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DFS Football 101: Multi-Lineup Strategy for Qualifiers

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.

FanDuel has its $4 million Fan Championship this Sunday with $1 million going to the winner. It is a $250 entry with a field of 18,191 (max 150). There are four six-figure payouts and 20 five-figure payouts. So while it is top heavy, you can still pocket a very nice payday with a high finish.

The great thing about this tournament is qualifiers and satellites started as low at 5 cents! It has been a great way to get into a large-field tournament for a huge prize without risking much.

I started to take advantage of these contests by using my FanDuel points, which is like found money. I entered as many lineups as I could in all the contests that were less than $1. It paid off for me a few weeks ago when I won a $250 ticket for just $1. I also hit a bunch of satellites in the $5, $10 and $12 range.

I had five entries in last week's $12 qualifier. It paid out 300/5,157 – only 6 percent of the field qualified for a $250 ticket. It is a swing-for-the-fences approach with five entries and $60 in equity. I had about a 30 percent chance of getting one ticket, so I was going to be happy with that. I just missed out on a second ticket by about one point, which was a brutal beat. But I will go in with two entries this week. Next week, I will chronicle my strategy on how I built the lineups.

Here are how my 5 lineups finished

163.54 (69 of 51,57)
141.46 (325 of 5,157)
118.98 (1361 of 5,157)
85.7 (4454 of 5,157)
78.62 (4800 of 5,157)

In addition to having them in the qualifier, I also decided to invest a small amount in other contests like single-entry tournaments, 100-man tournaments and some cash games just to hedge. The No. 1 lineup paid off nicely along with No. 2, so I was able to make a nice profit about 4x my entries in addition to my second $250 ticket.

My strategy going into the qualifier was identify the five stacks I liked the most.

Patriots, Chargers, Jets, Vikings and Dolphins I liked for different reasons. I knew the Pats and Chargers were going to be chalk, so I had to offset that with some lower-owned players. The Vikings and Jets were the mid-tier plays I thought could hit and be lower owned. Then I took a dart on the Dolphins because the Broncos have been so bad and I knew no one would be on Miami.

My stacks:

Pats – Brady/Cooks/Gronk
Chargers – Rivers/Allen/Henry
Jets – McCown/Anderson/Kearse
Vikings – Keenum/Thielen/Diggs
Dolphins – Cutler/Parker/Thomas

I thought the Vikings stack could be huge because the Falcons were missing Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole in the secondary. Also, Case Keenum had played incredibly the last four weeks but was still underpriced and under owned.

The Jets faced a Chiefs defense that has been torched all year, and the total was relatively low at 43.5. I've been riding McCown and Anderson for a lot of the year in DFS, and then with Kearse getting a ton of targets last week it was a great play.

QB Josh Mccown NYJ $7,700 31.14 3.2
RB Kenyan Drake MIA $5,800 21.60 5.3
RB Alvin Kamara NO $8,500 27.10 9.6
WR Mike Evans TB $7,500 4.30 22.4
WR Robby Anderson NYJ $7,200 15.40 12.7
WR Jermaine Kearse NYJ $5,800 20.20 2.0
TE Delanie Walker TEN $6,400 14.80 9.2
K Greg Zuerlien LAR $5,300 17.00 11.5
D Jaguars JAC $5,600 12.00 26.8
$59,800 163.54

With the Jets a mid-tier stack, I knew I had money to spend for at least one RB and the other WR spot. I also knew I could afford to spend up at TE, K and D. Normally in a cash game or regular tournament I would try to save money at those positions, but it is all about roster construction in this format. Drake was my top value RB because Miami had no other running backs. I also wanted to ride the Kamara train again and his ownership at 9.6 percent shocked me. If I had known that I would have had more exposure. Same with Drake at 5.3 percent. I spent up for Mike Evans and looking back I made a big mistake. I should have gone with Tyreek Hill as leverage play with the Jets stack. If you think a game will be a shootout, leverage it with another player on the opposing side. Walker had a good matchup and has been the most reliable option for Marcus Mariota. I went uber chalk on the K and DST with Zuerlein and the Jags because there were not many high-priced options at RB/WR this week, so no sense leaving the money on the table.

