The Greatest “Cheat Sheet” In DFS
Each week in The Oracle, OWS team members will take on the key strategy questions from that week’s slate :: sharing their thoughts on how they plan to approach these critical elements from a roster-construction, game theory, and leverage perspective.
It feels like all season long we have been discussing the low scoring in the NFL and how hard it is to find fruitful fantasy environments. Finally, this week we have found a “DFS Oasis” full of some games with high totals, explosive players, bad defenses, and good weather. Three games have totals over 50, two others over 45, and two more (GB//CHI and PIT//ATL) feature some defenses that have struggled and/or explosive, cheap players.
The issue we have now is that after so many weeks of having to build strategies based on the way things have been set up, it’s been a while since we had a week like this in terms of how we have to think about expected outcomes. Like Ricky Bobby being interviewed after his first big win, this is an unfamiliar spot that we need to align our thoughts with. With all of that in mind, how are you approaching this week and are there any strategies or approaches that you haven’t used in a while that you think become relevant again with scoring possibly (likely?) to far exceed most weeks we’ve had this season?
The transition back to a week like this one can be a bit challenging, especially if you’ve been in a groove — and have been finding clear edges — in recent weeks. DFS is a bit like H-O-R-S-E, however: you get rewarded if you’re able to hit ALL the shots, and this week is simply a different type of shot to have to hit.
For starters, I’m leaving myself an opening this week to NOT play high-dollar, small-field, single-entry contests. Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, I’ll make a decision on whether or not I feel confident I’m finding an edge there, and I’ll roll forward according to my honest assessment.
In larger-field play, on the other hand, I feel hugely confident in my expected value on a week like this, as the field tends to congregate on “one way to see things,” and I’m typically good at seeing all the different ways a slate could play out. There are a LOT of various ways in which this slate could be higher-scoring than past weeks, which is why I noted early in the week that I felt we would have potential to see some 300-pointers if we had a $60k salary cap. To be clear: things could also play out in such a way that nothing really pops, and it’s business as usual from a DFS scoring perspective. But because I see potential for scoring to pile up in a lot of different places, this gives me a lot of different angles to play around with in large-field play.
Bringing that back over to SE // tighter builds :: because I see a lot of ways in which points could pile up on this slate, it’s more difficult for me to narrow things down to what I feel is “clearly the best way” to attack this slate on one “Main Build”. With that in mind (again), I’ll still be attacking some 3-max and some mid-stakes single-entry, but may decide that I don’t want a hefty portion of my bankroll for the week tied to one single Main Build.
In trying to get to that Main Build, my focus is on trying to find the highest-likelihood, highest-upside spots. I recognize that there are a lot of ways this slate could play out to the upside, but what’s the most robust of those potential paths? And how do I take advantage?
The only major difference for me is it makes me less interested in targeting the lower-total games for game stacks. When the gap between lower-total and higher-total games on a week is something like 7 points…that’s just one touchdown. But when the gap is 10+ points, that makes it less likely that an outlier low game is going to outscore the higher games.
This doesn’t mean I’m just X’ing out every individual player from lower total games, because a combination of price, matchup, and scoring concentration can still lead to viable plays coming out of weaker game environments, but the likelihood of a game like BAL/DEN or NYG/WAS or ATL/PIT (a game I actually kind of like!) resulting in a higher final game score than ALL of the three 50+ total games is, while not impossible, low enough that I don’t personally feel like I want to chase after that.
The process remains the same except I become more selective in my criteria for identifying plays. Explained further, I am still starting macro and honing things in as the week progresses, first identifying top potential game environments before looking for teams with elite ceilings and concentration for potential one-offs. The major difference comes in the selective nature once I’ve gone through that process, in that I place a reduced emphasis on the bottom 80-85% in a specific situation’s range of outcomes, looking to build rosters that have paths to elite-level ceiling – because it is not likely the 220-240 scores we have grown accustomed to seeing take down GPPs is going to hack it this week.
Furthermore, and this is directly linked to something JM mentioned earlier this week when he said something to the effect of “if we had $60,000 in salary this week we could see rosters put up 300+ fantasy points,” I want to hunt diligently for pieces, teams, or situations that are underpriced for their range of outcomes this week. This is something that likely falls out of most people’s habit patterns as we inch closer to the final quarter of the season, in that by now players are conditioned to simply look for injury situations for underpriced value (a lot goes into that – everything from psychological aspects to habit patterns to aggressive pricing based on previous production and ownership). To me, there is one specific game environment (yes, the entire game environment) where this is the case on this slate, and there are a couple spots where it is true for individual teams or individual players.
For me, the biggest thing is to keep in mind that despite a bunch of games capable of producing a lot of raw production, pricing and salary structures still limit what people are able to do. As such, the field’s behavior becomes somewhat predictable. While correlated bets on game environments and big game/team stacks are almost always not used enough by the field, that will be the case to an even greater extent this week due to the “FOMO” feeling that people will have if building larger stacks. If you build a five player stack from one game you are left with only three roster spots to finish things out. People will naturally want to “get a piece” from each of their favorite spots this week and will be hesitant to zero in on one or two primary spots, giving us an advantage to exploit.
As we discussed in the first question, there are a lot of explosive game environments that are sure to generate attention due to their potential to have their scoring go nuclear. The issue we have is the fact that many of those environments (MIA//SF, KC//CIN, LAC//LV) that are appealing to target and have concentrated usage feature some players with VERY high price tags and/or will be extremely popular (JAX//DET).
On a week like this, we often have to find unique ways to find value and build rosters to unlock the slate. What are some cheap value players or unique builds that you are considering that will open up the rest of your roster to load up on the “big guns” from the premier spots?