Fanduel Tournament Plays and Strategies: Week 1

A weekly look into my DFS gameplan with tips, strategies, lessons learned, and GPP plays.

The Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) scene is currently the biggest area of growth in fantasy sports. This can be exemplified in the fact that the two largest DFS sites, Fanduel and Draftkings, both completed large venture capital deals in the last couple of weeks raising $70 million and $41 million, respectively. If you are ready to take the jump into this rapidly expanding area Footballguys will be the place for you as we have the daily game covered from lots of angles. In this weekly article I will be expanding on my preseason articles to show you how I build my DFS gameplan with tips, strategies, and lessons learned along the way as well as a look at some of my favorite GPP plays for the week at Fanduel.

First of all, if you are just getting started and haven’t checked out my previous articles on game selection and bankroll management I would highly recommend you start your journey there. While you are at it be sure to check out some of our other great preseason articles like John Lee’s DFS for Dummies series.

Contrarian Thinking in GPPs

One of the most overlooked keys to winning in GPPs is taking a contrarian approach to lineup selection. If we couple this with a proper allocation of our funds we will be well on our way to building two of the biggest advantages we can have over the average GPP player.

What exactly is contrarian thinking and why is it so important in GPPs?

Contrarian thinking is simply going against the popular opinion. You hear this term quite often in the stock market. For example, as a stock continues to soar to new highs people will specifically take a contrarian view and sell the stock hoping that it goes back down.

The reason we have to be contrarian in GPPs is because it takes extreme outlier scores to win. The best way to get some of these outlier scores is by differentiating ourselves from our competition and hoping our players hit while their players fail. If we have more opportunities to do this then we are going to be better off.

Let’s look at an extreme example. I am going to ask the next 1,000 people I meet if they want to be in a winner take all DFS tournament for $10. But this isn’t a typical DFS tournament. Here there is only one player selection and both players cost the same price.

This week would you like to start Drew Brees or would you like to start Carson Palmer?

My hunch is that you and the other 999 people have Brees projected at a higher score so it is a no brainer to take Brees right? Actually I am going to take Palmer and here is why. Variance. If we actually played out this tournament a thousand times Palmer would win somewhere around 10% of the time. This doesn’t sound very good for me, or does it? Let’s calculate our potential payouts in each case assuming there were 10 other players just as crazy as me.

If Brees wins I lose $10

If Palmer wins I win my share of the $10,000 prize pool or $1,000 ($10,000/10 people selecting Palmer)

My expected value from this game is actually $91 every time I play which is an incredible return on an investment of $10! Certainly better than any DFS game or stock market investment that I can find.

This is calculated as ($1,000*10%) - ($10*90%)

If there is one thing I have learned over the years about fantasy football it is there is a lot more random variation than you or I can anticipate in any given week so these contrarian hunches like Palmer outdueling Brees will work out a lot more often than you expect until you start to get a good grasp at the variance at hand.

How can we actually put this to work?

If you recall the two key factors we need to know is how often the goal (Palmer outscoring Brees) is going to happen and how many people are on each side of the bet. Unfortunately neither of these odds are easy to quantify with much accuracy but we can at least estimate both of them.

To determine how often the goal is going to be met we must first determine what our goal is. Remember, in order to be in the running for a GPP win at Fanduel we need to score 180 points and we have $60,000 to spend to do so. That means we need to spend no more than $333 per point. For example, if we are selecting Peyton Manning this week he needs to score 30.3 points for him to meet our goal.

What are the odds of Manning reaching this goal? This is where it gets a little tricky because in fantasy sports we are used to thinking in terms of average points scored and not probability of points scored. We will talk about some of the best ways to determine this probability in a future article. For now, we will just use the simulation model I use and we can approximate there is about a 5-10% chance that Manning meets this goal. With practice you can start to estimate these odds just as easily as you estimate a players average score projection.

Now we simply need to compare Manning’s 10% chance of reaching this goal to Manning’s ownership percentage. Unfortunately we don’t know this variable either. But we can estimate this one too. I expect Manning to be owned by over 10% of the players in GPP’s at Fanduel because he is coming off a record breaking season, he will be playing in primetime on Sunday night, and it will be a high profile game against the Colts.

Now as we saw in our Brees example above if the player is owned more often than he is expected to meet his goal we need to pass on that opportunity and look elsewhere. As such you won’t see Manning listed below in my recommended GPP plays.

Fanduel GPP Plays

Below are my weekly GPP plays at Fanduel. Throughout the season I will be employing strategies listed above looking for contrarian plays as well as allocating my lineups as laid out in this article where I showed that in general it was best to spend on studs at wide receiver and to a lesser extent quarterback and save your money at running back and tight end.


Nick Foles ($8,500) – The Eagles are big favorites this week against the Jaguars and have one of the highest expected point totals in Vegas. This means Foles should be throwing for several touchdowns this week. The one concern may be that the Eagles build too much of a lead and they pound the game out on the ground. However, due to his reasonable price tag even if the Eagles build a lead I think Foles will score enough early to reach our goal score of 25.5 approximately 25% of the time and I don’t expect his ownership to be nearly that high.

Running Back

Fred Jackson ($5,800) - The Bills have put C.J. Spiller on kick return duties for this week’s game against the Bears.  This makes me believe the Bills have plans to lean heavily on Jackson this week.  Speaking of the Bears defense they allowed a league worse 161.4 yards per game and 22 touchdowns last year. This means that Jackson could be in for a big game even without all the carries since he is in line for the goal line work.  Finally, Jackson was only owned in 4% of all GPPs on Fanduel last night and I wouldn’t expect those numbers to change much making Jackson a great value. Note: This selection was originally Andre Ellington before his injury Thursday.

Wide Receiver

Julio Jones ($8,000) – The falcons should be in a high scoring game that goes back and forth down to the wire. Both teams like to pass the ball but none more so than the Falcons. With Ryan’s security blanket of Gonzalez gone Ryan will look to get his rhythm back with Jones. The Saints have a tough pass defense but I could easily envision Jones catching the game winning touchdown in the last seconds of the game to help him reach our goal of 24 points.  

Tight End

Zach Ertz ($4,500) – Ertz will be our stack with Foles. Ertz is priced at the minimum for tight ends despite being a top 10 TE which makes him a no brainer in cash games but he gets a little more complicated in GPP’s because he should be heavily owned. However, Jimmy Graham also has a very juicy matchup and I feel like he will get a lot of the action thus lowering Ertz ownership enough to get him on our team at a reasonable cost.

As always if you have any questions or comments email me at or follow me on twitter.

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