DFS

DFS Cash Games: Lineup Construction

DFS Cash Games Lineup Construction

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my personal life, allow me to let you in on a little secret. I’m a massive Philadelphia Eagles fan. While some of you may cringe at that realization or even discredit my football knowledge altogether, there’s one thing you must know about Philadelphia fans. If you don’t like us, we don’t care.

But I’ve taken something from my fandom and implemented it into my tactic for teaching you about DFS. It’s a page right out of Coach Sirianni’s playbook that I’ve learned during his multiple interviews that thankfully are no longer giving secondhand embarrassment. It concerns his fascination with “the fundamentals.” He loves to make sure that his players are sticking to the fundamentals, and honestly, same. 

I think it’s vital to remember some key fundamentals when building a cash game lineup. I’ll briefly give you a rundown on what I feel those fundamentals are, and then we can break down each position and its fundamentals as well. Speaking of secondhand embarrassment, I wanted to include this in one of my articles so badly: DFS country, let’s ride!

DFS Cash Games: The Fundamentals

  • Know the scoring format! Is it full or half-point PPR? Are there any bonus points? These things matter when choosing your players, so be aware of the website’s scoring format. I’d instead flex a wide receiver over a running back in full PPR. Conversely, in half-PPR, I’d be more likely to consider a running back.
  • Consider the contest selection!- Read my cash contest selection article, so you familiarize yourself with the different contests. DFS: Cash Contest Selection – The 33rd Team
  • Eat some chalk!- These are cash games, not tournament play. It’s okay to have highly rostered players in your lineups. Actually, it’s preferred.
  • Check in with Vegas!- Treat Vegas like an old friend and see what she’s saying about games on the slate. It’s not only smart but popular to attack high over/unders along with seemingly good game scripts.
  • Build a strong foundation!– We want safe floors with high ceilings in this house. If you have no clue what I mean by that, then essentially, what I’m trying to tell you is that a player’s floor is the worst they can do, whereas their ceiling is the best they can do. Players with safe floors won’t kill us, and players with high ceilings can win you the whole week. But at the end of the day, since this isn’t a tournament game, our house doesn’t necessarily need to be a mansion. I will sacrifice the high ceilings for safe floors 10x out of 10. Your house only needs to look as good as half the others on the block. 

DFS Cash Games: Roster Construction

QUARTERBACK

Log in and select Josh Allen. I’m just kidding, sort of. I wish it were that easy, but on any given Sunday, you will see how crazy the range of outcomes can get for the quarterback position. Last year’s week 1’s most expensive quarterback on the slate at $8,100 was Patrick Mahomes, who scored 36.28 DraftKings points. He was the top scorer of the week. Beautiful, right?

Well, one of the most pitiful performances that week also came from a top-5 priced quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, at $6,800, who put up an astounding 3.32 DraftKings points; yikes! You could’ve just decided to play Jared Goff for $5,100, who scored 32.92 DraftKings points. But this is certainly not the norm. While a decision like that could have won you a million dollars in a tournament game, it’s not the smartest move to make in cash.

Pay Up for High Cielings

The ceiling for quarterbacks can be massive, but they are also capable of hitting some pretty ridiculous lows. Jared Goff might have absolutely smashed his value in Week 1, but he never really replicated that kind of success for the rest of the season. Whereas Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes had continued weekly success with very few mediocre performances, Jared Goff was considered an outlier.

So in this house, we pay up for quarterbacks. I don’t want to catch any of you reading this to go ahead and punt the position for cash games. Save that for the tournament bros! I also understand that, to some people, this may be a controversial take since value plays do exist. But I stand by what I say. More often than not, it will be the pricier quarterbacks that I try to fit into my budget because they provide the safest floors and highest ceilings. It sounds like a wise investment for cash games because they are all about slight variance and calculated choices. You don’t need to always aim for the dark horse quarterback of the week.

Don’t Trust Outliers

Imagine you drafted the perfect lineup combination that outscored all their projections, but you decided to punt the quarterback position. Now, imagine that quarterback flopped and gave you 11 points total. This is a reasonably common scenario because those players are typically priced like that for a reason. Huge bummer, and now you are likely knocked out of the top half of a contest. All because you had to get cute and shoot for the upside rather than a safe floor play with upside. It’s just not worth it to me. Crawling out of a quarterback deficit is damn near impossible, no matter how many late swaps you try to do to make up for the extra 15-20+ points. Low-rostered quarterbacks like that could quickly burn you in a cash game. 

