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The 6 Secrets of Daily Fantasy Football

The 6 Secrets of Daily Fantasy Football

Transcript

Andy Baldacci:
Hey, what’s going on everyone? Thank you so much for joining us as we walk through the six secrets of daily fantasy football. My name is Andy Baldacci. I’m the CEO of SaberSim and I’m joined by DFS pro and SaberSim partner, Max Steinberg. How’s it going, Max?

Max Steinberg:
It’s going great, Andy. Excited for the football season. Let’s get into this.

Andy Baldacci:
This has been a long time coming as well. We weren’t sure if it would be coming, but it is here and we are very excited about it. And so this video is kind of a highlight reel that we’re putting together from our much more thorough guide that was called How to Beat Daily Fantasy Football in 2020. And in that video, we broke down the fundamentals of daily fantasy football and really just walked step by step through the build process from researching to actually putting all that together and building those lineups.

Andy Baldacci:
And if you want a deep dive, go to YouTube, go to SaberSim.com, wherever it is, go check out that guide and you will have everything you need to know to really hit the ground running. But for today in this video, we’re trying to keep things a little bit higher level to cut right to the chase and just give you the six secrets that we found to beating daily fantasy football. So watch this one first, if you haven’t watched either of them. And then if you’re ready for that deeper dive, head over to our site, head over to YouTube and watch the full one. But right now let’s just jump in.

Andy Baldacci:
So the first secret is find the upside. And really if there’s only one secret today, it would be this because to win at GPPs, you absolutely need to build high upside lineups. And by high upside, what we’re really talking about is just finding ways to create leverage against the field so you can take down these huge top heavy tournaments. And when it comes to upside, there are three components that we think are the most important. It’s correlations, ownership and variance. Correlations are just the relationship between two players’ performances. So when two players are positively correlated, that means that when one of them does well, it’s very likely that the other will also do well. And the opposite is true for negative correlations. Ownership just means the percent of lineups in a contest that have a specific player. And the reason this is so important is because, just as an example, say everyone in a tournament, literally 100% of people, have the same player in their lineup. And if that’s the case, it literally does not matter at all what that player does because everyone gains or loses the same amount.

Andy Baldacci:
And so what you’re doing is you’re looking for the right spots to do what’s called fading the chalk, or just avoiding highly owned players. And you’re also looking for under the radar players who can have a big game and immediately separate you from the field because very few other people have those players.

Andy Baldacci:
And then when it comes to variance, we’re just talking about how a player’s performance can vary in an individual game, because projections are going to give you an average, but performances in sports are anything but average. And you need to find the players who have a higher ceiling than others who may have similar projections. And if you want to deeper dive into how to apply those specific examples, check out that other video I mentioned, How to Beat Daily Fantasy Football in 2020. But ultimately what matters most is finding smart ways to get leverage on the field and give your lineups a real shot at taking down these big tournaments.

Andy Baldacci:
The second secret is perfecting your projections. And kind of working with a lot of players, talking to our customers, talking to just people in the space, the most common mistake that I see from experienced players is having almost an obsession with exposures. And by that, I just mean how frequently a player is appearing in their own lineups. And it’s not that exposures don’t matter, but by focusing on exposures above all else, you’re really putting the cart before the horse, because ultimately everything comes down to point projections and upside. And without considering all of that, without considering correlations and variance and ownership and the actual projections themselves, you can’t know what is too much or too little of a player. So exposures matter, all those things matter, but they all come from the projections, they all come from kind of those original inputs. And that’s why it’s important to focus on perfecting those.

Andy Baldacci:
And another thing that a lot of newer players ask is should I try to create my own projections? And honestly, if you’re not doing this professionally, if you don’t have a data science background, if you don’t have a ton of time, I’d say no. There are a lot of strong projection systems for both points and ownership and SaberSim is one of those. But unless you have a ton of free time, I wouldn’t worry about creating them from scratch. I would find a system that you like that that works for you and use that as a baseline to then get it dialed in because no model is ultimately ever going to be perfect. It is incredibly challenging to properly balance historical data with all the unique considerations that can come up each week. So while a model can be strong on average, there are still going to be things that it will miss, even the best model is going to miss.

