We currently live in a world where everything is on-demand, instant, and nobody wants to wait for anything. That mindset even applies to fantasy soccer. The Premier League season is something of a marathon and lasts around nine months.
That's why one day fantasy has taken the sports world by storm, and DraftKings is the leader when it comes to that arena. TheSportster recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of DK's leading soccer analyst, Jordan Cooper, and he gave us some insight on how to play right.
TheSportster: Give me and our readers who may be new to DraftKings a quick rundown of how fantasy soccer on the site works.
Jordan Cooper: There are basically two formats. There's classic which is all the games that are going on during a Premier League Saturday. They'll cut off the early game from the slate, at least for American users since it's very early in the morning. So the five games that went on in the main timeslot [on Saturday, August 25, 2018] and the late game was the Chelsea-Arsenal game. You pick players from all of those games and accumulate points for that. The other format is showdown which is just one game. In that format, you pick six players of any position. Obviously, you still need to fit within the salary cap, but it's only for that one game. So in the Chelsea-Arsenal game, something like Willian, and then Mkhitaryan. I mean you try to fit them in. You'll probably still have to take someone like Mustafi or some lower level players so that you can fit top players in, but that's a different format. It's still the same general concept of you're trying to score more points through goals, assists, crosses, tackles won, fouls drawn, interceptions... more so than other players in the contest. It's still the same concept just showdown because...how many forwards are there? You're not going to win with just that as there are not many people to choose from. Hey, if you wanna play both keepers and hope for a 0-0 draw, you can do that. Or you could go for a goal fest and play all the forwards. In classic, you have more games to choose from...but typically in soccer, because of the limited amount of goals that are scored, playing six people from one team is not necessarily the best strategy because you may get the Aguero hat-trick but you also have Gundogan with three points.
TS: Haha very true, although Cardiff's goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has had a great season so far.
JC: That's one thing about goalkeepers in fantasy scoring, you have to understand with people playing fantasy sports, it's not real life. You have to think in terms of fantasy scoring and that sometimes you're picking a goalkeeper not based on if they're gonna keep a clean sheet, you're picking a goalkeeper because they're gonna face a lot of shots. Now sometimes you get burned by the goalkeeper giving up four goals and getting no saves, that would be -8 points, but sometimes because they are the cheapest, you can get a $4000 goalkeeper that gives up two goals but also has seven saves, so that's 10 points. And you're able to use that salary and get better players in other positions, so that's the goalkeeper type of strategy.
TS: So how should your strategy differ depending on what DK format you're playing?
JC: There are two different types of games on DK, we put into buckets I guess. In the daily fantasy community we would call them GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pools) those are tournaments, those are where the first place pays a lot of money and it goes down from there. So that's what you put in. You pay something like $3, play against 8000 people, and first place wins $10000. The other types of games are what we call cash games, it comes from the poker world, a lot of poker people end up playing daily fantasy. Those are like the double ups, the 50/50s. You put in $5 and there are 113 people in it, and the top 50 all get $10. It doesn't matter if you finish first or you finish 50th. Like the top 45 percent. So DK takes their commission out. Playing those style of games is different to playing the top heavy, I'm gonna win $10000, $50000 type of tournaments because you're not aiming for first, you're aiming for 20th, just get enough points. That's why in those types of games, in double ups and those types of things, you're looking for people because soccer has limited goal scoring, and sometimes you can't necessarily predict where the goals are coming from. Yeah, there's Kane, Aguero, but they're also extremely expensive. You're looking for the players that accumulate points...they could score a goals worth of points without scoring a goal or an assist. So players that are primarily on set pieces, if that player's on corners and free kicks. I mean a cross is ¾ of a point, that's a corner unless they take it short. Obviously free kicks, that's going to be a shot on goal, or possibly a goal, and ties it around the ball a lot. If you think of players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Christian Eriksen and for Leicester James Maddison... those are players who may not score a goal in the game but they're so active from the peripheral points through tackles and crosses that they may score 10 or 12 fantasy points without a goal or an assist. Instead of relying on someone like Vardy who may get three shots the whole game, he could sink all three of them and you could win a tournament that way, but if he doesn't.... Glenn Murray has two touches in the box and if he doesn't put away one of them he ends up with 1 and a ½ points. Those guys typically are not good for double ups. You're just looking to accumulate as many points...
