The Fantasy Football Millionaire, aka the Milly Maker, is an extremely unique tournament. It often has close to 200,000 entries, roughly 30% of the prize pool is awarded to first place and someone wins an absurd $1 million on a $20 buy-in.
Because this tournament is so unique, optimal strategy strays significantly from the norm. It’s very easy and lazy to simply say we need to pick the best players. Of course we do. But there’s a lot more strategy we can employ beyond that in terms of ownership, roster construction, flex usage and stacking. By optimizing a strategy beyond “pick the right players,” we give ourselves a repeatable process that hopefully accentuates our chance – albeit a very small one – to ship the milly.
Last year, I looked at trends in $27 buy-in or under Milly Maker winners from the 2016 and 2017 seasons — a sample of 29 tournaments. Now I’m going to add in 2018’s 16-tournament sample and answer some commonly asked questions.
This data was generated using the Contest Dashboard tool on FantasyLabs.
1. SHOULD I AVOID POPULAR PLAYERS?
Absolutely not. Note that 38-of-45 of Milly Maker winners (84.4%) over the past three seasons have rostered at least one player more than 20% owned. If we go a step further, 21-of-45 (46.6%) rostered at least one player more than 30% owned. Of course we want to avoid low-floor and #bad plays at inflated ownership, but we don’t have to simply fade the chalk for the sake of it. Many times there are good reasons a player is more than 20% owned. Using that player in a smart way while keeping Average Cumulative Ownership — aka ACO — in mind (see below) is ideal.
2. SHOULD I USE A VERY LOW-OWNED PLAYER?
Yes. A whopping 43-of-45 winners (95.5%) rostered at least one player less than 5% owned. And 22-of-45 (48.8%) rostered at least one player less than 2% owned. The key here is to note these typically aren’t bad players or guys who barely see the field. They’re typically good players who are overlooked on a given week due to an inflated price, tough matchup or depth at a position. For example, in Week 16 of last season the Packers played at the Jets. Because Ezekiel Elliott was 41.4% owned at $9,000, many users tried to save money at QB. A struggling Aaron Rodgers came in at 3.15% and Marquez Valdes-Scantling was 1.87%.
3. SHOULD I USE ALL OF MY SALARY CAP?
I typically use at least $49,700 of the $50,000 salary cap in my lineups, especially in cash games. It’s worth noting 42-of-45 winners (93.3%) used at least $49,700 of their cap. Compare that against all Milly Maker entries, which only used $49,700 or more 81.1% of the time. One thing to keep in mind is we must avoid duplicating lineups with our opponents in order to have a positive expectation. Of course chopping $1M two ways for a $500K score would be an unbelievable, pants-off-sex outcome. But from a theoretical perspective, any lineup that can’t actually win the whole top prize is solidly negative-EV. Still, we can use almost all of our cap and (likely) avoid duplicates by keeping our ACO low. There are just so many combinations of nine players on a full NFL slate.
4. WHAT POSITION SHOULD I USE IN MY FLEX?
Here is the flex usage for the 45 winners: 25-of-45 (55.5%) used a running back in flex, 18 used a wide receiver (40%) and just two (4.4%) used a tight end. Here are the universal flex usage rates for all Milly Maker entries in the sample: 50.2% RB in flex, 36.7% WR, 13.1% TE. In other words, users are putting tight end in the flex at a 13.1% rate but it’s only winning at a 4.4% rate. That’s a bit surprising considering the seasons Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz put together in 2018. But spending $6,000-plus twice on a position where viable plays are often found in the $3,000-$4,000 range can drain the upside from the QBs, RBs and WRs in our lineup.
5. WHAT SHOULD MY AVERAGE CUMULATIVE OWNERSHIP BE?
Average Cumulative Ownership (ACO) simply refers to the total ownership percentage of a roster divided by the number of roster spots (9). Note that 37-of-45 winners (82.2%) had an ACO under 15% in their winning lineup. As I mentioned above, 84.4% rostered at least one player more than 20% owned and almost half rostered a player more than 30%. However, those chalky plays were balanced out by some lower-owned plays and typically at least one under 5% owned. If your goal is to win the $1 million, then the “bad” rosters are the ones littered with all popular plays, leading to ACO of around 20%.
6. CAN I WIN WITHOUT PUTTING 150 ENTRIES IN?
Yes. Out of the 45 winners, only eight put 150 entries (17.7%) in and one put 145 in. Everyone else was at 67 entries or below. In fact, 19-of-45 winners had five or fewer entries and 10 shipped the Milly on a single entry. In a tournament with 200,000 entries, note that putting 150 in only accounts for 0.075% of the total entries. So while your theoretical chances of winning the tournament rise when you max-enter (assuming all your lineups are +EV), your actual chances are still miniscule. And since the prize pool is so incredibly top-heavy, entering 150 lineups consistently and not getting a first-place finish is going to cost a lot of real-life dollars.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.