Andy Baldacci:
And so the highest leverage thing you can do is start with a strong projection system, but to get that edge, use your own research and really get it dialed in. The more time you have available, the more research you can do, but even if it’s just 30 minutes, you can still add a ton of value to the process by focusing your research on the outliers, the ones that are jumping out, the ones that rather than trying to go through the entire list of players, it’s finding those spots that really stick out. And we’ll talk to you about a way to do this pretty quickly in a little bit. But what you’re, again, looking for are those players, those teams that really stick out and focusing your research on that.

Andy Baldacci:
And in these next two secrets that Max is going to cover, we’re going to give you some practical tips on what to look for in your research so you can actually make good adjustments because that’s another thing we’ve run into a lot is, all right, where do I even begin with us? So the third secret is pay attention to the news. So Max, when it comes to the news, when it comes to just kind of staying on top of things, what are you looking for? And why are these the kinds of things that are really difficult, if not impossible, for models to automatically adapt to?

Max Steinberg:
Yeah, I think this is going to be the number one way that you can add value because there’s a lot of data out there that you could misapply or apply doubly, something that we already do already. But things that have to do with what coaches say, something to do with subtle injury stuff like a player is playing, but he might be a little, snap counts, things like that. Those are things that if you can find good information on, that’s going to add a lot of value to our projection systems or a projection system that you’re using. And so when I’m perfecting my projections for my fantasy lineups, I’m really, really trying to be in tune with the news. And there’s a lot of easy ways to be in tune with it is there’s some sites that sort of just have a newsfeed.

Max Steinberg:
And Rotoworld is a really, really good one. If you go to their site and just go to their player news page, you’ll just see a feed of a bunch of tweets, a bunch of articles and basically excerpts that have really good information. You can also have good Twitter follows. One person I follow religiously is Adam Levitan. He’ll have a lot of tweets throughout the week that are coach’s quotes, just general injury stuff as you see here. And there’s just a lot of people you can follow. I’m sure you have some as well where they’re just going to give you really good bite-sized knowledge that’s not going to be quantified in any data. It’s going to be stuff that you can interpret and change projections for.

Max Steinberg:
And so one thing that’s standing out to me in week one, which I just saw today, has to do with the Colts’ running back situation. So the Colts have a really good offensive line. They also have three running backs. They have a rookie draft pick who’s a high draft pick in Jonathan Taylor. They have Marlon Mack who was good last season. And they have this guy named Nyheim Hines. So they have three running backs. And we’re trying to figure out, it’s week one of the season, who’s going to get playing time. How much playing time is Jonathan Taylor going to have? A lot of people expect him to have a lot. Well, not so fast. If you read this article in The Athletic, or just this excerpt from this article, this beat writer is actually saying that he feels like Jonathan Taylor is not going to play as much as people think, that he’s just going to spell Marlon Mack mid-game and keep him fresh in the fourth quarter. That’s a lot different than we perceived early in the season.

Max Steinberg:
If that’s true, the Colts have a just amazing matchup versus Jacksonville. And that means that maybe, okay, Marlon Mack, I can be higher on him. Maybe you can even be a lot higher on him. And so processing this information and just keeping up on the news and finding more things like this, can be a really, really easy way to improve your projections and improve your lineups.

Andy Baldacci:
And then the next secret kind of builds on this and that is taking advantage of all the data that’s out there. And while we have your screen up, can you just kind of walk through some of the sites that you go to get more kind of quantifiable data, things that are still useful to look at that maybe the model isn’t processing or whatever it may be, but it’s still a useful to get in your own way.

Max Steinberg:
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a lot of free sites out here. One of the ones that I go to every week is airyards.com, which is created by this guy, Josh Hermsmeyer. And there’s some really great data that has to do with how far someone’s targeted down the field that uses the NFL play-by-play data and gives us some good stats. One is average steps to target, and that gives us something called air yards and Josh actually found that air yards are a really predictive metric for predicting how well a wide receiver is going to do. So if you find something here that has some really good stat that stands out to you, that differs from maybe the projections you’re seeing at SaberSim, or the projections you’re using, you’d say, “Huh, okay. Maybe this player is worthy of a boost. Maybe this player’s worthy of negativing a little bit.”

