DFS NFL Strategy: How to Build a Winning Cash Game Lineup

Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown

Everyone wants the huge fantasy football payout from crafting a high risk/reward lineup that hits on all cylinders one Sunday. But in order to afford enough lineups to potentially win the million dollar contests on FanDuel or DraftKings, you need to build a sufficient DFS bankroll.

One way to do that is by supplementing your GPP lineups with safe cash game lineups in 50/50, Double-Up and H2H contests so that you can ideally break even or make a slight profit even if you don't win big in any tournaments.

In this article we offer 10 tips on how to win at these "cash game" contests.

NFL Sunday Million

1. Consider the DFS Site

It goes without saying, but the scoring system on each site is extremely important to consider when crafting a DFS lineup in any format. While full PPR sites such as DraftKings can turn a third-down back into a gold mine under the right circumstances, a half-PPR site such as FanDuel makes steady RBs with a shot at goal-line carries the superior play.

So, in order to make a better cash game lineup on DraftKings (or a similar site), you'd probably want to pay up for elite WRs and use a couple of cheap RBs that are likely to produce double-digit FPs by simply hauling in a few screen passes and rumbling for decent yardage. On sites that aren't geared towards receptions as much, try to secure as much volume as you can with your RBs and look for safe WRs with a decent chance at getting targeted in the Red Zone.

2. Volume is King

While you might target that speedy WR who could catch two 70-yard touchdowns in a game and provide huge dividends without doing hardly anything else in an afternoon, that's only an appropriate strategy in GPP formats. In cash games, you want to look for that possession receiver who has a great rapport with his QB and will pile up targets underneath.

This gives the WR a solid "floor" even though they might not have much of a ceiling because they don't run those deep routes. Finding RBs that are guaranteed a certain amount of volume is also tricky, but when injuries pile up later in the season and roles become defined, it's much easier to determine which backs are going to receive close to 20 touches and justify consideration in cash games.

3. Predict Game Flow

How do you determine that your RB is going to get a ton of touches in a given matchup? By attempting to predict game flow. Vegas lines and expert analysis on several different sites can be very useful in this regard, but there are some general rules that apply.

Most teams have a designated RB for passing downs and one for early-down work. If the team is heavily favored at home and leans on a strong defense, then you should expect their early-down and goal-line back to wind up producing more FPs. Whereas if the RB is on a team with a weak defense and is therefore a road underdog, you want the quicker back who is more likely to pile up receptions in garbage time.

This is also extremely important to consider when selecting a QB. It's almost all about pass attempts for QBs in fantasy and if their defense holds strong in a 24-7 victory, you're simply not going to get great returns from a signal caller. That's why you want to find plus matchups for passing offenses on both sides of the ball in the hopes that you can maximize opportunities.

4. Play The Matchups

This might seem similar to our discussion on game flow, but it goes a bit deeper than that. You should make an effort to read a comprehensive breakdown of individual matchups in different games before Sunday.

Will the best WR on a given team be facing an elite CB? If that's the case, then you might want to use the No. 2 WR on that team, who will run their routes against a much weaker defender.

Does the opposing team play "funnel defense" and force offenses to take to the air? If so, then you want to stack passing options against that team and hope that the adopt a Patriots-style game plan to throw 40-50 times and avoid an elite rush defense.

Every piece of data that you can acquire will help you make decisions about which matchups are most favorable, and therefore, which players are the safest options in a given week.

5. Consider Ownership Percentages

This is usually a bigger consideration in GPP formats, where you want to be on the low side of ownership rates so that your lineup can separate from The Herd, yet it also applies to cash games.

Later in the season, there will be certain "obvious plays" when a starting RB gets injured and the backup is slated to get a huge workload. With their bottom of the barrel price tag and guaranteed volume, these backs can sometimes be owned in over 80% of cash game lineups, so fading them is certainly quite risky.

At a certain point, it doesn't matter how a player that is nearly universally owned because everyone has exposure. Don't shy away from going with the flow in large Double-up contests.

6. Correlation

This can be a very simple piece of strategy to consider. While it's somewhat risky to stack your cash game lineup according to how a game is supposed to play out, it's worth the risk in most situations.

For example, if you have a home team favored by 14.5 points with a dominant defense, you might pay up for that defense while using the starting RB on that team. You can go one step further by using a high-volume receiver on the team that is a 14.5-point dog, but if you go too far with predicting game script or "stacking" a game, you wind up crossing the line into GPP lineup construction.

7. Late Swaps

On almost every site but FanDuel, you're able to make adjustments to your lineups that might help you cash. While the majority of players are in action at 1 p.m. EST, the ones that play in the late afternoon, evening, or on Monday night should be in the FLEX spot on DK and you should be ready to adjust if necessary.

If your players are coming up big during the early games, you probably won't have to do anything to those cash game lineups, but let's say they're starting to tank, and you have a three-down back with a high floor and low ceiling in the FLEX. Instead of using that back on Monday night, consider swapping in a boom-or-bust receiver as a last-ditch effort to gain more production and cash.

8. Diversify

This may be the most important aspect to consider while trying to build your bankroll, so I hope you kept reading. It's important to spread out your exposure as much as possible in NFL DFS, because there is no such thing as a truly safe play.

Injuries happen in the first half of games all the time. Players flop in the easiest of matchups. Coaches are notoriously misleading and can inexplicably ignore a top option on their time, or the opposition can simply sell out to stop one player while opening the door for others to produce.

You simply can't use one cash game lineup in 10-20 different contests. While you probably want to keep the same lineup in multi-entry cash games, use a few different QBs, a few different RBs, TEs, and try to not have 100% exposure to any one player no matter how safe their matchup may seem.

9. Balance Your Lineup

This title might be misleading, because a balanced lineup in NBA DFS for example might refer to a bunch of player in the mid-tier price range (say $6000-$8000) without any risky punt plays in the lower-tier.

In NFL DFS a balanced lineup has to include some of those low cost options because the only relatively safe plays are costly. In order to create a balanced cash game lineup with a workhorse RB and a couple of high-volume, elite WRs, you'll have to save at some positions.

Usually that involves finding a cheap QB that's in a potential shootout or finding a cheap RB based on the criteria we listed above.

10. Trust Your Gut

Lastly, like in any DFS contest, you have to use a certain sense of intuition. This can mean going against the grain when there's a consensus "chalk play" such as Aaron Rodgers against a weak pass defense at home. No QB will be around 80% owned like a value RB, but even 40-50% ownership of what seems like an obvious play can result in a huge advantage if that perceived obvious play flops.

You've been watching the NFL for years (hopefully) and you know that anything can happen on any given Sunday. If it smells like trap, don't fall into it.

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Nathaniel Weitzer

Nathaniel Weitzer

Nate Weitzer is a successful DFS player that specializes in Daily NBA and MLB advice. He's currently working as a sports journalist in Boston, but writing about fantasy sports is way better than doing "human interest" pieces on local athletes, so he contributes to multiple fantasy sites on a daily basis. Follow him @nweitzer7 for year-round fantasy sports advice.

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