This article is part of our DFS Football 101 series.
Last week I wrote about how to get ready for the NFL DFS season, much like we do for our season-long leagues. This week, I expand further on your preparation to give you an edge over the competition.
Make "Mock" Lineups Now
In season-long preparation, we all do mock drafts. You can do the same in DFS.
I know it's mid-August and a lot will change from now until Week 1, but if you start lineup building now it will get you familiar with the player pool. The salaries will not change so you can enter a contest, build a lineup, but do not enter it in the contest.
Use different strategies when building lineups such as going cheap at running back, but expensive at wide receiver; spend up at running back, but go cheap at quarterback, etc. The more you practice building lineups now, the more familiar you will be come Week 1.
Navigate the Contest Lobby
Go on the sites you plan to play Week 1 and use the contest filters for things like "Single Entry" and "Entry fee." I start at $1, single entry and review which ones I will potentially play. I create a Week 1 DFS Excel spreadsheet with everything I will use that week and I will have a contest tab.
On FanDuel, some of my contests list will look like:
$1K Squib $1 (Single Entry) – 1176 entries
$2K Small Spike $5 (Single Entry) – 470 entries
$3K Small Scramble $10 (Single Entry) – 352 entries
$3K NFL Double Up $5 (Single Entry) – 681 entries
On DraftKings, some of my contests list will look like:
NFL Giant $5 Double Up (Single Entry) – 11,400 entries
NFL Massive $25 Double Up (Single Entry) – 4597 entries
NFL Giant $10 Double Up (Single Entry) – 5747 entries
NFL Single Entry $2 Double Up – 5747 entries
I also like to play the 100-man single entry contests on DraftKings because they pay out 20 percent of the field vs. only 12 percent on FanDuel. There are also a lot of user-created 50/50 contests on DraftKings that are 100-200 man and single entry.
This way, I do not have to scramble at the last minute in the lobby to figure out what I am going to play.
Utilize Vegas Data
Because we do not want to rely solely on fantasy points allowed by position from the previous year, I will look at the Vegas win totals to determine the strongest and weakest projected teams. This along, with the Week 1 lines and totals, is a stronger indicator of which teams to target players for and against.
Pay attention to line movement from now until Week 1 as injuries and personnel will determine activity up or down. The Bills have dropped to 30th in win totals (5.9) since they were posted a few months ago. With a questionable quarterback situation, the Bills will be a team I will look to target against, especially in Week 1 with the Ravens at home.
Review 2017 Team Defense Boxscores
I already do this for season-long preparation, but for DFS I make note of trends for each team by reviewing their game logs. If you play on MFL, click on the team defense name and you will get the game logs for the previous season. I copy and paste the data into Excel, then sort by home/road to see the trends.
For example, the Minnesota Vikings allowed 112 yards rushing on the road, but only 55 at home. Most people would shy away from a running back against them, but this shows they were vulnerable on the road. Also, the Vikings allowed 19 PPG on the road vs. 12 at home. They had more sacks and interceptions per game at home vs. on the road as well. If you only relied on fantasy points allowed by position, the Vikings would not be a team to go against. This is where you can gain an edge.
Identify the "Value" Plays
The salaries on FanDuel and DraftKings were created about six weeks before the start of the NFL season, so anything that takes place from then until Week 1 will determine the best values. The pricing is usually determined from 2017 results, which lends itself to finding inefficiencies in the market. Keeping track of injuries not only to the skill position players, but also offensive lines and defenses is key.
You can use the Rotowire Lineup Optimizer to identify the best ones. Once you are on the page, sort by the VAL column. For example, Chris Hogan is listed as the second-best value. Hogan takes advantage of Julian Edelman's suspension by being the WR1 for the Patriots in Week 1. It is also not clear who the WR2 is for New England. With Hogan priced as the 17th wide receiver on FanDuel ($6,700) and 14th on DraftKings ($6,100), he will be very popular and highly owned.