Don’t be surprised when you meet someone who rebuttals and says, “Yeah, well, Ryan Tannehill won my buddy the Milly Maker!” That’s fantastic for your friend. But in cash games, I’d rather not take the chance on a lottery player. I consider lottery players to be the guys who haven’t provided a safe floor but project to have a higher ceiling due to a good matchup. Again, save it for the tournament bros. I’m cool with just playing it safe and avoiding that scenario. A guy like Ryan Tannehill has limited upside compared to someone of Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, or Lamar Jackson’s caliber. The probability of that happening again is nowhere near as high as for the top-tier quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong; I do like to gamble, just not like that. We work smart over here, not hard. Maybe a little hard.

Prioritize Mobility

Moving forward, let’s look at the type of quarterbacks we want to roster. My personal preference in selecting a quarterback is finding someone that is mobile. Mobile quarterbacks offer you more outlets for more points than the traditional pocket passer. Not to say guys like Tom Brady or Matthew Stafford can’t get the job done. But the rushing ability helps create safe floors, and we don’t have to depend so much on a big day from the passing game because those rushing yards can help secure some extra points.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t avoid pocket passers altogether. I’d be silly to do so, given the kind of seasons Tom Brady and Joe Burrow just had. So don’t take me so literally when I say that. I wouldn’t want to pay down and grab Matt Ryan over Trey Lance if I was deciding to do so because Matt Ryan doesn’t offer the same kind of upside as someone of Trey Lance’s skillset. So when faced with those decisions, I will lean more toward mobile quarterbacks. 

Home Cooking

Another aspect we should be targeting when searching for our quarterback is home favorites. The home favorite with a high over-under tends to fare better in their matchups. Remember that it’s also better to target games where the favorite won’t find themself in a blowout. We want the game to stay relatively close so that the offense doesn’t abandon ship and lean more on the run. Teams with a heavy lead aren’t just going to keep airing the ball out, so do your best to construct a likely game script in your mind.

While checking out what Vegas thinks of the game, also be on the lookout for high implied team totals that will help you determine that game script. The chart below helps to better illustrate home favorites that hit the over and the DraftKings points they’ve scored. The graph displays the advantage of finding a quarterback, as I’ve described.

DFS Cash Games QB Graph

If we want to dig even deeper into things we should be looking for in our cash game quarterbacks, then pay attention to defenses as the season progresses. The further we get into the season, the more those defenses cement themselves into what we should expect from the matchup. You’ll want to look for opponents that allow many passing touchdowns and trips to the red zone.

We always want to check for weaknesses in the defense that would benefit our quarterback. For example, you should look for defenses that create the least pressure. The more time a quarterback doesn’t spend on his back or running away from defenders, the more time he has to dissect the defense and get the ball out. Lucky for you, The 33rd Team has just unleashed our brand new tool, “The Edge,” that helps provide you with this kind of information! 

RUNNING BACK

Ah yes, a tale as old as time. Volume is KING for running backs when playing cash games. We love the workhorses, bell cows, and whatever other hard-working farm animal nickname you want to give these guys. The more touches, snaps, carries, and receptions they have, the better. We want the kind of running backs who will see the ball at least 20+ times per game.

Seeing Red (Zone Touches)

You also want to target running backs that frequently earn red zone touches. Players who make frequent trips to the red zone are good because that’s where most of the rushing touchdowns are being scored every season. *Insert crazy James Conner stat here.* Yeeeeaahh, let’s go there and talk about it. Last year James Conner scored an absurd amount of touchdowns in the red zone, 15 to be exact. That equated to all of his touchdowns for the season. He was like a cheap cheat code. The guy couldn’t be stopped, but he didn’t have an extreme workload. He was hardly a factor in the passing game and was not incredibly productive otherwise. But my God, did he capitalize on all of those red zone opportunities. It just goes to show what an important factor that can be. 

Something also can be said for quarterbacks that get red zone carries at a higher percentage. These are guys like Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. While they have productive running backs in their offenses, it’s just a continuous thorn in your side to watch the quarterback regularly steal some rushing touchdowns. So I tend not to favor the running backs in these types of offenses because nothing hurts worse than a QB-designed run play within the red zone that could’ve gone to Miles Sanders or Devin Singletary but went to Jalen Hurts or Josh Allen instead.

Play Favorites

I’ll tell you one thing about me. I love to make my life easy; however, it can be made possible. So give me running backs on good offenses who are facing bad teams. It’s not rocket science to figure out that if a team is leading in a game, they will try to run out the clock. This leads me to the next point that I’ve touched on in a previous article in reference to the graph below. Choose running backs that are the home favorite! I mean, talk to our girl Vegas; she knows a thing or two!

