FantasyAces Sunday Games Roundtable: Week 1

A look behind the curtain at a staff discussion pertaining to Week 1 FantasyAces topics

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

Week 1 DFS Strategy

Looking back at past seasons playing DFS, should your strategy for Week 1 differ from other weeks considering we haven't seen anyone play real games yet?

Scott Bischoff: Because of the uncertainty of early season play, I tend to be a touch more conservative in Week 1 with the players I select and ultimately the lineups I set. Unless I have a very strong grip on a player's role, I won't choose him and it leads to more cash game play. I'll play the solid, consistent performers and add in those that have popped in the preseason (they must have a clear path to playing time) to build solid lineups to build a bankroll.

Jeff Pasquino: Week 1 can be very, very unpredictable yet extremely tempting to play. Lots of new players are going to be out there, but new schemes, coaches and defenses are going to pop up all around the league. Just because you think you know what is going to happen does not mean you really do for Week 1, so you have to try and reel it in. That's easier said than done when everyone has been waiting six-plus months to play fantasy football again, but the smartest move is to gather info over the first two-to-three weeks and then start hammering lineups based on what you learned.

Phil Alexander: I'm torn on this one. Part of me wants to side with the group and tell folks they need to embrace the fact they "don't know what they don't know" this time of year and tread carefully these first couple weeks. Then I remember something BJ (VanderWoude, to be featured later in this piece) wrote in Cracking DraftKings that really resonates with me:

"Incomplete information makes projections less accurate from top to bottom in the early weeks. Often that means the total points needed to finish in the top-10 of large GPPs is significantly lower during these early weeks. The minimum threshold to cash will also be lower. The best chance to take down a large GPP may be during the first four weeks."

In the end, I've decided to marry the two schools of thought. I will be putting less of my bankroll in play these first few weeks, but I'll be concentrating primarily on GPPs. If I connect on a home run swing, I'm set up nicely for the season. If I whiff, the damage will be minimized until I feel confident scripting games and evaluating players.

Pasquino: I am with you, Phil. I think that I have said this in many areas already, but it doesn't hurt to repeat it here.

I generally try and stick to an 80/20 split for my weekly bankroll, where I have 80% in cash contests and 20% in GPPs (note: I am not the greatest at bankroll management, but at least I try and set a rule). This week, I am starting with that same calculation but I'm dropping that cash number into the 30-50% range. So basically if I started with $100, I normally would be at $80 for cash and $20 for GPP, but this week it would be $20 for GPPs (no change) and only about $40 for cash.

John Lee: I understand and agree with every sentiment that has been expressed thus far, but I am slowly beginning to side with BJ, quoted by Phil above, about the edge that one has in cash games early in the season against all the new players entering the industry. The influx of new, unseasoned individuals who will be playing this weekend represents the biggest pool of fish the industry has ever seen and I, for one, want to maximize my cash game exposure to those players before they learn how to construct winning lineups.

Many of the aforementioned concerns expressed by others are valid, but I think many of those worries are due more to a cognitive memory bias than to logic. Dr. Renee Miller, a fellow PhD who teaches Neurology at the University of Rochester by day and writes DFS articles for ESPN at night (follow her @reneemiller01 on Twitter), has written a book on the role that our psyche plays in decision-making, including the role of cognitive memory biases in that decision-making. Simply put, a cognitive memory bias occurs when an individual either enhances or impairs the recall of a memory. That said, we all remember Week 1 of last year, where smart DFS players collectively lost their shirts when nothing seemed to go right. Shaun Hill was a value play QB who was injured in the first quarter, Chip Kelly's offense was held scoreless in the first half at home by the hapless Jaguars, and Jamaal Charles received one more carry than his quarterback, Alex Smith, against the Titans at Arrowhead.

The question you have to ask yourself is, "were those freak occurrences because we misread those respective situations or because variance reared its ugly head?" My answer is that variance got the better of us that week because in each instance, I would have made the same decision in Week 16 (Hill, a value quarterback at home against a previously porous Vikings secondary; Jamaal Charles versus the Titans, and the Eagles offense facing off against the Jaguarss at home). Poring over my notes from last year, the "mistakes" I made were largely good mistakes, meaning that I made the right call, but got the wrong result. In 2013, my analysis was spot-on, resulting in over 100% return on investment that week due to solid cash game (and GPP) play.

