How to Beat NFL Showdowns
Hey guys, this is Max Steinberg. I am a partner at SaberSim, and a daily fantasy professional. I’m here to make a video all about NFL showdowns. So if you don’t know, FanDuel and DraftKings have NFL showdowns, which are these one-game daily fantasy contests that have gotten incredibly popular over the last three years. They’re fun and simple to play, and they’re actually pretty beatable but they require a different approach than full DFS slate with let’s say 10, 11 or 12 games. So in this video, I’m going to talk about how the contests work and how you can use SaberSim to beat them.
So, let’s just look at these DraftKings offerings in FanDuel, and explain showdowns for people who haven’t seen them before. I’m sure most of you have, but let me just talk about it for a second. So unlike other daily fantasy contests, they are based on just a single game. On Thursday, this next Thursday, it’s going to be a Houston/Kansas City week one game, right? And instead of having a lineup with different positions, it is positionless. But, there’s one caveat which is you can designate a captain or MVP, and that player is going to score one and a half times his normal fantasy points.
So let’s say Tyreek Hill, you choose him as the captain and he has a 20 fantasy point game. He’s going to give you 30 fantasy points, and that gives a lot more lineup permutations and combinations, and changes strategy quite a bit. So, what is the actual strategy for these tournaments? Well, I’m going to get into that for a second, but I just want to talk about why I feel SaberSim is really, really well-suited for showdown strategy. Because what a lot of pros like myself try to do when they’re trying to make showdown lineups is, they try to think about what might actually happen in a game. Because in showdowns, there’s a huge concept of how someone does relative to someone else, in making your lineups good.
For example, let’s say Deshaun Watson you think is going to have a really good game, and he has a good one. He scores 30 fantasy points, when we project him at 22. However, in that certain game outcome, Patrick Mahomes then is forced to throw a lot, and he gets 40 fantasy points. Well, the fact that we like Deshaun Watson actually does not help us here. Having him in the captain’s spot over Patrick Mahomes would be a detriment to your lineup, and you’re not going to win that million dollars that you really want to win in these tournaments, right?
And so everything you are doing is trying to optimize your lineup, not for the highest score, but the highest score given a certain game outcome. You could try to sort of optimize for an 80 DraftKings points lineup, if that 80 DraftKings points lineup is going to be an optimal lineup in a certain game outcome. And the thing with SaberSim is, as you know, we are built on a one-of-a-kind simulator. So we take our data and we use all our models, and we run it all through our simulator, and we simulate these games thousands of times. And what that gives us is a range of outcomes for players, their correlations to different positions, but it also just gives us actual simulations that you can build your lineups off of, which I’m going to get to in a bit.
But that’s going to allow us to make some really, really great lineups for you for these showdowns. So, let’s just get into the keys of making showdown lineups. So I have three keys that I’m going to illustrate here, and I think the first thing is, focus on the little guys as much as the big guys, right? A lot of people are going to look at this and be like, “Okay, I want to make my Patrick Mahomes projection perfect. I want my Tyreek Hill projection perfect.” But what you actually should be focusing on is making your Harrison Butker projection perfect, your Sammy Watkins projection perfect, your Kansas City backup running back projection perfect. Because you do that, you’re going to make those lineups where your sixth best guy is going to carry your team, right?
And so we’re going to want to do some research, and I think the best way to start is to just look at news, right? So Kansas City, for example, let’s just look at their team for a second. This is a week before the season, so we don’t have 53-man rosters yet. But if you look at Kansas City, we have four running backs projected. We have their first-round pick, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He’s projected a lot, but then we have these three guys at the bottom, DeAndre Washington, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams. If we can make a decision of who of these guys should be projected better than the other, that might help us a lot.
And so I think a best practice is just, go to Rotoworld, type in let’s say Darrel Williams, like I did here, and you’re going to find this player page, right? And this player page already has some really good, actionable information, right? So we see here, one, DeAndre Washington is in danger of being cut, right? So even if he doesn’t get cut that says to me, “Okay, well, is he really going to be someone who plays a lot?” Probably not. However, this beat writer for The Athletic, Nate Taylor, thinks that Darrel Williams will be the number two back and might even split rushing attempts with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. So that already gives us some great information, which you probably would not have looked at, that is going to be really helpful. You wouldn’t even think of it.
