FanDuel Roundtable #4

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

This week we discuss the following:


Week four Stacks

Bye weeks begin this week, and everybody's favorite stacking team—New England—is off. Which team makes for the best multiple-stack option this week?

Danny Tuccitto: Oakland, with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Latavius Murray or Michael Crabtree. By my math, all four are among the Top seven at their positions with respect to the likelihood of achieving GPP value this week: Carr's third, Cooper's seventh, Murray's seventh, and Crabtree's second.

Mark Wimer: I agree with Danny that Oakland (against a pathetic Chicago team with little offense, currently, that is being actively deconstructed for a rebuild affecting team morale negatively) is the best option this week—I'm going with Carr/Cooper or Carr/Crabtree in various spots where I need a modestly-priced stack. For example, I just entered this lineup for a small GPP on FanDuel

D. Carr, $7,000; D. Freeman, $7,200; J. Charles, $8,700; A. Cooper, $7,200; M. Evans, $7,500; D. Moncrief, $6,300; G. Olsen, $6,300; M. Bryant, $4,800; Arizona D, $5,000

I will monitor Freeman's injury designation on the Friday Injury report and Saturday Injury report, by the way, and if needed I'll substitute for him on Sunday morning (just wanted to clear that up in case somebody was going to ding me for Freeman being listed as questionable, currently, in contravention of my "healthy guys" strategy—see below for more on that).

Steve Buzzard: I agree with Danny that Oakland is a great stack option as they are cheap and primed for a good game. Plus they allow you the option to pay up at some other positions. I would also look to the Packers. They have been relatively under owned so far this year. You can stack Rodgers with James Jones and Randall Cobb and if they all blow up you are in a good spot to take down a GPP.

Andrew Garda: I'm in with everyone else—Oakland is the play. From here on out, you can say 'whomever is playing Chicago' and, with perhaps allowance for injuries or another team being bad, you can be sure that is the good play and worth looking at for stacking possibilities.

To Steve's point about the Packers, I think he's on to something. A lot of DFS players seem gun-shy about playing a stacked group here and I wonder if it's a combination of good value for quarterbacks elsewhere and trying to avoid an obvious stack (Rodgers-Cobb). Rodgers and James Jones carries some risk in that Jones has mostly been about that one touchdown a week, but it's a decent combo. Add Eddie Lacy in and I think you can ride the Packers most weeks, and while the defense in San Francisco isn't horrible, it should be a good play this week.

Maurile Tremblay: The Packers are my first choice. Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, and James Jones are all priced attractively, and I like their potential going against the 49ers defense. I wouldn't be opposed to using stacks with Ty Montgomery or Richard Rodgers, either.

I'll mention the Colts as well. That passing offense is going to catch fire at some point, and both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief have terrific upside potential.

Alex Miglio: Oakland is absolutely my favorite stacking team this week, but Green Bay comes as a close second. The Packers travel to San Francisco to take on an awful 49ers defense, and Vegas lists Green Bay as a 9-point favorite. Aaron Rodgers and the passing game should score plenty of points with Eddie Lacy and the running game getting plenty of action with a big lead.


Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford ($7,100) has been a bitter disappointment thus far. Is he a decent value this week against that Washington secondary, or are we in for more heartbreak?

Danny Tuccitto: More heartbreak. By my math, I count 10 quarterbacks that are more likely to achieve cash game value and 12 that are more likely to achieve GPP value.

Mark Wimer: I concur with Danny here that Bradford and company are in for giving more heartbreak for their fantasy owners. I've watched Bradford and company throughout regular season and that offense looks inept. They just don't have the chemistry to sustain drives right now (perhaps the lack of reps in game situations during preseason set up this situation—I'm kind of mystified by the level of incompetence on this unit right now).

Steve Buzzard: Bradford is not in play as a cash-game play, but as a GPP play I could get behind it. If you stack Bradford with Jordan Matthews, who is a very solid value, it is a top 15 stack for me. Not a stack that I will play super heavily but it won't be owned that highly, either, so I think it makes for a good investment in your GPP portfolio.

Andrew Garda: Bradford loves those check-downs. In a staff discussion this week, someone (I think Jason Wood) mentioned that he noticed that the Eagles are having some receivers break free deep, he isn't going there, instead looking for a five yard out—or if he's feeling froggy, a ten yard out—instead.