DFS Cash Games RB Graph

If we are looking for this kind of back, he will likely come with a heavy price tag. So once again, I am asking you to pay up for at least one running back in this house. We know those elite running backs with their elite touches can be a little too rich for some of our blood, but it helps to have at least one elite running back. But, if we’re already paying up at quarterback, how will we ever afford those guys? Well, one way I like to do that is to go cheap on D/ST and find value in wide receivers or tight ends. But that’s another story for further down the page.

However, how about we look to running backs that are thrust into an opportunity because injuries constantly happen at the running back position? It’s incredibly unfortunate but common that we see many injuries occur when someone runs full speed ahead at a brick wall of gargantuan humans multiple times a week. The probability of missing a few games seems to be on the agenda. With that misfortune comes an opportunity for backup running backs who will come at discount prices and can be another way to secure the bag. Sometimes injury reports don’t come out until late in the week, so once the DFS pricing is set, it’s set. These running backs tend to become chalky because of their low prices, but that’s also great news for cash games. 

Consider Defenses?

Some might also say well, Kyra, what about defenses? Don’t they play a factor if a team is good against the run? The short answer is yes. The long answer? Of course, I’m going to give it to you. It’s not that huge of a deal. Of course, if a team is bleeding points in a top 3 fashion to running backs, you should obviously want to target those games. But it isn’t always a big game changer, and you must look at the bigger picture. I’d be more concerned with teams who are extremely good at stopping the run. If that seems to be a trend all season for a defense, then yes, steer clear from a top 3 rushing defense because the upside is just likely not to be there. 

Lastly, it’s important to note how to choose your cash game’s running back based on the scoring format. Guys like Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb who don’t offer much for us in the passing game are a better fit over on FanDuel with the half-point PPR scoring compared to guys who are utilized in the passing game like Christian McCaffery or Austin Ekeler. Actually, this brings me back to our boy, James Conner. James Conner on FanDuel was an absolute smash because of his heavy goal-line usage.

As I stated prior, he has minimal usage in the receiving game, but he is still a solid RB2 on a weekly basis. So try and choose running backs who fit that type of profile over on FanDuel. But, regardless, use your better judgment. I’m not telling you what to do; I’m just giving you the tools to help build the foundation. I don’t make the rules; I just enforce them. This doesn’t mean you NEVER use Derrick Henry on DraftKings or Christian McCaffery on FanDuel. It’s just a guide to help give you perspective. 

WIDE RECEIVER

Wide receiver will hands down be the most frustrating position you play in DFS. The highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster they take you on from one week to the next can be defeating. There is so much variance at the wide receiver position; there are also many more on the field than any other position you choose. This is less than ideal for cash games.

So while the quarterback may get you some of the most secure highest scoring points on a week-to-week basis with minimal variance, it’s the wide receivers who can get you the highest scoring points per dollar compared to their salary, and that variance is all over the place. You have to pay closer attention to this position than any other. It’s quite honestly the hardest educated guess you can make. 

Minimizing Variance

So how can we break this down to have a little less variance for cash games in a strategic manner? I’ll dive into a couple of things we should be looking at here for our receivers. We should probably start with targets. You hear it all the time about targets and target share, but hey, it’s true, the more a player gets the ball, the more he’s going to get the chance to give you points. That is probably the most simple tip you can look for in figuring out who can be a good selection at wide receiver. Especially for cash games because we like a safe floor and the high target shares tend to provide that for us. Targets are one of the closest factors we have to predict fantasy points for the wide receiver position. Volume is essentially king here as well, so pay attention to the trends you see as the season progresses with increases in snaps, targets, and target share.

But here’s the catch: you need at least three of these guys in your starting lineup. You can’t break the bank on wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks. Somebody has to provide some salary relief. So here we go back to the red zone to find cheaper options. As you will see, with just a little research, many touchdowns are being scored within the 20-yard line. Just as we talked about with quarterbacks and checking the opposing defense to see how often a team allows touchdowns and trips to the red zone, we shall do the same for wide receivers. 

There may just be a common theme here when picking out our players at each position, and it has a lot to do with how Vegas perceives games. This may be a big shock *sarcasm*, but we want to choose wide receivers playing for the home favorite. In this graph below, you can see that the home favorite is the kind of wide receiver we want exposure to in our lineup.

DFS Cash Games Wide Receivers Graph

TIGHT END

The least thrilling of all the positions is trying to figure out who to possibly slot in as your tight end and won’t cost you a million dollars. The elites are way too expensive, and the cheap ones are a total crapshoot. So how can we make this position a little less volatile? Well, it’s back to the drawing board and time to look at ol’ faithful again, the red zone usage.

