Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

Process|Review. 5.21.

In this weekly video, Xandamere reviews his roster-builds & process.

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Week 4 Review

Well, here we are looking back at Week 4, and I’m sick, to the point where I really can’t do a 20-30 minute video recording without a bunch of coughing fits. And nobody wants to listen to that. So, this week’s format will be written. Apologies if you hate to read.

Week 4 didn’t go well for me. My tournament playstyle (even when I do MME) is to build around a small core of players that I feel are the guys I want to bet heavily on that week. This week that core was Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, and to a lesser extent, Brandon Aiyuk. All of them had terrible games, and thus my week went poorly. I write about this because I see a lot of conversation in the OWS Discord around tournament strategy and player allocation: is it better to go all-in on a tight core of players, or better to diversify across a broader base of players to mitigate risk? 

The answer is that I don’t think there is a correct answer. My preferred strategy is a tight core, and that has worked well for me over the years. On the other hand, Sonic includes nearly every game in his Milly Maker game stacks, and he’s clearly had success. This is about risk tolerance, personal playstyle, and what works best for you. When I was but a wee DFS scrub, I reacted to weeks like this in the worst possible way. If I built around a tight core and they flopped, I would expand my player pool for next week. If I had a big player pool and thus had some ownership of several guys who had good games, but they just didn’t come together on the correct roster, I would then go back to playing a tighter player pool. The rubber-banding is what didn’t work. Either strategy, if executed successfully and thoughtfully, will lead to positive results over time. But, like anything, perfecting that execution takes focus, and it takes work. So if you bounce around from strategy to strategy looking for the magic bullet to win a tournament, you’re only hurting yourself because you’re distracting from the work and practice necessary to hone a strategy to perfection. 

I can’t answer what playstyle is suitable for you. I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that you will be better served in the long run by picking a strategy that you feel aligns with your strengths as a player and practicing it. Hone it until it gleams, and you can execute it in your sleep. That’s the path to long-term DFS success.

I also want to note that, while every week is unique, this week was particularly weird. And, the start to the season has been a bit strange. There are two reasons for this:

  • We’ve seen a lot of “must-have” scores. In Week 1, it was Tyreek Hill (and, to a lesser extent, Deebo Samuel). In Week 2, it was Derrick Henry and Cooper Kupp. In Week 3, we didn’t really have one, though Mike Williams came close. Last week we had Tyreek Hill (again!) and, arguably, Cordarrelle Patterson (his score wasn’t as high at 34.6 DK points, but at his sub-$5k salary he ended up being a close-to-necessary piece). It’s unusual to have this many “must-have” scores. Normally we see a bunch of strong scores in a week, and it’s less about “did you have the one or two guys you HAD to have?” and more about “did you have a roster that performed strongly top to bottom?” Because of this, tournaments can feel a bit higher-variance than normal, because you had to have that exact right guy and if you didn’t, you were just sunk. This should settle out, as normally we only see something like 3-5 or weeks with a “must have” score in an entire season.
  • We saw a rather absurd number of 2+ touchdown games this week. Let’s look at the list: Saquon Barkley, Cordarrelle Patterson, David Montgomery, DJ Moore, Tyreek Hill, Taysom Hill (lol), Kalif Raymond, Dawson Knox, Mo Alie-Cox, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, James Conner, and Randall Cobb. That’s an absurd 13 players who had 2+ touchdowns this week. Touchdowns are relatively rare and incredibly valuable. Not only does this concentrated touchdown scoring mean we’re more likely to see “must-have” scores, it also means there’s less fantasy scoring being distributed among other guys. We had a lot of guys who had decent games that could have been a lot nicer if they got a touchdown (looking at you, Stefon Diggs). When the touchdowns are so concentrated, that also makes it feel like there’s a whole lot more variance in the game.

So if it feels to you like variance has been especially rough at the start of the year, I don’t think you’re wrong. Now, there is little certainty in NFL, and touchdown variance will always be a thing. But, this much is highly unusual, and we should expect to see it normalize over the rest of the season. This brings me back to my earlier point: be cautious about making adjustments to your overall strategy based on just a few slates’ worth of results. 

This week also highlights a strategy element. In some weeks, we have a bunch of good games to choose from. In other weeks, there are only one or two really good games that will attract ALL the ownership. This week we had a whopping five games on the main slate with totals of 50+ and then two others in the high forties. With so many great game environments, we knew we could make plays in strong scoring environments at relatively modest ownership, so there was no reason to reach for games like Colts/Dolphins or Ravens/Broncos (with a couple of strategic exceptions – running backs can put up strong scores in lower-scoring games, while a team with a very narrow distribution of volume can put up excellent fantasy scores without scoring 4+ touchdowns). On a week in which there are only one or two high-total games on the main slate, we tend to see much more concentrated ownership, which leaves us searching for other second or third-tier game environments that could come close to matching the top-tier games. This is an example of why we need to look at each slate as its own puzzle to solve. DFS players often look for rules they can use to lead to more success, but there are rarely hard-and-fast rules that you can apply to any given situation. Every slate, whether the main slate, a short slate, or a Showdown slate, needs to be examined thoughtfully. What stories do you want your rosters to tell? What games/players do you want to bet on? How do you think each game is likely to play out and what players benefit from that game flow? What is the field likeliest to do, and how can you be different in an intelligent way? These are the questions you should ask yourself on every slate before reading any content or looking at projections. In the long run, while good content and projections are invaluable, learning to think critically about DFS is the essential skill you need to develop to find long-term success.