NFL DFS: Roster Construction
Brett Talley covers the nuances to proper roster construction for NFL DFS contests
The beauty of playing daily fantasy football is that each week you get to pick from the entire NFL player pool with a completely new set of circumstances. Prices change, matchups are different every week, and player roles are fluid throughout the season. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to build a DFS lineup, but below are some general principles to follow when constructing your DFS rosters.
Find value in volume at RB
One of the easiest ways to find value in daily fantasy football is to find cheap backs that are going to touch the ball a lot. To identify these backs, you should take a set of projections (allow us to suggest the Fantasy Alarm projections) and divide a player’s salary by their number of projected touches. The lower the number the better. It’s easier to project volume than efficiency, so dollars spent per expected touch is preferable to dollars spent per projected fantasy point.
Often these value backs can be identified early in the week, but it’s not uncommon for these values to appear on Sunday morning when news breaks that certain players will be limited or unavailable that week. In those instances, the backup back sees his number of projected touches spike while his salary remains based on the expectation that he would not be the starter that week. Be vigilant in the hours before lock to identify late-breaking value.
We could easily use every word in this article to discuss the nuances of stacking, but in the interest of discussing multiple tenets of roster construction here, refer to these great articles from Chris Raybon breaking down data on stacking both on DraftKings and FanDuel. Below are some key takeaways from those articles.
The first takeaway is not all that surprising, but a quarterback and his WR1 is the most productive stack. Not exactly breaking news. But you might be surprised to learn that stacking a quarterback with his running back is the second most effective stack overall, not stacking a QB with his second or third receiver or his tight end. It’s also surprising how high the correlation is between a QB’s production and the opposing passing game. It’s completely viable to identify your QB and then also roster members of the opposing team’s passing game. And finally, two-man stacks are the most effective and three- and four-man stacks should be reserved for instances where the team has very favorable Vegas odds.
We’ll move on now, but seriously, go check out the articles linked above for more on this subject.
Be flexible at flex on DraftKings
There are certain league types where it makes sense to use players from a certain position more often than not in your flex spot, but the way DraftKings is set up makes it such that no one position is preferable at flex. Check out this article from Mike Clay discussing the best options at flex in various league types. The inclusion of a third wide receiver in DraftKings lineups swings the balance toward running backs at flex, but the fact that DK is also a PPR league swings the balance back towards receivers or even tight ends at flex. In the end, there’s no position you should give preference to at flex on DK.
Find the cheapest playable option at certain positions
When picking quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers and defenses, try to find the cheapest playable option. This should be a hard and fast rule when it comes to picking kickers and defenses, but you can be a bit less rigorous when picking tight ends and even a little less rigorous when picking quarterbacks. You’re almost always going to want to pay up for at least one expensive receiver if not two, and it will not always be possible to fill both RB positions with high volume guys with low price tags. You don’t want to skimp on RB1-WR1-WR2, so save elsewhere.
To identify the cheapest possible options at these other positions, lean heavily on Vegas lines. For kickers, find the cheapest kicker you can on a team with a high expected point total in Vegas. For defenses, find the cheapest defense you can that is facing a team with a low expected point total in Vegas. There’s also a good correlation between high expected point totals in Vegas and quarterback and tight end production. And for tight ends, you can also find value by calculating dollars spent per projected target like the value running back strategy discussed above.
Look for low ownership in GPPs
When it comes to large contests with top-heavy payouts, you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd to hit. You’re not being different just for the sake of being different, you’re being different because the conventional wisdom is so often wrong. A certain percentage of seemingly obvious plays will bust each week, and you benefit by rostering less obvious players when the chalk fails.
You don’t have to fill out an entire roster of contrarian options, but you should fade the most obvious options and try to include several players that are sure to be off the beaten path. To help identify the chalk and contrarian plays, utilize our projected ownership levels here at Fantasy Alarm throughout the season.
How to pick defenses
The key with defenses is finding defenses that will face a lot of passing plays. Fantasy point-scoring events like interceptions and sacks occur exclusively on passing plays, and fumbles actually occur more on passing plays than running plays. Defensive touchdowns are difficult to predict, but they're also more likely to occur on passing plays.
One of the best ways to identify defenses that will face a lot of passing plays is identifying Vegas favorites, preferably home favorites. And obviously the lower the opponent's expected point total in Vegas, the better the matchup for the defense.
Check the weather report
We’ve got a full article in the draft guide about the impact weather has, but the long and short of it is that members of the passing game are at risk when weather elements are in play. High winds and rain impact any passing game, and cold temperatures negatively affect the passing game of road teams who play their home games in a dome or in a warm weather city.