NFL DFS 101: The Strategy of Stacking

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NFL Daily Fantasy offers many different ways to try and score big payoffs, from double-up and head-to-head “cash” games, to Showdown and Tiers slates, to Best Ball draft options.

But as opposed to cash games, where the goal is to minimize the risk of goose eggs in your lineups as much as possible, in tournament play, like the weekly DraftKings Million Dollar contest and its six-figure entry pools, the idea is to shoot for the moon. And the best way to try and beat the field with an avalanche of points is by stacking.

To stack a DFS lineup, regardless of sport, is to load up your lineup with several players from the same team. The hope is that this group of teammates will all hit for big scores in the same game, usually the result of a blowout victory.

What Is “Stacking”?

In baseball, it’s putting five hitters in a row from the same lineup and hope they string together extra-base hits and runs scored in two or three different trips through the order. In the NBA, it’s running several guys in the starting lineup and hoping for a 120-point game where they all fill up the stat sheet. Count on lots of stacking with LeBron-Westbrook-AD next season.

In the NFL, the most common stack is playing a quarterback and at least two of his top receivers, whether they are wideouts, tight ends, or prolific pass-catching running backs. The theory is that a quarterback who explodes for 350 yards passing and four touchdowns will concentrate that production on certain receivers, creating a scenario where you collect the touchdown and yardage points for both the QB and the player who catches them. For instance, a 75-yard touchdown from Tom Brady to Chris Godwin on DraftKings nets a total of 21.5 points, seven for Brady (3 points for 75 yards, 4 points for the TD) and 14.5 for Godwin (1 for the reception, 7.5 for the yards, 6 for the TD).

Now imagine Brady throws for the 350 yards and 4 touchdowns, with two TDs to Godwin, who finishes with a 4-125-2 line, and two to Mike Evans, who ends up with a 7-95-2 line. If you played Brady, Godwin, and Evans together, those three players get you a combined 93 points.

Brady and Godwin making beautiful music together.

If you really feel confident that a particular offense is going to manhandle the opposing defense in a given week, there is also the four-man “onslaught” stack, where you pair the QB with three teammates, with one of them usually a running back. It should be noted that the odds of a successful stack decline with each added teammate. The most successful stacks are the mini-stack of the QB and one other player, generally the No. 1 wide receiver. But if you think there’s a six-touchdown game about to happen, and the wealth is going to be spread out across the offense, the onslaught approach can be successful.

Key reminder: don’t simply stack because you love the team or the players. We bet coldly and dispassionately around here, not for our favorite teams or players. If you’re a fan of the Rams, great. If you’re a fan of winning money, you may need to bet against the Rams. Who’s with me on being a cold-hearted money-making assassin?

Non QB-WR Stacks

Stacks do not have to be limited to the quarterback and receivers. Using basic game theory, a lead running back and the defense from the same team is a popular stacking concept. Obviously, if a team’s defense puts up a massive score, that team is almost certainly winning comfortably, and teams winning comfortably grind out the clock with their lead back, increasing the likelihood of 100 yards rushing and the three-point 100-yard bonus, and probably one or two touchdowns.

The final stacking piece that needs to be considered is the “bring it back” play. If you are stacking a three-man QB-WR combo, you are expecting a lot of scoring in that direction. But if a team is going to throw enough to pay off all three players, it stands to reason that the other team is keeping pace, the opposite of the RB-defense game theory.

If this is so, then it stands to reason that the other team is scoring, and you should have a player, usually the top wide receiver, as the correlation play to your main stack. So, if the aforementioned Buccaneers stack is lighting it up against the Bills in a shootout, and you have the salary to make it work, bringing it back with Stefon Diggs in the same lineup is a sound strategy.

It can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Bad weather, an injury, a defense rising up unexpectedly can all ruin a stacked lineup. But when it hits, especially if it’s low-owned, the stack is the best way to get rich quickly.

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