DFS Football 101: Q&A with DK's World Championship Qualifier
DFS Football 101: Q&A with DK's World Championship Qualifier

This article is part of our DFS Football 101 series.

In Week 3, a close friend of mine in the industry, "RadThad," took down the $33 World Championship Qualifier on DraftKings. He did it with a lineup that, when you look at it, makes a lot of sense. He took a lot of high-ceiling players who were lower owned and almost all of them went off. He also won this contest with just one single entry, which is a tremendous feat as you will see by some of the math below.

This week's article will cover Thad's lineup and I will also go over his players' percent-owned by position/player so you can see why it is important to "fade the chalk" in a contest like this, which is basically an "all or none" result. I also have an interview with the man, RadThad himself.

Q: Did you plan on playing the qualifier?

Playing in the qualifier was a last-minute decision. I usually spend some time constructing last-minute lineups prior to lineup lock, but the majority of those end up in the trash. This lineup looked good and made a lot of sense with regards to GPP potential so I decided to take a shot in a lower-entry-fee qualifier.

Q: Your lineup had players that had high ceiling and projected low ownership. Was that by design?

Absolutely. Whenever I'm constructing a cash-game lineup I'm looking for value plays and plays with high floors, without worrying about the level of ownership. In tournaments, the best strategy is to have known studs that stand a chance to reach their potential, while, at the same time, going overlooked by the rest of the crowd.

Q: You only had one entry whereas most of the pros were putting in up to 77, is that your normal strategy?

I usually focus on single entry or three-max entry tournaments, so I don't construct very many tournament lineups each week. Whenever I submit too many entries, I end up with watered-down versions of the lineups I like the most.

Q: Will you try to qualify for this final again or another one on a different week?

I'll definitely try to qualify again, but securing a live final seat early removes any pressure I may have put on myself the rest of the season. Chasing qualifiers can be a costly endeavor, so while I'll try to take down another one I won't do so at the expense of my bankroll.

Q: What advice would you give a new/beginner/small-stakes player towards playing qualifiers?

There's a benefit to approaching qualifiers with some sort of strategy in mind. I find that the best times to qualify are at the beginning of the season (when players are still trying to uncover trends and are distracted by other sports) or at the end of the season (once the "big dogs" have maxed out their qualifiers and others have seen their bankrolls dry up). Like I said before, this can be a costly endeavor so it's important to monitor your bankroll closely.

Q: Were you surprised at how low the ownership was on the players in your lineup?

I was very surprised at the level of ownership for the players in my lineup. I rostered very popular players that are known for their success (i.e. Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr., etc.) and didn't take shots on random players. It's a little easier to do this at the beginning of the season, because once known studs have their breakout games, their ownership levels stay elevated for the remainder of the season.

Q: How much time did you spend on this lineup?

This lineup only took a few minutes to construct, however, I did spend much of the week evaluating matchups and trying to gauge levels of ownership. I usually construct lineups by hand, so they get easier to put together as the week goes on.

Q: Did you play this lineup in any other contests?

I did enter this lineup in the DraftKings Red Cross Relief NFL Charity Contest and a single-entry contest (I took first place in both). By the time I decided the lineup was GPP worthy, most of the available contests were full.

Q: Take us through each player and why you picked each.

Tom Brady (NE) - After coming off a three-touchdown game against the New Orleans Saints, Brady's price increased so he wasn't a value play. New England had the highest implied team total on the slate, however, most were convinced that their scoring would come through the run game.

Dalvin Cook (MIN) - As a rookie running back, the jury was still out with regard to Cooks' usage. He had a great Week 1 performance (22 rushing attempts for 127 yards), but his Week 2 effort left a lot to be desired (12 rushing attempts for 64 yards). I liked his matchup (Tampa Bay) and knew that there were other running backs in his price range that would garner more attention.

Derrick Henry (TE) - There was a good chance that DeMarco Murray (hamstring) would sit for this game, but there was no official word until prior to kick off. This left Henry in a good spot to potentially see an increased workload which is always good for a player with his talent level. Even with a shared backfield, he could end up getting into the end zone.

Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) - Beckham was still working his way back to full health from an ankle injury and had not had a breakout performance yet. He looked healthy and is always someone with GPP-winning upside.

Brandin Cooks (NE) - After disappointing everyone in his "revenge game" narrative against the Saints, no one was going to roster him. He's an incredibly talented wide receiver, so it was only a matter of time before he and Tom Brady (correlation play) got on the same page.

