This NFL Fantasy Strategy Guide will help beginners compete in Fantasy Tournaments by explaining the basics of how to play daily fantasy football.
Welcome back! This post is the second in the series of strategy guides that I’ll be preparing for the FanTeam blog (if you missed the NHL guide, you could reach it HERE). We will be going through the basics of NFL fantasy on FanTeam, showing you the ropes of team construction, stacking theories, and sharing a few essential tips and tricks. Let’s dive in!
How to play fantasy football
In FanTeam’s NFL contests, you have to pick nine players from a 120M budget. Your team must have one QB, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, and a DST (which stands for defense / special teams). Your final player is called FLEX. The FLEX can be either a running back, a wide receiver or a tight end. We will dive deeper into this position a bit later!
NFL Fantasy Strategy Guide
Every NFL Fantasy Strategy Guide starts with your QB. He is the core for most stacking options and usually has the highest upside on your team. Your QB gets points for passing and rushing yards, and most importantly, touchdowns. When starting out, it is best to play this critical position safe.
Positions & Fantasy Scoring
Stick to a QB who is a sizeable betting favorite (7+ points) and is possibly at home. There is reliable data out there backing up the case for this, as while underdogs occasionally get more yards, but Vegas favorites tend to get more TDs. Mobile quarterbacks present a dual-threat by not just passing but running with the ball as well. Rushing touchdowns also worth 2 points more than passing TD’s, so picking a QB who is a rushing threat like Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson is a decent idea with a solid floor as well!
The wide receivers are your QB’s primary target. It is important to always pair the primary wide receiver with the quarterback, as these two positions have the highest correlation between them. Your WRs get points for receiving yards, TDs, and receptions. Receptions are the king of the game, as those one points per rec will stack up quickly, providing a solid floor for your wide receivers. Chasing touchdowns with a WR is risky, but most of the time, you can tell who will get the bulk of the receptions.
The running back is the position where you can generally play it safe, especially if you are sticking to teams that are heavily favored to win a game. Teams that are ahead in a game run the ball more to run the game clock down. If you can afford, play two RB1’s (primary running backs) from teams that are heavily favored. Generally, about 35% of the offensive touchdowns are scored by running backs, so it is clearly a position where it is okay to pay up for the best players of the top teams.
Tight end is the last offensive piece of your squad. They are usually the cheapest piece of your offense, as TE’s function as run blockers as well, not just offensive targets. TE’s might have a lower ceiling than your average WR or RB, but their floor can be high. The reason for this is that your usual NFL team might have a roster of several talented WRs and a couple of good RBs, but tight end is a position where most squads have one player that is the clear cut #1 option, playing the majority of snaps. As tight ends don’t cost that much, you can pick a reliable player without spending big.
When it comes to constructing your offense as a beginner, it is best to stick to those 2-3-4 teams you like that week to perform well in their given matchup. Volume is vital when it comes to generating fantasy points. Always stick to players that play the highest percentage of snaps and average a high number of receptions!
DST (Defense/Special Teams) represents your defense. Your DST starts with 10 points, and it can lose points by giving up real-life points to the opponent and gain points for sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, safeties, and blocked kicks. On most nights, you won’t have the budget to buy the most expensive defense, but even if you have to go with a budget choice, stick to DSTs of home favorites.
Stacking & Team Construction
The second most important topic in a NFL Fantasy Strategy Guide is Stacking. Stacking in NFL fantasy is pretty complicated as most positions have some synergy with each other. Offensively, you must – once again – start your stacks with a QB. Football being a relatively challenging game to forecast it is not wise to go all-in on one team offensively. As a beginner, I’d start to stacking duos or a maximum of three players of one side. To win a tournament, you probably will have to nail the exact WRs and RBs who are getting the touchdowns for their teams. If you fail to do so, but are only using small stacks, the rest of your fantasy team can still catapult you into the top 15%. Never go broke on one underperforming team!
