With the NFL season and fantasy drafts quickly approaching, let’s take a moment to talk about Daily Fantasy Sports. Better known as “DFS” leagues. If you’ve heard of that acronym you can probably forget reading the rest of this post. If you haven’t and want to learn more, keep going.

There’s a couple of things to know right from the get go about fantasy sports. 1) It’s essentially gambling. 2) You aren’t going to win. 3) You seriously aren’t going to win.

Now that we’ve got that covered I’m going to give you all a little assistance to at least play the games casually and hopefully make your Sunday’s a little more interesting. For the purpose of this article we will focus on Draft Kings because they are what I do my casual ‘gambling’ on. They also offer a wider variety in what I can waste my money on.

Your casual sports fan can probably make a decent lineup on your own and win/lose with a pretty decent ratio. Recently I’ve used the power of Microsoft to help at least give myself the impression I have a better chance to win some cash back.

beautiful mindHow do we do this? Call it “science”. What is it really? A fancy excel formula. The basics of every DFS league start with a salary cap of $50,000 and you have to pick a certain number of players under that cap. The best players cost the most. There’s a few routes you can take.

The studs and duds method is where you take half high cost players and half minimal cost players. This is your risk reward method. The other method is a flat line. Picking middle of the road players and hoping to just skate by.

With this formula we’ll be finding something somewhere in the middle. It is what I would consider to be the chalk version of daily fantasy. Meaning, if I gamble 100 times, who’s supposed to win 90% of the games? This formula is set up to give you the most possible fantasy points given previous scoring history and the weekly salary a player has been provided.

To start we need to download an excel add-on called solver. A very powerful Microsoft tool that will help us achieve our optimal lineup. We’ll analyze this program with two sports. Golf and the NFL.

The PGA Tour is a much easier lineup to start with simply because there are no position players. You are not required to select a certain number of long-ball hitters or players with better short games. You just pick your best six and that’s it. So once we’ve got solver installed we’ll need to export the roster of players.

When creating a line up, click the export to CSV option on the bottom right.

Start drafting a lineup and you’ll see an export to CSV button. Cut and paste the entire table into this PGA TOUR Optimal Lineup Excel Template. You’ll see I’ve already done most of the hard work for you.

If you’re tech savvy in the least, you can start having fun without reading on. However I’ve always been under the impression of teach a man to fish. So read on if you want to better yourself. Heck, you might teach your boss a thing or two.

roster set up
Draft Kings CSV sets up all these columns for you, with the exception of “Rank” in Column “G”. Simply put a 0 for each of those players.

What the solver does is take a given set of parameters and analyzes data. Here we will set the following parameters:

  • parameters sheet
    Add these basic parameters in the following top three rows. See formulas below.

    We want cell L2 to be the highest number possible (L2 is the average fantasy points per player in our lineup)

  • By changing who we have in our lineup
  • Using these constraints:
    • Each player can only be used once
    • Salary needs to be under $50,000
    • Total players needs to equal 6.
  • Cell L1 Formula = “=SUMPRODUCT(C2:C198,G2:G198)”
    • This formula states, when a player is in the lineup, include his salary in my cap.
  • Cell L2 Formula = “=SUMPRODUCT(G2:G198,E2:E198)”
    • This formula states, When a player is in the lineup, add in his average fantasy points.
  • Cell L3 Formula = “=SUM(G2:G198)”
    • This formula states, Make sure total players active is equal to what I tell you.
    • The 198 in each is representative of how many players are available to pick from. It can be as high a number you wish, so long as it is not less than the amount actually available. Your typical PGA TOUR event has no more than 144 players so you should never have to adjust this.
  • Cell K1 = 50,000
  • Cell K3 = 6
Click Data > Solver and we’re ready to set our parameters.
Set the following parameters.
  • Set target cell to “$L$2” – total points to be what we want to figure out.
  • Equal to “MAX” – since we want to find the most possible points
  • By changing cells $G$2:$G$198 – by making players active or inactive

Click ADD to add to the parameters:

  • $G$2:$G$198 needs to be binary. You’re either in the lineup, or you’re not.
  • $L$1 needs to be less than or equal to $K$1. The salary cap needs to be $50,000 or less
  • $L$3 needs to equal $K$3. The total players can only be 6.
Set your solver options to match these settings.

Once this is ready, you can solve! Click solve and your optimal lineup will be noted by the “G” column having a 1 in it. Filter that column to show the 1’s and see what it’s provided for you. It is the most possible points you can have based on the salary assigned and their past yearly performance. See that’s science, right? Okay maybe not… but, if you’re clueless and make this lineup you’ll at least make your Sunday more interesting by having a stake in the game.

Wa-la! Your top 6 picks for the week!
Wa-la! Your top 6 picks for the week!

As opposed to other sports, in golf there isn’t much else to concern yourself with when it comes to opponents or injuries or whether they’d start. So it really is like plug and play. Pick yourself a $1 league and enjoy!

Didn’t like what you saw? You can tinker! Set everyone back to Rank = 0 and start over. Maybe this time you change a player you don’t like to have a lower fantasy per game or a higher salary. If the solver continues to pick them, maybe they’re really worth keeping. Or, if you just don’t want that player, set their FPG to 0.

What else can you do? Set more parameters! Like, don’t take a player with a salary less than $6,500. Or, don’t take a player with FPG less than 20. Play around with it. It’s science!

If you’ve mastered how to do the PGA TOUR optimal lineup, let’s move on to setting an NFL lineup!

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