DeSean Jackson (TB) - Jackson had a great WR/CB matchup as the WR2 for Tampa Bay, but it appeared as though he would be overlooked for similar options in his price range.

Jared Cook (OAK) - Cook was my way to get exposure to the Sunday night game as my "late-night hammer." This game had a high over/under and most players were focused on the wide receivers on both teams (Oakland and Washington). Washington's defense against tight ends seemed like the path of least resistance and up to that point Cook had received a significant amount of Derek Carr's targets.

Chris Thompson (WAS) - Thompson was another way to get exposure to the Sunday night game and served as a correlation play with Jared Cook in a matchup that was expected to go back and forth. Rob Kelly (ribs) was nursing an injury, so I expected Thompson to have an increased role in the offense.

Tennessee D/ST - Talented defense, as well as a correlation play with Derrick Henry.

Contest Details

$33 entry
First place = Entry in the 2017 DraftKings Fantasy Football Championship ($66,000 value)
140 places paid (5.6 percent of the field)
$2 million first prize, 200 qualifiers, $12 million total
2056 out of 2,492 entries were from users with more than one entry (83 percent)
12 users put in the maximum 77 entries for a total of 924 entries (37 percent)
436 entries were from users that had a single entry (17 percent)

The majority of players that did multiple entries lost money and a significant amount. Savvy large volume players will allocate a percent of their bankroll specifically for these types of contest and they understand that it's a 1st place win or nothing result. The lure of the fame to say you qualified for a live final to compete for a million dollars is a powerful thing.

Radthad's Winning Lineup

QB Tom Brady 2.8 5 PaTD, 378 PaYds, 1 300+Pass, 1 FUM, 6 RuYds, 1 2PtPass 39.7
RB Dalvin Cook 9.8 1 RuTD, 97 RuYds, 72 RecYds, 5 REC 27.9
RB Derrick Henry 3.6 10 RecYds, 1 REC, 54 RuYds 7.4
WR Odell Beckham Jr. 4.8 2 RecTD, 79 RecYds, 9 REC 28.9
WR Brandin Cooks 3.1 2 RecTD, 131 RecYds, 5 REC, 1 100+Rec, 1 2PT 35.1
WR DeSean Jackson 11.8 1 RecTD, 84 RecYds, 4 REC 18.4
TE Jared Cook 14.9 1 RecTD, 43 RecYds, 4 REC 14.3
FLEX Chris Thompson 10.0 1 RecTD, 150 RecYds, 6 REC, 1 100+Rec, 38 RuYds 33.8
DST Titans 9.3 1 SACK 1.0

The first thing that jumps off the page is how on earth was Tom Brady just 2.8 percent owned??? Well, most players tend to gravitate towards the cheaper quarterbacks on DraftKings so the expensive ones like a Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers often go under-owned. Pairing with Brandin Cooks was brilliant as most people got burned by Cooks vs. the Saints and didn't go back to the well.

Dalvin Cook was on the verge of a huge breakout going into Week 3 and his price was still low. One of the plays that could have been a monster, but did not work out was Derrick Henry. Again very low owned, but a player that if everything broke right could have provided a 20-25 point game. Even though Henry had a subpar game, it didn't matter because in a field of 2500 or so, you don't need to be 100 percent perfect. If you miss on a player or two but hit on a couple others it can offset.

Odell Beckham was under-owned because he has not been 100 percent and the Giants offense has suffered. But knowing the Eagles' secondary was vulnerable, Beckham's high price tag, but high ceiling, made him a fit for this lineup.

The final wide receiver was DeSean Jackson whose salary on DraftKings has been mysteriously low, making him a popular play at 11.8 percent. While it was not the "chalk," he was on a lot of folks' radar because of the deep-ball threat.

Jared Cook has been a popular value play just about every week so far and was Thad's highest-owned player at 14.9 percent. It's interesting that Cook was just under 15 percent and Thad did not have anyone on his team with an ownership above 15. This was incredibly played and fortunate.

Chris Thompson fits the perfect FLEX play on DraftKings – that PPR RB with a super-cheap price in a high-total game. Once Rob Kelley was ruled out along with Jordan Reed, this opened up a lot for Thompson. Of course, he had the game of his life and was probably the key to Thad winning the qualifier.

His last pick was the Titans D/ST, which only scored one point, but no other defenses that were heavily owned went off so it didn't have a negative impact on his finish.

Here is the breakdown of percent owned by position and highest scores by position.

