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Every year we hit the mocks a little earlier, and start prepping for our fantasy football leagues. Strategies change year-to-year, as well as right in the middle of a draft. Dynasty, PPR, IDP, auction, keeper, and re-draft leagues have all brought out the best of our fantasy football strategies. The latest rave has been grabbing quarterbacks very late in the draft, or streaming them the entire season. Drafting a kicker before your last pick is also frowned upon. So what if I want Stephen Gostkowski early? Just kidding, no way I am touching a kicker early.
Let’s jump into one of the classic draft strategies, dating back to the stone age. A running back with your first two picks. Simple, reliable, safe, there is a lot to like about this strategy. Running backs have now become by committee, and just an incredibly stale selection to choose from. Missing out on an elite back can set you back big time. I just don’t like to play with fire when it comes to running backs. It is like going to a restaurant and ordering the same dish each time. You know it is going to be good, and you won’t be disappointed. The other positions are far deeper than the running back spot, so grabbing two solid backs early is a safe strategy.
The league has become a passing league, whether you like it or not. There are quite a few elite wide receivers, who are first round options. Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, those types of players. Not that wide receivers were ever not an important position, but over the last few seasons, these guys turned teams into league champions. The Randal Cobb’s, the Mike Evans’, have all blossomed in the passing league, while maybe in an era before this would have not. 16 touchdowns from a wide out is very valuable. Now this strategy views both running backs and wide receivers as equals, regardless of position scarcity. Take the best available from a pick-by-pick basis, and try and hit on one of those mid-tier players later in the draft. When you end up choosing between players like Mark Ingram, Carlos Hyde, and Lamar Miller as a reliable back, you just have to hope your research pays off.
So about that passing league thing, we don’t need quarterbacks in the first three rounds anymore. 25-30 touchdowns seems to be standard for half of the league’s quarterbacks, and they also flirt or pass for over 4,000 yards. There are elite arms like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck who kind of get a pass, but still Tony Romo in the latter half of the draft is a steal. So skip the quarterbacks early, land all those skill position players, and then worry about an arm. Phillip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill are all likely going to be there when you feel like you need a quarterback.
Taking shots on rookie players can be risky, but the odds are starting to turn in your favor. Wide receivers are coming in at a record pace and making an impact in this league. In a passing league, they are starting to produce earlier, and have more fantasy impact. This season also features a few rookie running backs. Two risky picks don’t always make a right one, but this can happen. Drafting Jonathan Stewart in hopes of staying healthy, while drafting Ameer Abdullah later on to minimize the risk. Chances are one hits, so two risky picks can often lead to fantasy gold. Whether it is kicking it old school with back-to-back running backs, or loading up in the passing game, strategies can shift throughout a draft. Best strategy is to not overthink, you know because that is easy to do.
Journey Into Daily Fantasy Football
Going on 24 years old this September, I have been playing fantasy sports for a little over ten years. Hopping into my dad’s work leagues when they needed fill-in players, or keeping it fun with the family leagues, fantasy sports has been a hobby for some time. Drafting guys like Shaun Alexander, Brian Westbrook, and even Larry Johnson for those few seasons of dominance, those were my childhood fantasy heroes. Getting home after soccer to do a quick mock draft before dinner was my thing, needless to say I loved the fantasy sports world.
Season long fantasy holds a special place in my heart, and with the changing times of daily fantasy sports, it will always stay there. A year after I turned 18, I moved from Arizona to Massachusetts, which plays a big role in all this. Arizona does not allow residents to play daily fantasy sports for money, and still up until this day. Sitting at home watching football on a cold winter day, my dad sent me an invite to join FanDuel. FanDuel was the first big site to really emerge in daily fantasy sports. Being a seasoned fantasy player already, I jumped right into it. It was the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs, and I will never forget it.
I put in $25 into one tournament, with just a single lineup. The 49ers were taking on the Packers, and this is the game you had to have players in to win. Colin Kaepernick torched the Packers’ defense for 444 total yards, and four scores. I also had paired him with Michael Crabtree, who hauled in 119 yards, and two scores. This set me up for a nice $300 winning in my first go. So I played again the next week, Julio Jones went for 182 yards and two scores. He was the player I needed, while everyone else chipped in around him. Boom! $400 bucks over two weeks of playing fantasy football in the playoffs.
Those two weeks turned my life a different direction. I have been an avid fan of all sports, and the sites were offering daily tournaments for all the major sports leagues. I started playing basketball, hockey, and baseball, to make it a year round job. Seeing the growth from the beginning has been very impressive. Prize pools of $35,000 have turned into $10,000,000. ESPN, CBS, Yahoo are all covering daily fantasy sports, and now Yahoo has launched their own platform. This is a booming industry, and it is a lot of fun to be a part of. Not to be cheesy, but that saying, “do what you love” is exactly this. This has not hindered my involvement in season long leagues, it just keeps me a busy guy.
As you start your journey into DFS, you’ll inevitably find your resources that help you the most. DFC offers everything you need including what I consider to the top FanDuel NFL lineup optimizer. No other lineup generator allows the type of customization and features. This tool helps a novice play like a shark.
Daily Fantasy Landscape
The season-long fantasy football industry had already been growing over the last 5-10 year. ESPN segments, podcasts, magazines, you name it. Now things are changing again, and moving towards a different style of fantasy football. Daily leagues incorporate a lot of season-long aspects of fantasy football, just in a much smaller time sense. You can blame it on the ADD generation, as our attention spans get smaller and smaller each year, but daily fantasy football is here and ready to be the prime way to play fantasy sports. Season-long is not getting wiped off the map, it is now just for those who still love the classic vinyl sound of music. I am one of those people, but it doesn’t mean I don’t use a streaming service too.
The daily fantasy industry really kicked off with FanDuel arriving as the big site, which was later rivaled by DraftKings. Both sites have continuously grown from year-to-year in contest prize payouts, advertising, experiences, and acquiring smaller sites. These sites have utilized guerrilla marketing tactics and relied heavily upon large TV ad budgets. Their commercials can be seen all day every day, each offering a promo code on TV for new signups. The Draftkings tv promo code enables users to go online and enter a code to receive a bonus when making a deposit. The Fanduel promo code does the same and with millions of users seeing these codes, signups jumped dramatically. These two sites are the big sharks, but now Yahoo is trying to get in on the action. They rolled out their platform this summer, which had some flaws, but was yet another simplistic daily fantasy site on the market. Football is the big sport which every site aims their best prizes towards, and that shall be no different with Yahoo. They are the first of the major sites to enter the daily fantasy world, and could possibly lead the way to others. DraftKings and FanDuel have partnered with many professional sports teams for advertising and other perks. DraftKings has offered court-side seat tournaments, suite seats at baseball games, these contests are more than just money. Although, money is a big part of why we play.
Prize payouts were in the thousands back in 2012, and have gradually grown by a hefty amount. DraftKings offered the industries’ first million dollar first prize last season, giving them an edge over FanDuel. This did not stop players from filling contests on FanDuel, showing how big the industry is already. In 2015, DraftKings is now offering a two million dollar prize tournament, and FanDuel has made the jump to a million dollar first prize tournament. DraftKings seems to be one step ahead of the game. So where does that leave Yahoo? They are in third place behind the two, and quite a ways behind. Not that there isn’t room for a third major site, but more so at this time we have a good thing going. I see them making a big splash soon, but DraftKings and FanDuel will lead the way for a long time.
Overall we are looking at an industry centered on sports lovers who enjoy fantasy sports. The games are fun, the industry is creating businesses for others, and overall it feels like one big league. The first few years have been a lot of fun, and I am excited to see where we are in another five years.