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   An Introduction to Daily Fantasy Football

May 22, 2024
Al Lackner
Daily Fantasy Leagues

What is Daily Fantasy Football?

The NFL is unique in sports in that games are played on a weekly basis as opposed to daily as is the case with baseball, for example. The concept of a Daily league, thus, originated with Baseball -- just as much of what we love about fantasy originated with the diamond sport. So the name itself is a bit misleading for Football, as it isn't necessarily a Daily contest -- but a Weekly one.

Now that I have cleared that up, let's elaborate on what it is. A Daily Fantasy Football League is one in which you can manipulate your roster on a weekly basis. You can pick and choose who you want in your lineup, regardless of whether or not those players are already in someone else's lineup that week. Formats vary, but in general you draft a new team each week by filling out a roster while keeping your salary cap under a specified amount.

These leagues are hosted on the web by sites such as Draft Kings and Fan Duel.

How are the players' salaries determined?

Each of the the organizations that host these leagues have very complicated algorithms that determine the salary for each player. Past performance is key. The algorithms are based on documented history surrounding the player and weigh such factors as volume, opportunity and strength of schedule. For that reason, elite fantasy players like Aaron Rodgers and Antonio Brown will come with a very high weeky price tag.

What is the format?

In general, you will have a set salary cap for an entire lineup. Different sites/games present different lineup formations, but a common one is 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 PK, 1 D/ST, and 1 Flex position, where the Flex can be RB, WR or TE. You will have a total cap ($100,000 is common) to spend on an entire team. Your goal is to spend the money wisely to put together the best team that you can put on the field with that budget. Strategies vary (see below) on how to best do this.

Putting a roster together based on salary allocation is only part of the puzzle. The next thing you will need to do is figure out which game -- and there are several options. The three most common types of games include: 50/50, Head-to-Head and Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP).

Head-to-Head games are probably what fantasy owners are most familiar with. It emulates the tried-and-true format of matching up two teams against one another -- winner take all.

50/50 games come in all shapes and sizes, but the concept is the same. Amongst a large pool of gamers, the top half of the participants split the pot while the bottom half get nothing.

GPP games, meanwhile are the contests that you hear about on radio and TV ads all the time. You know, the guy who brags that "I turned a $175 investment into over $62,000!" These games typically have hundreds (or even thousands) of players battling it out for their share of the large pot. However, instead of getting a 50/50 shot at winning (as is the case with the other two contests above), prizes are only paid out to a substantially smaller percentage of participants. The top 10 (again out of possibly thousands of entries) win big money, while the lower winning brackets (usually the top 5% to 10% of players) win consolation prizes. Obviously, these games are high risk - high reward.

What is the best strategy to win?

It depends on the format. In general, for the Head-to-Head and 50/50 games, filling your lineup with high floor players is the way to go, whereas high ceiling is the way to go for GPP games.

More specifically, in the Head-to-Head and 50/50 contests you basically have even odds of winning, so your best bet is to be smart and play it safe. In Head-to-Head contests you will want to invest your allotted salary cap on players that you are very confident will have a good week and guaranteed production. That means investing a great deal, for example, on proven players. With lower level players, you will want to look closely for guys who will get their share of carries/receptions as opposed to boom-or-bust guys who may score a TD that week. That is what I mean by high-floor players: solid and consistent players who are very unlikely to bust. If you have been playing in organized fantasy leagues for years, then this may be the best format for you, as you only have to beat a single opponent, and if you know what you are doing you should be able to out-maneuver most other combatants. The down-side, of course, is that the payouts are nothing special.

Like the Head-to-Head contests the 50/50 contests give you even odds of winning -- but the paydays tend to be better (depending on the number of registered players). My strategy for this format differs slightly from that of the Head-to-Head contests in that I like to to weigh high-ceiling upside but low-cost players with proven and consistent high-floor players with good price values. Your goal should be to stack a team with great value selections that you hope will meet (or even beat) expectations. In order to win money all you have to do is outperform half of the other contestants. Keeping yourself informed by checking out our Best Bets, Sit or Start and Player Rankings features each week is key.

Since GPP is by it's very nature much more risky, it also follows that you would want to be a bit riskier with your selections for your line-up. Why play it safe and be good, when you can gamble a bit and possibly be great? In this format, it is fine (of course) to spend heavily on sure-thing studs -- but you will want to handle your lower-dollar players a bit differently. Now, instead of the players who may get you guaranteed-but-limited production, you will want to dig deep for real diamonds in the rough. Look for the guy that may be ready for a breakout game. You want the high ceiling -- or upside -- players.

As you can imagine, in addition to game types, you will also want to pay close attention to other factors such as the number of participants, player pricing, scoring rules, lineup requirements, etc.. Also, everyone has their own preferences and tolerance for risk. Testimonials exist for players who have won big in these GPP contests -- but your chances of winning big are miniscule.

Most importantly, we will have a weekly column, which will highlight the players that we have identified as good buys based on their assigned salary for the given week.

How do I get started?

Head over to Fan Duel to get started today!

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