NFL DFS Week 1 Tournament Strategy

Week 1 of NFL is finally here, and there are many factors to consider when building tournament lineups for this weekends contests.

Bankroll Management

Week 1 of NFL DFS has finally arrived, and with it comes an almost overwhelming number of tournament options at various sites across the industry. Want to chase a million dollar first prize for just three dollars? DraftKings has a tournament for you. Want to compete against some of the best and biggest bankrolls with a low rake? Try the FanDuel Gunslinger which has a $1,065 price point for 200 entrants but just 6.1% commission. If rostering multiple QBs is your thing, consider heading over to one of the smaller sites like Fantasy Aces where you can employ an entertaining (and often profitable) game stacks with two quarterbacks and their receivers from the same game.

One of the most important aspects of Week 1 NFL is bankroll management. While it’s difficult to say right now where it will appear, we can be almost certain there will be some overlay (when the DFS site must add money to the prize pool because the tournament does not fill) on various sites. GPPs with overlay are, theoretically, among the most profitable situations you can find in DFS, but if you’re not careful they can also destroy a bankroll. Be careful not to overextend yourself chasing overlay on Sunday morning, and have a plan on how much of your bankroll you are willing to deploy. Remember, while GPP overlay is fantastic, you’ll still likely need to finish near the top of a tournament to profit if you are playing a large number of entries. To put yourself in the best position to profit from potential overlay, have money set aside on several sites and know your favorite plays on each site so that you can efficiently attack the GPPs that won’t fill on Sunday morning. If you’re starting from scratch without a plan on any site, even a large amount of overlay is unlikely to save you from rostering poor plays if you aren’t familiar with the values and scoring of that site.

Building Rosters

It’s a well established fact at this point that there is a strong correlation between the success of a QB and his pass catchers, and you’ll see a huge percentage of teams employ the strategy of rostering a quarterback with at least one of his receivers or tight ends. The reasoning is simple and intuitive: pass catchers score primarily through catching passes from their quarterback, and a touchdown pass or a completion results in fantasy points for both players. Using the QB – pass catcher stack is one I employ on nearly all of my GPP rosters, but if there were ever a case to go a different direction, it might be this very unique situation we see for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dak Prescott is set to start for the Cowboys after Tony Romo went down injured in the preseason, and due to the player pricing for almost every site coming out before that injury occured, Prescott is priced at the minimum QB salary everywhere. While starting a rookie QB in his first NFL game would normally give us a lot of cause for concern and reason for caution, Dak was downright phenomenal in the preseason after a very productive career in the NCAA. This isn’t a typical situation – the Cowboys have a dominant offensive line, a talented back in Ezekiel Elliot, a legit #1 WR in Dez Bryant, and an excellent security blanket in TE Jason Witten. Prescott will also be playing at home against a porous Giants defense. He’s going to be the most popular Week 1 QB play (especially on FanDuel), and, at least on FanDuel, is not someone I’m going to get cute with and fade. Prescott is a very mobile QB and should be able to pick up yards with his legs as well as through the air, and even if things go poorly for him to begin the game, he’s the type of QB that profiles as one who can pick up a large number of points in a faster paced offense if the Cowboys are forced to abandon their early game plan of slowing the game down with a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliot. Because of Dak’s cheap price point, he doesn’t need nearly as many fantasy points as other QBs in order to reach his value threshold, and this is a situation where we can run Dak “naked” and not pair him with any pass catchers. I expect Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to be popular plays, but I’m not sure either player will see enough targets to warrant their price tags, and because of Dak’s immense popularity we will see a lot of people pairing the two. Dak is fully capable of doing a large portion of his damage with his legs, however, and I’ll be avoiding Dez Bryant entirely while using just a bit of Jason Witten. This is a good way to go against the grain while still using perhaps the best value of the entire week.

Game script correlation plays

 One of my favorite approaches to NFL GPPs is to take educated guesses at possible/likely game flows/scripts and make my rosters accordingly. One great example of this is rostering a lead running back with his DST. While the success of a running back and his DST only has a small positive correlation, that’s because in roughly half the game scripts that occur, these two positions actually have a negative correlation. What happens if a defense gives up a couple of early scores and a team gets down two touchdowns? The running game is largely abandoned and the lead running back will likely not accumulate much fantasy production as the offense takes to the passing game. But if the defense is able to hold the opposing offense in check and the running back scores early, suddenly that lead back is going to get fed relentlessly as the offense looks to mitigate risk and control the clock with the running game. This isn’t a pairing I’m forcing on all of my GPP rosters, but in specific situations it makes a lot of sense. Here are two game script dependent running backs I’ll be pairing with high upside defenses:

Adrian Peterson and Vikings DST –

At this point in his career Adrian Peterson is basically a two-down back who is also unlikely to be on the field in two-minute offense situations. He’s entirely dependent on the Vikings being able to control the score and the clock. If the defense performs well here (and they are one of my top ranked defenses against a Titans team that has a high sack and interception rate), AP should stay on the field and get a ton of carries. If the defense gets lit up early, Peterson will be phased out of the offense. The success of Peterson and the Vikings DST are highly dependent on each other and should have a very strong correlation come Sunday.

Ryan Mathews and Eagles DST –

This is a very similar situation to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings as Mathews should get a huge majority of the work for the Eagles on first and second down, and likely be off the field for third down and two-minute situations as Darren Sproles takes the majority of those snaps. If the Eagles are able to shut down the Browns offense, we should see a heavy dose of Mathews.