We All Learn at Different Speeds
For some people, it was the spring of 1998, when a post-grunge Pearl Jam-meets-Alice in Chains-esque song recorded in 1995 was played nonstop on alternative radio stations.
For others, it was when they heard the first song to the second album and realized that, with no sense of irony whatsoever, someone was actually bothering to sing these lyrics in a self-serious resonant baritone that sounded like the very quintessence of douchebaggery:
Ten, nine, eight, seven,
Six, five, four, three, two, one
Seriously, even Europe refrained from singing those lyrics in “The Final Countdown” back in 1986.
But for me it was when I heard the song “My Sacrifice” in the fall of 2001. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse . . . I saw the music video — which is so bad that I won’t even link to it. Anyway, that is when I knew that Creed was the sh*ttiest band ever. When I heard the sh*ttiest song ever.
We all learn at different speeds.
This is a piece about sacrifice . . .
Sorry, I just spent about an hour watching YouTube clips of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
This is a piece about sacrifice and how it applies to daily fantasy sports.
There are many ways to think about sacrifice as a concept, but I’m specifically going to use the sacrifice in chess as my starting point. I’ve written an article on chess and DFS before, so hopefully 1) this doesn’t seem totally random and 2) you click on the link, because that’s why I bothered to mention the article in the first place.
The Sacrifice in Chess
In chess, the sacrifice is what you do when you want to show your opponent that you don’t even need to play at full strength. It’s all sorts of #burn — like when the Spurs rest their best players against a sh*t team merely because they know that they can still win playing shorthanded.
OK, that’s not exactly why one sacrifices in chess, but there’s definitely a mental component to the sacrifice. The offer of a piece can put opponents on tilt. It can make opponents rethink their strategies. It can distract them from other developments in the game. It can make them unsure of their ability to compete against someone willing to make a sacrifice. It can even make them debate whether they should capture the offered piece in the first place.
Sacrificing in chess is a way to get under the skin and into the heads of opponents.
But there are also other benefits more pragmatic in nature. Through a sacrifice, one hopes (or aims) to gain a non-obvious advantage that has less to do with the number or strength of pieces one has and more to do with the way the pieces are organized and how the game unfolds after the sacrifice is made.
You might already have a sense of how the sacrifice in chess applies to DFS. I want to explore it by means of an example from Week 5 of the NFL season.
Sacrifice No. 1: The Lesser Player
In Week 5, Ben Roethlisberger was playing at home, where he has historically been fantastic (per RotoViz):
From a DFS perspective, he’s been the best home quarterback in the NFL since at least 2014. Per our Trends tool, he has the most DraftKings and FanDuel points per game (PPG) and highest DK and FD Plus/Minus values of any home QB. When he’s in Pittsburgh, you want to roster him.
And by the time Sunday morning rolled around the Steelers were 10-point Vegas favorites implied to score a slate-high 30 points against a Jets team whose defense (per Football Outsiders) was 31st in pass Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).
Just to drive the point home: Roethlisberger in Week 5 was someone to use in tournament stacks. He was a highlighted player in the QB Breakdown, and the Stacking tool in our Player Models could’ve been used to create some Steelers stacks for tournament lineups.
And, naturally, if you’re going to stack someone with Roethlisberger then you should use the best wide receiver in the NFL, Antonio Brown, right?
Maybe not. Maybe you should sacrifice the obvious production and the Consistency of Brown and instead roster Sammie Coates in an attempt to gain a non-obvious advantage on the field, as he entered the game with a FantasyLabs ownership projection of only five to eight percent. Plus, he was a highlighted player in the WR Breakdown and the No. 3 DK WR in the Bales Model.
Per our Stacking tool, Roethlisberger and Coates actually combined to make a higher-rated DK stack than Ben and Antonio did:
It doesn’t always work out to go with the lesser player in a stack, but if you do and it does work out — which it did in Week 5, when Coates had the second-most DK points (34.9) among all WRs — you could have an outsized advantage in that your lineup is likelier to be unique and you spent less money to acquire your player — which brings me to my next point.
Sacrifice No. 2: Insufficient Funds
Let me ask a question: If you created 150 lineups, not one of which used more than $45,000, and then you entered all of those lineups in DK’s Millionaire Maker contest, how many of those lineups do you think would be unique? At least 140? Maybe/probably more?
What atrocities would you commit in the name of the fantasy gawds to ensure that each week you had 140 unique lineups in the Millionaire Maker???
If you sacrificed salary space, leaving money on the table and using only a sum that most DFS players would consider to be insufficient, would you gain an advantage? Would it be possible to make actual money by sacrificing, say, $5,000 of salary with each lineup?
Here’s the lineup that won the Milly Maker in Week 5:
That lineup used all $50,000 of the salary cap.
Could a $45,000 lineup beat that?
Yeah. Pretty easily.
• Let’s lock in the Roethlisberger-Coates stack.
• Let’s say that I lock in three other WRs who are ranked as top-eight WRs in the Bales Model.
• Let’s lock in the Bales Model’s highest-rated defense.
• Let’s ‘sacrifice’ by pivoting away from one premium tight end and toward his lesser teammate.
• Let’s grab a combination of high-priced stud running backs who get a high percentage of their teams’ carries (per Bryan Mears’ Market Share Report) and who get us close to our $45,000 ceiling.
OK, I’ll admit it. That wasn’t the first cheap lineup I made. It was the third.
This was the first:
And this was the second:
Yes, I’m making these lineups after the fact. If you’re focusing on that detail, you’re missing the point.
All of these players — literally each one of them — were options that we indicated should be in lineups, whether we said that through our Models, in our articles, or on the NFL Fantasy Flex podcast.
Each of these lineups could have been created and entered into the Milly Maker by FantasyLabs subscribers if not for one impediment: The sacrifice of salary.
Additionally, all of these lineups would’ve been unique. Without breaking a sweat, I just created three unique lineups out of players we indicated had value. Again, I’m doing this after the fact, but it’s still surprising that my first three post-tournament attempts at unique winning lineups were all successful, right?
You could’ve made these lineups — but then you would’ve looked at them and said, “I like all of those players, Labs likes them, and I want them all in my 150 lineups . . . but I don’t want them all in the same lineups, because I can’t leave that much money on the table.” Yes, you can. And, in some instances, you should.
The sacrifice would’ve been worth it.
Just to be clear: I’m not saying that you need to forgo $5,000 each time you make a lineup for a guaranteed prize pool. In fact, you almost certainly shouldn’t. More than anything, I’ve been conducting a thought experiment in order to see what is possible in the extreme. I’m not actually condoning that you make the extreme something regular. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be afraid to leave money on the table, whether that’s $1,000 or even $2,000.
You shouldn’t be afraid to do something that’s contrarian.
Tomorrow’s Contrarianism is Today’s Craziness
Throughout history, women who have been contrary have often been at risk of being declared crazy. Or witches. Either one.
What seems ridiculous today might be immensely profitable tomorrow.
It’s contrarian to prefer lesser players to superior players and to refuse to use all of your resources when competing against a large field of DFSers. It’s contrarian to sacrifice.
But contrarianism is nothing other than the laughable as it’s becoming venerable.
As Jesus told the rich young ruler . . .
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Sacrifice: The key to DFS treasures untold.
Jesus was definitely a contrarian.
And Scott Stapp definitely was no Jesus.
The Labyrinthian: 2016, 90
This is the 90th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation. Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page.