How to Win on Smaller Slates

Playing a short slate in daily fantasy football takes a whole different mindset than putting together a roster in a large slate. This upcoming weekend, there will only be two different football games or four total teams to choose players from. When analyzing the slate, the same names that stand out to you are likely to stand out to the other participants as well. Therefore, there are additional levels of strategy that need to be taken into consideration in order to build a winning combination. This article will walk you through the four basic trains of thought when attempting to win with only a small amount of actual games on the slate: how to approach “chalk plays”, building a base, digging deep and not being afraid to leave money on the table.

How to Approach “Chalk Plays”

Let’s assume every single player on the Broncos defense caught the flu this week and was forced to miss this weekend’s game including the backups. The Broncos were forced to pull 11 guys off the street and start them against Tom Brady and the Patriots. There’s no question the football community as a whole would agree playing Brady is the smartest and highest probability play of the weekend along with his receivers. Unfortunately it never works out as easy as the example because, at this point in the playoffs, only the four best teams remain. However, players such as David Johnson who have been highly owned, or “chalk,” for weeks now can be counted on to yet again be rostered at a high rate yet again this week. On short slates, before ever attempting to construct a roster, you must try and identify who you believe will be the highest owned players of the weekend. From that point, it is on you to decide which of them cannot possibly fail and which of them may get outscored by other players at their position. If you cannot foresee a situation where David Johnson fails, then you will want to roster him.

Building a Base

Following up on the end of the previous section, you’ll want to compile a list of a handful of players (or less) that you feel very confident in. Assuming you have a hard time fathoming David Johson failing, you will want to stick him into your single lineup if you choose to only make one or build around him if you choose to make multiple lineups. FantasyDraft does not allow extreme multi-entries in order to keep its players first so there are only so many combinations you can use. Consequently the best strategy is to just trust yourself and build around the best bets that you have identified. From there, you can sprinkle other players who are either longshots or players with a fair amount of upside around your base. If you are confident in the base and the base hits, then you will just need one (or multiple) of the combinations around them to hit in order to have a fairly profitable experience.

Digging Deep

Instead of simply surrounding your core plays with chalk options you decided were not worthy of your base, dig deeper and roster some players who the public may not even consider. Maybe a fullback catches passes here and there or a deep threat wide receiver (WR) only plays 20 or so snaps a game. In order to separate yourself from the pack, you will need to find a non-obvious play that hits in order to pull ahead. Trust me, this is football and things never go exactly according to plan in this game. Players get injured, game scripts get out of hand (aka a team you projected to be in a close game could go up or down by a large margin early in the game) and fluke occurrences happen every week. Who would have thought Jeff Janis would catch seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns (TDs) including one on a hail mary last week? As long as you know going in that outliers are the norm, it makes it easier to insert a low-probability play into your lineup, because hey, it could happen.

Not Being Afraid to Leave Money on the Table

Last but not least, you must not be afraid to leave a hefty sum of money on the table. The salary cap is $100,000 on FantasyDraft and it’s conceivable the absolute perfect lineup could only cost $75,000 (or even less). Think about that. A greater salary does not equal more fantasy points especially with so few players to choose from. If you have already decide Larry Fitzgerald (for example) is the top player for fade (or not use) then do not spend up for him just because you have additional salary at the end of your roster construction. Leave that money on the table and go to battle with a roster that costs less than the full $100,000 because the outside the box combinations are what win on the smaller slates!

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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