The idea for this article came from the guys at The First Team on College Sports radio. They butchered two top 10 lists last week, and inspired me to create...
The Definitive FanDuel NFL Strategy Guide
Consistently winning on FanDuel comes down to developing a winning strategy and religiously sticking to it. Your strategy should consist of several factors including bankroll management, understanding what contests you should enter, how to identify overlay, how to stack players, how to fade players, how to leverage free contest tickets to build your bankroll, but should for the most part be built around the ability to make accurate player projections and identify value.
Before we jump into the meat of our NFL strategy, take a minute to check out RotoQL. If you waste hours each week building your lineups, it may be a tool that can not only save you time, but improve the quality of your lineups.
RotoQL allows you to build the core of your lineup the way you like, and then recommends different players you can plug in around them to maximize your points. If you want to stack Bortles and Robinson, with Ameer Abdullah, Travis Kelce, and the Eagles defense, just lock those players and click ‘generate lineups’. RotoQL will use it’s industry leading projections to generate up to 400 fully optimized lineup suggestions.
Looking for Week 1 Specific Advice?
Our lineup article for the week one slate of contests on FanDuel is out! Find out who we like, who our top bargains are, and what stacks we are using for the first Sunday Million of the 2016 season.
Managing Your Bankroll
When it comes to finding consistent success in daily fantasy sports, bankroll management is one of the most overlooked factors. If you want to win more consistently, and make your initial deposit last an entire season, it starts with properly managing your bankroll.
At the top of this page, we linked to an article that takes an in-depth look into how you should manage your bankroll, but wanted to mention a few points worth keeping in mind if you are new to DFS.
- If you want to make your initial deposit last a full season, never risk your entire bankroll. Even if you are starting out with just $20, try and only play $10-$12 in your first week on FanDuel.
- Focus the majority of your bankroll on 50/50s and head-to-head contests. These contests have a 50% win percentage, compared to the 13%-18% most top-heavy GPP contests pay out.
- Make your max GPP entry 10% of your bankroll for each week. By focusing on cash games, you are allowing yourself time to develop a winning strategy and build a big enough bankroll to risk more money in GPPs with big payouts. If you have $400 in your account, and are entering $250 worth of contests, limit yourself to $25 worth of GPPs. We promise you will wake up Tuesday morning with more money in your account than you ever would with a 50/50 split.
- Take a mid-season cheat week. If you have a week that you feel like you have a great read on, allow yourself to risk more in GPPs for that week. We are playing DFS because we love fantasy sports and dream of hitting the big one. Give it your best shot once you have built a bankroll and developed a strategy.
Understanding Value on FanDuel
We will take you through understanding the value of each position later in this article, but it’s important to understand how the DFS community calculates value for FanDuel. You will often hear community members refer to a player’s ceiling as 3x, 4x, 5x, etc… This number is calculated by dividing their salary point scored or projected points scored.
The easiest way to calculate value is to take a players projected points scored, and divide it by their salary as a decimal value with the thousands as the whole number. So, if you have a player projected to score 18 points with a salary of $4,800, his value would be 18/4.8 or 3.913x. Another example, a $10,200 player projected to score 24 points would have a value of 24/10.2 or 2.35.
As you can see, value is easier to find in cheaper players that greatly outplay their salary. However, the key to winning consistently is locking in value for high priced players. If you can consistently identify three players priced over $8,000 that reach 3x value, you are guaranteeing you hit value for $24,000 or 40% of your salary. Fill in a tight end, defense, kicker that reach value and you are 2/3’s of the way to winning every week on FanDuel.
Know When to Play it Safe and When to Take Risks
Anyone that has ever traded currencies will tell you it’s always safer to trade the long term trend than to try and pick a reversal. The same holds true in DFS. You never want to be overexposed to risk, but correctly identifying breakout players is the key to consistently winning on FanDuel.
For example, let’s look again at the Sunday Million winning lineup to the right. Jeremy Langford was making his second career start and was facing a fairly stingy Rams defense, both factors kept his price down at $6,200. However, Forte was hurt and he was all but guaranteed to get 25 touches and be heavily involved in both the run and pass game. This made him a solid risk/reward pay. In the end, this guy won $500,00 because of this pick as Langford wen on to reach 5.43x value and more than make up for slow games from his Newton/Olsen stack and Mark Ingram.
Injuries and suspensions are the easiest way to find value on FanDuel. Players that see an increased role as a result of a move up the depth chart are often a safe bet to reach value because their price doesn’t account for their new role.
Another example of a different type of risk is a player like Martavis Bryant. Bryant had scored 28 points in his first game of 2015, then averaged just 10 per in the next 3 prior to this week 10 contest. Clearly he wasn’t consistent enough to be a safe cash game play, or to be considered a lock to hit value at $6,500 but makes a perfect GPP play as he had flash 4.5x upside. He ended up going for 6/178/1 and paid off, but boom or bust plays are the riskiest plays on FanDuel and should be limited to just one per lineup.
Looking for a safe haven? PPR players are the Swiss Franc of FanDuel. When in doubt, target high target receivers, and PPR running backs. We are as guilty of it as anyone, but chasing a multi-touchdown performance out of a player like Mark Ingram rarely pans out. However, targeting a PPR monster like Dion Lewis or Danny Woodhead may not give you the 30 point upside, but is the safest way to hit 3x at the RB position.
Start With a Stack
A stack in fantasy sports is using players from the same team, in fantasy football it’s starting a QB with a WR and/or TE from the same team. Using a stack allows you to receive double points for the yards and touchdowns the pair combines for. Successfully identifying top stacks every week is the most important factor for consistently building winning FanDuel lineups.
