NFL DFS X&O’s: Cash Lineup

In just about every DFS sport that is out there you will hear advice on how cash game lineups should differ from tournament lineups.   The key word there is “lineups”, as in plural.  Obviously you will have more exposure to players in GPP’s, but nothing drives me more insane than someone mentioning a player as “yeah, I might take a shot on him in a GPP but not in cash”.   Thanks for that horrific and boring advice right there.

Why is this bad and a dull narrative?  Because you are playing ONE cash lineup each week.  Or at least you should only be playing one lineup per week, and the goal in cash contrary to others belief about just playing for the floor should be to play for the best possible lineup you can.  That means we are going to pick the best QB, the best DEF, the best TE, the best RB and the best WR all while doing this and staying under the salary cap.

The key in CASH games in my mind is giving yourself as many bullets as possible across all your players to achieve a score that will win and give you a good day.  If you are doing this properly then your cash lineup will succeed in single entry spots and even some higher $ tournaments each and every week.  If you want more exposure to other players you like at a position, then that’s when you play multiple lineups and enter them into the right spots — which is a conversation on contest selection, not lineup construction.

This is an article for building that SINGLE / PRIMARY lineup, which we can play in CASH and SINGLE ENTRY.  It works.

I use this model mostly on FanDuel.  They have to me the better NFL product than DraftKings or FantasyDraft.  The largest reasons for FanDuel to me in cash games and single entry spots is because of the following reasons.

  1. They do not award a full point per reception.
  2. They do not award bonuses for players doing… their job (i.e. bonus for 100 yards rushing/recv, 300 for passing)
  3. They do not have as wide of a range on the min priced players.  (on DK a min priced WR is 3k versus a higher priced WR at 7-8k.  on FD it’s 4500 vs 8500, it’s just a different range)

For these reasons in general I prefer FD over DK.  But it really stands out when doing one lineup that is going to be balanced and good, because on DK they are baiting you to take that crappy RB or WR who is near min priced and then that drives everyone into the same construction each week.

Having some variance in your ownership in CASH is a GOOOOOD thing.  You don’t want EVERYONE to be 60-80% owned each week.  And if/when there are 9 guys in a lineup who are 60% owned each and they all go off then we should move onto doing something else with our Sunday afternoon.

 

Here’s my model which I would recommend you follow.

STEP 1:  Lock in the Defense!

I start at the back end of the lineup to fill those components in and that starts with the defense that I want for that given week.  I often times think that everyone punts defense too much or will simply play the lowest over/under defense to try and be safe no matter who it is.   While value does matter in DFS, I don’t want to end up punting my defense and then losing because the chalk 50% defense scored a touchdown.  There will be so much time and discussion each week spent on Quarterbacks when in reality, the majority of Quarterbacks will be within 4-8 points of one another, there’s a ton of options there.  But on Defense you’ll often have a select few who are in double digits and so missing out on one of them because you just clicked this position last is a dagger.  Get your defense first and look for a few key things each week to pick one.

Keys for picking a defense

  1. UPSIDE:  So what does that mean?  It’s actually very simple for defenses.  Sacks and Turnovers.  Are they playing a team who gives these items up or are they a defense who no matter the opponent is going to “get theirs”.
  2. OPPONENT RISK:  You don’t want to play even a good defense against a team who scores a ton of points and doesn’t take sacks.  Name me the last time you had success last year with a defense against the Saints, Patriots or Chiefs?  It was rare, no?
  3. VEGAS PROJECTION:  This one is straight forward.  It’s obviously much more likely to find a good defense in a game with an O/U around 38 than one with an O/U of 56.  But also look at the pace in the game and the environment they are playing in.  Games in Atlanta last year weren’t exactly low scoring and for good reason, it’s a fast track and the Falcons defense struggled a lot and they had a ton of shootouts.

Things to avoid in a defense

  1. Teams who cannot get sacks or turnovers.  If they are a team ranked in the bottom of these categories statistically then stay away.

 

ONCE YOUR DEFENSE IS IDENTIFIED LOCK IT IN AND DONT PIVOT OFF IT.  PERIOD. 

WE ARE DONE HERE AND DO NOT NEED TO DISCUSS DEFENSES FURTHER

 

STEP 2:  Workhorse Backs

After a couple year stretch where WR’s dominated, the trend back in the NFL has been towards having the stud RB’s each and every week.  There were so many cases last year (i.e. 15 out of 17 basically) where you were good with two stud RB’s in your lineup.  With the FLEX spot now on all DFS sites as well there’s really no reason to not have 2 consistent volume RB’s as the mainstays on your lineup.

I broke down some trends on RB’s in an article last year, but will summarize things I really like to identify that B/B+ level type running back to pair with a stud.

  • Home Running Backs who are favored & consistently gets goal line work.
  • Running Backs who remain on the field on third down and two minute drill are preferred.

What to avoid with Running Backs:

  • Bad pace of play.  Noticing a trend here?   I want opportunities to score touchdowns from the running backs.  High paced games the better.

 

STEP 3:  The Tight End

Next I will determine if I am spending up at TE or not for the week.

