NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

When it comes right down to it, winning at daily fantasy football is all about just being right. There are a million ways to do it, and an overarching “theory” to go with each method: spend on a big-time Quarterback, Quarterback is the best place to save; big tourneys are the place for the “stars and studs” approach, mid-priced players are best if you’re in a 50/50, etc, etc etc. You’ve heard them all before, and the truth is, they’re all right, and they’re all wrong. It depends on which specific players you select, obviously. But that’s no fun – it’s way more fun to have theories. And my theory is this: don’t go into any week, or any contest-type, looking to follow a particular formula to fill your lineup.

But if that doesn’t cut it for you, and you want some advice, here you go: playing for a million bucks and playing to double your money are very different things. Sure, if you want to win big, you have to go big, and play for upside. But if you want to just make sure you keep enough money in your account to keep playing without needing that next deposit (at least not TOO soon), then play for sure points. Either way, just try to build a roster such that you won’t feel too bad if you turn out to be wrong. Walk away from the contest knowing you gave yourself a chance to win. If you are playing for a million dollars, and you make a bunch of safe choices, and they all do about what you’d expect, and you finish just out of the money, you have no one but yourself to blame. You never gave yourself a chance. But conversely, if all you want is to finish in the top ten out of twenty, and finish eleventh because you just needed those stars and ended up with a handful of minimum-salary guys who did nothing, you might want to rethink your approach.

And since you are not allowed to write about fantasy football all year without talking about tiers, let’s have at it:

  • You have your top tier, your highest priced players, who got that way for a reason: highest possible upside, and highest possible consistency.
  • You have your minimum-salary players, who are also obvious: limited upside, no consistency.
  • You have everyone else.

As you descend from those highest-priced guys to those minimum-salary guys, that’s where it gets tricky. Why are the prices declining? Well, there are two options: either the upside is lower, or there is less consistency, or both. For example, DeMarco Murray ($9,600) is the most expensive RB this week, which makes sense – he’s consistently awesome. Jamaal Charles ($6,700), on the other hand, is significantly less expensive, but no one would argue that his upside is any lower than Murray’s. It’s just the consistency that declined. But you also have Marshawn Lynch ($7,100), and he is cheap for a different reason than Charles. He is every bit as consistent as Murray, but the upside isn’t there in the same way. And you need to make this distinction at every single price point if you want to be successful.

NFL: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

But you can decide for yourself at the top end, so let’s look at a few mid-priced options and see if we can classify these guys in a way that can help inform the decisions we’ll make, depending on the contest we’re entering:

Frank Gore ($4,800): He’s a really great player. The 49ers are psyched to have him. And he has fifteen or more fantasy points three times already, and 27 once (for under $5,000, that’s upside). But in his other three games, he failed to crack eight fantasy points even once.

Joique Bell ($4,800): His most fantasy points in a game this season is 17.7, but he’s getting more than fifteen touches per game and has scored more than 12 fantasy points three times in five tries. At this price level, that counts for consistency.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Eddie Lacy ($4,700): You might think he’s been terrible and he can’t be played in a PPR game, but he has the single highest-scoring game out of all the running backs on this list (31.2 in week 5).

Alfred Morris ($4,700): Consistent. He gets carries, and he helps the Redskins move the chains. The last time he had 100 yards rushing was Week 10, last year. And you have to go back another week to find the last time he had both 100 yards and a TD. Eddie Lacy did that less than two weeks ago.

Ronnie Hillman & Jerick McKinnon ($4,700): The upside is there because, you know, who knows? Consistent? Hardly.

Ahmad Bradshaw ($4,700): See above discussion of Hillman and McKinnon? Well, here we have the opposite. He has between 11.5 and 16.5 points in five of six weeks so far.

Keenan Allen ($4,600): He had 10 catches for 135 yards in Week 4. That’s upside you don’t really get for $4,600. Why? Because he also has three games this year with fewer than 6 fantasy points, pretty abysmal for a supposed #1 wide receiver in a PPR league.

Kendall Wright ($4,400): Until last week, he had scored at least nine fantasy points in every game. Nine points was enough to outduel Keenan Allen almost every time, but Wright just doesn’t have a 10 catch, 130+ yard game in him. Not in this offense, not this year.

Malcolm Floyd & Sammy Watkins ($4,800): So far this year, Floyd has been consistent and has had some upside. He did nothing against Seattle in Week 2, but he had double-digits in fantasy points in every other game. So why is he getting mentioned here? Because this is an interesting counterpoint. Floyd’s salary is at it’s highest point of the season. Last week he was $4,300, and before that he was basically a minimum-salary player. He might not have the upside of Demaryius Thomas or Jordy Nelson, but consistently scoring in double-digits is, well, consistent. And if you’re looking to take the slow and steady approach, here you go. Watkins, on the other hand, is a rookie, and he’s on the Bills. He’s inconsistent, and yet he has been hovering in this price range all along. That’s because even while he has ups and downs, the ceiling is obvious -he actually could produce like a player that costs $3,000 more (8 for 117 and a TD in Week 2).

So are you trying to win a million bucks, or double your $10 entry? It matters. But either way, good luck.