If this is your first daily fantasy NFL season boy are you in for a treat. Think about your favorite daily fantasy game and then multiply it by about 100x. Once you complete that feat you will begin to understand the volume during the NFL season. It is an extremely competitive sport as well, due to there being only 16 weeks, longer times to research and generally, Fantasy Football has been the most popular option of fantasy sports to date.
This is not meant to shy you away from playing games, the volume is incredible and the experience to watch your lineups rank as the games play is incredible. Not to mention, if your star RB goes down with an injury, you start fresh the next week or even the same day.
In this article we will provide you a brief primer into each position, sharing GPP and Cash Game strategies for each as well as a special GPP section giving insight on how you can have a share of $1M prize pools.
If you are running out of time, book mark this article and dailyfantasycafe.com this season to keep you up to date and sharp during our NFL season.
NFL is a much different sport in a sense of you only less than 20 days to prove yourself in the sport. In NBA or MLB terms that's less than a month of the season. Being said, we must make certain that we are making the most plus expected value plays throughout the season. Below, I will discuss the nuances of each position, what to look for, where to find value, and ultimately how to research each position.
Each and every position will begin with Vegas lines. This is where I begin creating a short list of options that need to be researched further. A high Vegas total is a proxy for fantasy success. By targeting players in high totals you are essentially giving yourself an advantage over the rest of the field that doesn't look at Vegas. It almost feels like cheating, being able to see the result of Las Vegas expensive models that predict games, however, it is not, so make certain that each position has a conductive game script from Las Vegas that bodes well.
If you are coming from the daily fantasy baseball space, the Quarterback is to your NFL roster as your pitcher is to your MLB roster. This is arguably the most important position on your team because they are the most consistent and usually the highest scoring position week in and week out. If you screw up on your Quarterback position say good bye to your week, however, if you nail your Quarterback position, that alone can carry you through a good amount of games.
For a cash game Quarterback you will want safety and a high floor. This means that you will be targeting the elite, passing Quarterbacks of the game. Think of high volume and efficient passers such as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. Those are your prototypical cash game Quarterbacks were you could expect them to throw between 30 and 40 pass attempts game in and game out.
When I am deciphering a matchup for my cash game Quarterback, I look at the opposing teams pass defense and understand its current season ranking and why it bodes well or not well. NFL has an extremely short sample size each season; you could be an elite defense by week 16, however, after 4 weeks be in the bottom half due to playing Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. My favorite way to attack a matchup is by deciphering first, who truly is a poor pass defense team, then targeting teams that are missing their key pieces. When I speak about key pieces, I mean lock down cornerbacks or elite pass rushers sitting out. When an opposing team loses a single key part of their defense, I look to pounce and attack with a solid Quarterback.
For a GPP Quarterback, similar metrics can be said, except you are working with expected ownership as well. In a week where Aaron Rodgers has an amazing matchup and costs less than Peyton Manning who is in an average or below average matchup, the ownership difference can be 30% or greater. In that case we would be targeting Peyton Manning in the perceived weaker matchup because of his ownership purely.
Also, GPP Quarterbacks I take much more risk. I look to target value Quarterbacks that have a perceived game script that bodes well to them yet has far too much risk associated with them. These game scripts may consist of a medium volume Quarterback that loses his top running back. Typically, when these scenarios happen the Quarterback is asked to pick up the volume and throw more passes. This is a great spot to gain value with a Quarterback.
My last methodology for GPP Quarterbacks is to go back to my original short list and begin breaking down each Quarterback more in depth (you should have been doing this the entire time) as well as including what is their biggest drawback. Is it the matchup, coming off of an injury, weather etc. What is the factor that is going to drive their ownership down significantly? When you look at each factor, you then reverse engineer how this could work out in your favor. This is most easily done as described below with difficult matchups for stars because some stars are matchup proof.
Each week we will cover Quarterbacks for cash and GPPs on DailyFantasyCafe.com
Opportunity, opportunity, and opportunity – this is the most important part of your running back research. We want to target running backs on team that pound that ball and are given the opportunity to score touchdowns. Last year, Demarco Murray and Marshawn Lynch were your prototypical running back targets because they were given volume carries and the ball in red zone for touchdown opportunities.