TS: In season-long fantasy, there are obviously limits on the number of players you can have from any one team. That isn't the case on DK, but is it something one-day fantasy players should be wary of?
JC: That could work out but understand that's a riskier strategy. You're looking not only for the goal but the assist for the goal. Who correlates to one another. It should be obvious that if you're going to play Sergio Aguero, don't play the goalkeeper against him. In order to win these tournaments, you need the highest amount of points you can get. If Sergio Aguero scores a hat trick and you also play the goalkeeper playing against him, you're getting -2 for each of those goals. That's limiting your upside. The same thing applies to defenders. If you're going to play Jamie Vardy this past Saturday, you shouldn't be playing Wolves defenders even if they are full backs. You don't play Doherty or Johnny Castro because if Vardy scores two or three goals then they can't get the clean sheet bonus. You've just given up three points of equity right there. You look at Jamie Vardy and you go if Vardy scores two, who gets the assist? Who benefits on this team most likely from getting that? For instance, you took Vardy, I played some lineups that had Maddison and Maguire. I'm looking at the correlation of Maddison, who is going to be on set pieces primarily for Leicester, and who's going to get the header? It's going to be one of the center backs, most likely Maguire. If Maguire does score, Leicester will be up in the game and maybe they also get a clean sheet. So Maguire could have the 12 points plus the 3 points for the clean sheet, Maddison has the assist, so when that goal gets scored I have 18 points at once. How else is Maguire gonna score? Probably on a set piece. Obviously, things could happen, scoring in the box, but that's what you're looking for. Playing players from the same team is not a bad strategy but if it doesn't go that way, now you've lost points.
TS: You mentioned earning points for things like crosses and corners. That's obviously not the case in season-long fantasy, so where exactly do points come from on DK?
JC: DK has fouls drawn. Richarlison drew seven fouls last game, well that's seven points. A goal is worth 10. Think in terms of that. If Richarlison draws seven fouls and has two shots on goal, that's the equivalent of scoring a goal without scoring one. You look at that and think well if he scores one more on top of that, that's 25 points scored. Then you take a look at defensive midfielders and you go well when is Wilfred N'didi ever getting fouled? Yeah, he may get two or three tackles won, but when does he show up with a goal?
TS: You've mentioned quite a few players already, but who are some dark horses that perhaps haven't shown up yet in the first couple of weeks of the season that you'll be keeping an eye on?
JC: The question highlights the mindset difference between playing DK and playing FPL because in FPL you pick someone up and you have to have them. In DK, I'm really just thinking about what's happening today. For instance yesterday, you have Burnley-Watford and Burnley has no depth and they're playing Europa qualifiers. You can't play these guys twice a week. You're playing Aaron Lennon for 180 minutes who isn't that good of a player to begin with. On Sunday I looked, I played Will Hughes and he scored a goal, but he was cheap. I didn't wanna invest in Andre Gray who was $2500 more and Deeny was $2000 more. I still think I'd rather take some Man City players but I still think Watford will score because of Burnley's tiredness and because I need to find a cheap player, I'm going to throw in Will Hughes and Etienne Capoue. I was more inclined to play Watford than play Burnley because of that fact, but that fact, if Burnley don't make it into the Europa League, that goes away. Then I don't view them as having no depth and playing European competition. So that's why thinking in terms of the dark horse, well who's the dark horse this week and how much are they priced? If you tell me Tottenham are playing Cardiff and Kane is minimum priced at $3000, just plug him in. How do you not pay minimum price for that? I mentioned Richarlison. Richarlison was quite expensive last weekend. He was more expensive than Gylfi Sigurdsson who accumulates a lot of peripheral points. I can understand playing Richarlison but maybe not at that price. If Richarlison was $4500 he would have been way more popular because you get more production for what his pricing is.
For more tips and everything you could possibly want to know about one day soccer fantasy strategy be sure to follow Jordan Cooper on Twitter @blenderhd and also give @DraftKings a follow while you're at it.