DFS Roundtable: 2018 Lessons

The DFS team discusses their lessons learned from the 2018 season

As we close the 2018 NFL regular season, what overarching lessons have you added or refined to your DFS toolbox? What stands out as your best or worst moments of clarity during the season? Also, any forward-looking tips overall for DFS players in the NFL playoffs?

Phil Alexander:

In comparison to past years, I have been much better at leveraging ownership in tournaments. I owe a debt of gratitude to fellow Footballguy Steve Buzzard on that front, as the ownership projections he posts to the site on a weekly basis have been invaluable.

It's a simple thought process but one I have not consciously factored into every lineup decision before this season. If Player X has the same ceiling as Player Y, only Player X is projected to appear on 30% of rosters and Player Y on 10%, is player X really three times as likely to hit his ceiling than Player Y? The answer is almost always no, yet that is exactly what those projections imply. Most tournament entrants are ignorant to the fact they're putting their money on the wrong side of probability when they choose Player X, giving your lineup with Player Y a potentially massive edge in GPPs.

What stands out as your best or worst moments of clarity during the season?

My best moment of clarity can also be attributed to Steve Buzzard, who won the Fanduel Sunday Million in September and the WFFC live final earlier this month. Check out Steve's article on how he took down the WFFC and pay close attention when he writes about Austin Ekeler being instrumental to his second-best week of the season in Week 12. During one of our internal chats leading up to that week, Steve mentioned Ekeler being his highest exposure, and I (stupidly) replied by saying he was much braver than I was. While that may or may not be true, it wasn't bravery that led to Steve making more money playing DFS in one week than I can make at a well-paying corporate job in years. It was expert game theory, plain and simple. Click the link, read it, and get better at DFS.

Also, any forward-looking tips overall for DFS players in the NFL playoffs?

The player pools are small, so there will be a lot of overlap in roster construction. When this is the case, it's usually better to allot more -- if not all -- of your bankroll to GPPs over cash games. And given the overlap, chalky GPP lineups have no shot at first place. If you look at your lineup and are happy with every player you chose, chances are you're doing it wrong. Make sure to include at least two players in every lineup who figure to be lower than 10% rostered.

James Brimacombe:

The up and down swings this season felt bigger than ever for me personally. It is hard to balance your play each week when it comes to game selection, bankroll management, what site to play on, GPP or Cash games. I felt like I was all over the board this year and didn’t hone my best skills this year. It was a fun year but it was also more of a break-even type of year.

I think for the DFS playoffs you want to look at sticking to GPP’s and being different. One of my big mistakes is always trying to play the chalky players which can lead to some minimum type of cash in GPP’s but what you really want is to swing for the fences and find that less than 5% player that can break these small playoff slates for you.

Justin Howe:

Like James, I had a break-even year in DFS. I took home no abnormally large paydays, and I don't think I'll wind up profiting more than a few bucks. Still, I learned quite a bit about risk management in this game of ours. Phil already detailed the common-sense lessons ownership that some of us still don't grasp (or trust).

For me, the biggest change this year involved trusting the numbers more than my gut. We all love football, and our individual knowledge bases do matter, of course. But regardless of how strongly I feel Todd Gurley will crush his cake matchup, the Rams' plans - and the opposing defense's performance - are entirely unaffected by it. As Phil discussed, it's less crucial to note what chance we give Player X of excelling than to ponder how his range of outcomes fits into the DFS landscape.

BJ Vanderwoude:

This year I was forced to look at ownership percentages in GPP's, much more than in year's past. The truth is there is so much content out there these days, and players have become much sharper in general, that it is hard to win GPP's without significant foresight. You need to take chances, and the players that are highly owned, are not the players that come with doubts. Whether that player is going against a top-flight defense or comes in nursing a high ankle sprain, you need to separate yourself from the pack of other owners, and the only way to do that is to be super creative with your entire team construction, or take a risk with players that other owners are not considering.

The best advice I can give for playing the NFL postseason is to lower your weekly buy-ins, but increase the number of tournaments you enter. This means playing below your normal buy-in thresholds, but it gives you more opportunities to diversify your lineups, as well as take a chance of some lower owned players that will help separate you from a diminished player pool.
Phil talked about it above, and I think he was right on the money with his advice to target several players that will be in the 5% or lower owned range.