QB Philip Rivers LAC $8,000 17.56 12.6
RB Todd Gurley LAR $8,800 18.80 31.5
RB Alex Collins BAL $5,900 22.80 4.1
WR Davante Adams GB $6,500 6.20 29.8
WR Keenan Allen LAC $8,100 21.50 22.1
WR Devin Funchess CAR $7,500 14.00 7.5
TE Hunter Henry LAC $5,400 11.60 9.1
K Stephen Gostkowski NE $5,200 13.00 10.0
D Ravens BAL $4,600 16.00 8.0
$60,000 141.46
This lineup was certainly much more "chalk" vs. the previous one. After plugging in the Chargers stack, I went with the top-priced RB on the board in Gurley. I was very high on the Ravens defense at home against Matthew Stafford, who usually struggles on the road. The Lions also had no Ameer Abdullah and their center was out. I thought the opportunity for the Ravens to get some turnovers, sacks and a possible pick six was in play at much lower ownership over the Jaguars and Chargers. Also, the Ravens were mispriced at just $4,600. Pairing the Ravens D with Alex Collins was nice correlation because I thought the Ravens would have a big lead and just run Collins (Terrance West was out).

Davante Adams was highly owned, but his price and matchup were incredible and it was hard for me not to have exposure. With his ownership 30 percent, though, I would have faded him if I knew it was going to be that high. The other WR I liked was Devin Funchess, who was in a high-total game and Greg Olsen was out. Also, Christian McCaffrey was not 100 percent healthy, so I thought Cam Newton was going to lean on Funchess heavily. The main factor was Marcus Lattimore being out again for the Saints, which meant the Panthers likely would be able to move the ball in the air.

I went with Gostkowski as kicker because I thought the Patriots would put up at least 28-31 points as they have owned the Bills for a long time.

QB Case Keenum MIN $7,600 16.98 6.3
RB Kenyan Drake MIA $5,800 21.60 5.3
RB Todd Gurley LAR $8,800 18.80 31.5
WR Adam Thielen MIN $7,800 7.10 17.5
WR Stefon Diggs MIN $7,000 4.70 8.6
WR Robby Anderson NYJ $7,200 15.40 12.7
TE Jared Cook OAK $5,500 1.40 20.0
K Justin Tucker BAL $5,000 17.00 6.4
D Ravens BAL $4,600 16.00 8.0
$59,300 118.98

I mixed in Drake, Gurley and Anderson, who I had in other lineups. The Jared Cook pick really killed me, but he was also 20 percent owned. The Ravens/Tucker combination paid off huge. This lineup went south on Thielen/Diggs putting up duds.

QB Jay Cutler MIA $6,400 15.50 0.2
RB Todd Gurley LAR $8,800 18.80 31.5
RB Jordan Howard CHI $7,500 3.80 17.1
WR DeVante Parker MIA $6,100 1.00 1.3
WR Adam Thielen MIN $7,800 7.10 17.5
WR DeAndre Hopkins HOU $8,000 12.00 18.1
TE Julius Thomas MIA $5,200 9.50 0.5
K Ryan Succop TEN $4,800 7.00 10.1
D Chargers LAC $5,300 11.00 23.3
$59,900 85.70

Everything looks good on paper, but when you play five lineups there is a good chance that a couple will flame out. I took a huge risk on the Dolphins, but Drake was the one who got all the fantasy points in that game.

QB Tom Brady NE $9,300 9.32 9.9
RB Jordan Howard CHI $7,500 3.80 17.1
RB Carlos Hyde SF $7,000 8.10 11.1
WR Davante Adams GB $6,500 6.20 29.8
WR Dede Westbrook JAC $4,700 10.80 4.3
WR Brandin Cooks NE $7,600 3.20 20.4
TE Rob Gronkowski NE $8,100 19.20 18.6
K Kai Forbath MIN $4,700 2.00 6.5
D Ravens BAL $4,600 16.00 8.0
$60,000 78.62

This lineup was terrible with the exception of Gronk and the Ravens.
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.