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Introduction to Daily Fantasy Football — 5 Ways to Help You Succeed

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger

This fantasy football season I look forward to bringing you DFS strategies and lineups each week. I aim to help all types of players, but as I am not a “high stakes” player myself, will largely be targeting the average and casual Daily Fantasy player.

That of course doesn’t mean I don’t value winning and/or strategies, or that I don’t put significant time and dedication into building lineups each week. In fact last season I likely put more time into my one day of DFS play for fantasy football than I did for basketball and baseball. It didn’t always equate to more winning, but it did leave me satisfied with my lineups most of the time and not feeling like I threw darts.

If you have played fantasy football before you likely know having a solid team and draft can mean everything, but not always. There are typically a few waiver wire players who take over the league and help an ailing team succeed. Each week there is that lucky owner who ekes out wins even though they are in the bottom half of scoring in the league. There are injuries, sudden lack of opportunities for upper echelon players, touchdown vultures, etc., etc.

So many factors that can skew the outcome of your fantasy team each and EVERY week. It is a big reason why I love the game so much. It is also why I despise it at times, and consider the most “luck-filled” of fantasy sports.

If you play fantasy baseball and basketball, and especially DFS for those two sports you also know there are significant trends, statistics, ballpark factors, and consistency that can help you make decisions. In football there are too, but we all know it is far more volatile. If someone were to say “Without a doubt in my mind Matt Ryan is going to throw 55 passes today with three touchdowns,” or “Alfred Morris will get 28 carries and every single red-zone touch today” how would you react?

I would have doubts about such statements, at least more than I would for someone saying Andrew McCutchen will hit a home run against this pitcher because of his OPS history. I am not saying statistics and season-to-date performance aren’t as significant in fantasy football, but each and every week is very different and there are so many other factors that can impact a player’s performance. Weather, injured players, stout defenses, or playing with a lead or deficit can all greatly impact fantasy performances.

The key to winning in Daily Fantasy Football is to minimize your risk, while also capturing that random breakout performance or two. I am hoping to help you do just that this season. Since the Daily Fantasy season hasn’t truly started yet this week we will focus on some basic rules to consider for the upcoming season. These aren’t all unique to Daily Fantasy Football either, but they should definitely be applied and considered.

1. Have a Budget and Stick to It!

This one is what I think is one of the most important rules. Not everyone is able to deposit hundreds, or thousands of dollars to start playing DFS. Even if you do though you want to ensure you are able to play as long as you can and not have to re-deposit after a few weeks or less.

The basic rule of thumb I like to live by is 10 percent of your bankroll. So if you deposit $100 this week it means you should really play no more than $10 in Week 1 games. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it is a safe rule to live by. ESPECIALLY if it is your first time.

Winning is not guaranteed, and to consistently win is difficult. They don’t give the Daily Fantasy game a description of “A Grind” for nothing. It takes time, and losses, to eventually get in the green and stay in the green. Again, it is not easy to win in Daily Fantasy, and if you head in to each week thinking you are going to dominate because you can beat 11 other chumps in your home league, well, you have already lost.

Back to the budget. Another rule of thumb is to split your 10 percent into an 8/2 ratio of 50/50 contests (Cash Games)/Tournaments (GPPs). If you are brand new to the game I would not enter any tournaments. I know it is the most appealing. You hear and see all the commercials on winning a million dollars, or huge payouts available. This is all true, it is not a lie but the thing is there are people with lots, and lots of money who do this for a living who enter these contests… multiple times!

We will get into tourneys a bit more later. For now, stick to the smaller contests and the safer ones. Your odds simply can’t get better than 50 percent in these games. If you go on a winning streak don’t get over-confident and start bumping up your percentage either. Your bankroll can fizzle out as quickly as your over-confidence will.

2. Give Yourself Time to Research and Enter Lineups

This doesn’t mean the dude who quickly submits a lineup after their Sunday brunch in five minutes doesn’t stand a chance. As I said above, random and crazy things happen all the time. Sometimes the good ol’ gut works best.

Realistically though to do proper research, and to cover all the bases for your lineup building it will take time. How much you spend on it is completely up to you. Looking at things such as rushing yards allowed for a player’s opposing defense, weather forecasts, injury reports, and of course time to read my weekly articles, or others can greatly improve your chances of winning. Guarantee? No.

The more time you put in to researching, and building your lineup(s) the better off you will be. This also leads me to say spend your time wisely. Most of us don’t have hours to spare to read articles, crunch numbers, or fiddle with their lineups all week.

