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DFS Football 101: Building a Cash Game System

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.

For those who have followed my work here over the last four-plus years, you KNOW I focus on two things -- helping new players and cash games. I will continue that theme over the 2017 football season.

Last week, I broke down the Week 1 matchups and built three cash-game lineups. I also tried to give you my thought process as I was going through the lineup construction process. In addition to last week’s article, here are two articles about cash game lineup construction that I wrote about in the past:

Cash Game Lineup Construction – October 2, 2014
Cash Game Lineup Construction – December 22, 2016

This week, I focus on giving you some rules and guidelines to live by with making your cash game lineup decisions. By no means are these absolute rules, but if you are a newer player it is best that you try and follow them.

Cash Game System by Position


  • Favored
  • Preferably at home
  • High projected team total (26 points or higher)
  • Projected in the Top 12
  • Projected Rank is at least equivalent to Salary Rank
    • Example -- Marcus Mariota is the ninth-highest priced QB, but is ranked fourth, so you would look to play him in cash under this scenario
    • Example -- Russell Wilson is the third-highest priced QB, but is ranked eighth, so you would NOT play him in cash under this scenario
    • If a QB is ranked fifth, but priced second, I probably would look to fade him in cash. (-3) is usually my rule of thumb
  • QB is healthy -- no issues with shoulders, knees, etc., that could impact performance
  • QB team is relatively healthy -- all skill position players and offensive line
    • Example -- I was not as high on Aaron Rodgers in cash games this week because of the tough matchup and Bryan Bulaga being out, even though he was at home, favored, high total
  • If QB is a home stud, like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger, focus on them if matchup is favorable
  • Avoid any game with severe weather issues (cold, wind, rain, etc.)
  • Select three quarterbacks from your research to have on your cheat sheet

Running Backs

  • Projected Touches are King -- the more, the merrier
  • Must have some involvement in the passing game
  • Stays in on goal-line situations
  • Favored (higher the better -- team will have big lead and run the ball more)
  • Preferably at home
  • High projected total
  • Projected in the Top 12; Flex position can be projected in the Top 24
  • Projected Rank is at least equivalent to Salary Rank with a -3 threshold (see Quarterbacks for explanation)
  • RB is healthy -- no knee, ankle issues, etc
  • Offensive line is relatively healthy
  • Opponent has injuries to key players on the defensive line or linebackers
  • Workload will potentially increase (If one WR is banged up, team will rely on RB even more)
  • Look for pricing errors -- salary has not caught up to production or role
  • Select six running backs from your research to have on your cheat sheet

Wide Receivers

  • Targets are king along with consistency from week to week
  • Preferably at home, favored
  • Projected team total of 22 or higher
  • Projected in Top 36
  • Needs at least an average QB throwing to them, avoid bad QB
  • Focus on WR1 and WR2, limit exposure to any WR3 unless it is on a top-five passing offense
  • Avoid deep threat, boom/bust receivers like DeSean Jackson, Martavis Bryant, Brandin Cooks
  • Look at opposing cornerback matchups
    • Avoid any shutdown corners
    • Target bad corners or nickel corners forced into starting role
  • Look for pricing errors -- salary has not caught up to production or role (Tyreek Hill in 2016)
  • WR is healthy -- no hamstring, ankle, calf issues
  • QB is healthy -- offensive line is relatively healthy
  • WR role is increased due to another WR on same team out with injury
  • Aim to keep salaries within $1000 of each other (Example -- $5000, $5500, $6000). You want a collective group of consistent players. "Stars and Scrubs" is not the way to go in cash games

Next week I will cover the TE, K, D/ST positions along with some overall rules to take note of.

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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