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DFS Football 101: FanDuel Online Championship Strategy

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.

Last week, I wrote about my strategy in using qualifier and satellite contests to gain entry in the $4 Million FanDuel Online Championship that took place last Sunday. This week, I will give you a breakdown on my thought process in building the two lineups I entered in the contest.

Here are the contest details:

$250 entry fee
$4 Million Prize Pool
$1 Million 1st Place
$400,000 2nd Place
$200,000 3rd Place
$100,000 4th Place

Out of 18,181 entries, 3,465 places paid out (19 percent of the field paid). While the contest was top heavy, it also gave a chance to win something back with $400 as the lowest prize.

My strategy with two entries was to have one lineup that was safe but with some upside. It would have some players who were higher owned, but hopefully a couple players were lesser owned to give me some differentiation.

Because I qualified for just a few dollars, the contest was all upside for me. I would have been happy just having one of my lineups cash. But I also wanted to make the second lineup more of a shoot-for-the-moon with a shot at maybe getting into the top 10 and getting a five-figure payoff.

My Main Lineup

POSPLAYERTEAMSALARYPOINTSPCT OWNED
QB Alex Smith KC $8,200 12.12 15.7
RB Giovani Bernard CIN $5,100 16.00 35.8
RB Jamaal Williams GB $6,600 27.30 7.2
WR Tyreek Hill KC $7,800 9.50 18.1
WR Marquise Goodwin SF $5,700 13.60 16.6
WR DeAndre Hopkins HOU $8,600 30.40 34.6
TE Travis Kelce KC $8,000 10.90 33.9
K Matt Prater DET $5,000 7.00 5.9
DST Packers GB $5,000 6.00 8.9
$60,000 132.82

Looking at quarterback in Week 14, there were not a lot of the big names at the top, so I knew I would have to take some chances. But the safest play looked to be Alex Smith, who was at home against the Raiders and coming off a huge game against the Jets. I knew Smith would probably be the highest-owned QB, but at 15.7 percent it was low enough that I was not concerned.

The thing I liked about Smith was that so many targets go to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. I knew both would be highly owned, but, again, I was building this lineup for safety. Kelce had several opportunities to score Sunday and it just didn't happen. Hill was a risky play at home because he has actually been worse at home and better on the road.

Running backs were going to be tricky because Todd Gurley had a tough matchup and Melvin Gordon would be heavily owned also. I was not in love with either back and wanted to pay "down" at RB. Gio Bernard was definitely going to be the chalk of the week, and I expected 30-35 percent ownership. Even at that high ownership, I went with him because of what it was going to allow me to do at wide receiver, and I also paid up for Kelce.

I looked at Jamaal Williams early in the week and then the Aaron Jones news started to circulate. I think this scared people off Williams. But I kept up on the local beat reports and the word was Williams was getting the majority of the workload. His ownership came in at just 7.2 percent. With the weather bad and Brett Hundley struggling most of his starts, I thought the Packers would lean heavily on Williams.

Because I took bargains at running back, I knew I had to pay up for the best wide receiver and that has been DeAndre Hopkins (Antonio Brown was not in the slate) and he had a great matchup against the 49ers. Also, the Texans had a lot of injuries, which meant they would have to lean on Hopkins even more. The projected ownership was in the 30s and I usually do not take receivers in tournaments that high, but there just were not many options at WR that I felt were absolute musts.

Another player I liked entering the week was Marquise Goodwin. With Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, Goodwin has become the 49ers' leading receiver, and they had a good matchup against the Texans who have been one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

Rounding out the rest of the lineup, I wanted to have correlation with my running back and defense, so the pairing of Williams with Packers D looked great, especially in a bad-weather game vs. the Browns. The ownership on the Packers came in at 8.9 percent which was lower than I expected. I thought they might be in the 20 percent range once the weather reports hit. The Packers D isn't very good so that is always a risk when playing the matchup game.

I originally went with Travis Coons at kicker for $4500, but I had money left over and I knew Coons would be heavily owned. Since Coons was already on my other lineup along with the Chargers D, I went with Matt Prater because the Lions were projected as one of the highest scoring teams and it was in a warm-weather environment. Also, Prater has had a lot of field goals in the 50-yard range, so if the Lions got in range, he would get the opportunity.

When the Chiefs stack pretty much went bust I didn't expect this lineup to cash, but DeAndre Hopkins and Jamaal Williams carried the team and I earned a minimum cash for $400. While it wasn't a huge, life-changing payoff, it gives me some extra money in Week 14 to fire some lineups in higher entry fees than I normally play.
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.