When it comes to DFS, everybody has their own strategy and their own favorite players or teams when putting together a weekly NFL lineup. Some folks subscribe to experts and just go with their picks. Others feel that they have inside info on their favorite team’s players and lean toward using them most weeks. Some scour the internet for information and come to their own conclusions. And still others come up with mathematical formulas using information from Vegas like over\under numbers, prop bet totals, etc.
They are all strategies. Some are definitely better than others, but none are foolproof.
Do you pick a top-three guy at each position and fill in with bargain sleepers? Take a top guy, a couple safe middle guys and then find the bargains? Maybe you load up on receivers or running backs and skimp at other positions, pick guys only from top winning teams, save money at QB, TE and D to spend elsewhere, take the contrarian path and only pick guys that have low-percentage ownership or possibly go high end at TE and D because you think others won’t.
Whatever you decide, it’s a strategy. And, for the most part, it’s hard to prove that any one strategy is better than another week to week. But, of course, one strategy might serve you better than the others for a given week.
The most likely reality is that the optimal strategy most likely is one that considers everything mentioned above while also taking into consideration potential ownership and that the large majority of the population isn’t putting as much thought into this as you or I are. For example, Tom Brady is the highest-priced QB every week for a reason, so I’ll just take him. Pretty simple. But then what?
Below are some widely considered strategies with some thoughts on each: Stay away from high-priced stars – Not always!
High-priced stars are high-priced for a reason. We’ve made that point already. Part of why they are priced at the top is their consistency, but another reason might be because of that week’s matchup. The cream of the crop – the Antonio Browns, Todd Gurleys, Tom Bradys, etc. – are always going to be the highest-price players. Some people will always stay away from them to get more bang for their buck elsewhere, but what if Julio Jones goes off for 45 points that week? Now, you’re in a huge hole that it might take two or three players to make up.
Consider this: If consistency is one of the reason’s they are at the top tax bracket that means they are going to put up at least solid numbers pretty much every week. Take a look at these guys on the weeks when the matchup seems bad and people are likely to stay away. When the going gets tough, QBs are going to look for the best and truly top players step up. Somebody has to get the targets and the touches, and most likely it’s going to be the star. The offense may stink, but your guy might put up 95 yards and two TDs while everyone else flounders.
The key to winning big in DFS is going against the grain a little and finding the guys that perform and the public ignores. Bargain guys also are bargain guys for a reason. The odds are much higher that a high-end guy will produce than a bargain guy. Bargain guys are important, too, because you can’t fill your roster with them, but don’t ignore the best just because they aren’t cheap.
Players at this level to consider this week:
DeShaun Watson – some people will stay away because of the injury questions and he’s playing the Patriots; Patriots tend to struggle early defensively and the two teams had a shootout last year
Deandre Hopkins – concerns about Watson will keep some people away as will the matchup with Pats and people will be all over Antonio Brown in Leveon Bell’s absence … those reasons all make Hopkins an interesting pick
A.J. Green – generally not as highly thought of as Hopkins, A. Brown, M. Brown, etc. and priced on the high end, but has a great matchup vs. Indy
Travis Kelce – TEs are cheaper, even at the high end, and expect the masses to go after Gronk
Pick the biggest, most-obvious bargain player – NO!
This one is easy. Bargain guys are there for a reason. They are subbing for a starter and have little or no track record. There are question marks about them or they are underachieving despite higher expectations. They have a tough matchup. And, if someone considers a player to be a huge bargain, word will get out and that player will be widely owned. Finding the slightly underpriced middle-of-the-road players with great matchups or QBs/receivers on teams who will likely play from behind is a better route to take than just simply picking the most obvious bargain.
Obvious bargains to avoid this week:
James Conner – EVERYONE will be on him and while he will get volume, he will not replace Bell and will not be used the same way. He’s a solid pick and should have decent numbers no matter what, but decent numbers don’t cut it when EVERYONE has him.
Alfred Morris – I love Alf as a person and am glad he’s getting another chance, but he will be a hugely popular pick this year with too much uncertainty. Will he split touches with Breida? And my God he’s playing the Vikings, meaning the 49’ers likely will be behind and slinging it all over the yard. And Alf don’t catch passes.
Odell Beckham – At $7,800 in FanDuel given his production over the years people will jump on him expecting miracles. Not after almost a year off and facing the Jags. Stay. Away.
Josh Godron – Maybe a pitch count. A former superstar at $6,900 on FanDuel. People want him to be the sleeper who lights it up and want to be the “person” who figures this out. Too many questions, but at under $7K he will be popular.
