DraftKings NFL Strategy – 2018 Update
When it comes to competitive, high stakes fantasy football, nobody compares to DraftKings. The contests are bigger, the prizes are higher, and the competition is flat out better. Winning is challenging, but not impossible.
You simply need to have an idea of what contests you should be entering, which you should be avoiding, and of course have a proven strategy and approach to building your lineups.
Before we jump into the nuts and bolts of how we handle research, projections, assessing value and building lineups, we want to make one suggestion: grab an annual Edge subscription on Pro Football Focus. It is going to eliminate a bunch of work that you couldn’t possibly do on your own.
The problem with most fantasy tools and projections out there is that they are purely algorithms that have proven to be wildly inconsistent source for data. Everything on PFF’s website comes from watching film, creating individual, unit, and team grades, and then applying the right data to that information.
For instance, their WR vs CB matchup chart will give you which receivers will have the best matchup that week without you having to look at things like yards per target, yards per target against, or looking up how a team plans on matching up with an opposing number one receiver.
PFF Edge is the only fantasy tool we use and several of the tips you will find in this entire article are based off from data we pull from PFF every week..
Understanding Value on DraftKings
Everything in daily fantasy sports comes back to value. Your success as a DFS player will ultimately come down to how well you can find the best value at every position in your DraftKings lineup.
Value starts with creating accurate projections for every player. While we recommend projections from a site like PFF, websites like Fantasy Guru and Numberfire are solid alternatives. Keep in mind you are only as good as the information you have, so if you are relying on a NumberFire algorithm to build your lineups every week, it had better be reliable.
We use projections to give us an idea of which players are expected to have the best weeks, and then compare their projected fantasy point total to their price to determine what their value is for the week. For instance, if Travis Kelce is projected to score 16 fantasy points, and his price is $8,000, then his value is 2.0.
This number is the player’s projected value for the week. We know that as a whole, we want our cash value to be at least 2.5x and our GPP value to be at least 3x. In addition to a projected value, you can take a player’s worst game over their last 10, divide it by their salary to get their floor, and take their best game divided by their salary to get a ceiling.
In general, you want a cash game lineup (50/50 and head-to-head contests) to have a high floor (2x+) and you want a GPP lineup to have a high ceiling (4x+).
While this idea can seem simple enough, you will find applying it to be quite difficult. This is because DraftKings does such a good job with pricing. You just won’t find a ton of players that have a floor above 2x, and the ones that do may not have a matchup that is worth targeting this week.
As a result, using these basic value guidelines will help you quickly thin out your pool of potential targets each week.
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Building Your Lineup and Selecting Players
Every position in your DraftKings lineup has it’s own set of challenges. Each position has varying depth, different dependencies on game flow and individual and team matchups, and different stats that are more relevant when assessing the individual matchup.
We take a unique approach to each position, and wanted to take a portion of this article to explain how we approach each spot on your roster, and what data we think you should be relying on to select your players at each spot.
How We Select QB’s on DraftKings
When compared the other positions on your roster, the quarterback pool is generally fairly deep from week-to-week. While we all want to start the $8,000 QB that scores 35 points, those weeks can be hard to project. Because of the depth, we typically look for value at the QB position most weeks.
While spending $7,200 on Tom Brady and getting 28 points out of him is great, I am just as content to spend $5,200 on Blake Bortles in a great matchup and get 20 points. The reality is that Bortles is nearly 30% cheaper, but averages just 3 PPG less than Brady.
One of the easiest ways to start building better DraftKings lineups immediately is by banking money at the QB position, and putting it towards RB where scoring is much more scarce.
How We Select RB’s on DraftKings
DraftKings is likely going to price you out of the top 2-3 running backs most weeks. Unless the matchup is unbelievably good, or AB is out which opens up a ton of volume, you simply can’t justify spending $9,500 on Le’Veon Bell. It represents 20% of your total budget, so if your target is 180 points he has to reach 36 points to hit value.
To give you an idea of what sort of effect these $9,000+ RB’s can have on your roster, here is a look at two lineups, one with Bell and one with Dalvin Cook.
