Our NFL Premium Package is Now Available for the 2022 season! Get full access to our best bets, given out early in the week, in real time: sides, totals, player props, and more, all in one place, through the end of the Super Bowl.
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 15 "Perfect Lineup"
First off, let’s compare Week 15’s “Perfect Lineup” to other winning tournament lineups:
When looking at this week’s “perfect lineup,” we see a Jalen Hurts to A.J. Brown “single stack” with no “bring back” player from the Eagles’ opponent, the Bears. This was a great matchup for them as the Bears' defense has taken a nose-dive over the last couple of months. Neither was heavily rostered due to their expensive salaries.
The only other correlation came between Tyler Allgeier and Juwan Johnson. Both of these guys were very contrarian plays and nobody was really playing them. The game environment was nice though and Johnson especially had success earlier in the season for a tight end but had just been dealing with injuries.
Playing all of Jalen Hurts, Derrick Henry, and A.J. Brown was tough to do in Week 14 tournaments due to their combined cost, but this lineup above made it work by having a very cheap Russell Gage and also salary relief with Zay Jones, Johnson, and Allgeier. This marks the second straight week that both Jones and McKinnon made their way into the perfect lineup with monster games. Both of them projected well this week and were in great game environments. McKinnon was actually a beautiful leverage play with most people going with Isiah Pacheco instead.
This week, the winning “Play-Action” DraftKings contest lineup (see above) had five overlapping players with the perfect lineup we referenced and was only 26 points less than perfect. The winning “Spy” lineup also had the same five overlapping players but came in about 30 points worse. The winning “Slant”, “Huddle”, and “Milly Maker” contest lineups were a little less “perfect” as they had between three and four overlapping players with the perfect lineup.
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) - 144.2%
The $20 Milly Maker (207,215 entries) - 79.8%
The $9 Slant (26,143 entries) - 165.3%
The $5 Huddle (23,781 entries) - 126.6%
The $100 Spy (4,444 entries) - 209.1%
This week, all of the cumulative ownership jumped back up compared to last week except for the winning Milly Maker lineup. That one dropped up from 87.8% last week to 79.8% this week. It was well below the yearly average of 110.4% for winning Milly Maker lineups. It was especially interesting because every other winning lineup had cumulative ownership at least 45% higher so this was a true outlier. It makes sense that all the others were higher given the fact that a few of the really chalky pieces came through in a big way.
The winning Spy (see below) lineup was especially chalky this week, as it came in about 70% higher than the yearly average. This was (by far) the furthest away from the yearly average among all five winning lineups. It’s interesting too because last week the winning Spy lineup was the most contrarian lineup so it had a massive swing this week. This contest will probably show the most volatility in cumulative ownership on a weekly basis since it’s the smallest field of the five so that’s something to remember that we talk about on a weekly basis in terms of field size.
One of the biggest takeaways of this Week 14 slate was that Zay Jones was a week winner. He scored 37.90 points and was the only player in all five tournament-winning lineups as well as the perfect lineup. This was because not only was he great, but he was cheap and fairly chalky so if you didn’t have him in your lineup, you basically weren’t winning any tournament unless it was a very small field. This comes a week after teammate Evan Engram went crazy. Jones himself (and the entire Jaguars offense for that matter) has been on a heater lately.
As previously mentioned, Jones was the only player in all five lineups. Jerick McKinnon, A.J. Brown, and the Denver Broncos DST were the only players in four of the five winning lineups. Neither McKinnon nor Brown were very chalky as they checked in between the 6-12% range in most of the lineups. They were great leverage pieces, especially McKinnon, who was nice leverage off a chalkier Pacheco.
One of the most interesting things was seeing the Broncos' DST in four winning lineups. They were not only extremely chalky but also didn’t blow up by any means. They did fine but still only scored 10 DraftKings points. Ultimately they were just so extremely chalky and did well enough that it didn’t matter. It’s just another point to show how variant and insignificant the choice at DST continues to be.
There were two chalky players that found their way into three winning lineups. Jalen Hurts and Derrick Henry were the only two players that were in three of the winning lineups. Both were two of the chalkiest players at their positions and it made sense considering the massive ceiling of both players and the fact they were both in great matchups.
This week was a bit different when it came to quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes joined Hurts as the only two quarterbacks to make their way into winning lineups. This was unlike recent weeks where there had been three or more different quarterbacks across the five winning lineups.
Usually, the quarterback selection isn’t as important but this week was all about paying up for the massive ceilings of Mahomes and Hurts. They were the two most expensive quarterbacks but they came through as the two highest-scoring quarterbacks as well. With plenty of correlated pieces (A.J. Brown, Travis Kelce, etc.) as well as somewhat chalkier salary-saving pieces (Zay Jones, Jerick McKinnon, etc.) coming through in a big way, it made a lot more sense to build around the massive ceilings of these two quarterbacks this week.
One of the best ways to play tight end continues to be to either correlate the position into your main stack (i.e. “stacking” Kelce with Mahomes), or simply play the best “point per dollar” tight end that best fits after building out the core of your lineup. Kelce was the tight end in both of the winning Mahomes lineups this week. Chigoziem Okonkwo made his way into two of the winning lineups which goes towards the best “point per dollar” point as he was one of the best projected tight ends in that sense.
The other tight ends that made their way into winning lineups were Dalton Schultz and Jordan Akins. Both of them were correlated plays in secondary stacks. Akins was solid with 11.20 DraftKings points but Schultz was a massive bust with only 3.50 DraftKings points. That winning Huddle lineup (see above) came through in spite of Schultz because of all the other pieces going off in a big way. This is another point to show that tight end isn’t as important outside of true outlier performances. Continue to build your tight ends into your lineup the way we’ve been talking about all year.
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
Want to have direct access to our network of Betting Predators handicappers? Sign up for our FREE Discord channel to get 24/7 direct access to our handicapping team, as well as our community of sharp bettors
Want an easy to find all of our Betting Predators content in one place? Sign up for our free newsletter, Substack and receive a weekly roundup on everything we've published (FREE + PREMIUM), and all that we're up to throughout the week. We promise we'll never give your email address out for advertising purposes.