I want to start by being clear on what I’m not covering in this article:
- How daily fantasy works (although I do touch on this in the FAQ at bottom of the article)
- Long-term strategies for daily fantasy
Instead, this article is about how to win your daily fantasy tournament this week. I’m not going to water it down with a bunch of other fluff. This article is my own passion to find the best expert tips when setting up my daily fantasy lineup.
1. Pass on consistent and go high-volatility
Go boom or bust in bigger competitions.
This means if two running backs cost about the same, go for the one that comes in mostly on passing downs and averages 20 yards a game but occasionally breaks the 80-yard touchdown. Pass on running back that doesn’t get any goal line carries but chips away 40-60 yards every game.
When you’re competing against multiple teams, you have to stand out. You can do it with a consistently average team. You need a team that is capable of scoring a boatload of points. Since everyone has the same budget and players are priced based on their production, the way to do this is to pick players that sometimes suck and hope they don’t this time.
2. Size up your competition (literally)
How many teams are you going up against is the #1 factor in your strategy.
The more people you play, the better you have to be. That’s obvious. But what’s not obvious is you can control the chance of how good you’re going to be. This ties into the volatility above.
Let’s compare it to sports. If you’re playing a team about as good as you (this would be like a one on one matchup in daily fantasy sports), you can win playing a pretty standard game. But if you’re a huge underdog (this would be like entering a big prize multi-team daily fantasy sports pool–if there’s 100 teams, your chance of winning against 99 other teams isn’t great), you need to take risks–run trick plays, do an onside kick when you aren’t supposed to, go for the fumble even if it means you might miss the tackle. All this could make you look bad an get blown out even more, but it gives you a chance.
Notice is the #1 strategy I left out the details on picking out volatile players. Should every position be volatile? Should your expensive players and cheaper players be volatile? This is because it depends on your competition.
If you’re one on one, volatility isn’t important. You can make a line up with a few consistently good players and then on one of two of your lowest budget players, pick people that sometimes never score, sometimes they get a touchdown (or any other style of boom bust player).
If you’re battling against a group, you need to be riskier. Don’t spend on the consistently good players. Instead, don’t spend too high on any one player, but have a squad of players that sometimes kill it and sometimes flop. Pray they kill it.
3. Check the bargain bin before the game starts
Players are priced pretty accurately, which means two players with the same price tag are expected to give you the same amount of points.
It’s hard to find bargains, but the best time to find them is at the buzzer. Look for new injury news that comes in close to when your roster needs to be finalized. Check if that news is factored into the backup playres price. Usually, it’s not enough.
For best results, use this information in a less obvious way. Read the injury reports of key games, and see find the defensive injuries that aren’t getting a lot of coverage. Maybe a team’s 2nd and 3rd best cornerbacks are hobbling around on bad ankles and sore backs. Well, they’re either not going to play or may not play as well. This may boost the 2nd and 3rd best wide receivers on the opposing team to their quarterbacks favorite weapon.
4. Make friends with Vegas
No one has more money on the line when it comes to sports than Vegas. This means their algorithims and prediction models have to be as perfect as possible, so they don’t get robbed by the many money-hungry, smart sports bettors out there.
This means you can get a lot of information from prop bets. Vegas updates pretty quickly, too. You can combine this with our #3 tip, and when you hear of injuries, see if Vegas is agreeing your player will get a boost.
5. Blow all your cash
A lot of daily fantasy tips involving being a contrarian. You’ve got to against the grain to win — especially big pools. This can cause some people to get really cute and not spend their budget.
But here’s a contrarian tip: don’t spend all of it.
The stats show that people that your odds increase as you spend more money. So why not spend all of it? It’s likely you’re forcing it a little too much. If you’re putting a little thougth and time into who you choose, it’s really unlikely it works out to the dollar with your budget, but it should be close.
So don’t force it, but if you’re not close to your full budget, look if there’s a player you could upgrade.
6. Ban your teams
On one hand, you know your team better than any other team.
I still find it’s too difficult to put your bias aside. That’s usually an upside bias – “we’re gonna smoke em’!” But it can be a negative bias, too – “we’ suck, no way we can score against them.”
There’s just so many players out there, you’re best off just throwing your team out from the begining. Same with any rivals or players you hate. Make an off limits list, and keep it. It’s a small thing, but small mistakes by your opponent could win you the game.
7. Stack your team from the same NFL/sports team
Pick a quarterback and wide receiver from the same offense. If one does well, the other does well.
Obviously, this could work against you, but it goes with our #1 strategy of creating volatility. You’re going all or nothing here.
Plus, teams that have a quarterback and wide receiver tend to score higher on average according to NumberFire.
What about taking this even further and taking everyone from one team? This depends on how tough your competition is (which probably means how many teams you’re going against). Picking everyone from one team is actually a little less risky. The reason is someone at that team is likely to do well. So maybe go all in with a single team if you’re playing a one on one matchup, or if your group doesn’t have many teams.
But if you want to swing for the fences, avoid picking everyone from the same team. Stick to your favorite QB-WR combination. This can seem less risky, but it’s actually riskier because you have to pick the right QB-WR combination. Against, more opportunity for boom or bust here.
FAQ for Daily Fantasy Football (and other sports)
I promised I wouldn’t cover this stuff, but some people need it so here it is (and at least I put it at the bottom of the article)
What is the difference between daily fantasy and normal fantasy football?
If you’ve played fantasy football (or insert other sport here), you know the league kicks off with a draft each year. And then you’re stuck with the team you have–unless you drop players or make trades. The difference in daily fantasy is you create a new team each week. Rather than have a draft at the beginning of each week, you have a budget of money. And each player has a set value (Patrick Mahomes is going to cost a lot more than Jimmy Garoppolo).
One other big difference is in daily fantasy you can have the same players as other teams since there’s no draft.
Scoring and roster setups are typically pretty similar between daily fantasy football and year-long fantasy football.
Are there different styles of daily fantasy football and sports?
There are all different types of daily fantasy sports. The most common is a “free for all” where you pick a team of players that competes against many other teams for the top prize. But there are also other styles like one one matchups, or even matchups with pre-selected teams (it makes it easier than picking all players yourself).
Can you find daily fantasy sports in all sports?
Yes, all the major sports have daily fantasy sports. Daily fantasy football by Draftkings was the most popular, but it’s evolved over time and you can play daily fantasy baseball, basketball, soccer, cricket, etc.
Are daily fantasy sports legal in all states?
No, daily fantasy sports aren’t treated the same as sports gambling, but it still isn’t legal in all states. Currently, daily fantasy sports is not legal in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. All other states it is legal, per DraftKings.