As you can see we had to swap out Leonard Fournette for Donte Moncrief. Even if you spread the spending out over several positions you end up settling on guys you don’t love, or sacrificing points at every position, all while hoping Bell hits 4x (something he did 0 times last season).
Here is a simple process to identify the best RB matchups. Look at high volume runners facing defenses that give up high YPC. You can validate that selection by looking at PFF’s OL vs DL chart for the week as it pertains to the run game.
While we don’t want the most expensive RB on the board, we do want to start two guys with big upside and certainly don’t want RB to be the spot we go cheap.
How We Select WR’s on DraftKings
We mentioned the WR/DB chart from PFF earlier, that is a great spot to start your research. Get some receivers on your radar. Then look at targets per game and compare that number to the opponents yards allowed per target. All of the individual receiver data you need can be found on NFL’s next gen stats and our favorite source for team defense data is Team Rankings.
By now you should have a handful of receivers you expect to have big weeks. Now is the time to look at their pricing and get an idea of value.
Ideally you want to stack a WR with your QB. You don’t have to… their are times where we want to start a guy like Stafford or Keenum, but don’t particularly love any one of their receivers. Stacks are especially useful when the QB you are targeting in your lineup has a go to receiver.
For instance, if I’m starting Philip Rivers I will always stack him with Keenan Allen. Rivers doesn’t have big games without Keenan Allen also reaching value.
Once you have your stack, simply plug in your next two top value plays. This is where your guy comes into play… if you start Mike Evans over T.Y. Hilton even though your gut is telling T.Y. is going to have a big game it will just infuriate you on Sunday. We all want that ‘I told you so’ moment every Sunday.
Ok, we know you want the secret sauce, so here it is. Check out this table from Fooball Outsiders. It gives you the DVOA for every team against each type of receiver.
You can use this to identify receiver roles to target. For instance, the Texans were terrible against number two receivers, giving up nearly 40% more production than the rest of the league. Using that number we were able to target Keelan Cole when he put up 7/186/1 in week 15 and JuJu when he put up 6/75/1 in week 16. This is just another resource that makes your research easier and more efficient.
How We Select TE’s on DraftKings
The tight end position is a tough one to project, because the volume is inconsistent and the position can be touchdown dependent. Translation, here is another great spot to go bargain shopping. We hardly ever spend over $4,000 on a tight end. There is no need to… Just look for a player with a proven role in a great matchup.
Another example, the Browns were starting rookie safeties that were getting picked on by opposing tight ends last season (27% DVOA). We started targeting them every week, and in week 15 a 49 year old Benamin Watson put up 4/74/1 at the minimum DraftKings salary.
Maximize your scoring potential by making smart choices at the flex position
One unique element of DraftKings’s scoring system awards one point per reception a player makes during a game. This element, referred to as PPR, favors wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs who catch a lot of passes out of the backfield.
Since each DraftKings lineup must have in it a starting quarterback, two running backs and wide receivers, a tight end, kicker, team defense, and one flex player in order to be complete, one of the ways you can gain an advantage in scoring is to add a wide-out or tight end as your flex. Recent data shows that tournament lineups featuring tight ends in the flex did much better than lineups using running backs in the flex.
When getting into your basic DraftKings NFL strategy, note how important it is to let the nature of the contest influence the way you play. Unlike one-on-one games, which honor more conservative, consistent lineup choices (such as placing a consistent 100-yard rusher in the flex position), team tournaments on DraftKings are often won or lost by the narrowest of margins.
In the survive-and-advance scenario common to most tournament play, the addition of a few PPR points can add up to increased winning potential. If you’re building a team for a tournament, consider researching the value of a tight end or wide receiver who make one for-all-the-marbles reception as your flex player.
Account for bonus scoring when setting your lineup
Another unique feature of DraftKings’s scoring system awards bonuses to quarterbacks tossing for 300+ yards and to 100-yard rushers and receivers. Your basic DraftKings NFL strategy should account for these bonuses. While many defensive players dislike recent rule changes meant to coddle receivers, these changes have contributed to two-fold increase in the number of 300-yard passers and 100-yard receivers over the past couple years.
