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DFS Football 101: DFS Starter Kit, Part 2

Michael Rathburn

Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. Rath won the 2016 FSWA "Baseball Article of the Year, Online" award and was a finalist for the FSWA Best Baseball Series in 2011.

Last week I started the DFS football season by covering some of the basics for beginner players here. Before you jump in, you need to understand each site's roster format, salary cap and scoring settings as they all have a unique wrinkle. I also wrote about contest selection and the importance of knowing the best contests to play and which to avoid.

As we lead up to Week 1, I will be going over a few important topics to know before playing DFS football.

Managing the Salary Cap

One of the things I often get asked by new players is, "When building a lineup do I have to max out the salary cap? If not, then how much money should I have leftover?" Well, you have to take into consideration that Week 1 is a completely different animal because the salaries will be five weeks old. This allows a long time for injuries to take place and backups to inherit starting positions. The amount of "value plays" in Week 1 is the deepest it will be all season. So, if you have $800-$1,000 left over it is acceptable for this week.

For cash games, you want to use as much of the salary cap as possible. It is all about getting and finding the most consistent, best-priced players for your entire team. Player ownership is not something you need to be concerned with either. Do not be afraid of having a team full of the most popular picks or the "chalk."

If you find yourself over the salary cap, look at your TE and D/ST first to save money. If you are still over the cap, look at your weakest WR since you have three. I'm more apt to lock in my QB, RBs and top 2 WRs as my core, so I do not want to blow that up unless I have to. Tight ends have a limited ceiling as do kickers and defense. But defenses are also highly variant so getting a good matchup is more important than paying up for a top unit.

For FanDuel, you can find savings at kicker, as I always look for a minimum salary player with the best matchup (preferably favored, close game, at home). There are 11 $4,500 kickers for Week 1.

Lineup Construction Basics

On both sites, you have nine lineup spots and one of the things that new players often overlook is having too much exposure to one team or one game in cash games. While this is fine in tournaments because you are trying to maximize the potential ceiling, in cash games you want to limit your risk. I try to only have two players from the same team and from the same game. If things do not go according to plan in a particular game, you can still salvage the week.

Here is an example of being invested too heavily in one game. The Titans/Raiders will be a popular game in Week 1 because they have a lot of popular skill players, the projected total is the highest on the board, and it is a close game. Maybe you like Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree, but you also like DeMarco Murray and Delanie Walker. If that game ends up being a huge Marcus Mariota to his WRs or Marshawn Lynch game, you will be left out in the cold.

Another common mistake I see newer players make is thinking that they need to take several players from the same team because they are the most popular value plays. Just because Bilal Powell and Robby Anderson are cheap doesn't mean you want them on the same cash lineup.

There will be times when you cannot ignore the value, like last year when Tyrell Williams, Melvin Gordon and Hunter Henry became starters but their salaries were extremely cheap. It all depends on the team; the Chargers offense is much different than the Jets.

If I happen to take two players from the same team, then it most likely will be the QB and WR1. If the QB throws a TD to the WR1, you get the points for the passing yards, receiving yards and two touchdowns. The other pairing I would consider is a QB/TE, but only if that TE is at least the first or second option in the passing game.

Another pairing I'm apt to look at the D/ST with the K (FanDuel). If you think the game will be 34-10, the kicker and defense should be in position to have monster games.

You can also look at taking the RB with the D/ST in this scenario as well if you think the starting RB team will be playing with a big lead in the second half. The opposing QB will be forced to throw a lot which opens up more chances for interceptions, sacks and defensive touchdowns.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Michael Rathburn plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: burnnotice, DraftKings: burnnotice, Yahoo: burnnotice, Fantasy Aces: burnnotice, FantasyDraft: burnnotice.