As fans look forward to the start of the NFL season Sept. 7-11, there will obviously be a torrent of news, opinions and suggestions available on the subject of fantasy football. However, much of that advice will apply largely to season-long fantasy contests and the tens of thousands of fantasy drafts that'll be held in August and early September.
Daily fantasy sports devotees, whether rabid or casual, will find some of that information helpful, but DFS requires a different mindset to be successful.
So here are five factors DFS football participants should keep in mind as they prepare for their weekly battles.
1. DFS universe largely unchanged
It was expected the two major daily fantasy companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, would have merged by now. That did not happen. The Federal Trade Commission opposed the merger that would have created an operation that reportedly would have controlled more than 90 percent of the market. The two companies waved the white flag on merging earlier this summer and will forge ahead as competitors.
2. Lineup difference
As has been the case all along, FanDuel's nine-player lineup configuration includes a kicker while DraftKings' nine-position lineup does not. In both cases, there's one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end and a defense/special teams. While FanDuel includes a kicker, DraftKings has a flex position (RB/WR/TE).
If you subscribe to the notion that kicking statistics are less predictable than other positions, you may also feel there's more randomness to FanDuel.
Typically, DraftKings has a $50,000 salary cap and FanDuel has a $60,000 cap.
3. Scoring difference
DraftKings gives a full point per reception in its scoring rules. FanDuel gives a half-point per reception.
That difference affects how DFS players should evaluate certain running backs and wide receivers. Running backs who catch a lot of passes (think Ravens new running back Danny Woodhead) and wide receivers who get a lot of targets (even if they're not long-range or touchdown threats) have greater value in DraftKings lineups.
4. Late swaps
DFS participants who play only football may be unaware FanDuel made a significant change to its lineup rules when it started allowing late swaps for the 2017 baseball season, and the new rule will apparently apply in football (at least it's being used for preseason games).
Previously, the issue of late swaps was a significant difference between DraftKings and FanDuel.
With a late-swap rule, which has been the norm on DraftKings, a DFS participant can change a real-life player until the start time of that real player's game. So, if during the 1 p.m. games you found out an injury would keep one of your players out of the Sunday night game, you could swap that injured player for someone else as long as it was before kickoff for both players.
In contrast on FanDuel, no lineup changes were permitted after the start of the first game that was part of a given FanDuel contest.
The dilemma was obvious: A development affecting a player in a late game could put a gaping hole in a FanDuel lineup and the DFS player was helpless to make a change.
For preseason contests, FanDuel was using an icon of an unlocked padlock to designate a contest that allowed late swaps.
5. Opponent transparency
A frequent criticism of DFS is that it is dominated by a small pool of expert players, so-called sharks, and that casual participants have little chance to succeed.
There are ways to mitigate that problem.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings have created “badge” systems that identify and even stratify experienced DFS players with icons that look like military insignia. At least when considering getting in a head-to-head contest (against just one other player), the badge system allows novice players to avoid more-experienced players.
Also on DraftKings, players who are less experienced can opt to play in designated “beginner” and “casual” contests where more-experienced DFS players are excluded.
DraftKings also recently announced that for contests that have entry fees of less than $5, multi-entry limits have been lowered from 150 to 20, and the highest-volume players will be excluded from contests with an entry fee of less than $5 and a total prize pool of less than $25,000.
Less-experienced DFS players would be well-served to play in single-entry contests as much as possible. Those contests limit each customer to one entry and eliminates the challenge of competing against more-experienced and better-bankrolled participants loading up on dozens of entries.
Alternative to the Big Two
A DFS website that runs a distant third or fourth to DraftKings and FanDuel in terms of market share that's worth a look is FantasyDraft. FantasyDraft has a fairly comprehensive badge system that allows customers to identify each other in terms of experience and offers “beginner” and “intermediate” contests for players who are starting out on the website.
Issue 236: August 2017