Next Sunday is always the biggest day in daily fantasy sports — the opening weekend of the NFL regular season. It’s also the biggest and most important day of the year for us at RotoRadar, too. The excitement that has built up for a new NFL season is palpable, and our Pros as well as our subscribers have been going through multiple combinations for their opening day lineups for a while now. For some of us, we’ve been trying to build that perfect lineup that will take down a GPP since the opening day salaries were released on DraftKings and FanDuel.
As a company, RotoRadar has quite a successful standard to live up to when it comes to providing winning content for daily fantasy football. We’re used to cash rates of around 70% to 80% here as well as providing content for big GPP payouts. We also have two new providers who are going to help our members reach the lofty goals we set for our company in NFL DFS. One of them is a familiar name and one is brand new.
The familiar name is FadeToBlack, who has been a very successful GPP provider for us for years. He will now be the main tourney provider for NFL DFS. One look at his RotoGrinders profile is all you need to see that Fade’s results truly speak for themselves:
FadeToBlack has been a 2018 FanDuel World Fantasy Baseball Championship Finalist (WFBC), a FanDuel NBA WFBBC Finalist and a 2016 FanDuel MLB Playboy Mansion Finalist. Currently, his rankings summary on RotoGrinders show that FTB is ranked 157th on the Heavyweight Ranking leaderboard and is the 747th ranked player on the Overall Ranking board as well as 596th overall on the TPOY leaderboard. Also, FTB is 350th on the MLB Leaderboard for the current season. Fade’s rankings have been even higher in the past (in the top 150 overall) but he’s cut back on his major tournament play a bit. He, however, will be going all-out for the upcoming NFL season and his subscribers are sure to enjoy the ride.
The new Pro for us at RotoRadar is Harby33, a.k.a. Zach H. He’s a cash game professional who’s been playing DFS since the early days of the industry and we’re going to focus on him in today’s RotoRadar Spotlight.
Zach and I talked for over an hour and a half recently and discussed all manner of subjects regarding NFL DFS. It was a very enjoyable conversation and I think Zach is one of the most interesting Pros we’ve had at RotoRadar. He certainly knows his stuff when it comes to NLF DFS, that much I could tell from our conversation.
Now, on to the interview!
RRS = RotoRadar Spotlight = me = Patrick Tursic
ZH = Harby33 = Zach H.
RRS: What is ScoreStream? I notice that’s a venture you’re involved with.
ZH: I guess if you want to call it my current full-time job, that’s what it is. I was employee number one, so I was the founder. It’s a fan-driven sports app that at first catered to high school sports since traditional media doesn’t devote a lot of time to them. It was started around the time of the Great Recession and it was a crowd-sourced way to cover local high school sports with mainly video. As we’ve grown, fans have wanted to do it for more than just high school sports so we’ve branched out to all levels of play from middle school play all the way up to the pro level. We allowed individuals to add their local softball leagues if they wanted to or anything of the sort. So we have all levels of sports that are on ScoreStream and it’s doing quite well. Football is our bread and butter by far and the NFL is one of our partners. For instance, former UCLA standout and first round pick Josh Rosen is someone I’ve been following for four years through ScoreStream.
ScoreStream is a fan-driven application that fans can use to share photos, videos and live scores of their favorite teams. We also work with media partners in other nations and currently are in almost 35 countries around the world. In the U.S. we work with AP, Sinclair, Gannett — we work with all the big publishing and broadcasting companies. I attend sports conferences around the country like the APSE (Associated Press Sports Editors) which are held multiple times a year in various cities. Attending these conferences is good for community building and marketing of our company. But we also work with a lot of smaller markets and it’s at around 500 regional websites that we’re working with right now. We have a scoreboard widget that is set up like an ESPN ticker that will go on the top of their website but there are some variations. I also work a lot with our media partners like WatchStadium.com and I do a weekly football show for them that’s focused on looking at prep football as well as some side segments to talk some NFL with them. So this is a very busy time of the year for me as the football season is approaching at all levels.
RRS: I usually like to start off with your fantasy sports history and how you got into DFS.
ZH: Basically, I started playing fantasy sports when I was in college around 2007. That’s when I started to get really serious about it. I had been playing poker part time at that point as a lot of DFS and fantasy pros have done before they really got into fantasy sports. Many seem to have a poker background. I started doing a “start or sit” column for a fantasy football website around 2008 so that’s when I first started providing content for fantasy sports. That kind of snowballed into playing for higher stakes online after that for season-long fantasy football.
After that, I was pretty integrated into the community and I transferred immediately into DFS on DraftStreet, DraftDay and those early DFS sites. Since I had already been providing content for season-long fantasy football I started becoming one of the first individuals to start providing fantasy content with a daily fantasy focus. That’s kind of how I got into the whole thing.
RRS: Are you registered on RotoGrinders at all?
