DFS: Putting It All Together


Written By: Austin Lee

One of the biggest challenges of playing Daily Fantasy Sports is deciphering the overwhelming amount of numbers and information. There are so many pieces to the puzzle and a lot of people that play DFS don’t take the time to put it all together. If you make the decision to put even minimal time and effort into it, you can immediately launch yourself into a level above a large portion of the field and put yourself in good position to cash out, even if the winnings are minimal.

Before we get into putting the pieces of the puzzle together, I want to take a moment to thank those that have reached out in regards to the previous DFS articles – Preparing For DFS and Take The Next Step In DFS. I appreciate all the kind words and I’m glad you got information you feel can help you as the season approaches. Part three of this series will give some additional information, rehash some past info and put it all together in a way that I hope resonates as well as part one and two have.

I can’t hammer this fact enough – contest selection is extremely important to your success as a DFS player. You have to understand not only which kind of contest you are entering, but what your overall odds are to cashing out. There are typically two types of DFS players: those that prefer playing Cash Games and those that prefer GPP tournaments. Every once in while, you may encounter someone that plays both, but more often than not, it’s one or the other. Again, in cash games you only need to be better than half the field and can play much safer players. The payouts are much lower, but if your ultimate goal is to earn a little extra cash each week, then cash games might be the best for you. If you don’t mind embracing risk and variations in return for a much larger prize, then GPP is the way to go.

Creating Leverage

That’s the name of the game and is especially important for GPP tournaments. How to create the leverage is the biggest challenge we all face each and every week. Most people log into the platform, plug in a lineup and call it a day. Anybody can do that. However, if you want to separate yourself from the field, then you first must understand what the field is doing. I shared some Flex position info on the last article and will share that graph again here:

The majority of the field are playing running backs in the Flex spot on DK. This is worth bringing up again because the primary benefit of DK is its full PPR format. Wide receivers score more points in that format than running backs do, so it’s advantageous to play wide receivers in that slot. As you can see on the graph, playing a wide receiver in the Flex results in far greater success rate than any other position and can help you set yourself apart from the field.

Understanding when to “punt” and when to pay up is another easy way to create leverage against the field. Let’s break that down a little bit. In the last article I shared that on average, the Milly Maker winners in 2020 spent $6,500 at the quarterback position and 50% of the Milly Maker winners spent at least $6,500 on their RB1 position. Check out the graph below:

As you can see, there are certain times when paying down at the quarterback position can pay off. I previously shared information about the bonus structure on DK (3 points for 300+ yards passing) and as you can probably guess, the cheap quarterbacks on this list hit that bonus (aside from the Taysom Hill fiasco where he was classified as a TE). Point being, if you opt to punt the quarterback position and pay down, you better feel confident that he can produce 300+ yards.

We already covered that the numbers show it’s good to spend at least $6,500 at the RB1 position and we’ve talked enough about correlation that we know you need to spend up for a couple top tier receivers, so where exactly are the spots you can punt? One of the more popular things among the field is paying down at the Tight End spot, but the data shows that’s actually not a good idea.

Again, the average Milly Maker winner in 2020 scored a whopping 241 points. With 9 positions to fill, each position must score approximately 26.8 points to be in that realm. The fact is, the big three (Kelce, Waller, Kittle) are the only tight ends that produce those kinds of numbers on a consistent basis. Occasionally, other tight ends can hit those numbers but it’s few and far between. The point I’m making is that the majority of the field are already paying down here, so it’s the sharper move to go ahead and pay for the tight end that you know has a good chance to hit that level of production to create that leverage to break away and let them deal with the sub-optimal performance for the mid-tier tight ends as shown below: (credit to Matthew Betz)

Woof! Also, don’t forget tight ends have a positive correlation of .50 with their QB (see below). Now that we got the tight end position out of the way, that leaves the WR3, Flex and D/ST positions where punting can be an option. I do want to be clear here, though – punting does not mean a dart throw. Every player in your lineup has to make sense and needs to have a logical scenario to produce that 26.8 point threshold. Dart throws do not represent that…that’s why they’re called dart throws. I don’t mind putting a dart throw in there, but if you do that, temper your expectations and embrace the fact that more often than not, you’re going to miss.

