There are plenty of articles on DFS roster construction, but most of it is focused on Milly Maker lineups or perfect rosters. That's all well and good, but it's not the most useful information. While I do throw the occasional hat into the million-dollar GPP pools, most of my games are between the $3 and $20 range. If you're like me, a step above casual and several steps below career DFS player, then this guide is for you.
What I've done: I looked at certain statistics from EVERY cash and GPP event I played last year because that research is unique; it's specific to me and my games. I approached my research from a salary perspective, so when I say a top-five RB, for instance, I'm not referring to the top five RBs in terms of fantasy production, but top five in terms of DraftKings salary. This is how I will refer to all players and positions from now on. So I'm going to share with you the results of the winning lineups from each event I participated in last year.
The Raw Numbers
Remember, these are not necessarily my lineups, but the lineups of all the GPP winners in the events I played. Here are the numbers.
Average Ownership by Position
Total Average Ownership: 17.2%
Average Salary by Position
Average Unspent Salary: $128
Most common QB choice: Top five (33%)
Most common RB1 choice: Top five (77%)
Most common RB2 choice: Top ten (34%)
Most common WR1 choice: Top five (39%)
Most common WR2 choice: Top twenty (39%)
Most common WR3 choice: Top forty (30%)
Most common Flex choice: Top fifty (28%)
Most common TE choice: punt (39%)
Most common D/ST choice: punt (36%)
D/ST / RB Stack?
Multiple flex positions from the same team?
Home or Away D/ST
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach do DFS, but I can help you with some general rules that I follow and that seem to work for me. If we look at the numbers above, we see some really important details that can generate some rules that we should try to follow:
Don't shy away from big names, especially at RB. You should never submit a lineup without one of the top five most expensive RBs. They will win your tournaments.
Spend up at WR1 and QB, but try to keep the QB under $6500.
WR spending should drop off significantly (about 10 positions) for WR2, WR3, and Flex choices.
Generally, try to pick RBs for Flex.
Don't spend up on TE unless they are the best that week (Kelce and Ertz were the only worthwhile TEs to spend up on in 2018.
Punt D/ST and be prepared to make a contrarian pick
Don't leave more than $200 unspent
Keep your average ownership low, but don't shy away from highly owned (30% or more) plays, especially at RB.
Don't have more than one super low-ownership plays (<5%)
Now that we have the numbers, I just want to share with you how I construct my rosters and make my decisions. This approach might not work for you, or maybe you have a better way of doing things, but I'll share what's worked for me in the past.
The absolute first thing I do is decide what lineups I need to create based on what slates I'm playing. I create eight lineups each week, but I may narrow that down to three or four. I parse things out by slate first, creating both cash and GPP lineup for Thursday-Monday, Sunday-Monday, Early Only, and Afternoon Only. I get ownership in each area and spend fairly evenly between cash and GPP. I will not play a GPP lineup in cash, but I will play each cash lineup in at least one GPP (imagine if your cash lineup scored 200 points and you didn't have that in a tournament somewhere. You'd win, but it would feel terrible).
Although I make eight lineups, I'm considering narrowing that down. I like spreading myself into more areas because it provides me with more information, but there are some odd tendencies that I've discovered playing the way I have. The most common narrative for actually making money in DFS is to generate through lots and lots of cash games, but I'm personally falling out of favor with cash games. If playing 50/50s for instance, you have to beat about 55% of the field, which is why Head to Head if FAR better because you only have to beat 50% of the field. GPP differs by event, which is why I always look at how many positions make their money back against the field. GPP tournaments often only pay back the top 20%, but there are the occasional events that pay back the top 23%. I get far more exposure to these tournaments.
Making a top 20% lineup is not much more difficult than making a top 45% lineup, as such, I'm favoring only exposing myself to GPP instead of cash. Sure, cash can be a grind if you have significant capital investment, but I don't think it's the way to make money. This may not work for you, but I typically break even over a weekend of GPP, and I will outright win a tournament a little less than once per year.
In short: I'm not making money playing cash, but I am way ahead on GPP. You should spend more money and effort into tournaments.
Once I figure out what slates I'm playing and what lineups I need to create, the rest falls into place. I always keep an eye on the average salaries, but averages are only so useful. I more try to construct my roster around the choices for the individual position. I know, for instance, that my WR1 should come from the top ten most expensive choices, so I'll look at that list exclusively and try to pick my guy. RB? Top five. Flex? RB. Here, in short, is the list of steps I follow when constructing a roster:
Pick the slate; less exposure for big fields, more exposure for smaller (most of my money is earned from Afternoon Only slates)
Pick a top-five RB
Pick a top-five WR
Stack (you MUST stack) WR with his QB
Pick a top ten RB
Pick a top twenty WR, then a top 30-40
Pick an RB flex (between $3300-$4500, never punt flex unless you spend up at TE)
Use remaining cash to punt D/ST and TE; pick the one D/ST that all the experts tell you not to pick because nobody knows what's going on with the defense.
Finally, here are some additional tips and tricks:
Pay attention! DFS is not a daily game, it is an hourly one. Either has Twitter or, better yet, the @SleeperHQ app. I will get injury updates mere minutes before a game starts.
Chase injuries, especially at RB. It doesn't matter what the matchup looks like, if David Johnson goes down one week, I will have Chase Edmonds starting in every lineup.
Avoid PPR gems like Jarvis Landry in GPP; you need an outside guy who can score TDs
Consider an inexpensive TD vulture as your Flex RB (Latavius Murray, anyone?)
DraftKings measures matchup based on TEAM scoring, but not individuals. If a matchup is in the lower half, they mark it red, causing low ownership for what may be an excellent matchup. You may have to use a subscription service like Pro Football Focus to find the best information on WR/CB matchups, but that is DFS gold.
RBs are consistent; we generally know what they will score because the opportunity is more important than efficiency
WRs yo-yo. If a WR is peppered with targets in Week 1 but doesn't produce, target that player in Week 2 if his price drops. QBs have favorites that they want to produce.
Every player has to score a TD. There's no way to predict this, and it seems so obvious, but if there is a guy on your team with limited potential for TDs (think slot receivers), then avoid them. The only way to win a GPP tournament is to average a little more than 1 TD per Flex player. 2 TD minimum for QBs.
Thanks, I hope this helped. Now go win some money.
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