UPDATE: Toward the end of this post I provide a sample FanDuel lineup for Week 3 in the 2013 season. It would have scored 127 points in FanDuel. It would have performed well in all formats, winning in most double ups and 50/50s. In the $5 Sunday Rush I played, 127 points was 197th out of 3,351 (top 5.8%) and won $25.
Warning: This post is meant for newcomers to Fanduel, but it does assume some basic fantasy football knowledge.
I highly recommend football and fantasy football fans sign up and at least try out FanDuel’s free-to-play offerings. Players can sign up and play at any time during the football season, so don’t worry if you’re reading this on Week 3 or Week 17. Let’s get to the basics:
WHAT: FanDuel is a daily – or weekly in the case of football – fantasy site that allows owners to select completely new players every contest under a couple lineup restrictions. Leagues can be free or paid, with varying payouts based on game type, number of participants, etc. for paid games.
WHEN: Any time. FanDuel offers fantasy games for NCAA football and basketball, MLB, NBA, etc. Since this is a fantasy football post, we’ll say during football season. New users can sign up and start playing in Week 16 and stop playing after the second week of the playoffs if they like.
WHY: Fantasy football is fun, but when it comes to my personal tastes, weekly fantasy games are better. I like being able to start Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy on any given week. In standard leagues, decent ones anyway, one owner does not have that kind of flexibility. If you’re a fantasy owner more interested in player evaluation and weekly matchups than three-way trades and waiver wire sniping, then FanDuel — and it’s competitors, including DraftDay and Draft Street — will fit like a glove.
HOW: This one’s going to take more than a couple sentences, but the initial step is easy.
After clicking the link above or typing in the address, users are prompted to start playing with a big orange button. A popup will start users down the sign-up path. Money can be added to the account at any point, so don’t feel any pressure to deposit funds on sign-up if you don’t want to. I’m going to assume that at least some of you are going to play for cash. I recommend using a PayPal account to transfer funds. After signing up users will be prompted to get started or they can click on the home tab in the upper left side which will send them to the games page.
Picking a game to play
The site has very specific filters down the left side of the page which allows users to pick which types of games they want to play. At a glance, it also gives you a good idea about the game variants available to users. If you like some of the other games, or if you are, say, a college basketball nut, it could be a lot of fun to turn that filter on once games become available. But, for the sake of this article, lets click on the NFL tab, which will filter out all other sports.
The next set of filters will determine the types of NFL fantasy contests you will see. The all contests button is self explanatory. The next button, head-to-head, is just what it sounds like — a 1-v-1 gametype that can be free or paid. Several fantasy analysts prefer 1-v-1s. I’m not a big fan. The next button, Leagues, puts players in smallish contests against anywhere from 3 to 250 opponents. 50/50s are games where the top half of players will nearly double their entry fee ($9 wins on $5 investment, for example). The final option is tournaments, which have a varied amount of entry fees and higher payouts for the best players, but fewer winners per entry overall.
The next filter allows users to see only the games with their preferred entry fee, from $0 to $535. Click the advanced arrow to reveal the advanced tabs. The next set are pretty self explanatory. They filter out contests based on contest start time.
The final set of filter tabs determine your salary cap. Each week FanDuel determines the perceived value of each NFL skill player, say $9,500 for Peterson. FanDuel owners must select a team of players and stay under the salary cap for their game. Standard leagues have a salary cap of $60,000. Expert leagues have a cap of $55,000 and beginner leagues have a cap of $65,000.
There is one more filter option, user-created games. But unless your friend is creating games, we’re going to leave that one for the more advanced players.
I’m going to assume that if you’ve read this far you are considering playing FanDuel for money, so my example is going to be a low entry fee game. Let’s select: NFL, Tournaments, $1, All Start Times and Standard Cap. (You can select a $0 game, all start times, all salary caps and still follow along.)
