Guide to DFS Stacks (Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Apr 30, 2019

Stacking Matt Ryan with Julio Jones has proven to be one of the most productive DFS stacks over the years

Whether you’re playing your daily contests at DraftKings or FanDuel, it’s important to understand one of the basic tenets of DFS strategy: stacks. Stacks involve playing two or more players from the same team in a single lineup. By “stacking” players, you can theoretically accumulate more points based on the performance of two players rather than one. Of course, matchup and opportunity play a role in how and when you should stack as does the type of daily game you’re playing and the positions you decide to stack. Let’s take a look at all of those factors with a quick primer on DFS stacks for fantasy football contests.

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Matchup/Opportunity
Here are the matchups you should be targeting:

  • Weak opposing defenses: Players facing weak opposing defenses are a no-brainer, and they tend to score more than their weekly average in those matchups.
  • Potent offense: It’s hard to go wrong stacking players from a potent offense. Combinations like Aaron Rodgers/Jordy Nelson and Matt Ryan/Julio Jones have been valuable stacks over the years.
  • Poor defense: Yes, you should target offensive players who play on a team with a poor defense. Think of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 2018. The offense was forced to air it out constantly to try and keep up with opponents who were scoring on their defense.
  • Potential shootouts: This one calls to mind a couple of the elements listed above in strong offenses and weak defenses, but it’s a great idea to check out over/unders prior to kickoff to look for the most lucrative matchups. An O/U of 55.5 means there are a lot of points projected and some quality players to be stacked.

GPP vs. Cash Games – How Should You Stack?
There is an important distinction between the two types of daily games you’ll be playing, and understanding those distinctions will give you a better understanding of how (and when) to stack. Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPPs) games pay out a small portion of entries in a top-heavy order based on score. Multiple entries are allowed. Cash games are 50/50s or head-to-heads (H2H) where winners all receive a flat prize. Multiple entries are not allowed.

Players selected for cash games should be safer in order to break even with the rest of the field and gain a share of the prize, while players selected for GPPs should be more of the high-risk/high-reward variety in order to reach the top of the leaderboards and earn a big payday. There’s a lot more money to be had in GPPs, which means taking calculated risks are absolutely recommended. Calculated risks are ones that are educated and based in logic rather than pulled out of the air for no clear reason.

Contest type plays a role in how players are valued based on price. In cash games, it’s not a bad idea to go with a popular stack so that you can keep up with the rest of the field, especially if that stack looks to be extra productive on a given week. Paying up at QB and WR may seem tough to do, but there’s a lot more to lose by going against the grain and falling out of the group of winners. In GPPs, playing popular stacks is not always the best idea, especially because you’ll be toe-to-toe with many others who have the same player combinations. Keeping up is a cash strategy, but separating from the pack is a GPP strategy. That’s where contrarian stacks come in to play, but we’ll get to those later.

Player Combinations
A two-player stack is the most commonly used and recommended option. Let’s take a look at the most common stack, the QB/WR stack. There’s a reason this one makes so much sense. Both players benefit from and have a direct correlation to one another’s success. The idea is that QBs receive points for passing yards and passing TDs and WRs will receive points for those same receptions and TDs. This combination is the most lucrative and always the most recommended when stacking.

A less common stack is QB/RB because neither player necessarily needs the other to succeed. In fact, a run-heavy offense can actually make a QB/RB stack a poor choice because only the RB stands to be productive. However, stacking these positions can be very effective because it may be a contrarian play (more on that later) and a pivot from the crowd. Pass-catching specialists are valued in stacks for the same reason that receivers are valued — receptions. If you can find a good matchup for an elite pass-catching back, go for it. A Cam Newton/Christian McCaffrey stack in 2018 proved to be a DFS boon for much of the season.

A QB/TE stack can be valuable given the right matchup. The TE position is such a wasteland, and paying down for a lower-tier option based on matchup is a smart move in both GPP and cash games. However, it’s a better move for GPPs when the price is affordable and the TE has a lot of upside. A reasonably-priced TE can be paired with a more expensive QB to create a good mid-priced stack.

Three-player stacks are less common, but they can work too in a very juicy matchup. Consider a three-player stack from 2018 — Jameis WinstonMike EvansCameron Brate. This QB-WR-TE stack made sense at times. Tampa Bay’s defense was atrocious all year, the team had a lack of a running game, and they played from behind a lot. Even more bonus points were involved when the Bucs played a weak opposing defense.

QB-WR-WR and QB-WR-RB can all work too if that matchup or opportunity is right. Keep in mind that three-player stacks carry much more risk because of an “eggs in one basket” approach, but they are best for cash games.

Filling Out the Roster
Once the stack is complete, the rest of the roster needs to be filled out too. Again, we need to be aware of the contest type in which we’re playing. In cash games, if you’ve gone with a stack that may be popular, safe, or both, you should fill out the rest of the roster using the same player type. Guys with upside are fine, but players with a wide variance of outcomes are not recommended. The core of your team is built around the stack, so don’t sabotage the entire lineup by rostering players who could fall flat on their faces.

Likewise, your stack in GPPs should be made up of players that aren’t the sexiest picks, but who could return a lot of value and enable you to pay up at other positions. High-upside plays should be mixed with consistent studs as you’re able to afford them, and the recurring theme is to maximize value and scoring potential.

Contrarian Stacks
You can’t really get much safer than selecting a top-tier QB/WR stack. Think Peyton Manning/Marvin Harrison, Tom Brady/Randy Moss, Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown, or Patrick Mahomes/Tyreek Hill. However, going along with the crowd won’t win you much cash, and that’s why you’re playing DFS. Calculated risks are a necessary part of successful DFS lineups, and that’s where contrarian stacks come in. These are stacks that go against the grain and will give you an advantage over the competition.

Contrarian stacks, by nature, are made up of players whose ownership is contrary to the majority. You can’t get silly with these, though. Contrarian stacks are a risk, but they must be educated risks. In 2018, a Nick Mullens/Dante Pettis stack may have seemed crazy, but it scored a lot of points on a couple of occasions, enabling managers who played it to cash out. Look for smart values without getting cute or too far out into left field.

Conclusion
Understanding player stacks in DFS contests is a necessity, and a good stack could be the difference in cashing or losing your money. There are a number of factors that play into stacking strategy, and being aware of those factors will help you to make smart decisions when setting lineups for daily contests. Good luck, and happy stacking!


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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.  window.

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