Overwhelmingly, the first thing that people want to talk about in DFS is “who do I play this week?” This is understandable, of course; after all, these are contests where you are rewarded for picking the right players in a given week to separate yourself from your competition. But as fantasy and DFS have grown exponentially over the last few years, so has the content and information space around DFS. This flood of information can be extremely damaging to your Expected Value (EV) if you aren’t able to sort through it and manage it correctly.
In a given week, you can find someone to tout most players on a slate for one reason or another. You have the trendy picks that have an incredible setup and/or have been on a tear lately // you also have the “contrarian” picks who are either going to be low-owned or are “due” for a big game. I am active on Twitter and pay attention to what most of the sites and touts are saying later in the week because it helps me have an idea of how the field is likely to view the week and allows me to think about game theory angles when making decisions. However, if you listen too closely or are too easily “sold” on things, it can cause serious FOMO as you get so many players put into your head as “good plays.” It is easy to want to hedge or not miss out on a certain player for fear of the regret you might otherwise have on Sunday night — “wow, I can’t believe I didn’t play that guy, I heard multiple touts talk him up this week!” The result of this issue, however, is usually far too large of a player pool being used to make lineups. Ironically, the answer to making your Player Pool have more positive Expected Value is to “Think Negative.”
From most podcasts and articles, you will hear about all the players you SHOULD play that week and a couple of (usually very obvious) players to avoid. There are positive data points to be found on most NFL players who are on the field a lot. The key is to be selective. Instead of looking for reasons that a player is playable, think about all the reasons they aren’t. It is easy to get it in your head early in the week that you like a certain player for a specific reason and just get stuck on him throughout your process, ignoring signals that maybe they aren’t the play you are thinking they will be. A player who you expect on Tuesday to be a great, low-owned play may gain a lot of steam in the industry throughout the week and become popular. Suddenly, the player you liked, in large part, because of how they could set you apart is now just lumping you in with the field. Other things that can change perspective are:
The perfect play doesn’t exist in NFL DFS. The market has become too efficient. If a player has all positives from an “in a vacuum, on the field” perspective, then they are likely wildly expensive and/or will be very popular. If a player is going to be lower-owned, it is likely because they are overpriced or there are other very good options at their position in their price range. If a player is way too cheap for their role, they are almost certainly going to be heavily owned. None of those examples means that those players are unplayable, but you need to start your evaluation by understanding the risks involved. If you start your process by finding the players you “like” the most early in the week, you will often get anchored to them and find reasons to ignore warning signs. Instead, you should think negatively from the start and find the reasons you would want to avoid each player. From there, you can evaluate the player’s set-up and profile for the week and see if it is enough to “sell” you on them — despite the negatives. Understanding the negatives from the start will also help you evaluate your lineups before clicking submit — you will be able to identify lineups that are too chalky or too “off-the-wall,” because when you look at the lineup you will see the risks for each player instead of just their positive talking points. Improving your Expected Value is about understanding and weighing BOTH risks and rewards.
My other course in OWS Marketplace is dedicated almost entirely to this exact topic: constructing a player pool and having criteria you consistently use to choose players for your core. I strongly recommend that you check out the (free!) first lesson of that course, as I have found that process to be both very stabilizing and extremely profitable for myself. You can use my system or tweak it to something that fits your thought process and approach more fully. Whatever you do, “Think Negative” first, and understand the risks a player brings to the table from the beginning in order to improve your EV over time.