I have been playing fantasy football since 1989, so this is my 25th year of competing at various levels. I've been writing for Footballguys.com (and our prior site, Cheatsheets.net) about fantasy football for about 15 years, since 1999/2000.
However, I have not competed in Daily Fantasy Sports - until this week. Like many "Old Dogs" I tend to resist trying new things. As is true of most people, I also have a very busy daily schedule, so finding time to research and begin playing in the Daily Fantasy Sports realm has been difficult (especially during Week One of the NFL Regular season, when we Footballguys are busy publishing so much valuable information for our subscribers!).
It occurred to me that my time problems are far from unique, and that it might be useful for other DFS newbies to have someone reporting on this phenomenon from the beginner's perspective. Thus, this column was born. I hope that it has value for other novices who are dipping their toes into the DFS waters (and who don't want to get eaten by the fantasy sharks hidden beneath the surface!).
The first problem a lot of subscribers at Footballguys have is the sheer volume of material published each week, on all topics under the sun that relate to fantasy football - where do we start? I turned to five specific articles written by fellow Footballguys, which I commend to other DFS beginner's attention:
Managing Your DFS Bankroll by Steve Buzzard, 8/24/14
All of John Lee's DFS for Dummies 4-part series
Lest I offend any of the other Footballguys who write about daily fantasy sports, I will say that I chose those articles because they spoke most directly to the needs of a DFS fantasy neophyte, and not because any of our other offerings are not worthwhile. I simply have a limited time budget and the above was all I could fit into my life.
Having done the above research, I chose to go with FanDuel for my first foray into Daily Fantasy Sports - their offer to (eventually) match my initial deposit of $200 coincided with the level of bankroll I am willing to invest here in my first season learning how to play in the DFS space. After absorbing the lessons about Managing your DFS Bankroll, I decided to wager 10% of my intial deposit ($20) in this first week of playing Daily Fantasy Sports. It is enough to experience several contests, but not enough to burn through the bankroll if the results encountered Week One don't coincide with expectations. This week one strategy is intentionally conservative, as is only wise for a complete novice with a limited amount of both time and money available to invest in this adventure.
Also, we don't yet have have much data about how teams will perform in THIS season - the part of the third preseason game(s) when the various first teams faced off for about a half is the current 2014 information we have to go on. Those of us who have read the information about training camp practices found in Footballguys.com's excellent Training Camp Updates also have some insights into how the 2014 offensive and defensive squads are forming up. This lack of current data was baked into the conservative decision to put only 10% of the initial bankroll into this week's slate of games.
Having taken the plunge and gotten an account going (the easy part!), now I have to decide which players to target for my various daily squads. One of the things I do around here is write the weekly Rushing and Passing Matchups, so given familiarity with that material, one of the steps to my process this year will be to only consider players on offensive squads that have either Great or Good weekly matchups. That is, only choosing from offensive players on teams that I consider likely to have above-average results in this particular week due to facing defenses with either sub-par squads or personnel problems - like a rash of injuries or suspensions - or best of all, both kinds of issues. There are two Week One matchups featuring defensive teams with these issues that immediately leapt to mind:
1. San Francisco at Dallas. The Dallas defense is injury-riddled, wasn't very good to begin with, and also has two of their defensive backs out due to suspension this week, one of them being starting CB Orlando Scandrick. Also, as John Lee suggests we search for games likely to be high-scoring, the high-octane Dallas offense will likely put up enough points to keep the 49ers' offense fully engaged throughout the game. The 49ers' D is also down some key players due to injury (Navorro Bowman) and suspension (Aldon Smith), adding to the potential for a high-scoring affair. One concern about the 49ers offense is that it wasn't exciting during preseason, BUT you have to remember that coaches approach the pre-season games with little-to-no-game planning. Also, the 49ers actually play their opponent from the third exhibition game (usually a test run for regular season), San Diego, again during the stretch run into the playoffs during Week 16 this regular season. That likely means the 49ers plan for the August 24 contest was intentionally very drab, plain, and non-indicative of anything that the 49ers might want to do when the second contest counts later this year. Therefore, I tend to discount the 49ers' performance in that game, and since that was the only preseason game in which Colin Kaepernick had his No. 1 wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, on the field, I'm also not weighing the rest of the preseason very heavily when it comes to judging the 49ers' offense. I think San Francisco's attack will be just fine now that the games have meaning. Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will all be considered closely for Week One DFS rosters.
2. Oakland at New York. Besides have a less-than-impressive defense last year (13th vs. opposing runners; 28th vs. opposing passers), Oakland will be starting a rookie quarterback, Derek Carr, against a hard-charging, blitzing defense at Gang Green's house this week - not a recipe for success for the David Carr's little brother. The Jets aren't widely considered a strong offense, but I expect them to be on the field a LOT, and as has been observed in the past, quantity (in this case, a lot of offensive downs for the Jets) will have a quality all its own. Though the game may not be high scoring in aggregate, I expect the Jets to have plentiful opportunities to score. I also like how Jace Amaro has developed chemistry with Geno Smith this preseason, and think PK Nick Folk might have a place on my DFS squads this week.
As I will be taking breaking news and updated injury reports into consideration while crafting my Week One DFS squads right up until kickoff on Sunday (I am putting my own money on the line here, after all), I will publish my final lineups and results from Week One 2014 in next week's edition of Old Dog Learning New Tricks. I hope that you, the reader, will check back in to see how a fellow DFS beginner fared in the first week of the 2014 season, along with sharing some thoughts about DFS in Week Two.
Good Luck everyone, I hope you win ALL your leagues this year!