FanDuel NFL Strategy Course 101
“Are you ready for some football?” as Carrie Underwood would shout! The purpose of this article is to make you a better NFL Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) player.
Roster Construction & Scoring
On FanDuel we have to roster 9 players and stay within a $60,000 salary cap. Our roster consists of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one team defense and a flex position. Last Season FanDuel listened to their players and kicked out the kickers! They added the new flex position and we all loved it! The flex can be a running back, wide receiver, or a tight end. One of the keys to FanDuel’s scoring system is .5 point per reception (PPR), which is unlike the traditional full point PPR most other daily fantasy sites have.
In my process for both cash games and Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) I usually spend up at the running back position. I usually pay up at my two running back position because of the volume they receive in terms of carries and receptions. We want to roster the “work horse” running backs such as Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. Work horse running backs are running backs who do not split snaps with other running backs. This maximizes their volume as they will get most to all of the carries and receptions.
Versatile running backs give us the best floor as well as ceiling. This is another reason why I pay up at the running back position. Versatile running backs are running backs who are great pass catchers as well as great rushers. Saquon Barkley could rush for 100 yards and have 6 receptions for 50 yards, giving you a total of 18 fantasy points, and notice that is without a touchdown. He scored 15 touchdowns last season which almost equals out to 1 per game. This is close to Saquon’s literal floor. Floor is the worst possible outcome for a player in a matchup. This is essential in cash games. I will get more into cash games strategies later on in the article.
In terms of wide receivers, yes, we want receivers who are target monsters and get plenty of receptions. But because receptions are worth .5 point on FanDuel, the high reception receivers aren’t as valuable. We want touchdowns over receptions because receiving touchdowns are worth 6 points. Guys we want to target are the players who are red zone targets and have high yards per reception.
One of the most important things that goes overlooked are the wide receiver vs defensive backs matchups. When deciding on which top receiver to roster, these matchups should help you make your selections. The New Orleans Saints were my favorite secondary to exploit last season. They lost Patrick Robinson early on in the season and they needed to rely on P.J Williams to defend opposing teams slot receivers. This was one of my more profitable strategies from last season. When the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Saints I have plenty exposure to all their receivers.
Where there are good matchups there also bad matchups and this is just as important so you know what receivers to fade. According to pro football focus there was no cornerback better than the New England Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore. He would follow receivers where ever they lineup and he would cover them. This is also known as shadowing. You wouldn’t want to roster the opposing team’s number one receiver against the Patriots because Gilmore will shadow him and that is a negative matchup for all receivers.
I punt the tight end position more often than not in my process. A punt is spending minimum or close to minimum price on a position. I punt the tight end position because it is so unpredictable outside of the top 3 or 4 players. So I either spend all the way up for Travis Kelce or the other top tight ends or I just take a minimum priced tight end in a good matchup and hope for a few catches and a touchdown. Spending down also allows you to take higher priced studs at other position. Paying down at the tight end position allows me to jam more top priced running backs into my lineups.
At the flex position you want to roster a running back or a wide receiver because the players at these positions have both higher floors and ceilings. The tight end position is too volatile, I wish I didn’t have to roster one, so there is no chance I will roster two on one lineup. On my teams, I usually roster running backs at the flex position. The sole reason being based off volume, running backs get so many more touches during a game. In the flex we could roster the Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen and he could get us 4 catches 60 yards and a touchdown, that would be a solid 14 fantasy points. But we could have roster Cincinnati Bengals’ running back Joe Mixon and he could get 20 carries for 100 yards with 4 receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. That would get us 22.5 fantasy points. So we clearly would want Joe Mixon in this scenario, but not strictly because of the fantasy points. The volume is what I love, Mixon will have more opportunities to score. More touches equals more points!
Like in MLB DFS, stacking is just as important in NFL DFS. Stacking is rostering two or more player from one team in one lineup. The ideal stack in football is taking a team’s quarterback and his number one receiver. Stacking is crucial because when the receiver gets a reception, you get the yards for both the receiver and the quarterback. If Kirk Cousins throws a 25 yard pass to Adam Thielen, you get one point for 25 yards for Cousins, .5 points for Thielen’s reception, and 2.5 points for Thielen’s receiving yards. Then if Cousins throws for 300 yards and two touchdowns with Thielen getting 5 catches for 100 yards and both receiving touchdowns, your stack and your lineup are looking fantastic.
Another stack that goes under used is stacking a running back with his team’s defense. Many people do not understand how these two positions help each other. Running the ball keeps the clock running and running teams such as the Cowboys and the Ravens would bleed the clock out. This would keep the ball away from the other team’s offenses and it limits their possessions. Fewer possessions usually equals fewer points. A great example of this was the Baltimore Ravens. They were second in total rushing yards and number two on defense in terms of points per game. Rostering a running back and defense is a very profitable strategy. It is an awesome correlation that goes under owned every week.
When stacking it is easy to stack high priced quarterbacks with his high priced wide receiver. But we also want to target weak defenses. Targeting teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and the New Orleans Saints with a cheaper quarterback and his pass catchers gives you leverage off the highly owned and highly priced Matt Ryan and Julio Jones stacks.
How to Roster Defense
In terms of defense, yes we want to roster teams who do not give up many points. But most importantly we want a defense that creates turnovers! A turnover is worth 2 fantasy points and if the defense returns the turnover for a touchdown, they receive 6 fantasy points. So turnovers are king for our defenses!
