In this post, we breakdown NFL contests on some of the top daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites to help you find the best places to try out NFL contests. We start with a comparison of the standard team based contests looking into the lineup structure, salary system, scoring rules, contest sessions, and payouts. We then discuss some alternative games offered by various DFS sites in case you are interested in a different experience than the standard contests.
The standard NFL contest typically requires you to select a team of offensive position players plus a defensive/special teams unit subject to salary constraints. In the table below we illustrate each position player and how many of those players you must select to complete your roster.
To Kick or Not to Kick
Of the DFS sites, only Draft Ops and FanDuel have players select a kicker. Coincidentally both sites do not have a slot for a flex position. If you’re looking for a more traditional lineup then one of these two sites may appeal to you. Personally, I do not really care that much for selecting a kicker. Although it’s possible to accurately predict which kickers will get field goal and extra point attempts, traditionally points for kickers are heavily weighted on hitting 40+ yard FGs. Having a kicker outscore a stud RB or WR because he kicked a handful of 50 yarders is always frustrating. It’s definitely not the way I want to lose. Another reason I tend to dislike kickers is that it’s just not quite as exciting to root for field goals so selecting a kicker just doesn’t really enhance the game watching experience for me.
Power of the Flex
In DFS contests, the more flexibility you have in selecting players, the less likely you are to have ties in contests. I think this is an ideal situation since it means your lineup is unique to yourself and if you win a big contest, you don’t want to split the top payout with anyone. It also solves problems that some players have with managing salary constraints. As previously mentioned, Draft Ops and FanDuel do not have a flex slot instead opting for a kicker. With only 32 kickers available (less during bye weeks), this creates much less lineup variability than allowing players to select a flex offensive position player.
Of the sites providing a flex slot, DraftKings has only 1 whereas both DraftDay, FantasyAces and Star Fantasy Leagues give players 2 flex slots to choose from.
Two Quarterback System
FantasyAces and Star Fantasy Leagues require players to select 2 QBs to fill their lineup. There are weeks where I prefer to select more than one QB per team since I have a difficult time deciding between two guys who have great matchups. What often happens is I end up paying for multiple lineups just so that I can play both guys without kicking myself afterward for not playing someone I had a hunch on. The downside of selecting 2 QBs is that they are often the most expensive players so the site needs a good salary system to create roster balance. I will discuss the salary systems used by these sites next.
Other than the slight differences discussed in the last section, the standard lineup for NFL contests is similar between the various DFS sites. An important aspect when selecting a team is the salary system used by the site. This can make a difference on how you select your team. For the most part, the sites using a traditional salary based system have a similar approach just with different caps based on the number of roster spots and baseline salaries they use. Typically the quarterbacks are the most expensive, followed by the running backs and receivers, and finally the tight ends, kickers, and defenses are the cheapest. There are some differences that I’ll mention below.
On DraftDay, the salaries for each position are adjusted so that they are balanced pretty well. The only exception is the quarterback position which has higher than average salaries and bottoms out at $10k for the cheapest compared to $6k for the cheapest player at any other position.
Draft Ops does not currently have a salary system for any of their games, so you can essentially choose whatever players you want for your team without spending time getting your team under the salary cap. The only constraint is you must choose players from at least 2 teams. One huge advantage I have found here is that I don’t just pick players based on their assigned salary but rather how high I truly think they will score.
FantasyAces offers an alternative salary system in addition to their traditional salary games. In their SalaryPro contests, you can choose to go over the cap and be penalized points or stay under the cap and be rewarded with points. This system provides a nice tradeoff of allowing players to select the team they want while rewarding those players willing to take risks on less expensive players who aren’t projected to score as high.
The final piece of the games is how the various statistics are converted into contest points. In the lineup table above, you can also find a link to each DFS site’s NFL scoring rules. The most important scoring differences depend on how touchdowns are scored, points per reception, and turnovers.
For the most part touchdowns are worth 6 points, except for passing TDs which are often valued at 4 points. Draft Ops is the only exception to this rule. They still offer 6 points for passing TDs so that QBs are highly important. They also award 10 points for return TDs (fumble, punt, interception, and kickoff) since these are less common. This means that scoring defenses can be very valuable on this site.