Lineups featuring top-rated quarterbacks and one or more elite wide-outs stand to benefit from the bonus points awarded for high productivity—yet another reason to consider putting wide-outs and tight ends in at the flex position in your lineup.
Spend a little, gain a lot: take advantage of starting inexpensive players
In the DraftKings system, the inexpensive players who produce offer the most potential value to your lineup. Traditionally, the least expensive players to add to your team were wide receivers, but as the league continues to favor the passing attack over a solid ground game, the value of running backs over wide-outs may change.
Also worth noting when developing your basic DraftKings NFL strategy is that player values remain consistent within each position. You can use this to your advantage, again, by featuring wide receivers in your flex position; putting up a little money for a player who might potentially have a big game is clearly beneficial to your ability to score points and win contests.
Another advantage of player pricing variance can lead you to roster the back-up of a high-value running back or receiver out with an injury. The backup’s big game in relief of the injured first-stringer is your potential big win.
Know when to roster steady performers over boom-or-bust players
Don’t forget: your DraftKings NFL strategy should account for the difference between tournament and cash game play. Whereas tournament league play favors the lineup built to maximize upside, one-on-one contests often go to the user who rosters dependable performers.
Trying to maximize a lineup’s upside carries a considerable risk. One strategy for maximizing upside has you pairing an elite quarterback with his favorite receiver. If the two have a big game, your chances of advancing improve dramatically. While you may gain a great deal from this particular strategy in a tournament scenario, you may not do so well employing it in one-on-one season play, where the goal isn’t to advance to but outlast your opponent over the course of a season.
In this scenario, you’re better off sacrificing big-gain potential for sure scoring. You might, for example, choose to roster an average running back playing a defense that can’t stop the run over an elite running going up against league’s top rushing defense.
Our Three Keys to Winning More DraftKings NFL Contests
Daily fantasy sports is not a game of luck, websites like ours wouldn’t exist if it were. You can make fantasy football on DraftKings as complicated as you’d like, but if you at the very least go into each week with these 3 keys in mind, you can consistently win.
- Understand Matchups
Tools like NumberFire and RotoQL can give you solid projections, but it’s ultimately on you to break down matchups and create accurate player projections. Keep in mind that targets and receptions are king, and target high-volume players in favorable matchups. Avoid chasing touchdowns and instead focus on opportunities to score, which is determined by number of touches and favorability of matchup.
- Find the Value
The most consistent source for value in DraftKings fantasy football contests is created by depth chart changes. This most often is a result of injury. Last season Matt Forte was injured in week 9 against the Vikings. This created an opportunity for a sub $6,000 Jeremy Langford to get the lion’s share of touches for the Bears. In week 10 he scored 23.2 point and in week 11 he scored over 40 points. Keep an eye on injuries as they are the easiest ways to find value.You can also find value by simply targeting bad players in favorable matchups. Early in the 2015 season, the Jaguars were one of the 3 worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Texans were on the road, struggling, but Brian Hoyer had shown flashes of mediocrity and they were playing at one of the faster paces in the league. This is a good example of bad player, good situation, good matchup. Hoyer would throw for 293/3, hitting 4x+ value on DraftKings.
- Managing Your Bankroll and Expectations
I have worked in the daily fantasy sports industry for almost 5 years now, and have hand-built tens-of-thousands of lineups. I can’t tell you how many times a friend or family member has handed me their phone and said ‘build my DraftKings Millionaire Maker lineup for this week.’ DFS just isn’t that easy, and perhaps the hardest sport to consistently win is football.You can build your absolute best GPP lineup of the season, and odds are pretty good a shark has built the same lineup and 10 variations of it for the MM contest. So how do you beat them? Avoid them altogether. Enter your best lineups into $1, $2, and $5 50/50s and other single entry contests.
Build your bankroll low and slow, then take your shot at the Millionaire Maker when the entry is a just a drop in the bucket for you. A basic rule we follow is to play 50% or less of your total bankroll, and have 10% of your total entries be GPPs.
Stick With Us This Season
You want one more honest bit of advice? Stick around and check out our weekly DraftKings NFL articles for our favorite stacks and can’t miss picks for each week of the NFL season. Additionally, you can subscribe in the sidebar to have these articles delivered to your inbox.