The Road to the $10M NFL DFS Championship

5 Lessons

Part 1: Getting a feel for the slate

In this 5-part series, Max takes you through his exact process for researching and building his entry in this HUGE tournament.

In part 1, you'll see how he gets an early feel for the slate and what he'll be keeping an eye on throughout the week.


Hey guys, this is Max Steinberg. I’m a partner here at SaberSim and a Daily Fantasy professional, and I’m making a video today that’s going to be part of a bigger series on the DraftKings Fantasy Football World Championship. I’m lucky enough to have qualified. Here I am, MSteinberg09.

And I thought it would be cool to make a video that really just goes through my actual process of a given week starting with a day like today, Monday, where I’m just reviewing the games from yesterday. I’m looking at what direction I might go with adjustments and players I might like, players that might have low ownership, players that might help me win $2 million. And then all the way up to making some projections adjustments, doing some research and then finally actually picking the lineup that I’m going to use for this tournament on Sunday morning. So I’m very excited and I just thought I wanted to let you in on my process.

So I think the first thing that I look at, and I usually look at this basically after the games end on that Sunday, is just look at the opening lines for the football games, the Sunday. And a lot of people look at this, I think, almost every daily fantasy player is sort of using what you see at a sports book as a way to supplement their projections or make better daily fantasy picks. But I want to let you into a little thing that is sort of my rule of thumb, because I think what a lot of people do here is they look at a spread like Tampa Bay minus four or Philadelphia minus six and they make a very strong assumption about the game. Philadelphia is minus six, they’re going to win the game. They’re going to have a lead, they’re going to run the ball a lot.

And from a long-view basis, I think that makes sense. We can assume that Philadelphia is going to win this game a good amount of time and they’re going to be leading a good amount of time. But on a game-to-game basis, the only games that I’m really confident in that are going to go as “expected” are games where the point spread is seven points or more. And in those games, I can be pretty confident that, A, the team that’s favored is going to win enough where I want to take this into consideration on a game-to-game basis, and they’re going to be leading and I can assume things about game script that make more sense. So the ones that I think people go a little wrong on are these ones that are less than seven point. They see Philadelphia, as I said, and they think they’re just going to run the ball a lot. Oakland, same thing. They think this game script is Oakland is going to lead.

But what I kind of look for is, I want to look for games where sort of the assumption is one way and in reality, there’s going be a lot of times where the game script’s actually going to go differently. And one that’s standing out to me right away is Jacksonville Oakland. Because Oakland’s favored by six, I think a lot of people are going to say, “Okay, I’m going to assume that Jacksonville is not going to play with a lead.” I’m not really going to assume that. I think there’s a chance Jacksonville can play it with a lead. I think there’s a good chance they can win this game.

So I’m going to look at salaries for this upcoming week and just look at how that might affect things. So, for example, Jacksonville, I think one that’s going to immediately stand out is a Leonard Fournette. He’s someone that I’ve been on a lot in a lot of weeks and I think that he possibly is a very good play. If we look at airyards.com and we look at his target share among running backs on this here, you see 18%. That’s actually up there with guys like Alvin Kamara, James White, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey. I mean, obviously Kamara and McCaffrey are really epic pass catchers, but he really is not that far behind.

And I think a lot of people are going to look at this line and say, “Okay, well…” I am just going to look at this line and think, “Okay, Oakland is going to lead this game.” And there’s going to be a lot of scenarios where that’s not the case and Oakland’s defense is actually terrible, really, really terrible. So I think, just having a first look this week, I think that Leonard Fournette is someone that I’m interested in targeting and keeping an eye on going forward.

And obviously, we have ownership projections as well, but I think, my guess is, he’s going to be a type of player who’s under owned and $7,600 is a really good price. Another game like this, I literally did not prepare for this video, so this is really just off the cuff. I think, in general, let’s see, yeah. I would say Washington Philadelphia. So that’s actually a real interesting one too, because Philadelphia is favored by six. I’m pretty sure that Derrius Guice got injured last week. He’s questionable, right? Sprained MCL, it looks like he probably is not going to play. I mean, we’ll know more this week. So someone like Adrian Peterson who is very, very cheap that seems very, very run happy and is actually kind of capable of having a game could be a real interesting play. I mean, it sounds kind of ridiculous because it’s Adrian Peterson. He’s what, 45 years old.

