After a two-year hiatus, college football returned to the lineups on both DraftKings and FanDuel in 2018. College sports – primarily football and basketball — had always been popular on DFS sites, but amid the legal turmoil that enveloped the DFS world in 2016, both sites agreed with an NCAA request to cease college football and basketball contests.
But the people have spoken and the major sites re-introduced college football slates in 2018. You’ll never look at Saturday afternoons the same way again.

HOW IT WORKS

The goal, as with all Daily Fantasy contests, is to create a roster of players under a salary cap that collects the most points in a given contest. The higher up the leaderboard you finish, the more money you are likely to win. In general in tournament play, roughly 22 percent of participants win money. In cash games, the percentage increases to about 27 percent or more, but the pay structure is radically different.

As with NFL DFS, there are minor variations in roster construction between the two main sites, but in college DFS, those differences are much less impactful. On DraftKings, rosters consist of eight slots: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, a flex and a “super” flex, which allows for the use of a second QB. The salary cap is $50,000.
On FanDuel, the salary cap is $60,000 and there is only the one “super” flex slot for a total roster of seven. As with any slate in any sport, it’s what the user does with his salary cap that makes all the difference.

CASH GAMES

“Cash” games refer to contests that primarily include head-to-head play or double- and triple-up type games, where a 27-40 percent range of participants win the same amount of prize money. For instance, in a $5 double-up, 100 out of 229 entrants will win, and all 100 get the same $10 – the “double” amount of the entry fee. A triple-up might have 9 of 31 entrants winning three times the entry, and so on.

What makes this type of game paramount is making sure all your selections collect points. Unlike the boom-or-bust world of large-entry tournaments (GPP), in cash its safety first. Ownership is not nearly the concern – indeed, if there’s a can’t-miss play, you almost have to use him, lest he go off for 40 points that you can’t make up somewhere else on the roster. It’s not uncommon to have players with 80 or 90 percent ownership in a cash lineup.

Concurrently, it is not the optimal choice to stack players from the same team in a cash game, as opposed to tournaments. It’s the same theory that you don’t want to risk a zero from your players. If you use three players from the same team and they don’t produce, now you’re left in an enormous hole you won’t dig out of. Safety first is the name of the cash game.

GPPS

Large-field tournaments are slates with huge entry levels, in the tens of thousands. There are some that can feature well over 100,000 entrants. They are known as GPP tournaments, because the prize pools in these behemoths are guaranteed by the sites. If you are playing in large-field GPP you are doing everything you can do be different and unique from enough people to fill several college stadiums. This can be done by not using all of your salary cap; teams that leave between 3,000-5,000 in salary tend to not be duplicated by others, as the default for the great majority of players is to use the entire salary cap. Another way to differentiate a lineup is finding the low-owned sleeper plays that score big and vault a lineup up the leaderboard. Finding those players requires some work, but research well worth the effort when it hits.

INCORPORATING VEGAS ODDS

Daily Fantasy is illegal in Nevada (and a few other states), but the marriage between Vegas odds-making and Daily Fantasy success is critical. In the world of DFS, the point spread and, most important, the over-under are road maps to find the offenses most likely to have success, making individual players in potential shootouts far more valuable than guys likely to take part in a defensive struggle. A point spread of three points or less in a game with among the highest 0/U totals on the board screams of a back-and-forth shootout with multiple touchdowns from both teams. Grabbing as many pieces from a game that shoots out is the fastest route up the leaderboard.

KNOW YOUR TEAMS

Unlike the NFL, where scouting 32 teams is relatively easy, especially after a month of preseason. With the college game, you have well over 120 teams and no two are alike. Knowing how a particular team likes to play and what they’re good at on both sides of the ball goes a long way toward identifying which players to use and whom to avoid.

For instance, schools the run the option is less likely to have high-scoring wide receivers, but do make for great stacking options, as both the QB and main running backs tend to soak up most of the yardage and touchdowns.