The first place we start when identifying our stacks each week is with game breakdowns. This includes looking at Vegas totals, team scoring and statistical trends, matchup history, etc to identify what teams we think will score the most points this week.
We will generally start with a Vegas total for each team on the slate. From here, we use a points system to grade each of the top projected scoring teams for the week. We prefer home teams, out of conference matchups, and obviously high-power, fast-paced offenses facing a weak defense.
That being said, not all favorable matchups are created equal. We prefer targeting defenses that were strong in one area, but weak in another. Take, for example the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last season the Steelers run defense was phenomenal (3.6 YPC, 90 YPG, 6 TD on the season) but their pass defense was awful (270+ YPG). Get them in an out of conference game (no familiarity with opposing system) and it was the perfect recipe for a shootout. In week 9 against the Raiders, Derek Carr threw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns on them. Then in week 12 against the Seahawks Wilson threw for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Once you have identified the best possible matchups, we stack the QB and at least one WR from that team. So the Raiders would have been Carr/Cooper/Crabtree and the Seahawks would have been Wilson/Baldwin. If you can consistently hit your stacks every week, you will start winning every week.
Analyzing RB Matchups and Value
When analyzing running back matchups on FanDuel, it’s important to keep in mind that they use a half point per reception scoring system. You shouldn’t be targeting only running backs that catch the ball, but it certainly should be a factor you look at.
Our RB research starts with team rush defense. We are looking at YPC and YPG over the course of the season, but more specifically over the last 4 games. Generally this will leave you with a handful of favorable matchups and players to consider. From here, look at each player on your list, their scoring trends, where they score, and their role in the offense. Compare their role to that of the runners their opponent has faced over the course of the season. What type of runner has found success in this matchup?
A run defense we picked on throughout the 2015 NFL season was the San Diego Chargers. They allowed 4.8 YPC and gave up 126 rushing yards per game, but were especially susceptible to pass-catching running backs. LeVeon Bell had a big game on them as a runner and pass catcher, Gio Bernard had 136 yards against them, and Latavius Murray had his best game of the season against the Chargers.
Two weeks later they faced a rookie in Jeremy Lanford making his first real start in the NFL. We knew Langford was stepping into Forte’s role so he would be active as both a runner and pass catcher. He went on to rack up 144 total yards and a touchdown, for 22 points on FanDuel and nearly 4x value.
Obviously basic stats like fantasy points allowed to the position are crucial when breaking down RB matchups, but taking it one step further and understanding where a defense’s weaknesses are and whether or not a player can attack those weaknesses is what will take you to the next level.
Analyzing WR Matchups and Value
When looking at matchups for wide receivers, player role really comes into the forefront. The absolute first thing we do with wide receivers is compare their role with the opponents ‘defense vs type of receiver’. You can Google that exact phrase and find plenty of data to help you analyze how well a team defends opposing number one receivers, number two receivers, slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs. We use Football Outsiders numbers, which can be found here.
So what are we looking for? We want an offense with a high projected point total for the week. We then want a player facing a team in the bottom third for fantasy points allowed to the position over the season. Then we are looking for a player that fits a role that the opposing team struggles with.
As an example, the Ravens pass defense struggled last season, but were especially week against opposing team’s #2 and #3 receivers. They ranked top 10 against opposing #1’s and actually held Anotonio Brown to two of his worst games of the year, but were dead last or bottom 5 against #2 and #3 WR’s. Looking at what receivers burned them and you will see this held true: John Brown, Tyler Lockett, Marvin Jones, Michael Crabtree, Torrey Smith, Malcolm Floyd, and Allen Hurns all led their team in receiving and as a group, averaged over 20 PPG against the Ravens.
So, once again, we are looking for high Vegas team totals, plus defense vs. position matchups, and are then looking to validate our choice with player role numbers. If you have a handful of player that you are trying to decide between, player role is a great tiebreaker.
What to do at Kicker and Defense?
We keep our strategy at kicker and defense pretty straight forward. You want your highest projected players, but aren’t sacrificing at another position to get them. A simple cross analysis of opponent’s fantasy points allowed to the position, and that player (or team’s) average over the previous four weeks is enough to identify a handful of targets.
We are generally trying to squeeze in the best available combination at kicker and defense, without giving up our main targets at QB/RB/WR/TE. So we are willing to pay up, will never punt, but aren’t changing the composition of our roster for our kicker and defense. Generally speaking we pick the best available at each position under $4,900. You should be able to roster a top 5 kicker and defense for a combined salary of $9,600.
Try Fading Popular Picks
We always recommend building your lineups in a bubble. Read as many articles as you can, gather as much data as you can, but don’t make your picks based solely off of someone else’s opinion. However, one thing we would recommend considering is fading popular picks with your GPP lineups, or at least one of your weekly GPP lineups.
Looking back to one of our favorite plays from last season, Matt Stafford in week 12. Every article written was selling Brian Hoyer as a value play against the Saints, or Carson Palmer against the weak 49ers pass defense. Neither pick was on our radar. Palmer’s matchup was a road conference game, too much familiarity. Hoyer didn’t pass the eyeball test. I don’t want a player that limited on my GPP lineups, especially if he’s going to be one of the two highest owned players that week.
We target Matt Stafford who was playing his best football of the season, and really clicking with new OC Jim Bob Cooter. The Lions were at home, on Thanksgiving day, in an out of conference game against the fast-paced Eagles. We rolled with the Stafford/Megatron stack, Stafford doubled-up both Hoyer and Palmer, and his ownership rates were under 1%. We cashed out every lineup.
Build the best lineup possible, but keep in mind what player ownership percentages are going to be. Having a QB/WR stack the 25% of the field has gives you zero advantage. Take calculated risks with your GPP lineups, they will pay off.