You know the expression, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat?” The same holds true for setting your weekly football lineups. Today I’m going to take you through my thought process. I’m not going to be so bold and decree it the best way. It’s my way, nothing more, nothing less. Even if you don’t agree with or adapt this process, hopefully there will be some elements that spurn some thought that you can incorporate into your own procedure.

1. KICK THINGS OFF WITH YOUR KICKER

Not all sites use kickers but for those that do, I’ll knock him of right away. I’ve done ample studies as pertains to traditional fantasy football to conclude waiting on a kicker is optimal. Presently, my strategy is to take what I perceive to be the best option from those priced just above the least expensive kickers, unless there are multiple options at the lowest price. If this is the case, I’ll take the one I like best. So I suppose to a degree I am a lemming – but not for long.

I’m not 100 percent convinced looking cheap is best but conventional wisdom says to spend the minimum. I’m not one to adhere to anything because someone else said so. As such, I am crunching some numbers which I will present on Friday and draw my own conclusion.

For what it’s worth, the reason I go a price point or two above the cheapest is for contrarian effect. Many will blindly choose the lowest priced so this way I’m still spending very little but could have a player with a smaller percent ownership which is especially useful in GPPs.

2. ARM YOURSELF WISELY

Next up is quarterback which is akin to starting pitching in DFS baseball. Again, conventional advice is to play it safe in cash games and take chances in tourneys. Like kicker, this is an area I’m, currently investigating and will present Friday. I should note that while I dabble on all sites, I much prefer playing with two quarterbacks.

The main reason is flexibility. Sure, on one QB sites you can pay a lot, pay a little or somewhere in between. But on 2-QB sites, you can go with two studs, two scrubs, two middle-of-the-pack or a combination. There’s always a couple choices I really like and since I’m not quite the volume player as others, give me a 2-QB site so I can play more guys without entering a bunch more contests.

To be honest, I’m really not sure there is a best way to approach QB – either in a tourney or cash game. I had a theory in baseball and that was there was a major pricing inefficiency between hitters and pitchers as a result of the depressed offensive environment. The end-result was a plethora of cheaper hitters so using a better pitcher in GPPs was not only defensible, but viable since it was, in a weird way, a contrarian move (assuming other sheep follow the herd with cheap starters). While I don’t think there’s the same pricing inefficiency in football, there are definitely more starters that emerge each week that are underpriced. Some may still go cheap at QB and upgrade elsewhere. Why can’t you upgrade at QB as well? Again, numbers are better than perception so I’ll present this study as well.

3. NOTHING YOU COULD SAY CAN TEAR ME AWAY FROM MY GUY

Nothing you could do, ‘cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy. I’m pretty sure Mary Wells didn’t have fantasy football in mind when she sang those words. The next step of my process is to identify the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends I simply must use – that is, my guys. This emanates from a week of research, studying matchups, getting opinions from others, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bargain, though by extension if you feel a player will go off that week, he’ll also give a decent bang-for-the-buck, regardless of price. The point is, my guy can come from any price point. I’m looking for the biggest discrepancy between salary and expectations.

4. THE EARLY BIRD MAY GET THE WORM, BUT THE LATE BIRD GETS THE BARGAIN

With the caveat that some from this step may already be on my roster from the previous step, the next, and perhaps most important part of my process is to find the players that are announced as starters very close to kickoff, specifically of the very inexpensive variety.

There’s a subtle difference between those of this group and that of the previous one. I expect the players in the above group to go off whereas I’m hoping these do, but since they’re starting they have a reasonable chance to at worst return their minimal investment.

5. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Well, maybe this is hyperbolic as pertains to weekly football but I do feel they’re more relevant than a kicker. They’re also the easiest to handicap since they won’t get hurt and replaced last minute – they’re always active. Okay, most of the time, those that used the New England Patriots on Monday night may beg to differ. Again, more intuition than number crunching but I’m willing to spend a little more than rock-bottom on defense but there is ample variance to fade the top-priced units.

6. LATHER, RINSE, REPEAT.

After filling in the remaining spots, one of two things is almost always the case. You’re over-budget or have a bunch of space under the cap. Rarely are you close enough to call it a day.

Let’s start with under. You’re no longer worried about bang for the buck; you want to upgrade to add the most potential points, simple as that. I’ve often wondered how close to the cap is close enough not to keep looking for something better. The bottom line is don’t force yourself to be exactly at the cap. Go with the lineup you like the best.

If you’re over, it’s a matter of taking away the fewest points with your changes. There’s usually a couple of lesser priced players you already have in mind that could be subbed in. Otherwise it’s a game of musical line-up spots until you’re under the cap.

By means of a step-wise review…

  1. Pick the kicker
  2. Pick the quarterback
  3. Pick the no-brainer spots
  4. Pick the bottom-priced players that are injury replacements
  5. Pick the defense
  6. Tweak so you’re under the cap

Something that needs to be addressed is the flex spot. My sense is for cash games, running backs are better but for tourneys, the upside of a wide-out is worth the risk. I want to add this to the topics requiring further investigation.

Speaking of which, here’s a list if current research that will soon be presented.

  1. Optimal price point for kicker
  2. Optimal price point for quarterbacks
  3. Maximum safe amount to leave under the cap
  4. Optimal position for flex

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back Friday with a look at the first two.

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