Daily Fantasy Research
No matter how much you want to believe otherwise, there’s no tool available to the masses that can automatically create profitable DFS lineups without any work on the user’s part.
Recently, there’s even been a trend of sites selling exact lineups (rosters) for DraftKings and FanDuel contests. Do not get tricked into buying these! Nobody is going to sell you winning lineups for a few dollars, when they could just play those rosters themselves and enter more contests. By selling their entries to you, they would be cutting into the profitability of the lineup to a point where it doesn’t make sense to sell it for just a few bucks.
Actual winners at daily fantasy, whether professional players or successful part time players, all do their own research and create their own rosters.
There’s a long list of factors that should go into decision making when creating daily fantasy rosters.
What to Research
There’s a long list of statistics and information winning DFS players use for deciding on which players to use in their rosters. Below we’ve listed many of the factors these players use for determining which players are good plays, for the 3 major sports.
Research Points for All 3 Major Sports (NFL, NBA, MLB)
- Player Salaries
- Short term and long term fantasy point averages.
- Projected Value, the projected fantasy points per dollar of salary a player costs.
- Average fantasy points per dollar for multiple lengths of time.
- Player volatility.
- Player statistical averages.
- Player statistical trends.
- Projections and averages of player opportunities.
- Team statistical averages.
- Team statistical trends.
- Player’s opponents team and positional defensive rating.
- Injuries and changes in players’ roles.
- Vegas Lines for the game a player’s playing in.
- And More.
NFL Specific Research Points
- Average snap counts of a player’s team and his opponents team.
- Red zone Targets.
NBA Specific Research Points
- Average and projected fantasy Points Per Minute.
- Player minute averages.
- Player minute trends.
- Team and Opposing team pace.
- Effects of injuries on production.
- Player Rest
MLB Specific Research Points
- Weather including temperature, air density, precipitation, etc.
- Ballpark Factors
- Batting Splits
- Pitching Splits
- Batting order position.
The intention of this was not to make you feel overwhelmed, but rather to be brutally honest about what goes into being successful at daily fantasy sports. Initially this may seems like a great deal of information to process each day, but with the right tools it takes less time than you may think.
When daily fantasy sports first started rising in popularity, it took players hours of researching multiple sources or an advanced knowledge of programming to get all of this information in one place. With the debut of lineup optimizer tools,everyone now has the ability to get ALL of this information in one place.
A good lineup optimizer should include all of the information you need to do your research. That’s why we only give high ratings to the products that do this.
As you get more and more familiar with the these tools, you’ll find that you’re able to accomplish all of your daily research in one hour (or even 30 minutes or less). You’ll also be giving yourself the opportunity to fine tune your strategy and give yourself a chance to actually make winning lineups.
Applying Your Research
Now that we’ve listed the types of things to look at when researching players, it’s time to discuss how to apply it to profitably entering daily fantasy contests. While we can’t include everything there is to know about winning at DFS in just this short section of this page, we’ll do our best to get you on the right track when applying data to your rosters. Keep in mind that each fantasy sport has its own specifics when playing DFS. For this reason we’ll focus on the major 3 sports as a whole.
All of the research points listed above are used to determine projected value and range of outcomes.
Value and Ranges of Outcomes
Value and ranges of outcomes are what daily fantasy is all about.
On some level, the way DFS works is rather simple. All players are given the same salary cap, prices on players, and roster requirements. Entries that score enough fantasy points are awarded money.
It can also be said, players who get the most value out of their fantasy dollars win. This is a very important idea and one you should be keeping in mind while creating your lineups. Your goal is to use your salary as efficiently as possible for the contest type you plan to enter with a given lineup(s).
The two most common “cash game” formats are double up (50/50s) and head to head contests. In both of these contests, your goal is to score the top 50% of all entries (in some double ups it’s slightly less than the top half to account for site fees). Everyone in the top half wins back double their entry fee (doubles their money).
When entering these contests, you need to remember what the goal of them actually is. There’s no benefit to coming in first place. No additional profits are gained for out scoring other members of the top 50%. For these reasons you should be focusing on finding high projected value players, who are consistent in their range of outcomes.
For determining projected value, the most obvious piece of information to look at is the lineup optimizer’s projected value for a player (DUH!). However, while the generators featured on this site have some of the best projections in the industry, you should not use them blindly. Make sure the projections make sense to you. See how a player’s projected value and projected fantasy points compare to his averages.
After looking at projected fantasy point stats and averages, start to consider the game environment the player is playing in. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Is a players match up better or worse than his average match up?
- Is the player’s team Vegas total higher or lower than the amount of points the team usually scores?
- How does the player’s current role compare to the role he’s had during the samples of averages your looking at?
If a player is playing in a positive game environment, it makes sense for his projected stats to better than his averages. If a player’s game environment is worse than it is on average, then it makes sense for his projected stats to be worse than his averages.
The next step in choosing your cash game players, is determining players’ consistency and “flloor”. One dud in a roster that is other wise successful, can be enough to derail your entire roster. While all players can have bad games, you should avoid players who you expect will “dud out” a high percentage of the time.
My favorite example of this is Boban Marjanovic, during the 2015-2016 NBA season. Boban was the definition of a high risk, high reward player. While Marjanovic was about as far down the bench as a NBA player can be, when he actually did get minutes, he put up insanely high production (look at some of his per 1 minute numbers). He mostly got minutes in blowout situations or when the Spurs were resting players.
At points during the season, it seemed completely reasonable to project him to play 15 minutes, which was plenty of time for him to justify or even crush his minimum price tag. The issue however, was that many of these games he ended up playing almost no minutes. When the Spurs failed to blow teams out in these situations, Boban owners were sometimes left with a zero point spot in their rosters.