Or someone like, even people might favor Chris Thompson in this game, but he’s someone that I’m probably not going to favor as much because I think that I’m going to sort of treat this more as an Adrian Peterson type game script even though they’re six point underdogs. So I think looking at this from this perspective, instead of assuming, oh, you have the over under 40, Philadelphia is going to score 23 points, Washington’s going to score 17, you look at this as, okay, what is this line saying about the scoring potential of the game and the probability of different game scripts? And I think when these numbers are below seven, people assume way too much. So that’s just one thing that I’m definitely going to be looking at. I think another one that actually stood out to me is Seattle Carolina.

Again, we’re in this minus six range where, I’m not going to assume anything here. I think a lot of people might be on Chris Carson because of this. They’re going to say, “Oh, Seattle is going to be winning this game. And so Rashaad Penny’s out, I’m going to ride Chris Carson at $7,500.” I’m not going to assume that. I think there’s a chance that Carolina could lead this game, could be leading all game. Christian McCaffrey is a total stud, 10K is a lot. It’s not that much for him. He’s someone that also I’ll be considering as well.

So another thing I’m going to do is just sort of review the past week and just see if anything stands out. So this is a free site, airyards.com, love the site. And I just want to look at, for running backs, I’m mostly looking at just target share, anything with target share that stands out. And I think right off the bat, I’m seeing Chris Thompson here who is back from a pretty long hiatus.

If Derrius Guice doesn’t play him, maybe he gets more rushes. He might end up actually becoming kind of a popular play this week. I’m not sure, I’m going to see how this shapes up. He probably is worthy of a high projection, it’s only $3,900. I think he certainly is an interesting play, I would be curious about ownership. But if that ownership is not there then I think it’s fine. Deandre Washington, 21% target share. That’s something I really didn’t expect. I mean, Josh Jacobs is the type of player who gets about 10% of targets and that’s a real standout number that says to me that he’s a better pass capture than we expected. My guess is, Jacobs plays this week and Deondre Washington he out of play. But if that’s really the case, my guess is Washington is going to become in must play territory if Jacobs for some reason does not play.

I hope he doesn’t, because I personally don’t love when I have must play running backs there. I like weeks like last week when there’s a lot of really tough choices. Aaron Jones, 25% target share. It’s definitely in his range of outcomes. Let’s see who they’re playing. They’re playing Chicago. I think he’s an interesting play. I probably is not going to chase there because it seems like they kind of just trade off between Jamal Williams and Aaron Jones. Let’s see if there’s anything else there. Melvin Gordon, I think this is really interesting. Obviously, he shares time with Austin Ekeler. Well, let’s see if he’s on the main site first because I don’t want to go into this unless he is, and he is. And he usually shares time with Austin Ekeler, right? And I think over the last few weeks we’ve seen him get more work.

This is a huge blow out. So I’m not even trusting these numbers as much, but I think his workload is sort of getting up to speed and he, historically, is a pretty high target share player in general. And because of that, he’s someone, and let’s just look at 2018, right? So let’s look at the Los Angeles Chargers from 2018. And yeah, did he not play in 2018? Or I’m not sure. Am I not remembering this correctly? Maybe he didn’t play in 2018. Okay, so let’s say 2017. We’re seeing a 14% target share. So that’s a really high number for a running back. I think we probably can actually assume that somewhat moving forward. And whenever running backs have that high target share, I think that’s someone that I definitely am going to be targeting week after week that we now, in general, that Melvin Gordon can have a big game.

So he’s someone that stands out for me from looking at those running back stats in general. I think for wide receivers, I’m usually just looking at the stat called WOPR, which I think is a great, great stat. It combines what are called air yards, which has to do with [inaudible 00:10:22] the target and target share to create sort of a composite stat that has a lot of predictive power for wide receivers.

So seeing something that stands out, Deontae Johnson, so I think it’s been James Washington, what the kids call season for the last little while, but Deontae Johnson has had a string of big games, but it looks like actually the Steelers are not on the slate. So this is sort of pointless talking about, but I’m sort of looking at these standout numbers and thinking, okay, is there something to derive from this? DeAndre Hopkins, [willful hers 00:10:56] had pretty big numbers and this is a huge blowout blow out too. Robbie Anderson, .8 WOPR. He’s really sort of come to life. I don’t know if the jets are on the main slate. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not.

