As an exercise in analysis, I decided to look at a few of the winning lineups in DraftKings’ weekly guaranteed contests. I’m talking the big events with tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of entrants.

For this post, I’ll be analyzing four events: the Millionaire Maker event from the first two weeks, a Play-Action contest, and a Slant contest. My hope is to find some pattern in these winning lineups.

Perhaps there is no pattern, except having every player hit at once. In essence, a lot of luck is going to play into a winning starting lineup. We all know that, but beyond that, let’s analyze what it is that’s common about these teams.

After eyeballing these lineups, I did find certain commonalities. I’ll discuss those later, but for now, let’s take a look at the various lineups.

DraftKings $2 Million Winner

Contest: Week 2 NFL $10M Millionaire Maker [$2 Million to 1st]
Winner: TheDuganBrothers
Point Total: 246.18

PlayerPercentage OwnedPoints

Marcus Mariota – 4.7% – 18.18
Deangelo Williams – 3.7% – 31.2
Danny Woodhead – 10.8% – 16.4
Travis Benjamin – 0.8% – 35.5
Antonio Brown – 28.4% – 39.5
Julian Edelman – 16.5% – 33.9
Rob Gronkowski – 13.7% – 27.3
Larry Fitzgerald – 6.5% – 40.2
Rams Defense – 22.0% – 4

Stacking: TheDuganBrothers did not stack his quarterback with a receiver, but instead chose to go with a low-cost rookie quarterback coming off a nice Week 1. So this contestant decided to go cheap at his quarterback position. While his QB/WR or QB/TE was not stacked, he did go for a couple of double-dips with Edelman/Gronk and Antonio Brown and Deangelo Williams. Thus, he effectively limited the number of games

Basic Strategy: Marcus Mariota was owned by less than 5% of the contests, which is a good way to gain separation from the field. I have noticed that Mariota owners have done well the first two weeks of the season. One great (and challenging) thing about daily fantasy sports is its dynamic nature. Mariota might work great for people for a while, but if it goes on too long, his price will be adjusted. Spotting emerging players is a big part of this hobby.

Chasing Points: Chasing points is when you play a marginal player who scored big last week, hoping they are emerging. Most of the time, they don’t emerge, but fade into obscurity the next week. This is waiver wire fodder, for the most part.

They warn fantasy owners not to chase points. Sometimes, it works, though. Travis Benjamin had a nice Week 1. In local leagues across the country, people added Travis Benjamin in free agency. Veteran owners probably rolled their eyes, thinking this is a Browns receiver and a one-week wonder. Those who believed in the kid were rewarded, none more so than his DFS owners.

Double-dipping on Danny Woodhead also paid off nicely. Woodhead had a nice Week 1, then returned with a solid Week 2. In this case, Woodhead’s numbers should not be seen as an aberration. The Chargers running back had a season-ending injury in 2014, but he was a highly productive player the last time he was on the field in 2013. In one fantasy league with a slightly (but only slightly) altered scoring system, Danny Woodhead finished as the 9th-highest scoring running back on 2013.

Obvious Plays: Two. Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski are top players at their position. I would say no other player fits that mold.

Defense: 22% of the owners played the Rams Defense, which was coming off a huge win versus the NFC Champions and was facing a weak Washington Redskins unit. Those owners didn’t expect to see Matt Jones come off the bench to have a breakout game, though. The Rams scored 4 points, which shows that daily fantasy football winners don’t need an overpowering showing from the Team Defense.

DraftKings $500,000 Winner

Contest: Week 2 NFL $500K Slant [$500,000 Guaranteed]
Winner: steelfan77
Point Total: 230.66

PlayerPercentage OwnedPoints

Ben Roethlisberger – 5.1% – 33.66
Giovani Bernard – 1.0% – 19.9
DeAngelo Williams – 4.3% – 31.2
Travis Benjamin – 0.9% – 35.5
Antonio Brown – 28.8% – 39.5
Julian Edelman – 16.2% – 33.9
Rob Gronkowski – 14.1% – 27.3
Markus Wheaton – 1.8% – 8.8
Titans Defense – 7.2% – 1

Stacking: Steelfan77 chose to stack Roethlisberger with both Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. In fact, the team had 4 Steelers in its 9-player starting lineup. Given his username, I’d say this is a Steelers homer who got lucky. Or did he?

