FanDuel Roundtable #2

Eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics.

This week we discuss the following:

Daily routine

What's your weekly routine at FanDuel? Do you enter Sunday contests early in the week and then adjust your lineups later? Or do you wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning to enter those contests?

Chad Parsons: I monitor FanDuel contests throughout the week. My weekly portfolio is generally in the $10 and under entry fee range. I would rather enter more of those contests than the higher stakes. I enter a blend of Thursday Night locking contests and Sunday games, looking for mostly full (or the most full) contests early in the week as I will adjust my lineups the day of the contest lineup lock, while I know many others will set their initial lineup and not adjust with new information later in the week. That is a valuable strategy to increase your expected value of an entry.

Jene Bramel: Due to other commitments, Thursday is usually the first time I have to examine salaries and Vegas lines and our interactive value chart. I prioritize researching cash lineups first. My goal on Thursday is to trim the list of available players to 3-5 quarterbacks, 5-8 running backs, 7-10 wide receivers, 2-3 tight ends, 2-3 kickers, and 2-3 defenses. I want at least one option from multiple salary tiers—e.g., 1-2 players each from the high salary group, mid salary group, and value group. I'll then think more deeply on matchups, trends, weekly injuries, and roster construction to pull out 1-2 players at each position I like more than anyone else. From these, I'll put together a core group of 4-5 players to anchor my cash lineups.

If I have a good immediate feeling on these players or absolutely love a Thursday night option, I may enter a single cash game lineup in the Thursday slate. Otherwise, I start entering dummy lineups in cash games for the Sun-Mon slate on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, I'll check my core list against our FBG experts and others in the industry. If they universally hate a player I have in my core or are recommending a player I haven't considered, I take a second look at that situation and finalize my core list. I'll then work a few combinations around those core cash plays and come up with 2-4 cash lineups. The number of cash lineups I make is entirely dependent on how many quarterbacks I like. If I like two quarterbacks, I'll generate 3-4 lineups. If I only like one, I'll generate 2-3.

I'll then spend time throughout Saturday and Sunday entering cash contests with those lineups until I reach the limit of my bankroll that week.

Time permitting, I'll then put together as many GPP lineups as I can. Many of those will include the core players I've chosen, but surrounded by higher variance plays than those I chose for my cash lineups. Depending on time available, bankroll, and overlay, I'll enter lineups into various GPPs until game time on Sunday.

Alex Miglio: I tend to want to look at pricing as early as Monday with an eye towards Vegas lines. I do like to enter lineups earlier in the weeks for the contests that close before Wednesday, and I look for some overlay just before Thursday Night Football kicks in. The same goes for Sunday mornings, but only if things aren't too hectic for me—I try to avoid entering contests for the sake of entering them.

Maurile Tremblay: Last year I got into a rhythm of entering a bunch of small or medium contests on Monday or Tuesday and then going back and revising my lineups later in the week. The advantage of doing this is that these contests generally fill up with other people who also submit lineups early in the week ... and not everybody revises their lineups based on current info on Saturday night or Sunday morning.

This year, at least so far, my focus has been more on big contests with overlays. In those contests, I don't like to enter until late in the week when it's easier to judge whether it will fill up. As long as the overlays continue, I will probably stick with this routine. If the overlays dry up, I will probably go back to entering contests early in the week.

Steve Buzzard: I typically start entering games as soon as the prices come out and continue to enter games all the way up to the Thursday and Sunday kickoff. I am typically looking for the larger contests in both GPPs and cash games. The larger the games the more variety of my opponents and in the long run I feel like I can beat a variety of opponents. By entering games earlier in the week this accomplishes that goal as well.

Andrew Garda: I normally enter contests about mid-week and tweak my lineup as needed as the week progresses. I find when I run the newswire I am more active (funny how that works) because I'm reading changes and reports all day. So you should be reading the newswire off and on throughout the day and adjusting accordingly about once a day—consider me a walking impulse control issue.

