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DFS Football 101: DraftKings Cash-Game Breakdown

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 did a review of the DraftKings World Championship Qualifier with the winner "RadThad" and I have stressed how important it is to review your results to become a better DFS player. Take Monday to go back and look at what went right, what went wrong, who were the players that won and how did they build their lineups.

The first month of the season I've spent considerable time writing about cash games and the strategy involved, but mostly about FanDuel. This week I take a look at a large field "Double Up" on DraftKings and dig into the data for some nuggets.

The contest I'll look at is the "NFL Massive $25 Double Up." It was 13,793 entries, 6,000 paid, 150 max number of entries; 43.5 percent of the field is paid out, for a rake of 14.9 percent. For the record, I strongly encourage beginner players to not play in this type of contest. I am simply looking at this contest for review purposes.

I will do a position-by-position breakdown of performance and player ownership percentages as well as look at which rosters finished in the money based on who they had.

QUARTERBACK

PLAYERSALARY% DRAFTEDFPTSVALUE
Brian Hoyer $4,700 34.5 25.12 5.3
Carson Wentz $6,600 0.5 31.26 4.7
Dak Prescott $6,800 19.4 30.74 4.5
Cam Newton $6,500 0.3 29.20 4.5
Jacoby Brissett $5,600 2.5 21.96 3.9
Philip Rivers $5,800 1.0 21.82 3.8
Josh McCown $4,500 4.3 14.46 3.2
Andy Dalton $6,000 0.1 18.32 3.1
Aaron Rodgers $8,100 18.9 24.04 3.0
Carson Palmer $5,900 8.7 15.64 2.7
Matthew Stafford $6,300 1.6 16.16 2.6
Eli Manning $6,100 2.7 15.00 2.5
Russell Wilson $7,100 2.5 12.52 1.8

I left out any players with less than 2 percent ownership who did not hit at least 3x value. The biggest thing on the quarterbacks between DraftKings and FanDuel is that because of the salary structure it actually makes sense to "pay down" on DK and pay up on FD. DK has a very low salary floor for the position and that is why Brian Hoyer was 35 percent owned. He possessed a great matchup against the Colts who have been carved up by every opposing quarterback this year.

Because the QB position offers a solid floor of points, paying down makes sense because it allows you to "pay up" for the rest of your lineup with high floor/ceiling players.

The good thing about the QB position in Week 5 is that all the chalk hit at least 3x value, which is what you should be looking for in cash games on DraftKings ($50,000 salary/150 points). This is a more broad target score based on a full weeks slate of games. Week 5 started the bye weeks and we no longer have the Sunday Night Football game on DraftKings, so the scores to cash will be lower. This contest had a cash line score of around 133 points, which equates to a 2.6x target. For the purpose of the article, I decided to just keep things at 3x, but will consider players at least 2.5x.

The three players who were chalk (highest ownership) were Brian Hoyer, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers. They combined for an ownership of 73 percent as a collective group. All three hit value, making it a good week at the position. Because you only get one QB, hitting value is critical to the overall success of winning in cash games.

RUNNING BACK

PLAYERSALARY% DRAFTEDFPTSVALUE
Melvin Gordon $6,000 32.5 37.30 6.2
Leonard Fournette $7,000 2.6 34.40 4.9
Aaron Jones $5,100 1.4 23.40 4.6
Marlon Mack $3,800 0.0 16.30 4.3
Javorius Allen $4,500 1.3 18.50 4.1
Duke Johnson Jr. $4,900 13.2 17.30 3.5
Wayne Gallman $3,900 4.0 13.20 3.4
Andre Ellington $4,600 11.7 15.30 3.3
Frank Gore $4,400 7.4 11.60 2.6
Christian McCaffrey $5,700 2.4 14.80 2.6
Le'Veon Bell $9,500 68.8 19.30 2.0
Joe Mixon $5,500 1.4 11.10 2.0
Ezekiel Elliott $8,800 21.5 17.20 2.0
LeGarrette Blount $4,200 18.7 7.40 1.8
Jay Ajayi $6,600 3.3 8.90 1.3
Bilal Powell $6,300 3.7 7.30 1.2
Eddie Lacy $3,400 2.2 3.80 1.1
Ameer Abdullah $4,700 12.3 4.40 0.9
Todd Gurley II $8,000 51.0 6.00 0.8
Carlos Hyde $6,900 11.0 2.80 0.4

I was surprised about Hoyer being the chalk at QB, and Melvin Gordon ended up being the third-highest owned running back at 33 percent. I definitely expected the three-headed monster of Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley to be highly owned based on production and matchups. Unfortunately, none hit value with Bell and Elliott at 2.0x and Gurley at a putrid 0.8x. Gurley was just a tad more than 50 percent owned and really crushed the majority of lineups with him (67 percent of lineups with Gurley lost).

Owners that had Melvin Gordon on their rosters won 78 percent of the time. Ironically, owners that rostered both Gurley and Gordon also won at a 78 percent clip (1,585/2,019).

If you had Bell and Elliott you were able to overcome it only 33 percent of the time, as 893/1,323 failed to cash.