Each week, I take a look at the league leaders in rushing attempts as well as yards after contact. I want running backs that are given the volume and have the ability to break a long touchdown or gain an extra 2 yards on every carry.
Next, I take a look at the opposing rush defense of the given opponent that week. If you can target a volume carry back against a team that cannot stop the run, you are in a phenomenal spot. Similar to Quarterbacks, we want to target teams that are missing important parts of defense in the middle. This might be a run stopping linebacker or a lineman that plugs the gaps. This is a great source of information that isn't always known by the public.
Finally, you want to stay on top of injuries throughout the week at the running back position. If a running back is OUT of the backfield that given week, those carries are redistributed elsewhere. If you came from the season long leagues, this is similar to handcuffing your starting running back with his backup. When Arian Foster goes down, and you have Alfred Blue, you are expecting Alfred Blue to take the bulk of carries.
Game scripts are also extremely important; if you can target a volume running back as a high Vegas favorite you are putting yourself in a great position at gaining above season average fantasy points. Think about Demarco Murray in a game where the Cowboys are projected to win by 14 versus a game they are projected to lose by 10. When playing from behind, a team must score touchdowns and move the ball in a hurry, therefore taking away from the run game. If a team is winning by double digits, we hear the term “run out the clock” which is music to our ears if we have the running back in that situation.
When it comes to GPPs, I follow a similar approach to Quarterbacks. I will target an elite running back in a below average matchup over a running back in a great matchup. Ownership is key in GPPs and when you are able to score an elite running back that is less than 5% owned and is the highest scoring back on the week, you are in a great position.
Also, for GPPs I almost always fade the chalk value play. Whenever we have what seems to be the easiest play of the week at running back, they are 40%+ owned in GPPs. You aren't gaining an edge on the field by playing him, however, when you fade and he doesn't perform you gain a significant edge on the field. This is the hardest concept to grasp so think of it in coaches terms. He is a backup because he is less talented, and just because he is starting doesn't mean he will get a similar amount of carries to the injured starting running back or be as productive with them. This is my favorite GPP strategy and one that tends to go easily overlooked.
This is what I consider the bonus position. You have (3) Wide Receivers to choose from to put on your roster in hopes of returning a big game or touchdown. When it comes to wide receivers, I target opportunity. As we previously mentioned, you will want to target those in high Vegas total games.
That should give you a shortlist of wide receivers that are in high scoring games that will yield more fantasy points. The next step down is to target those wide receivers that are gaining the most volume in general or seeing the most red zone targets. The name of the game here is touchdowns. I like to think of my wide receivers as one main position that is distributed amongst (3) players. The reason behind this is that, it is very easy to select Calvin Johnson every single week but then your other (2) wide receivers will inevitably be much cheaper and likely less talented. This is the one position where finding value is most important. I typically go balanced across the board with wide receivers in good spots to score a touchdown, that are priced, in what I believe is incorrect.
The best way to find value for your wide receiver is when your #1 or #2 wide receiver is injured and a replacement level receiver sees more volume. Last season when Calvin Johnson was injured, we saw Golden Tate have an increase in targets per game and output as well. He became a premium value play that gave us an edge over the competition. By targeting players in these type of spots, you can save salary and gain a “#1” volume receiver at a “#2” price tag.
The next three positions are the hardest to predict and can give you a significant edge on the field if you nail it correctly. Last season there were two very different ways to play the tight end position. Some played it similarly to shortstop in MLB, where because the talent was less the opportunity cost was more – I.E. Troy Tulowitzki and Rob Gronkowski. Others played the position as a punt and found the best value at the position.
Personally, my strategy is to pay up for my Quarterbacks and Running Backs as they are more predictive, which forces me to pay down at tight end. It is very easy if you are spending money at tight end, Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham and next.
If you are following my strategy you will want to take a look deeper into the matchups.
