At its core, daily fantasy football is a game about minimizing risk and maximizing upside. The degree to which you emphasize each should change based on the type of contest you’re in. In cash games — contests that pay out at least one-in-three players — consistency is the name of the game. The goal is to minimize risk to consistently score a set number of points. In tournaments, however, it’s preferable to take on more risk in order to secure a higher ceiling. A decent score isn’t useful in a tournament, and thus it doesn’t make sense to be risk-averse.
By tailoring your approach to the contest, you’ll have exposure to the types of outcomes you need to win. Below, I’ve detailed multiple ways to either decrease risk for cash-game success or increase upside for tournament profits.
WAYS TO DECREASE RISK
1. Pay for the most consistent positions
Your goal in cash games is to narrow the range of potential outcomes for your team, and the easiest way to do that is to choose the safest players at the safest positions. The most consistent positions in football are quarterback and running back. They touch the ball the most, and thus their production regresses toward the mean the quickest.
In head-to-head and 50/50 games, I almost always pay up for a top quarterback and at least one top running back. There’s a lot of value in securing the sure thing from a player like Aaron Rodgers.
One exception is a backup running back who is thrust into the starting lineup. When a min-priced back is set to see a heavy workload, that’s a situation you can’t avoid.
2. Look for pass-catching running backs
Pass-catching running backs are more consistent than non-pass-catchers. The reason is that their production isn’t as tied to a particular game script. A player like Le’Veon Bell can contribute regardless of the score of the game, whereas someone like Marshawn Lynch is more dependent on his team having the lead for his production. The best running backs to use in cash games are those who can catch passes.
3. Emphasize short targets
Receivers who see a lot of short targets have more consistency than deep-ball threats, for obvious reasons. I like to look at the average depth of a player’s targets to get a sense of how consistent he might be on a weekly basis. Someone like Jarvis Landry is way more consistent than DeSean Jackson, for example, because the length of the former’s targets makes his reception count less volatile. And any receivers who see a plethora of quick screens, like Antonio Brown, have immense safety on a PPR site like DraftKings.
4. Don’t stack
Stacking, also known as handcuffing, is the act of pairing your quarterback with at least one of his receivers. It can be a smart move in tournaments, and perhaps even cash games in certain situations, but for the most part, stacking isn’t recommended in cash games. A wide receiver’s production is obviously dependent on his quarterback, so if the quarterback stinks it up, you’re going to have two guys with duds. Stacking increases upside, but it also widens the range of potential outcomes for your team, i.e. it’s risky.
WAYS TO INCREASE UPSIDE
1. Stack a quarterback with at least one receiver
If the goal is to increase upside as much as possible, stacking is a must. In tournaments, I almost always pair my quarterback with at least one of his receivers. I’m using two receivers more and more, too, because it is a very high-risk/high-reward move.
2. Pay up for more volatile positions
While I still might use an elite quarterback when I want upside, I’m more likely to pay up for elite pass-catchers in tournaments. That means guys like Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowski, even if they seem slightly overpriced. Those types of players can have monster games against any opponent.
3. Look for big-play ability
Whereas someone like DeSean Jackson isn’t a great cash-game option, he’s sensational in tournaments because of his big-play ability. Jackson’s production is very volatile, but that can be a big advantage when you want more upside.
4. Seek touchdown-scoring upside
In any tournament, the first question I ask myself about every player is “Can this guy realistically score two touchdowns?” If he can’t, there’s less of a chance of me using him. To win a tournament, you’re going to need a lot of upside, and that’s provided mainly from players who can get into the end zone with regularity.
5. Use a return man with his defense
Lastly, one underappreciated strategy I use in GPPs is pairing a return man with his defense. If he returns a punt or kickoff for a touchdown, you get 12 points —six for him and six for your D/ST. It’s a great way to increase upside without really taking on more risk.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Bales) 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.