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The Art of Stacking in Daily Fantasy Football

Anyone can win in daily fantasy football. It really can be as simple as that. However, there is a point where luck meets research and “winging it” will only get you so far on a consistent basis.

That’s why you will always hear of the one random guy who signed up for the first time at DraftKings and FanDuel, picked his favorite players and won a huge cash prize. That, my friends, is dumb, blind luck.

What you don’t hear about is that guy either cashed out and stopped playing, or kept on playing and hasn’t hit it big ever since. Winning consistently, no matter what your game type is, takes patience, research and skill. Okay, and a little bit of luck.

One great DFS strategy to help off-set that luck and keep things more constant is stacking. Stacking can be used in any daily fantasy sport genre, but only with the NFL can we see it in a very specific way. Actually, three very specific ways. Let’s break down the best ways to stack in daily fantasy football and why it can be a good practice:

Pairing QB and WR/TE

This is the bread and butter of daily fantasy football stacking. You fall in love with a stud fantasy quarterback and are completely sold on him having a big week. Say you project 400+ yards and 4 touchdowns. Why stop at just the quarterback?

Naturally, the guy has to throw those yards and touchdowns to someone, so it only makes sense to try to attack upside by using some of the receiving options that could be benefiting from your quarterback’s big day.

The same applies to tight ends. The idea here is to seek a talented quarterback with a good matchup, possibly playing at home and also residing in a strong offense with solid weapons.

EXAMPLE PAIRING:
QB

Aaron Rodgers

WR

Randall Cobb

A good way to get the idea of the upside and downside is to assume you use two very different rosters, but with the same quarterback.

Here is how it could go well:

  • QB: Aaron Rodgers – 30 fantasy points
  • WR: Randall Cobb – 24 fantasy points

Rodgers had a big day and connected with Cobb, just as you’d hoped. The pairing was a success. You can stretch it out even further, too. Say Rodgers is in for a gem of a performance, and you do a stack three players high:

  • QB: Rodgers (30)
  • WR: Cobb (24)
  • WR: Jordy Nelson (26)

Here you add Nelson, giving you Green Bay’s top two wide receivers and hopefully A-Rod’s two most productive weapons during his big day.

You can see how beneficial stacking can be when you consider how you roster could turn out if you don’t stack Rodgers’ friends, too:

  • QB: Rodgers (30)
  • WR: Julian Edelman (16)
  • WR: Demaryius Thomas (18)

Here you can see you opted not to use Rodgers’ top Packers weapons. While guys similarly priced in Edelman and DT still worked out just fine, you’re missing out on 16 total fantasy points by not stacking.

That isn’t always going to work out perfectly, but the upside is clear. Of course, there is always the downside:

  • QB: Rodgers (30)
  • WR: Cobb (5.6)
  • WR: Nelson (7.8)

Whoops, that didn’t work out. In this case, your boy A-Rod rocked just as you thought he would, but the guys you paired with him bottomed out. Instead, Rodgers probably tossed touchdowns to his running backs, a different receiver or a backup tight end you never heard of.

The latter, you have to embrace that you cannot control. The point is to go with the quarterback you’re high on for a specific week and if you believe he will be hooking up with 1-2 of his teammates and the matchup, price, etc. works, then stack them with him. It could always end up being a big miss, but if you don’t use those receivers and your quarterback goes nuts, just as planned, you’ll be left wondering what could have been.

Pairing RB and DEF

Quarterbacks and receivers aren’t the only position requiring some stacking in daily fantasy football. You can do the same with running backs and their associated team defense, as well.

The idea here is to get a quality running back that can succeed, plus a solid defense that has a favorable matchup in a given week. The rub comes with the belief that your running back’s team will be winning their game, which tells us two things: he will likely be busy trying to grind out the clock late in the game, and the defense you’re pairing him with will also benefit from not giving up a ton of points.