The most popular two-man stacks in NFL fantasy are QB+WR1 (primary wide receiver), QB+RB1 (primary running back), QB+TE1 (primary tight end), and QB+WR2 (secondary WR). This is connected to the correlation percentages between these positions. You cannot do wrong by sticking to a QB and a top player in either of the mentioned offensive positions. Second wide receivers should not be excluded either; in fact, this combo usually ends up with more points than the QB+TE1! Three-men stacks should mostly consist of QB+WR1+RB1, QB+WR1+WR2, or QB+WR1+TE1.
When deciding on your QB, you should always factor in the prize of his primary targets. You are never buying a QB on his own, but you are drafting at least one or two of his targets, as well. It is best to weigh your options by factoring in the collective price of your desired stacks. A cheap QB with expensive targets might set you back more than a costly QB with some affordable WRs and RBs on their team.
There are two other popular stacking options that are not related to your QB. The first is a combination of your stack and the opposing team’s WR1 (& possible WR2). This is called game stacking. We have tons of historic data backing us up here: if your QB and his primary WR are performing well in a given game, there is a good chance that their opponent’s QB and their primary target is also performing better than expected. Daily fantasy players call drafting players from your QB’s opposing team ‘running it back.’ You should always run it back with the passing game opposing your QB, especially in a game with a high Vegas total (50+ points). Those games mostly turn into high-scoring shootouts.
Your second stacking option that is not QB-related is pairing an RB with a strong defense. As I’ve mentioned before, winning teams run more, meaning if your DST is performing well, your RB will probably play more snaps and get more touches.
Combining every stacking option above is also pretty straightforward. You can take the QB, the WR1 and the RB1 from your favorite offense, add the opposing team’s WR1, then sprinkle in the most reliable/most expensive defense on the slate with the same team’s primary running back. You are almost all set!
Let’s talk about the Flex position. The general consensus within the DFS community is that you should (most of the time) pick a fourth wide receiver as your flex. This is because this position has the highest touchdown-upside, and (I cannot stress this enough) you will need touchdowns to win a tournament. Four WR’s also enabling you to stack the WR1 and WR2 of two teams. Alternatively, you can save some money by adding a second tight end to your squad. Mid-priced tight-ends tend to provide a decent floor with some TD-upside, but if you have already taken some risks with your team composition, then adding some players with a decent floor isn’t a bad idea. Using the Flex position to add a third RB isn’t recommended, as generally speaking, that position is mostly unable to guarantee either the upside of the WR’s or the cheap floor of the TEs.
NFL Fantasy Strategy – Rookie Mistakes
A quick rundown of the most typical rookie mistakes you should aim to avoid:
- Not running it back. Even if your stack is a huge favorite, you should always buy at least the top piece of the opposing team. As I wrote before, these players could get a decent boost from your QB having a big night, and this also serves a small quasi-hedge as well. Additionally, these pieces are usually pretty cheap (being underdogs against top teams)!
- Going ‘off the board’ too much. Never fear to add the best, most popular players on your team. You have nine slots on your squad. If you have three-fourur of the top, highest owned players, you can still differentiate in your other positions. There is a good reason why the best players are popular!
- Playing it too safe. Stacking lots of high floor, low ceiling players, who aren’t likely to get too many red-zone targets (and TD’s) might help you to get into the top 15%, but you will never win a tournament with a roster like that. Always take risks, try to include a couple of low-owned, high-upside players with the usual floor options!
- Betting against yourself. Never draft a DST that is opposing any of your offensive players. That is a huge red flag mathematically, as you are hurting your bottom line if either side of the equation is scoring big!
- Leaving the ‘free squares’ on the table. Injuries and lineup changes that boost the production of one player is something you should not ignore. If a lower-priced WR3 suddenly turns into a WR1 because of injuries, you must start him in all of your teams. It is a substantial mathematical edge that you will rarely ever get by spending up in the same position for a full-priced player.
- Playing too many dogs. Vegas lines are very efficient when it comes to the NFL. The favorites usually win, and high total games tend to deliver some action & high fantasy points. I’d much rather buy a WR2 of a top team that is favored by a touchdown or more, than a WR1 of a road dog.