2019 DFS Primer

Turn the Page

Ah, September at last. Another football season begins, full of hope and expectation.

To get in the spirit of a new season, I recommend you set your dials not to the football highlights you’ve been watching but to a timeless classic.

With that settled let’s go over what’s new for the blog in 2019 and get you ready for Week 1.

What’s New in 2019?

DFS Ratings

Standings Preview

Last season I teased about this and now it’s finally ready. Kind of.. DFS ratings for the Milly Maker will go live next week once I publish the Week 1 Recap article.

Other sites use a gross revenue based approach that is clearly bad since it doesn’t take into account actual profit. Ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to go on a crusade saying X player only made Y dollars and clearly sucks and is a fraud. I’d like to, I really would, but the reality of the situation is I could never be certain I have an entire players sports betting portfolio including DFS contests and therefore never be certain about my numbers. There may be some unethical behavior uncovered but don’t pay too much attention to P/L in a vacuum.

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My main goal from the standings is to create advanced metrics on DFS entrants to enable deeper strategic analysis I do on this blog and for my own lineups.

DFS Mailbag Questions

Dragonite's Mailbag

New this year I’ll be taking “Mailbag” questions. Before Tuesday send me any questions or things you’d like me to look at in that week’s recap article.

Submit your questions to my twitter, matteo@sportsdatadirect.com, or leave a comment somewhere on the blog.

Intro to the Recaps Post

Many new readers have questions on the metrics I use and how I come up with them. This post should help explain everything I do on the blog and serve as a glossary to new readers. By all means I don’t expect my analysis to be above reproach so please feel free to send me suggestions, flag an issue, or critique what I’m doing. With this post things will be out in the open in an easy to critique and understand format.

Like the ratings, this post will come out the same time as next weeks recap.

Intro to Python for Data Science Course

I don’t ever talk about what I do for my main source of income on here. I’m a freelance data scientist who gets clients mostly through Upwork. I love to code but started this blog as an exercise in being less tech focused. Why you may ask?!? I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as a tech person that views tech as a hammer and every problem the nail. The Milly Maker recaps and how I approach DFS started as a way for me to approach data as most of my clients do. Results-focused and not a tech-first mindset.

Over time I’ve gotten more confident in the value of these recaps and my approach to DFS so I’m finally upping the tech through the rankings and advanced metrics. That’s not to say I do super basic analytical work with the recaps, I think my optimal lineup pruned player pool and using FP-Growth to find significant stacks from every entrant is more advanced than most.

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This year I’m excited to be launching a course on Udemy that will give you a foundation to using Python for your own data science or data analytics problems. It’s suitable for anyone with a background in Excel that wants to learn code or hasn’t used Python for Data Analysis before. And all the examples will be sports betting focused

In the course I’ll teach you how to use Python to compute statistics, scrape web pages, and use open source projects on Github. My goal through the course is to give you what you need to begin working on data projects of your own in Python. Whether that be in sports or something you use in your career is all up to you.

Be sure to sign up to my email list to be notified when the course launches.

If you really want to get started learning now I’d recommend this course from instructor Jose Portilla.

Python for Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp
Learn how to use NumPy, Pandas, Seaborn, Matplotlib, Plotly, Scikit-Learn, Machine Learning, Tensorflow, and more!

The course will provide you with core knowledge that will give you a great foundation for a career using data. It’s broader than mine on data science but less on practical things. I want to create a very concise course for you all.

Best Resources for DFS Post

Laptop Studying

Best Resources for Daily Fantasy Strategy

This is a new post where I highlight useful research papers, podcasts, and anything I think is good material for a DFS player. I’ll update it over time and feel free to suggest things.

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Last Year in Review

Two Milly Maker Winners!

Last year was a very exciting year for this blog. We had not one but TWO readers win the Milly Maker! Nickelback4Lyfe in Week 4 and Slaytations the week after! No idea if we’ll have any this year but I’m proud they said they found these useful.

I had a good season myself last year wagering $20/week — I took home 2nd and 6th in a 25K field contest last year and generally had no terrible weeks. But frankly I’m jealous I haven’t had a huge win yet.

It would be a dream to win the Milly Maker. I’m feeling confident in the analysis we do that I’m going to scale up from the $1 entry contests. I’m going to enter a few Millionaire Makers this year and higher than $1 multi-entries.


I want to be clear I am in no way affiliated with last year’s Milly Maker winner Nickelback4Lyfe. I just like his approach to lineup building and data.

Check out his new site DFSForecast.com and see what he’s posted on Reddit. The site has a pretty good free optimizer and he talks a lot about how he builds lineups on Reddit.

Recapping 2018 with Optimal Lineups

2018 was an exciting year. For me the big themes were mobile QB’s, anything is possible (see BUF@MIN), lots of game stacks, and paying up at RB.