Points Per Reception
The other major division between the various sites is how points per reception are handled. DraftKings, DraftDay, and Star Fantasy Leagues award 1 point per reception, whereas Draft Ops, FanDuel, and Fantasy Aces only award half a point per reception. This is huge in terms of strategy as possession receivers and pass catching RBs are not quite as valuable on the latter sites.
Finally, the sites vary quite a bit on how much you are punished if your players turn the ball over. Draft Ops is the hardest taking away 3 points per turnover. Personally, I prefer the sites that don’t punish as much for turnovers or negative plays because it causes less frustration when it happens. I like scoring that makes my game watching experience fun and big penalties are not fun. This is not as big of a deal in NFL, but players getting negative points is huge in MLB and can ruin the experience in my opinion. But I’ll discuss that in a separate MLB post.
One last unique twist on the NFL contests is from what session of games you are selecting your players. Many sites just hold weekly contests beginning either Thursday night or Sunday. DraftKings, FanDuel, and Draft Ops offer a few extra choices here. Each of these sites has multiple sessions from which you can choose. These extra sessions are often just subsets such as the Primetime only contests offered by Draft Ops or the Sunday night/Monday night contests offered by DraftKings and FanDuel. In addition, DraftKings has a wide variety of other sessions including Sunday early games, Sunday afternoon games, Sunday only games, etc.
If you’re looking to play large tourneys with relatively low entry fees but large payouts, then you probably want to stick with DraftKings or FanDuel. These two sites offer multiple NFL contests on a weekly basis with payouts as large as $1 million to the winner. If you’re looking for free contests with solid payouts, then Draft Ops is where you want to play. They currently offer a weekly free roll with multiple entries allowed and payouts very deep in fantasy cash. If you’re looking for more modest payouts with better odds of winning (e.g., 50-50/double up contests), then pretty much any of the top sites will have games for you.
Other NFL Contests
Draft Ops offers a Pick 3 game in lieu of the standard full roster lineup. The unique aspect of the Pick 3 game is you can select from many different roster combinations. The one closest to the full roster is the QB, RB, WR contests they offer (see below). However, if you’re interested in a particular position, they offer Pick 3 contests for the following combinations: QB, RB, WR/TE, Kickers, and Defense. These contests are always head-to-head contests where you are matched up with a player randomly selected by the Draft Ops system whose team is different than yours. Unfortunately they do not offer any free Pick 3 contests, but they currently offer some as low as $0.25 so there’s not a whole lot of investment required to test it out if you’re interested.
DraftDay offers a few different NFL contests if you want a change from the standard full roster contests or are interested in NFL contests without any salary constraints. They have Rapid Fire games where you choose one player from multiple sets of players. You get a point if your player has the highest score and you need either 3 of 5 or 5 of 5 points to win depending on what contest you enter. They also offer a free perfect lineup contest where you can potentially win $1 million for selecting the best possible combination of players to fill a full roster without requiring any salary constraints. Finally, they offer another pickem type game where you have to choose from a set of players which you like the best (see below). The selection system is similar to Rapid Fire except with more choices and you are actually picking a full team minus a defense and flex. This game also has no salary constraints and the scoring is based on the regular scoring system unlike the Rapid Fire. In the past, DraftDay has offered versions of each of these contests for free so you can try them out.
Star Fantasy Leagues
Star Fantasy Leagues offers Turbo drafting where the positions are consolidated quite a bit so that it’s even more flexible and quick to select. However, there is still a salary constraint system so it may not be as easy as you might want. Unfortunately they do not offer any free Turbo contests, so you cannot try them out without spending at least $1.
As you can see there is a wide variety of options available for you to choose from when playing NFL contests on the top DFS sites. We hope that this tool can be useful to you when deciding where to play games come Sunday or where you can find some unique NFL contests if the standard salary based contests have grown stale or you’re just looking for something different. For an in depth review of each DFS site or if you’re interested in signing up to play games, check out the links in the table below.
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