NFL preseason games? They’re not just for the players on the field. In the wonderful world of Daily Fantasy Sports, there is no such thing as games that don’t count. Both FanDuel and DraftKings are giving fantasy players pining for a taste of fantasy football action a chance to get in the game with four weeks of preseason contests.
And when those games are over, come Sept. 7, it’s the real thing: 17 weeks of daily fantasy goodness. And we here at SB Nation will be providing you DFS NFL content all the way from preseason Week 1 through the conference championship games in January.
For the uninitiated, DFS football on FanDuel and DraftKings is a weekly fantasy football contest in which players select a roster much like that in a season-long league, with a QB, RBs, WRs, TE, FLEX (DraftKings only), K (FanDuel only) and a defense. On FanDuel, you have a salary cap of $60,000. On DraftKings, it’s $50,000. Players at all positions are assigned values, and teams are assembled by staying under the cap.
The goal is to amass the most points within your contest, either a tournament, which could have as many as 200,000 entrants, or a cash game, which features a small number (five, 10, 25, 50) of entries and has a smaller payout.
In this weekly column, we will try to identify the best value picks: players of lower value who will go underowned, making them more valuable.
The key to preseason football DFS, especially in Weeks 1, 2, and 4, is channeling your inner George Costanza and doing the opposite. If you’ve attended an NFL preseason game or actually watched one on TV from beginning to end, you come to realize quickly that other than the Week 3 “dress rehearsals,” the stars who stir the DFS drink during the regular season barely see the field in preseason games.
So playing first-teamers like Tom Brady or Le’Veon Bell are recipes for disaster in a large-field tournament, unless you get lucky with a turnover and short field that leads to a touchdown on that one series the regulars might play before hitting the safety of the sidelines.
Conversely, it’s the guys battling for roster spots who often play the entire second half, and often three full quarters, and in preseason DFS, volume = victory. Find those players who are slated by the coaching staff to play large chunks of games, especially at quarterback. This also requires doing a bit of homework, especially on game days. Twitter is the preseason DFS player’s best friend, as writers and insiders often have pregame updates on which skill players are expected to play featured roles.
Not that the starters are completely off limits. Some coaches will give their first unit an entire quarter or even two quarters, especially in Week 2. But don’t go crazy on them, as sometimes a bad start by an offensive line can lead to a pulling of the two-quarter plug.
Once we get to September and the start of the regular season, the big names are back in play. That being said, the key to success in large-field tournaments, such as the Millionaire Maker on DK, is being able to identify the low-priced and, more importantly, low-owned players in a given week which separates your lineup from the herd and provides some salary flexibility to reach for a high-priced stud or two.
We will talk a lot about paying off salary, and for the most part, we are looking for players who will score three times their salary in points. For example, a running back costing $8,000 would pay off his salary at three times with a 24-point performance. A $7,000 player would pay off at 21 points. So finding players in the $5,000 range who are expected to produce over 15 points become hot commodities, especially if the general player population is not focused on this particular sleeper.
By the same token, a $9,000 QB facing a lockdown pass defense but is expected to garner roughly 20 percent ownership, is a player we will fade (not play).
As the season progresses, we will take advantage of statistical trends to help identify those players who are primed to exceed expectations in a certain week. Which defenses struggle against WR2 or WR3s? Which teams can’t stop the run, making running backs valuable and downgrading those teams’ passing games? The trends are what will make or break your weekly matchup!