Think Daily Fantasy Sports Takes Less Skill Than Season-long? Think Again

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Copper Statue of the thinker

Editor’s note: This is a guest piece provided by Zach Stanley of Star Fantasy Leagues.

It is easy to single out that first word — “daily” — as the explanation for why daily fantasy sports is much less skill-based than its better known counterpart, season-long fantasy. Anything can happen in one day, so how could this game not be based primarily on chance?

It’s an easy simplification for someone unfamiliar with DFS or the strategy associated with being skillful at it.

Sample sizes matter

There is no guarantee that the New York Yankees will win a game on a given day. However, if they have put together a talented and skilled team in a given season, then they might end up finishing with a record of, say, 92-70. That would be looked at as a successful season. The large amount of games in a season give teams an opportunity to prove skill over time — the same reason the World Series is seven games rather than one.

In DFS, skill and talent are defined by the quality of lineups over time — not just one day. The one day element to fantasy sports adds a heightened level of fan engagement and the excitement of creating a new lineup every day — rather than being stuck with one lineup for an entire season.

Team building

The concept of building a new team every day boosts the argument that DFS requires more skill than season-long. For the dedicated season-long fantasy player, there is a great deal of research that goes into draft preparation and strategy. On top of that, monitoring player performance for waiver wire pickups, adds/drops, and putting together an optimal starting lineup are critical elements to winning a season-long league.

Still, with hundreds of draft guides and waiver-wire articles, it is fairly easy for a relative fantasy novice to find the information necessary to make good decisions and stay competitive with the experts by investing less than an hour each week looking through material. This novice player may find the occasional DFS contest thrilling and look at the experience as an “entertainment expense,” but they are unlikely to be financially successful long-term.

For example…

A list of 15 waiver-wire pickups pales in comparison to the entire league of players available for selection in a DFS contest. Instead of wondering who to pick up for an injured season-long player that week, DFS players are looking for injured players and the opportunities these injuries present every day/week.

Then come the questions: Who is replacing them? Is the starter a placeholder for a more productive bench player? Will the production go to that player or will it be divvied up among other talents? What value does the backup provide? Is their salary already maxed out? What’s the risk/upside of this replacement?

DFS takes time, skill

Any season-long player yet to try daily fantasy will likely be stunned by the amount of time, research and attention to detail that builds success in DFS. This exercise in injury analysis is only a small portion of a skilled DFS players’ lineup preparation process.

Every season-long player has seen their own team, or an opponent’s, damaged by an unlucky draft. The same kind of bad breaks can occur in DFS, except the format gives players limitless opportunities for their expertise to shine through.

The most enjoyable thing about daily fantasy sports is that you can play it every day. Unfortunately, that singular concept has given lawmakers some sorely misguided and misunderstood ammunition regarding skill vs. chance.

Photo by Brian Hillegas used under license CC BY 2.0.