So I might give Darrel Williams five. I might give Darwin Thompson, keep it the same, and I might put DeAndre Washington at one, right? So now we’re focusing a little bit more on the little guys. Another person to focus on is some of these wide receivers. I think Randall Cobb really stands out, right? We have him projected at 5.6. Now, Randall Cobb did sign a 27 million dollar contract in the off-season, and if you look at Airyards.com, another free site I love to use, and you just look at some of the stats on Dallas you can see he actually had 83 targets last year, with a decent target share, a decent aDOT. He has some good stats, so he’s some guy that I’ve heard some people I respect on Twitter talk up. He’s someone, instead of 5.6, I’m probably going to have him about around eight, right?
And so you want to make sure that you’re focusing on these little guys, and making sure their projections make sense. I think also as well, I’m probably going to lower Kenny Stills a bit, because I think Cobb is going to get more playing time than him. Sammy Watkins is another person I’ve done research on. I think I’m going to raise him. I think Mecole Hardman, the buzz might be a little overrated here. I think he’s still working behind Watkins. And now we have what I would feel like is just better projections. I might lower the Chiefs’ defense, but I’m not going to focus on it that much. I’m going to do actually a lot more in the post-build process.
So, speaking of the post-build process, let’s talk about a build. So one thing that I think is the second key is using actual simulations, which we’re going to take care of for you. So have our build settings here, and I’ve shown the advanced ones, but these are the default settings. Smart Diversity is set at very high, and what that means is you can watch a video. That’s Smart Diversity on my YouTube, if you go on SaberSim’s YouTube page, if you want to hear a lot more about it. But essentially when it’s set to very high, it means we’re actually going to build your lineups based on just the results of two or even one simulation, right?
And that’s going to help, because our lineups are going to be optimized for what we simulate might happen in the game, which is what a lot of people try to do. So we’re going to use these default settings. We’re going to start build, and what’s going to happen is, Saber is going to build us some lineups. I just want to illustrate this point, because the difference between optimizing a lineup for just projection and optimizing it for what might happen in the simulation, right?
Because if we optimize for a projection, the lineups are going to look wildly different, right? It’s going to be doing just completely different things. We’re going to have a wide array of captains. But if we actually optimize for Saber Score, then it’s going to look wildly different. It seems to favor Darrel Williams. It seems to like Sammy Watkins a little bit, and it seems to be game stacking QBs a lot, which if you look at the correlations, opposing QBs are very correlated to each other and that’s really helpful.
So interestingly enough, I think that the fact that Darrel Williams is someone we get a lot, may have to do with that I boosted his projection a little too much and I might want to fix this later. But I think it’s an interesting thing, because if Clyde Edwards-Helaire does not get as much playing time as we think he does, Darrel Williams becomes a really good play. And so in the sort of game states, he becomes really, really optimal. So I actually think seeing this exposure is really important and says to me, “Okay, I want to get him in our lineups.”
But so the third key to this is, let’s actually use our post-build tools to take some angles, right? So I want to see what we sort of get in the captain’s spot, so I’m going to lower some exposures and see what’s here. I honestly am sort of loving what we’re getting here. I think wide receivers in general have high variance, and I think this is a unique slate because a lot of people traditionally would just want to put the high-scoring player in the captain’s spot. But the thing is on DraftKings is, there’s some high salaries here.
So let’s say we’re like, “Okay, well, I want Tyreek Hill in the captain’s spot. Okay, I want to pair him with Patrick Mahomes. I want DeShaun Watson with that correlation. Oh, crap. I only have like 3,000 left.” So different showdown slates are going to look differently, but in this one it seems like there’s actually some value at saving the captain’s spot. And so I think what’s interesting here is, it seems like Darrel Williams in the captain can actually have some good value, right? And so I think I’m definitely going to keep some lineups with a captain. I think Randall Cobb in the captain make some sense as well. If we have Randall Cobb, he’s someone who could be the highest-scoring wide receiver on Houston. I certainly believe that. I’m going to want to research playing time a little bit more and feel certain about this, but I think he could be someone.
I think Sammy Watkins as well. Obviously, if we look at Sammy Watkins from last year, he’s in a high-powered offense. He actually had a 20% target share, like he’s a good wide receiver. Obviously, he’s capable of some big games. So these are three players that [inaudible 00:11:15] I’m going to want in my lineups. I’m really curious also to see the Harrison Butker lineups, if they make sense to me. Because if intuitively they don’t, I might just zero him out of my lineups. We give you that ability in the post-build process. I can just say, max exposure five and we’d only get him once, or I can zero him out and we won’t get him at all, but I’m not going to do that yet.
