The most common type of draft you’ll see used in weekly and daily fantasy sports contests is the salary cap. It gives you a chance to play the role of a general manager. You’re given a certain amount of money to build your lineup, and you can’t go over budget.
It sounds simple, but there’s a lot of strategy to doing it right. You need to figure out where to spend your money to put together the best team possible for that day’s games. If you’re new to salary caps in daily fantasy sports, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know to have confidence during your next draft. You’ll learn how salary caps work, the types of contests they’re used in, and how to leverage them to your advantage.
In this tutorial, we’ll refer several times to a daily fantasy basketball freeroll contest at FanDuel. We’re using it as an example of drafting with a budget. We strongly recommend following along by choosing a freeroll within your own FanDuel account. That way, you’ll get some hands-on experience with salary caps without putting your money at risk.
With that out of the way, let’s get started with a quick definition of a salary cap.
What Is A Salary Cap In Daily Fantasy Sports?
A salary cap is a predetermined budget. You get to use that budget to draft players. Each player comes with a salary, which you need to pay if you want to add him to your lineup. The goal is to put together the best team possible given your limited funds.
The standard salary cap at FanDuel.com is $60,000. If you want, you can filter the list of contests to only display those with an “expert” cap of $55,000. (The less money you have at your disposal, the more difficult it is to build a high-performing team.)
It’s important to learn how to work within a tight budget because it’s an integral part of competing in daily fantasy sports contests. The contests only last a day – or in the case of weekly contests, 7 days. That means you won’t be doing a lot of trading and benching players. Your ability to win will come down largely to knowing how to identify undervalued commodities.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a quick look at the types of daily and weekly fantasy sports contests that use a salary cap.
Types Of Daily Fantasy Sports Contests With Salary Cap
Nearly all of the contests you’ll find at FanDuel use salary caps. They’re used in head-to-head match-ups where you square off against a single competitor. They’re used in guaranteed prize pool tournaments where the number of entrants can reach into the thousands. They’re used in private leagues that are set up to accommodate friends. At DraftKings, salary caps are used in 50/50 leagues where the prize pool is divided amongst the top 50% of the player pool.
Here’s the bottom line: salary caps are used practically everywhere in daily fantasy sports. That being the case, it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn how to leverage them to your advantage.
Basics Of Using Salary Caps In Daily Fantasy Sports
Let’s fire up a freeroll daily fantasy basketball contest at FanDuel. Here’s how to find one quickly:
- Filter the list of contests to display only NBA games (click the “NBA” button on the left side of your screen).
- Sort the results by entry fee (click the top of the “Entry” column).
- Choose a contest that has a $0 entry fee (click the green “Enter” button at the end of the row).
Once you hit the “Enter” button, you’ll be directed to a page on which you can start selecting players. You’ll see a list of players on the left side who are scheduled to play today. You’ll see your lineup – the fields will be empty at this point – on the right side.
Take a look at the player list on the left side of your screen. Notice that each player has a specific salary. That salary changes each day according to the player’s performance in the recent past. For example, if Kobe has been putting everything through the hoop over the last few weeks, he’ll command a higher salary. If he’s been choking, his salary will drop.
Also, notice the field on the right side that says “Salary Remaining: $60,000” (it’s directly above your lineup). Keep your eyes on that field. That’s your cap. Each time you draft a player, the dollar figure posted in that field will drop by the amount of his salary.
Let’s draft a team so you can see this in action…
Salary Cap Strategy: How To Work Within Your Budget
For daily fantasy basketball, you need to draft 2 point guards (PGs), 2 shooting guards (SGs), 2 small forwards (SFs), 2 power forwards (PFs), and a center (C). The simplest way to do it is to click the position tabs displayed above the player list from left to right. The tabs are labeled with the initials of each position.
A quick note…
I’m not actually trying to win this particular freeroll since I’m only entering it to show you how a salary cap works. I’m going to fill positions without giving it too much thought, taking note of each player’s salary along the way. The key is to make sure I don’t run out of money before drafting my entire team.
After a minute of blind picking, here’s my initial lineup:
- PGs – Chris Paul (expensive at $10,600!) and Shelvin Mack (only $4,200. I need to save some money to fill the other positions.)
- SGs – Kevin Martin ($6,000) and Jason Richardson ($3,900)
- SFs – Corey Brewer ($4,300) and Maurice Harkless ($3,500)
- PFs – Paul Millsap ($8,900) and Glen Davis ($5,700)
- C – Al Horford ($8,200)
As it turns out, the lineup above only cost me $55,300. I still have $4,700 left in my budget. Since FanDuel isn’t going to cut me a check for that amount, I might as well spend it. So, let’s do some savvy shopping in the shooting guard position. I’m going to switch out Jason Richardson for Jamal Crawford ($5,900).
That leaves me with $2,700 to play with. My shooting forwards are looking a little weak. So, I’m going to chuck Maurice Harkless and put Paul Pierce ($5,400) in the slot. I still have $800. Let’s go back to our power forwards. I’m going to get rid of Paul Millsap and replace him with Blake Griffin ($9,400).
I have $300 left, but I’m good with the team I have. Here’s the end result:
- PGs – Chris Paul and Shelvin Mack
- SGs – Kevin Martin and Jamal Crawford
- SFs – Corey Brewer and Maurice Harkless
- PFs – Blake Griffin and Glen Davis
- C – Al Horford
Not too bad of a lineup. The point of this exercise was to show you how to work within a budget. You’ll inevitably end up making changes to your lineup throughout the draft. You’ll either spend too much money upfront or have a ton of cash left over (like I did in the example above). Be prepared to make adjustments.
Now that you’re a salary cap pro, let’s talk about picking sleepers…
The Value Of Picking Sleepers With A Salary Cap
Sleepers are undervalued players. They’re guys who are expected (by some) to have a phenomenal season. Sometimes, they’re rookies. Most times, however, they have a lot of years on the court. Either way, they’re rarely household names. Lebron James isn’t likely to be considered a “sleeper” at any point in his career.
While some people think certain players are going to exceed expectations and have a breakout season, other folks continue to dismiss them. That tepid response is reflected in the players’ salaries. That makes those players much less expensive than superstars, such as Kobe and Lebron.
Because you’re on a tight budget, it’s definitely to your advantage to pick up a few sleepers for your lineup. How do you identify them? Well, that’s the challenge. A lot of folks rely on hard data, such as a player’s recent points, assists, and RBs, to uncover hidden values. Others focus on “softer” criteria, such as whether a player has made every game after recovering from knee surgery.
The process of picking sleepers is part art and part science. It goes beyond the scope of what we’re covering on this page. However, because there’s a lot of interest in it, we’ll put together a “how to” guide on the subject in the near future. For now, realize that finding undervalued players is a great way to leverage a salary cap.
When You’re Just Getting Started With Daily Fantasy Sports…
Don’t let salary caps intimidate you. They’re easy to use, fun to play with, and if you know what you’re doing, can give you a huge advantage over other owners.
We focused on the basics here. In future daily fantasy sports tutorials, we’ll show you how to use cheat sheets and player rankings to find hidden value for your teams. Let everyone else overpay for Lebron. You’ll learn how to get the most bang for your daily fantasy sports buck, and build a lineup that wins.
In the meantime, log into your Fan Duel account, and enter a few contests. Get used to working with a salary cap. With experience, you’ll gradually develop a feeling – almost a sixth sense – for the players on whom you should spend your cash.