FanDuel implements a really unique pricing system. Anecdotally, I’ve found that many of the stars are priced “too low,” while the salary floor of $4500 makes it more difficult to “punt” a position, i.e. use a min-priced player so that you can stack your lineup elsewhere.
FanDuel doesn’t have a specific ceiling on salaries per se, but the most expensive players typically cost around $10000. That number is meaningless by itself, but the fact that it’s just 2.2 times as high as the cheapest players on the site is meaningful. If you look around the daily fantasy industry, you generally see a much larger deviation in salaries. Try it on the “RotoGrinders Salary Comparison Tool.”
None of this is intrinsically good or bad, but it should certainly affect your strategy. On a pure $/point basis, we frequently see the elite players — Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Jimmy Graham, etc. — come out on top in terms of value on FanDuel. That’s often not the case on other sites, where it’s much easier for a min-priced role player to offer value because he’s so cheap (often three times cheaper than the top options).
In this article, I’m going to run through how FanDuel’s pricing affects the value of a couple lineup creation strategies that you can use.
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Stars and Scrubs
Since elite players can sometimes be underpriced on FanDuel, my initial inclination is to pay up for a couple, then go cheap elsewhere. This is generally known as a “stars and scrubs” strategy. It can really work well if you can identify one or two min-priced players who offer sensational value (usually because of a role change). When a starting running back goes down midweek, for example, that typically results in a backup offering awesome value.
The problem with this, of course, is that you need to be able to identify those min-priced (or close to it) players who are worth starting. Sometimes that’s easy to do (as in the backup running back example), in which case I highly recommend a stars and scrubs approach on FanDuel.
That’s not always the case, however, in which case paying for elite players comes with a detrimental opportunity cost: the inability to fill your lineup with a bunch of really good values.
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A Balanced Approach
I think the most popular approach to daily fantasy football is typically a more balanced roster construction plan: bypassing both the elite players and the min-priced options for second and third-tier talent across the board. Those who use a balanced approach typically can’t afford the Peyton Mannings of the world, but they also don’t need to roster a scrub and just hope that he hits.
From a purely statistical standpoint, I think a balanced approach probably maximizes the probability of fielding a consistently good lineup. The reason is that, when you go diving for bargain bin players, you start to find guys who don’t have a very high likelihood of giving you sustainable production.
Let’s assume you’re deciding between two pairs of player, both of which cost the same amount of money. The first pair (Players 1 and 2) utilizes the stars and scrubs approach, while the second pair (Players 3 and 4) represents balance. Let’s also assume that the odds of each player reaching a certain threshold of production are as follows:
Player 1: 90 percent
Player 2: 10 percent
Player 3: 50 percent
Player 4: 50 percent
In this example, the odds of both Player 1 and Player 2 reaching X points would be nine percent. For the second pair, the odds would be nearly three times as high at 25 percent. These two groups of players could have the exact same median projection and cost exactly the same, but one is clearly superior to the other.
Ultimately, to forgo a balanced approach, you need to 1) either create a lineup with no scrubs or 2) be really confident in your min-priced players. The downside of a balanced approach is missing out on the elite value, while also potentially limiting your team’s ceiling.
BSAS: Balanced Stars and Scrubs
Like I said, whenever you can go min-priced on a player whose role has changed such that he offers obvious value, you should do that. In the event that such a strategy isn’t an option, though, I recommend a hybrid “BSAS” approach: Balanced Stars and Scrubs.
The idea here is to get the best of both worlds, acquiring value on top-tier talent that’s underpriced while also maximizing your probability of hitting on each pick. With the way FanDuel’s pricing is set up, I think it makes sense to get the best (and most expensive) talent you can without compromising in terms of the probability of your low-priced players returning value.
With this approach, you’re still looking at the elite talent near the top of the salaries, but creating enough room so that you can go a little more expensive with your “scrubs.” The idea here is to trade in a little value at the top for a higher probability of all of your players reaching a certain threshold of production.
Remember, it’s more of a positive for your cheap players to increase their floor than it is a negative for your elite players to reduce their floor. For example, a player combination with an 80 percent and 20 percent likelihood of reaching X points is superior to one at 90/10, 70/30 is better than 80/20, and so on.
So basically, we’re trading in the most valuable elite players (and their high ceilings) for slightly less elite players (but still among the best) so that we can increase the probability of the cheaper players giving us what we need. We don’t want to go so far that we’re completely balanced and miss out on the value offered by many of the top-priced players, though—just enough that we hit that “sweet spot” where value meets a high probability of success.
BSAS. Learn it.