I think he's lost for whatever reason and I would avoid him like the rest of the group here.

Maurile Tremblay: I won't have Bradford in any of my FanDuel lineups. I don't think he's a horrible choice, but "not horrible" is not the bar I'm trying to clear. I generally use only about six quarterbacks across all of my FanDuel lineups, and Bradford not all that close the top six values, in my opinion.

Alex Miglio: He's not facing the worst pass defense in the league, but this is the week Sam Bradford has to get things going. Right? He looked utterly lost a couple of weeks back against the Dallas Cowboys, and the running game worked so well last week that he didn't have much cause to air it out. Washington's run defense is a bit tougher as opposed to its pass defense, however, and Eagles receivers are doing a nice job of getting open, as others have mentioned. At $7,100, I like Bradford as a strong GPP option.


Cash-game strategies

Do you have a favorite strategy for cash games? That is, do you simply try to maximize expected points, or do you employ any kind of stacks (or anti-stacks) or other strategies?

Danny Tuccitto: I try to maximize expected points given (a) no negatively correlated players, and (b) no high-variance players. With respect to stacks in cash games, I'm agnostic: If one happens to show up in my maximized lineup, so be it; if not, so be it. Basically, my process goes like this:

1. Use the interactive value chart to run the algorithm that spits out the lineup with maximized expected points.

2. Check to see if there are any negatively correlated or boom-or-bust players in that lineup. If no, I'm done. If yes, disqualify said player(s) and rerun the algorithm.

3. Repeat step two until the maximized lineup has no negatively correlated or boom-or-bust players.

4. Go live my life.

Mark Wimer: Aside from the points Danny already mentions, I also look closely at the injury news—in cash games I want all guys who are either not on the injury report at all or if they are on there I go with only probable guys in cash games. You are going for guys with a high floor in cash games, so you don't want to risk a Week 3 Marshawn Lynch situation for those lineups. Let's call it the "all healthy guys" strategy.

I do like to look at stacks of quarterbacks with their clear-cut number one target (whether wide receiver or tight end—in cases where you can discern such a pair). For example, Carson Palmer/Larry Fitzgerald have been consistently productive and Palmer has targeted Fitzgerald 28 times—in contrast John Brown, Jaron Brown and Michael Floyd have combined for 28 targets over the first three games—and of course Fitzgerald has been the go-to guy for Palmer in scoring situations as well (five touchdowns for Fitzgerald vs. two between the other three receivers mentioned). The reason I like this for cash games is that a NFL-caliber receiver who is routinely seeing double-digit or near-double-digit targets should be able to at least meet their cost in fantasy points and will usually exceed it (hopefully by the desired 2x or even more), even on the .5 point per reception basis we labor under at FanDuel.

Steve Buzzard: I don't really care if there is a stack in my cash game lineup. The thoughts that you can't stack in a cash game lineup are way over blown. The biggest thing I try to look for is safety in my players and that is measured by their coefficient of variance. Typically quarterbacks are more consistent on a weekly basis so I will often pay more for them in cash games than I will in a GPP. The other end of the spectrum is wide receivers. Here I will typically pay less for them in a cash game. Maximizing points is a good starting point but you don't want inconsistent points since you are only looking to get to a consistently high floor.

Andrew Garda: I'm careful about any player who is a potential late scratch as even more than in standard fantasy. A late 'Out' is a killer in DFS. As Mark said above, you're looking for healthy guys with a high floor so you can minimize your potential downside.

Maurile Tremblay: Winning in cash games over the long run is all about game selection and maximizing expected points. Don't worry about taking flyers on high-upside players, or stacking, or avoiding stacks, or fading, or avoiding fades, or anything else along those lines. Find overlays or weak competition, and enter solid lineups. I don't think any of the other stuff matters very much one way or the other.

There are people who have had a lot of success in cash games using QB-REC stacks, or RB-DEF stacks, or seeking out chalk plays ... and all of that is fine. I don't think any of it hurts you (as long as you're doing it in conjunction with finding value, rather than instead of finding value). I just don't think it helps all that much, either. What matters far more than anything else when it comes to cash-game roster-construction, in my opinion, is putting together a lineup that is expected to score a lot of points.

Alex Miglio: Like many out there, I tend to roll with high-ownership guys. I also like to go with the safest quarterback possible, which could wind up being the most expensive one of the week. That is the case with Aaron Rodgers in Week 4, for example.


Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton seems like a good value at $7,600. That Kansas City defense has looked increasingly worse thus far this season, while the Bengals keep getting better on offense. Is this a slam dunk?

Danny Tuccitto: Not a slam dunk at all. By himself, Dalton is my 12th-best cash game value quarterback this week, as well as my 15th-best tournament value quarterback. And combined with A.J. Green, the duo is my 15th-best QB-WR1 value stack for tournaments. Put simply, as productive as Dalton's been in DFS this season, there are more valuable quarterback options this week in his price range; guys like Philip Rivers and Tyrod Taylor, for instance.

Mark Wimer: I disagree with Danny. I do think this is as close to a slam dunk as we get in the NFL—The Chiefs' pass defense was buzz-sawed by Aaron Rodgers last Monday night—when the torture was over K.C. had allowed 24/35 for 333 yards passing, five touchdowns and zero interceptions to the Green Bay machine. To date, the Chiefs are ranked 28th in the NFL averaging 287 net yards allowed per game, with 10 passing scores coughed up versus only two interceptions generated. Even before the slicing and dicing that Rodgers administered, the Chiefs' pass defense was ranked 23rd in the NFL averaging 268 net yards allowed per game with five passing scores given up versus two interceptions generated after two games—so they were allowing north of 250 yards passing and in excess of two TD passes per game even before the Packers humiliated the secondary this past week. Also there is little chance of a bunch of interceptions being thrown by Dalton as Kansas City isn't generating much in the way of turnovers (fewer than one interception per game so far).

Meanwhile, Dalton has been throwing for multiple touchdowns each week so far (two, three and three, respectively) and hit a career-best in passing yards last week with 383—he also added a rushing score last week, has been attempting about five rushes per game (four, five and five) which gives him a respectable chance at the odd rushing TD in any given week, and Dalton has thrown just one interception across three contests. That is what a nuclear-hot NFL quarterback looks like, friends.

So given an exposed and shattered K.C. secondary against the juggernaut Cincinnati passing attack, I'm going to be having Dalton stacked with Green or Jones on around 20%-25% of my FanDuel entries this week, unless there is some catastrophic injury news or a car accident (like the one Cam Newton was involved in last year) that happens between now and game time.

Steve Buzzard: I am a little higher on Dalton than Mark and Danny but not a whole lot. Dalton won't be in any of my cash games this week but he does make a fine GPP play.

Andrew Garda: I'm in the slam-dunk camp. I'm not sure, as a whole, the fantasy football community understands how well Dalton is playing right now—and this is coming from an avowed Dalton 'hater' in many respects. He's spread the ball out, made better decisions than in the past and generally looked very good.

To Danny's point, are there better values? I think there arguably are. However in and of himself, I think Dalton is a very nice value and should automatically be on your list of guys to use this week. His price isn't bad and his production is good—and if you can stack A.J. Green, great—though Green has been a bit sluggish until last week. So there is a risk in that stack but I think playing Dalton on his own works well.

Maurile Tremblay: I feel the same way about Andy Dalton this week as I do about Sam Bradford: he's not a horrible play, but he's not among the best values, either. Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Philip Rivers are all priced in that same $7,400-$7,600 range this week, and if I had to pick one of them, I think I like Rivers' prospects against Cleveland the best. But I'd rather pay up a little bit and get Russell Wilson or Cam Newton for an extra $600-$700 than go with any of the Dalton-Kaepernick-Rivers group.

Alex Miglio: It certainly looks like he's a slam dunk, doesn't it? There is no way Bad Andy Dalton shows up this week, right? RIGHT?

From an empirical standpoint, I like Dalton this week. My gut is sounding alarm bells, though, and for good reason—Dalton has imploded on us all before. That is not to say he has improved as a pro and moved beyond those huge duds, but Kansas City's pass rush scares me. True, the Chiefs secondary has been awful, but they get big cornerback Sean Smith back this week, and he will presumably match up with big receiver A.J. Green for much of the day.

Dalton will be in a lineup or two for me, but this doesn't seem like a safe play to me.


Survivor

The FanDuel Survivor series starts this week. Many who played last year said it was the most fun of any contest that FanDuel offered. Strategy-wise, how are you planning to approach it this year? For example, if you will have multiple entries, will you diversify your lineups in the early weeks, or run a same-lineup train? How will your lineup-building differ from regular cash games or tournaments?