ZH: I did about a year ago just for fun but I never really cared all that much about it because I’m a cash player. But I’ve been playing a lot of GPPs lately in tennis and doing well in that and golf too. In tennis I’ve qualified twice already for their King of the Baseline tournament and hopefully I’ll get my third — you cap off at three — because that would be pretty cool. But when it comes to football, my focus has always been cash and RotoGrinders’ rankings are skewed heavily toward GPP players. But my name is Harby33 and you can look up my results on RotoGrinders with that.
RRS: So, moving on to daily fantasy football, do you know what your cash game results were from last season?
ZH: Last year I cashed right around 85% on DraftKings and it was 75% on FanDuel. I had to send .csv files of results to Sean before I was hired so he could verify my results. I’ve never been a provider before even though I’ve written a lot of content, but since I wasn’t a provider I never cared about taking screen shots and things like that. But like I said, I needed to provide my results to Sean and the marketing people have also seen the results.
RRS: For RotoRadar as our cash game pro, are you going to be providing content to play on both DraftKings and FanDuel? Also, which slates are you going to be providing for?
ZH: I’ll be providing content for both DK and FD. As far as slates, I’ll be providing for the main slate, obviously. I’ll also provide for the early slates since there are usually a good number of games at the 1:00 p.m. EST kickoff times. In the afternoons with the 4:00 p.m. slates, I’ll be providing for those if it makes sense. If I feel that I have a good take and know who the good plays are or if the salaries fit into a good build that I feel confident about, then I’ll be providing for those. And I’ll make sure to let my subscribers know early on if I’ll be providing for that afternoon slate so nobody gets into contests that they can’t withdraw from. So as long as the builds aren’t forced, I plan on providing for all the slates.
RRS: What’s the basic process that you go through when coming up with your lineups?
ZH: I think it’s pretty well known that Vegas is where you start. Vegas and the offshore sites all have powerful computers and big, smart teams that look at a large number of data points that put those team totals together. If you don’t start there, you’re really missing out on something and that’s definitely where I start too.
I also subscribe to some really sharp handicappers that focus on over/unders, so a lot of my week is looking at their early takes and what they’re betting and buying. I’m trying to look at the market before it blooms.
The next focus is usually on injuries and how they can impact the games.
From there, I’ll dive into some advanced metrics for the teams that are playing. I’ll look at the common ones like DVOA and positional matchups. I’m trying to find which matchups I’ll be able to exploit the best for the coming week. And then I’ll be looking at who should be making the most points per dollar to exploit that in my lineups to get the most value in my builds.
RRS: How far along into the week will it take for you to come up with an initial build, would you say?
ZH: By Tuesday I will have some kind of idea of where I want to start and from there I’ll really start to tweak it and it’s never really done until Sunday morning, but a lot of what I’m doing focuses on building a large core on Tuesdays and the remaining part of the week is used to pare that core down. So it usually starts with around 40 players in that large core on Tuesday and gets pared down to about 20 players by Saturday night.
RRS: Which site do you find is tighter with their salaries?
ZH: I find DK much easier and open and FanDuel tight with their salaries some weeks. It comes down to how they price their wide receivers and part of that is their algorithm just really takes target share into account heavier and those individuals that get a heavier target share are often priced that way. It makes sense because because it definitely gives you an edge when you’re looking at potential places to exploit based on DVOA, but it can be frustrating if you really want to fit somebody in and salary-wise it just doesn’t make sense.
RRS: Early in the season, you don’t have DVOA stats that are reliable. The same goes for all early season stats, so what do rely on the most to gain an edge early in the season?
ZH: It’s definitely Vegas and positional matchups. One thing that is being talked about right now, and I’m not sure that it’s being talked about enough, is the new leading with the helmet rule. A 15 yard penalty is a lot and if it’s called in the regular season like it’s been called in the preseason, it’s going to skew over/under totals pretty significantly. I would assume that most teams that we’re looking at right now have an over/under that is based off of last year’s data. This is pending how the referees call the rule in the regular season, of course. So the scores could be higher based on this rule change and what does that lead us to? It leads us to running backs having more opportunities since you might have a couple of more opportunities to be in the red zone based on increased team possessions. I think that can provide an early season edge before Vegas and DraftKings prices adjust.
RRS: Let’s talk about your package. People are going to get an article every week. What’s going to be in that and when is it going to come out?
ZH: I plan on having everything finalized sometime around mid-afternoon on Saturday. That will give members plenty of time to go through it and make some lines with your opponents if you’d like and also just give you an idea of where I’ll probably be on Sunday morning. In the article I plan on looking at Vegas, looking at key totals, game totals, and I’ll probably put an exploit section in it of players that I think have a great defensive matchup that you’ll be able to take advantage of. I’ll also have a positional breakdown in the article with my top plays at each position and why we should be considering them. That will come complete with relevant statistics to support the recommended players and a few lines detailing why these are the players that I’m targeting.
I’m also considering putting a “thoughts” section into the article, probably at the bottom of the article, and I’ll just drop in nuggets of information in there as the week goes on. It might include injury information or information about betting trends or maybe some blurbs that will let you know where I may be leaning as far as players and the lineup.
