Understanding how to play the NFL Contests.
By Evan Reinecke
Summer is coming to an end. School is about to start and a sense of normalcy is about to begin in my house. Wait a minute I’m a liar the best part of the fantasy sports year is about to begin, Football season is back and we are hearing to help get you ready. Whether your thing is daily fantasy sports play, season long leagues, or my personal favorite suicide pools I got you covered.
What will be covered today is a basic overall strategy for successful fantasy football play.
Over the next two weeks we will break down each division, highlighting the best fantasy relevant players per team, ass well as some sleepers that some players might not be thinking about. Let’s get to it. How do we become successful fantasy football players?
The most important aspect of fantasy sports play is the same and this goes for football, baseball , basketball etc. and it doesn’t matter whether you play season long leagues or daily fantasy play. Here it is to be successful it’s critical that you have a thorough understanding of the scoring system employed by your leaguer or the site that you are competing on. Let me say it again to be successful in any fantasy sport you play understanding the scoring system is critical!!!! The reason is simple this will determine value and allow us to determine our draft strategies in our season long leagues and in our daily leagues identify where we should be focusing our salary cap.
I’m not going to review the scoring systems here for daily leagues as Ian puts out an overview at the start of every season and as for individual leagues that’s on you. If you don’t understand the rules don’t compete until you do or risk making poor selections.
General Roster Construction Theory
It’s amazing to me how little people know about roster construction . That changes right here. For you new guys pay attention and take notes, as for the veterans it will serve as a subtle reminder. Let’s use daily fantasy sports although one could argue that the same rules apply in season long leagues. Here is the most important point that you need to understand, EVERY SLATE IS DIFFERENT, but there is a simple formula that can be used to simplify our approach. I can’t stand math so what is Evan going to do, he is going to give you a mathematical equation for you to memorize
Opportunity+ Matchup+Price= Rostered player
The best part is this equation never changes. Wait a minute what about if I’m playing a cash game or a tournament shouldn’t my roster process be different? My answer is nope and here being my rebuke to those who disagree. Before I get into it though keep in mind my way very well could be the wrong way. Evan wtf your saying your system is wrong. No my answer is there is no right way or wrong way but there are many successful ways, I’m just teaching my methods of play. Now my method of play may be different but the equation I wrote above I stand by as there is no arguing the equation. Ok back to my method you see I’m a single entry player I don’t make multiple lineups my mind just can’t wrap around it. Now nothing against guys that make multiple lineups they are successful in their lineup process but guess what at the end of the day they all follow the above equation and would readily admit that every slate is different and needs to be handled like reading a new book. So the reason I don’t distinguish between cash games and tournament plays is that every lineup I make is with the intention of winning a tournament, so if I’m comfortable creating a roster to compete against thousands of people why would I be afraid to use this lineup in cash games.
So back to the above equation. The first thing I do is review each player at each position and try to find players that meet the above criteria. I’ll do it for running backs, quarterbacks, and each position. Here is what happens you may have a list of 32 quarterbacks when you start this process but guess what by the time your done your list of 32 quarterbacks will most likely be whittled down to 12 players. Remember football is different we have a whole week to prepare for a slate it’s not baseball! The next step is after I have knocked down the list to the players that match opportunity/matchup / price I find the cheapest player I feel comfortable rostering. This is known as building our lineups from the bottom up, you will be amazed at how many people don’t do this. Here is what’s great about doing this. When your done your going to have a large amount of salary cap left over which will allow us to upgrade our rosters with the star name players that we want to deploy, yet at the same time having a roster void of punt plays. A note on punts u hate this term. You should never punt a roster spot.
Hey Evan I need a cheap player sometimes to make my roster work. No you don’t. Hear is the difference don’t look at salary for punts look for underpriced players that sites have gotten the salary flat out wrong. There is a big difference between rostering a player that sucks and is priced down and a player whose price has not caught up to their opportunity. Repeat after me I won’t punt a player, I’ll build my roster from the bottom up, and upgrade my roster with the salary left over, and most importantly I won’t freak out if I leave some salary on the table. Repeat this a few times until the words are drilled in to your head you will thank me for it when your making more profit and building stronger line ups.
Let’s get back to our season long guys for a minute. The theory above is the same. The difference is now your drafting players for a season long roster. Don’t worry if you make a mistake that’s what the waiver wire is for. I’ll pass on a few draft day and season long strategies here. First thing realize your draft position will determine your approach. Draft the best player available to you when your drafting. One mistake a lot of players make is they have a preconceived notion how they want to draft. This is a big no no doesn’t do it. On your draft day your going to have to adapt as the draft plays out especially in the first three to four rounds of your draft. Here is a perfect example you see a bunch of star wide receivers coming off the board panic sets in you feel to urge to grab a wide receiver too but you shouldn’t just pivot to another position and grab a star player at another position. Remember there is always a pivot. One last reminder doesn’t give up on your players prematurely personal story I gave up on Devonte Freeman in week 2 last season in a waiver wire move, guess we know how that all turned out. Tom just say your welcome !!!!!
Step Three Become a student of the game,
This one is short but almost as important as the first two longer sections. You need to learn how to forecast how a game will play out. This is what will help you determine value in daily fantasy play. Again we have a week to prepare for each slate so a little extra work won’t hurt you. Vegas is a great starting point by reviewing the point spreads and over under lines. Read as much as you can about each upcoming game. I will try to provide this in Wednesday or Thursday of each week to try to reduce done of your work, but you should try to do it yourself because my interpretation may be different than yours.
