An Absolutely Vital Introduction to NFL DFS

I remember seeing a FanDuel ad on the NFL Mobile app that said, “Are you smarter than the average fan?”

The implication? If you are smarter than the average fan, you will be able to turn that knowledge into money.

Because I am a novelist (and therefore tend to see large portions of life through self-created and imagined-in-a-detailed-manner projections of the ways in which others see the world), I spent about 30 seconds playing out the following scenario in my head:

I was the average NFL fan (we’ll call this fan “Joe”), seeing that ad as I checked preseason stats for my favorite team. I thought, “Ha! – I know SO much more than the average fan. Heck, I’m one of the best players in my fantasy league every single year.” I’d heard of FanDuel, of course — I’d been seeing and hearing their commercials for a couple years — but I had never before thought about it in quite that manner: are you smarter than the average fan? After seeing that ad, I decided to set up a FanDuel account. Heck, before the season even started, I began telling my friends about how easy FanDuel is: “They even have 50/50 tournaments, where the top half basically doubles their money. Like, you know how easy that is? It’s basically like printing money! We know so much more about the NFL than most fans — I mean, we’re gonna clean up this season.”

Editor’s Note: This is one of the many valuable DFS lessons that can be found over at RotoAcademy. Click here to browse through all of our free/premium offerings and improve as a daily fantasy sports player!

This is the appeal that daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites have — and FanDuel, by promoting their site in this way, is capitalizing on the male ego, and on our tendency to think, “Um, duh — of course I know more than the average fan.” (Yes, I know that there are plenty of female DFS players as well; if you are a female reading this, consider yourself fortunate, as you do not have to deal with all the idiotic roadblocks we males set in place for ourselves through our general obstinance and baseless self-assuredness in all things related to sports knowledge!)

Of course, this ad was nothing new. This is the way DFS sites have been promoting themselves for years: “Look at this average, everyday guy who makes tons of money playing daily fantasy sports. This could be you!”

Here’s the thing, though: daily fantasy sports is about more than just “knowing a lot about the NFL” (or even “knowing a lot about fantasy football”). In fact, it’s about a whole lot more than this.

What most people entering into daily fantasy sports do not know, at first, is that the majority of the field in any given contest does not consist of “average fans.” Instead, the majority of the field is usually made up of extremely knowledgeable DFS contestants who not only carry with them the weapon of advanced knowledge of the NFL, but also wield advanced knowledge of the finer points of DFS, ranging from the best ways to approach roster construction for various types of contests, to the best ways to evaluate players at different positions, to the best ways to identify value in order to maximize a team’s ceiling.

“Are you smarter than the average fan?”

Probably. I have a buddy who played fantasy football for the first time last year. He drafted four players from the same team, and then drafted a kicker in the fifth round. He’s an average fan. You’re probably smarter than him.

“Does this mean you will be able to win money in DFS?”

No. Not at all.

Now, if you are like me, you read that and felt a strong urge to prove me wrong. “You don’t know me — I’m going to go out there and dominate this whole DFS thing. Just watch!”

In fact, I was the same way myself when I first got started in DFS. And you know what? I did win. But I’ll also tell you this: I won substantially less than I would have won if I had been willing to listen to and learn from those who had gone before me — those who had “learned things the hard way” and were disseminating information for others to consume.

It took me about three or four months of DFS play before I decided to be a bit smarter with my investment and start finding out — and learning from — what others had to say. That was one of the most profitable decisions I have ever made.

Even now, as a “known name” in the DFS community, and as someone others look to for knowledge and advice, I still make an effort to constantly seek out the thoughts and opinions of others, recognizing that we all have a different perspective on daily fantasy sports, and I can always gain new knowledge by viewing things from the vantage points of others.

You know a lot about the NFL? Great!

You kill it in fantasy football every single year? Awesome!

But trust me: this alone is not enough to guarantee success in DFS, as daily fantasy football is an entirely different animal compared to season-long fantasy football.

To illustrate this: if you have played fantasy football for any length of time, you probably know who Matthew Berry is. Maybe you love him, maybe you hate him (see what I did there? “Love/Hate”? Come on, that was pretty clever!), but that’s not the point. The point is that he is one of the most visible faces of fantasy football (is, perhaps, the single most visible face of fantasy football). He has over half a million followers on Twitter, and he follows less than two thousand people. You know who is one of those people he follows? Me.

Now, why do you think Matthew Berry would give me a follow on Twitter? Do you think he imagines I am more plugged in than him (with his ESPN/NFL contacts, and with an entire stats and research team at his disposal) in regards to what is going on around the NFL? Of course not!

But do you think there is a chance I know things about how to succeed at daily fantasy football that he does not know himself? Well, that just might be the case — and that is why a chunk of the people Matthew Berry follows consists of well-known DFS players.

Was that a situation where I just massively name-dropped in order to validate me, my thoughts, and my knowledge in your eyes? Yes — maybe it was (okay, it was). But I also wrote that to underscore just how true it is that there is more to daily fantasy football than just “knowing fantasy football.” I wrote that to underscore the fact that I have knowledge you can benefit from (and by “benefit from,” I mean, you know, winning money!).

In all, I have written four NFL courses. Which ones should you purchase?

Honestly? You should purchase all of them.

No, I’m not after your money (heck, I only get a portion of each sale made anyway!). Instead, I’m after you gaining knowledge.

