Fantasy Football Process, Part One: Contest Selection

How’s it going everyone, hope you are all having a fantastic holiday season. After spending the holidays with my family, enjoying quality time with everyone, and giving/unwrapping gifts, I decided to start writing up a process-based article series for you all. I’m not sure how many parts this will be, but I’m going to go into detail about what I do each season, each week, etc., to put myself in the best positions to win in fantasy sports leagues.

Full disclosure, before we get started, I want to state that I do not win in every single league, every single year. I am never going to be correct 100 percent of the time, as I simply cannot predict the future. No one can. I will say, I play in anywhere between 5-10 leagues per year (sometimes more, sometimes less) and almost always make the playoffs in at least 50-60 percent or more of my leagues, most of the time. Unfortunately, in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 fiasco, that number was down to just three playoff teams this year, one first-round exit and two semi-final exits. Can’t win it all, you know? No excuses though, just some questionable roster decisions on my end in a few leagues. Typically, once we reach the playoffs, anything can and will happen. Case and point, about four years ago I lost a for sure fantasy football league championship thanks to the most random Brandon LaFell 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of a Christmas Eve Bengals game, literally with 10 minutes left in the entire game. Shoutout to you, @BrianGoudsward.

In future articles, I will break-down where I get my information from, how I make my own decisions, how I go about identifying plays and good matchups, and whatever else is in mind. This first article is just going to be a background to get an idea of where I’m coming from.

Speaking of quick backgrounds, I’ve been playing fantasy football since mid-way through the 2009 season. I’m 26 now, soon to be 27 in two weeks. I started with one league and then every year I just kept increasing my volume, because I love the game. One of the earliest players I remember having on my roster was Lance Moore, a wide receiver who used to be on the Saints.

Anyway, let’s start with the types of leagues I play in this decade, for context. Nowadays, I play in three different fantasy football formats: I play in dynasty leagues, my personal favorite format, traditional redraft leagues, which is most likely the type of leagues you are in, as it is likely the most common format. I play in best-ball leagues and I also play in daily fantasy football contests each week. I usually mix and match league types and settings to get a great variety of it all because it’s just fun to me. I play in five dynasty leagues each year, and I’m looking to add a sixth one for the 2021 season. Dynasty leagues are great because they give you that feeling as if you were managing a team over a few seasons and building towards something. You get to draft your team, keep your team for many years, trade for draft picks, take rookies, get some random undrafted free-agent running back on your team and have him be top five at his position (James Robinson, for example). You can ride that to a title, or you can even sell-high on players like that and get someone with real draft pedigree to their name that offers a lot of long-term upside. Two of the dynasty leagues I play in are just regular 12-team PPR dynasty leagues, no crazy settings. One is a Super Flex Tight End Premium, Individual Defensive Players league (SF TE Premium IDP), and perhaps my favorite league is a 32-team half PPR dynasty with two player copies. Basically it’s like two 16-team leagues combined into one. It’s set up similar to how the NFL is, hence, the name “The NFL Dynasty.” The last dynasty league I’m in is a best-ball dynasty. Thankfully, over my last few seasons, my dynasty leagues almost always pay for themselves because I tend to make the playoffs and win one or two games in at least one of these leagues each year, usually more than that, so I don’t even have to worry about the entry fee for them most of the time.

In one of my 12-team PPR dynasty teams where I am actually the commissioner, I am rebuilding. I had no chance to win this year, so this season did not go well for me. My future is looking bright with Metcalf, Lamb, Herbert, Ruggs, Gesicki, and a Miami Dolphins-like haul of mid-round rookie draft picks to look forward to. To me, dynasty leagues are great. Check out DynastyNerds.com and DynastyLeagueFootball.com if you are looking for more information about the dynasty format.

As for the redraft leagues I play in each year, those vary. I typically do a home league with family and friends, then maybe a redraft league or two with people from dynasty leagues I’m in, perhaps a league with friends from work and or Twitter, sometimes a random number of low dollar entry fee leagues, and one big money league. For example, in 2019 I played in a National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) Satellite league and came in second place in the first time I was ever introduced to the format. League selection is important, because you have to know the rules of your league, the ins, and outs of each scoring format, how to gain an edge on your opponents while you can. Most of the time, scoring is similar in each league, but there are differences. For example, are quarterback touchdowns worth four, five or six points? How many points are interceptions worth? Are receptions a full point or a half a point? No points? How many starting receivers do you have to play? What day do the waivers run? Do you use Free-Agent-Auction-Bidding (FAAB) or waiver-priority? Knowing how it’s all set up is crucial to success.