Opposing Teams Linebackers
One way to find value at the tight end position is by reviewing the pass coverage ability of opposing teams tight ends. A linebacker might be great at stopping the run, but struggle against the pass. In these scenarios, I will research the teams tight end and find if value exists.
Opposing Teams Secondary
One of my favorite ways to decide if a tight end is worthy is based on the opposing teams cornerbacks. The goal of a cornerback is to allow minimal attempts in his direction. When a cornerback is covering a wide receiver tightly, they are forced to look elsewhere. In these scenarios, tight ends are in great positions to see more volume, specifically in the red zone. Many players make the mistake of grouping pass defense with wide receivers and tight ends. My goal is to look at these separately and decide if a tight end will see more volume on a given week.
My defensive strategy is based on a pure sentence. The goal for your defensive team is to select a team that creates a lot of turnovers and shuts down opposing teams that is facing a team that does not score much and allows lots of turnovers. That rarely happens, so your goal is to get as close to that as possible.
When I am making decisions, I focus in on the defense and their ability to generate turnovers in a given scenario. I love targeting defenses in bad weather, due to the lack of offense that occurs in these games and the opportunity for fumbles and interceptions due to slippery conditions.
I look at the D/ST as a wild card and go for as much upside as possible in all-game types. If you have the top defense of the weak, you have typically a 10-15 point advantage on the field. This can propel you through all the standings. The only way to do this is by creating defensive touchdowns and turnovers, which is a result of aggressive teams.
Kickers are my least favorite part of the game, and personally, very hard to predict. First and foremost, you do not want to pay up for a kicker. My top strategy is to look at each game total and select a kicker from the highest game that is not on my Quarterback or Running Backs team.
A kickers success comes from kicking field goals. When he is scoring lots of points, it means that your team is not scoring touchdowns. The process is as detailed below:
- List top 10 projected scoring NFL teams for given week.
- Remove teams that have your Quarterback and Running backs on them.
- List kicker and salary for remaining teams and look for best value.
By following these steps, you are not negatively impacting your team's performance, yet still giving yourself upside and opportunity at the position.
If you are familiar with MLB DFS you know the benefits and controversy of stacking. While not as extreme, stacking is still a very important aspect of daily fantasy NFL.
Definition: Stacking in the NFL is when you pair players from the same team. This is most typically done with a quarterback and his wide receivers and tight end or a D/ST with that teams running back.
I.E. QB/WR or QB/TE or QB/WR/TE or QB/WR/WR or RB/D/ST
The reason we stack in MLB is to increase upside. When we stack a team that explodes for 10+ runs, we accumulate a maximum amount of fantasy points from that team. For example when we have two adjacent players in the batting order and one walks while other hits a home run we receive points for the walk, run, home run and RBI. This is correlation and upside.
The NFL is no different; a QB cannot pass to himself, therefore a teammate must be recipient of his touchdown. When you have that pairing every yard and touchdown is essentially multiplied, maximizing the amount of points on a single play. When you have Tony Romo and Dez Bryant stacked together and they connect for 180 yards and 2-TDs, you have maximized the amount of points possible with that combination. You essentially get credit for 360 yards and credit for (4) touchdowns, even though those plays only accounted for 185 yards and (2) touchdowns.
This is an essential GPP strategy because if a quarterback has a big game, it is highly likely that one of his wide receivers does as well.
One other stacking strategy that is far less common is the D/ST and running back combination. When you break it down, if a defense is dominating, that typically means that team is winning that game. If a team is winning a game, they select the run over the pass and essentially gives our running back more opportunities.
One of my favorite GPP lineup construction strategies is the following which I will highlight below.
QB – Team 1
RB – Team 2
RB – Team 3
WR – Team 1
WR – Team 4
WR – Team 5
TE – Team 1
D/ST – Team 2
Kicker – Team 6
This is a high upside roster constructed with correlation throughout.
The NFL is a different “beast” due to the nature of the sport. Matchups, injuries, opportunities, coaching schemes and more change on a week-to-week basis. Throughout this season the staff at Daily Fantasy Cafe will breakdown the weeks slate and help you navigate your way to a profitable season.