So we have covered the basics of roster construction , understanding scoring systems, and assessing value now let’s review what I look at when picking players for each position . I’ll work in reverse and attack the positions of least importance and work my way up. Again this is my approach and there really is no one right or wrong way, it works for me and maybe it will help you.
Step Four The Players
This is the position I spend the least amount of time thinking about. I generally build my rosters first and fit my kicker in based on my salary cap. I do look for games with point spreads usually within seven points as these games should be close throughout. I avoid teams that look like they may get blown out. One additional consideration with the extra point being pushed back a bit we need to know our coaches. Some coaches like my team the stealers are known for going for two point conversions at any time during the course of the game which can downgrade our kicker some. I didn’t tell you to become a student of the game for no reason.
Season long guys don’t waste a early pick on a kicker unless it’s Gostkowski and I have no issue with streaming the position.
Will start with season long this time. Unless it’s an elite defense don’t use a high round draft pick on a defense, and I’m not against streaming defenses on a week to week basis.
I follow the same procedure as I look for matchup and opportunity. It doesn’t have to be the highest dollar defense on the slate. We are looking for defenses that can cause turnovers and generate sacks. We need to asses the offensive lines our defense will be facing are they banged up do they struggle in any specific aspect of the game. When I deploy a defense I also want to know the game script. I want defenses going against offenses that are playing from behind. When an offense has to play from behind they typically become one dimensional meaning a ton of passing. Ton of passing equals more opportunities for sacks interceptions etc. A good example for the last two years has been the New England Patriots. They never cost the most as far as salary but with their offense destroying the opposition their defense sure scored a ton of points.
The Rest Quarterbacks and Skill position players I use the same philosophy in evaluating players so I will just explain what I’m looking for at each position. Before we do that though take sometime and get familiar with the offensive lines in the NFL. Good offensive lines usual yield good offensive players don’t neglect your offensive line research bad offensive line play equals no holes for your running backs to get through, no time for your wide receiver go run that deep 80-yard touchdown route, and your quarterback on his rear end all day. Offensive lines are that important.
The most unpredictable position to forecast unless deploying Gronk. What we need to look for is teams that feature the tight end prominently in their offense as well as teams that defend the position badly. We want to avoid those tight ends that are nothing more than a sixth lineman. Unfortunately, the best tight ends are extremely priced up aka Gronk so we really have to use our value price opportunity equation in this position. The saving grace is the amount of serviceable tight ends that we my deploy on a weekly basis may be less than ten once we start cutting away the fat thus streamlining our research for this position.
The quarterback position in football is like the pitcher position in baseball, I want the most upside for the cheapest price possible. I rarely pay up and season long I won’t look at a quarterback until after the fifth round. This is a position where we can always find some decent value and game scripts are very important here. I want quarterbacks where the philosophy is to throw all day long whether they have a lead or not and I love stacking a quarterback with his favorite wide receiver, a little two for the price of one action. I also look for quarterbacks that throw the ball down the field I don’t really like the dink and dunk guys so much but of they have the weapons and throw for tons of yardage and get their passing touchdowns I’m ok with them. I don’t want quarterbacks with shaky offensive lines. This is another position that after some initial research we should be able to narrow down to around 10 players very quickly and based on game theory find a great select for a reasonable price weekly.
Now the research gets harder as we have a lot more players to work through. For this position I’m looking for true feature backs, I don’t want time share backs. If we can get a running back that is featured and even better yet involved in the passing game, we hit it big. This running back doesn’t have to be the highest priced back to meet this criterion and we will be getting a lot of guys early in the season at a discount as their value may not be identified in the initial portion of the season to the untrained eye, but your going to become a student of the game and will have an edge on the field right? Other things to look for yes back to game script is our running back in a situation where they are killing the clock and getting carry after carry or is our running back going to be regulated to a spectator due to a blow out. Last but not least can we expect our running back to get the red zone carries there is nothing worse than your running back doing all the work and at the goal line the team short yardage back comes in and steals the touchdown. To sum it up I want a running back not in a time share that is involved in the passing game that gets the goal line carries. Not too much to ask for right.
Last but not least the most important position on my fantasy team , at least in my opinion. It’s one of the most explosive if not the most explosive positions in daily / season fantasy football. These guys will make or break your day trust me. What are we looking for here, the answer is targets of course, but it’s not that simple? The type of targets is just as important as the amount of targets, are the targets high percentage completions, or long explosive routes, is my wide receiver a yard (yards after the catch guy) in my experience I want guys that offer a little bit of everything and they are easier to find than you think if you study game scripts. This will also take up the most Amoy t of research time as we have to analyze defensive backs. It’s seems appropriate to discuss how to attack shut down corners here. Don’t play against them. Maybe yes maybe no. What we need to know is this shut down corner going to follow around my number one receiver all game or just take away half the field. If the corner plays a side a good offensive coordinator will scheme around it and your star wide receiver may have a better matchup and at a reduced price due to a perceived tougher matchup.
That’s my breakdown on NFL roster construction and how to value positions.
I hope this article helps prepare you for your season long and week 1 daily fantasy sports contests .
Remember the following equation
Matchup + Opportunity+ Price = A dam good roster
As always I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org