This week we discuss the following:
We discussed our weekly routines a bit back in Week 2, but now that we've all been playing for the better part of another whole season, I'd like to revisit the subject. How do you approach FanDuel's NFL contests each week? Do you wait and enter contests after you've constructed lineups that you're happy with? Or do you enter earlier in the week with dummy lineups and edit them later? (If so, do you have any tips to simplify the process? Entering and editing a lot of lineups can be time-consuming.) How much editing do you do on Sunday after the inactive lists for the early games come out?
Chad Parsons: I enter contests throughout the weeks, searching for quality head to head matchups along with some tournaments. My favorite is entering Sunday locking contests on Monday or Tuesday as a certain percentage of owners will not update their lineups as injuries clarify and better plays come into focus late in the week. I start with a dummy lineup for all contests early in the week, then diversify to my preferred ownership rates before kickoff. I do not create my lineups for Sunday until after the inactive lists release, so I make them just once instead of adjusting from earlier in the week.
Maurile Tremblay: My routine is similar. I enter a lot of contests early in the week with a single dummy lineup for each slate. On Saturday night, I'll typically construct lineups for different scenarios—last week, I had one set of lineups if Charcandrick West was going to play, and another set of lineups if West was out. Sunday morning, I upload my lineups into a multi-entry contest with a small buy-in using the RotoGrinders Chrome extension, just to get all of my lineups on the site, and then from there I'll allocate them using FanDuel's import function to all of the contests I'd entered earlier in the week.
Mark Wimer: I engage in both methods of roster construction—early entry with edits and then later in the week I do fresh lineups based on breaking news, my own deeper levels of research, etc. Why do I do my entries this way?
1. Early-entry (especially into 50/50's) gets me a pool of owners with a (small) percentage who may not bother to edit their lineups. In any contest, if 10% of the owners (or 5%, or 2%) aren't editing their lineups, I am at an advantage over all the guys who can't be bothered, and I'm good with that.
2. New Lineups late in the week—this allows me to include the advice of other serious fantasy football players—i.e., the pool of fantasy football players at Footballguys.com. Viewing the lineups that other Footballguys construct from their perspectives here invariably helps me build a subset of successful lineups later in the week.
Sometimes my early-week impressions or analysis proves to be most durable: sometimes my late-in-the-week, after-exhaustive-research lineups perform the best. So I find it spreads out my risk to have two different time-frames in which I build lineups.
All lineups (especially the early-entry ones) are subject to refinement based on inactive lists. For one example, I watch Leonard Hankerson closely in ATL—when he is active I fade Jacob Tamme, and when Hankerson's tender hamstrings act up and keep him definitively out I play Tamme in a subset of my lineups. Some fantasy owners may be put off by the trivial inconvenience of cross-checking inactive lists (and the inactive list's probable impact on their fantasy players active in any given week's DFS rosters) but I am not one of them.
Andrew Garda: I enter lineups about mid-week, pay close attention to the news wire for adjustments and try and avoid impulse corrections and entries.
This year has admittedly been brutal with injuries (I think 10 fantasy starters have ended up on IR, not counting guys like Tony Romo who teams haven't IRed yet—six of which are running backs). So in some ways I've come to realize that, especially this season, there are just weeks where you get hosed. So rather than stress up until kickoff, I pay attention to late deactivations and game time decisions and just enjoy the games and the sweat.
Alex Miglio: The week has become a slow burn for me. I do enter some lineups early in the week, but I find myself going through and looking at my lineups and entering new ones almost every day. Sunday morning I spend entering a few more lineups in while scouring news and tweaking lineups accordingly. But I tend to avoid making changes outside injury- or weather-related news these days—I usually have my rankings honed in by then, and I have found that making last-minute changes outside health issues tends to hurt me more than help. That is an entirely un-empirical observation.
Chad Parsons: I second that point, Alex. Making non-injury shifts on a large scale later in the weekly cycle have rarely turned into profits in my experience.
Scott Chandler is likely to be very highly owned this week because he's so cheap. Does that make him a fade in GPPs, or are you playing him in every format? (Or do you have reservations about his expected production, and plan to fade him for that reason instead of his high ownership?)
Chad Parsons: Chandler is in the mix, but from the question, it sounds like I will own him less than the consensus. I have him mixed with combinations of Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell in my Tom Brady stacks. He has a high floor, making him in play for cash games as well. Danny Amendola being iffy or out later in the week would be a big boost for Chandler as well.
