Weekly (one-week) fantasy football contests have really gained traction over the past 12 months or so because of the ways it separates itself from the traditional season-long variety, but the truth is that it’s both the similarities and differences between the two game variations that make sites like DraftKings so fun. The similarities allow season-long owners to pick things up right out of the gate, while the differences create a more exciting version of the game we all love.
If you’ve played season-long fantasy football for even a moderate duration, you know that there are general principles—many of which are consistent with any sort of marketplace—that you need to follow to have success.
Well, weekly fantasy football is no different; it’s a marketplace—perhaps a purer one than season-long leagues—and the same general concepts still apply. One of them is scarcity. Why is Jimmy Graham a first-round pick? Not because of his bulk points, but rather because he’s an extremely scarce resource at his position—an outlier in comparison to his peers.
The same is true in weekly fantasy, too; Graham costs a lot of money because he is a scarce commodity. In the same way that you need to determine if a first-rounder is too steep of a price to pay for Graham, you need to figure out if using X-percent of your salary cap on him is wise.
As in season-long leagues, consistency is also a major component of weekly fantasy football. While season-long owners need to focus on both seasonal and weekly consistency, though, daily fantasy owners are concerned solely with the latter. The manner in which you create your weekly fantasy lineup is in large part dependent on how much you can trust their anticipated production—how consistent they are.
An underrated aspect of season-long fantasy football is the use of game theory—strategic decision-making that attempts to best exploit value based on the thoughts and actions of your opponents. Well, weekly fantasy football is filled with elements of game theory—specifically in tournaments, where you’re trying to juggle finding value with creating a unique lineup, which necessitates predicting which players will be popular among other users.
Finally, just like with season-long fantasy football, weekly fantasy football boils down to a fundamental understanding of risk and reward. If you can accurately assess a player’s floor and ceiling—his range of potential outcomes in a given week—you can be a successful weekly fantasy player.
As much as general fantasy football principles apply to both forms of the game, there are some major differences between season-long and weekly fantasy. The first is the salary cap, which introduces all sorts of unique strategies into the equation on a week-to-week basis. How should you allocate your money? Should you spend on the most consistent positions? Should you pay up for multiple studs and use bargain bin values elsewhere, or go with a more balanced approach?
Ultimately, the implementation of the salary cap gives you options. You are free in weekly fantasy football in a way that isn’t possible in season-long leagues. While season-long lineup decisions are generally easy and can be made in a matter of minutes, your weekly fantasy research can take as much or as little time as you’d like for the sole reason that you have options.
Because of the options you have, you will spend a lot more time looking at player matchups than in season-long leagues. Again, you only have so many lineup decisions to make when you have a roster of 15 or so players. When you can start anyone in the entire universe of NFL players, on the other hand, you’ll find yourself spending a whole lot more time on matchup analysis. This will force you to look at football in a way that you never did before. It’s like the in-season portion of season-long leagues on steroids.
And finally, the last major difference between season-long and weekly fantasy leagues—and the most important to some players—is that you can truly be profitable playing daily fantasy football. The games can be played for real money, and a whole lot of it; DraftKings is giving away $1 million to first place in their King of the Beach tournament this year, and you can qualify for as little as a quarter. Twenty-five cents!
As much fun as season-long fantasy football can be, the proposition of becoming an instant millionaire is what has weekly fantasy football soaring in popularity.