The results should include a range of games which might be overwhelming to newcomers. However, each column in the listing is sortable by clicking on the header. So, for our example, lets click on the Prizes header, which should shift everything around a bit. The ones at the top of my list now are a $3K Sun Dive and a $2K Sun Squib, with $3,000 and $2,000 in the prizes slots respectively. (You’ll find FanDuel uses similar naming conventions for standard games throughout their site, including Squib, Dive, Bomb, Fumble, etc. for football.)
There are other options available, including contests to enter qualifiers for other games. But you can explore that stuff after you get a little more comfortable with the basics.
Let’s start with a $3K Sunday Dive
Let’s take a look at the listing for the $3K Sunday Dive. It should be pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll be brief. Inside the contest name column are two graphics, a G and an M. The G means the contest has a guaranteed prize pool. The M means it is multi-entry. So if you want to enter more than one lineup in the same competition you can. Next, we have the number of active entries and the entry limit, or size. The next columns are for entry fee, prizes and start time. You can click on the $3,000 in the prize listings to see the kinds of payouts for each game. Let’s do that now for the Dive.
It shows us that 325 of the 3,351 contestants, about the top 10 percent, will receive $3, triple their entry fee. The prizes increase incrementally depending on order of finish to $4 then $5 up to $30 in the top 11 and a cool $350 for the best lineup of the contest. (Don’t despair if the Dive is not available at the time you are reading this, the payout numbers are relative to entry fee and entry limit. For example, the $2K Squib I mentioned above with a 2,234-entry limit and $2,000 in prizes has a $300 top payout and at least $3 for the top 200 finishers.)
Click on the enter button for the $3K Sun Dive and let’s pick a lineup.
Picking a lineup
We’ve already discussed the contest details for the most part, so let’s skip down to the content below the black Pick Your Lineup line.
The first section is a listing of the games available for the contest. For example, primetime only contests will have only the night games from Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. Clicking on one of the games buttons will filter out all players except the ones in that game. (I overlook this tool too often and scroll for days looking for a low-priced WR3 sleeper.) To get back to the full list again, just click on the All Games button.
Next, we have the lineups section, which should be very familiar to anyone who has played fantasy football. On the left is a player search bar and tabs with the standard QB, RB, WR, etc. listings. On the right is a lineup list which shows you your available salary and roster spots.
This part of the how is actually pretty simple, pick players from the left side using the add buttons to fill slots on the right side while staying under the salary cap. You can click the X next to a player in your lineup to remove them and replace them with someone with a higher or lower salary. Don’t feel a need to use every dollar, just pick a lineup you think will be strong enough to finish in the top 10 percent, which is about the cutoff for the low-end payouts in this format.
The game won’t let you submit an overbudget lineup and it won’t let you start too many TEs.
Here’s my sample lineup with this format — which will work in any Sunday $60K salary cap league in Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season. I think it’s strong with a couple lottery ticket plays and some slightly undervalued high-priced plays, please use it if you want:
- QB: Matthew Stafford vs. WAS
- RB: Marshawn Lynch vs. JAX
- RB: Joique Bell vs. WAS
- WR: Calvin Johnson vs. WAS
- WR: Steve Smith vs. NYG
- WR: DeAndre Hopkins vs. BAL
- TE: Brandon Myers vs. CAR
- K: Robbie Gould vs. PIT
- DEF: Bears vs. PIT
After selecting your lineup click ENTER and your lineup will be saved. You will be encouraged to enter more contests at this time or you can close out the window by clicking the x or the No-thanks,-go-to-my-lineup link and go back to the contest screen. From the contest screen, you can duplicate your lineup in the same game for multi-entry contests or move on.
You can adjust your lineup until opening kickoff of the earliest game. Click the Upcoming link under the My Contests tab to see a list of your upcoming contests.
I feel like FanDuel is very easy to use and this tutorial may be a little long in the tooth. However, I don’t want fantasy football fans to miss out on FanDuel or its competitors because of any barrier to entry. If you have any questions leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter at @epCN.
Have fun at FanDuel, Ninjas. I hope to see your name and mine in the top 10 of an upcoming contest.
Other posts in this series
More advanced FanDuel tips and tricks