Introduction to DFS

Renee Miller gives you the low down on NFL DFS and previews the weekly strategy article she'll be writing this upcoming season.

| 2 years ago
How many millionaires will be made via NFL DFS this fall?

How many millionaires will be made via NFL DFS this fall?

Introduction to DFS


There is a lot to love about Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Some people play to win money, period. Some play because like in seasonal fantasy, having a little something on the line makes the games more fun to watch. Some like the sweat of needing one more catch, or for your opponent’s kicker to miss that last second FG.

One thing a lot of people love the most about DFS is the fact that you get to pick a brand new fantasy team every day or week. No injuries will derail your whole season playing DFS. You never have to face Seattle’s DST. No weather questions or limitations. You get to take advantage of the positives and avoid the negatives every single week.

We’re here to help you do exactly that. What DFS advice articles like mine and others at PFF can do is to set you up with a logical, well-researched, and numbers based process for making your weekly lineup decisions. The most successful DFS players have one thing in common. They’ve identified a method of choosing players that wins, and they stick with it.

At best we win probably 60-65 percent of the time. That means losing roughly 35 percent of the time. Losing is part of DFS, but a key commonality among the best players is that they play through the losses.They stick with their process, knowing that it’s a logical, reasonable, and winning strategy. Consistently putting yourself in the best position to win is what we’re about.

This doesn’t meant that results aren’t important. With only 17 weeks in the regular NFL season, a 4-5 week losing streak is brutal compared to a 4-5 day losing streak in MLB or NBA. So I’ll also discuss ways you can mitigate potential losses, by diversifying the types of games you play, the sites you play on, and the lineups you construct.

The best way to prevent inevitable losses from becoming devastating is good bankroll management. I have pretty strict limits in that I only play 10 percent or less of my bankroll on each site I play on any given day/week. I divide it further so that about 75 percent of that goes to the best odds “cash” games, which are 50/50, double up, and head to head style games. 25 percent or less I throw into higher payout, higher risk GPPs, triple ups, and 3-5 man winner-take-all games. You don’t have to do what I do, but being aware of and strict with your bankroll will ensure a more robust season for you.

While we’ll be providing terrific site specific position-by-position plays in separate articles all season, I’ll be bringing a general outlook and approach that optimizes the matchups in a big picture sense every Thursday. Some weeks, for example, it’ll make sense to pay up for an elite QB, while other times there will be enough value there to punt the position. It’s generally true that you’ll be looking for a more stable and consistent fantasy output in your cash games, and seeking upside for your GPP lineups which often comes from boom or bust players. I’ll cover different strategies for different games, tailored for the week’s matchups.

One of my pet peeves in football that spills over into fantasy, particularly season long, is the influence of narratives. The sports media has a lot of air and screen space to fill and building a flashy, touching, or provocative story around a player or team keeps our eyes and ears on them. Unfortunately, what our brain does with what our eyes and ears take in is not always so great for our fantasy decision making.

See, narratives can get you to believe in a player’s strength or weakness for reasons completely unrelated to his actual talent or opportunity on the field. As I’ve said numerous times, fantasy points come from talent and opportunity, not narratives. So things like revenge games, division rivalries, or whether a guy just had a happy or sad personal event occur won’t factor into my analysis of his fantasy utility.

Speaking of how your brain manipulates information, it seems like a good time to introduce myself. If you don’t know me, I’m a neuroscientist on the faculty of the University of Rochester. I teach a ton of classes like Neurochemistry, Lab in Cognitive Neuroscience, and Biology of Mental Disorders to undergraduates. I do research when I can on the genetic basis for sex differences in behavior (I do it in a tiny soil nematode (C. elegans) not in people).

I’ve been playing season long fantasy football for nine years, and DFS since 2011. I started in NFL and NBA, but made the push to add MLB DFS full time this past spring. So I’m pretty much grinding DFS about 340 days a year. That accounts for All Star Breaks, the dead time between MLB and NBA in October, and the fact that I usually end up playing some off sport like golf, college hoops, or (God forbid) hockey once or twice during those ASBs.

In my first year teaching, I realized that some of the lessons I was relating to my Cognitive Neuroscience students totally applied to how I managed my fantasy football team. I took my observations a little deeper and ended up writing a book called “Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?“. The fact is that cognitive biases evolved for very good reasons, and affect just about every decision we make in our lives.

Fantasy is no exception, but the outcome isn’t always beneficial. I’m the kind of player and person in general who wants as much knowledge and advantage as possible when making a decision. So from my point of view if we can even just begin to recognize that our brains mislead us in systematic ways, we can start to overcome those biases and head toward more rationale, logical choices.

While I won’t go deep into neuroscience every week, be forewarned that my approach to DFS lineup construction is impacted by this background. I trust the numbers, current and historical, and I usually don’t like to give firm advice on lineups until I’m confident I know all the variables–Sunday morning.

I’ll leave you for now with one of my tenets of DFS strategy, and that is for every player in your lineup you should be able to justify putting him there with at least 2-3 logical, defensible reasons. Projected targets, touches, game flow, strength of opponent, past performance (to some extent), Vegas lines, etc all count as defensible reasons. You never want to be in the position of using someone just because of how many salary dollars you have leftover after all your defensible guys are in. Or because you need him to do well in your seasonal league.

Every player counts in DFS.

With that, look for my week 1 strategy article later this week. I love talking DFS so you can always hit me up on Twitter @reneemiller01 with any questions.



Renee Miller is a neuroscientist and fantasy sports enthusiast. She's played NBA and NFL DFS since 2011/12 and added MLB to her addiction this summer. Recently, Renee combined her knowledge of the brain with her love of football in an eBook, "Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?". You can find the book on her website www.unbiasedfantasysports.com. She'll be writing this weekly NFL DFS strategy column.

  • C. Richard Carey

    Great article, the cognitive bias point is sooooo true! Look forward to ready more……Thanks