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The Two Most Common Roster Construction Mistakes

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.

Did you watch the show “Lost”?

My wife and I thought it was pretty awesome — until we watched it a second time, and we realized they truly were just trying to tie everything together on the fly. (Not as cool as when you watch it the first time and think the show is truly as intricate and well-planned as they lead you to believe.)

One of the worst parts? The “flash-sideways” in Season 6.

Hopefully, this “flash-sideways” will not be as bad as that.

In this lesson and the next, we will be “flashing sideways” to many of the roster construction elements you have already read about if you are a graduate of the course on Picking Running Backs.

If you have not yet read that course, this is all new information!

If you have read that course, this is something of a refresher, but I strongly encourage you to read this lesson and the next anyway, as we will be digging in more fully in several different (important!) areas.

Common Mistake 1: Failing to ask, “What do I lose?”

This is one of the most profitable lessons I have learned in daily fantasy sports. Hopefully, this is a lesson you can learn yourself without all the tough losses it took me to learn it:

Each time you roster a player in daily fantasy sports, you should not do so asking what you “gain” by rostering that player, but should instead do so asking what you “lose.”

“What do I lose?”

Because daily fantasy sports requires us to work with a pair of finite restrictions — 1) the salary cap, and 2) a limited number of roster spots — each player you roster causes you to lose something in these two areas.

When you roster, for example, a low-priced guy with “a very high floor for his price,” but with a relatively low ceiling, you “lose” the ability to add upside to your roster in that particular spot.

Along those same lines: when you roster the low-priced guy with the floor of zero, but the “big-play upside” that gives him a high ceiling, you certainly gain that player’s upside, but you “lose” the opportunity to raise your team’s floor at that spot on your roster.

And (the side of this mistake people make most often) when you roster a high-priced guy because you “really want to use him,” you may very well lose the opportunity to roster some of the other players you should be rostering. Sure, you “gain” the huge upside this one player has, but this may cause you to “lose” the chance to maximize your upside at other spots, which will probably end up lowering the overall upside of your team.

In building DFS rosters, most people — even most seasoned DFS players — tend to start at the top. “Who are the guys I really want to use?” This is the question most people ask — and once they have fit in the players they “really want to use,” they search around for the low-priced guys who enable them to make this team work. Rather than asking what they “lose” by rostering these high-priced guys, they consider only what they “gain.”

Over the next couple lessons, you’ll see why this is such a big mistake.

But first, let’s look at:

Common Mistake 2: Thinking only of “points per dollar”

After a couple weeks of daily fantasy football play, you will gain a pretty good idea of the points-per-dollar floor you will usually need your team, as a whole, to reach in order to cash in both cash games and tournaments.

For illustrative purposes, let’s assume a site where you have a $50,000 budget, and where 125 points generally gets you in the money in cash games, while 150 points are usually required in order to cash in tourneys.

For cash games, then, an overall mark of 2.5x salary is needed.

For tourneys, an overall mark of at least 3x salary is needed.

For many DFSers, this realization leads to constantly asking whether or not the players they are putting on their roster “can hit that salary multiplier.”

And in one sense, this is fine.

Do you see where the mistake is being made, though? Think back to last lesson (Safety and Upside) and see if you can spot it…

By worrying so much about filling up a team of players who can — in this example — hit that mark of 2.5x salary in cash games, most DFSers stick “upside” in the backseat (heck, most DFSers stick “upside” in the trunk!).

If your entire team is filled with safe, high-floor guys who can be relied on for 2.5x salary, this will be great if every guy on the team performs. But what happens when a couple guys put up duds? Who on the team has the ability to help make up ground?

Who? I’ll tell you: No one! Not on this team, at least.

Instead of building a team with a strict and heavy focus on “points per dollar,” you should…

Well, you should instead follow me to Lesson 4.

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.

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