple enough.
First you’ll need to sign up at FanDuel, then go to their game lobby where you’ll find many different types of games, but to keep it simple FanDuel has kept the pricing and team positions all the same no matter what type of matchup you play. So, you have 60k to spend on 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 kicker and 1 defense. This is where you take that football knowledge you’ve been hoarding for all these years and let it shine!
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Unlike when you draft your yearlong team, in FanDuel you can look specifically at that week’s matchup. This is probably my favorite part about daily fantasy. Thinking long term hurts my old brain. In FanDuel you only have to project what the players will do in one specific game rather than 16. There are many ways to research matchups, but my favorite is to look at how well each defense has fared against each particular position.
How many rushing yards per game does a defense give up to running backs? Yards per carry? Receptions? And the list can go on and on. One example of this was last season when opposing running backs continually gashed the Chicago Bears. We knew that any running back that faced the Bears had a great chance of putting up good numbers last year and exploited that information. There are of course plenty of metrics that help in researching matchups, but it’s always good to start off the basics and then move deeper as you go along.
You will always be able to find some value at FanDuel. And by value I mean a player who is priced lower than he should be compared to his projected points scored. There are a few different ways to find value.
One of the easiest ways to find value is through injuries. When a starter is out for the game, the next man up inherently has possible value because his price on is related to his past performances, which usually aren’t that good since his playing time has been limited behind the starter. Of course not all backups are created equally, but opportunity is a huge quality to look for in daily fantasy.
Sometimes the matchup is so good that even the most average of players has a good shot of putting up points. Much like the Bears last season, any warm body was going to have some success against them. So maybe this player has a low price due mainly to the fact that he is not really that good, but he can still have value in the right matchup.
There are just 17 weeks of the NFL regular season and FanDuel pricing will fluctuate from week to week based on performance. Say Week 1 Eddie Lacy is completely shut down by the tough Seahawks defense. In turn his price will fall. We know that Lacy is a very good back and will bounce back against most defenses so he will hold some value in his next game. This can often become more pronounced when a player faces a stretch of tough defenses. You can see his price drop significantly, which will set him up for great value once his schedule gets easier.
Every game has strategy and FanDuel is no different. Do you spend on the big name players? Do you pay the minimum for kickers? Should you play it safe with consistent players or go big with boom or bust guys? The more you get into the game, the more these questions will arise.
Where to allocate your money?
Quarterbacks: If you are putting the safest team together as possible for head to head matches, it is always a good idea not to skimp on your quarterback. The top quarterbacks rarely have completely disastrous games so you can feel good about paying that extra cash to get a solid player.
Running Backs: Running backs are a bit more variable than quarterbacks as far as fantasy consistency goes, but are still more consistent than wide receivers and tight ends. So if there isn’t great value somewhere at running back then it will behoove you to pay up for a guy you know will get every-down work, including goal line looks. You want to try to stay away from situational running backs as best you can when making a safe lineup. That of course is easier said than done in today’s NFL, but they are still out there, you just have to pay for them.
Wide Receivers: As we go down this list we are losing week-to-week consistency. Many variables impact how a receiver will do each week. His quarterback, the weather, the defense, red zone targets, etc.… When you pay for the top wide receivers you are risking a dud from them just by his team running the ball in the red zone rather than throwing it or a defense could scheme to completely take away the opposing #1 receiver, leaving the rest of the team showered in fantasy points while your player acts as a decoy. So to be safe, don’t over spend on wide receivers. Look hard for value here.
Tight Ends: Even more than wide receivers, tight ends are the most volatile group of offensive players. This may lead you to want to pay up for Jimmy Graham, but picking a cheaper tight end gives you a much better chance of maximizing your money spent. Graham is amazingly consistent, but with that consistency comes the highest price possible. The fact that he doesn’t have down games to lower his price means he rarely has much if any value. So do the work here. Find the best matchups. Then look for tight ends who are getting the most red zone targets and guys who may have lost an integral part of their receiving core for that week, before ponying up for Graham.
Kickers and Defenses: Go with good matchups and cheap prices. These two positions are extremely variable and spending big on them will most likely hurt you in the long run.
Tournament Games: When allocating your money for tournaments (or GPPs: Guaranteed Prize Pools) take what I said above and for the most part do the opposite. Above I wanted to make the safest team possible so you could maximize each position while not setting yourself up for failure. For tournaments you want to set yourself up for total failure because that means you have a chance at hitting it big.
You’ll want to spend on someone like Jimmy Graham and Calvin Johnson because they will most likely give you the best chance for maximum wide receiver and tight end points. And then you want to find value and upside at quarterback and running back. Your goal here is to spend a third of the money for the same amount of points as LeSean McCoy and Peyton Manning are going to give you. You will diversify from the crowd while giving yourself the upside for maximum points.
Check out Spencer Limbach's detailed look at the different types of games you can find at FanDuel and the strategies here.
The list for research would get a little out of hand for a beginner’s look at daily fantasy, but when I sit down to research putting together my FanDuel teams I try to find players who consistently get work, and snaps, carries and targets are a good indicator of that. The more a player is on the field the better your chances are of not being burnt by that player. You can have a player that breaks every tackle and has speed to spare, but if he isn’t on the field it’s all for naught. So follow along here at Rotoworld where we do our best to give you that kind of information each and every week and good luck on your first steps into daily fantasy football!