Daily Fantasy Tips and Strategies

By Jen Ryan
Jen Ryan This year, I am back on the grind chasing those elusive million dollars that have eluded me since I saw the commercials promising to make me a millionaire by playing daily fantasy football. I love every aspect of chasing that top prize, and every other prize in between. The Sunday sweat is fun and riddled with anxiety, but it is the process leading up to Sunday that I am most passionate about. The research I put into my daily lineups is what really gets me going, and it is an ongoing process that begins on Tuesday mornings when salaries are released and runs all the way until lineup lock at 1PM on Sunday. Everyone has a process, and I encourage you to discover your own, but there are a few tips and strategies that people who do this for a living use, and I try to mimic those while implementing my own process. Here are the things I focus on throughout the week, each week, during the football season in my quest to become a millionaire playing fantasy football.

Vegas, Baby

Many of your favorite DFS professionals begin their week taking a look at the lines that the bookmakers in Las Vegas put out for the week’s slate of games. I try to mimic the professional players, so this is where I also begin my week. Bookmakers are very sharp and get paid the big bucks for a reason. These lines are useful in daily fantasy and are a great place to start. The logic is simple -- target games with high lines rather than low lines. The Atlanta Falcons constantly had high lines in their games in 2016, where they averaged almost 34 points per game, and it meant good money for daily fantasy. Matt Ryan, whose salary never exceeded $7,300, had eight games with at least 20 points in 2016. Games with high lines and close spread are the ones you want to target for your top players, as they indicate shootout potential. In a game with a larger spread, it makes sense to target the quarterback of the dog team, who will have a chance to rack up some points in garbage time. The flip side of high-line games are the low line ones. A matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Houston Texans would likely yield a low Vegas line, and you will want to consider rostering either defense. Lines should be observed in the beginning of the week, but pay attention to line movement as the week progresses.

To build on Vegas lines, player props are also something you should factor into your research. Props are an indicator of what the bookmakers expect from players in terms of receptions, carries, yards, pass attempts, etc. The lines are designed to be tight to draw the gambler (me!) in. Last season, DeMarco Murray’s total yardage prop hovered around the 96 yard mark. This was a bet I placed almost every week and utilized when building my daily lineups. In Week 9, Murray’s DraftKings price was $7,600, which was the second-highest price tag he had at that point in the season. He rushed for just 51 yards. The following week he rushed for a season-high 123 yards and scored a season-high 31 DraftKings points at a cost of just $6,900. While his cost was affected by his poor yardage output, his prop yardage was not, and he hit a 4.5x value that week.

Salary Fluctuation

Murray’s Week 10 is a great example of why we should be tracking salary every week. On FootballDiehards.com, we provide a page of salary each week for both of the big sites where we also give you each player’s Value-Factor, which is the Diehards forecasted fantasy score divided by salary per thousand. The larger the Value-Factor, the better. Value is one of the most commonly used terms in daily fantasy sports. We always want to find that right price on the right player to hit value. If a player’s salary continues to increase each week, that player’s chances of hitting value decrease. Conversely, as a player’s salary continues to dip, their chance at hitting value increases. The trick with tracking salary is to catch a player after a few down weeks or get ahead of his breakout. Jay Ajayi was one of the more hyped up players coming into the 2016. In Week 1, Coach Adam Gase shockingly told Ajayi to stay home for their road game against the Seattle Seahawks. People largely wrote Ajayi off at this point, and with good reason. It is never a good thing when a player is told to not even bother boarding the plane.

Over the next three games, Ajayi received a combined 18 carries and his salary never went above $4,000. Ajayi saw his first double-digit carry game (13) in Week 5, when his salary had dropped to a season-low $3,500. His salary saw no change in Week 6 when he broke out for a season-high 36.7 DraftKings on 26 total touches against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were ranked 25th against the run. Those who were looking for a cheap value at running back that week and noticed how Ajayi was being eased into a role with meaningful touches hit an absolute gold mine in Week 6.

Golden Tate experienced a similar Week 6. After opening the season at $7,300, Tate did next to nothing while Marvin Jones started strong and continued to increase in salary. In Week 6, he saw a season-low salary tag of $4,400 and scored a season-high 33.8 DraftKings points. This is exactly why we need to pay attention to salary. The fine line between the right price and the big week is the sort of thing that can win you one of these big prize pools.

