Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Perfect Lineup Analysis

Brandon Gdula
Brandon Gdula@gdula13
Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Perfect Lineup Analysis

There are a lot of different ways to play fantasy football.

There are season-long and best-ball fantasy football leagues, of course, and you're obviously familiar with daily fantasy football contests.

But single-game daily fantasy football is, perhaps, the most unique of them all.

So, let's dive into past FanDuel single-game daily fantasy football perfect lineups to see what trends we can uncover.

What Is Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football?

On FanDuel, single-game daily fantasy football is a format that features five-player lineups and a $60,000 salary cap to adhere to.

Those five players can be from any skill position (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or tight end), any kicker, or any team defense and special teams unit.

The only other thing to note is that there is an MVP slot, and your MVP of choice has their FanDuel points multiplied by 1.5. There's no extra salary required to place someone in your MVP slot.

You have to roster at least one player (or defense) from each team.

And that's about all you need to know before building your lineups.

Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Analysis

Sample Used

I have cultivated single-game optimal lineups from all 271 completed games from 2022's regular season.

Salary Cap Usage

In most instances, leaving a lot of salary behind when building lineups isn't the most ideal decision. A few hundred here and there? Sure. Leaving thousands unused in traditional daily fantasy football? Eh, maybe not.

How does it pan out over the optimal lineups from the 2022 season?

$60,000 17.0%
$59,500 12.9%
$59,000 8.5%
$58,500 10.3%
$58,000 4.4%
$57,500 7.4%
$57,000 5.2%
View Full Table

In total, 17.0% of NFL perfect single-game lineups from the 2022 season used all $60,000 in salary, but it was more likely that a lineup used $55,000 or less (18.5%) than every last dollar.

However, 48.7% of the perfect lineups in the sample used at least $58,500.

Does that mean that we should be trying to save $5,000 or more in salary frequently? No, not really.

Does it mean we shouldn't feel like we need to max out the salary cap? Yes, yes it does.

Lineup Stacking

There are two versions of stacks in single-game NFL DFS: 4-1 and 3-2.

What that means is that -- because you need to roster at least one player (or defense) from each team -- every lineup is either three teammates and two opponents or four teammates and one opponent.

Which is a more common combination for perfect lineups?

Optimal Lineup Stacking Split
3-2 Lineup Split63.1%
4-1 Lineup Split36.9%

The 3-2 distribution is much more common (63.1%) in the sample.

The 4-1 "onslaught" type of lineup when we're looking specifically at favoring one side is still making up 36.9% of the perfect lineups, so the game context matters a lot when deciding how to divvy up the lineup splits.

Positional Distribution

With the addition of the defensive position to single-game daily fantasy football, there are a lot of possible combinations of lineups.

For my purposes here, a 2QB-2RB-1WR lineup is different than a 1QB-2RB-2WR lineup even if the number of unique positions are the same.

Are there any clear trends of positional distribution? Yes and no.

Yes: there are a few combinations that stand out above the rest.

No: no combinations in particular are super common.

View Full Table

No unique combination was found in more than 6.6% of the lineups, and that was the only one found in greater than 4.5% of the lineups.

The most common distribution was 1QB-1RB-2WR-1K.

Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football MVP Trends

The MVP slot is super vital, so let's dig into that next.

Some notes before we get there. The upcoming table includes:

  • The frequency of each position as a perfect lineup's MVP.
    • Example: 33.6% of all MVPs were QBs.
  • The percentage of games when the MVP was favored.
    • Example: 75.8% of QB MVPs were on the favored team in that game.
  • The average salary the total lineup based on the MVPs' position.
  • The average over/under of the game.
  • The average absolute spread of the game.
    • Absolute spread indicates the raw value of the spread and thus treats a -3.0 favorite the same as a +3.0 underdog.
  • How many of the MVP's teammates also made the perfect lineup.
  • What percentage of lineups were made up of 3-2 or 4-1 stacks.
  • What percentage of lineups had a defense or a kicker.

Here is the distribution of MVPs in the 271 perfect lineups by position.

MVP Position
% Favored
Avg Salary
Avg O/U
Avg. Absolute Spread
MVP Teammates
3-2 Lineup%
Has Defense?
Has Kicker?
Full-Sample Averages66.8%$56,80644.15.12.963.1%36.2%36.5%

This checks out.

QBs are the most common MVPs in perfect lineups (33.6%) -- but that's possibly not as large of a number as you may have thought.

RBs are close (29.5%), and WRs are in third (24.0%) -- but it's a big drop off to the other positions.

Notably, more perfect lineups had defenses (7.4%) than tight ends (4.4%) in the MVP slot.

