Basic Game Plan Analysis

Welcome to FantasyDraft 101, the only series designed to teach you how to play daily fantasy sports and win on These articles are designed to teach the basics step-by-step to educate beginning players and assist them to becoming the best competitor they can be. With little-to-no prior knowledge on the topic, these are the fundamentals to setting competitive daily fantasy football lineups.

Basic Game Plan Analysis

Offensive coordinators and head coaches spend a full week game planning how to beat their upcoming opponent. These coaches, although they would never tell the truth to the media, analyze matchups and develop what they feel is a winning strategy. Most of these guys are logical people so if they see a weakness then they will look to exploit it. Fantasy owners should look at matchups and think what they would do in the same scenarios. Here are ways, on a basic level, to contemplate what a team might do in a certain type of matchup:

Dominant Run Defense

Top running backs (RBs), especially workhorse type backs, are tempting to start each and every week. However, last season the Lions only allowed 1109 rushing yards total, which was 167 yards less than the second best team. In two meetings versus the Lions last season, Matt Forte rushed for six yards on five carries and then 55 yards on 19 carries (2.9 YPC). Even if you liked the Bears prospects on offense, starting Forte and assuming a big rushing day out of him was just plain unreasonable.

To account for this, teams will employ a variety of strategies. The most obvious one would be to rely heavier on the passing game against dominant run-stopping teams. Sticking with the Lions example, they allowed 3706 passing yards last season which ranked 13th in the NFL. Not exactly a peon in terms of matchup but much more favorable than trying to run right at their dominant front. The second thought process would be to select a back whose specialty is catching the football. Let’s go back to the Forte example last season. Despite the poor rushing outputs, Forte caught six passes for 52 yards in the first meeting and six passes for 40 yards and a TD in the second. Instead of beating their heads against a wall, coaches will look for ways other than running the ball to no avail in order to beat the defense. Using receivers and/or receiving backs against these types of teams make the most logical sense in this example.

Dominant Cornerback

Here’s a thought process that I never really took into consideration until daily fantasy football came around a few years back. We’ll use Vontae Davis (ProFootballFocus’ number one ranked cornerback) for instance. Last season Davis did not allow a single TD to the man he was covering and he was typically matched up against a team’s best receiver. Sure football is crazy and someone like A.J. Green could line up on the opposite side for a few plays, but most of the time the Colts would like to keep Davis matched up against him. With that reasoning, and the thought that Green almost assuredly isn’t getting into the end zone, then why would you use him? Instead, using the second and third receiving options make much more sense because beating their one-on-one matchup is a much easier task. Don’t forget about the tight ends either in matchups like these because the passing game doesn’t just stop when one receiver is locked down. The game plan will just alter and the open players will be the ones on the receiving end of a majority of the targets.

Mismatched Teams

If two teams looked truly mismatched, and you never quite know in a crazy league like the NFL, then RBs could be in trouble. When a team is blowing another out, they are likely to pull at least their starting RB and replace them with a backup. For that reason, starting running backs or the change of pace backs in tournaments make a lot of sense on certain weeks. Knile Davis was the classic example last year as he’d usually receive a majority of the work when the team went up big. A lot of times the starter will see little-to-no carries in the fourth quarter which presents opportunities for cheaper priced players in the daily game. It’s a risky proposition to plan for a blowout but sometimes it makes some sense.

On the other side of the spectrum, a team likely to get down quickly will have to do a bunch of throwing. A bad quarterback (QB) may not end up with very efficient numbers but the bottom line is all that matters. Certainly the receivers have an opportunity to benefit in this scenario. Garbage time TDs win people money in the daily game and players cannot be overlooked just because the team is bad. Bottom of the barrel teams still produce points except their players usually come at a more affordable price.

Keep all of these game plan theories in mind when setting weekly lineups. If you have an inkling about the way a certain game may go, or the way a team may exploit the other’s personnel, then act on it. In all likelihood the coach of the given team is thinking exactly like you as a fantasy owner!

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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