I might jump on a few last minute contests Sunday, but by the time that day rolls around I normally just adjust lineups.

The first two weeks I have been running after overlays but the sad truth is this year it seems that the big sites don't favor that approach so I'll be backing off that aspect of my routine.

Ratio of cash games to tournaments

In general, what ratio of cash games to tournaments do you enter?

Chad Parsons: When I first started three years ago, I rarely, if ever, played in tournaments. I was strictly a cash player focusing on 50/50s, Double-Ups, and Head-to-Head games. Now, I force myself to incorporate about 25% of my weekly entry fees into tournaments. I feel I am a strong cash game player (my investment approach in real life is the high-floor, mutual fund mindset) and still refining my high-variance, shoot for the stars lineup-building acumen.

Jene Bramel: I try to stick to the 80-20 rule, 80% cash and 20% GPP. I'll skew more toward cash if my time is limited and I don't feel comfortable with my GPP lineup research. I'll skew more toward GPP if there's overlay to attack and I'm prepared with lineups I've put a good amount of time into. I don't think I'd ever go more than 35% GPP, however, unless the overlay is so attractive that the GPPs I'm entering are trending toward a situation where at least 30% of the entries are paid.

Alex Miglio: My ratio is admittedly wrong—I probably enter about 60 percent cash games to 40 percent GPP. It's always tempting for me to throw all my cash game lineups into multiple GPP in case one really hits. As I have grown as a DFS player, however, that ratio has begun to shift more and more towards cash games. Discipline is key if you want to manage your bankroll, and I have been playing fast and loose in the past. The higher the cash game ratio, the better.

Maurile Tremblay: I like tournaments better than cash games. They're more fun, I get to vary my lineups more (which makes things more interesting for me), and my return on investment has been higher in tournaments. I therefore play more tournaments than cash games.

Am I being irresponsible with my bankroll? I don't think so.

It's true that, if I wanted to maximize the amount of money I invested in DFS each week while maintaining good bankroll management practices, I would end up investing more in cash games than in tournaments. But who says I have to maximize the amount of money I invest each week?

Suppose I have a $100 bankroll, and based on all of the factors set forth in the bankroll management chapter of Cracking FanDuel, I determine that I'd be warranted in putting 30% of my bankroll into play in a given week—$20 into cash games, and $10 into tournaments. If I bet those amounts, I would be invested 67% in cash games and 33% in tournaments. But those $20 and $10 sums are the maximums for each category—I can bet less than that in either. If I only want to play cash games, I could put up to $20 into cash games and $0 into tournaments. If I only want to play tournaments, I could put $10 into tournaments and $0 into cash games. That would be perfectly responsible from a bankroll-management standpoint even though the latter scenario would mean that my ratio of tournaments to cash games was 100% to 0 percent.

In practice, I usually put about twice as much into tournaments as I do into cash games—not by increasing my tournament entries above what I can responsibly afford, but by reducing my cash-game entries below what I can responsibly afford.

Steve Buzzard: Bankroll management is one of the most underrated skills in daily fantasy sports. In order to best manage my bankroll I tend to try to keep my cash games at approximately 80% of my total entries. This is because cash games give you a more steady and consistent rate of return. This allows me to play a larger percentage of my total bankroll each week. GPPs often have a better ROI but the consistent returns allow you to keep playing if you have a couple of bad weeks in a row.

Andrew Garda: As Steve points out, bankroll management is key, and it's an ongoing process for most players (myself included). It's easy to get excited and just enter willy-nilly, and last year I learned not to do that. I agree with Steve that about 80% should go cash. As both Steve and Alex said, it's the safer way to go, though that big win in a tournament is tempting.

That said, I also agree with Maurile that you have to do what's fun for you and if you can be successful in tourneys and that's your thing, I don't think it's a bad thing. The whole point of this is fun as well as profit. You just have a thinner margin for error in my opinion.

Use every dollar of salary cap?

FanDuel has a $60,000 salary cap. Do you always use every bit of it, or if not, how much unused cap space are you comfortable leaving on the table?

