Daily Fantasy Football Basic Strategy: Part 10

We’ve covered research for daily fantasy football and talked about every position in our NFL Building Blocks strategy series. Now it’s time for the most important part of NFL DFS: lineup construction. We’ll be splitting the content into two parts: first up is an overview of lineup correlations, and then we will follow it up with part two: constructing lineups in cash games and GPPs.

Correlations are extremely important to think about when making your lineups in NFL DFS. When first starting out with inserting players into lineups, it’s very easy to accidentally have a correlation that you’re not even aware of. This article will help you to learn the important correlations, both negative and positive.

Negative Correlations

A rule of thumb for beginners in NFL DFS is to never roster any combination of players that make a negative correlation. There may be some rare cases where it is correct to include certain negative correlations in GPPs, but it’s almost certainly never correct in cash games. When starting out, we should just worry about staying away from negative correlations. Rostering negative correlations always lowers your upside and sometimes your floor as well.

Running Backs from Opposing Teams

Don’t play running backs from opposing teams. The problem you run into is that it’s extremely rare for both players to be able to succeed from a DFS standpoint. If one player goes off for a big day, the other usually will do poorly. This is because the team with the running back with the better day will eat up a lot of the clock, killing opportunities for the opposing running back.

Defense/Special Teams and Opposing Offensive Player

Avoid playing defense/special teams versus an offensive player that they’re up against. If one of them does well, the chances of the other doing well is small since when the opposing offensive player scores points, it reduces the points of the defense. Not only does it lower your floor, but it greatly reduces your upside.

Malcolm Jenkins (flickr.com/keithallison)
Malcolm Jenkins (flickr.com/keithallison)

Defense/Special Teams and Opposing Kicker

Playing a kicker from one team and a defense/special teams from the opposing team is a hugely negative correlation, one of the strongest that exists. If a defense/special teams excels, it means they’re constantly keeping the opposing team in bad field position, killing the value of the offense and in turn, the kicker.

Skill Positions from the Same Team

Combining running backs with wide receivers or tight ends from the same NFL team will hurt both their floors and upsides. This is because we are looking for touchdowns from each of these positions, but there there are only so many touchdowns to go around in one 60 minute game. If one of the players gets a touchdown, it means that the other one didn’t at that time. There are games where multiple skill position players can go off, but it’s rare. It is an unplayable strategy in cash games and very rarely correct in GPPs.

Positive Correlations

Positive correlations give our lineups the most upside and the chance to score the most points every week. Generally speaking, we like positive correlations in our lineups. Keep in mind that the types of positive correlations that we want depend on the type of games we’re playing (cash games versus GPPs).

Quarterback and Wide Receiver from Same Team

The most popular and well known positive correlation comes from constructing a stack with a quarterback and a wide receiver from the same team. If your wide receiver catches a lot of touchdown passes, chances are they were thrown by their quarterback. Of course there is the chance that the quarterback will have a great day and your wide receiver won’t due to someone else receiving the touchdown passes. But the upside is there and because the two players are linked so strongly, people use this strategy frequently in NFL DFS GPPs.

Note that you don’t always have to stack the number one wide receiver from a team with the corresponding quarterback. The correlation between the number two or number three wide receiver and quarterback is also very strong. Constructing your stack with the either the second or third wide receiver can also help you to create a unique lineup, which is great for GPPs.

Quarterback and Kicker from the Same Team

There is a strong correlation between a quarterback and kicker from the same team, although we likely should not go out of our way to make this correlation happen. For example we shouldn’t usually take a bad quarterback or a bad defense/special teams solely due to the correlation. It can be useful to know for close decisions, however.

The positive correlation between a quarterback and a kicker comes from the fact that if the quarterback is having good game, it means he’s putting the kicker in position to score points as well. Teams won’t always score touchdowns when they make trips to the opposing end zone, after all. Something to note is that we would only want to construct this stack if it was coming from a team projected to score a high number of points.

Kicker and Defense/Special Teams from the Same Team

There is a strong correlation between the kicker and defense/special teams from the same team. This occurs because if a defense/special teams has a good game, it often puts the offense of that team in the position to score points, and in turn the kicker gets the chance to score as well. Like with the correlation between quarterback and kicker from the same team, we won’t go out of our way to create this correlation. But if we have a close decision between kickers or defenses, it can help us make the right pick.

Part 2 of our focus on lineup construction will go over building lineups specially for cash games and GPPs. For questions or comments specific to the correlations found in this post, please post in the Building Blocks: Correlations in Lineup Construction discussion topic. For questions or comments regarding the series as a whole, please post in the daily fantasy footfall forum.


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