Season-long leagues have been the standard for fantasy football since the inception of the game. The connection between the fantasy football player a league full of their closest friends is what fantasy football is all about. Being able to hang out with your leaguemates at the draft and trash talk picks in good fun is always a great way to kick off a fantasy season. Although season-long leagues are the main focus for many fantasy football players, if your team fails to perform then the season can feel like a complete loss. With DFS, also known as daily fantasy sports, fantasy GMs who are feeling the pressure of a botched season-long league can have that pressure quickly washed away each week. And the daily opportunity to win cash certainly doesn’t hurt.
When I first began playing fantasy football, the idea of DFS was intimidating to me. The general concept of DFS is that players get a game structured salary cap, usually ranging between 50k-60k, and have to build a lineup that fits under that salary. Fantasy Football player prices are based on their projected performance that specific week. Personally, I never thought that I would be able to get into these competitions, let alone beat other people who had been playing this type of fantasy for years. As intimidating as the DFS world may seem from the outside, I am here to tell you that if a season-long player like myself can make the leap into daily fantasy then so can you! It is my hope that the information I provide about the two types of game modes – GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pools) and cash games, along with some popular sites to play DFS, will allow you to have as much fun as I am having playing this version of a game we already love so much.
Daily Fantasy Game Types
DFS begins with figuring out what type of game you want to invest your money in. There are two main types of game modes in the daily world. GPPs, or Guaranteed Prize Pools, are known for their large amount of players. This type can make it more difficult to win, but the payouts can be much larger than the other game mode. The second game mode is called cash games. Cash games are the opposite of GPPs. The amount of players is significantly smaller than other games which means that the payout potential is usually smaller as well. This game mode suits beginners better because of the odds to win.
GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pool)
GPPs are for more experienced players who want to make large amounts of money. GPPs usually have a large amount of players buying in which is why there is more money to be made. GPPs can range anywhere from 500 people to 250,000 people. GPPs can be extremely fun – if you know how to play them correctly! With that many people in a contest, players have to have a high scoring lineup in order to beat the competition. It is rare to end up with big scores in a GPP but if it happens, the rewards can be astronomical.
Now let’s talk strategy. When it comes to GPPs the ideal situation is being able to identify which players are going to have huge games at a low ownership percentage. Low ownership percentage means that most of the field (other players in your contest) did not have that player in their lineup that week. The ideal situation is to find a player who will end up around 3-10% ownership percentage. If you can find a player at 3% ownership who has a great game that week, your lineup is already way ahead of the competition. Although it may seem strange to start a less owned player such as Buffalo Bills WR Robert Foster in your lineup, his week 15 performance against Detroit where he went for 108 yards and 1 TD combined with his low ownership percentage could have given you a winning GPP lineup that week! Taking a shot on boom or bust players such as Desean Jackson are the secret to winning GPPs. The rest of your competitors will not want to start players like DJ and go for a safer lineup construction while you will have him secured in your lineup, catching two deep bombs for 150 yds and 2 TDs that week giving you a sizable advantage.
Cash games are where many players who are just starting out will usually find the most success. Cash games typically have a field of anywhere between 2-100 players. There are also many different game modes within cash games that you can choose from. Some of those modes include head to head, where it is just two players going head to head that week with the winner taking all the winnings. Another game mode is 50/50, this is where everyone within the top 50% of the field will have a payout. My personal favorite and the most popular cash game is the 100 players contest (Top 12 win) where the top 12 lineups in a 100 player field win. The higher the finish, the more payout. If your lineup is #1 or #2 that week, then you will usually land a substantial payout.
Because the field is much smaller, there is less risk within the cash game contests and so it is much easier to win multiple times. Since there is a significantly smaller field of competitors, the best way to play cash games is to construct your lineups in a more conservative manner with not quite as much upside. Although you still want upside in your lineups, worrying about low ownership percentage is not as important. My favorite strategy is to play the high priced players at RB for example, many of my lineups last year consisted of RBs like Saquon Barkley and Zeke Elliott. When going expensive at RB it is important to find value elsewhere when you can. Positions such as QB, TE, and DEF have less expensive options that may also provide upside if you predict it on the right week.
Daily Fantasy Sports Websites
One of the keys to winning daily fantasy is to understand the difference between popular websites to play on. Each week, the pricing for players will change on each site. The secret is finding which players you like the best and see which site those players are a value that week. Some of the popular DFS sites include Fanduel, DraftKings, and PlayDraft. Although some people prefer to only play on one site (mine is FanDuel), the way to get a leg up on the competition is to check each site every week and decide which platform your favorite players are the cheapest.
FanDuel is my personal favorite site to play DFS on. This is where the strategy mentioned in the cash games portion above comes into play. FanDuel is .5 PPR or points per reception. .5 PPR means that every time a player catches the ball, they will automatically get .5 points. This format means that there is more weight on workhorse running backs who can score TDs. It may be tempting to take top end talent as your starting WR such as Julio Jones or Deandre Hopkins, however since the game rules are only .5 PPR, it is often better to find WRs who are sleepers that week and can save you some of your salaries to fit the best RBs into your lineup. I cannot stress enough that when playing on FanDuel, my favorite way to save some salary is to scrape the bottom of the barrel for QB, TE, and DEF positions.
DraftKings is one of the most popular sites for DFS players to use. The format on this site is full point PPR which makes the strategy on this site different. When building your lineup it is important to keep this format in mind. Instead of going with the stud running backs as I advised with FanDuel, you may want to consider pass-catching backs such as Alvin Kamara or James White, because of the 1.0 PPR factor. Because the pass-catching running backs are often not as expensive as the workhorse RBs, it is easier to find value many times over at the RB position. This will allow your lineup to be more balanced in other positions. Players on this site will likely look in the direction of the top end WRs because of the full point PPR format.
PlayDraft is one of the few sites that does not use the traditional rule set of the other popular DFS sites. Instead of a salary format where you try to build a lineup under the allotted amount, PlayDraft allows players to play DFS in a more traditional fantasy sense with a snake draft format. This is definitely more comforting for beginners trying to branch out because this is usually the exact draft format that season-long redraft leagues use. PlayDraft is also .5 PPR which again means that the focus is primarily focused on top tier RBs. The difference is that since players do not have a salary cap, they do not have to worry about saving money at other positions to fit in those RBs. Even if you select those great RBs, there is still a chance to fit in top end players at other positions as well because of the snake draft format.