Maurile Tremblay: It looks like Chandler is about 14% owned in GPPs and 20% owned in cash-games in Thursday contests, which is lower than I was expecting. Greg Olsen is the much more popular play (28% in GPPs, 45% in cash games).
I love Scott Chandler this week based on his low salary. He is my second most heavily owned player after DeAngelo Williams. Chandler was becoming a regular part of the offense even before Gronkowski was injured. With Gronkowski out this week, but most likely Amendola back, it is possible that the Patriots will go away from the tight end and rely more on their running backs and wide receivers. But I think there's a pretty good chance that Chandler will be targeted a fair amount, and you really can't beat the price.
Alex Miglio: I was surprised to see Chandler so low owned, but I guess that $5,300 price tag wasn't as cheap as expected. The thing is, Chandler is going up against an Eagles defense that hasn't given up a ton of fantasy points to tight ends to begin with. The volume will be there, but the quality won't. Plus, there is always the chance the Patriots will try to grind things out with Blount given Philadelphia has been a sieve against the run lately.
Mark Wimer: I am fading Chandler in DFS this week until we see who Tom Brady lands on to feed the targets Gronkowski has commanded up to this point. Does the temporary loss of Gronkowski automatically transfer those targets to Chandler? No, Chandler has seen his own share of targets lately. Brandon Bolden or James White might get the "Gronkowski" targets, or perhaps Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, perhaps even Keshawn Martin.
Also, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are tricky to predict—it is obvious that Chandler SHOULD see more targets, so therefore they may elect to make him a decoy during Week 13 and only actually throw at him once or twice. I never expect the Patriots to do what is "obvious" on the offensive side of the ball.
Andrew Garda: I've felt like there are so few reliable TE plays that I'd rather not take chances. I've been rolling with Greg Olsen most weeks for a long time. On the surface, if Gronkowski is out, Olsen is going to be highest owned, which means in GPPs Chandler is a good play. Further, if Gronk is out, Chandler should get opportunity.
As was said above though, the Eagles are stingy and just because Chandler got some run last week doesn't mean Bill Belichick will do the same again.
I think I will probably still play a more reliable option and fade someone elsewhere at a position where there is more selection.
How much do you worry about diversifying your lineups each week? If the answer is that you don't worry about diversifying your lineups very much, what other methods do you use to reduce variance or to avoid exposing too much of your bankroll to a handful of players?
Chad Parsons: I diversify quite a bit with my lineups, having as many as 30-40 unique combinations for a given week. I will repeat a few lineups in head-to-head matchups, but not for tournaments. I have dialed down my exposure to any single player in recent weeks with better results. A highly-projected running back may creep into the mid-40% range on my portfolio for the week, but the top plays at other positions will top out in the 30s. I have found I am more comfortable with a higher share of my account balance in play each week when my individual player shares are lower and my lineup volume is higher—capturing more of the top Footballguys projections and matchup plays in the process.
Maurile Tremblay: I've been constructing a great many lineups recently (I have 200 unique lineups in this week's Thursday contests). But despite the great number of different player combinations, I'm not as diversified as you might expect when it comes to individual players. I have the same core players in a lot of my lineups, and zero ownership of an awful lot of players that others will roster. In this week's Thursday contests, for example, 82% of my lineups have DeAngelo Williams, 41% have Scott Chandler, 37% have Cam Newton, 33% have DeAndre Hopkins, and so on.
There are two main ways to reduce variance in a given game slate. One is to diversify your own rosters quite a bit. The other is to play in contests that will have widely varying cut-off lines for finishing in the money. If you play the same lineup in a lot of different 50/50s or double-ups, you're going to have some wild swings—because your results in each contests will be pretty similar. To avoid that situation, you can either vary your own scores or those of your collective opponents. The latter strategy generally means playing in H2H matchups, which I don't like to do. (I figure the level of competition is greater in H2H contests, but I don't actually know for sure since I've never played a lot of them.) So I go with the former strategy and construct a lot of different lineups. But in cash games, I still like to use the highest-value players over and over again rather than diversifying toward lower-value players.