For your WR3 slot, there are plenty of solid options each and every week that have enough of a shot to produce high level numbers to warrant the roster spot. The tricky part about getting down to this point in your roster construction is that this is when you start to feel the salary limitations becoming real. More than likely, you’re looking at that $3,500-5,000 per player range for your last 2-3 roster spots. Do not get side-tracked by your solid roster to this point that you lose sight of how many points each position must score. If there’s one area that you can legitimately “punt”, it’s the D/ST. Let’s take a look at the correlation chart again:

This is an excellent chart, especially when looking for your stacks each week, but what this chart really represents is how the player’s production stacks up against their salary with a 1.00 score being the max. That is incredibly important information to have for your roster. Take a look at that .03 correlation of the D/ST. What this means for DFS managers is that the defense/special teams have so much variance that it’s difficult for experts to nail down on a weekly basis, meaning there is a ton of room for error in terms of their salaries. You can easily pay down at this position and get a good return.

Drag It Out

I don’t recall whether it was on the DFS show we did or in one of the previous articles, but I mentioned, “You get out of it what you put into it” and I’m referring to the amount of effort you put forth. Our guest on the DFS show, mentioned one of his favorite tips was jotting down every bit of information you can to track it over a period of time and use that information to your advantage. I love that tip and use it regularly.

What I mean by “drag it out”, though, is don’t rush it. Don’t log on late Saturday or early Sunday and plug your lineup(s) in and call it a day. Instead of cramming it all in during one rip, break it up over the course of a few days. I like to start writing players down that I have an instinctual feeling on (based on matchups) early in the week and I’ll add to that list as I continue to do my research throughout the week until I ultimately end up with a pool of players.

Why do I do it that way? Because people are emotional creatures and doing it over a period of a few days allows for more time to remove emotion from the equation. I can then take a look at that list and decide which players are best suited for cash games or GPP. I’m a high risk, high reward guy so I’m 100% a GPP player. I may have had a great instinct on a player early in the week, but after a little further research it becomes clear that the particular player may be best suited for cash games instead. Waiting until late in the week or right before kick off to plug a lineup in is a recipe for failure. Drag it out and devote an allotted amount of time to it over a 3-4 day stretch and you will undoubtedly see your luck turn around.

Final Words

We’ve talked quite a bit about roster construction, but I want to talk a little bit more on ownership percentages (aka roster percentages). As we prepare for our first full season as a company, including DFS research for our Friday shows and bonus shows for our Patreon subscribers, you are going to hear those terms a lot more. It does no good for us to throw those terms out there if you don’t understand how to use them.

The higher a player’s ownership on a given week, the more difficult it will be to separate from the pack if you decide to play that player as well. Don’t get me wrong, though. There needs to be somewhat of a balance of chalk plays and lower-owned players. After all, there’s a reason certain players are highly owned. Spend your salary, but pay attention to ownership percentages. Take a look at the following chart: (credit DiSorbo)

None of the Milly Maker winners from 2020 spent less than $49,500. On average, the winners spent $49,900. The total roster percentage can be found by adding up the ownership totals of all of your players. As you can see from the chart, you want to be somewhere between that 100-125% mark the majority of the time.

With so much information floating around and things to always be cognizant of, creating a checklist can also be a very helpful tool:

  • Do you have a team stack?
  • Do you have a game stack? – reference previous article about “bringing it back”
  • QB paired with his pass catcher?
  • Only one RB from same game?
  • RB paired with his D/ST? Not too important – only a positive correlation of 0.1
  • Is there a minimum of one low-ownership player in your lineup?
  • Pay up or punt at tight end? Are they paired with their QB?
  • Is anyone on your roster owned at such a high rate that you can’t create leverage above the field?

Don’t forget the importance of stacking:

  • 16 of 17 winning Milly Maker lineups had a team stack.
  • 14 of 17 had a game stack.
  • 15 of 17 had a stack of QB and pass catcher.

Embrace the variance. Many people take projections as factual numbers when constructing their rosters. Accepting and embracing the error and variances will go a long way in ensuring your long-term success as a DFS player.

Part three of this series has come to a close. I wish you all the best of luck this upcoming season in DFS and your regular leagues. Stay tuned every Friday for more DFS talk throughout the regular season and sign up to become a Patreon member for early access to shows and bonus show every Saturday/Sunday where we will go in-depth on more DFS talk ahead of the Sunday slate of games.

Follow me on Twitter – @AustinLee365FF