How to Create a Lineup on DraftKings

Discovering Daily Fantasy Sports like DraftKings is, well, exciting. You can see by their promotions that the money to be won this year playing is absolutely massive, and as someone who already loves fantasy, this seems right up your alley. However, once you enter a tournament and start the process of making a lineup, you may find that you don’t really know where to start. Unlike season-long fantasy, you can play whoever you want every week, which means the lineup combinations are endless. But by understanding a few simple concepts, making a lineup can actually be very simple, easy and fun.

The goal of this article is to show you how to make a lineup by letting you see a real DraftKings NFL lineup that I will use in week 1. I will explain the key concepts and reasoning that go into each pick. After reading this article, you should be ready to make your own lineup and already have a big edge on other players who may be playing on DraftKings for the first time.

DraftKings: Salary and Salary Cap

draftkings lineup 1




On almost every Daily Fantasy website, each player is assigned a salary and the website gives you a specific payroll that the total salary of all your players must fit under. On DraftKings, salaries can range from anywhere to $3000 (i.e. Tedd Ginn Jr.) to $10,000 or sometimes higher (i.e. Peyton Manning). Salaries vary from week to week, based on an algorithm DraftKings has created in order to price players fairly. However, their algorithm isn’t perfect. Some players will be drastically mispriced due to injury, matchup, or other factors. Our goal in creating a lineup is to find the best value out of all the players in the NFL and balance that with players we think will be the top performers of the week.



The Lineup:

draftkings lineup small

QB Colin Kaepernick ($8000) – This is a play based on Matchup, Value, and Vegas.

Kaepernick is going against a defense that was absolutely atrocious last year in the Cowboys, and they almost certainly have gotten worse with the losses of Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher in the off-season. Targeting star players who are facing bad defenses is essential in creating a top team.

Sportsbooks (I use for lines) are projecting that the 49ers score 28 points against the Cowboys, one of the higher point projection totals you will see throughout the year. Sportsbook over/under lines and spreads are a big part of predicting big fantasy performances. Handicappers are very good at their jobs, so the lines in general are going to be very predictive of the actual outcomes of games. We want to use this to our advantage, so when the Sportsbooks say that the 49ers are going to have a great game, we believe them (Read more on why Vegas sports betting lines are so good here: Kaepernick is a massive part of the 49ers offense, so a good team performance almost certainly means a good performance from Kaep.

Kaepernick is a high potential fantasy player for his ability to both run and pass. I expect him to be one of the highest scoring players week 1, and in order to win a big tournament like DraftKings Sunday Million, you will absolutely need to have the top scoring players of the week on your team. You save a couple thousand by using Kaepernick over Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, but he has as much potential as either of them.


Arian Foster ($7,200) – This pick is mostly due to an expected improvement this season, and matchup. There are many reasons a player’s salary may be lower than it should be. Foster had an injury-riddled, sub-par, season last year and consequently his price is significantly depressed week 1. But now he’s healthy and his backup Ben Tate is starting in Cleveland. This means Foster should get the majority of carries against the Redskins.

While the Redskins have made some improvements to their defense, they still will be a mediocre to poor defense this season. Vegas has the Texans scoring over 24 points week 1, and like Kaepernick, Foster should play a major role in the Texans offense. This is a great matchup for Foster.


Andre Ellington ($6,000) – This pick is due to expected improvement as well as potential.

Ellington, like Foster, should have his workload increased with Rashard Mendenhall’s unexpected retirement this offseason. It looks like he’s the #1 back now, which means many more targets and carries.

The Chargers have a very poor defense that is covered up by the fact their offense holds the ball so long. Ellington is a great player for big tournaments because he’s a great receiver (DraftKings awards a point for every catch, keep that in mind) and he has massive big play potential in both the run game and the pass game. For only $6,000, he’s a player who can significantly out-perform his salary and has a chance to be a top RB week 1.


Cecil Shorts III ($4,900) and Maqise Lee ($3,500) – You may have looked at these two plays initially and thought “huh?” But there is very good reason for both, and it’s because of the concept of game-plan and also a concept you already are familiar with, value.

A team being up or down in a game can significantly change the game-plans of coaches. You may have noticed that, in order to catch up, teams that are behind usually abandon the running game early for the pass game. Jacksonville is a massive 10 point underdog to the Eagles in Week 1, which means it’s very likely they will be down early and will be forced to throw a whole lot more. Against the Eagles “Flash” offense, the Jaguars should have plenty of oppourtunities to pass, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pass it over 40 times in the game.

Shorts and Lee are the two starting wide-outs for the Jaguars and should get many targets through the game. Both are good players (Lee has looked great in the preseason), and are just so cheap (only $8,400 combined) that it won’t take much production for both together to hit value. Think about it this way, will Shorts and Lee’s production combined be on par with the production of Calvin Johnson ($8,800)? I think absolutely, they would only need about 4 catches each, 60 yards a piece, and only 1 TD between them. And their potential in this game, especially for Shorts, is up there with some of the top receivers week 1.


Andre Johnson ($6,600) – This pick is mostly for fit. Johnson had a quiet, solid season last year, and that was with terrible quarterbacks throwing to him. While Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t exactly an elite QB, he’s better than what they had last season. The Redskins biggest weakness is their secondary, so I wouldn’t if Johnson has a field day against them. He’s not as compelling as the other players, but he’s a player I like and helped me create a lineup that fit under DraftKings salary cap.


Vernon Davis ($4,800) – This pick is because of a concept called synergy.

If a QB is doing well, it usually means the receivers he’s throwing to are having good games as well. Having a QB/receiver combo can exponentially increase your team’s fantasy performance, because if Kaepernick throws a TD to Davis, you don’t just get 4 points for a TD, you get 6 more for the TD catch, plus a point for a reception and the points both players will receive for the yards of the catch.

Davis is not Kaepernicks #1 options, but he should have an easy time against the Cowboy’s linebackers who are missing their only quality player in Sean Lee.


Pierre Thomas ($5,000) – Thomas, like my other RB choices week 1, should see increased playing time this year because of a departure in free agency (Darren Sproles to the Eagles). Thomas should assume a Sproles like role and see increased snaps and targets. Like I stated before, with each reception earning a point, having RBs that catch is extremely important. Against a soft Falcons D, Thomas should have plenty of those, and he’s dirt cheap to boot.


Jets ($3,900) – Defense is sort of a toss up for me between the Jets, Steelers, and Chiefs, all of whom are similarly priced. I went with the Jets here because they are projected to hold the Raiders to only 18 points, and while they aren’t a team that creates a lot of turnovers, the Raiders are likely to shoot themselves in the foot on a few occasions.


This is just one lineup of several that I will probably use in opening week. My hope is that by reading this article, you have learned several key concepts for creating a great daily fantasy football lineup. And if you want, feel free to use this lineup week 1 and see how you do.

Want to learn more about DraftKings? Read about general information here.

View all posts by Max J Steinberg
Max J Steinberg

About the Author

Max J Steinberg Max Steinberg is a professional poker player and a top Daily Fantasy player who uses his creativity and mathematical abilities he cultivated as a poker player to win money on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He already has several big tournament scores to his name including the Victiv Bowl and countless MLB Monster wins. Follow him on twitter @maxjsteinberg.

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