But let’s see these lineups that we get with him. So Harrison Butker, Patrick Mahomes, Mecole Hardman, Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Will Fuller; what is the type of game that this could happen? I think this does make a little sense. This is going to be a low-scoring slate where Houston really fails to move the ball, does not do very well, and Kansas City does do well, well enough where they’re scoring quite a bit, but maybe not scoring touchdowns. They’re getting some field goals, and getting Harrison Butker in here allows us to get Kelce, and Edwards-Helaire, and Mecole Hardman, and allows us to get that stack with getting some pretty good points in the captain.
Will Fuller coming back I think makes a lot of sense, and obviously he would probably get a lot of receptions if they’re drilling a lot. So it makes sense that we could have a Harrison Butker lineup, so I don’t know if I’m going to remove him at all. I do think I’m going to cap my Darrel Williams exposure until it would come closer to game time, but I think you can use the same angle. If you’re doing 20 lineups, you can mess with this a lot. But if you’re not you can also … If you’re saying, “Okay. I want to make one or three shared as a single entry,” I would look through this and just see what game states make sense and seem the most likely to you, right?
So okay, let’s look at this one. Darrel Williams, Tyreek Hill, David Johnson, Patrick Mahomes, DeShaun Watson, Harrison Butker; this is an interesting one. It doesn’t stand out to me as a game state where I’m saying, “God, I really think this is going to happen,” or especially likely and stands out, so I’m going to go down a little bit more. Interesting; Darren Fells, DeShaun Watson, Will Fuller, so this is an interesting one. This could be sort of a lower-scoring game state. It could be Tyreek Hill has a big touchdown with Patrick Mahomes, Darrel Williams gets some runs, and then DeShaun Watson has a few passing touchdowns, maybe one to Fells, maybe one to Fuller, but there’s not a lot of yards in this game. I think this makes sense, so I might choose this one, right? Or just look down and see which ones stand out, right?
But what you can also do is just sort of use this post-build process to take an angle. Be like, “Is there anyone else I want to take an angle on?” Well, as we said before, I don’t really like Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I think Darrel Williams is going to get more run than people think. So I might just take the angle that I’m just not going to use him a lot, and give him 10% exposure, and let some other guys take up that ownership, right? David Johnson; Houston traded for him. I think it makes sense that they would run with him a lot. They traded DeAndre Hopkins for him … That they would use him a lot, that they might run the ball more. So he’s someone I like. I might do this to get more exposure to him. I might raise the amount of lineups that are there so I can get him into captain, and then give him 10%, and then change this again.
And so again, I think in general the important part of showdown more than ever is going to be this post-build process. Because basically what we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to just stuff the angles and the lineup types that we want into our lineups, and not worry about projection as much. Because you know, I don’t really care that this is projected at 93, and this line is projected at 95. I just care about, “Okay, if the game is simulated, would this be the best lineup? Yes? Okay, well, let me get lineups with these players, because I want these types of lineups.”
So, it’s kind of like a unique strategy and it allows you to take advantage of this post-build process, which I think is really, really fun. And I haven’t done much research yet. I probably, if I was just making 20 lineups, I probably would take some more definitive angles. Maybe I’d use a lot of Darrel Williams. Maybe I’d use a lot of David Johnson. Maybe I’d use a lot of Sammy Watkins. Do some more research, think about the angles you want, and then instead of adjusting projections, adjust your lineups in the post-build process to get those players.
So, those are a few layers that I think SaberSim can give you a nice edge in showdowns. I think they are contests that you can get an edge on, and they’re really fun, and it reminds you to think a lot more. It’s a lot less about projecting and a lot more about, who do I want to take an angle on? What players do I want to focus my lineups around? And then let SaberSim pick those lineups for you, because we’re simulating the games and they’re going to be the most optimal lineups for a certain game state. So, hope you enjoyed this video. NFL season is just around the corner, and SaberSim does have a great promotion, which is you get a three-day free trial by signing up, no strings attached. Sign up for us on Wednesday. You can use us for a Thursday showdown. Hopefully you’ll like us enough and pay for a subscription, so you can use us for NFL week one. Try us out. See what you think. So thanks again for watching, and good luck with your lineups.