If you haven’t read the first part of this series I recommend starting here first as it talks about how I set my foundational game plan. Alright, assuming you have caught up on the series let’s start from where we left off
Build Your Teams by Using Your Strengths
When building your teams and analyzing the results of other top players you should focus on what you do best. One thing you will quickly learn as you transition to DFS is that there are hundreds of different ways that people win at DFS. Some contestants are experts at breaking down game film, others are great at creating models and simulating results, a lot watch a bunch of football and know their fantasy football leagues well, and others yet are great game theorist and use their skills from other games like Poker, Backgammon, or Go to figure out ways to maximize their returns.
The key thing to remember is you don’t have to be good at everything. In fact, I don’t think the optimal strategy is to be good at everything. Instead you need to figure out what you are best at and maximize that skill set. If you are amazing at reading offensive lines or evaluating weaknesses in defensive fronts due to missing players focus your efforts there. If you are great at analyzing pass rush/protection capabilities focus on the best offenses to target and avoid. The best players in DFS are good at everything but what really sets them apart from everyone else is that they are really great at a few things. Figure out what those things are for you and you will excel. If your skill set is in something that you don’t find online everywhere like evaluating the impact on a defense with missing a key linebacker you are better off than simply being able to say who the best quarterback is. As in most aspects of life the more unique your skill set the better you will be.
After focusing on your areas of strength start focusing on the other areas or fill those gaps by utilizing other experts. You can do this by checking out all our great articles that we will have here on footballguys this year. Matt Harmon’s series, Reception Perception, is a great example of how you can leverage someone else’s skill. Matt has as good of an understanding of route running as anyone in the business so you can leverage his knowledge from that series and combine it with your strengths and all of a sudden you may go from being great to reading offensive lines to both that and route running, which are two unique skill sets.
The important take away is that in order to be a highly successful player you need to be really good at a specific skill and then you can continue to fill in the holes of the other areas while you learn. I can’t emphasize this enough. You have to be better at a specific trait than the average player or you won’t get far ahead. So make sure you figure out your specialty and how to maximize your skills around it as soon as possible!
Improving Complimentary Skillsets
Maximizing your strongest skill and leveraging others is the best way to be successful but once you figure out how to maximize that aspect you should start on a quest of improving other skills. The less you lean on publicly available data the better you will be because DFS rewards not only being right but being right in a manner different than everyone else. You can’t be different from everyone else if you are following everyone else’s advice. There are a lot of different skills that you can continue to work on that will make you a great DFS player and improve your knowledge of sports or even life skills for your next job.
Maybe you were never very good with excel or thought R was just another letter. DFS is a great way for you to learn how to utilize these programs while working on something that is fun and interesting. Not only will these skills help you in your future DFS contests but can build skills that will help you in your job. Over my 20 years in fantasy sports I have greatly improved my computer programing and excel skills and am one of the strongest in my company despite no formal training. This is a lot like my friend who works on cars for fun in his spare time, it has helped him become a great mechanic by doing the same with these technical skills you can become more marketable in the future.
Other skills I would consider working on would be understanding probabilities, learning the importance of route running/corner back coverage, how different coaches game plan for their strengths and opponents weaknesses, building a standard process to make lineups, and understanding the value of individual players and how their teammates will be effected when they are out. These are skills that aren’t publicly written about in as much details or as accurately as you need to win at DFS. You need to shield yourself from the narratives and truly understand the impact of each player independent of his teammates so that when an injury occurs you know how their replacements will perform.
Fully Understanding All Players True Talent Level
This last skill is as important as any skill and why I focused on an injury article last year. It will continue to come up time and time again in all sports. Players get injured and someone is going to fill in for them. In order to maximize your skill in this area you need to first understand how valuable every player is to their team and even more importantly to the teams passing and running game. Not just how good they are in the current offense but how good they are because their backup is going to get the same benefits or disadvantages in the current offense. Most fantasy players will significantly over estimate the value of running backs and wide receivers in particular and put too much weight on QB wins. Just look at the number of people that continue to say that Tom Brady is the greatest of all time just because of super bowl rings or Joe Flacco is elite because he won a super bowl. Most running backs and wide receivers are more easily replaced than most people think because their backups are really good and better than you probably think.
I often hear about how the whole team’s offense is going to tank when a player like Arian Foster is out for the game. However, if you have a good understanding for the real value of Foster you can plug in a guy like Alfred Blue like I did in week 10 of 2014 and have a huge week. This is the same skill set that I used to pick up Matt Cassel in week 1 2008 because I knew in that Patriots offense pretty much any quarterback was going to have a good year. But on the other hand didn’t even consider him in the 2009 season on the Chiefs because he had benefited only from that Patriots offense not because he was the top talent he showed that year.
These opportunities come up nearly every week so be sure you aren’t over or under estimating talent and be ready to adjust your perception of the player as the season goes along. But don’t adjust too far because your initial perception was probably more right than one built after a few games. This is the same reason that drives the situation where more preseason number 1 teams have won college basketball tournament than end of season number 1 team. Our mind gets tricked to believe small sample sizes when it shouldn’t. I would highly recommend all readers to check out the books “Superforecasting The Art and Science of Prediction” by Philip Tetlok and “The Signal and the Noise Why So Many Predictions Fail but Some Don't” by Nate Silver to help you better understand how to make adjustments to your perceptions so you can accurately refine your projections by using Bayesian inference.
In the final part of this series we will talk about how we build our bankroll and how I can help throughout the season this year. If you have any questions or feedback please let me know on twitter @stevebuzzard or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org