Building a DFS lineup can be a daunting task. The salary cap system is vastly different from a typical snake draft, and the potential player combinations are quite literally endless. In this article, I’ll be laying out some of my favorite DFS strategies and tips to help you sift through those difficult decisions and set your lineups with confidence.
Stars and Scrubs
One of the most difficult things about building a DFS lineup is deciding how to allocate your salary cap. If you try to jam in the top players at each position, you’ll quickly find yourself out of money with several spots still unfilled. However, if you opt for mid-tier players across the board, you’ll likely be underwhelmed by the end result. The happy medium that many DFS players settle for is called a “stars and scrubs” lineup. Essentially, you choose a handful of expensive players to anchor your team, and then fill the remaining slots with cheap players. I prefer to spend up for RBs. But, there’s nothing wrong with splurging for a Tyreek Hill or George Kittle now and again.
In tournaments, you’ll want to fill those extra slots with boom-or-bust players that can propel you up the leaderboard with a big performance. In cash games, you’re better off chasing scrubs with higher floors.
Building Stacks and Targeting High-Scoring Games
Stacking is the best way to create upside in your lineups. When a quarterback has a huge game, you’ll often find that one or more of his pass-catchers exceeded expectations. If Drew Brees throws for 350 yards and 3 TDs, there’s a good chance that Michael Thomas will finish among the top WRs that week.
In large tournaments, “mega-stacking” is my go-to strategy. If there’s a game on the slate that projects to be a high-scoring shootout, roster multiple players on one team and then run it back with one or more players on the opposing team. Let’s say, for example, the Falcons are playing the Saints in New Orleans. You know Brees vs. Ryan matchups are notoriously high-scoring, and Vegas has set the line at +/- 49 points. You could roster Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara, and then run it back with Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst on the other side. While it’s possible that you end up picking the wrong guys (maybe it’s a big Julio Jones game or Jared Cook catches 2 TDs), if the final score is 35-34, there’s a good chance that you racked up some massive point totals.
If you’re entering multiple lineups, either in a single tournament or across several, you can always vary your stacks. For example, you could create a second lineup with Julio Jones and Russell Gage instead, and start Jared Cook at TE. Or even play Matt Ryan instead of Drew Brees. The more exposure you have in those high-scoring matchups the better.
If a high percentage of DFS lineups contain a particular player, that player is “chalk.” In your tournament lineups, you’ll mostly want to avoid playing chalk because it limits your ability to distance yourself from the field. For example, if Tyreek Hill went down with an injury, Mecole Hardman would likely become a chalk play the following week. You could choose to roster Hardman, but, even if he has a big game, you won’t be at an advantage because he’s in so many lineups. However, if you chose to play Demarcus Robinson instead, and he scored 2 TDs, you would be at a massive advantage over the field.
Please keep in mind that you don’t always have to stay away from chalky players. Sometimes a player’s value is too good to pass up, especially if that player is elevated due to an injury. If Zeke gets hurt in practice, and Tony Pollard becomes the Cowboys starter priced at just $4,900, you’re going to play him regardless of his ownership percentage.
Cash Games and 3-100 Contests
Head-to-head and 50/50: For cash games, you’ll want to get out of the tournament mindset. In a head-to-head, you only need to outscore one opponent rather than thousands. In 50/50s every player in the top 50% of scorers receives the same payout. This means that you should be more risk-averse and focused on more than just upside. Instead, a player’s floor becomes just as important as his ceiling. Build your lineup around players who are locked into large roles. If you have to plug in some cheaper players, chase volume over big-play ability.
3-100: These contests are like tournaments, but on a much smaller scale. You face off against a small group of opponents, typically 3, 5, 10, 20, or 100, and the top few scorers win prizes. In terms of strategy, these contests are really the middle ground between tournaments and cash games. You want to consider upside because you’re aiming for the top score. But, you don’t need to worry too much about differentiating yourself from the field or avoiding chalky players since there are so few lineups.
When it comes to winning consistently in DFS, game theory is only one part of the equation. You’ll still need to sift through the available options each and every week and select the correct players. In my weekly column, which will be posted every Saturday throughout the season, I’ll highlight some of my favorite stacks and values in an attempt to make those choices easier.
Thanks for reading this article! Look me up on Twitter at @fantasyfreezer if you’d like to hear more from me. I love answering fantasy questions, discussing trades, and engaging in friendly debates, so be sure to drop in and say hello.