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From its humble beginnings in a Manhattan hotel room, to its immortalisation in the hit comedy series The League, fantasy football has captured the imagination of sports fans the world over. Few pastimes inspire such passion, debate and intrigue as this intricately technical, yet deeply simple game.
And few pastimes have benefited so much from the rise of the Internet age: with a whole world of data available, and distant competitors brought instantly together, the Internet has helped fantasy football explode in both popularity and variety. Here are some useful points on strategy that should help you make the most of this fast-paced game of stats.
One of the fantasy sports variants that has neatly combined the speed of Internet betting with the fun of the traditional game is daily fantasy football. Just as with regular fantasy sports, users compile a team of real football players and amass points based on how those players perform on the field in real life, with point values awarded according to predetermined rules.
The major difference between regular fantasy and Daily Fantasy lies in the length of a given competition. Instead of playing for an entire season, Daily Fantasy games only require a one week or one day commitment, or in the case of the National Football League (NFL), one weekend. Daily fantasy sports are quicker and more numbers-driven than their more traditional counterparts, and there are two big names that have taken this niche and really made it their own: FanDuel and DraftKings.
As any fantasy sports fan will tell you, good research is key to gameday success and the daily discipline is no different. Fantasy league players who know their stats inside out consistently perform better than those who don’t. Having a robust understanding of how teams and individuals performed last season, a good knowledge of the upcoming fixture list and a far-reaching idea of individual team rosters will give you the edge over competitors.
Particular areas where you’ll need to be up to speed are the free agent and rookie lists, where low valued but potentially high impact players lurk. Good research into these corners of the NFL could mean some serious points come gameday.
One of the biggest strategic elements to a daily fantasy game is the list of starters that must be picked by a player week in, week out. Knowing how this element works across different platforms will give users a true competitive edge. On DraftKings, for example, you must start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one flex, and one defence.
The flex position here is perhaps the most significant: it represents the largest potential advantage over rivals. The flex position is often overlooked or handled incorrectly by novice fantasy players, but understanding how to use it is the key to success, chiefly because it represents options: players pick a running back, wide receiver, or tight end. Players that put in the research will be able to better compare players in different positions, giving them a tactical advantage in the flex spot.
FanDuel, meanwhile, only requires that users start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker, and one defence. There’s no flex position here, meaning there’s no need to compare players at different positions. A good FanDuel player simply needs to find the best values at each spot.
Good injury management is key to daily fantasy football success. Picking an injured player in your lineup, for example, will obviously not help your chances of success come gameday. Good injury management also includes understanding how an injured player's team will respond in his absence.
You may be able to find a bargain in the injured player's back-up, or decide against a player that only performs well in partnership with the player that's sitting out. The most successful DraftKing players in the world check the NFL injury report daily and allow the results to influence their decisions.
Understanding the value of match-ups is crucial if you want your daily fantasy team to be a profitable one. Put simply, two evenly-matched players are likely to score less when playing against each other than if either player faces a weaker one. The variation in standards is a huge factor in determining how well a player performs week-to-week.
Good fantasy selectors have a full understanding of individual matchups, and the effect these will have on player values. This knowledge is particularly valuable on both DraftKings and FanDuel: sometimes these platforms will not always take match-ups entirely into account when adjusting player salaries. Understanding the added or diminished value that a player’s match-up offers, and what the platforms have missed, can have a hugely positive influence on your selection.
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