That brings me to two other ways to reduce large swings: (1) Play a bunch of different game slates; and (2) Don't put your entire bankroll into play each week. I get more player diversification by playing in a number of different game slates (1 pm only, four pm only, etc.), not just the main ones. And I also try to make sure that a completely terrible week—which will happen from time to time—won't wipe out my bankroll.
Mark Wimer: As Maurile and the other DFS staffers know, I had a nightmare week in DFS a few weeks ago—one of those weeks where I seemed to pick every single high-profile guy who got injured. The specifics don't matter but the result does—because I agree with Maurile and I don't put my entire bankroll into play each week, I was able to recover from a zero-for week (every single lineup I entered lost) and have since rebuilt my bankroll to significantly larger than it was prior to the nightmare week.
Bankroll management is key if you are going to play DFS on a weekly level (regardless of how much $ you have in play total). As Maurile and others have noted, you WILL have those weeks were nothing goes right for your slates, and you WILL feel totally stupid when that goes down. I did. Really, though, it's just an extreme swing of ill luck, variance, the injury bug, whatever term you want to hang on a down weekend. Don't be betting the house or the kids' college educations on one week's action (or 17 weeks) and then you won't have to worry about the occasional DFS wipeout.
I have been at various levels on this question this year—early on I was seeking to diversify my lineups to a great degree, such that I tweaked at least one or two of my "marginal" guys across each roster (I usually have 3-4 core lineups that I build around, and then a few "el-cheapo" guys at WR three, TE, or RB two which I vary depending if I am going GPP or cash). But the problem I ran into was those few "magic" lineups where I got 3x or more from most players on the roster were too rare and I wasn't converting enough GPP lineups into cash finishes. By tweaking the "marginal" guys at EVERY opportunity I was losing the chance to cash in on the subset of lineups that actually worked out.
Lately (and to a significantly greater degree of success thanks to some advice from Jason Wood) I am NOT seeking to diversify to such a degree—instead, I pick my core GPP lineups and core cash-game lineups and then I live or die (or break even) by those 6-8 lineups. Having the courage of my convictions and going with the guys I think are ready to have a big week has, overall, increased my success rate as I have decreased the tweaking. I am willing to trade off the decreased variance a great diversity brings for increased chances of entering a winning lineup in multiple contests. I am risking more of my bankroll on each individual lineup, but not risking nearly as much money in total compared to Maurile's approach.
Andrew Garda: I don't really worry about diversifying. I know a lot of people do work hard on lineup variations and I think that can be smart but I don't go nuts diversifying.
This is the same for GPP and cash—though each format often gets its own unique lineup since the key to cash games is just landing somewhere in the money (position doesn't matter beyond that) and in a GPP you're looking for a unique lineup that maximizes the big money.
Cheap running backs
Rostering a cheap running back (or two) can allow you to pay up for premium players at other positions. This week, David Johnson and Shaun Draughn both come in under $6,000. Which of those two are you more optimistic about?
Chad Parsons: I like Johnson more for his floor and upside. There is a sprinkling of doubt about Bruce Arians and his lack of rookie playing time typically, so Johnson is my second-highest ownership play of the week. Draughn as a quality matchup and has showed well in the lead role, but touchdowns are difficult to come by in San Francisco, keeping him in the middle of the pack for my running back options in Week 13.
Mark Wimer: Honestly, so far I haven't rostered either guy as I like some other mid-range backs (Charcandrick West, at $6,700) better. If I do plug in one of these guys, it's going to be David Johnson on the powerful Cardinals' offense, rather than Shaun Draughn who has played well but is stuck in a jalopy of an offense compared to the McLaren-esque Arizona attack.
Andrew Garda: Johnson for sure. Draughn is in a much shakier offense and the only thing that saves him is the potential for receptions. If Johnson gets the carries his upside is much higher given that the Cardinals could wreck the Rams and need to kill some clock. Also, given the passing game, he's going to see a lot less stacked boxes.
Alex Miglio: I'm fairly certain the vast majority of contestants are going to feel the same way about Johnson over Draughn. That much plays out in ownership percentages—Johnson is in the teens while Draughn is firmly in GPP territory below four percent. While I'm confident Johnson will outscore Draughn, the latter might be the difference maker in GPP lineups. You can reasonably roll with both in all contest formats, though—the money savings is worthwhile.
That will do it for this edition of the FanDuel Roundtable. Please join us again next week.
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