The Rundown: FantasyScore Week 1

A weekly guide to FantasyScore's Draft-and-Go contests.

As a small fish in an increasingly growing pond, FantasyScore's market share -- like that of every other site not named FanDuel or DraftKings -- depends on convincing DFS players that they're different from everyone else in some meaningful way; finding one's niche, if you will. To that end, FantasyScore offers a unique game, called a Draft-N-Go (DNG), that mixes the draft feature of season-long fantasy football with the more-immediate gratification feature of DFS.

As the name implies, filling a DNG plays out just like the Sit-N-Go (SNG) games popular amongst poker players. To get to the DNG lobby, which lists all of the DNGs that are currently open, you simply filter the main FantasyScore lobby by "NFL" and "Draft-N-Go." Once there, you'll see that field sizes range from 2 to 10 players and buy-in amounts range anywhere from free to hundreds of dollars. (I'll get to the strategy behind game selection shortly.) After joining a DNG of your choosing, you wait until that DNG fills, and the "draft" in "Draft-N-Go" (typically) starts 5 minutes later.

From there, things proceed exactly as they would in a live, online draft for a season-long league, except you're only drafting players for the current week and only drafting a starting lineup, which consists of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 RB/WR/TE flex, and 1 defense. FantasyScore generates a random draft order. The draft snakes. You have 60 seconds to make a pick, and said pick will be auto-drafted if you fail to make your pick in time. (Note: You can enter an auto-draft list so you don't get screwed.)

Also like (most) season-long leagues, there are mulligans. If you want to (or need to) swap out a player from your lineup because his injury status has changed or your mind has changed, there's a first-come, first-serve free agency period between the end of the draft and the beginning of the relevant NFL player's game that week. The only restriction -- and this is a major difference between DNGs and typical DFS games -- is that you can't add a player that's already on another team's roster. This may seem like a trivial point, but it's important for strategy insofar as, unlike head-to-heads, 50/50s, and GPPs, every player in a DNG will field a unique lineup. (Read: Ownership rates are rendered meaningless.)

GAME SELECTION STRATEGY

As with poker SNGs, game selection is an underrated part of becoming a successful player. Sure, you want to avoid DFS sharks if you can, but the small number of DNGs available at any given time makes that goal difficult to achieve. Instead, there's a more subtle consideration staring you right in the face when you're in the DNG lobby: the number of players and the number of places paid.

As I mentioned earlier, FantasyScore offers DNGs ranging from 2 to 10 players. The number of places paid, however, doesn't necessarily increase as the number of players increases. For instance, both the 2- and 3-player DNGs only pay the first place finisher, and the 5-player games can pay out to either first place only or to first and second place. This is a big deal!

Let's say you're a DFS player with a 4% edge on the field. That is, for any place in the standings, you're a 54/46 favorite to finish in that spot. Well, if that's the case, then (entirely intuitively) the probability of cashing is half as much for a 5-player, 1-prize DNG as it is for a 5-player, 2-prize DNG. Below is a table showing the probability of cashing for all field/prize permutations of DNGs currently offered on FantasyScore given our hypothetical 4% edge and the standard 10% rake taken out of DFS prize pools:

EntriesWinnersP(Cash)
2 1 53%
5 2 42%
8 3 39%
3 1 35%
6 2 35%
9 3 35%
10 3 32%
7 2 30%
5 1 21%

From the table, it's clear which DNGs you should play, and which you should avoid. Going back to our previous example, it turns out that the 5-player, 1-prize DNG isn't just worse than the 5-player, 2-prize DNG. It's the absolute worst DNG you can play for cashing purposes. Meanwhile, although the math isn't as ominous for the difference between 2-person and 3-person DNGs, it's still instructive for game selection. The bottom line here is as follows:

  • Play the 2-player, 1-prize DNG.
  • Play the 5-player, 2-prize DNG.
  • Play the 8-player, 3-prize DNG.
  • Don't play the 5-player, 1-prize DNG. 
  • For all other DNGs, to each his/her own.

optimal draft lists for week 1

OK, hopefully you're on board with my game selection suggestions. If so, then the next question is, "How should I go about constructing my draft list?" Well, salaries don't matter in DNGs, so the most basic answer is to go back to our old friend, value-based drafting (VBD). For those unfamiliar, the fundamental principle underlying VBD is that it's not how many points a player is projected score; it's how many points he's projected to score relative to other players at his position, and given the starting lineup requirements. As an example, if you were to have entered one of the Thursday-Monday DNGs, then Rob Gronkowski would have been the No. 1 pick on your 2-player draft list because he was projected to score 6.0 more points than the last possible starting tight end option, and that was the biggest gap at any position.