One great thing about NFL DFS is that the slate is released a week before it locks so there are always great value plays that we can take advantage of. This is no different when it comes to defenses. We want to take advantage of offenses with injuries, especially at the quarterback position. A great example of this would be taking the elite Minnesota Vikings defense against the Green Bay Packers if Aaron Rodgers is ruled out of the game. The Vikings were one of the top defenses last year, but because they were playing Rodgers and the Packers, FanDuel would price them down. Now the Vikings will be playing against turnover prone DeShone Kizer and that is an elite matchup for them.
How to Use Vegas
Another crucial part that people do not take advantage of when breaking down a slate is looking at the Vegas Totals. The game total and the point spreads help us understand the game flow of the games. Which game would you stack? A game between the Kansas City Chiefs vs the Los Angeles Rams with a 48 point total with a 2 point spread? Or a 35 game total between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears with a 10 point total? That is easy, we want as much exposure as possible to the first game. More points in the games means more fantasy points for the players in the game.
When targeting these high scoring games, we want the most exposure to the quarterbacks and the pass catchers. These games are usually high scoring because each team is passing the ball 35+ times. Incomplete passes stop the clock, so with more passes there are more incomplete passes and that gives the teams more possessions.
“So when do we target running backs?” you may ask. Well, we want to target running backs in games with higher point spreads. We want to roster the running back on the team who is favored. If you think of the flow of the game, the running back’s team will ideally take a 10 point lead in the first half and then give him 20+ carries in the second half in an attempt to run out the clock. For running backs, we want as much volume as possible and this is true when their team is a heavy favorite.
Vegas lines help us predict game flow and help us decide how much exposure we want to certain teams and games. But there are other ways Vegas helps us decide between players. Let’s take the game I mentioned above between the Chiefs and the Rams and we want heavy exposure to the players on both teams. We can only roster one quarterback on FanDuel, how do we decide between Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes? We can look at the Vegas player props as another resource. If Jared Goff’s player props are 245.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns and Patrick Mahomes player props are 299.5 yards and 2.5 touchdown, we should roster Mahomes because according to his player props, he should out score Goff by a fair amount. Vegas is ridiculously underappreciated and under used. Vegas should be a part of your weekly process!
Cash Game Strategy
When playing in cash games, we want to take the least amount of risk possible. This is when you want to take the most popular players who are in great matchups. The best way to construct your lineups in cash games is by having a lineup with a high floor.
The reason why we want a high floor is because there isn’t a large amount of people you have to beat in order to cash. In head to heads or in 50/50s you need to be better than half of the other lineups, so we do not need to strive for a “high ceiling” lineup. You save those high ceiling lineups for GPP tournaments. In cash games we want to target the players in awesome matchups vs awful defenses.
One place people always try to save money is on defense, but in cash games we should pay up for the top defenses because they are priced up for a reason. We want to target the weaker offenses with key injuries to their better places. In cash games you want to spend up and take the secure points.
Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) Tournament Strategy
Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournaments are the most popular contest in FanDuel. These GPP’s have a large number of entries and the pay structure is usually in the top 20-30 percent of lineups cash. These are when we want “High Ceiling” lineups to take down the large field tournament. High ceiling lineups are lineups with the ability to be higher scoring with a low floor. In these large field GPP tournaments we want to be contrarian, which means being different than the other lineups by rostering low owned players. That may be pivoting off the players in the best matchups and taking elite players in tougher matchups who will come at lower ownership.
Players you want to target in large field tournaments are players like Desean Jackson. He has no floor as he can give you 0 catches. But his ceiling is immense as he could get you 5 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He will come in at lower ownership and could single handedly win you a GPP tournament.
A great GPP contrarian stack would be taking a quarterback and rostering his pass catching running back in the same lineup. Everyone would stack Drew Brees and Michael Thomas against the awful Tampa Bay defense, but a contrarian build would be taking Brees with his running back Alvin Kamara who may be the best complete running back in the NFL.
When there are key injuries we want to take advantage of them because other players become better values. Their fantasy point projections go up due to the increase in volume. There is no better example than when Todd Gurley was injured towards the end of the year and close to minimum priced CJ Anderson became the best value in DFS for three weeks.
But all the volume and usage doesn’t always go to the backups. Each team is different so we must treat each situation differently. When Melvin Gordon goes down for the Chargers, his direct backup Austin Ekeler doesn’t get the bulk of the touches. Phillip Rivers usually takes more of the volume in the passing game and his receivers like Keenan Allen get the boost in fantasy points.
Points Per Opportunity (PPO) is a key stat that can also help you pick between two players. PPO is calculated by taking a player’s total fantasy points scored and dividing it by the players carries and pass routes ran. This stat helps us by showing how much a certain player produces when he has the opportunity to produce. If a running back stays in the back field and pass protects, he cannot produce any fantasy points on that play so this stat takes that play out of the equation.
We also want to target players who get a good chunk of their teams RedZone opportunity. RedZone opportunities are carries and targets inside the opponent’s twenty yard line. They should be valued higher than other opportunities on the field because these opportunities have a greater chance of being a touchdown. Again, touchdowns are worth 6 points in FanDuel, so the RedZone opportunities is an important stat we want to look at when breaking down a slate. Check out all of the RedZone stats on our dedicated RedZone targets page.
Sundays are when you should do your most research because we get the inactive report at 11:30 Eastern Sunday morning. You could love a player all week but his team could have him as an inactive and that may affect all your lineups. We also want to look out for notable inactives such as star players who get a lot of their team’s usage, this way we know what backups to roster or what offenses to target.
You are now ready for this upcoming NFL season! There was a lot of information for you to digest, but the most important thing you want to remember is that injuries shape the slate. You want to make sure you have the ability to adjust lineups up until slate lock because we want to take advantage of the extra value that is created by injuries to key players.