This weekend was a wild ride taking down Fanduel’s World Fantasy Football Championship (WFFC). Since then I have gotten a lot of requests for doing an article breaking down the event like I did Fanduel’s Sunday Million earlier this year.
In this retrospective, I wanted to talk a little more about the whole process, including the events surrounding the contest, since live finals are one of the biggest highlights of the DFS community and Fanduel always knows how to do them right.
First of all, to even attend the WFFC one must qualify for a ticket as there is no direct buy-in. Once you qualify for a ticket, each came with an all-inclusive trip to New York City for two, suite tickets to the Jets game against the Texans, spending money to try out the new Fanduel sportsbook, and of course an entry into the WFFC which had a first place prize of $500,000! There were only 75 tickets available for this contest, which made it one of the most difficult tickets to get this year.
A big question that comes up in DFS circles is, “How many entries did you enter to win?”. This is an interesting question because most people think it is easier with multiple entries. In reality, as you increase the number of entries you are creating it gets exponentially more difficult to have as high of an ROI. If you are building one entry per week you can choose the players that you think will offer the highest return, plug them into the lineup, and hit submit. If you are doing multiple lineups you should think about a lot more difficult questions like how do the lineups correlate, how do I diversify risk, etc.
Luckily for me, I earned my ticket in Week 1 of the season at a low buy-in price point of less than $10! This was great because it was a goal of mine for the season to qualify for this event and getting that goal out of the way Week 1 allowed me to spend my entry fees on other contests the rest of the season.
Live events are the best part of DFS but at the same time they are very high variance so I don’t recommend that you spend a high percentage of your bankroll on them. Not only do you have to finish first in a big pool of players to win the qualifier ticket, but you then must win one of the most difficult contests of the season at the actual final event. So, getting one lineup into this event was all I was really concerned about. The one place that it matters on how many lineups you have is when you move from zero to one. That’s about it!
As we moved through the season a lot of things fell my way including the Sunday Million results as well as Week 12 when I had Austin Ekeler as my highest owned player.
Speaking of Ekeler, another question I get asked often is, “What tool or information do I use most from Footballguys?”. That’s like asking me to choose between my children as we have so many great tools and writers, but one of my favorites is Jene Bramel’s injury news. During Week 12 Jene had a strong take saying that he thought Gordon was not healthy and would likely be spelled a large part of the game by Ekeler, especially if the Chargers built a lead. When Adam Schefter tweeted that Gordon would play this felt like a perfect opportunity to pounce on Ekeler at low ownership. I did so by making him my highest-owned player of the slate while he was owned at 4% by the public. This helped give me my second-best week of the year. Very few, if any, sites were touting news this accurately as shown by his low ownership and it’s this type of news that can lead you to a big cash.
As the actual event finally started to roll around, the activities got started with a trip to the new Fanduel Sportsbook in New Jersey which was awesome. I am still surprised by how few states are still offering sports betting given the revenue that New Jersey is generating, but being able to easily bet on all kinds of different outcomes and props at the touch of a button on your phone or at the sportsbook was cool to see. I am hoping we can see more of it going forward.
After hanging out at the sportsbook and getting our fill of wings, we headed over to the Jets game where my guest and I had field passes up until game time and then we joined the rest of the players up in the suite. The game was fun, but it was made exponentially better by having opportunities to easily live bet the game and surf for other fun betting opportunities. Due to how competitive the game was, there were several great arbitrage betting opportunities, and of course, I got in on some player props like Tom Brady under 20.5 points which turned out to be pivotal in Sunday’s contest!
After the game, I finally had to do some work and was up most of the night prepping my lineups for Sunday’s contest. The first thing I did was make sure my percent rostered projections were still my best thoughts as that is always the biggest key to my lineup setting process. After reviewing, I saw a few minor changes and submitted an update for the site. Then I double checked my projections that I had prepped earlier in the week for late-breaking news. I settled on my lineup for the live final pretty quickly as it stood out pretty clearly as my favorite. I never changed it again through the morning. Then the real work came as I had to determine my other lineups for the other contests. Several hours later, it was time to get some sleep to be ready for the big day.
The Day of Reckoning
The reason I loved this lineup so much is that there were a few things that I was really trying to capture for the week, and this lineup pretty much nailed each of them:
- I loved Kenny Golladay and figured he was going to be low owned. The Lions had already lost Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr, and now they were peppering newly signed Bruce Ellington with targets the last few weeks. But this week, Ellington was going to join the others off the field so I figured Matthew Stafford would be going after Golladay all day long. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was the only one to roster Golladay in the contest as he was one of my favorite plays of the week.
- I wanted to fade Amari Cooper and counter that with Ezekiel Elliott. Cooper has been very effective against man coverage through his career, and in particular since joining the Cowboys, but not nearly as effective against zone coverage schemes. If Cooper had troubles, Elliott was likely to be the beneficiary. Since I was already going to fade Cooper, I wanted to make a run with Elliott.
- The final decision came down to which stack I wanted. I loved stacking the Steelers/Patriots game, but I figured it was going to be extremely popular especially since the total rose throughout the week. This ended up being true with Ben Roethlisberger ending up on 19% of the teams and Tom Brady on 27%.
- In contrast, Matt Ryan ended up on only one team other than mine, and Julio Jones was only on two others. There aren’t many more prolific quarterback/wide receiver pairs in the NFL, and to be able to get them combined with only one other team having the same combination it was an easy choice for me. A lot of people questioned the decision to play Julio Jones because of Patrick Peterson coverage, but Peterson was never going to shadow him on 100% of the plays. And if anyone can beat Peterson, it’s going to be Jones.
As the games progressed, I saw one missed opportunity after another until Dede Westbrook returned a touchdown for the Jaguars defense and Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a touchdown right before the half. All of a sudden, I was leading by a pretty significant margin. This lead held up for most of the day until Joe Mixon scored a touchdown right before the end of the early games. With two games to go, I was in second place with Jaylen Samuels left while the leader had no players remaining. It felt pretty safe that I would pull into first place, but the question was could I hold on as so many players had Brady, Roethlisberger, and all kinds of combinations of their teammates.
As the game went on no one was gaining too quickly as Vance McDonald and Chris Hogan were the first scores and only one more touchdown to Antonio Brown. Heading to the fourth quarter, things started looking pretty good.
While all this was happening, I had another team that was creeping up the NFL Fan Championship leaderboard, with it's top prize of another $1 Million, that still had Russell Wilson, Dante Pettis, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Lockett left. I started having thoughts about what a great finish to the season it would be winning both contests the same day. Unfortunately, the Seahawks game was scoring about as quickly as the Steelers game.
When Tom Brady threw incomplete in the end zone, it all but locked up the WFFC title, but my excitement was stymied as I still had my focus on my other lineup. All I needed was a short Lockett touchdown or a long Pettis touchdown to pull off the sweep. Unfortunately, the Seahawks drive fizzled out quickly, and the 49ers kicked a field goal to end those chances. It was a slightly anticlimactic end to an amazing day.
The disappointment of the second lineup quickly vanished as Fanduel rushed the top-three finishers up to the stage to receive our checks and the WFFC belt from Ray Lewis. Of course, Lewis had to ask about what defense I used to win the championship. Ray, you are right, defenses can win championships. Dede Westbrook and the Jaguars proved that with a key turning point in this championship!