Written By: Austin Lee
The fantasy football industry is absolutely on fire and continues to grow each and every year. DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) is a huge cog in the money-making machine. Billions of dollars are spent and paid out each season and those numbers are only continuing to climb.
I often get asked why I get so excited about DFS and my answer is pretty simple – there is real, legitimate life-changing money that is up for grabs every single week. I’m just like everyone else and want to get my hands on a piece of the pie. For those new to DFS, it’s a completely different animal in comparison to your usual season-long fantasy leagues. The biggest difference (besides the money up for grabs) is you get to hit the reset button every week, so it doesn’t matter if the lineup you play crapped the bed. Next week you start with a clean slate.
The other difference is you aren’t playing against your 10-12 league mates; you’re playing against hundreds of thousands, or even millions in some cases. On average, according to Office Chai, in GPP (tournament) contests, you have a 1 in 294,177 chance in winning the million dollar prize. Don’t let those odds scare you away, though. DFS is just like everything else in life – you get out what you put into it. There are ways to increase those odds and separate yourself from the field and get a competitive advantage. You may not win the million dollar prize, but you can win good money each and every week by utilizing the following tips in your weekly DFS endeavors.
In case you missed it and are new to or are curious about DFS, I posted an article last week titled Preparing For DFS In 2021 that can help get you up to speed on the basics that you need to know. Don’t feel like reading? We’ve got you covered with all this information in audio form on an all-DFS podcast where we had a special guest come on that has won big prize tournaments. Be sure to give it a listen.
As mentioned in my last article and on the podcast, my preferred platform for DFS is DraftKings (DK). It’s super easy to use and their full point per reception format allows for more options when your salary begins getting tighter.
Remember, the key to winning money in tournament contests is figuring out ways to separate yourself from the field. Now, let’s get into some deep-dive information that can help you win some extra money in 2021 and the years to come.
Contest Selection: This seems like such a no-brainer, but all new DFS players (and more seasoned players that would admit) make the critical mistake of not paying attention to the contest details. All contests are not created equal, people, and these sites make an absolute killing on taking advantage of the people that don’t pay attention to it. Check out the payout structure, number of entries and the rake (money made by platform) in order to make sure you’re entering a contest where you have a higher percentage of cashing out.
Spend Your Salary: DK provides $50k of virtual currency to construct your roster with. Data shows that of all the Milly Maker winners last season, none spent less than $49,500 on their roster construction. On average, the Milly Maker winners spent $49,800. Furthermore, the data shows spending down at the QB position is the wrong move. The overwhelming majority of Milly Maker winners spent at least $6,500 on the position. Oddly enough, 50% of the Milly Maker winners spent at least $6,500 at the RB1 position as well.
Embrace DFS Is Different: What I mean by that is plugging elite players into your roster doesn’t guarantee winnings. Roster percentages mean everything in terms of being able to separate yourself from the pack. For instance, last year’s QB1 (Josh Allen) never appeared on a winning Milly Maker roster due to high ownership.
Quarterback Is Important: As referenced above, paying up for your quarterback is absolutely worth it. DK offers 3 bonus points for passers that throw for 300+ yards. That may not seem like much, but every point counts in terms of pulling away from the rest of the field. With that in mind, though, for the last 3 seasons there have been the exact same amount of 300+ yard passing games (132). How that translates in DFS terms is that doesn’t happen very often. If you do not pay up for a rushing quarterback like Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson, it is crucial to finding who can get you 300+ yards at the position any given week. If you whiff on that, your odds at winning any money in general dramatically decrease.
Stack Attack: Stacking is widely utilized in DFS, but there’s more to it than just pairing a QB with his WR1. Stacking allows you to maximize point production on scoring opportunities, sure, but it’s all about correlation. Take a look at the following chart: (credit to Kyle Borgognoni)
What jumps out here is that playing a Quarterback’s WR2 provides nearly the same correlation of production as the WR1. To take that a step further, of all the games/weeks where quarterbacks threw for 300+ yards and received the bonus, there were only a couple of times where the running back received the 100 yard rushing bonus as well. In other words, it’s usually not a great idea to stack a QB with his RB.
On the topic of bonuses, there were 205 times a pass-catcher received the 100 yard receiving bonus. At first thought, most DFS players are looking for the home run guy such as MVS and hoping 1 of his 3 receptions goes for an 80-yard touchdown. The data shows it’s the complete opposite. The 205 times where pass-catchers got the bonus, those players were targeted an average of 10.5 times in those contests. It may be fun to cross your fingers hoping for the home run play, but the sharper move is to follow the volume.
Utilize The Experts In Vegas: Looking up the numbers from Vegas each week is one of the first things I do when preparing for roster construction. The reason for that is these people are really freaking good at their jobs. You may be asking yourself, “How do I use that information?”. It can be tough to sift through all the numbers and info to figure out what really matters. The numbers that mean the most are the Over/Under, Point Spreads and Implied Point Totals for the teams.
When looking at the over/under numbers, DFS players are attracted to the 50+ point lines. It makes sense, right? The more points being scored, the more you are drawn to plugging in players from those games. The following chart shows a different narrative, however:
In 2020, the games with 50+ point over/under totals actually hit the UNDER just shy of 61% of the time. As you can see on the chart, the sharper move is to target players from the games with an over/under between 47-49.5. Those games hit the OVER just shy of 58% of the time.
For cash game contests (50/50 games with lower payouts, but higher percentage to cash) you are only looking to beat half of the field and can plug in safer players. Over the past 20 seasons, the Vegas favored teams have won 66% of the time. What that means in terms of DFS play is that you can have confidence playing players from the favored teams.
Bring It Back: This goes back to the correlation graph, but the premise of “bringing it back” is if you are stacking your QB and WR in a game projected to score a lot of points, then the opposing team will be in position to score fantasy points as well. Let’s post that graph again:
As you can see, bringing it back with the opposing team’s WR1 has a positive correlation of .37 and the opposing WR2 has a positive correlation of .41. Not a whole lot of difference, but every little bit counts and the data shows the WR2 is the smarter play. To use an example, if you are stacking Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins and they are playing against Carolina, the sharp move would be to bring it back with Robby Anderson.
Make It Make Sense: Here’s the cold hard fact – the average score of the Milly Maker winners in 2020 was 241 points. You have 9 positions to fill, including your D/ST. What that means is each player on your roster needs to score an average of 26.8 points to be in contention for the big money prize. Again, the odds of winning that million dollar prize are 1 in 294,117. Your lineup has to be perfect for that, but you need to construct your roster with players that have a logical path to that level of production.
You simply can’t plug anyone in your lineup just because salary limitations. Each player in your lineup has to make sense why they’re in there and have a chance to get you top-level production. Don’t be afraid to scrap your lineup and start over if you don’t see a path to 26.8 points for even one player in your lineup.
Weird Flex, Bruh: This goes right along with the above point. Most often, you see that failure in the Flex position. Do not lose sight of the Full PPR format of DK. Fact – wide receivers score more points than running backs. There will be times where it makes sense to play a third RB in the Flex spot, such as a starting running back is injured and his backup is going to get a ton of volume and his price tag is really low, but 90% of the time your Flex should be filled with a WR. I have one more graph to share: (credit again to Kyle Borgognoni)
What this chart shows is that plugging your Flex position with a WR truly makes a difference and will separate you from the field. The majority of the field are playing RBs in the Flex and have a much lower chance at finishing at the top of the leaderboard. Those playing WRs in the Flex have a much higher chance to win big.