People often question why DFS players such as myself are willing to share their knowledge with others. For me, the answer is simple: players who consistently lose money in DFS eventually leave DFS. They don’t stick around forever. Makes sense, right? And if winning players keep all the knowledge to themselves, there will be no one left to win money from, as DFS will be down to the top players all battling one another for scraps. As new players gain knowledge, however, they stick around for good. And as the field of “players who stick around for good” grows, the field of “players cycling through DFS” grows as well! In other words: the more “new players” and “mediocre players” are turned into “winning players,” the more DFS grows — and the more DFS grows, the more sustainable the edge good players has continues to become!

So — you ready? I have put together the knowledge and information you need in order to go from being a “new player” or a “mediocre player” to being a “winning player” (heck , this knowledge goes even beyond that; it is expansive enough to help “pretty good, but could get better” players, and it can help players at all levels to become truly dominant in daily fantasy football). Yes, it’s a lot of knowledge to consume, and it’s a lot of information to process. But trust me when I say: it will absolutely be worth your time and effort!

Start with one course, if you’d like. See if the knowledge helps you, and expand from there. (I’ve tried to be conservative with my word counts, but if you’ve read my RotoAcademy courses for other sports, or if you’ve read my RotoGrinders articles, you know that verbosity is a weakness of mine at times, which is certainly not bad for your personal expansion of knowledge, but I sure can be annoying to put up with throughout an entire course, so I do try to punch the knowledge into your gut in as direct a manner as possible!)

The courses I have written are as follows:

Everything You Need To Know For Picking Quarterbacks In DFS
Everything You Need To Know For Picking Running Backs In DFS
Everything You Need To Know For Picking Wide Receivers & Tight Ends In DFS
How to Construct Winning Daily Fantasy Football Rosters

Care to follow along on this journey with me?

Let’s turn you into one of the permanent fixtures of the DFS scene; let’s turn you into a winning daily fantasy football player!

About the Author

  • JM Tohline (JMToWin)

  • JM Tohline (Tuh-lean) – DFS alias JMToWin – is a novelist and a DFS player who specializes in high-stakes MLB and NFL tourneys, with a strategy geared toward single-entry play in multi-entry tourneys. He joined the DFS scene at the beginning of the 2014 MLB season, and has since won five DFS championship seats and two separate trips to the Bahamas. His tendency to type a lot of words leads to a corresponding tendency to divulge all his DFS thoughts, strategies, and secrets…which is exactly what he does in his RotoGrinders articles and RotoAcademy courses. You can find JM on Twitter at JMToWin.


  • renzgonzales28

    thanks for sharing yor knowledge JM!

  • bookersnookers

    I am 37 but never to old to learn even if its from someone younger then me. One piece of advice make it easier to buy all courses at once. You are losing money.

  • Riplover72

    I really like this article. You’re absolutely right about novice players learning to win, becoming better player and sticking around. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  • danliebl

    is RotoAcademy included in incentives? I am thinking of purchasing the incentives, and this would seal the deal

  • deactivated97913

    No, but the incentives thing is great, lets you build real lineups and see values etc, its just 25 or something basically for whole season… You can plug in the guys you like etc… its the biggest help of anything you can get….

  • Killermiller

    Love ALL of your articles. Beats the insight of anything I study for the week. Especially your game by game breakdown. Great info in all of them. I do agree with Bookersnookers about an option to buy all courses at somewhat of a discount compared to the one by one approach. I Will be purchasing these courses one by one to see the benefits to my entries. Thanks!!

  • JMToWin

    • x2

      2014 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

    • 2016 FanDuel WFBC Finalist

    Thanks for the input, fellas. I think the dev team at RotoAcademy may be working on something like that for the future (being able to purchase courses as a bundle, at a discount). That’s definitely something I was pushing before we got up and running, but I think there was too much else that needed to be taken care of in the way of “getting things up and running” to focus on that. Hopefully as the season moves along (or as we slide into future seasons), that will be an option!

  • JMToWin

    • x2

      2014 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

    • 2016 FanDuel WFBC Finalist

    @danliebl said...

    is RotoAcademy included in incentives? I am thinking of purchasing the incentives, and this would seal the deal

    RotoAcademy is separate. I do, however, release my full, game-by-game breakdown for Incentives members each week! It’s about 8,000 to 10,000 words of in-depth goodness; definitely the one thing I do each week that helps me more than anything else, and I put it out there because it seems to help others quite a bit as well. I get no money from people purchasing Incentives, so I’m not trying to sell you on it for personal gain; just being honest, Incentives is definitely worth the price of admission!

  • stw1423

    I have purchased the first course and so far am loving it; how to construct lineups is awesome for the beginner of Fantasy Football; the first quarter of the season last year was the first time I played DFS Fantasy Football and had these courses been available then (if it was then it was my pride and arrogance that prevented me from looking at it) I may actually be a lot further ahead this year.
    As for the current season I am committed to learning as much as I can so i can try to actually profit on a regular basis next year to enjoy a few of finer things in life.
    Recently I have picked up the Fantasy Football for Smart People by Mr Bales and am loving the information.
    I consider myself an average Joe and look forward to all that I can learn from the most profitable players in the game and perhaps one day going toe to toe with them and sharing some laughs. Only time will tell.
    Best of luck fellow DFS ‘ers!


    I think what the author is trying to say is you have to have an open mind to be successful. Think objectively and you will do well, same thing as investing in the stock market. The “herd”, or 95% of the “average” traders don’t make money. Why? Because they fail to think objectively and think they know better than everyone else. It took me months and a lot of money lost before I learned these lessons the hard way and became profitable. I just got into DFS and I can already see the similarities, they both require strict strategies and discipline, no biases. Good read!

  • doingwhatbeastsdo

    “Maybe you love him, maybe you hate him (see what I did there? “Love/Hate”?”

    Literally LoL on this one. Great read as always. Thanks!

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