Daily Fantasy Football Basic Strategy: Part 11

In the first part of the our look at lineup construction, we focused on the important correlations that need to be kept in mind. Now that we’ve covered the correlations, we can take a closer look at constructing lineups in NFL DFS cash games and GPPs. A lot of the concepts and ideas here will have been discussed at some point during this series. Our goal in this post is to bring all the concepts together.

Cash games (50/50s and head-to-head)

Build Around Running Backs

From the start of the NFL Building Blocks series, we’ve preached safety in cash games. Part of this strategy includes investing heavily at the running back and quarterback positions. As discussed in the Running Backs in Cash Games article, running backs are the most predictable position with the easiest floor to determine. We like to start with them every week when building our cash game lineups, and we’re willing to spend money on them in order to have a high floor.

As discussed in the Choosing a Quarterback article, we will also be looking to spend a fair portion of our salary on our quarterback because quarterback is also one of the most predictable positions when it comes to projecting points. We will pay up for studs at quarterback.

Next up on our list is wide receivers. On average our wide receivers will each cost more than our tight end. We’ll be spending the least on defense/special teams and, depending on the site, kicker. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. For example, it is possible that we could come across a low-costing running back that has a very high floor due to injuries. In this case we get to pay less than usual for our running backs and spend the excess salary elsewhere.

Putting a Running Back in the Flex Spot

While FanDuel does not have a flex spot, DraftKings does. Sometimes there is a temptation to stick a wide receiver or a tight end in that spot, but we must avoid such urges and go with a running back. We sacrifice ceiling in the name of higher floor, but that is the name of cash games.

Cam Newton (flickr.com/keithallison)
Cam Newton (flickr.com/keithallison)

Avoid All Correlations

This is perhaps the most important concept to understand regarding cash game lineups. Avoiding negative correlations makes sense because we don’t want to limit our upside. We also want to avoid positive correlations, however. Our goal is to build a lineup in which all the players are independent of one another, with no correlations present.

Avoiding positive correlations seems counter-intuitive because this limits our upside. The problem is that while positive correlations increase our upside, they also decrease our floor. Since our goal for cash games is to increase the floor of our lineup, we must avoid positive correlations.

To illustrate this point more clearly, here is an example. Say we create a quarterback and wide receiver stack for a cash game lineup. Game day comes and our quarterback has a terrible game, complete with multiple interceptions. Chances are that the wide receiver in our lineup also had a terrible game, due to his quarterback’s inability to pass that day. Now we have two players in our lineup putting up minimal points, all due to one player’s bad performance. These are the situations we need to avoid in cash games.

Now picture another scenario. Learning from our mistake, the following week we create a lineup with no quarterback and wide receiver stack. Our quarterback has a terrible game again, but this time we have wide receivers from other teams that do fine. Now we only have one player in our lineup scoring minimal points, and we’re more likely to place in the top 50% of our cash games.


The focus of GPPs is upside. We need our players to have the ability to score a lot of points, regardless of their floors. Unlike with cash games, we don’t want safe and consistent picks here. Bring on the boom or bust.

Positive Correlations

In GPPs, we need positive correlations in order to hit the massive scores necessary for winning large field events. When a player’s performance is linked to another player’s performance, one of them doing well usually means that the other one is also doing well. Usually we need every member of our lineups to do well to win a GPP, so these kinds of connections are extremely important.

When making GPP lineups, we’ll almost always start with a quarter back and wide receiver stack. The majority of winning GPP lineups have this stack due to their strong positive correlation. There are exceptions to this rule, however. One time we might not stack a wide receiver with our quarterback is when we want to roster a mobile quarterback that has multiple targets for his passes. An example of this would be Russell Wilson in 2014, who often finished plays with his legs and had no clear cut number one receiver. Rostering a quarterback without stacking a wide receiver also increases the potential for a unique lineup.

Game Script Plays

Sometimes we can create a boom or bust situation using a potential game script. As discussed in our Running Backs in Cash Games article, we are able to predict the path a game will take based on Vegas lines. When a team is projected to win by a large margin, we can assume they’ll be running the ball in the 4th quarter. When a team is projected to lose by a large amount, we can assume they’ll be throwing the ball in the 4th quarter. We can take advantage of this game script by taking players that, when everything goes according to plan, have the potential to score huge due to positive correlations.

First we choose the lead running back from the team that is projected to win by a large margin. Then we choose a quarterback and pass catcher combo from the team that is projected to lose. If the game script goes in the direction we believe it will, we have a situation where we can get a huge number of points from this set of players. Our running back will get the ball plenty of times because his team wants to run the clock out, and our quarterback will be throwing in the direction of our wide receiver several times in order to preserve clock and score points for the comeback. This strategy requires a very exact set of circumstances, but when things go right, it’s a great situation.

One thing to note is that we should not want to employ this strategy unless both teams are projected to score over 20 points.

Eli Manning (flickr.com/keithallison)
Eli Manning (flickr.com/keithallison)

Always Consider Ownership

It’s pretty convenient to just find our stack, pick our studs, find some low priced value plays and be done with our GPP lineups. Some weeks it will feel almost like we’re cheating, that’s how easy our lineup will be to build. Our lineup might go on to produce a bunch of points, and we’ll feel like it’s scored pretty high. We have to win, right? Then we’ll look at the standings of the GPP we’re in and we won’t have even cracked the top 100.

The above situation happens when we go with the “easy plays” too often. When everyone else has that great value running back or the under-priced stud wide receiver and they do well, the average lineup gets inflated and we have to score even more points to get ahead. To get an advantage, we have to have some unique players in our lineups, players that most other lineups don’t have. Then when these players go off, we pull away from the pack and have a good chance to win.

As discussed in our Running Backs in GPPs article, a good way to get an idea of the players that will be highly owned is by monitoring social media. Our favorite way of keeping tabs on things is by subscribing to Twitter lists, as discussed in our Daily Fantasy Football Research article. If a player that we’re thinking of rostering is all over social media as a “must have”, then perhaps we might considering rostering someone else.

Ownership isn’t a place we start when making GPP lineups and is, rather, a place we end. When we’re done constructing our lineup, we should always ask ourselves whether we believe our lineup can win. And part of the answer to that question depends on how unique the lineup is.

This marks the end of the Building Blocks series for NFL daily fantasy sports. If you have any questions or comments specific to lineup construction in cash games and GPPs, please post in the Building Blocks: Lineup Construction in Cash Games & GPPs discussion topic. For questions or comments regarding the series as a whole, please post in the daily fantasy footfall forum. Thank you for reading the series and good luck with your lineups!


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