Play the matchups

Sharp fantasy players looking to save money may have rostered Ajayi on that fruitful week based off the soft matchup against the Steelers’ run defense. Matchups are crucial in every format of fantasy football. As daily fantasy sports continue to evolve, so does information and analysis. A popular trend of analysis last season was the increased focused on wide receiver vs. corner back (WR/CB) matchups. Receivers are the bread and butter of daily fantasy, and gone are the days where we just pick a particular defense. We are now picking individual players, and it is the latest edge one can get in daily fantasy football. As I mentioned previously, the Atlanta Falcons were in high scoring games more times than not. Playing a receiver against the Falcons was not only intuitive for point total purposes but if you dug deeper into the stats you would know that Robert Alford was the right corner to pick. He gave up seven touchdowns in coverage last season and played a league-high 695 snaps in coverage. He played the majority of those snaps as the right corner, so it would make sense to look at the receiver on the opposing team who lines up for the majority of his snaps on the left side of the field. Taking analysis further to more advanced statistics is not only where you can find your edge and exploit a match-up but it is necessary to keep up with the rest of the field in large tournaments.

Seek out Opportunity

Opportunities arise in many ways in football. Injuries and suspensions are the obvious ways an opportunity may present itself to an understudy on the depth chart. You should always be keen to injury reports and when players are officially ruled out because injuries usually do not reflect in salary on the player’s backup. When a starting running back or the top receiver on a team gets injured, playing their cheap backup or WR is the easiest and most obvious way to save a few dollars in salary and roster a player that has a greater chance of hitting value with the opportunity they will be given.

You always want to dig a little bit deeper when it comes to analysis, and when it comes to opportunity there is not a person on the field who can facilitate opportunity more than the coaching staff. They determine who is on the field and for what amount of snaps. The more snaps a player gets on the field, the more his opportunity increases. It is important to track snap counts and targets, both tools which we offer on FootballDiehards.com. Knowing how often a player has been on the field and targeted over the past few weeks is another piece to the puzzle and another place to find your edge. Pay close attention to snap and target percentages for individual players and which direction those percentages are trending.

Tune into the Twitter Noise

If you do not already have a Twitter account, make one now. It is, in my opinion, the most underrated tool to utilize in fantasy football. Follow every name associated with fantasy sports you can think of, and then follow some of the people they follow. Look for lists of beat writers for all 32 teams. Find out the people who do this for a living are and follow them. Follow everyone in any fantasy football magazine you read this summer. You can even follow me if you want @FFdeJENerate. The point is, follow as many people related to fantasy football you can.

News, and rumors that later become news, almost always breaks on Twitter. Everyone from the top insider to the least-known beat reporter or daily fantasy tout has something to say throughout each week during the football season. The top network guys will have the inside knowledge on many of the game-time decision calls. If a beat reporter hears musings early in the week on the injury status of a player, you will want to monitor that as you go about your weekly research and roster building. If a top tout is talking up a sleeper on Monday and more touts get on the bandwagon, then Monday’s sleeper could trend towards being Friday’s chalk. Following these accounts can also give you an idea of ownership percentage projections, which is yet another area of the game you try to get an edge. Tune into the noise and absorb as much information as you are capable of. This will actually help you tune out the noise when it comes time to submit your final rosters before lock.

Know the Type of Player You (Realistically) Are

The number of people who play daily fantasy football professionally is incredibly small compared to those who don’t even come close to making a living off of it. If you are reading this, then chances are you are like me in the sense that daily fantasy football is something you put a lot of time into and you feel confident you are an above average player. If you are a lot like me, then you truly believe a large GPP is yours for the taking and you will work at it each week until you crack the code. Whether you grind out games, strictly play GPPs, or do a little bit of both, it is important to know the type of player you are. Casual or hardcore, know who you are and play within reason.

Bankroll management importance correlates, in my opinion, to the size of your bankroll. It is generally advised that daily fantasy players keep their entry fees at 10-20 percent of their bankroll. This is sound advice for those with large bankrolls, but I would actually advise against this popular notion when it comes to the more casual players. If you make a $100.00 deposit in Week 1 this season and want to spend half or even all of it on entry fees, go for it. The goal is to win and if you win, great, roll it over. If you don’t then there is always next week. Of course you want to build your bankroll over the course of the season, but if it does not work out that way, have a set number you are comfortable playing with each week.

Always do personal accounting. Track your entry fees and wins/losses. It is really important to have some perspective, and all of the sites allow you to download your history. Reflect back on your lineups and see where you got it right and wrong so you can adjust. If you wind up in a head-to-head or finishing close to a stud player, study their lineup as well and see where they got it right. I always analyze the lineup of the new millionaire every week, and any head-to-head I wind up with top players. Knowing how you play is as important as knowing the type of player you are.

Whether you have aspirations of becoming a full-time player or you just play a few head-to-heads with friends it does not matter -- daily fantasy football is for everyone! In its simplest form, you have 17 weeks during the regular season where you have a chance at a million dollar prize. Winning any prize large or small is not a random occurrence, especially in football. You have to put the time in and work at it to sniff success. Your research cycle should have a wash, rinse, repeat effect every week. Pay attention to some of the tips and strategies I gave you but create your own. It is all about nailing down your process -- and winning, of course.