An Introduction to Roster Construction in Daily Fantasy Football
You've got your coffee in hand. Your hand-crafted projections are pinned to the corkboard to your right. The players you want to target are firmly planted in your mind, so deeply that you dreamed last night about John Vandinglehorn's imminent breakout. You're ready to dive in to the world of daily fantasy football.
So, you mosey on over to the site, ready to win yourself some sweet dough. You click on that big tournament you've been hearing all about to pick your team.
You look at the screen, and all of the names appear overwhelming. You can read all of the player recommendation pieces you can handle, but none of them tell you exactly how many player you need on your roster at each position.
This can prove to be kind of intimidating at the outset, and nobody would blame you if you got a little skittish. So, instead of just diving in and and holding your nose, let's go through roster construction and try to make one of the more daunting tasks in daily fantasy just a bit simpler.
I should note now that we'll be going through what roster construction looks like on FanDuel. There are tons of different sites on which you can play, and most have various caveats to navigate. The big point here is to know the roster construction of the site on which you're playing beforehand so you don't get overwhelmed from the jump.
On FanDuel, you start your quest to fill out a roster with $60,000. We'll go more in depth on how best to allocate that strategy in a separate lesson, but I did want to note that here as I will be referencing salaries throughout the piece.
Here, you're rostering only one quarterback. Most quarterbacks have their salary somewhere between $7,000 and $8,000, meaning they're going to generally take up a decent amount of your change. The elite quarterbacks, however, will run you even more with salaries generally of $8,500 and above. The minimum for a quarterback is generally $5,000, which you'll generally only find for a backup, fill-in signal-caller.
What do the different prices mean? The higher-priced guys are studs on whom you can count to pump out a good game on most occasions. They're obviously not a lock, but their floor of production isn't as low as that of the other choices.
The next tier is guys whose floors may not be as high as that group, but they often will have a similar ceiling. They're the more volatile quarterbacks who will have their huge games, but they'll also crank out a few duds each year. You're inheriting a bit of risk, but you can also find yourself some salary relief while also getting a big game.
Finally, the final tier is guys who really don't have a floor. They could legitimately finish the game with zero points. They may have one or two good games a year, but the risk these guys carry is significant. It certainly doesn't mean you can't use them, but you've got to be a brave soul to do so.
Unlike quarterbacks, you get to roster two or three of these puppies, depending on how you use your flex spot. This is a blessing for those of you who are as indecisive as I am.
As with the quarterbacks, the options with the highest floors are going to be hovering around $8,500 and higher. These are the running backs who are the unquestioned bell cows of their offense and have the ability to bust out big games at any time.
The pricing generally falls off pretty quickly from there, with the next crop of backs checking in around $7,000 to $8,000. These are the guys who may either be dealing with a timeshare in the backfield, be part of less effective offenses, or may have other concerns that keep their pricing low. Again, you can find similar upside here, but the floor is usually lower.
The tier beneath that is the guys who are super scary with prices around $6,500 and lower. They could end up touching the ball fewer than 10 times in the game, which is well below what you're seeking at the running back position. That said, you can also find backs who are thrust into larger roles with pricing that doesn't quite reflect that yet. If that happens, don't hesitate to take advantage and see what happens.
Finally, we get to the most voluptuous position on the board on FanDuel. You get to go a little crazy by selecting at least three wide receivers, and you can stick a fourth in the flex if you want to go fully unhinged. This gives you a lot of flexibility with what you want to do at the position.
The tiers here are the same as at the other positions. You can find guys in the middle tier who are facing bad secondaries and present great upside. However, in general, the safest options are going to cost you somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000.
These three slots can allow you to get creative. You can pair a wide receiver with your quarterback -- a strategy called "stacking," which we'll cover more in depth in a separate article. You can spend low on one receiver facing a bad secondary and spend a decent amount elsewhere. Or -- and this is my favorite -- go crazy and cram as many $8,000-plus receivers onto your roster as possible, praying that everything else doesn't go down in complete flames. I get a little hot and bothered just thinking about it.
The minimum price for wide receivers and running backs is $4,500. Having just one of these players -- often called a "punt" play -- can give you plenty of salary to work with elsewhere. That doesn't necessarily make it a good strategy, but when the floor salary is that low, it does provide an incentive to look for the super low-priced assets.
Hello, volatility, my old friend. We've come to roster you again.
Throughout the piece, we've been discussing the floors of production for various positions. There isn't a skill position with lower floors than at tight end. Because they -- in most instances -- see fewer targets than wide receivers, the odds that they give you a goose egg are much higher. Sweet.
If there's a top-notch tight end who sees the volume of a wide receiver, his pricing is going to rival that of a wide receiver. And why wouldn't it, especially when you consider the alternatives?
The drop-off after that is pretty significant. There are a lot of weeks where you'll have one tight end above $8,000 and then not have another until you get below $6,500. This means that if you want to roster that upper-echelon tight end, you're going to be sacrificing salary elsewhere. If you drop down just to that next tier, you do give yourself extra cash with which to work. That's not to say a high-priced tight end isn't worth it (that's far from the truth), but there will be a significant opportunity cost associated with doing so.
Most tight ends are going to fall within a small window between $5,000 and $6,000. If you can find a player in this range who is facing a bad defense and bound to be in the red zone with regularity, then you're golden. Finding that tight end who picks up a pair of touchdowns can give you a big advantage over your competitors who get saddled with that dreaded zero.
Defense and Special Teams
Now we get to everybody's favorite slot: the defense and special teams. They come with their own special pricing parameters.
Instead of paying $8,000 for an elite option, you can often get them for just above $5,000. The lowest options on the board usually check in at $3,000. This is a tight gap between the high-cost options and the ones that will run you the least.
The scoring for defenses and special teams (which is beyond important) will be covered in a separate lesson. I recommend you read that one immediately after this if you haven't already. Paying attention and using an actual selection process for your defense can give you a significant advantage over the field, even if they are a bit harder to predict.
If you're new to fantasy, this term may be a bit unfamiliar to you. The "flex" spot is one that can be occupied by a running back, wide receiver, or tight end in addition to the players you already rostered at those respective positions. Although it comes with a certain freedom, this isn't a position we should take lightly.
If you want to add stability to your lineup, you should add an extra running back in your flex spot. They touch the ball more often than wide receivers and tight ends, which makes their output more predictable on a weekly basis. We should value that safety when playing in cash games, 50/50s, and head-to-heads.
You have more flexibility if you're searching purely for upside. Wide receivers can certainly pop off and give you a huge total, which makes them viable options if you want to shoot for the highest-end score possible. But -- as mentioned in a more complete breakdown of the flex spot -- running backs have value here, as well. With those increased touch totals also comes a lofty ceiling, meaning we should value an extra running back in tournaments (where a first-place finish pays much more than a sixth-place finish), as well. We've just got more freedom to go wide receiver here than we would for a contest with a different payout structure.
You can use a tight end in your flex if you want. You will likely just wind up hating yourself afterward. It's a strategy that can pay off, but just know that you are taking on gobs of extra risk in doing so.
After you've filled in all of these slots, you're free to submit your lineup, as long as you're under the $60,000 salary cap and meet other roster requirements. There's plenty of strategy to how you want to divvy up that salary, but it's not as daunting as it may seem at first glance. Start with your value plays and some stacks you like, see which studs you want to prioritize, and build greatness from there.