WIDE RECEIVER

PLAYERSALARY% DRAFTEDFPTSVALUE
Marquise Goodwin $3,800 1.2 19.60 5.2
Nelson Agholor $3,900 3.2 19.30 4.9
Mike Wallace $4,000 0.3 19.30 4.8
T.Y. Hilton $6,000 44.3 27.70 4.6
Cole Beasley $4,100 0.5 18.30 4.5
Davante Adams $5,800 1.5 25.60 4.4
Torrey Smith $3,600 5.5 15.70 4.4
A.J. Green $8,200 0.5 33.90 4.1
Tavon Austin $3,000 0.0 12.10 4.0
Antonio Brown $8,400 3.1 28.70 3.4
Robert Woods $3,700 1.8 12.40 3.4
Ricardo Louis $3,700 7.8 12.10 3.3
Devin Funchess $5,600 1.4 18.30 3.3
Michael Crabtree $6,400 0.1 20.20 3.2
Jermaine Kearse $4,500 0.5 13.80 3.1
Pierre Garcon $6,100 10.9 17.40 2.9
Marvin Jones Jr. $4,100 2.8 11.40 2.8
Jarvis Landry $5,800 36.6 15.40 2.7
Dez Bryant $6,500 68.5 16.20 2.5
Jeremy Maclin $4,200 5.4 10.30 2.5
Larry Fitzgerald $6,800 4.8 11.10 1.6
Donte Moncrief $3,900 5.2 6.20 1.6
Golden Tate $6,300 6.8 9.80 1.6
Jaron Brown $4,500 22.4 6.90 1.5
Jordy Nelson $8,100 9.4 10.40 1.3
Rishard Matthews $5,400 5.2 6.10 1.1
Randall Cobb $6,700 5.9 6.90 1.0
Terrance Williams $3,600 9.8 3.40 0.9
Robby Anderson $4,000 4.9 3.60 0.9
Rashard Higgins $3,500 4.1 2.70 0.8
Brandon Marshall $4,600 2.1 3.50 0.8
Kenny Stills $3,700 2.7 2.30 0.6
Aldrick Robinson $3,100 2.2 1.50 0.5
DeVante Parker $6,600 8.2 1.60 0.2

Just five wide receivers were more than 10 percent owned – Dez Bryant, T.Y. Hilton, Jarvis Landry, Jaron Brown and Pierre Garcon. Bryant was in the highest total game on the slate, Hilton had a great matchup against the 49ers, Landry had a great matchups against the Titans, Brown was coming off a monster game, and Garcon had a matchup against a bad Colts pass defense. Four of the five hit at least 2.5x value, which was about break even, but only Hilton hit for over 3x.

Sixty-eight percent of rosters had Dez Bryant, but only 62 percent of those finished in the money (4,709/9,450). What is interesting is that while Hilton was was on 44 percent of teams; 58 percent of teams finished in the money (3,553/6,100).

TIGHT END

PLAYERSALARY% DRAFTEDFPTSVALUE
Ed Dickson $2,900 0.2 25.50 8.8
George Kittle $2,500 3.5 21.30 8.5
Darren Fells $2,500 0.1 16.40 6.6
Tyler Higbee $2,500 0.0 13.80 5.5
David Njoku $2,900 0.0 13.90 4.8
Austin Seferian-Jenkins $3,500 60.1 14.90 4.3
Hunter Henry $3,800 1.6 13.20 3.5
Jimmy Graham $4,900 0.2 15.70 3.2
Jason Witten $4,200 2.0 13.10 3.1
Zach Ertz $6,200 2.1 18.10 2.9
Tyler Kroft $3,200 5.1 7.80 2.4
Martellus Bennett $4,100 5.5 8.30 2.0
Jesse James $3,000 4.1 5.40 1.8
Delanie Walker $4,700 4.6 5.50 1.2
Charles Clay $4,800 2.3 5.10 1.1
Evan Engram $4,000 16.0 0.00 -

Tight end was pretty much a one man show in Week 5 with Austin Seferian-Jenkins garnering 60 percent of the ownership. He ended up hitting value at 4.3x, but at such a high ownership, only 54 percent of teams (4,461/8,284) finished in the money of the players who rostered him. Between them, ASJ and Evan Engram carried 76 percent of the TE ownership. Engram laid an egg with a goose egg providing no value, but even if you rostered him 29 percent of those teams finished in the money.

DEFENSE

PLAYERSALARY% DRAFTEDFPTSVALUE
Jaguars $2,800 0.1 28.00 10.0
Dolphins $2,700 5.1 20.00 7.4
Packers $2,400 0.3 12.00 5.0
Seahawks $3,500 0.3 16.00 4.6
Ravens $2,900 10.3 12.00 4.1
Chargers $2,500 1.7 10.00 4.0
Eagles $3,100 26.2 10.00 3.2
Panthers $2,500 3.2 8.00 3.2
Bills $2,600 17.8 8.00 3.1
Titans $3,000 0.2 9.00 3.0
Bengals $3,300 4.2 9.00 2.7
Jets $3,000 2.5 8.00 2.7
Cowboys $2,100 3.8 5.00 2.4
Lions $3,200 2.2 3.00 0.9
Cardinals $2,300 14.9 2.00 0.9
Raiders $2,900 3.2 0.00 -

Good things happened with chalk defenses in Week 5 as the Eagles, Bills and Ravens all hit at least 3.1x value. The Cardinals were the third-highest owned at the position, but failed to deliver value with just two points. However, they were owned on about 15 percent of teams, but 33 percent of teams that rostered them finished in the money, so missing on your D is not a deal breaker.

The key takeaway is you have to get a feel for which the cash-game plays will be highest owned (chalk), and while you don't have to be on every player (that's virtually impossible), you actually want to use this information to construct your lineups.

Player ownership is driven mostly by Vegas totals, matchups and price. If you have a player with a high Vegas total, great matchup and great price, there is a good chance that he will be part of that chalk group. Price drives a lot of this because it will then allow you to construct lineups with the highest-priced players.
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.