Max Steinberg:
And I like just going through all the teams and seeing who stands out. I think you can get a lot of really good information here. And it’s really, really helpful. Obviously we’re just looking at 2019 data, but as 2020 goes on, there’s going to be more and more data. And this is a great resource to look at.

Max Steinberg:
Other things, there’s a lot of good people on Twitter. I really liked this guy, Kevin Cole. He’s a data scientist at Pro Football Focus. A lot of his articles are behind a pay wall, but a lot of times you’ll also tweet really good stuff or sort of tweet graphs and things like that that’ll help you with different contests and are going to be really useful information. [Derek Hardy 00:00:10:42] is another person. He has his own projection system. He also tweets out really, really good content about why he thinks a certain way about a certain person, why maybe this person is getting too much buzz. There’s a lot of good resources out there. Obviously there’s a lot of more sites than just airyards.com. And if you look, you’re going to find them and it can also be just a really easy way to improve your projections.

Max Steinberg:
Okay. So secret five, get your diversity through the quarterback. So the quarterback is kind of like the hub of correlations. He has a lot of correlations to a lot of different players, not just players on his own team. He has correlation to the wide receiver, tight end, running back on his team most of the time. But he also has correlations with players on the opposite team. Sometimes you will have pretty strong correlations with wide receiver, the quarterback who you’re playing showdown. Changing quarterbacks in the lineup will sort of just change the optimal construction of the lineup you’re using. And so when you’re trying to create 20 or more lineups, maybe 100 or 150, honing in on your exposure to the quarterback and changing how many lineups you have at X quarterback is going to be the best way to get diversity of your lineups, but not sacrifice that much expected value because if you change that quarterback, the optimal lineup is just going to be very, very different.

Andy Baldacci:
Then the last secret is just use the right tools. And when it comes down to it, if you can build lineups using those last five secrets that we just talked about, you’re going to be a winning player, plain and simple. But if you’re not using the right tools, it is going to take you all weekend to do this. And even then, you’re still going to feel like you’re guessing a lot of the time, because between your job, your family and just everything else going on in your life, you probably can’t set aside your entire weekend for DFS. I know I can’t, and I actually run a DFS company. So for people with more normal jobs, I can only imagine how difficult it is. But if you want to beat daily fantasy football and can’t spend hours and hours building lineups, then you need to use the right tool.

Andy Baldacci:
And SaberSim is the only lineup optimizer out there that understands the upside, which means that you can build winning lineups fast. And a lot of times when I’m talking to players, they feel that tweaking the projections and really trying to perfect those things is kind of a waste of their time because they only have so much time to dedicate to DFS. But they already are spending hours getting the rules and getting the groups and getting everything else dialed in because they have to fight with their optimizer to get good lineups. But if you’re using a tool that can kind of automate away a lot of that busy work, you’re then able to add even more value and get even more of an edge on the field by dialing in those projections that may already be strong, but can only get stronger by adding some research to it.

Andy Baldacci:
And so let me just kind of quickly show you how SaberSim works and how it can help you build better lineups in much less time than before. Working with some of the top names in DFS like Max here, as well as others, like Giantsquid, we have built and refined a one of a kind simulator that takes dozens of performance predictors and simulates every single game, play-by-play thousands of times. And it’s this unique process that gives us the data, that automates away all that busy work that traditional DFS tools bog you down with. And this lets you spend your limited time where it matters most. And so we talked about perfecting projections, but when you’re going in and just looking at this big list of players, it’s hard to know where to even start. And so one thing that we’ve done to make this easier to narrow it down is by promoting what we call a test build.

Andy Baldacci:
And so what you’re trying to do here is you’re just seeing who we’re naturally high or low on so you don’t have to research an entire slate. And we’re not going to make any adjustments. All we’re going to do is set this so that we are building for the play action on DraftKings, it’s a 20 max contest with 200,000 entries. And so I’ve put this in here, haven’t made any other adjustments, but what SaberSim is doing behind the scenes is adjusting all of our defaults to be best suited to a contest like this. And all we’re going to do is hit build.

