Four Downs to NFL DFS: Fourth Down
In this preseason series, my goal is to get you ready for the upcoming NFL DFS season. It promises to be the industry’s biggest one yet, with records already being set (e.g. DraftKings’ $2,000,000 first prize offering) and player acquisition efforts in full swing everywhere. Whether you’ve dabbled in DFS in the past or are completely new to this awesome way to play fantasy sports, we will get you ready by Week 1.
In Four Downs, I’ll be comparing the DFS lineup construction process to play calling in the NFL. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but here’s why it works. 1) You get a finite number of positions (slots) to fill with the goal of scoring a lot of fantasy points, like teams get a finite number of chances to move the chains. 2) Every week the context in which you fill those slots is different, just as the offense faces different defensive formations throughout a game. 3) Every player you insert into your lineup progressively restricts the options you leave yourself for the remaining slots, just as not all plays are (reasonably) available to coaches on all downs.
If you take away anything from this series, let it be the idea that DFS is a puzzle with a different solution each and every week. If you try to play catch up, chase points, or do what worked last week, you won’t be very successful. The trick is staying ahead of the game and exploiting current opportunities and weaknesses. No one strategy/solution/process works every time. The forthcoming strategy series should serve as a framework for how to think about the game of NFL DFS, and act as a complement to our more specific weekly in-season DFS articles.
Here’s my best advice and I of course saved it for last. Don’t do with your DFS lineups what most NFL teams do on 4th down: punt. Yes, there are going to be restrictions at this point in your lineup construction process, mainly related to salary, that limit your options. That is no excuse to not give that last roster spot or two as much or more consideration as we did in the first three downs.
If you’ve been following this series and/or construct a lineup like most people, you probably leave your tight end, flex (if possible), and defense as the last roster spots to fill out. You’ve probably also already locked in some of the safer, obvious volume/upside players, which means this is the part of your lineup that’s likely to be most unique. Differentiating your lineup from that of others is great, even necessary in big tournaments. The key is to stay smart about it. You don’t want to roster someone just because he’s likely to be low owned.