That is why it is important to find your niche, and build somewhat of a routine. Once you establish certain sites, posts, podcasts, or video shows for example find a way to routinely view them and utilize them.

There are plenty of paid sites, and plenty of free ones. Finding whichever ones work for you may take time but having a useful weekly post or show to rely on can be great. Just remember just because you pay for something doesn’t guarantee you everything. If those who provide services for profit are successful, remember what makes them successful. Time and dedication. They likely did not win their big money payouts with a lineup generator that takes minutes to run. There is much more to it than that.

Can these sites work? Absolutely, but I like to consider them partnership tools, not as my sole resource.

3. Avoid Head to Head Games and Multi-Entry Tournaments… (At First)

I say at first because eventually your bankroll will increase, and your skill set, routine has developed in to consistently winning. That is great! However, starting off as I mentioned earlier try to stick to the larger, and safer 50/50 games. How these work is you compete against 50 or more players and if you finish in the top half you will double, or nearly double your entry fee. Starting off winning a $1.80 in a $1 contest seems trivial, but if you win eight of them you are looking better right?

These aren’t necessarily easier to win, but your odds are better and oftentimes using safer and better known fantasy commodities will lead to success. In GPPs you will typically need a mixture of a safe and high-scoring team, with a player who is owned at a miniscule percentage to have a big game to succeed. Namely, you need to be different, very different to separate yourself from the much, much larger crowd in order to profit in tournaments.

Also, as I mentioned above these tournaments are typically multi-entry which means exactly what it says. Anyone can enter these contests as many times as they please. That means multiple lineups, or even the same lineups multiple times from people who do this for a living, AND have far more money than you likely do. This is how they profit, and make a living. It is important to remember this.

Is it possible to randomly enter one lineup and take down a tournament? Sure. Is it a 50/50 chance? No way.

Same thing applies to Head-to-Head (HtH) games. If you do them seek out opponents such as friends, or Twitter followers. Once again, folks who do this for a living will toss hundreds of challenges and HtH entries into the fold. If you click on them sure you have a 50/50 shot at winning, but you are likely playing a professional who will joyfully take your buck, and those 40 other saps who are doing the same thing!

Once you get your feet wet and start winning regularly, feel free to toss some moolah in a GPP, or even a HtH just to see how you fare. Taking down a professional always feels good, but it doesn’t excuse losing money.

4. Keep Track of What Works

If this is your first time playing this may seem difficult to do, but it shouldn’t be. In fact if you struggle mightily early on analyze the winning teams (top 3) and then a few spread out throughout the standings who also cashed in.

If you win with one lineup but not another one, what was the difference? Was it one huge performance from a player? Did you spend up on quarterback and bargain hunt the other positions? Did the winners go cheaper on quarterback with a great matchup and load up on elite plays elsewhere?

Watching winning teams, including your own, is one of the easiest ways to log strategies and eliminate outliers (one player’s random three-TD  game like Matt Asiata in 2014), which will totally skew results.

Another way to do this besides simple observation is to actually download your team’s results in an Excel document. You can do this from most DFS sites now, and it is a great way to log your winnings, see which contests you fare better in.

Either way paying attention only when you are victorious, or thinking you have a brilliant strategy because you win two weeks in a row may not be the case. Keep yourself honest and track your results, and others’, so you can adjust if need be the next week.

5. Have Fun!

Yeah, I know this one seems lame. Yet it is important. If you are playing with people you know and can discuss these activities with, it makes the games more appealing. Even better is to toss strategies around, challenge each other, and make new friends by playing in private leagues.

Like seasonal leagues, playing with some familiar faces each week can be more challenging, and exciting. Having a weekly contest where a random injury shouldn’t sink your performance is great as a side contest to seasonal leagues. Think of that loudmouth trashing your fantasy skills in your seasonal league. Respond with “I may have lost Jordy Nelson and my seasonal team stinks, but I can destroy you and will prove it! Take me on in DFS” sort of thing.

In fact, create a FanDuel or Draft Kings league to coincide with your seasonal league. You can then play your league-mates on both platforms and really rub their faces in it if you beat them twice in one week! This article shares a great way how to do this and I assure you it is fun, and even better you won’t have to do it every week but you will want to!

Bottom line — if you are playing and having fun, win or lose you are doing it right. If you are making new friends, some cash, and enjoying football even more? You are doing it right.

If you are continually depositing money, getting frustrated, and angry, well find a different strategy, take a breather or stop playing. Either way, that is not how you should do it! Keep expectations real, play what you can easily afford, and HAVE FUN!!

Stay tuned for more posts each week of the regular season with lineup help and other strategies. Thanks for reading.

— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.