One of the things that was different for me this 2020 season, I played in more (10) best ball (BB10) leagues. This was the first season ramping my best-ball volume up after testing the waters a little last year, and it was a lot of fun. That’s the format where you just draft and forget about it until the end of the year. There’s no head-to-head format here, no waiver wire, no lineup setting, no trades. You play against everyone your league every week, as the best-ball format automatically calculates your best possible roster and that’s your score for the week. The winner of the league is the team with the most points out of everyone after Week 16. This is a great format for those who like the draft but don’t have time to set starting lineups, waivers, or any of that. Just draft and forget about it!

Last, but not least, I wanted to talk about Daily Fantasy Football (DFS NFL). I’ve been playing DFS NFL since the 2014 season, very low stakes up until the 2020 season, though. I gave myself a real bankroll structure and stuck with it for the entire season this year, and it’s worked out for me. Daily fantasy is basically where you draft a new team every week, but you have to build a lineup under a certain salary cap, provided by the site you choose to play on. FanDuel offers half PPR scoring with a 60,000 dollar cap and DraftKings offers full PPR with a 50,000 dollar cap. The idea is to fit a lineup within that cap. For example, a QB might be worth 6,100 dollars, and WR like DK Metcalf might be worth 7,800 dollars, etc. There’s a few different DFS NFL contests. Daily fantasy sites offer crazy contests where there is a million-dollar top-prize but the tournaments have tens of thousands of people and you got to finish first or in a certain top percentage of the field to even sniff that. They also offer contests where there’s literally a hundred or less (any size, actually) people where all you need to do is just finish in the top 50 percent and you just about double your money (they have 50-50 contests with anywhere from five, 10, 20, 50, 100, more than that, pick your poison, it’s always the top 50 percent double their money in these formats).

The trick I’ve learned is to not chase the high-dollar top-heavy flashy tournaments. I’ve done this in the past. They’re fun for sure, but they are just there to trick you and drain your bankroll. You’re likely only going to win less than a handful of weeks, more-often than not. Even if/when you do win, you barely win double your money. You’ll be lucky to get anywhere between three to five times your entry fee most of the time on a good week. A lot of the time it’s just one and a half times (average min-cash ROI) in these tournaments which is just crazy. Plus, in these high-prize pool tournaments, the sites allow people up to 150-lineups to enter in each contest, so if you have one lineup vs many people who have 150+ lineups, it’s just like finding a needle in a haystack. I know because for years, I was after the smaller versions of these tournaments where the top prizes were anywhere from 1,000 to 15,000 dollars up until about two years ago.

I shifted almost my entire philosophy in DFS to play in 50-50s, the occasional triple-ups and worrying about surviving for as long as I can, because I enjoy playing. I’ll occasionally play in single-entry tournaments, but not as often as I used to. Nowadays, I play 75-80 percent cash games (50-50s, double ups, triple ups, etc.) and the rest in those tournaments, but either single entry or three-max with as little entries as possible. The way I was taught is, the odds of you taking down one of those insane tournament prizes is literally crazy. Not only do you have to be in the top one percent out of an entire sold-out college-football stadium, but you also have to create the best lineup out of everyone where every single player goes off that week. Those two things at once just don’t happen frequently. Now, to some people, it happens, sure. Some are more fortunate than others. Everyone gets a hot and cold streak if they are in it long enough. The chase is always fun. I did it in a way. Though I was never quite into the big million-dollar prize contests like some people are, I always knew those were kind of a waste, but I would chase the tournaments that were 1-15 dollar entry fees and try for the best to get a decent ROI. Just realize though it’s not the most profitable way to go about this. I’ve learned, the better way to do it in my opinion is to just try and double or triple your money and limit your play in tournaments to single entry or three-max, to at least give yourself a chance. Tournaments with just 2,000 or less people are a good, sweet spot. Not the end-all-be-all, but less is more as far as tournaments. It’s all about the return you could realistically get. Tournaments are always fun to play in, that sweat is always great, but they shouldn’t be your primary way of building a bankroll if your goal is to be around awhile. Everyone should set their own individual goals, though. It’s all about what you’re trying to accomplish.

That’s all I wanted to touch on in this article. In the next article, I’ll write about where I get my research, the information I look for, what it means, how I make it relevant to our needs. I wanted to give people a relatively quick background of where I’m coming from first before writing about something nobody has a clue what’s going on here besides me, you know?

(Cover Photo: Rick Scuteri/Associated Press)

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