Additionally, 66.8% of MVPs came from favored teams. This rate is higher among QBs (75.8%) and lower among RBs (55.0%).

Running backs and receivers as the MVPs were more common in games with a tighter-than-average absolute spread (4.6 points).

Stacking in Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Lineups

Stacking is a big part of daily fantasy football, and that applies to single-game contests, as well.

When a QB throws a touchdown pass, he gets 4.0 FanDuel points (or 6.0 if he is your MVP because of the 1.5-times multiplier), and the pass-catcher also gets 6.0 FanDuel points (or 9.0 FanDuel points if he is your MVP).

That's not even accounting for points for yards or receptions, so yeah -- correlations matter.

Here's a snapshot of the frequency of stacks in these perfect lineups.

QB + Any WR/TE
QB + 1 WR/TE
QB + 2 WR/TE
QB + 3 WR/TE
Stack Frequency77.9%51.7%29.9%2.2%

So, 77.9% of the perfect lineups had some sort of QB-plus-pass-catcher stack, meaning a stack is a pretty strong addition to a lineup -- but it's far from a must.

Of note, more than half (51.7%) of the lineups had a stack with just a single pass-catcher, and just under a third (29.9%) of the perfect lineups had a QB paired with two pass-catchers.

(To clarify here, a lineup with a team's QB + 2 WR/TE is not also counted as a QB + 1 WR/TE stack.)

Additionally, 13.7% of the lineups had a stack from both teams in action, and those tend to be stacks with only a single pass-catcher tied to each QB (as expected).

With that said, there are 7.4% of total lineups that feature multiple QB stacks with one of those stacks being tied to a two-pass-catcher stack.

An example there would be a QB-WR stack from the losing team and a QB-WR-TE stack from the winning team. Again, that hits at around a 7.4% rate.

Average over/unders for games featuring a stack was 44.1 points, the same as the full-sample average. Average totals for games with a QB stack on both teams was higher: 45.4.

The absolute spread (4.2) in lineups with a stack of some kind was also smaller than the full-sample average (5.0), suggesting that games with high totals and tight spreads are where we want to look for the double-stack.

How to Value Kickers and Defenses

Kickers (1.1%) and defenses (7.4%) are unlikely MVP options but do fall into a separate category from the skill position players.

While the MVP rates are different between the kicker and defense positions, their overall optimal lineup rates and average salaries when making the perfect lineup are nearly identical.

Average Salary

Kickers and defenses made up 8.0% -- each -- of the total slots in perfect lineups (i.e. 8.0% of the 1,355 players in the 271 perfect lineups were kickers).

Further, 36.2% of perfect lineups included a defense, and 36.5% of perfect lineups included a kicker.

In total, 60.9% of optimal lineups had a kicker or defense, but only 11.8% had at least one of each.

The average total for games with a defense in the perfect lineup was 43.4 points. For kickers, it was 43.6. As a reminder, that's lower than the full-sample average (44.1).

Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Trends to Remember

  • Just 17.0% of the lineups studied used all $60,000 of the cap, but 48.7% used at least $58,500.
  • Lineups with three teammates and two opponents are more common (63.1%) than lineups with four teammates and one opponent (36.9%).
  • The most common lineup combination was 1QB-1RB-2WR-1K, but that was only 6.6% of lineups in the sample.
  • QBs are the most common MVP (33.6%) with RBs (29.5%) and WRs (24.0%) next in line.
  • 66.8% of MVPs came from favored teams.
  • When an RB is the MVP, the game's over/under averaged 42.9 points, 1.2 points fewer than the full-sample average.
  • RB and WR MVPs had a lower absolute spread (4.6) than the full sample (5.1).
  • Team Defense MVPs are often tied to 4-1 onslaught lineups (45.0%).
  • 77.9% of all optimals had some sort of QB-plus-pass-catcher stack, and 29.9% of them had a stack of a QB + 2 WR/TE (compared to 51.7% for a QB + 1 WR/TE).
    • 13.7% of lineups had a stack featuring both QBs.
    • 27.7% of optimals had two QBs -- regardless of whether they had pass-catcher stacks tied to them.
    • Stacks are typically tied to higher totals (45.4) and tighter spread (4.2) than the full sample (44.1 and 5.0, respectively).
  • 36.2% of perfect lineups included a defense.
  • 36.5% of perfect lineups included a kicker.
  • 60.9% of optimal lineups had a kicker or defense.

Looking to build some single-game daily fantasy football lineups? Head over to FanDuel to see all of the current single-game NFL DFS contests.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.