Training camp is over and the last preseason games are about to be played. I just conducted my season long NFL fantasy draft (please let my players not get injured in the final preseason game), and final roster cut downs are about to take place. It seems like a great time to do a quick review about how I start my research for roster construction.
The first step for me is to always review the rules of the sites that I plan to enter contests on. On the site, Ian has the rules of the various different sites that are popular so give it a quick read and refresh yourself. Great your refreshed the most critical step now is about to take place and it has nothing to do with choosing your starting quarterback or running back! The most important step is determining what type of contest you’re going to enter because your strategies will be completely different. The basic contest types are cash games (head to head / 50-50) and tournaments (multi entry ).
Cash games are basically simplistic as you only typically have to beat one person or 50 percent of the field. In my cash games, I try to create a roster that has a high floor as well as a high ceiling. Cash games I have learned to embrace the chalk so to speak. If a player is a good play in a cash game I’m playing him I don’t care if he is 80 percent owned. Let your opponents get cute and fade a great play don’t be that guy, differentiate your rosters another way, but never fade a player in a cash game out of fear of ownership.
Tournament play is a completely different animal. When Ian and I begin our weekly podcasts I’ll usually defer to him as he as much better tournament player than I can ever possibly hope to be. In tournaments, we want to look for high upside players at low ownership. We want players that can possibly match a great play at lower ownership. Which leads me to a very important point concerning tournament play but is also applicable to cash games. Don’t play bad players. I’ll say it again don’t play bad players. When I review tournament rosters you would be surprised at how many people take players in bad matchups just because they think they will be low owned. Don’t do this ever. Stick to good players in good matchups or star players that are matchup proof and you will become a better player from the first day you incorporate this strategy in your lineup construction process.
Now for the fun stuff let’s review a few basic points to help us with our roster construction process. I begin my roster construction process always by looking at Vegas lines. I want to know what Vegas thinks about a game. If a game has a high projected total (for me that usually means a combined game total of 45 points or higher) I want to begin researching the game. I typically avoid low projected scoring games and teams with low implied totals but not always (we will get to these exceptions in a minute)
So we have identified games that have a good implied Vegas total now I can start picking my player right (WRONG). Your next step is the most important starting point and again it has nothing to do with picking players (not yet anyway). My next step in my roster construction process is that I look at all the games on the schedule regardless of Vegas lines and try to determine how a game will play out. Is the team you’re considering offensive players from a pass heavy team or a run heavy team. Is the opposing defense strong in any particular area? Does the opposing defense have a great pass rush or a shutdown corner? Is that shut down corner a shadow coverage type player or does he shut down a particular side? This is extremely important in the case of a stud wide receiver vs a stud corner because if he is not a shadow coverage type player your stud wide receiver may not have as tough of a matchup as you may think. A good offensive coordinator will design plays to avoid having the defenses stud corner covering his stud receiver.
Evan can we finally talk about roster construction. Yup, we have reviewed Vegas lines and we know how a game will play out so we can start to make decisions on players. I have a simple formula that I use not just in football but all fantasy sports. Here it is
Matchup +opportunity +price
Let’s cover each one of these topics briefly.
The matchup is easy, does Vegas see the game as a good possibility for fantasy goodness, is there defense vs position opportunities to exploit, and is the game going to be competitive or a blowout. Now you see why it’s important to understand how a game is going to be played out. Let’s use an example to illustrate the point a little further. This year week one has Pittsburgh vs Cleveland which should be a blowout. How do we think this game will play out? In my opinion, Pittsburgh should jump out all over Cleveland and sometime midway through the third quarter Pittsburgh should become somewhat one dimensional and concentrate on running the ball to kill the clock. This game sets up extremely well for Leveon Bell and the other Pittsburgh skill players but what about Big Ben. Do I want to pay the highest quarterback price on the slate when Ben may not be throwing the ball midway through the third quarter probably not, on the contrary, I have no problem paying a premium for Bell especially in cash games where he has 2 touchdown upsides? On the opposite side when considering Cleveland players, the running game is off limits because the game script will not be great for that unit but the quarterback and wide receivers can be considered due to game flow and possible garbage time. Let’s take a minute to talk about garbage time. This needs to be considered because a team that’s blowing out another team will feed their running back often while the opposing quarterback will be throwing more often to try to get their team back in the game, and don’t discount the dreaded prevent defense which will allow padding of stats.
Opportunity we don’t have to spend a lot of time on. All I consider here is targets and touches. Simply put based on my understanding of game flow can I expect my running back to get plenty of carries or is my quarterback going to be forced to throw the ball creating plenty of target opportunities for my receivers. It’s really that simple.
Price (cash rules everything doesn’t it) is predicated on the previous two criteria. If the matchup is good and the opportunity is great we can consider rostering a player. Here is how I do it. Let’s use the quarterback position as an example. After reviewing game scripts, matchups, and opportunities I’ll create a list of players to use. Using week one as an example on fan duel Ben Roethlesberger has a great matchup but he also has the highest price tag are there some cheaper quarterbacks in equally good matchups that merit consideration. One guy that jumps off the page for me is Russell Wilson who could be considered. I’ll complete this process for all the quarterbacks on the schedule. Then I’ll do the same thing for each position thereafter. The exception is the kicker position which I typically look for the cheapest kicker I can find with a good game script.
Here comes the fun part I have made my lists and identified all my favorite possible and now I start building rosters. Sometimes I’ll build 10 sometimes 20 if time isn’t an issue I can build between 50-100 rosters, but there is a trick to this. Many people try to stuff their favorite most expensive players into their roster and this is a big mistake. I always build my rosters from the bottom up. Take the cheapest good player at a position that you feel comfortable with and lock him in, you will find that you will have salary left over and now have the ability to upgrade a position. By following this method, you will have a player at each position that is a solid play (remember we don’t roster bad players)
And you will feel comfortable with your entire roster and not just bits and pieces.
That wraps up my NFL roster construction preview article. I look forward to the real games to begin, the break was good but now it’s time to get down to business. Ian and I should have a pod cast sometime before week one where We will discuss our favorite plays of the week. Good luck with your research and questions are always welcome. See you next week
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