When dealing with the finite limits of a DFS roster budget, it pays to be aware of how one decision affects the course of the lineup construction process. In this article, we'll be looking at a couple of examples from FanDuel and DraftKings of how a lineup takes shape when you start with certain players. The goal here is to emphasize the process rather than provide my favorite lineup; what principles guide your lineup decisions? Some of the statistical factors that we'll consider in this article include implied team totals, offensive/defensive positional matchups, targets and touches, but I'll also be very aware of game theory considerations like predicted ownership percentages.
To set the stage, my personal process goes something like this. I start with Vegas lines to get a feel for the week's lines and spreads, though implied team totals are the most important factor to me. I next move to positional opportunities—noting which defenses are most generous to each position (these are taken with a large grain of salt at the beginning of the season) and what players are facing them. By the time I ever lay eyes on a DFS website, I usually have several high priority candidates for my lineups at each position. It's then time to negotiate the salaries and take a look around the industry to see what everyone else is thinking to get an idea of player popularity and therefore, ownership probability.
- A.Your starting point is: Cheap quarterback--Carson Wentz ($5,400 DraftKings)
It's no secret how much I like the cheap Eagles this weekend. They are playing in the highest point total/line game this weekend and are basically even with Atlanta in terms of implied team total. The Falcons have given up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, as well as the fifth-most real points per game. Wentz was perfect through the first three weeks of the season, with a 5:0 TD:INT ratio, but has since plummeted to a 9:5 ratio. His price has fallen with his good reputation, allowing us to take advantage of the rookie at a discount in this great situation. With Wentz, I'm inclined to take Jordan Matthews ($5,900), who has caught 17 of 24 targets over the last two weeks and Zach Ertz ($3,700) who won't be this cheap again if he is truly finally re-establishing his role in this offense. Coming off a game where he caught all eight of his targets for 97 yards is certainly encouraging and Atlanta has been equally generous to opposing WRs (15 touchdowns allowed) and TEs (fifth-most fantasy points).
Going cheap with a Wentz and company stack to start this lineup, which I think could be modified for tournament or cash game usage, allows us to pay up for some individual stars. Julio Jones stands out, because although Philadelphia started out as a shut down defense, they have eased up a bit, particularly to the opposing passing game. Whatever the defensive advantage is, the Falcons take advantage, so I like Jones to be busy on Sunday. After adding Jones, we're left with $5,100 per player. Since there aren't any value running backs I can recommend (unless Peyton Barber starts for the Bucs), let's get some solid RBs in here. I think Devontae Booker and Jay Ajayi (both $7K) are interesting options in fantastic matchups with New Orleans and San Diego, respectively. I'm happy to pay for Ezekiel Elliott in cash games, or consider Jordan Howard, Lamar Miller, or Mark Ingram in tournaments. This will force you to find value at WR3/FLEX, but it's there. If you'd rather spend up at receiver or build a somewhat riskier lineup, LeGarrette Blount, James White, Peyton Barber, C.J. Prosise or Darren Sproles are the less expensive options I'm considering at RB.
Nab one of the top three defenses, Houston, Minnesota or Arizona (unless the Jets start Bryce Petty) and you're left with just under $5K per player. The receivers I'm targeting alongside Jones and Matthews are guys with some PPR/big play upside…Davante Adams, Alshon Jeffrey, John Brown, Rishard Matthews, or Tyreek Hill. I prefer to use receiver or a receiving TE like Jimmy Graham in the flex this weekend.
- B.Or your starting point is: Expensive running back—David Johnson ($9,400 FanDuel)
I feel like I'd be a lot better off if I could figure out the Cardinals receiving situation week in and week out. It's like the Denver Nuggets' frontcourt… To get around that problem, and still get plenty of exposure to this week's highest implied team total, I'm starting with what should be everyone's number one play this week, David Johnson. He gets the best running back matchup and is the best running back. Pairing him with the inexplicably (given the talent around him) bad Carson Palmer covers all your Arizona bases and allows you to reap the stacking benefits on any receiving touchdowns to Johnson. I don't think anyone would be surprised if these two were tops at their positions this weekend.
Let's not waste a solid start on a bunch of fliers that are heavily reliant on injuries or game flow to meet value. I'd love to afford Elliott here, since the matchup with Pittsburgh should put his talents front and center, but if not I'm okay with the discount on Ajayi, Howard, or Matt Forte, who would be really busy if Petty starts for the Jets. At receiver, targets and matchups rule my process. A top 10 fantasy matchup and a recent average of around 10 targets per game put Jordan and Rishard Matthews, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Alshon Jeffrey, Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas in play here. Spend as much as you want, because at tight end I think you you can do all right with Lance Kendricks for the minimum ($4,500). He gets a fantasy-friendly matchup with the Jets despite the low point total on this game, and what's more important is the fact that he has around 10 targets per game over the last three, and is catching a majority of them. Round it out with another premier defense—the positions I don't want to skimp on for Week 10 are defense and running back. I've gone with the Rams here, because the Jets have given up the most fantasy points to opponents regardless of who's started at QB this season. If it's Petty, their ownership will go up, but that won't deter me.
Being aware of your starting point when building lineups at the outset can help you clarify the goals of the lineup and force you to recognize what trade-offs different starting points require. These are just a couple scenarios I've been playing with for Week 10. I recommend you look at Daily Fantasy Café's lineup optimizer to see what other options you can come up with based on these starting points or your own favorite lineup core.
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