Try to fill your lineup with every bargain player – A few? Yes. Whole lineup? No!
If you’re savvy enough to figure out the couple top bargains who over-perform each week, consider yourself lucky. The salary numbers are largely based on overall consistency in production and workload with a little tweaking because of that week’s matchup. You have to mix a few bargains in with safer, less-popular consistent players and a star or two. Your odds of winning with all bargain guys are much lower; it’s literally more like playing the lottery or another game of chance than a game where your odds should be substantially better than that.
Bargains to seriously consider this week:
Kirk Cousins – Pretty favorable matchup vs. 49ers, lots of weapons and he’s below $8K in FanDuel. Only concern is how much he pressure he puts on himself and how poorly he’s played under pressure at times in the past. Not a slam dunk.
Tyreek Hill – Seems to be getting graded down because of his rookie QB. Can’t figure out why otherwise. He’s their big-play guy. QB has a big arm. Probably won’t be owned by a crazy number of people based on his full-season draft ADP.
Demaryius Thomas – A couple down years playing with bad QBs has him a bit under the radar, so at $7K and playing with a new, much better QB he’s worth a look. Case Keenum is by no means Dan Fouts, but he’s a huge upgrade.
Derrick Henry – Good matchup vs. the Dolphins and his price is below $7K, so it’s good, but not low enough to get a ton of people to pick him. Should have very solid numbers. Will score and will get enough touches.
Alex Collins – High yards per carry last year, but people aren’t sold. Same situation as Henry, below $7K but not low enough to create huge interest. He’s going to be the bell cow. Harbaugh loves to grind it out and they will be ahead early, and the Ravens FINALLY have weapons on the outside to open up the run game.
Jarvis Landry – Well below $7K and people seem to be gaga over Gordon. Steady. Will produce. You need guys like this mixed in with the stars and real sleepers.
Corey Davis – Will get targets. A lot of them. Good year out of nowhere last year. Playing the Dolphins. Below $6,500. JUST. DO. IT.
Emmanuel Sanders – Keenum factor. Also out of favor with the public. Weakened Seattle D. Approaching $6K. Take him OR Thomas, but not both.
Jamison Crowder – Will be the Skins go-to receiver even out of the slot. Perfect fit with Alex Smith at QB. Around $6K.
Royce Freeman – He’s the guy in Denver. Will get the touches. At $6K many won’t see him as a bargain, but based on his role he will be. Starting to get talked up a bit, so jump on him in weeks 1 and 2.
Chris Carson – People still don’t believe. He’s the guy in Seattle – for now at least. Do it while you can. Will get the touches and is under $6K.
Carlos Hyde – If you want to blow out your receiving group, look at Hyde, Carson and Freeman and go high-end at wideout. He’s the starter and the weather will be bad for the game against Pittsburgh. Being a Brown and based on how he’s been forgotten in full-season fantasy, he won’t be popular.
Avoid low-end QBs – Not always!
Bad QBs should never be played. But decent, low-priced QBs playing from behind are worth a look – also if they are playing against bad teams (see Flacco, Joe). Anytime a guy has a chance to throw it 40-50 times you are looking at 300-plus yards and at least a couple TDs. And, the best part? NO ONE WILL OWN THAT DUDE!
Players to consider this week:
Joe Flacco - $6K and playing the Bills. He also has some (many) new toys to play with. The Ravens will stretch the field early and pound it late. Flacco may have a huge first half.
Andy Dalton – Two years ago this guy was in the MVP discussion. Today he is at around $6,800 against a not-so-great Indy team. Worth a shot for sure. Stack with under-priced A.J. Green?
Case Keenum – Had a really good year last year. Still has weapons in Denver and this is not your mama’s Seahawks D. $6,300. Yes. Stack with Thomas? Maybe.
Pick players only from the top teams that win consistently – Not always!
You will notice something about the best teams. They have depth, and it’s often hard to figure out on a weekly basis how they will spread things around. Look at the Patriots with their receivers and running backs in the past. This year, yes, you have Hogan and Gronk who almost have to get the ball. Hogan was on the field for 75% of the team’s offensive snaps last year before getting hurt. But New England’s running backs? Who the Hell knows. Stay away until someone emerges (Well, we’re waiting … and have been for about 10 years).
The Rams figure to have a great offense this year with Gurley and a host of strong wideouts, but which receiver to do take week to week? Woods? Kupp? Cooks? You tell me. I’m not that smart. The Saints have been like this in past years as well as have the Packers. Great teams are great because they have the depth to be unpredictable and rely on many players.
Remember, a bad team playing from behind with a decent QB and a couple bargain receivers is your friend!