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Author’s Note: Every week, millions of people play DFS (daily fantasy sports) in hopes of hitting a big payout. The quickest way to do that is by playing in guaranteed prize pool (GPP) contests, also known simply as DFS “tournaments.” These tournaments mostly pay out top-heavy prize amounts to a handful of players who finish with the highest scores. While there are countless tournaments with different payout structures, the goal remains the same:
Create the perfect lineup.
Or at least something close to it…
Each week we'll take a closer look at some of the top winning DraftKings tournament lineups, and their strategies used to help them finish near the top of their respective leaderboards. We'll also compare winning lineups across tournaments of different field sizes and entry fees on DraftKings. This should give us a solid dea of the top trends and takeaways to implement.
I personally play both tournaments and cash games. Cash games are contests which pay out roughly half of a given field, rather than the top-heavy payout structure in tournaments which we noted above. I usually play between 50-70% of my weekly bankroll on cash games, and in doing so I also generally try to stick to the $5 to $25 single-entry double-ups (the larger the field the better, for me), as well as $1 to $5 head-to-head matchups. These are the cash games that I’ve found to be generally the easiest to win, and it’s where I believe I have the biggest edge, as these smaller-type cash games typically have the most casual (and easier to beat) DFS players.
For my DraftKings tournaments, on the other hand, I tend to stick to the $1 to $12 entry fee range for both single-entry contests and three-max entry contests. Most of these contests contain anywhere from 1,500 people up to sometimes more than 20,000. All in all, I usually between $200-400 per week total combing both cash games and tournaments on DraftKings.
As a quick reminder, there will be plenty of terms that we use throughout this article, so make sure to check out the DFS Glossary of Terms at the bottom of this post for more info on them.
The Week 13 "Perfect Lineup"
First off, let’s compare Week 13’s “Perfect Lineup” to other winning tournament lineups:
When looking at this week’s “perfect lineup,” we see a Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown “single stack” with no “bring back” player from the Lions’ opponent, the Jaguars. Goff and St. Brown were in a great game environment with a high game total, and they turned out to be great plays because of it. While St. Brown was heavily owned, Goff wasn’t, and Goff also provided valuable salary relief on a Week 13 slate which had high-priced options worth paying up for.
The only other correlation built into the perfect lineup was between teammates Tyler Lockett and Noah Fant of Seattle, which had a good matchup against a banged-up LAR defense. Both Lockett and Fant came in at low ownership, however, as many DFS players did not expect the Rams to be competitive and therefore not push Seattle into needing to score that many points.
Like the aforementioned Goff, Seattle’s Fant also provided solid salary relief at $3,000 and in the end he scored a touchdown to help pay off his value. Samaje Perine, Zonovan Knight and Garrett Wilson were all very “chalky” and popular plays on this main slate, but they also provided the same type of salary relief - similar to Fant, Lockett, and Goff - which helped “pay up” for an expensive D/ST (Browns $3,900) and for a third receiver (Davante Adams $8,700).
Playing all of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Davante Adams and the Browns D/ST was tough to do in Week 13 tournament due to their combined cost, but this lineup above made it work by having two starting running backs at a combined $10,600 price tag, to go along with two of its four receivers priced at $6,000 and below. Most winning tournament lineups - and “perfect lineups” for that matter - will typically have more correlation on a given week, but this week was all about paying down at certain positions in order to pay up for the top-scoring WR (Adams) and top-scoring D/ST (Browns). Nearly half of the lineup still featured correlated pieces though.
This week, the winning “Play-Action” DraftKings contest lineup (see above) had five overlapping players with the perfect lineup we referenced. The winning “Slant”, “Huddle”, “Spy” and “Milly Maker” contest lineups also had between four to six overlapping players with the perfect lineup.
With so much of the chalk players smashing this week, it makes sense that all of these lineups had a similar number of perfect pieces. To determine how much ownership we should aim for our lineups to have on a given week, we will look at this week’s “cumulative ownership percentages” below from some of the main DraftKings Tournament lineups on this slate.
As the field gets larger (in each tournament), you should aim to get a lower cumulative ownership percentage. This number will give you an idea of how unique your lineup is compared to your opponents, and how you can separate from them in a given week if your lineup does well. When lower-owned players in your lineup (which we often call “leverage” plays) do well, and the chalk played by the majority of your opponents does not do well, these are the weeks when you have a legitimate chance to springboard to the top of the leaderboard of a given contest. Certain lower-owned plays can sometimes be the key to winning a GPP:
The $3 Play-Action (440,392 entries) - 102.2%
The $20 Milly Maker (207,215 entries) - 106.8%
The $9 Slant (26,143 entries) - 106.7%
The $5 Huddle (23,781 entries) - 135.2%
The $100 Spy (4,444 entries) - 133.7%
This week, most of the cumulative ownership for each winning contest lineup checked in right around their yearly averages. All of them actually checked in slightly under their yearly averages except for the winning Play-Action lineup, which was about 3% higher than its yearly average.