This can go the other way, too, as a stud rusher can bust off for 100 yards and 1-2 scores, yet still watch his defense register no sacks or turnovers and give up 30 points. However, in conservative, ball control offenses, usually the running back will get a lot of touches and help control the pace of the game, which would hopefully help your defense give up fewer points.

This isn’t as big of a practice as pairing a QB with a WR/TE, but it’s something to note if you go into a week liking a running back and/or defense’s matchup.

Pairing RB/WR and DEF

This is the other stacking method that DFS gamers love to exploit, as the right RB/WR and DEF combo can potentially give you a trifecta of daily fantasy football points.

If all goes well, you can roster a running back or wide receiver that not only has a role within the offense, but also returns punts or kicks. If they’re also on a team that boasts a quality defense, you’re giving yourself multiple outs that include a variety of ways to score.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver and return man Tyler Lockett might be one of the best examples:

  • Lockett can score and gain yardage as a receiver
  • He can score on kick and punt returns
  • Seattle’s defense is among the elite

The beauty here is regardless of what Seattle’s defense does, Lockett could be a good play based on a touch and go role within the offense. He might do nothing, but he also could spring three catches into 70 yards and a score. Whether or not he makes that happen, he can also return a score as one of the main return men and if he does, that touchdown counts double, both for him and for Seattle’s defense.

Needless to say, on a truly exceptional day, Lockett could get you three catches, 70 yards and two scores (one receiving and one on a return) and Seattle’s defense might get you around 8 fantasy points, plus the six points from Lockett’s special teams score.

Just like that, a guy few may be overly excited about can hand your defense and extra six points and if all went well, got you 22 fantasy points at DraftKings at the same time.

This is a perfect scenario and won’t always work out this well, but the idea is to give yourself outs and maximize positions when possible.

When to Stack

You know how to stack and what to stack. You even know why to stack. But are you sure you know when to stack? That’s a pretty big question, as daily fantasy football stacking isn’t like in pro baseball. You’re not just piling on guys from a team you think will erupt. You’re pairing players and hoping they go nuts together.

It’s not an exact science and never will be, but you can still exercise a little caution with your stacking. For one, you don’t want to go too crazy with stacking in general. Find a quarterback and 1-2 guys you really think he can connect with in a game and then roll with him.

You also will want to gauge whether or not you should limit your stacking to one position. For instance, you may love the idea of pairing Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates. That’s a great QB/TE stack and no one will make fun of you, regardless of whether or not it works or flames out. But if you’re not feeling a running back and team defense pairing or you’re not high on a special teams player in a given week, don’t force it.

All stacks, much like everything in DFS, stem from your own projections and value assessment. Don’t stack just to stack and hope it works out. Stack guys because the matchup makes sense and leaves open the very real possibility of it paying off.

In addition, it’s a good rule of thumb to go all out on stacking for giant GPP tourneys, and be a little more conservative in cash games. Stacking offers upside and as a stack works out, it raises your overall floor for the week. However, just like if an MLB stack goes up in flames when an offense gets shut out, your daily fantasy football squad can quickly fail if you pair Tom Brady with Rob Gronkowski, only to see Brady toss one touchdown and not have Gronk catch it.

That kind of bummer can hurt your GPP team, but it is more likely to kill you in cash, where a larger number of your DFS games are usually going to be played.

In Summary

Like most daily fantasy football strategies, stacking is not a complete necessity every time out in order to win. It’s merely another way to maximize your roster’s upside by parlaying player success into more success.

The best stacking and most popular method is always going to be the QB and WR/TE method, because it’s the one that is easiest to grasp and see the benefits of on a week to week basis. Of course, as foolproof as some stacks may seem some weeks, the crazy variance in daily fantasy football often wins out and keeps would-be perfect DFS lineups from thriving. This is why it is often good to limit the amount of stacking you do per lineup and also to refrain from blindly stacking without using further research.

That being said, stacking is a huge part of successful GPP teams and when you nail the right stack perfectly, it can be the difference between winning all of the money and barely placing.

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