It’s what we dream about. Earning enough money on a single Sunday to buy a house, a new car, or simply stop working over the next few years. DraftKings makes all of it possible with the NFL Millionaire Maker — every single week!
But how do you create a nearly perfect DFS lineup? How do you separate your high-scoring lineup from hundreds of thousands of other hopefuls in the Millionaire Maker? It comes down to a few key strategies.
1. Don’t Take the Obvious Plays
Anyone who makes a March Madness bracket every year will be familiar with this idea. Just as it’s highly unlikely for four No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four, it’s highly improbable that the consensus picks at every position will produce the most fantasy points on a given Sunday.
Of course, the salary cap makes it impossible to choose nothing but studs, yet the consensus picks often refer to a backup running back that is filling in for an injured stud, or a good TE that is facing the worst defense in terms of guarding TEs.
Never assume that NFL coaches aren’t constantly making adjustments to combat those deficiencies, or that a much less talented RB is capable of matching the production of a superhuman starter like Adrian Peterson. Ignoring these type of assumptions is akin to going against the grain, which is crucial in a giant tournament like the Millionaire Maker.
2. Play The Ownership Percentages
Every Tuesday (assuming you didn’t just win a million dollars), I implore you to check the top of the leaderboard in the Millionaire Maker. There is almost always one thing the top lineups have in common- a player with a 1.5% or lower ownership rate.
There’s only one way to separate your lineup from the herd, and it usually involves taking a chance on a player in a tough matchup. For example, in Week 2 of last season, Antonio Gates and the Chargers were facing a vaunted Seahawks defense that had shut down opposing TEs routinely on its way to a Super Bowl title in 2013. Gates stunned everyone by hauling in 7 catches for 96 yards and 3 TDs as San Diego pulled off an upset, and he was by far the highest scoring TE that week. Yet, due to popular perception, Gates was only owned in less than 2% of lineups, and anyone who went against the grain with that choice gave themselves a great shot at winning a tournament.
Another Chargers player made a huge splash with an even lower ownership rate three weeks later in 2014, as Branden Oliver ran wild for 114 yards and 2 TD against the Jets’ excellent run defense. With Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead injured, San Diego started Donald Brown, who was owned in over 50% of GPP lineups, but Brown suffered an early concussion, which allowed Oliver (0.7% owned) to go nuts.
You can’t predict mid-game injuries. You don’t know when a player is going to step up in an extremely difficult matchup, but if you don’t take a chance in the hopes that it happens, you’ll never win big.
3. Pay Up For Studs
This may sound contradictory, but your entire lineup can’t be a bunch of lightly owned longshots. Obviously, you have a certain amount of money to spend, and you shouldn’t leave it on the table when there is a sure-fire stud like Dez Bryant facing a porous Eagles secondary.
If you can picture a terrific WR or RB torching a weak defense for over a hundred yards and a couple TDs, you should absolutely have him in your lineup. It often comes down to studying the matchups, considering game situation, and the players’ health, which can all contribute to them having a big day.
4. Predict Game Flow
Game situation is important for every position, but particularly important when choosing your QB and Team Defense. When a team falls behind, they’re forced to throw, and cheap QBs such as Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, and Phillip Rivers often had huge games because of a pass-happy game plan in the second half.
There’s a correlation between those QBs and their teams’ horrific pass defense, which often put them in a hole, and forced them to attempt nearly 50 passes in some games. Analyzing Vegas Lines and Point Totals can help you predict which teams will have control of the ball (benefiting RBs) and which will fall behind, which increases the opportunities of QBs and receivers.
5. Go Cheap Where Appropriate
If you can accurately predict game flow, it makes it easy to choose a cheap QB, which saves you a ton of money to spend on skill players.
Another recurring theme in winning lineups is a QB in the $5,000-$6,500 range that somehow managed to produce 30+ DK points. Predicting game flow, using backups, and targeting weak defenses are a few ways to find those bargains, and they become absolutely crucial in large tournaments.
Analyze the top plays at each position. Will Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham be the focus of a capable defensive game plans? If the answer is yes, consider a mid-tier option like Martellus Bennett, or go off board with a cheap TE (Coby Fleener for example) in a platooning role. Sometimes it’s more important to figure out which positions to fade in terms of choosing your studs.
6. Target Weakness
When selecting your players, it’s easy to see which matchups are most beneficial due to DraftKings’ user-friendly format. The best matchups are highlighted in Green, while tough matchups are in Red.
While you can’t blindly use all players in “good” matchups (the chalk), you should use your own research to target weaknesses on opposing teams.
Are there injured linebackers on a defense? Use RBs and TEs.
Is the top DB questionable to play? Use a stud WR against their backup.
Most importantly, use a Team Defense against the most turnover-prone QB out there. If that defense is playing at home, even better, but you have to depend on a couple of signal callers making horrible mistakes (Geno Smith and Matt Cassel come to mind) if you want your defense to come up with big FP totals.
7. Late Swaps
On DraftKings, you have the option of changing your lineup once the action starts. This is critical for large GPP formats, because if you get off to a great start during the 1 p.m. games, you may decide to swing for the fences instead of playing it safe and hoping to double or triple up your $27 investment.
Let’s say your lineup has Aaron Rodgers ($8,600) and Alfred Morris ($5,500) slated to start at 4 p.m., with another safe play such as Jarvis Landry ($5,600) scheduled to play on Monday night. You might want to swap all three players out and opt for a trio with more upside, i.e. Teddy Bridgewater ($6,600), Jamaal Charles ($7,900), and Charles Johnson ($4,900).
Even if you leave a bit of salary on the table, these type of swaps give you a better chance of scoring huge fantasy points if you’d rather gamble for a big win than play it safe.
8. Double Down
That late swap example also contained a key strategy of doubling down, or pairing a QB and WR to maximize any long TD throws that might occur. In large tournaments, this usually makes sense with burners like Charles Johnson, DeSean Jackson, or Torrey Smith, who are one-trick ponies that just might catch multiple 40+ yard scores in one game.
You can also double down in terms of predicting game flow, by drafting the RB and Team Defense from the same squad, in the hopes that they control the action from start to finish and end the game with a huge pick-six to maximize FPs.
9. Multi-Lineup Approach
Of course, these contests allow for multiple entries, and if you want a much higher chance of earning a big payout, you may have to increase the level of your investment.
One strategy is to start building lineups with a cornerstone. Say you’re extremely confident that Jonathan Stewart ($5,800) is going to have a big Week 1, and also like the pairing of Matt Ryan ($7,500) and Julio Jones ($9,300). Building several different lineups with this core gives you a slimmer margin for error when you go out on a limb with a cheap TE, Team Defense, or target a lightly owned player at the FLEX position.
Your strategy will become your own, as you mix and match, but this is the best way to hedge your bets in a massive field of entrants.
10. Combine Research and Intuition
You can’t take this too seriously. Pouring over spreadsheets and matchup data will only get you so far, because the more you play the numbers, the closer you get to the chalk, and the middle of the pack.
The best approaches combine a knowledge of the game with hunches about game flow, injury-prone players, and how you think the opposing defensive coordinator will look to stop an offense.
When you find the right combination, you can hit it big with several huge fantasy producers, and you’ll only get more in-tune with the flow of NFL games as the season progresses. Good luck, and happy hunting!
Follow @nweitzer7 for Fantasy Football and DFS advice heading into the 2015-16 season