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Building a Winning Lineup

Salary Cap Strategy: Building a Winning Lineup Using Positional Point Targets
By Adam of

When initially faced with a blank lineup in a salary cap game on sites like DraftStreet or FanDuel, it can be a little daunting. There are an infinite number of ways to tackle the task of filling in a roster under the maximum salary cap. Do you start with studs and see how much money is left after filling them in? Do you find cheap, bargain sleepers first and then fill in the rest with the most expensive players you can afford? Do you take a risk with boom or bust players? What about players on the same team... is it wise to use teammates or should you spread your roster around with players on different teams?

As you can see, the concerns are endless. This is why I use a strategy that helps make devising a lineup a little easier and more organized. I like to call it a box strategy.

On DraftStreet, a lineup consists of two Quarterbacks, two Running Backs, two Wide Receivers, two Flex Options (who can be RB, WR, or TE), a Tight End and a Defense. What I do is put each position in a "box", as its own entity. Within each box, I have a target point total and find the cheapest group of players that I believe will reach that total.

After scouring through the hundreds of Salary Cap games I've played, I was able to determine the average total score that has over a 60% chance of winning the league... i.e. in a 10 man league, the top 3 places win money. Thus, you should strive to finish at least 3rd of the 10 players. According to my 10-man salary cap games, a total score of 125 will more than likely do it.


Next, I looked at previous year's Points Per Game (PPG) for all players.

For Quarterbacks, the elite got you between 20 - 26 PPG. The mid-tier QB's scored between 14-20 PPG. And the lowest tiered QB's scored below 14.

For Running Backs, the elite bunch scored 18 - 22 PPG, mid-tiered 12-18, and the lower tiered starting RB's 7 - 12.

The elite Wide Receivers surpassed 15 PPG, followed by mid-tier WR's who settled in the 10-15 range, and the lower tiered WR's were in single digits.

Tight Ends were less productive; elite TE's surpassed 12 PPG, mid-tiered 8-12 PPG, and the low ends were under 8 PPG.

Knowing that you need 125 total points, and knowing how many points each type of player can get, you can box out each position. The method that works for me is to strive for these total points in each position:

QB (x2) - 30 Total Points
RB (x2) - 30 Total Points
WR (x2) - 20 Total Points
Flex (x2) - 30 Total Points
TE (x1) - 10 Points
DEFENSE - 5 Points

As you'll notice, these points add up to 125. Now, if you look at the chart of the caliber of players, you get a better idea of who you can target:

- At 30 points for two Quarterbacks, you only need 15/per. That's only two weak mid-tiered QB's.

- At 30 points for two Running Backs, we're looking at two more mid-tier starting Running Backs.

- Interestingly, at 20 points for two Wide Receivers, we're also looking at weaker mid-tiered WR's

- To get 30 points at your 2 Flex positions, you can mix and match RB's and WR's, but you'll notice if you split it at 15 per Flex, if you use a Wide Receiver, then in order to get 15 points, you're looking at an elite player (thus, expensive). On the other hand, if you use a RB who gets 15 PPG, you fall into only a mid-tier RB (and probably a cheaper salary). For this reason, I almost always use 2 RB's for my flex positions.

- To get 10 points from a Tight End, once again we only need a mid-tier guy.

- As for defenses, we only need 5 points, which is relatively easy. Just pick a defense last and get the best one you can afford. More often than not, you will reach 5 points easily.

So, now that we know the caliber of players we need, and our target point totals, we can have a little fun. Your "rough draft" lineup can be made finding the cheapest players in each positional box who you believe can reach those target points. Once your lineup is complete, you tweak as needed. When you realize a winning lineup does not have to be sprinkled with a couple of elites, there is a lot more freedom. So do not fall into the trap of filling up half your lineup with studs, and finishing it with dirt cheap low end players. More often than not, one or more of those studs will have only a respectable day, while a few of the cheap players give you practically nothing. So, stay conservative. Stay organized. And avoid the temptation to use expensive studs. Good luck and as always, thanks for reading!

Related: Weekly Fantasy Football Salary Cap Advice: Don't Be Greedy.

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