Daily Fantasy Football Lineup Building 101

For the most part, winning at daily fantasy has to do with making good player predictions and finding great fantasy point per dollar value. But once you’ve done your homework, how do you actually form a good lineup? You will have fine success just plugging in a team filled with good picks, but there are a lot of intricacies in making a good lineup a great one.


Prioritize Weak Positions

Let’s examine a daily fantasy lineup that has two positions, QB and WR, where you only pick one of each. You have assigned a expected fantasy point value you each one. You have a salary cap of $14000. Your choices are:


Drews Brees ($8000) 22.4 Fantasy Points

Nick Foles ($7000) 18.2 Fantasy Points

Teddy Bridgewater ($6000) 13.4 Fantasy Points


Calvin Johnson ($8000) 18.4 Fantasy Points

Golden Tate  ($7000) 9.5 Fantasy Points

Malcom Floyd ($6000) 7.5 Fantasy Points


There aren’t a lot of choices here, so figuring out the best lineup is not too hard. It happens to be choosing Calvin Johnson and Teddy Bridgewater for an expected 31.8 fantasy points. The most important part of this toy game is thinking about why this solution was best.

The weird aspect of this solution is that Johnson is a worse point per dollar pick than Foles and Brees. The reason we pick Johnson has to do with the relative weakness of the WR position.

What I mean by weakness is that there are only a few high fantasy point expectation plays at the position, and the rest are average or low expecatation. Because Floyd and Tate are such weak plays, we lose more by going for a cheaper option at WR than by going for a cheaper option at the QB position. Going Bridgewater over Brees loses us 9 fantasy points, while choosing Floyd over Johnson loses us nearly 11 fantasy points.

When making a daily fantasy lineup, try to evaluate the strength of plays at each position. At a position with only a few strong plays is where you will want to focus your salary. Try picking the weakest position first when building a lineup.


Prioritize High Salary Over Low Salary

You may like a lot of low salaries plays a lot and prioritize getting those guys in your lineups. The issue with this strategy is it can cause you to miss out on the best high salary picks of the day and therefore decrease your lineup’s expectation.

High salary players tend to be the highest scoring players, and therefore have a larger absolute change in projection in good matchups. More simply, someone like Jimmy Graham may average 20 fantasy points a game. On his best matchup, we could expect a 50% increase in that production, meaning 10 more fantasy points of expectation. A guy like Golden Tate may average 10 fantasy points a game, so a 50% increase in production only equates to 5 more fantasy points.

High salary players also account for a larger percentage of your teams total fantasy point expectation, and therefore will have the largest trade-offs. Picking Calvin Johnson over Antonio Brown is going to be worth a lot more than picking Devin Hester over Greg Jennings, even if you like Hester over Jennings a lot more than Johnson over Brown.


Late Games Go Into The FLEX

DraftKings has a great position for football called FLEX, which can be used for any TE, WR, or RB. You should absolutely put a player who is playing a late afternoon or night game into this slot, because it allows yourself maximum flexibility for late swapping.

It also makes sense for the FLEX player to have plausible swap targets, so don’t do anyone who is too low salary. Even better, think of a few players in late games you may like and try to put a player in the FLEX who has a similar salary to those players.

Late injuries can happen. Sometimes a late scratch can cause someones fantasy value to go way up or down. If, say, Jamaal Charles was annouced out for tonight’s Monday night game, Knile Davis would become a great play. But if you failed to put a late game player into FLEX, you’d have no chance of getting him in a lineup. Late swap is only used by about 5% of lineups on DraftKings, but it is one of the most underutilized and most valuable aspects of the site.


All Else The Same, Prioritize Earlier Games

This is especially important for Thursday contests. Injuries happen a lot in football, even during practice. All else equal between two players, it makes sense to choose a player in the closest game, because that player has the least injury risk. There are also bizarre, unforeseen events that happen that can effect the outcomes of games. The closer to the start of the game we are, the more information we have about who will play in that game and if the game will be played or not. Last NBA season, a Spurs/Timberwolves game was actually cancelled because of a fire in the stadium, and non late swap site players were basically screwed. This doesn’t mean you should only play early game players, but it should be a tie breaker in really close decision.



  • There are concepts of building a good lineup that have little to do with player performance prediction.
  • Positions with not many great plays should be prioritized because of the larger trade-offs saving money at that position. Try starting your lineups by choosing players in weak positions.
  • High salary players represent a larger amount of your lineups total expectation and should also be prioritized, no matter how much you may love a punt play.
  • On DraftKings, the FLEX position should be used for players in later games. Try to also put players in the FLEX who have good possible salary replacements. A minimum salary guy in the FLEX is going to be quite difficult to replace.
  • Injuries and unforeseen events happen a lot, so all else being equal, prioritize a player in an earlier game.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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