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I like to look at optimal lineups every now in then because that should truly drive DFS strategy. Not always what’s played (but focusing on played lineups is a good floor on what you should expect to do if you are a perfect DFS human).

Best Lineup Possible Appearances
Alvin Kamara 4
Travis Kelce 4
Christian McCaffrey 4
Todd Gurley 4
Zach Ertz 3
Tyreek Hill 3
Ezekiel Elliott 3
James Conner 3
Josh Allen 3
Adam Thielen 3
Mitchell Trubisky 3
Miami Dolphins 2
Tarik Cohen 2
Saquon Barkley 2
Robby Anderson 2
Michael Thomas 2
Aaron Rodgers 2
Matt Ryan 2
Kansas City Chiefs 2
George Kittle 2
Eric Ebron 2
Drew Brees 2
Davante Adams 2
Chris Godwin 2
Baltimore Ravens 2
JuJu Smith-Schuster 2

All of these players appeared more than once in 2018 optimal lineups. Notice no Patrick Mahomes! Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky were better in DraftKings. And Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley were both huge in 2017 as well as 2018. Who will take that spot in 2019?

2019 Expect Trends to Continue

So far DraftKings pricing for Week 1 seems similar to what they did in 2018. RB’s are pricey but there’s plenty of value at QB. Carson Wentz, Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins, and even Nick Foles below $6000 looks like good value. I’d expect similar trends to continue and roughly follow the below distributions.

position DST QB RB TE WR
points count 17.00 17.00 41.00 22.00 56.00
mean 19.18 36.63 34.51 28.85 32.69
std 3.49 6.67 5.82 7.40 6.60
min 13.00 25.04 19.00 15.50 19.80
25% 17.00 33.52 30.90 22.42 28.98
50% 18.00 35.90 34.20 28.50 32.35
75% 22.00 41.98 37.50 33.72 35.78
max 25.00 46.46 52.70 42.80 52.70
salary count 17.00 17.00 41.00 22.00 56.00
mean 2811.76 5847.06 6846.34 4736.36 5475.00
std 455.36 669.06 1976.88 1556.72 1745.15
min 2000.00 4400.00 3000.00 2500.00 3200.00
25% 2500.00 5600.00 5000.00 3500.00 3900.00
50% 2700.00 5800.00 7000.00 4350.00 5000.00
75% 3100.00 6300.00 8600.00 6200.00 7150.00
max 3500.00 7000.00 10000.00 7100.00 8600.00
points/$1k_salary count 17.00 17.00 41.00 22.00 56.00
mean 6.94 6.34 5.37 6.66 6.40
std 1.42 1.38 1.41 2.63 1.80
min 4.19 4.10 3.11 3.34 3.15
25% 6.19 5.43 4.30 4.77 5.09
50% 6.67 6.19 5.00 6.21 6.49
75% 7.60 6.96 6.65 7.92 7.54
max 9.23 9.06 8.49 14.25 11.76

Notice that $5,800 for QB’s and ~$2,700 for DST’s look like sweet spots based on the mean and median’s being similar. But really I would focus more on the ranges in this chart, that’s how Warren Buffet finds value and you should too. It’s a great way to handle uncertainty.

Week 1 Primer

Expect the unexpected. Here’s a quick summary of 2017 and 2018

2017 Week 1 Recap

Week 1 Matchups, Yahoo PPR Preseason 2017 Rankings — A few rookies did great. Tarik Cohen dominated against the Falcons with just $3000 salary, Kenny Golladay did well against his $3,600, and Leonard Fournette did well in his debut too. But overall it was a poor week for fantasy points led by consensus #1 PPR drafted player David Johnson’s injury.

2018 Week 1 Recap

Week 1 Matchups, Yahoo PPR Preseason 2018 Rankings — The biggest shock of the week was the Buccaneers beating the Saints in a shootout. The Saint’s D was expected to be good and Fitzpatrick wasn’t great the year before. He was the 38th ranked QB!

This is truly a testament to the notion how we overestimate how bad or good things are. Fitzmagic’s $5k salary on DraftKings was great value for a dome game as the undisputed starter thanks to Winston’s suspension.

The other shock was James Conner showing how little Le’Veon Bell mattered.


I avoid giving too many predictions. All I’ll say is that I’d expect similar trends in optimal lineup distributions to last year to remain given the similar DraftKings pricing. Good luck this year!

Matteo Hoch

Matteo Hoch is the founder of Sports Data Direct and maintains a personal blog called Ergo Sum where he writes about data visualization and coding. You can generally find him in the DraftKings Sunday $3 early only contests under username mhoch2

2 Responses

  1. eric neuner says:

    Looking forward to the continuation of your recaps! Week 1 was pretty exciting with some lineups garnering over 300 pts!

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