This position has the least amount of depth on it compared to the other FLEX spots so I am 99% more likely to find a value play at RB or WR than I am at TE in a given week.  However, that doesn’t mean automatically search for value here.  There’s usually going to be about 5 TE that should be evaluated each week to determine if they’re in one of their elite spots.  This list for example is Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle, OJ Howard.  Basically what we are asking is how many of these guys are facing teams that are really bad against Tight Ends & passing games in general.  It’s one of the DvP type stats that should be looked at as the season progresses but you can usually identify if there’s a stud here who is in a great spot to pay up for or not.

I would identify the higher $ TE you like and then go down to the mid range or value TE to look at.  Write them both down and allow yourself a pivot based upon the value at other positions.  Again, we are narrowing our field of choices.

What to look for with Tight Ends:

  • Is their QB considered a good play?  If yes, then they are likely in play every week unless facing one of the elite DvP teams.  If they aren’t, then avoid the TE.

What to avoid with Tight Ends:

  • Don’t play guys like Josh Hill in cash at TE.  It rarely works out.  You are better off paying an extra $7-800 at TE most weeks to get someone who is normally involved at least somewhat in the passing game.

STEP 4:   The Passing Attack

This is the position that gets the most chatter because QB’s are sexy and hot topics but in the end it really means the least.  Some will subscribe to never paying up for Quarterbacks because their ceilings are limited due to the 4 pts per passing touchdown and their floors are elevated due to everyone throwing so much.  I don’t argue against that theory, but it’s not a blind automatic spot for me each week.

A running upside Quarterback will always offer value, but there is a target goal I have on QB’s each week.  Can he throw 275 yards and 2 touchdowns?  If so, that’s 19 fantasy points alone right there and that is your target in DFS.  The realistic expectation on most Quarterbacks is going to be in the 225-275 yards passing range and while it’s always tempting to want a Quarterback who is an underdog and will be trailing, I caution you that they are trailing because they haven’t done much most likely.  So 9 times out of 10, give me that good home Quarterback who has an elite passing match-up or faces a team who cannot sack the QB.  Despite the TD’s being cheaper, you need them, but a QB who is going to get the yards/passing volume is the most important thing.

What to avoid with Quarterbacks:

  • Bad pace of play.  If your QB is facing a team who plays slow, he is at heavy risk of under-performing.

STEP 5:  The Receivers

Balance, Balance, Balance.  The name of the game with 3 WR in your lineup has to be balance.   On DK there’s lots of value in just finding the PPR machine and moving on, but again I prefer FD for cash games and over there I want consistent Production rather than chasing a min price guy who catches 4 balls one week.  That’s only two points but if he only racks up 30 yards and is very low down on the target chart in the red zone then I have just wasted a spot.

As much as possible I would try to correlate a WR with my QB.  Too many people play for the floor in cash games and the goal is still to WIN and I want as much upside as I can get and correlating the QB-WR unless I did that at RB or TE is almost a MUST for me unless the pricing doesn’t fit here.

So identify the best WR target for your QB then go to the mid range WR’s next.  Identify the mid range WR who is going to be the balance spot for this week.  If none exists, then I am going STUD & DUD for the other two WR spots, but more times than not you’ll find that guy in the 6000-7000 range who is going to put up a good score.

What to avoid with Wide Receivers:

  • Avoid forcing the studs and duds route each week.  You will always be tempted to force Julio, Hopkins, Brown, Thomas, Beckham, etc. in every week.  This is the most important position to look for value and understand how you need to spend here every week.  Many times I will actually look at the WR pricing before I lock in on the running backs so I know how I appropriately spend my $ for that week.

 

STEP 6:  Flex the Chalk

The FLEX position is often where mistakes are made in DFS across every sport.  It’s usually filled last and for me that is no different, but the mistake which is made is often times just taking the highest priced player left or tinkering around and then you wind up tinkering another position for no good reason.

It’s hard to give a hard and fast rule about what positions to use in the FLEX spot because every week is different, however more times than not the RB position is the one that offers the best utilization for FLEX with WR coming in second and TE being a very very very very very distant third to the point of almost never being used in FLEX for me.

The approach with the FLEX spot to me is to take the player with high projected ownership.   You will notice that as I went through the first 5 steps I didn’t focus on what the ownership was at all, simply identifying the process for filling in positions.  It’s going to be assumed that the best plays each week will have high ownership associated with them, but not entirely.  So there’s good reason to look at the FLEX spot here and use one of two approaches.  Either eat some ownership % here and move on or if you have a lineup that looks HEAVY on ownership then give yourself someone with some good upside at the FLEX spot.  The bottom line here though is get good production.

 

STEP 7:  Sum it all up and do not tinker

When I first started driving the advice my father gave me was never change lanes unless you have a need to change lanes.  The same is true with the tinkering.  By this point our research and analysis has been done and the process has been followed.  Unless we have a reason to tinker such as a late scratch then we shouldn’t change anything.

 

Cash Construction Cheat Sheet

  1. Defense
  2. Running Backs
  3. Tight End
  4. Quarterback
  5. Receivers
  6. Flex your Chalk
  7. Sum it all up

Those are your seven steps to cashing in NFL DFS with a routine and consistent model approach.

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srenner

Founder and CEO for The Daily Ambush. Author or The Dongers Club (MLB), The Ambush (NFL), The Slapshot (NHL) and The Tailgate (CFB).