Quarterback – Percent Owned

Matthew Stafford 13.16 16.5
Aaron Rodgers 12.84 28.8
Kirk Cousins 12.6 29.80
Andy Dalton 7.38 16.3
Derek Carr 6.46 7.2

Quarterback – Highest Scores

Tom Brady 2.77 39.7
Russell Wilson 2.29 36.5
Case Keenum 0.08 31.6
Kirk Cousins 12.6 29.80
Aaron Rodgers 12.84 28.8

Three out of the top five QBs failed to hit value. Brady and Wilson were on the radar for some and paid off in a huge way. No one could have predicted Case Keenum's breakout game.

Running Back – Percent Owned

Le'Veon Bell 34.91 21.8
Ty Montgomery 25.36 13.0
Jay Ajayi 22.23 4.5
Isaiah Crowell 14.89 7.4
Kareem Hunt 13.44 28.3
LeSean McCoy 13.28 13.9
Devonta Freeman 12.76 25.8
Christian McCaffrey 10.27 23.7

Running Back – Highest Scores

Jordan Howard 0.12 35.4
Chris Thompson 9.99 33.8
Kareem Hunt 13.44 28.3
Dalvin Cook 9.79 27.9
Devonta Freeman 12.76 25.8
Christian McCaffrey 10.27 23.7
Duke Johnson Jr. 0.96 22.4
Le'Veon Bell 34.91 21.8

Hunt, Freeman, and McCaffrey were the RBs that hit value and were at least 10-percent owned. Chris Thompson at just less than 10 percent and finishing second overall at RB was a key to Thad's win.

Wide Receiver – Percent Owned

A.J. Green 25.28 30.1
Rashard Higgins 18.62 3.0
Terrelle Pryor Sr. 18.58 3.9
Davante Adams 18.50 9.0
DeSean Jackson 11.76 18.4
Keenan Allen 11.44 11.1
Antonio Brown 11.24 30.0
Tyreek Hill 11.12 20.0
Golden Tate 10.71 18.8
Devin Funchess 10.47 9.8
Amari Cooper 10.27 1.6
Julio Jones 10.15 16.1
Jamison Crowder 10.07 10.2

Wide Receiver – Highest Scores

Stefon Diggs 0.52 40.3
Brandin Cooks 3.13 35.1
T.Y. Hilton 9.03 31.3
A.J. Green 25.28 30.1
Antonio Brown 11.24 30.0
Doug Baldwin 6.82 29.5
Odell Beckham Jr. 4.78 28.9
Jordy Nelson 7.46 23.2
Chris Hogan 0.48 22.8
Michael Thomas 6.06 21.7
DeVante Parker 4.78 21.6
Geronimo Allison 4.86 21.2
Rishard Matthews 5.78 20.7

A.J. Green was the chalk at WR because of the matchup and price. He paid off for everyone, but the majority of the group did not. This helped Thad who had T.Y. Hilton at 9 percent owned, and Brandin Cooks at 3 percent owned.

Tight End – Percent Owned

Zach Ertz 19.10 18.5
Jack Doyle 18.14 2.6
Eric Ebron 14.97 2.9
Jared Cook 14.93 14.3
Travis Kelce 14.21 1.1
Martellus Bennett 10.67 4.2

Tight End – Highest Scores

Rob Gronkowski 2.89 22.9
Zach Ertz 19.10 18.5
Ryan Griffin 0.32 17.1
Vernon Davis 2.65 16.8
Charles Clay 1.61 15.9
Jared Cook 14.93 14.3

Ertz and Cook were the top-two TEs to hit value and have at least 10 percent ownership.

Defense – Percent Owned

Eagles 23.68 4.0
Panthers 11.60 0.0
Titans 9.27 1.0
Steelers 8.31 6.0
Patriots 7.62 6.0
Bills 5.18 8.0

Defense – Highest Scores

Jets 2.17 14.0
Saints 1.93 14.0
Bengals 0.08 14.0
Redskins 0.08 14.0
Lions 0.16 13.0
Chiefs 3.85 12.0

Fortunately, there were no D/STs that went off for 20-plus points so that helped cushion the Titans' one-point performance. The Eagles and Panthers did not provide a return to 35 percent of the field.

Here are some of the basic strategies that Thad used to win:

Pair QB with WR
Pair RB with D/ST
Avoid chalk plays, especially at the WR position
PPR RB value play at FLEX
Chalk at TE is ok based on limited ceiling for the position

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.
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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.
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