The winning Slant lineup was actually the furthest away from its yearly average, as it came in about 21% lower than the average.
One of the biggest takeaways when comparing these Week 13 winning lineups is that if you didn’t have Amon-Ra St. Brown, then you likely weren’t winning a tournament this week despite relatively chalky 27.7% ownership tag.
After St. Brown, there were a core group of players that we saw in four of the five winning lineups: Garrett Wilson, Zonovan Knight, and the Cleveland Browns D/ST. Wilson and Knight were both very chalky as well, but they were also salary savers on a slate where it was important to be able to pay up for pricier options such as Davante Adams and the Browns D/ST.
A.J. Brown found his way onto three of the five tournament-winning lineups this week as he went for 34.90 DraftKings points against his former team despite coming in at less than half the ownership percentage as St. Brown.
It’s also interesting to note that Zonovan Knight was in more of the winning lineups than A.J. Brown despite scoring half as many points. Something to take away from this is that whenever we get a super cheap “salary saving” running back stepping into a lead role, that cheap player can open up more ceiling for the rest of your lineup, compared to pricer options like Brown.
Another interesting takeaway from these Week 13 winning DraftKings tournament lineups is that the only overlap at quarterback was with Jared Goff. The Lions’ signal-caller was in three of the five winning lineups referenced here. This is very interesting because we also saw Jalen Hurts put up a monster game on the same slate, as he scored 37.40 DraftKings points in Week 13.
Hurts was both the top-scoring quarterback of the week and third-highest-scoring player at any position - outscoring the next highest-scoring quarterback by more than seven points - yet Hurts still was only in one of the tournament-winning lineups that we looked at.
This all goes to show that on many weeks, building your lineups around the best wide receiver and best running back plays - and also correlating your stacks around those players - can be the true key to winning.
This same point on Hurts can be applied to the tight end position as well.
Only Evan Engram was in multiple lineups that we looked at here in Week 13. Engram “only” had 14.00 DraftKings points this week, but that was also good enough for the TE3 on the slate and finished less than one point away from being the TE1. On most weeks, tight end scoring isn’t very high unless guys like Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews have big games. This week it paid off in a big way, as Engram correlated with Goff and St. Brown in a high-totaled game with a plenty of scoring to go around. Even though St. Brown was highly owned, Goff and Engram weren’t, and they were key aspects of using correlation to sometimes build around the “chalk.”
One of the best ways to play tight end continues to be to either correlate the position into your main stack (i.e. “bringing back” Engram with your Goff + St. Brown stack), or simply play the best “point per dollar” tight end that best fits after building out the core of your lineup. Four of the five tournament-winning lineups we looked at were indeed built this way in Week 13, as Engram was correlated with St. Brown in both winning lineups that he was in, one of which also had Goff at quarterback.
In one of the winning lineups we examined, we also saw Tyler Conklin as part of a “double stack” alongside Mike White and Garrett Wilson. In another lineup, Cole Kmet was a correlated piece with Christian Watson.
DFS Glossary of Terms
Chalk: The most popular plays of the week
Stacking: The process of pairing players from the same team/game
Bring Back: A player from the opposite team of a certain stack in your lineup
Triple Stack: Stacking a quarterback with exactly three of his teammates
Double Stack: Stacking a quarterback with exactly two of his teammates
Skinny Stack: Stacking a quarterback with just one of his teammates
Mini Stack: playing two non-QBs together, either from the same team or opposite teams
Leverage: The players that are directly negatively correlated to the chalk players
Correlation: Players whose outcomes are tied to each other (whether good or bad)
Bankroll: The amount of money you can invest each week in DFS
Fade: To avoid a player (or at least play them less than most people will)
Over/Under Weight: To be more/less heavily invested in a player compared to public
Cash Games: Any contest where the payout is not escalating (double-ups, H2Hs, etc)
GPPs - Guaranteed Prize Pool. These are tournaments with escalating payouts
Cumulative Ownership: The sum of each player’s ownership percentage in a lineup
Product Ownership - The product of each player’s ownership percentage in a lineup
Point Per Dollar: Found by dividing points by salary. Goal is to be at least 3x or higher
By Rob Norton
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