Conversely, an offense that utilizes a high-powered passing game is the place to look for wide receiver stacks. It’s also extremely valuable to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each teams’ defense. With so many options in a given week, using a running back against a top-10 rushing defense makes little sense, when that triple-digit ranked run defense is on the slate somewhere.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Another major difference from the NFL is the general lack of injury news. There is no injury report in college, so teams are under no obligation to provide detailed injury updates. But news does get out, and if you are Twitter-savvy, you can find out which backup RB or WR is going to featured in a high-scoring offense at minimum salary on the sites. Those nuggets can help you break a slate. Be sure to keep an ear to the ground and an eye on the little blue bird.

SALARY/POINT EXPECTATIONS

Obviously, because of the salary cap, you can’t just jam in all the best players into your lineup. The question at the heart of all Daily Fantasy games is where to find those players who will exceed salary expectations in a given week.

DFS players and analysts talk a lot about paying off salary, and as is also the case in the NFL, that means is finding players who will score double or triple their salary in points. Top QBs in college DFS tend to run around 8,000 or 9,000 in salary. Top running backs usually check in around 7,000 and wide receivers in the 6K range. Finding QBs that will score about 24 DFS points, or any RB-WR that hits 20 points is going to take you far on a given slate.

VALUES

Obviously, because of the salary cap, you can’t just jam in all the best players into your lineup. The question at the heart of all Daily Fantasy games is where to find those players who will exceed salary expectations in a given week.

In college, the best source of value is identifying a reserve player who, for whatever reason in a given week, is being thrust into a starting role after DFS salaries have been released. Maybe there’s an injury or a suspension. Suddenly, a player who is at minimum salary is in position to score points as though he were a top-salary performer. A player at $3,500 in salary who scores 30 DFS points is a slate-breaker, which again makes keeping an eye on news throughout the week an invaluable tool.

As the season progresses, taking advantage of statistical trends helps identify those players who are primed to exceed expectations in a certain week. Which defenses funnel passing production over the middle to tight ends and possession receivers? Which teams stop the run, but give up huge swaths of production to running backs as receivers, making pass-catching running backs hugely valuable and downgrading those teams’ ground-and-pounders? The trends are what will make or break your weekly matchup.

OWNERSHIP

Tracking ownership numbers is another key data point in determining which players to use in certain contests. In cash games, ownership percentage is not nearly as important, but in large-field tournaments, with so many entrants and a myriad of possible lineup combinations, identifying players who will be lesser owned can be critical to success. In the college game, you can usually expect the high-profile players on Big 5 conferences to attract ownership. People want to be able to watch the players they’ve drafted. But sometimes it’s the smaller conference players on a given slate who play in wide-open offenses and quietly put up huge numbers. Don’t sleep on these sleepers.

STACKING

Another strategy that lends itself to large-field tournament play is stacking your lineup with multiple players from the same team or both teams in the same game.
The most basic and most common form of stacking is to take the quarterback and top wide receiver from the same team. In 2019, one of the most popular stacks will feature Houston QB D’Eriq King and WR Marquez Stevenson. A popular QB-RB stack will be Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.

But the stacks that can really break a slate are three- or four-man stacks of the same offense. Think last year with Ohio State (Haskins, Campbell, McLaurin) and Oklahoma (Murray, Brown, Lamb). Those high-flying offenses produced huge amounts of points in the passing game and were ideal for stacking if you had a few cheap plays to help make the salaries work.

By stacking and collecting all the points those players produce in the same game, players can soak up enormous amounts of points all at once. The only challenge is that often the best stackable stars are also the most expensive on the slate, leaving all other positions vulnerable. Finding the low-priced stack is always a winning formula.

CORRELATION PLAYS

In the same spirit as stacks are correlation plays that let game theory dictate a lineup. If a player can correctly map out how a game is going to progress, using that game theory can be applied to roster construction. If you see a team that has both a high-powered offense but struggles on defense, sprinkle in assets from both teams, including both QBs if affordable.