RRS: Are you going to be doing a podcast?
ZH: I am. We’ll be doing a Thursday and a Saturday podcast. It will be me and FadeToBlack, our GPP pro.
RRS: Here’s a general lineup-building question. Is there a certain position that you like to start with every week?
ZH: I’ve built 25 lineups already (haha) and they’re all kind of based around this core that I think will be there. I’m already seeing some glimpses of where I think will be really important places to go. My core building starts with running back, for sure, but I think most of my lineups normally start with a middling-priced wide receiver that I think is going to get some great opportunities and has a good matchup. The reason I do that is that it often sets the tone for your salary choices and you can see a little bit better where you’re going running back-wise. I think for week one I already know who that wide receiver is and I basically have two locks for week 1 already with the other being a running back.
RRS: Is there a certain type of guy or position that you like to play at the Flex position? I ask this because I know people have lots of different ways they go there and some guys like to play a second tight end at Flex for the salary savings.
ZH: That’s a great question. Two years ago the big thing seemed to play the multi-tight end lineup where you’d pay up for one and pay down for the other. The pricing was so off for tight ends back then that it made a lot of sense. I’m all about opportunity so the position that sees the most opportunities is at running back so you’re going to see me primarily playing running backs in Flex, and I think that’s going to be a big crossover onto FanDuel now that they’ve also added the Flex position. What’s nice is that it should lead me to fairly similar builds on both sites.
RRS: I’ve been doing research into correlation lately and that leads to stacking, especially in GPPs. How much stacking do you do in cash games? You obviously have the largest correlation between QB and WR1 but you have others like RB1 and DEF.
ZH: That’s a great question and I’ll do a little name drop here. I helped launch the FantasyLabs app. I’m part of the app and tech industry too, and I’ve been around, so Pete (Peter Jennings, a.k.a. “CSURAM”) and Jonathan (Bales) are good friends of mine and I’ve known them for a while and I helped launch their app for their website. They brought me on and I did all the marketing for them and helped set it up and launch the app and did some work with their social media and customer service for a while. I was around until Mark Cuban invested and then they moved on to full-time positions and I already had that with ScoreStream so I stepped away but I still have a great relationship with them. But I still beta test all of their apps and still help with the back end of their apps.
Anyway, Pete talks about correlation a lot, and Jonathan does too in his books, and I do correlate. I would say my most-used correlation is cash builds tends to be the running back and defense. For me, it always just seems to fall that way. I also use the QB and WR1 combo a lot and I will stack a QB and WR2 if the defensive matchup leads to that. If you have a shutdown corner that takes on the WR1, then WR2 and QB is a stack that’s possible. But there aren’t that many true shutdown corners in the league so it’s not something that comes around every week..
RRS: What packages are available if someone wants to subscribe to your content?
ZH: The Season Pass is $500 and that gets you content for every slate that I’m playing for all 17 weeks of the NFL regular season. If you get me and FadeToBlack, then it would be $800 for both of us. There will also be a weekly and monthly subscription available and the prices will be $100 for the monthly subscription and $30 for a weekly subscription.
RRS: The last question that I always like to ask on these interviews with our Pros is what would you say to a potential new customer about why they should buy your NFL DFS package?
ZH: I’ve been doing this for years now and grinding on my own and providing content too. I’ve written and guest written on some pretty big sites like Pro Football Focus and NumberFire. I was the editor-in-chief for thefakebaseball.com and I’ve written for some of the other “fake” sites. This may be my first time providing but I have a lot of history of doing research and you’re going to get what I’m playing. I’ve done pretty well in the past and the subs will be there right with me. I think another reason, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why they should subscribe, is that during the fall months I totally live in the world of football. My entire week is based on football and I’m always watching the games and always around the players. I go to events, I go to the Pro Bowl and things like that. So I get to know some of the players, I get to know the offenses and a lot of the coaches. I get to look at the league from both a player’s standpoint but also an opportunity standpoint. For me, it’s an opportunity to succeed and win money, but it’s also an opportunity to just enjoy this great sport. For someone who is thinking about joining, I can tell you that I will always be around in the chat room to help you look at the games differently and take advantage of the content. I’m going to be there to help you and learn how to select contests better using my lines. Because a big part of succeeding in daily fantasy is knowing about when to put your lineup in and what contests to enter. There is higher variance in the lower dollar contests and I think people need to know that. There’s a big difference between playing your cash lineup in a $10 50/50 and in ten $1 50/50s.
RRS: Okay, well that’s not the last question because that just brought something else to mind. Are you going to have a slate ranking and do you have a bankroll management strategy that you recommend?
ZH: I will have a slate ranking, especially for the main slate, but I’ll have a general slate ranking for the smaller slates too. As far as bankroll, let’s just say you’re playing $1,000 a week as an example. You should be playing around $450 of it in 50/50s, $350 of it in head-to-heads, and you should be playing around $100 to $125 in three-man or five-man contests, and then use the remaining $75 to $100 in some single-entry tournaments.