DFS strategies for small-field tournaments

Matt Harmon and TJ Hernandez share key strategies to win big among a small field.

Hear the full conversation on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

MATT HARMON: Let's talk about some of those more unique strategies because as you mentioned, it's not like winning a tournament like the ball or like we talk about. We featured that contest pretty heavily on our usual Saturday episodes. We talk a little bit about cash games and everything like that. This is like a totally different beast.

TJ HERNANDEZ: Yeah, it's really unique because when you have a game like this, where it's fewer than 100 entries, but you are still playing for first place, it's unlike anything really. Because obviously in something like a cash game, you're really just shooting for value. A lot of times you can have a lineup that could do very well in a fields of that size with only a cash game type lineup, but obviously we really want to be targeting first place.

So the two things that are very unique to a contest of this size are one, roster rates. There are players where, as you mentioned something like the Baller, the most popular players in the field might be in 30% of lineups or something like that. In a field of this size, the most popular players might be in 80% of lineups. So the aspect of trying to decide where you want to be contrarian and how much you're going to give up with a player that might be in 80% of lineups, that's a very unique strategy. And also with the field so small, those players, those roster rates, can flip really quickly. If five or six players unexpectedly decide to play a specific player, that roster rate goes up by 10%.

Probably more important than trying to figure out those roster rates is understanding how you win a tournament of this size. Now, obviously you want to have the highest score, but playing the highest projected score doesn't necessarily mean outscoring your opponents, which is more important. So in a field like the Baller or where it's tens of thousands of players, you're trying to hit as close to perfect as possible, right? You need to win against so many other players, whereas in a field of only 60 players, you don't need to hit perfect. You just need to outscore the other 59.

So one of the main strategies that I like in tournaments this size, is instead of targeting players trying to hit perfectly on every single player, is targeting one or two games and trying to hit perfect in those. If a game goes off and you have three or four of those players, they might not all score 20 fantasy points like you need in something like the Baller, but you're going to get so many correlated points from one game that you're going to be able to shoot up the leaderboard very quickly. Even if you only have a guy that's scoring 11 or 12, you're just getting so many correlated points. Whereas you need a 99.9% percentile score in the Baller to win, when it's only 60 players, you might out of the whole field on Yahoo that week, an 85th percentile score might take this thing down.

So just thinking in those terms of how can I gain an advantage on my opponents? Not hitting perfectly, but finding these spots where I can just really load up on a couple of situations. And if those situations hit, then I'm doing very well in this tournament. Hopefully winning it.

MATT HARMON: That makes a lot of sense. So like team stacks, like stacking within the same game, all that stuff, those correlated plays, those are huge for winning a tournament like this. When you're talking with the contrarian thing, I'm just going to give like a specific example and you can tell me whether this is a stupid thing or not as somebody who knows more about this than me. Like I'm sitting here, man. I watched Sunday Night Football last week and Teddy and the Broncos, everybody like everybody but Javonte Williams, was a tough watch on that Broncos offense. I don't think anybody's going to be very excited.

I literally watched the game with my fiance who knows nothing about Teddy Bridgewater, did not know he existed before sitting down on the couch at night. And she's like what's the deal with this guy in his tiny calves and throwing the ball short all the time? And I was like well, you just nailed that. Like he's so boring to watch. It's like well you just nailed the Teddy Bridgewater scouting report.


MATT HARMON: Congratulations. Anyways, my point and all that is, nobody wants to play Broncos receivers right now because these guys are all cannibalizing each other. But like let's say Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, those guys are like super great value. The salary is super low. And we these guys are good players who could hit any week. And they're playing the Lions this week. Say somebody in the final this week and the championship, goes out and plays a Courtland Sutton, and he hits, I feel like that gives you a huge advantage. It's risky, but it's a huge advantage.

TJ HERNANDEZ: Yeah and that kind of goes back to my point where if you are really high on a player, whether it's a Courtland Sutton or any other pass catcher in an offense that might not be popular, it really just makes sense to target a player like a Teddy Bridgewater and pair him with a Courtland Sutton. Because one of the things that's really tough in fields of these size, it's very hard to justify passing up on some of the best values.

So in weeks, last week, where we had an Antonio Gibson and an Alexander Mattison that were just such obvious values. Even though they might be in 70% of lineups, it's still really hard to justify that because there still is a huge advantage to having the best values in the slate on the field of that size. So how are you going to really separate from the field, even if it is only 60 players.

Having one of these unique stacks, especially if they're affordable and let you get to the best studs on the slate, is often a really easy way to separate. Because again, we're looking not just to hit perfect but that unpopular correlation. If things go right for a Teddy Bridgewater-type offense with pass catchers that nobody really wants and all of a sudden, there they score 28 points through the air, you're gaining a huge advantage on the field. Not just with the player but with multiple players with one huge situation.