Boban was a perfect example of why you need to factor in a player’s range of outcomes in DFS. While his projections might have been good, his consistency and floor was awful, making him a bad cash game pick.
When wanting to determine a players consistency, look at indicators like the following:
- All of the lineup optimizer options we highly recommend have player consistency/volatility ratings built into them.
- Opportunities (for NBA, this would be things like minutes and FGA) and fantasy point averages over various stretches.
- Injuries – If a player has teammates injured, this can secure his minutes and opportunities.
It’s worth noting that upside is another thing to consider in cash games. A player who far exceeds his value can make up for under performing members of your roster. Upside though plays its biggest role in GPP Tournaments.
GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) Tournaments are contests where usually around 20% of the field gets paid. First place wins the most money, with subsequent pay levels each earning less. Perhaps the most famous example of a GPP is DraftKings NFL Millionaire Maker, where first place wins $1,000,000 for just a $20 buy in.
In these tournaments player and roster upside should be your focus.
Your goal is to create an entry not just capable of cashing, but capable of getting first place. Your roster should contain players who can not only hit their value target, but surpass it.
While Boban Marjanovic was a poor cash game pick in the example above, he often was an excellent GPP play. On January 21st, 2016 Boban scored 35 DraftKings fantasy points in just 21.5 minutes of play, at a rock bottom price of $3,200. On $3,200 of salary in daily fantasy basketball you usually aim to gain 16-20 FP, a number Boban far surpassed this day. If this pick was paired with an otherwise successful lineup, it could have been enough to take down first place in some major GPPs.
Another player factor to consider when playing GPPs is ownership, something not brought up until now. Ownership is the percentage that the field of entries owns a particular player. With the goal of GPPs being to beat hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of players, having low owned players who perform big can really set your lineup apart from the field.
While having low owned players can certainly be beneficial, i think it’s an over emphasized talking point in daily fantasy sports. It’s not that i think it’s unimportant, it’s the fact low ownership often occurs naturally when looking for players with high upside.
While players with higher projections (who will be highly owned) often also have high upside, players with sub par projections can have similar upside. If you’re choosing to expose yourself to high upside, lower projected value player, you’ll already be including low owned players in your GPP entries.
Here are some research points to pay attention to in your lineup optimizer, while researching players for GPP contests.
- Consistency/Volatility Rating – While in cash games you want this rating to show consistency, volatile players can be great for GPPs.
- Players with high Vegas team totals, but large spreads (NBA specific). This is often an indicator of a blowout, which means starters won’t get their typical allotment of minutes. This can make it worth playing these starters in GPPs, for when the games end up staying close and they get their full minutes in what’s most likely a soft match up. You can also look to big up bench players from games with a high likelihood of being a blowout, as they’ll often get extra minutes when the blowout happens early.
- Pick players with some good research points and some bad. For instance, if a player has a good positional match up, but a low team total, you can choose this player hoping he does the majority of production for this team.
- Picking tier two players. When making cash lineups you often end up with a roster of players with the best projected value, best match ups, etc. This however does not mean that there aren’t players with almost as much appeal, who will come with far lower ownership.
Creating Your Lineups
Now that we’ve discussed how to use an optimizer to do your DFS research, it’s almost time to actually discuss creating lineups. But before we do, it’s important to talk about how many lineups you should make in your DFS contests.
How Many Lineups Should You Enter Into DFS Contests?
Like many aspects of DFS, the answer to this question depends on the contest type you’re playing.
In Cash Games, the number of different rosters to use is a hotly debated topic. Some winning players believe the best strategy to be running just one roster (although often for multiple entries into the same contests), while others like to play multiple rosters. There are Pros and Cons to both options and ultimately I’d say it’s a matter of personal preference.
The arguments for creating just one lineup for cash games is that, based off your DFS research, you should be able to determine one optimal lineup in terms of expected fantasy points. With this sentiment, all subsequent lineups are viewed as having worse expectation, thus making them less profitable than the original. Fans of the one roster cash game strategy see no reason to give up expectation for the sake of diversity.
Multiple roster DFS cash game players argue that, while subsequent rosters might be slightly inferior to the first, the reduced risk is worth it. By spreading your entries on lineups with some unique players, you limit your risk of losing near 100% of your investment on a given day.
While the decision is ultimately up to you, you should consider the fact that many of the people in the one lineup camp have huge DFS bankrolls, something you likely don’t have the luxury of. It likely is beneficial for new players to diversify their exposure, thus cutting down on the big losing days (which all DFS players have). You shouldn’t go too overboard though with multiple cash game rosters. The sweet spot for most players is 2-10 unique cash games rosters, with the majority of players in the lower end of that spectrum.
In GPP Tournaments the discussion on how many different rosters to use is much less debated. Many GPP contests allow you to enter up to 150 or more entries into them. These contests are often populated with weak DFS players, as they’re drawn to the allure of giant first place prizes.
Most winning GPP “regulars” will take advantage of this by entering the maximum number of entries, using all unique lineups. This gives them more exposure to soft contests, while also diversifying their risk. This is once again an example where a lineup optimizer levels the playing field for all players. There is nothing to stop you from replicating this strategy with access to the right tools.
There are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when multi entering tournaments:
- Don’t enter the same lineup multiple times. The idea of multiple entries is to give yourself a better chance at finishing in a top position. Using the same lineup multiple times doesn’t accomplish this.
- Avoid being too large a percentage of the field in any one GPP. You likely don’t want to ever be more than 1-2% of all entries in a field. More than this and you start competing against yourself too much (assuming your a strong DFS player, you’re adding additional strong entries your rosters competing against).
- Favor playing more entries in lower buy in GPPs over playing fewer entries in higher buy in GPPs. This will diversify your risk, while also allowing you to invest more buy ins into softer competition (as typically the lower the buy in, the softer the competition).