It looks like they’re not on the main slat either. Really bad [streaming 00:11:15], guys. Oh, Emmanuel Sanders. He had a really big game. His WOPR actually was not outstandingly high. It actually doesn’t really stand out to me as much. Interesting, Steven Sims on Washington, that’s an interesting one. One that I did not expect there, a 26% target share with a 0.58 WOPR. I could imagine he could get some ownership in this tournament. Maybe that $3,600 of Paul Richardson’s still out. He’s probably is not the type of player that I want to play given I feel like these guys and these bad passing offenses are not great. So he probably actually doesn’t stand out to me. There’s actually not that many standouts.

I mean, I think with Miami, there’s a lot of things to think about in terms of, it is against New York. If DeVante Parker is out, that’d be really interesting because that opens up a lot of value here and Miami is very, very pass heavy, it seems like. Albert Wilson is someone who’s possibly out too. So this is a team that I do actually want to look at because I think these guys leave the game early and I think I’m going to want to do some more research as the week goes on. But a DFS favor, Patrick Laird did get a 14% target share.

I think, oh, interesting. So it looks like I need to include retired players too, because [inaudible 00:12:49] it seems to be in the retired department, even though that’s not true. So that’s somebody who stands out. Isaiah Ford clearly took DeVante Parker’s for whole, Immediately had a pretty high target share. That’s sort of interesting. I think trying to figure out Miami if DaVante Parker is out is actually going to be a pretty large key to the week because Miami is actually passing offense. That’s really fruitful given how much they pass and I think that could be interesting as well.

One more thing, I just want to look at overall is, I’ve looked at and just reviewed MillionaireMaker winners a lot. I used to have a video series a couple of years ago where I just kept reviewing the teams that got first. And one thing I noticed and I think is a really important thing in these types of tournaments is looking at quarterback and sort of looking for guys who are studs like Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson types, and looking at them in sort of match ups that don’t stand out that, maybe their prices are a little depressed because of that. And maybe because of supposed game script stuff, people are off them a little more and just look at those players. Last week, I did this with Drew Brees. He actually only came in at 4% ownership. He’s only $5,900 I wonder if someone was screaming this from the rooftops. You think, Drew Brees is $5,900 at home, and he was 4% owned? That’s crazy. I’d play him every time.

And the thing is, these guys get overlooked a lot because he’s against San Francisco and people think, oh, that’s too tough of a matchup. I don’t like it. But these stud QBs I find perform really well no matter what the matchup. And you’ll notice, if you review MillionaireMaker winners, a lot of times, these stud QBs are the guys who win. You don’t really win these tournaments with guys like Kyle Allen or Eli Manning or Derek Carr or things like that or Drew Lock. I just don’t see that happening very much. I think these stud guys really perform quite well. So looking through this, obviously, a lot of these studs are priced up pretty high.

One that I’m seeing is not as much in the over-under is a little low. Aaron Rogers is one that stands out. Dak Prescott has not been performing that well lately. I think he stands out to me a little bit as well. Kirk Cousins is an interesting one as well. 6K obviously is a great quarterback. Adam Thelin probably will be back this week. He could be an interesting stack. But I’m sort of looking for these guys who have this basically depressed salary number because there are some not ideal factors in their favor. But I think these guys upside in general are just a lot bigger than others. Kyler Murray, that’s an interesting one, only $5,600. Cleveland’s defense, I do not think is very good with no Myles Garrett. So that’s an interesting one as well. And obviously he has running upside too.

So in general, this is a real preliminary research, but obviously, I’m very excited for this tournament, I’m very excited about the possibility of winning $2 million. So taking a look at this and just going through my thought process of what I’m looking at, at first, I thought it would be really interesting. And obviously, just a few more people like Saquon Barkley, I think, is going to be a big decision point because some of these [inaudible 00:16:36], but obviously the matchup is amazing and he’s extremely frustrating. Todd Gurley is only 6K, it’s an important game. It’s really hard to figure out his usage. There’s a lot of options here. And the options are going to become more clear as injuries happen as I do more research and look through the play by play data and use my machine learning models.

And I’ll show you everything. This video series is going to really show you my whole process and really get into it. So I hope you enjoyed this video. Look for more of these throughout the weeks. I am really excited to show you just what my process is and hopefully, you’re along for the ride as I hopefully win over a million dollars if it happens. So thanks for watching and see you again soon.