With DraftKings and FanDuel running TV ads across the country, more people than ever are getting acquainted with daily fantasy. If you’re one of the thousands of newcomers, grab a beverage, get comfortable and study this quick-start guide to daily fantasy football.
The new NFL season is about to get started. Although it doesn’t officially kick off until mid-September, you can already enroll in contests and draft your lineups. Our goal today is to get you up to speed on basic draft strategy so you can build rosters that win, cover some stats that matter when drafting your team and give you a solid foundation.
Quick note: the following guide is written for beginners. To that end, it’s designed to be read and applied as soon as possible. Don’t be like most aspiring DFS players and file the advice away for later. Instead, put it to use today to get a jumpstart on the upcoming NFL season.
Pick Sites From Which To Gather Data For Drafting Your Team
Every fantasy sport you play will involve researching stats and data. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing fantasy football or fantasy NASCAR. The more relevant data you have at your fingertips, the more informed your draft selections and the better your chances of winning.
That being the case, it’s in your interest to identify a few reliable resources you can turn to before each draft.
You can glean a lot of useful information from the player cards at DraftKings and FanDuel. Both sites have done a great job of compiling and showing key data points concerning each player’s recent performance.
You can also rely on ESPN to post updated numbers for each player. ESPN makes it easy to find the leaders in every category, from passing yards and receiving yards to stats on rushing and scoring.
If you’re a football stats junkie, you might enjoy using a site like Football-Outsiders.com. In my opinion, that level of statistical depth is overkill. But if you love crunching numbers, you’ll find Football-Outsiders to be hard to beat.
The bottom line is that you want to have multiple resources at your disposal. You don’t have to use ESPN or Football-Outsiders. Choose whichever resources work best for you. The important thing is having a few places to turn when you need to analyze player performance.
Create A System For Approaching The Draft
This suggestion may get some blowback.
I recommend creating a routine you can follow for each fantasy football draft and line-up you build. You want to systematize your approach so you don’t have to think about every tiny step involved with building a winning roster.
The worst thing you can do is take a haphazard approach to each draft, doing things differently each time. If you lack consistency in how you select players, you’ll never be able to identify what works and design a reliable strategy.
Thus, you need a routine.
The first step is to allocate a set amount of time for researching players. Think of it as a time limit you’re placing on yourself. Working on a deadline will motivate you to be efficient.
Let’s assume you can spend 1 hour for each draft.
The second step is to know where you’ll obtain player statistics. We addressed this in the previous section; you should already have your resources ready.
Your routine will stem from whatever you’ve discovered works in fantasy football. That being the case, your approach is likely going to differ from mine.
Since you’re just getting started, I suggest spending your hour on the following activities:
1. Look up player projections. You can do this at ESPN or CBS Sports. Most agree that the combined expert consensus rankings at fantasypros are arguably some of the best all around. You can see those here.
2. Review DvP (defense vs. position) stats. Once again, ESPN comes to the rescue.
Not that oddsmakers rarely focus on individual players. But you can still gain useful insight by watching their game predictions. For example, if an NFL team is expected to perform horribly against its opponents’ defense, you’d want to fade that team’s QB.
Let’s recap the suggestions and concepts we’ve covered so far.
- First, get some experience under your belt by enrolling in the freerolls.
- Second, identify sites from which you can obtain player stats.
- Third, come up with a routine you can follow when building your rosters.
- Fourth, adjust your routine as you tweak your draft strategy.
Stick to your routine for each draft, making sure to work efficiently and focus on the details that matter. Also, take notes. If a specific tactic helps you to outscore your competition, make it a part of your draft strategy.
Are you excited to compete for real cash prizes in fantasy football at DraftKings and FanDuel? Read on to learn how to stack the odds in your favor.
Take Advantage Of The Free Fantasy Football Contests
Freerolls aren’t very exciting, at least in the context of winning real money. On the one hand, you don’t have to pay an entry fee, which is great. On the other hand, there’s no cash prize if you win. That’s less than great.
But here’s the important thing… if you’re a beginner, you don’t want to risk a lot of money learning the ropes. That’s the reason you should take advantage of the freerolls. You can get practical experience building football lineups with the financial risk. Along the way, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, which will inform your draft strategy when you graduate to the non-free contests.
Don’t look down your nose at the freerolls. Instead, exploit them to hone your draft skills so you’ll be ready to take on more experienced DFS players in tournaments and cash games.
Avoid Drafting Defenses Playing Against Your Players
This is a common mistake novices make in fantasy football. They draft players who they want to score against a defense they want to keep people from scoring.
Here’s an example…
Let’s say the Carolina Panthers are playing the Jacksonville Jaguars. A rookie move would be to draft Cam Newton, the Panthers’ QB, and Greg Olsen, TE on the Panthers, and then turn around and select the Jaguars for your defense.
Why is that a bad strategy? Because in order for your defense to earn points, it has to execute effectively against your offensive players – in this case Newton and Olsen. It’d be like drafting two fighters facing each other in fantasy MMA. One is going to win and the other is going to lose. You don’t want both of them in your lineup since that would just cannibalize points.
Tread Carefully In Head-To-Head Football Contests
You are usually playing against a shark. Head-to-heads (H2Hs) are a mixed bag in fantasy football. There’s a lot of opportunity for savvy players, but it can be a minefield if you’re just getting started.
Take a look at the DraftKings lobby. You’ll notice there are head-to-heads with entry fees ranging from free ($0) to $530. If you’re going to compete, I strongly advise sticking to the low-stakes contests. There are two reasons.
First, mid- and high-stakes head-to-heads are shark territory. Experienced DFS players post the contests and wait for overly-confident – or just plain oblivious – newbies to venture in. Needless to say, the odds are stacked against the rookies.
Second, your losses won’t hurt as much when you keep the stakes low. Losing a few bucks to your opponent is a lot better than losing $20, $50 or a hundred when you’re still in the learning phase.
Winning against 1 isn’t always easier than winning against many – Sure winning against one other person sounds easier than winning against a bunch of people but in reality you would be better served entering into a larger field 50/50 contest. In these contests you just have to be better than slightly more than half of the field to double your money. Beat half of the other rookies instead of beating the other shark(s).
After you create a winning draft strategy, feel free to test your mettle in one of the higher buy-in H2Hs. Of course, at that point, you may be one of the sharks waiting for unsuspecting minnows to arrive.
Reality Check: Daily Fantasy Football Is Not A Path To Instant Riches
If you’ve never played daily fantasy football, winning might seem easy. But be careful. That expectation is dangerous. It can make you overly-confident to the point that you lose a large chunk of your bankroll before you have a chance to learn the ropes.
The reality of daily fantasy is that it’s a lot like playing online poker. It’s a grind. A long string of small wins and losses will dictate the growth or erosion of your bankroll.
Every once in a while, you might finish in the top 10 of a large-field tournament and win a huge cash prize. That’s an exhilarating feeling! But realize for the most part, doing well in daily fantasy football is a matter of racking up small victories.
You now possess the information you need to get started. Don’t let it go to waste. Register today at DraftKings and FanDuel and enter a few freerolls. Then, find low-stakes contests in which to compete for real cash prizes.
For now, focus less on winning and more on identifying the tactics that make winning more likely. By the time the NFL season is well under way, you’ll have the tools and insight you need trounce your competition!
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