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DFS Football 101: DFS Football Starter Kit

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.

August is here and NFL Minicamps have opened. That means it's officially football season. In the past, this meant you started drafting in season long leagues, but with the popularity of best ball and MFL10s you can draft as early as February. Also, with the exploding popularity of daily fantasy sports, we get FanDuel and DraftKings who launched their NFL Week 1 contests Monday.

My articles will help prepare you for the upcoming season with a focus on what you need to know as a new player to be successful in daily fantasy football.

Let’s start with the formats on FanDuel and DraftKings.


Salary Cap: $60,000
Roster: QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, K, D
Unique Wrinkles: 0.5 points per reception, kickers

Salary Range by Position:

QB $6,000 - $10,000 (floor has been raised from $5,000 to $6,000)
RB $4,500 - $10,000
WR $4,500 - $10,000
TE $4,500 - $8,500
K $4,500 - $5,300
D $4,000 - $5,400


Salary Cap: $50,000
Roster: QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, D, Flex
Unique Wrinkles: 1 point per reception, 3 points for 300 yards passing, 3 points for 100 yards rushing/receiving, flex position, no kickers

Salary Range by Position:

QB $4,000 - $10,000 (Dropped from $5,000 to $4,000)
RB $3,000 - $10,000
WR $3,000 - $10,000
TE $2,500 - $7,500
D $2,000 - $3,900

Based on points per game and standard deviation, it makes sense to pay up for QB, RB, WR on FanDuel and look for the best values at TE, D, K.

DraftKings has more of a spread between its low and high prices at each position, meaning value plays should be more emphasized to allow you to squeeze those higher-priced players under the salary cap.

Contest Selection

What contests should you play?

Single entry double-ups or 50/50s
Tournament with less than 1000 players (single entry or 3 max entries only)
Survivor contests
Beginner contests (if you qualify)

What contests should you NOT play?

Heads up
Multiple entry double-ups or 50/50s
Tournaments with multiple entries allowing over 10 entries max
Tourmaments with more than 1,000 entries

Bankroll Management

You can play a few more tournaments early in the season because of the likelihood of some overlay.
Let’s say a tournament pays out 20 percent of the field if the contest fills, but if it doesn’t fill then the percent of the field paid out goes up. So you might catch some overlay and the payout becomes 25 or 30 percent.

If you have $100 to play with for the season, allocate 20 percent in Week 1 ($20). Out of that $20, you can play in $5 worth of tournaments. I would prefer playing just one $5 tournament that is less than 1,000 players, single entry. Note that those contests are not posted yet. They should be posted as we get closer to Week 1.

Understanding Your Opponent

Sharks (high-volume players) are already posting heads up contests up to $10,000. This is to see if any new players will bite on taking their action. Also, it feeds their egos. Anyone entering contests now is just trying to get their name out there on the board. You don’t want to bother entering any contests now as it will just tie up your bankroll. Wait until we get closer to Week 1 and we see a lot more inventory.

Practice Making Lineups

One of the worst things you can do as a new player, is start making lineups on Sunday morning. With more than a month until Week 1, you have plenty of time to start practicing lineup construction. Use the RotoWire Optimizer and come up with some different strategies. What would my team look like with Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson? What would it look like with Odell Beckham and Julio Jones? Of course plenty of things will change the next four week and open up value, but start practicing now.

When making lineups you want to practice positive correlation strategy. This is one of the biggest mistakes that new players make. Negative correlation would be taking Aaron Rodgers as your QB, but then taking the D/ST that he is playing. Believe it or not, new players do make this mistake and they don’t even realize it. Usually it happens because you are making a lineup last minute and you come down to picking a D/ST and the only one that fits into the salary cap happens to be your QB's opponent.

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.