An Introduction to Tournaments in Daily Fantasy Football
In my advanced and more mild-mannered age, I'm not willing to push for many causes anymore. The utility of over-easy eggs is an exception.
There are few joys greater in life than dipping sourdough toast into the uncooked yoke as it slowly leaks all over your plate. That's heaven, friends. But that doesn't mean it comes without its downside.
I'm a terrible cook and thus restricted to scrambled eggs when I cook for myself. I'm not about to ruin their sanctity with the ungraceful mitts I call hands. So, when I go out for brunch, that's basically the only time I can get myself some quality over-easy eggs.
Here comes the dilemma, though. Not all restaurants are outchea churning out top-notch over-easy eggs on every attempt. Sometimes, they overcook it. Other times, the yoke is already broken once it gets to the table, denying me of my moment of zen. I'm not blaming them -- cooking eggs to perfection is an art craft, yo. But there is some serious risk in ordering eggs this way.
Your tournament rosters in daily fantasy football should be the same way. Sure, sometimes, you're going to get a punctured yoke. You'll end up sobbing while you try to salvage it by shoveling breakfast potatoes down your esophagus.
Other times, though, you'll get that bliss. You'll watch your score shoot up, see your name ascend the rankings, and feel that extra dinero lining your pockets. You're just not going to get there without bringing a little bit of risk into your life.
Let's run through a basic overview of what you should be considering when you're filling out a roster for a tournament, in which only a small percentage of the entrants get paid. When you need to beat over 80 percent of your competition, things are bit different than they are when you only need to top 50 percent. Here is how I try to combat that when I fill out my rosters.
Favor Ceiling over Floor
If you read the break down on how to assemble a cash game roster, it was essentially just emphasizing the importance of finding players with elevated floor projections. While we do still want to focus on floor when filling out our tourney rosters, we should be giving preference to players with explosive ceilings.
Let's take a look at some projections from Week 9 of 2015 (because the fine peeps in numberFire's projections department are cool enough to actually give you projection intervals with floors and ceilings. They tha real MVPs.).
Prior to that week's slate of games, the Steelers' Antonio Brown had a floor projection of 5.37 points. The Jets' Brandon Marshall's floor was actually higher than Brown's at 6.81. Additionally, Marshall came at a price of $8,100 on FanDuel as opposed to $8,700 for Brown. This should lead us to favor Marshall, right?
In a tourney, Brown was very much the superior option. He entered the week with the highest ceiling projection of any receiver at 25.83. Marshall was still respectable, but his ceiling was 19.51. That 25.83-point ceiling would be enough to make Brown appealing -- even with his lower floor and higher price -- in a cash game, but he's undoubtedly the go-to for a tournament roster.
In a cash game, I give 75 percent preference to floor with 25 percent to ceiling. That's flipped in a tourney so that you can maximize your upside and give yourself a chance to finish high on those leaderboards.
Tournament Roster Construction
The biggest difference for me between my cash game rosters and the ones I use in tourneys is roster construction. If I'm trying to maximize my team's overall upside, there are a few important tweaks I make with regards to which positions I'll emphasize most.
The biggest change for me is my valuation of wide receivers. In cash games, I'm willing to focus my spending on high-volume receivers who sit in the middle of the salary range. Not in tournaments. There, I'm looking to pay up and get as many studs as I can possibly afford.
The main reason for this is volatility. In a cash game, volatility is frightening, as it robs you of a dependable floor. However, in a tourney, it's your best friend. You can't have those high-output games with regularity without a little bit of volatility. Because they touch the ball on fewer occasions, wide receivers are the most volatile of the top three positions, and you can use that to your advantage.
The chart below breaks down some of the highest-scoring fantasy games over the past three and a half years. This shows how many players at each position topped various thresholds in FanDuel scoring from 2012 through Week 8 of 2015. While the analysis shouldn't stop here (and we'll expand on volatility in a later lesson), it should show that wide receivers are intriguing in tournaments.
|Position||30+ points||35+ points||40+ points|
It's clear that wide receivers and quarterbacks are the two positions that will top 30 points most often. However, because quarterback is so matchup-dependent, you get a load of weird names on that list. Nick Foles, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Matt Schaub all ranked in the top 10 in individual scoring games over that span. Tom Brady did not. His largest game was 34.2 points, ranking 28th on that list. McCown had two games in the top 21.
This isn't to say that Brady is a bad quarterback, nor is he bad in fantasy. He was great over this span because of his consistent floor. It's just to show that you can find bad quarterbacks who will have great games in fantasy if they're in the right matchup. Those bad quarterbacks are bound to cost less, which is why I (almost always) pay down at the position in tourneys.
I have no problem with paying up for a guy like Brady or Aaron Rodgers in a cash game because their floor in good matchups is phenomenal. However, I'm not emphasizing floor as much when I'm filling out a tourney lineup. Mediocre quarterbacks have fantasy ceilings that are equal to those of the league's best. As such, I prefer to snatch a mid-to-lower-priced quarterback, giving myself more flexibility to pay big elsewhere.
Referencing the chart above, I'm also not overly enthusiastic about running backs. While they have great floors of production in most instances, you're not as likely to get a huge game from a running back as a receiver. So, when I'm deciding between a running back and a wide receiver priced at $8,900 on FanDuel, I'm going to choose the receiver 95 percent of the time.
When I'm choosing a running back, I'm looking mostly in the mid-priced range again. If I can find a running back who is generally just an all right play, but he is facing a bad defense, I'll be all in. A replacement running back on a good offense? Absolutely. But very rarely will I take one of the highest-priced running backs in a tournament as it restricts my abilities to pay up elsewhere.
The one spot where my strategy really doesn't change is at defense and special teams. Here, I'm really not willing to deviate from looking for teams that are favored and at home. I will differentiate at times from lineup to lineup, but my strategy doesn't change much. Because I'm not paying up regardless, I see no reason to change that strategy when I'm playing in a tournament.
A Note of Caution on Floor
As noted throughout this piece, your main emphasis should be on obtaining a high ceiling in your tournament rosters. That, however, does not mean -- by any stretch of the imagination -- that you should disregard floor.
I'm not opposed to using a super-cheap "punt" option in a tournament. However, in order for me to do so, I need to know that this player is going to have a role in the offense. If I'm praying that some running back who sees eight carries per game breaks a long one, I'm going to fail more often than not.
The same goes for wide receivers. Unless there is a drastic change in role, there is almost never a situation in which you should roster a guy seeing fewer than five targets per game. If there is an injury to someone above him on the depth chart or the coaches have said they are moving him up the totem pole, maybe. You're just asking to take a goose egg, and that can kill any tourney lineup, no matter how well the rest of the squad does.
With quarterbacks, the phrase I try to remember is, "Don't force it." If a bad quarterback is facing a good or even mediocre defense, then there's really no need to bring that potentially horrendous floor into your life. If they're going up against a defense that is struggling, though, I'm all in. You might as well take the gamble and see if they can achieve one of those high-output games discussed above.
This may make it difficult to figure out what you're looking for in a tourney roster. In reality, though, it's not. Because you have a player pool of the entire NFL from which to choose, you can often find players with acceptable floors at a low price. If they bring that high upside, too, then you can bet they'll find their way onto my rosters.
When you first get cooking with tournament rosters, you're going to have your fair share of duds. It happens. Emphasizing ceiling comes at a cost, and you're going to end up breaking the yoke sometimes. But when you hit those values with the high ceiling, savor that feeling, brudduhs and sistahs, because there is nothing more blissful than that.