A large part of your success playing weekly fantasy football at DraftKings and FanDuel will hinge on the type of contests you select.
Sure, you need to put together winning rosters.
You should also know how to make savvy use of the NFL injury reports.
And it doesn’t hurt to know your way around the statistical factors that’ll help you to predict your players’ performances from week to week.
In short, there are a lot of ingredients that go into a winning recipe for fantasy football.
But if you pick the wrong contests, all of your time, effort, and skills could be for naught.
Contest selection is a challenge for newbies who are trying to get their feet wet without burning through their bankrolls. Even experienced DFS players occasionally fumble in this area.
The following guide will show you how to select contests that suit your overall fantasy football strategy at DraftKings and FanDuel, and (hopefully) start logging consistent wins.
Salaries, Salary Caps, And Lineup Requirements
Let’s start with the basics.
DraftKings and FanDuel impose different salary caps on lineups.
At DraftKings, you’re given $50,000 to work with. At FanDuel, $60,000. This isn’t a huge issue since the relative prices of players are also reflected.
Both fantasy sites also have different NFL lineup requirements.
Following are the requirements at DraftKings:
1 x QB
2 x RB
3 x WR
1 x TE
1 x FLEX
1 x DST (Defense / Special Teams)
And here are the requirements at FanDuel:
1 x QB
2 x RB
3 x WR
1 x TE
1 x K
1 x Defense
The biggest difference is the addition of a kicker at FanDuel.
Do you want to pick kickers?
If so, play on Fanduel.
If you prefer no kicker then play Draftkings.
If you don’t really care, then read on.
Salaries are straightforward. Each player commands a salary, and it’s your job to decide whether he’s worth it.
Some players command salaries close to $10,000. Adding them to your roster will obviously affect how much you can spend at other positions.
You’ll be spending a good chunk of cash for your quarterback.
The minimum at DraftKings is $4,000. The minimum at FanDuel is $6,000. But that’s for scrubs. You don’t want scrubs at QB. So plan to spend a bit more.
The minimum salaries for RBs, WRs, and TEs are slightly lower.
Here are the floors at DraftKings:
RB – $3,000
WR – $3,000
TE – $2,500
And here are the floors at FanDuel:
RB – $4,500
WR – $4,500
TE – $4,500
It’s important to know this stuff. One of the keys to creating winning rosters for weekly fantasy football at DraftKings and FanDuel is identifying good value plays.
You need to know how to stretch your money given the respective salary caps.
This is doubly important when it comes to choosing contest types (you’ll see how in a few moments).
Football Scoring At DraftKings And FanDuel
|Learn more in my Top Fantasy Sites List.|
|300+ Passing Yards||0||3|
|100+ Yard Receiving Game||0||3|
|2 Point Conversion||2||2|
|Punt/Kickoff Return For TD||6||6|
|0 Pts Allowed||10||10|
|1-6 Points Allowed||7||7|
|7-13 Pts Allowed||4||4|
|14-20 Pts Allowed||1||1|
|21-27 Pts Allowed||0||0|
|28-34 Pts Allowed||-1||-1|
|35+ Pts Allowed||-4||-4|
|Kick Extra Point||1||0|
|0-39 yard FG||3||0|
|40-49 yard FG||4||0|
|50+ yard FG||5||0|
There are notable differences between DraftKings and FanDuel with regard to how many points are earned for specific plays.
You should be aware of these differences because they’ll influence your draft picks. (You can see a comparison chart between the two fantasy sites here.)
For example, consider the addition of a kicker at FanDuel. This position allows you to earn points for field goals. (The number of points earned varies by the length of the FG.) You don’t have this opportunity at DraftKings.
Also, you can earn “bonus” points at DraftKings if one or more of your players hit certain targets for aggregate passing and receiving yards:
300+ passing yards – 3 points
100+ receiving yards – 3 points
This is worth taking into account when rostering QBs and receivers.
Those are the basics. Below, you’ll see how they come into play when you start selecting different types of fantasy football contests.
Analysis Of Fantasy Football Cash Games
First things first. What exactly IS a cash game?
A number of different types of contests are known as “cash games.” These include 50/50s, head-to-heads (H2Hs), and double ups. They’re distinct from tournaments (more on tournaments below) in that they’re generally less volatile.
To use a casino analogy, competing in cash games is like playing low-stakes blackjack while competing in tournaments is like playing poker.
Cash games have three things in common:
1. Nearly half of the field wins.
2. Every player who wins receives the same amount.
3. Each winner receives an amount close to double his or her entry fee.
Let’s take a look at the most common types of cash games, beginning with 50/50s.
These are uncomplicated. 50/50s are generally small (fewer than 100 players), and just under half the field wins.
Each winner typically receives double his entry fee.
The rake comes from the portion of players who are not in the winners bracket (the losers pool is slightly larger than the winners pool and the DFS site takes that portion as ‘rake’.
50/50s are a relatively safe bet, but they can be a grind. The best approach is to enter a lot of low-entry-fee 50/50s to spread your risk. Roster consistent players, and you’ll stand a fair chance of cashing.
Many experienced fantasy football players compete in 50/50s.
But don’t be intimidated. Remember, just under half the field wins.
It’s not like you’re squaring off against a fantasy pro one-on-one.
But do keep in mind many of the double ups offer ‘multi-entry’. Many of the sharks will submit their lineup(s) the maximum amount of time trying to fill up the winners circle.
Speaking of which…
Head-to-heads works in the same manner as 50/50s. The difference is, there are only two players: you and the other guy.
Tread carefully when playing H2Hs.