For those reasons, I will be playing just under my normal volume this weekend. I might stray a bit and play some additional GPP lineups, achieving a 75:25 GPP/cash game split, but I consider the initial cash game edge to be too much to ignore.

BJ VanderWoude: Due to a lack of sample size, projections are not going to be as accurate as they would be in say, Week 7 or 8; there is no debate there. Projections drive roster building, so it makes sense to create a "one size fits all" strategy of lowering your weekly exposure and bankroll limits during the first couple weeks.

Since I was one of, if not the only one who favored an aggressive approach early in the season, I went back to my notes and results from 2014 to see if my line of thinking was derived solely from being results oriented. I'd be lying if I said my success in Week 1 and 2 didn't contribute, but the biggest factor was how much lower the winning scores were in GPP's. On FanDuel, I found winning GPP scores of 156 (2,000 entries) 178 (45,000 entries) and 175 (55,000 entries). Those examples were the biggest prize pools, but there was enough of these scores to convince me that low scoring was across the board.

Assuming the scores are lower, at what point do they intersect/normalize with inaccurate projections? The most important question I asked myself was how much do I suffer, compared to the average person, from inaccurate projections? I would say less than the average player.

There is a large contingency of of beginner players in these big GPP fields who have yet to get a good grasp on scoring systems and optimal plays. In my opinion, the scores would have to be much higher than they are to scare me away from lowering my bankroll exposure.

I will be increasing my volume by about 10% in Week 1, 5% in week 2, and then settling in on my normal volume in Week 3. I should also note that my bankroll management thresholds are conservative, so my increase in buy-ins may equal an aggressive player's reduction in buy-ins.

As to Jeff's point, much of that increase will be in the way of 50/50's and cash games.

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Two-Quarterback Strategy

Discuss your methods for choosing quarterbacks on a two-quarterback site like FantasyAces. Do you typically skew towards a high-dollar/low-dollar combo, two middle-priced players, two value plays, or two high-priced "sure things?"

Jeff Pasquino: I'm looking more for a combination of factors.

  1. Price
  2. Likelihood to having to throw quite a bit
  3. High point total (Las Vegas O/U)
  4. A weak ground game.

Then and only then do I start to pick out my QBs. I figure that I can find value players to build around, especially with two flex spots, once I have the two QBs I really want.

So, Jeff, is it safe to say that you start at quarterback with every FantasyAces lineup you create? How (if at all) do you alter this strategy for cash games vs. tournaments? For example, if you have a tough decision to make in a similar salary range for your QB2 spot, do you side with a quarterback who has a wide receiver that you also like for that week?

Pasquino: That's a good question, Ryan. I start with the players I really want to use in my lineup first, and since I'm more of a GPP-first player, I work from stacks to start with and then surround them with value plays. To succeed in a GPP on a two-quarterback site you need to hit both stacks, so that's my first line of thinking.

Phil Alexander: I'm with Jeff 100%. I only play GPPs on FantasyAces, and the key there is to nail both your QB-WR stacks. Since it's usually easy enough to find a low priced quarterback with an enticing match-up (see Carson Palmer this week), I prefer starting my lineups with the high-dollar/low-dollar quarterback combo. The high-dollar QB (and his associated receiver) gives the lineup a solid foundation, while the low-dollar QB saves money and should still offer major upside. It's been my experience FantasyAces' pricing is usually loose enough to create stud-filled lineups if you can nail your low-priced QB2 and one other value play.

John Lee: I don't change my strategy much when playing on a two-quarterback site because the same principles apply: find value, emphasize floors in cash games, and seek high upside in tournaments.

I tend to start my lineup building with quarterbacks to anchor my team and then I add in a defense that I like. From there, I insert the positional value plays that I have identified and eventually fill out my roster according to what salary I have remaining. I start with the quarterback position because their touches are guaranteed; a running back's output will be contingent on gamescript, and receivers will be at the mercy of their quarterback play and how the defense chooses to match up against them. For those reasons, I have zero problem spending up at the quarterback position on FantasyAces.

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Flex Position Strategy for Cash Games

For cash games, what position(s) are you using to fill in your two Flex spots? Is this best done with a mix of RB-WR? Or the safety and touches of an RB-RB combo?

