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DFS Strategy Tips & Advice: Roster Stacking

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jul 7, 2020

Whether you’re new to daily fantasy sports (DFS) or a grizzled old veteran, you know that there are plenty of different strategies and nuances that go into lineup building. One of the most common among them is roster stacking, and today, we’re going to dive into the ins and outs of this popular DFS technique.

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What is it?

Stacking means including more than one player from the same team in a single entry for a DFS contest. The easiest way to illustrate stacking is with the NFL. In football, the quarterback throws primarily to wide receivers and tight ends, so for NFL DFS contests, popular stacks include: QB/WR or QB/TE, or QB/WR/TE.

Who to Target

Now that you’re familiar with the technique, let’s take a look at how we can target player stacks.

Look for Exploitable Matchups
One of the first things to look for when stacking is an exploitable matchup. A weak defense which surrenders a lot of yards or touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks or pass-catchers is a great target for stacking. Let’s say the Falcons are facing a porous secondary in Week 5 of the regular season. In that case, it’s a great idea to play Matt Ryan and one (or more) of his pass-catchers like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, or Hayden Hurst.

Game Script
An exploitable matchup doesn’t just have to be a weak defense. Examining game script and pace are great ways to build successful stacks. If we take the example above, let’s say that Atlanta is playing a team with a stout run defense or a team likely to win in a blowout. In both instances, game script dictates that a quality stack would be Ryan and a receiver or tight end.

On the flip side, Atlanta is playing a team with a weak run defense and a losing record. They are favored by a touchdown. In this case, it’s a better bet to stack the running back with the team defense. A RB/DEF stack is another common approach, because teams who are able to win comfortably don’t usually need to throw the ball a lot and will be trying to eat clock with the run game. A comfortable win usually means a poor showing from the opponent, which is good news for the team defense.

Another common example is pace in the NBA. A team that runs more plays than average is a fast-paced team, while a team that runs fewer plays than average is a slow-paced team. Teams with slower paces playing against teams with faster paces are said to be playing in “pace-up” spots. The opposite is true of fast-paced teams playing slower-paced teams. Stacking players in pace-up spots is a great strategy that can yield quality results.

Use Vegas
When it comes to stacking, over/under and point spread should be a regular part of your routine when building DFS lineups. As mentioned above, game script and defensive matchups can be key components to stacking the right players, and Vegas can help you in the identification process.  The over/under of a game is a good indicator of the total amount of points that will be scored between both teams. A higher over/under indicates more points scored, while a lower over/under indicates less points scored. Players in games with higher over/unders are likely to have more opportunity as a result of all the scoring, while players in games with low over/unders are likely to see fewer opportunities.

The spread gives us an idea of which games will be competitive and which games will be blowouts. A point spread of Falcons -1.5 means the Falcons are likely to play in a close game and are favored by 1.5 points against the opponent. Conversely, a line of Falcons +10.5 means the team is an 10.5-point underdog in a game that could get ugly. We can utilize game script through the methods listed above, with Vegas odds providing us a nice road map to exploitable matchups.

Pay close attention to the injury report, as you can frequently find value plays for your DFS entries. Let’s say you’re all-in on Atlanta’s offense for your lineup and want to stack Falcons in a matchup against New England. You’ve got Matt Ryan in at quarterback, but both Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley have food poisoning due to some bad clam chowder. Someone’s got to catch passes, so target receivers farther down the depth chart like Russell Gage or Laquon Treadwell who could see expanded roles due to injured players ahead of them. The price on players like this typically won’t rise much even in these situations, and they can be real values, especially if news of an injury comes in late.

Lineup Building

The Rest of the Lineup Matters
Ok smart guy, so you’ve built the best stack imaginable in your latest contest. The team is humming, the players are all scoring points in droves. Life is good, right? Maybe, and maybe not. If your stack is truly formidable, you’re only part of the way to winning. For starters, you’re highly unlikely to be the only entrant with that exact stack in the contest. Out of tens of thousands of entries, there’s bound to be at least a handful with the same stack.

Next, a solid stack of two, three, or even four means there are still positions in your lineup that need filled. A great stack can boost your score and take you over the top, but it can’t help you cash if the rest of your lineup is garbage. Spend some time researching the rest of the available players, and make sure your lineup is sound from top to bottom. If your production ends with the stack, kiss your chances of a big payday goodbye.

Contrarian Stacks
Contrarian stacks are important to guaranteed prize pool (GPP) contests, as these stacks can help separate you from the field. To make effective contrarian plays, you’ll need to identify teams who are playing in unfavorable matchups due to defense, game script, or a recent streak of bad play. Players from those teams will likely have low ownership, and they can be used in contrarian stacks. Make sure to do your research when building contrarian stacks, because building a lineup around a trio of low-owned duds is the perfect recipe for disaster. Identify players from the same team who will not be popular and who can provide value to your lineup. Don’t stack players with low ceilings.

Contrarian lineups also mean fading chalk players or chalk stacks. Chalk plays are those that will be the most popular in a contest, so fading them can be an effective strategy in tournaments. It’s also important to remember that chalk plays are popular for a reason. A good matchup, a talented player, a hot streak, an increased opportunity, a pace-up spot, positive game script all come into play here, so there are certainly instances when going chalk is necessary. Fading it too much can take away your competitiveness.

Finally, let’s discuss contrarian stacks within the same roster. Let’s say the chalkiest stack of the night is Matt Ryan and Julio Jones because the Falcons are expected to be in a high-scoring shootout with Tampa Bay. Instead of using that stack, you can use Ryan and another of his weapons, such as Hayden Hurst. Additionally, if your research leads you to believe game script won’t be a high-scoring shootout, and the Falcons will stomp the Buccaneers into the dirt, fade Ryan and a pass-catcher and go with Todd Gurley and Atlanta’s defense.

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Whether you’re new to daily fantasy baseball or a seasoned professional, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Football Glossary. You can get started with A Beginner’s Guide to Daily Fantasy Football or head to more advanced strategy — like Maximizing Your Potential in Multi-Lineup Contests — to learn more.

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

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