Danny Tuccitto: I didn't play it last year, but will be playing it this year on the recommendation of the entire Footballguys DFS staff, who have, to a man, expressed how fun it is. If there's anything I've decided on as far as strategy goes, it's this: Gradually shift from more of a cash game mindset towards more of a tournament mindset as the contest progresses. It's kind of like playing the main event of the World Series of Poker. In the first few blind levels (read: first few weeks of the FanDuel Survivor series), the competition is relatively weak, and so I should focus on preserving my edge via more conservative, low-variance play. After a while, though, most of the competition is relatively strong, and perhaps better than me, so I should focus on negating their edge via more-aggressive, high-variance play. That said, as this is the first time I'm playing the game, I can be totally off-base here. It's what I'm going to do. And if it blows up in my face, so be it. The only way to learn whether or not a strategy works is to try it.

Mark Wimer: I am entering this contest because (a) it looks like a lot of fun, and (b) playing in a multi-week contest with potentially big rewards makes it likely that I get to play a lot of entries in this series for the relatively-modest outlay of $5 to enter this week. The entertainment value is high and there is a reasonable chance of doubling up the $5 (the top 13% of the field at least doubles their buy-in)—but the main value in this league for me is the fun and camaraderie of playing against all the other Footballguys staffers who decide to jump into this event. Heck, I spent north of $5 on a premium McDonald's Create Your Taste burger last weekend just to find out if it would really be better than a Big Mac (it was) and I'll get much more enjoyment than that out of a multi-week fantasy football contest!

Here in Week 1 of the contest I am playing a moderately conservative, cash-game approach which should keep my entry live for the second iteration next week (about 75% of the field survive). As Danny indicates, as the pool of contestants shrinks, I will treat this more in the mode of a GPP but for now I'm going for a high floor of points and sticking with my 'healthy guy' strategy.

Steve Buzzard: Danny summarized the entire process perfectly so I don't have much to add for the full game theory. This week I will be starting off with a strategy that is basically my cash game strategy. Run a handful of different lineups with small player diversification throughout the lineups. As I mentioned in the question above this won't really matter if the teams are stacked or not. As the series gets a little further along I will probably start to run a few more stacks to ensure winning. If you haven't played a survivor type of league before I would certainly recommend doing so; as Mark mentioned, it gives you the possibility of several weeks of entertainment for very cheap with the upside to win a larger prize. What more could you ask for!

Andrew Garda: I didn't play last season, but as Danny alluded to, the staff made it sound like a blast so why not?

I tend to be somewhat conservative with my bankroll, so I won't go nuts in a tourney like this, but I did go with multiple entries, much like I do with a cash game approach. I think Danny hit the nail on the head—you're going to have to alter your approach as you advance.

If you want to dip your toe, go for the cheaper tournaments and vary your lineups. If nothing else, you'll have some cheap fun for a few weeks.

Maurile Tremblay: We normally divide contests into two broad categories—tournaments, where we're trying to maximize our ceiling, and cash games, where we're trying to maximize expected points. The early stages of the FanDuel Survivor series are really in a separate category. In a tournament, a small percentage of the field cashes; in a cash game, around half of the field cashes; but in the first few weeks of Survivor, a large majority of the field advances. This means that we're really trying to maximize our floor. To do that, think of all the changes you'd normally make when going from a cash-game lineup to a tournament lineup, and do the opposite.

Don't go overboard. Finding good players at good prices is still the primary objective, so don't sacrifice those things to other considerations. But in the first few weeks of Survivor, you should have at least a slight preference for avoiding QB-REC stacks, and oddly enough, a slight preference for pairing negatively correlated players like a quarterback or running back with the team defense opposing him. About 75% of the field will advance in each of the first two weeks, so you're really just looking to avoid a total disaster. Hedging becomes a viable strategy. If you pair Aaron Rodgers with the 49ers defense in Week 4, they're not both going to have great games, but they're probably not both going to have horrible games, either. At least one of the two should do pretty well. And if half of your roster does pretty well, you're going to be on the right side of the cutoff.

Alex Miglio: This will be my first year doing this, but it seems like playing it safe and avoiding potential disasters for several weeks is the name of the game. Whereas stacking players in cash games might work out fine, diversifying my lineups with safe options seems to be a better idea.

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


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