Scott Bischoff: Looking at the Flex spots for cash game consideration, I'm looking for volume and upside in relation to cost. I look to fill the two spots with running backs that catch the ball out of the backfield, but they also have to have a role in carrying the ball in a conventional sense as well. I look at what San Diego Chargers running back Brandon Oliver did last season as this kind of player. I will consider a possession receiver here too, a player like Jarvis Landry. I see Landry as a move the chains type who will see a lot of passes coming his way, and in this PPR format (.5 points per catch) that's valuable. I like Wright to be Mariota's go-to guy as he navigates the early part of his career, and that also means good things for Wright.

Jeff Pasquino: I agree with Scott on the volume aspect. If a team has several injuries, I'm looking at the "what's left" guys to clean up from a touches and half-PPR perspective. Goal line vultures are way too risky. The other option I will consider is a team's WR2 if the defense should blanket the WR1.

We've discussed the virtues of using wide receivers in the Flex spots. Does anyone prefer to go running back-heavy? Or is aiming for a certain position a bad choice when we should just be seeking the most value, regardless of position?

Phil Alexander: All things being equal, I suppose I'd like to fill those Flex spots with running backs who play for a heavily favored, high scoring home team. But since there's only so many of those to go around each week (and they're usually expensive), I don't set out to fill my Flex spots with a specific position in cash games. I'm usually making my choice based on remaining salary, projected volume, and touchdown potential, with an emphasis on players from teams who figure to enjoy a positive game script. If a player checks off all (or most) of those boxes, I'm position-agnostic when it comes to the Flex.

BJ VanderWoude: Generally speaking, I rarely set out to populate my Flex spots with specific positions. This week however, I will be targeting at least one running back. Week 1 is the hardest to project so it makes sense to target the most stable position. Players like Jonathan Stewart or Doug Martin are not the highest on my list, but being their team's undisputed option at running back almost guarantees them north of 15 touches. That type of volume goes a long way in reducing the level of variance that is typically associated with Week 1.

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Is Jimmy Graham Worth the Price?

At nearly $800 more than the second-most expensive tight end in Sunday and Sunday/Monday contests, is Jimmy Graham worth owning in cash games? Discuss why or why not.

Phil Alexander: Graham still has massive touchdown upside in Seattle, but his receiving numbers will no longer be buoyed by the target volume he had in New Orleans. I see him as a volatile option that can't be trusted in cash games (where I'll be rolling with Greg Olsen for $900 less). That being said, Graham makes for a great tournament play this week. He'll end up low-owned due to his hefty price tag and the uncertainty surrounding his role on a new team. Any time you can get the player with the highest ceiling at his position at low-ownership in a tournament, you have to jump on it.

Scott Bischoff: I agree with Phil, especially the volatility aspect, which is the overriding factor for me when weighing options for cash versus tournament play. I would not want Graham at his cost. I'd prefer another option at a cheaper cost and I'll use the savings for other positions.

Jeff Pasquino: Given the uncertainty in a new offense and who-knows-what at wide receiver, put me down in the "pass" column for Graham in Week 1. Factoring in that they are on the road against St. Louis, a very good defense, and I am looking at much cheaper and higher floor guys like Greg Olsen and Martellus Bennett.

John Lee: For Week 1, I am advocating a wait-and-see approach with Jimmy Graham in cash games on FantasyAces, mostly because of his inflated salary. That said, I think Graham makes an excellent GPP play because he will be less than 10% owned. Most people will gravitate towards cheaper options at the tight end position to accommodate higher salary players at other positions.

Make no mistake -- Jimmy Graham has multiple touchdown upside. When the Seahawks get into the redzone, they might have problems running the ball because of a mismatch up front (Seattle's 30th ranked offensive line versus St. Louis' 8th ranked defensive line); if that happens, expect Russell Wilson to roll out on quarterback options, where he will likely have a 6'7" receiver waiting for the pass...something he has never had in his short career.

BJ VanderWoude: I don't believe Graham is worth owning in cash games, at least not this week. Seattle attempted the fewest passes last season, reducing his floor right off the jump. There is no doubt that Russell Wilson be looking to Graham as his number one target, but Seattle is still a running team and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Throw in a tough matchup on the road as well as much more stable PP$ (point per dollar) options, and Graham will be left on the bench.

Pasquino: The choice on Graham is a good debate, and goes to how you think the game script will go for SEA/STL.

If you think that St. Louis will stuff the run, then throws to Graham make a ton of sense. For that reason alone, I like Graham as a GPP pick.

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Phil Alexander

Scott Bischoff

John Lee

Jeff Pasquino

BJ VanderWoude

Ryan Hester