Chad Parsons: I have left as much as $500-800 on the table in lineups. Some weeks my target players are good enough on the value board to stick with them despite having money left to upgrade them once the rest of the roster is completed. I believe in the 'get your guys' approach in fantasy drafting (or auctions) and DFS lineup-building is no different.

Jene Bramel: I don't mind leaving $400-$600 on the table. I'm not taking a core play out of my cash lineup just to reach the cap. If I have money left over, I'll first look to see if there's a kicker or defense upgrade. If so, I'll generally make that move. If not, I'll take a look at my usage percentage. If I'm heavier than I'd like to be on one of my slightly cheaper core plays, I may tweak the under-cap lineup to include the more expensive core player at the same position and bring my exposure of both players to a better level. But you should never go against your weekly research just to spend another $100 to $200.

Alex Miglio: It's hard to leave "money" the table for me—I'm always looking to get close to maximum salary on my rosters. That is easier when pricing is soft, like it has been to start the season. When pricing tightens up, however, maximizing salary becomes more difficult. It's also not really good practice at that point, as Jene mentioned.

Maurile Tremblay: I very often leave up to $400 on the table. I don't often go above that, but I wouldn't feel terrible about it if I did. Player salaries are loosely correlated with fantasy-point production, but only loosely. If I have to choose between leaving cap space on the table or leaving fantasy points on the table, I'll always choose the former. The pricing at FanDuel is efficient enough that if I had $1,000 of cap space left over, I'd almost certainly be able to find a true upgrade somewhere in projected points. But in principle, it's really only the points that matter. And with a salary cap of $60,000, a few hundred bucks amounts to just a rounding error.

Steve Buzzard: I don't ever look at the remaining salary. If I can fit all my best plays on my team and have 1,000 left it wouldn't stop me from playing that team.

Andrew Garda: I used to force myself to use all of it but don't anymore. Mind you, I use 100% of it 90% of the time but if I have a lineup I like a ton, I don't sweat being even $1,000 under.

Normally if I see that, I'm going to go look and see if there is a good play at a position that the money can help me with. But If I really love and believe in Player A and am less sure on Player B, I'm not just tossing Player B in because he costs more. As in life, price is not always an indicator of quality.

This week's tight ends

At tight end, Rob Gronkowski is arguably always a good value. But there are a lot of tight ends who are at least $2,000 cheaper and look pretty enticing. Who are some tight ends that stand out as being good values this week?

Chad Parsons: I am a Martellus Bennett fan in general as a top option in Chicago amongst the second tier of tight ends. Jason Witten is a high-floor option especially with Dez Bryant out. I love to bet on regressions upwards and Greg Olsen fits the criteria after a complete dud in Week 1. Finally, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the Rodney Dangerfield of tight ends at the minimum $4,500 following a quality showing. The Saints gave up a ton of production to Darren Fells of all tight ends last week and Seferian-Jenkins is matchup problem for any defense.

Alex Miglio: I really like Greg Olsen to bounce back from a rough Week 1 showing. The Houston Texans let Travis Kelce run wild on them last week—though we should always take such a small sample size with a big grain of salt—and Cam Newton isn't likely to target Olsen so few times very often.

It's amazing to me that Austin Seferian-Jenkins is so low-priced. They must have been pushing pricing out the door in the middle of that Tampa Bay game, otherwise there is no good explanation. At $4,500, it's hard not to stick him in a bunch of lineups, even if he's going to be less successful by way of regression.

Maurile Tremblay: Besides Gronkowski, my favorite cash-game plays this week are Heath Miller and Jason Witten. My favorite tournament plays are Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Greg Olsen, and Jordan Reed. Miller and Witten are both reliable veterans who will play a larger-than-normal role in their offenses this week because one of their teams' starting wide receivers is absent. Seferian-Jenkins, Olsen, and Reed are riskier plays for various reasons, but their upside potential is significant and their prices are right.

