What Really Matters In NFL DFS Tournaments

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What Really Matters In NFL DFS Tournaments

As the 2021 NFL season is upon us, it is important to reacquaint ourselves with the game and get our NFL DFS process ready for the new season. One of the biggest mistakes many NFL DFS players make is to get too far into the weeds and overcomplicate the process.

It is essential to boil the game down to what really matters and not get bogged down considering too many irrelevant factors. After a while, you can become confused and wind up essentially chasing your own tail when considering too many things that may or may not matter.

There are really only a few things that you need to think about when constructing NFL DFS lineups for GPPs. I will break them down here to help you simplify your process and consistently make high win equity lineups.

Player Projections

The number one thing that separates serious NFL DFS players that have a chance to win from the vast majority of the public is using a sound projection system. There are many publicly available projection systems one can choose from, many of which come with lineup optimizers to help us build our lineups. Some are even free.

We are playing a guessing game without fantasy point projections to give us a baseline expectation for players. We have little chance to compete against those who are playing with well-constructed projection systems.

Not only are projections essentially necessary for creating optimal lineups, but they take so much of the guesswork out of figuring out what players to put in our lineups. Projections are built using all of the research you could waste arduous hours doing. All that you would be researching is in the projections themselves.

Projections take into account target shares, average yards-per-reception, defensive match-ups, weather, and more. All the things you could spend all week digging through only to find yourself confused as to what really matters.

If you enjoy doing this research and seeing if you can find some edge that no one else is thinking about, have at it. Still, get yourself a sound projection system. It is worth the investment and will take a lot of the guesswork out of NFL DFS.

Ownership Projections

The second lever we need to pull for NFL DFS tournaments involves crafting our lineups based on what the rest of the field is going to do.

If we are playing double-ups and head-to-heads, our only goal is to make the optimal lineup based on our player projections. This is not the case in tournaments. We need to be crafting lineups with low enough player ownership to have a chance to differentiate ourselves from the field. We need to obtain fantasy points that our opponents are not getting. We aren’t competing in a vacuum, and playing NFL DFS is a game of beating our opponents.

Most of the same providers that offer player projections also offer ownership projections. You will also want to use your own judgment based on your feel for the game. Still, having ownership projections from a trusted source is crucial. It will get you a lot further than your own intuition in most cases.

When deciding on your rosters, you’ll want to consider the cumulative ownership of the players you are selecting and keep it within a reasonable threshold. You’ll also want to choose the players you roster based on their likelihood of success compared to their ownership by the field.

Lineup Optimizers

While not necessary, it is advisable to also use a lineup optimizer when constructing lineups. Most projection systems come with a lineup optimizer or the option to add one to the package.

If you want to mass-multi-enter contests and make many lineups, it is all but necessary to use an optimizer. That is unless you want to spend hours building one line up at a time by hand. However, even if just wanting to enter one or two lineups, there is still great utility in using an optimizer.

Not only will it help you to create genuinely optimal combinations of players based on their projections and see how optimal constructions can come together. You will also visualize your lineups with player projections and ownership projections in front of you. You’ll get a better idea of the kind of lineups you are making.

An optimizer is just a tool, a calculator, essentially. It isn’t choosing anything for you with some magic algorithm. Still, it can help put together lineups that you may not think of when constructing by hand. Based on your projections, you’ll be able to see what a genuinely optimal lineup looks like. You can then adjust to take ownership into account while seeing how your overall lineup projection is affected.

Game Theory

NFL DFS is a game unto itself, operating in a separate world from actual football being played by players on a field. You are playing a game of attempting to beat other players in DFS tournaments. The players you play and lineups you construct are like chess pieces with which you play the game of DFS against your opponents.

Early in the season, most of the field assumes they know more than they really do about how teams will operate. It is especially essential to accept what we don’t know. There are many opportunities to take advantage of public perception by doing the opposite of what others are doing.

For instance, say, a particular star running back is projected to be 40% owned based on a solid match-up with what is assumed to be a bad run defense. Then let’s say another star running back of equal talent at around the same price faces what is considered a stingy run defense and will be less than 10% owned. By simply playing the 10% owned running back, we gain extreme leverage over our opponents if he outperforms the highly-owned RB.

This is just one example, but this is the essence of using game theory to leverage our lineups against our opponents. It isn’t always about playing the strongest plays but finding pivots off of them that have a legitimate chance to outscore them at much lower ownership.


It is easy when making NFL DFS lineups to go too far looking into statistics and match-ups. We can wind up confusing ourselves and spending our time on things that don’t actually matter. Well-crafted player projections will take everything we could research into account far more than we ever could. Using player projections, ownership projections, lineup optimizers, and playing according to tournament game theory is the most straightforward process for constructing quality GPP lineups.

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