Andy Baldacci:
And if you were to do a build like this with literally just clicking a couple buttons in a traditional optimizer without making rules, groups, whatever else and just spending a ton of time dialing things in, you would get horrible lineups because those tools simply don’t understand upside. And so without programming all of that in there, you’re not going to get lineups that have any upside in it. But because we’re simulating all those games thousands of times, we have the data that lets us understand upside and give you strong lineups right out of the box. And the more time you have available, the more players and teams you should be looking at, but regardless of the amount of time that you have, this is going to make sure that you’re able to spend it where it has the biggest impact.

Andy Baldacci:
And so what we can see here, this overall on the left is a list of all our players. We can sort through them by position, by team and everything else. And we can see what our exposure is to each of those. And so, Max, if you had a limited amount of time, say you just had 30 minutes to build your lineups, who would you be looking at? Where would you focus your research?

Max Steinberg:
Yeah, so I think where I’d focus is I’d look through the players that were getting and look at some of the value plays because missed projections or accurate projections with these types of value players are going to add the most value because little differences can make a big difference in how many players you got. So one person that stood out to me at tight end was Irv Smith. He’s 3,100, we’re getting him a lot. I might just look through the different positions and see if you see 55% exposure. I might look at running back, see the value players there and just sort of look through and keep an eye on that.

Max Steinberg:
And also maybe play the comparison game a little bit. I might sort by projection and then see, okay, let’s see, is Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler, do I think they’re similar or do I not think they’re similar? And look through the players and be like, “Should there be a bigger difference between these players?” And then maybe also look at defense because if you look at defense you’ll notice, and I think this is actually proper strategy, that SaberSim’s lineup builder actually seems to favor some of these low price defense, the Dolphins, Washington, the Cardinals, the Jets. And that’s because that probably is going to be the optimal thing is saving money at that defense. And so getting those projections honed in and finding those low price defenses that are really good are going to be key to making good lineups as well. So those are a couple of things that I’d look at right off the bat, I think.

Andy Baldacci:
Yeah. And this is, again, where when you use the right tool, when you use SaberSim, you can kind of get an advisor here. You can almost get your kind of personalized podcast where you can tell us what type of contest you’re building for. And then we’ll say, “All right, based on everything we know, here’s who we are kind of focused on.” And it’s, again, not to take that as the 100% truth, but it’s to say, okay, this just cut down everything I have to look at significantly by just showing, all right, who are the ones that stand out to me? Who should I look into? And again, the more time you have available, the more you should kind of widen the net of who you’re digging into. And if you want to see kind of how Max would do this in much more detail and how we adjust projections based on the research, check out that video I mentioned before, How to Beat Daily Fantasy Football in 2020.

Andy Baldacci:
But for now we just wanted to give you a quick overview so that you can get started. And these secrets, they work with or without SaberSim, but I really hope that at this point, it’s obvious just how much easier it is when you use the only tool that’s built for the job and that’s SaberSim. And if you want to beat daily fantasy sports and can’t spend all day… I just got tossed [inaudible 00:18:18].

Max Steinberg:
Okay.

Andy Baldacci:
I’ll just do the last part.

Max Steinberg:
Okay. I can do the last part if you want.

Andy Baldacci:
No, no. I mean, I’ll just… two sentences.

Max Steinberg:
Okay. Got you. Okay.

Andy Baldacci:
These secrets work with or without SaberSim, but I hope it’s obvious just how much easier it is when you use the only tool built for the job. If you want to beat daily fantasy football, but you can’t spend all day building lineups, then you need SaberSim.

Max Steinberg:
Yeah. And it’s going to… SaberSim saves you a ton of time and it allows you to work on the fun stuff. Do your research, hone in your projections. It makes the process of making lineups a lot more enjoyable. And the best part is you can actually try it out completely free for three days to see if it’s right for you. And all you have to do is head over to SaberSim.com, start your free trial, and you’ll be building winning lineups in no time. So if you have any questions along the way, you can reach out to our support team at support@sabersim.com or email Andy directly at andy@sabersim.com. Or you can reach out to me on Twitter. I’m @MaxJSteinberg on Twitter. And thank you so much for tuning in and good luck this NFL season. Thanks.

Andy Baldacci:
Good luck, guys.

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