Jene Bramel: I look for tight ends in a game expected to be high scoring, known to be used in the red zone, and with a quarterback who is comfortable enough in the pocket to work through progressions. Jason Witten ($6,000) checks those boxes this week. He's in my value tight end group alongside Tyler Eifert ($5,900). Zach Ertz ($5,200) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,500) are attractive but a little less certain to continue their high Week 1 usage rates than Eifert. Jordan Reed ($5,000) worries me due to a strong St. Louis pass rush and cover linebacker combination.

Steve Buzzard: I agree there are a lot of great deals at the tight end position this week and I think it makes sense to save money and go against Gronkowski this week which will allow you to pay up for guys at other positions. Some of my favorite cheaper plays at tight end this week are Jordan Reed, Heath Miller, and Greg Olsen. Reed should see a steady increase of targets due to the injury to DeSean Jackson. Heath Miller was heavily targeted in the opening weekend and for his price you can't find much better consistency. Finally, Greg Olsen let a lot of people down in Week 1, but don't let short term results affect your decisions.

Andrew Garda: I really loved Austin Seferian-Jenkins but with Mike Evans back he's a much less safe option, unfortunately.

I agree with Steve that people are fading Olsen in Week 2 due to an awful outing last week, but I won't. He will bounce back and his price is right. I also echo the Jason Witten sentiments.

Offensive trainwrecks

A big part of choosing a DFS defense finding an inept offense to go against. Which offenses look like potential trainwrecks this week that could allow a lot of sacks and generate a lot of turnovers?

Chad Parsons: Jameis Winston made some classic rookie mistakes last week as Tennessee was an outstanding defensive play. The Saints get Tampa Bay this week, following a loss, and at the tough New Orleans home environment. I love the Saints as a medium-level cost. Another offense I would target is Cleveland. Tennessee gets a second unsteady quarterback opponent in a row after streamrolling Tampa Bay in Week 1.

Alex Miglio: I think everyone is going to say the Tampa Bay offense here, meaning the New Orleans defense. Until further notice, whoever plays against the Buccaneers is going to be a chalk play, barring a high price. Of course, that was only one week—maybe Tampa Bay puts up 38 this week and shuts us all up. Jacksonville —perennial winners in this category—and Washington might also apply.

Maurile Tremblay: I think two of the bigger potential offensive trainwrecks this week are the Raiders and the Jaguars—which make the Ravens and the Dolphins strong defensive considerations. Another one to consider is the Texans making the quarterback change to Ryan Mallett. That team clearly hasn't found its offensive rhythm yet and I like the Panthers defense as a high-upside GPP play.

Jene Bramel: Tampa Bay and Jacksonville lead the trainwreck list in Week 2. If the Dolphins (at JAX) were at home, I'd anchor them as my only core defensive play and take the hit at other positions. But New Orleans (home vs. TB) and possibly Indianapolis (home vs. NYJ) also have my attention as low salary plays.

Andrew Garda: I like facing off against the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants this week because of the poor offensive line play. As much as I personally love the Vikings and thought they could be a dark horse this year, I've watched the All-22 multiple times this week and the line—especially at center—is the proverbial dumpster fire. Ditto the Giants offensive line, though it's not quite as bad. The Giants lack of receiving options beyond Odell Beckham Jr Jr is an issue for them and Eli Manning continues to look out of sorts. There are times he runs that offense efficiently but last week he often slowed it down to micromanage and that throws it off.

So that, to me, makes the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions strong plays.

David Dodds: The more I study this week, I can't bet against the St. Louis defense. They sacked Russell Wilson six times and got multiple other pressures as well. Now they're going against Kirk Cousins.

I read a stat that for every 20 pass attempts, Cousins has been sacked or intercepted. I sense the Rams will go after him. Washington is also missing DeSean Jackson, and Jordan Reed is not 100 percent.

It looks like the Rams' main way to defend is to blitz often. They are going to lead the league in sacks this season, I think.

That will do it for this edition of the FanDuel Roundtable. Please join us again next week.

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