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NFL Draft Kit: The 10 Commandments of Daily Fantasy Football

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.

The popularity of Daily Fantasy Sports exploded in 2013 to the point where we saw three people take home $1 million in One-Week Fantasy Football contests. This has many season-long fantasy football players wondering whether they should take the jump into the games. The strategy in One-Week Fantasy Football is different than in season-long games because there are more factors to consider, and you are trying to hit an optimal lineup in a high variance environment. To that end, we include our 10 Commandments of One-Week Fantasy Football below:

1. Use Projections in Weekly Salary Cap Football
To win at weekly fantasy football, you have to find value in players to fit them all under the salary cap. The best way is to take the RotoWire weekly projections and enter the contest's scoring system to get projections for that particular contest. After that, take the salaries for each player and divide them by the projection to get a dollar-per-point value. This will help you determine the best values of the week on a particular site. Let's say Peyton Manning is projected for 25 fantasy points and has a salary on FanDuel of $10,000. His dollar-per-point value would be $400.

2. Play the Matchups
A big key to success in weekly fantasy football is using opposing fantasy points allowed by position. This is where you typically find your value plays each week. For example, last year the Cardinals gave up 31.60 points to Jared Cook, and they automatically became a play-against team for TE. Jimmy Graham put up 32 points against them in Week 3, and then Vernon Davis scored 35 points against them in Week 6. Knowing the best teams to play against at each of the skill positions will help you build a weekly "cheat sheet" of players to target.

3. Last Week's Bad Game/Matchup Can Be This Week's Fortune
In the NFL, great players usually bounce back from bad performances. Especially if they had a difficult matchup the prior week followed by a favorable matchup. You can take advantage of this because chances are the player's salary has dropped, giving him value that particular week. A perfect example of this is Drew Brees. Brees is the best fantasy QB in the game when he is playing at home, but on the road he is just about a no play. His salary stayed close to the same Weeks 1-5 last year, where his results were (ATL 21, @TB 14, ARI 32, MIA 32, @CHI 19). You never had to pay a tax on Brees at home because his road performances kept his salary in check.

4. Know The Site Scoring and Roster Format
Roster Format - QB, RB (2), WR (3), TE, K, D (standard scoring)

Focus on the three-WR roster format, as you need to have one WR from the same team as your QB, one cheaper WR value play, and a WR that is a great floor play (Antonio Brown, given his huge target volume, was a great example from last year).

Roster Format - QB, RB (2), WR (2), TE, FLEX, K, D

One-point per reception favors spending on your high-volume WR. Also there are yardage bonuses (300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing/receiving get an additional three points).

Roster Format – QB (2), RB (2), WR (2), FLEX (2), D

Because of the two QBs, you have to find value at this position. Also, with two FLEX and two QBs, pairing QB/WR from the same team is emphasized even more.

5. Leverage Different Lineups Based on Contest Type
One-Week Fantasy Sports has two types of contests: "cash" games and tournaments.

Cash games are either head-to-head or double ups (50/50) where 50 percent of the field doubles its money. These are the best way to build your bankroll. This means you want to field the safest team possible. Pick the most consistent players and do not take too many chances. A typical cash game lineup would be a top-five QB, two top-10 RBs, top-10 WR, top-20 WR, sleeper WR, top-10 TE, best value K and a mid-tier D/ST with a favorable matchup You want to spend more of your salary cap at the QB/RB positions, which are more consistent.

For tournaments, you can jump outside the top 10 at QB and RB and emphasize matchups more heavily. You are trying to post the highest scoring lineup possible, so be prepared to whiff on some of your plays.

6. Vary Lineups Across Sites
A common mistake new players make is signing up on a few sites and running the same lineup on all of them. Each site has a different roster format, scoring system and salary structure making each player's value unique. Peyton Manning would have greater value on a single-QB site than a multiple-QB one because he's the top player at the position. Notice, for example, whether the site is 0.5 PPR or 1 PPR, 4 or 6 points for a passing TD and -1 or -2 points for an INT. Six points per passing TD means that Matthew Stafford gets a bump up and Colin Kaepernick is downgraded because Kaepernick's rushing TDs confer no extra advantage over Stafford's passing ones.

7. Have a Defense/Special Teams Strategy
A lot of players overlook D/ST, thinking it's a crap shoot. The idea that D/ST is insignificant could not be further from the truth, and often the players who win large-field tournaments in weekly fantasy football are the ones who have the top scoring D/ST units.

Home defenses historically average 20 percent more points than road defenses. Target defenses at home against offenses with bad quarterbacks (opposing QB rating is a strong indicator). Sacks can be more of a constant and predictive measure than other stats, and they often lead to turnovers.

8. Spread the Wealth
Another common mistake new players make in weekly fantasy football is not realizing their roster construction is hurting their chances of winning. For example, taking a QB and RB from the same team caps your upside. Chances are one will have a great game, but the other won't because there are only going to be 3-4 touchdowns scored in the game, and only one of your two players is likely to be involved in any of them.

By contrast, pairing your QB with one of your WRs (usually the top WR) or an elite TE (Brees/Jimmy Graham) increases your ceiling because they score together.

9. Know When to Focus on Ceiling vs. Floor
This was touched on earlier, but this is a significant part of weekly fantasy football. In cash games, focus on floor – you are simply trying to field a solid, above-average team. In GPPs (guaranteed prize pool) tournaments, focus on ceiling – you're swinging for the fences even if occasionally it results in a whiff. To that end, you need to know which players and positions are the best to run in each contest. You want to make sure you avoid the pitfalls at QB by taking a top-12 QB against a poor defense. It's the same with RBs because they touch the ball more than any other position except the quarterback.

When playing on sites with a flex position, you should lean toward RBs in your cash games because they have a better floor and see more touches than WRs. However, on DraftKings, because it is one point per reception and there's a three-point bonus for 100 yards receiving, WR has a much higher value.

10. Consult Advanced Stats
Run/Pass Ratios – It can be a great source to determine D/ST; focus on pass-heavy teams with weak running games. The more passes they attempt, the more the likelihood for sacks, interceptions and defensive touchdowns.

Points Per Target (Fantasy Points/Targets) – This is a great source to find value on sleepers. If a player inherits a starting role, you need to project his potential based on a full workload. Backup players who inherit playing time are a huge part of winning weekly fantasy football.

Yards Per Completion – A lot of people look at YPA (yards per attempt), but also look at YPC because it tells you how aggressive your quarterback is. This is a great measure for deciding your weekly quarterbacks.

Points Per Touch – This is a better measure for running backs instead of PPT (points per target).

Red Zone Percentage – This is a great stat for WRs that lets you know which players see a higher percentage of usage in the red zone.

ADOT (Average Depth of Target) - ; Another great stat for WR because the sample is larger than just receptions and can be an indicator of future scoring and big-play likelihood.

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.