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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 16 "Perfect Lineup"
First off, let’s compare Week 16’s “Perfect Lineup” to other winning tournament lineups:
When looking at this week’s “perfect lineup,” we see a Dak Prescott to CeeDee Lamb “single stack” with DeVonta Smith as the “bring back” player from the Philadelphia Eagles. This was a great matchup for both sides and easily one of the best game environments on the slate. Neither was heavily rostered due to their expensive salaries.
The only other correlation came between Saquon Barkley and T.J. Hockenson. Both of these guys were very chalky plays but both were in amazing setups. The Giants and Vikings were playing in easily one of the best game environments on the slate especially given the context that so many games were dealing with bad weather and this one was in a dome.
An interesting aspect of this week was that we had two tight ends top 33 DraftKings points and make it into the “perfect lineup” this week. I believe this is the first time all season with a double tight end build in the perfect lineup.
Two of the best leverage plays were D’Onta Foreman and Kendrick Bourne. Foreman was a highlighted player in this week’s GPP strategy article because DJ Moore was going to be so chalky and nobody wanted to play the struggling Foreman against a tough Lions run defense. Bourne was great leverage off of the chalkier Nelson Agholor. Bourne also was great salary relief to allow you to pay up for more studs.
This week, the winning “Milly Maker” DraftKings contest lineup (see above) had four overlapping players with the perfect lineup we referenced and was only 40 points less than perfect. The winning “Spy” and “Huddle” lineups also had four overlapping players but came in a few points below. It was also interesting that all three lineups had exactly four overlapping players, none of them had the exact same four overlapping players. The winning “Slant” and “Play-Action” contest lineups were a little less “perfect” as they had three 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) - 126.0%
The $20 Milly Maker (207,215 entries) - 102.9%
The $9 Slant (26,143 entries) - 146.5%
The $5 Huddle (23,781 entries) - 79.5%
The $100 Spy (4,444 entries) - 125.6%
This week, all of the cumulative ownership dropped back down compared to last week except for the winning Milly Maker lineup. That one dropped up from 79.8% last week to 102.9% this week. This makes back-to-back weeks that the Milly Maker trend was the opposite of the rest. It was almost as if it was correcting back right near the yearly average of 109.9%.
The winning Huddle (see below) lineup was especially contrarian this week, as it came in about 53% lower than the yearly average. This was (by far) the furthest away from the yearly average among all five winning lineups. This was also the first time since Week 3 that the cumulative ownership for this contest dipped below 100%. It was also the lowest cumulative ownership for this contest on the entire year making it the most contrarian winning lineup this contest has seen this season.
One of the biggest takeaways of this Week 14 slate was that both DeVonta Smith and T.J. Hockenson were week winners. Hockenson scored 38.90 points and Smith scored 34.30 points and both of them were in all five tournament-winning lineups as well as the perfect lineup. Neither was cheap but neither was expensive and both were neither chalky nor contrarian either. Both were amazing plays though because they were playing in the two best game environments on the slate, especially given the context of bad weather in so many games.
Gardner Minshew ended up being the only player in four of the five winning lineups. It was interesting considering he wasn’t in the perfect lineup though. Dak Prescott was the quarterback in the perfect lineup but wasn’t in any of the tournament-winning lineups. Again, this goes to show that getting quarterback right hasn’t been as important as nailing the correct plays at the skill positions. Minshew also was one of the chalkiest quarterbacks on the slate considering the salary relief he provided and the game environment he was in.
It was another week where DST scoring was insignificant again. This time, only one of the tournament-winning lineups had the same DST as the perfect lineup. On top of that, there was only two of the tournament-winning lineups that had the same DST. All in all, there were four different DST plays between the five tournament-winning lineups and the perfect lineup. This trend continues to show that you should simply be playing the best projected DST with as little negative correlation with the rest of your lineup.
Derrick Henry made his way into three of the winning lineups despite being the chalkiest player on the entire slate. It made sense considering how awesome he’d been and the amazing matchup. He’s what we like to call “good chalk” and a player you didn’t want to fade. In addition to Henry, Saquon Barkley and CeeDee Lamb were in three of the tournament-winning lineups. Barkley was fairly chalky although not to the same level as Henry and Lamb was (surprisingly) a bit contrarian. Both were in two of the best game environments and are stud players.
Usually, the quarterback selection isn’t as important but this week was all about paying down for Minshew to be able to pay up elsewhere. He was extremely chalky but for good reason. Minshew was priced below some backup quarterbacks and is a solid quarterback playing with some of the best weapons and in one of the best game environments.
That gets us to probably the biggest lesson we can learn from this slate and that was that you want to go extremely overweight on the great game environments on a slate like this. What I mean by that is there were so many games with extremely low combined totals due to the horrible weather. This made it so that the dome games (NYG @ MIN and PHI @ DAL) were even better given that context. The high game totals would have been nice on any slate but they were exponentially better because of how low the other combined totals were.
If you look at all the tournament-winning lineups this week, including the perfect lineup and the winning Play-Action lineup (see above), all of them had more than half the lineup populated with players from those two games. Some had up to seven of the nine players between those two games. Stacking those two games as many ways as possible was a key to this slate.
One of the best ways to play tight end continues to be to either correlate the position into your main stack (i.e. “stacking” Hockenson with Cousins or Jones), or simply play the best “point per dollar” tight end that best fits after building out the core of your lineup. As previously mentioned, Hockenson went nuclear and was the tight end in every lineup this week. If you didn’t play him, you weren’t winning a tournament this week, especially considering how chalky he was for a tight end.
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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