Red Zone Targets

We want to look here to make sure our tight end will see a lot of work within the 10-yard line. Simply put, tight ends are big dudes that make excellent targets in the red zone. You also should check the opposing defense to see how often they’re allowing teams to get into the red zone, so your tight end is seeing frequent opportunities. This is important for the tight end position because not every team has a tight end who’s getting a ton of yardage.

I mean, hell, the Carolina Panthers barely even look Tommy Tremble’s or Ian Thomas’ way on a week-to-week basis. Some of you probably forgot either one was even on the team. But unless your last name is Kelce, Andrews, Pitts, Kittle, or Waller, you probably aren’t super involved in the passing game. This is why the red zone is vital because touchdowns are where we find value in tight ends.

Punt the Tight End

A popular DFS trick is to punt the tight end position. Punting a position is basically saying to hell with those high-priced players. I’m just going to find somebody for cheap that I think can be productive enough so that I can spend money elsewhere. Sometimes, this works great! Sometimes it can be a disaster. A touchdown is the best you can hope for in a low-volume tight end. So, to help yourself with punting the position, I’d be looking for a guy who has seen several targets in the red zone and is participating just enough to get an opportunity. 

It benefits us to have tight ends that spend more time running routes than blocking. You want the tight end to be lined up to catch the ball more often than not. What good will that do for you if he’s blocking most of the time? It limits opportunity and doesn’t create much hope for touchdowns.

Don’t Play Backups

A common mistake made by the casual DFS’er is playing a backup tight end. I understand that with some positions, especially a running back when you see an injury, you think of an opportunity. But not so much with the tight end position. We often see an injury to a high-volume tight end and think we can just play their backup because they’re cheap and should get all those targets. But, nay.

Most of the time, you’re going to just watch all of those vacated targets go elsewhere. Not all tight ends are built the same, and you don’t often see that idea come to fruition. Better off just avoiding this type of strategy. Sometimes it can pay off, but sometimes just doesn’t do it for me in cash games. I instead make a different play.

DFS Cash Games TE Graph

DEFENSE

The seemingly most mindless part of the process is figuring out what defense to put into your lineup. People out there will say there’s not much of a strategy and that defense isn’t predictable. But there are people like me who have too much to say about how to approach defense in DFS. 

Opposing Offensive Lines

Let’s start with my first step in the process and target defenses going up against poor offensive lines. According to PFF, the worst-ranked offensive lines heading into the 2022 season are as follows…

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Las Vegas Raiders
  5. Atlanta Falcons

Ironically enough, these matchups appear very juicy for the opposing D/STs. The majority of the teams listed have not only a bad offensive line but also subpar quarterback play. If a team has a porous offensive line, it’s much easier for a defense to generate pressure and force the opposing team into more sacks and fumbles. When a quarterback is under pressure, they can be forced into getting the ball out more quickly and make poor decisions that can lead to interceptions, especially for inexperienced quarterbacks. That leads me to my next point, target rookie quarterbacks! 

DFS Cash Games DSTs

Rookie Quarterbacks

Rookie quarterbacks often make mistakes that lead to them holding on to the ball for too long, forcing throws, and folding under pressure. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are someone I remember who, over the years, are particularly good at this. They have made even the studliest rookie quarterbacks, such as Justin Herbert, look like frail prey. When the Chargers faced off against the Patriots in Week 13 of his 2020 rookie season, the Patriots’ D/ST went off for 31 DK points. New England’s defense recorded three sacks, two interceptions, and allowed 0 points. So yes, the point is… bully rookie quarterbacks with your D/ST. 

Who knew I’d have so much to talk about when it comes to D/STs for DFS? But, believe it, or not there is more to dive into. Teams that play with a high tempo also bode well for opposing DSTs. Higher tempo equals more plays and more opportunity for error. Who would be a team needing to pass more and do more? An underdog. So you guessed it… home favorites strike again! The opposing offense isn’t going to play conservative football; they need to play catch up. Try and look to Vegas for games where it’s a low implied point total, not a high over/under, and home favorites. Ideally, a heavy home favorite is the route you want to go.  

DFS Cash Games: Conclusion

PHEW! That was a lot of information. If you had the time to read all of that, thank you, you are hands down my biggest fan. As for your DFS journey from here on out, we have provided you with a series of articles with all the tools and fundamentals that should help guide you and get you started on a profitable DFS season. I look forward to providing you with some great value plays all season long to help make your life a little easier and drop more knowledge whenever possible. Best of luck to all of you!

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