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FanDuel: Contest Introduction

by Spencer Limbach
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Earlier, Rotoworld presented you with A Beginner's Guide to FanDuel, the one-week fantasy site built upon the salary cap premise. If you read that article in it's entirety, then you are already aware of the incredible phenomena of daily fantasy football. If not, take my word for it: FanDuel is an exciting complement (or even substitute) to season-long leagues, and their unique slant on the fantasy game we have all grown to love is a must for anyone who claims to possess a high level of fantasy acumen.  


So you've signed up for FanDuel and are currently staring at the draft lobby...now what? There are seemingly thousands of contests to choose from, stemming from different categories, prize pools, entry sizes, and buy-in levels. Surely, it can all seem a little overwhelming at first, but this article will provide clarity on the different contest types and the inherent strategy involved in each. 


For starters, all of the contests on FanDuel can be broken into four main categories: Head-to-Head, Leagues (multi-user), 50/50's, and Tournaments.  





This is the most classically pure form of fantasy football, battling one-on-one against another user to prove yourself as the superior fantasy zealot (and win a nice prize in process). Head-to-head leagues (abbreviated by H2H) are fun, simple, and easy to track. Some people join one or two of these leagues, but I personally like to "cast a big net" and enter an abundance of H2H leagues every week. This allows you to diversify opponents and thus reduce your risk level.  


We have all been there before, whether in season-long or daily leagues, where your opponent catches a string of luck by rostering that breakout WR who exceeds 200+ yards out of nowhere. If you are matched up in a single H2H against a lineup that fires on all cylinders, then you are out of luck that week, even if you posted a respectable lineup yourself. That's where the diversity in opponents comes in handy, considering a quality lineup will win out more times than not. 





Speaking of a quality lineup winning out, that should be your mindset when entering 50/50 leagues. In these contests, the top 50% of the field receives a flat payout. For example: 


  • In a 40 entry league with a $10 buy-in, the top 20 entries would receive a payout of $18 each (the $2 difference goes to the site for administering). 


Your goal in this type of contest is to construct a safe, reliable roster that will be "better than average" and beat out half of the league. After all, in the example above, 1st place pays the same as 20th, so it doesn't make sense to take unnecessary risks deviating from safe, trustworthy players. 



Leagues (multi-user) 


If you go to the "leagues" tab on the left side of the FanDuel lobby, you will notice a plethora of options from 3-team, 5-team, 10-team, 20-team, and so on up to 100-250+ team leagues. The 3-team and 5-team leagues are "winner take all", while the 10+ team contests usually have tiered payouts to the top 20-30% of the field. 


These leagues require a little more discretion when constructing a lineup. Instead of producing a safe and steady "above average" roster, it may be beneficial to take a chance on a few lower-salary sleepers that could perform just as well as the expensive studs. Here are some examples from week 1: 



Toby Gerhart ($6,100) vs Darren Sproles ($5,900) 


Gerhart is a workhorse running back that will likely receive 20+ carries along with goal-line responsibilities. I'm targeting guys like that with predictably high workloads for H2H and 50/50 style contests.  


On the other hand, Darren Sproles is a high risk specialty back who could churn out some big plays in this up-tempo Philadelphia offense. He won't receive as many touches as a guy like Gerhart, but he is more likely to rip off a long gain to propel your fantasy team up the leaderboard. 


Marques Colston ($5,700) vs Mike Wallace ($5,900) 


This is another classic example of safety vs upside. Colston is a foundation piece in the Saints offense, reliable for 5+ catches 50-60 yards and maybe a score. However, he is competing for targets amongst New Orleans' abundance of offensive weapons, which limits his big game potential.  


Mike Wallace, however, is more of a "boom or bust" wide receiver. His expected range of outcomes could be anywhere from 3 receptions 37 yards to an eye-popping 5 receptions, 150 yards, and 2 TD's. He is a big play WR who can pay off his price tag in just one play. These are the types of guys you should be targeting in large-field leagues.



So when should you consider rostering high upside risk/reward picks? As a general rule, I like to field the same safe lineup used in H2H and 50/50's for 3-man and 5-man leagues. When you start getting into the 10-man, 20-man, 100+ man leagues, it is beneficial to differentiate with some high upside picks that could give your team a nice shot in the arm. 





This is where the fun really begins. FanDuel does a fantastic job of hosting some truly remarkable tournaments, exemplified by the "Sunday Million" starting on Week 1. As implied, the prize pool is $1M, with $100k going to first and tiered payouts from there. It only costs $25 to join.  


If you peruse the tournament lobby, you can find all sorts of different contests with different payouts. For example, if you are just dipping your toe in the daily fantasy waters, you may want to start out with the $1 entry "NFL Squib" that pays out $750 to 1st, tiered down from there.  


Now, the catch is you will be competing against 1,000's of other entries to finish in the prize pool (top 20%). This is where those aforementioned high upside picks can really pay off. It's all about finding the right value within the salary cap system. If you can pinpoint a QB to replicate/surpass Peyton Manning's (easily the most expensive player on FanDuel) production for a fraction of the salary, then you have a leg up on the competition. Here are some sleepers that could provide top 5 numbers in Week 1, despite being ranked/valued further down the list:


  • QB - Colin Kaepernick - SF (@DAL): His salary suggests he is the 8th best QB, but a friendly matchup against Dallas could vault him to the top of the QB leaderboard this week. 


  • RB - Montee Ball - DEN (vs IND): There are 11 RB's with a higher price than Ball, but his production could easily surpass most of them as the featured back in Denver's high powered offense. 


  • WR - Jeremy Maclin - PHI (vs JAC): Maclin comes in as a deep sleeper for just $5,000 on FanDuel, nearly half the price of studs like Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant. Maclin could come close to replicating some of the numbers posted by that group, considering he's a deep threat and likely #1 receiving option for the high-flying Eagles. 



The key to winning these tournaments is striking the perfect balance between value picks and top studs. In my experience, these tournaments are often won by users who find the breakout cheap #2 and #3 WR's to complement their star RB's and QB.  


Of course, every week provides a new set of circumstances, and value plays will emerge with different matchups and inevitable injuries throughout the season. That's what makes daily fantasy so compelling though; you are able to take advantage of any matchup/development you choose. If you lost the waiver wire battle for that promising backup RB now assuming starting responsibilities, fear not, you can still take advantage of the situation by clicking him into your daily fantasy lineup.  


At FanDuel, every week is different. Every week is a clean slate and lucrative opportunity to showcase your fantasy football savvy. 

Spencer Limbach

Spencer Limbach is a multi-sport daily fantasy specialist for NBC Sports Edge. He can be found on twitter @Spencer_JL.