So we have Footballguys' FantasyScore projections for Week 1, we're going to rely on VBD for these DNGs, and we've decided we're only going to play the games I recommended two paragraphs ago. Therefore, our optimal draft lists are as follows:

2-Player DNGs  5-Player DNGs  8-Player DNGs  
NamePosTmNamePosTmNamePosTm
Julio Jones WR ATL Julio Jones WR ATL Julio Jones WR ATL
Odell Beckham Jr WR NYG Odell Beckham Jr WR NYG Odell Beckham Jr WR NYG
Dez Bryant WR DAL Dez Bryant WR DAL Dez Bryant WR DAL
Calvin Johnson WR DET Calvin Johnson WR DET Eddie Lacy RB GNB
Eddie Lacy RB GNB Eddie Lacy RB GNB Adrian Peterson RB MIN
Adrian Peterson RB MIN Demaryius Thomas WR DEN Calvin Johnson WR DET
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN Adrian Peterson RB MIN Demaryius Thomas WR DEN
Aaron Rodgers QB GNB Jimmy Graham TE SEA Jamaal Charles RB KAN
Jamaal Charles RB KAN Martellus Bennett TE CHI Matt Forte RB CHI
Jimmy Graham TE SEA Greg Olsen TE CAR Jimmy Graham TE SEA
New York Jets D NYJ Travis Kelce TE KAN Martellus Bennett TE CHI
Andrew Luck QB IND Randall Cobb WR GNB Randall Cobb WR GNB
Randall Cobb WR GNB Jamaal Charles RB KAN Greg Olsen TE CAR
Matt Forte RB CHI Brandin Cooks WR NOR Brandin Cooks WR NOR
Martellus Bennett TE CHI Matt Forte RB CHI Travis Kelce TE KAN
Seattle Seahawks D SEA Aaron Rodgers QB GNB Marshawn Lynch RB SEA
      Andrew Luck QB IND Lamar Miller RB MIA
      Keenan Allen WR SDG Andre Ellington RB ARI
      Mike Evans WR TAM DeMarco Murray RB PHI
      A.J. Green WR CIN C.J. Anderson RB DEN
      T.Y. Hilton WR IND Jeremy Hill RB CIN
      New York Jets D NYJ Justin Forsett RB BAL
      Marshawn Lynch RB SEA Mark Ingram RB NOR
      Seattle Seahawks D SEA Keenan Allen WR SDG
      Jordan Matthews WR PHI Mike Evans WR TAM
      Lamar Miller RB MIA A.J. Green WR CIN
      Carolina Panthers D CAR Aaron Rodgers QB GNB
      Green Bay Packers D GNB Frank Gore RB IND
      Andre Ellington RB ARI T.Y. Hilton WR IND
      DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU Jordan Matthews WR PHI
      DeMarco Murray RB PHI Andrew Luck QB IND
      C.J. Anderson RB DEN DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU
      Ryan Tannehill QB MIA Vincent Jackson WR TAM
      Tony Romo QB DAL Alshon Jeffery WR CHI
      Vincent Jackson WR TAM Amari Cooper WR OAK
      Matt Ryan QB ATL Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN
      Alshon Jeffery WR CHI Jarvis Landry WR MIA
      Jeremy Hill RB CIN Jason Witten TE DAL
      Jason Witten TE DAL Delanie Walker TE TEN
      Miami Dolphins D MIA Steve Smith WR BAL
            New York Jets D NYJ
            Seattle Seahawks D SEA
            Carolina Panthers D CAR
            Green Bay Packers D GNB
            Ryan Tannehill QB MIA
            Tony Romo QB DAL
            Brandon Marshall WR NYJ
            Matt Ryan QB ATL
            Sam Bradford QB PHI
            Miami Dolphins D MIA
            Russell Wilson QB SEA
            Jordan Cameron TE MIA
            Tennessee Titans D TEN
            Jeremy Maclin WR KAN
            Rashad Jennings RB NYG
            Tampa Bay Buccaneers D TAM
            Latavius Murray RB OAK
            Matthew Stafford QB DET
            Davante Adams WR GNB
            Andre Johnson WR IND
            Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI
            Jonathan Stewart RB CAR
            Cincinnati Bengals D CIN
            Larry Donnell TE NYG

I'll be writing more about draft strategy throughout the season, but for now there's one thing worth pointing out if we're viewing DNGs from a 30,000-foot game theory perspective: Wide receivers are our main source of arbitrage. This idea has two components. First, VBD suggests that your first pick this week should be a wide receiver no matter the format. Second, in doing the VBD calculations, I found that the flex position should always be filled with a wide receiver. To wit, a count of how many players appear for each position shows that there are exactly three times as many wide receivers as number of DNG players in the draft (i.e., all of the best flex options are wide receivers).

And to reiterate, this strategy advice has nothing to do with salaries because DNGs don't have a salary cap. Without said constraint, you can draft whichever player you want, whenever you want. Rather, this advice has everything to do with FantasyScore's scoring system, which favors wide receivers over running backs and tight ends.

bottom line

FantasyScore's Draft-N-Go game is a new, unique -- and fun! -- way to mix your expertise related to season-long fantasy drafts with your expertise in DFS. In terms of default strategies, there's the following:

  • Primarily choose games with the highest proportion of places paid to players playing (e.g., a 5-player, 2-prize DNG over a 5-person, 1-prize DNG).
  • As is the case in non-DFS leagues, the combination of FootballlGuys' projections and value-based drafting is your friend.
  • Your first pick in Week 1 should be a wide receiver.
  • Your flex spot should be filled by a wide receiver.