These are shark-infested waters. A lot of savvy, successful fantasy football players use these contests as a reliable way to build their bankrolls.
They post contests and wait for fish to arrive.
They bait the hook and wait.
Then, they feed.
If you’re going to play head-to-heads, research the people you’re playing against. Check out their usernames. Look for experience badges. Google them.
Double ups are similar to 50/50s. There are three main differences. First, some double ups are large, involving more than 1,000 players. Second, each winner receives 100% of his entry fee (compared to the 80% from a 50/50). And third, only 40% of the field wins.
The reason only 40% of the field wins, compared to 50% in a 50/50, is because the payout is larger while the fantasy site’s commission remains the same.
If you’re going to play double ups, I recommend sticking to those with at least 100 players. There are some very savvy fantasy football players swimming in these waters. Sticking to larger fields will mitigate your risk.
Let’s move on to tournaments.
Analysis Of Fantasy Football GPP Tournaments
When we talk about fantasy football tournaments, we’re usually referring to contests that boast huge fields and massive prize pools.
We’re not talking about the smaller tourneys where you stand to triple, quadruple, or quintuple your money.
Rather, you can potentially turn $20 into a cool $1 million.
That’s an extreme example, but you get the picture.
These tournaments have guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It doesn’t matter how many people enter.
The fantasy site commits to paying out the listed amount (e.g. $3 million) in cash prizes to the folks who finish in the top of the field.
The biggest thing to note about GPP tournaments is that less than 25% of the field gets paid. In many GPPs, the percentage is far lower.
In other words, the payout schedule is top-heavy compared to the ones used in cash games.
So you have to be very skilled (or very lucky) to cash.
Moreover, the size of the payouts drops precipitously after the top 10%.
Recall from earlier that rostering consistent players is a solid strategy when you’re competing in cash games.
That’s not the case when competing in tournaments. While consistency is valuable, you’re also looking for upside.
You need players who’ll break out and score a ton of points.
That’s the only way you’ll have a chance to finish in the top 25% of the field.
It’s also a good idea to submit multiple lineups. If a GPP allows multi-entry, you can bet the veterans are submitting dozens of varied lineups (see Fantasycruncher for an awesome multi-lineup building tool.. Why? To mitigate the risk of suboptimal rosters, and increase their chances of winning.
Keep in mind, multi-entry is gentler on your bankroll when the entry fee is low.
Other Types Of Weekly Fantasy Football Contests
We’ve covered the main types of fantasy football contests at DraftKings and FanDuel. But it’s worth mentioning a few types that combine some of the aforementioned elements.
For example, consider multipliers (sometimes called “boosters”). Above, I mentioned tournaments that give you an opportunity to triple, quadruple, or quintuple your money. These are basically multipliers. Some allow you to 10X your entry fee.
The greater the multiple (or “boost”), the smaller the percentage of the field that wins. For example, a 2X multiple will pay out to a bit less than half the field (remember, the fantasy site take a commission). A 10X multiplier will pay out to less than 10% of the field.
Satellites, often called “qualifiers,” are another type of contest.
Satellites allows players with smaller bankrolls to compete in large tournaments where literally millions of dollars are at stake. The payout for winning a satellite is usually in the form of entry into a higher-ticket contest.
In other words, you don’t play satellites to get rich. You compete in them to gain entry into larger tournaments you wouldn’t normally have access to because of high entry fees. That said, winning these larger tournaments can indeed pay massive dividends.
Finally, we have leagues. These operate like GPP tournaments with two differences. First, the prize pool isn’t guaranteed. If the contest fails to fill, it’s cancelled.
Second, the field is much smaller. While a GPP can have more than 100,000 players, leagues tend to have fewer than 100 (often much fewer).
Some leagues are public and open to everyone. Others are private, open only to friends and colleagues of the host.
Note that the payout schedule in weekly fantasy football leagues is similar to the ones used in GPPs – i.e. they’re top-heavy. So treat them like GPPs with regard to the volume of action you give them.
Choosing The Right Contests Starts With A Plan
Contest selection should stem from your bankroll management plan. In the beginning, when you’re still cutting your teeth, you want to minimize your exposure while maximizing your chances of staying in the black. After you gain more experience, you can take on more risk in an attempt to create a consistent, sizable profit stream.
In the beginning, I recommend sticking to a 90%/10% mix between cash games and GPP tournaments.
(I’d classify most multipliers, satellites, and leagues in the same camp as GPPs because of their similar payout structures.)
With regard to cash games, I’d focus most of your action on low-entry-fee, single-entry 50/50s.
The level payout structure will smooth the learning curve and help you to preserve your bankroll.
It’ll also insulate you from the sharp money (i.e. sharks).
With regard to GPPs, I’d stick to single-entry, small(ish)-field contests in the beginning.
It’s easier to finish in the top of the field.
Once you become adept at roster construction for both cash games and tournaments, you should feel comfortable altering your contest mixology.
For example, try an 80%/20% regimen (spend 80% of your action on cash games and 20% on GPPs).
At this point, you should feel comfortable venturing into multi-entry 50/50s that impose larger entry fees. You can also try your hand at multi-entry, large-field GPPs.
The gist is that it pays to start with a plan. Too many fantasy football players jump into the deep end before they’re ready, and do so with little thought to how it’ll impact their bankrolls. They’re the ones who usually lose their shirts, becoming discouraged and disillusioned in the process.
You can do better. Much better.
Start with a bankroll management plan that takes into account your skill level.
Choose contests that complement that plan. As your skills expand and your confidence grows, venture into larger, higher-risk contests that give you an opportunity to take down larger cash prizes.
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