Think about the scenario. The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off a 10-day layoff, having played in the Thursday Night Football opener. The San Francisco 49ers were coming off a short work week, after playing on Monday Night Football. Then the Niners were traveling across the country to play at Heinz Field. This game was set-up for the Steelers to have the advantage, which is exactly what happened: 43-18. Daily fantasy sports requires owners to find these trap games.

Basic Strategy: His strategy was to load up on Steelers players, then fill out a lineup with star players from the AFC. The rest of the lineup had players from the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, and New England Patriots (2). Pretty much, it’s teams from the old AFC Central Division, which disappeared in 2001, with a couple of Patriots players added in. If you’re going to do that, you might as well add elite players like Gronk.

Chasing Points: Like the previous entry, he was chasing points with Travis Benjamin and it worked.

Obvious Plays: The same as before–Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.

Defense: He played the Titans Defense, who only got 1 point. You might think this points to the idea that you should always skimp on defenses, but wait until you see the previous week’s scores.

DraftKings $2 Million Winner

Contest: Week 1 NFL $10M Millionaire Maker [$2 Million to 1st]
Winner: BALLAH
Point Total: 228.04

PlayerPercentage Owned Points

Tony Romo – 9.6% – 27.14
Carlos Hyde – 5.1% – 35.2
Chris Ivory – 17.2% – 23
John Brown – 14.4% – 14.6
Julio Jones – 21.8% – 38.1
Jarvis Landry – 19.4% – 20.7
Tyler Eifert – 3.9% – 34.4
Eddie Lacy – 24.0% – 17.9
Jets Defense – 17.7% – 17

Stacking: None whatsoever. This owner field 8 offensive players from 8 different teams. The only double-dip BALLAH did was to pair Chris Ivory with the Jets Defense. Playing against the lowly Browns, that was a good idea.

Basic Strategy: I’m reading into things here, but it looks like BALLAH avoided all the daily fantasy football guru talk and simply tried to field the best group of players possible. Each one was in a game verses bad 2014 defenses. Most of them were started by 15% or more of the fantasy owners in the contest. He simply picked the right group of players. Kudos. The only players who were under 10% were Tony Romo (9.6%), Carlos Hyde (5.1%), and Tyler Eifert (3.9%).

Of those, only Tyler Eifert would have seemed like a stretch, and even he had shown considerable talent before he went out for the year in 2014. Tony Romo was playing a Giants team which he traditionally puts up big numbers on. It took the final drive from Romo to put BALLAH over the top, so I’m sure that was an exciting time in BALLAH’s living room on Sunday Night of Week 1. Carlos Hyde had not gotten a lot of buzz in the preseason, but he was a new starter and a high draft pick and he was playing against the Minnesota Vikings; it was a reasonable play. And like I said, even Eifert was a star for a few weeks last year. It might have taken providence for him to score the 34.3%, but he’s one who could be an elite player coming into 2016 drafts.

Chasing Points: Not Applicable, since this was Week 1.

Obvious Plays: Julio Jones and Eddy Lacy were obvious plays. Jarvis Landry was a common play, given his stellar 2014 and the fact he was playing the Redskins in Week 1. Both Chris Ivory and the Jets Defense were chosen on 17%+ of the lineups in the contest. Again, this was a solid lineup, though getting 49 points from John Brown and Tyler Eifert put BALLAH over the top. Getting the 17 points from the Jets Defense helped, too.

Defense: Speaking of which, the Jets Defense was not a top salary cap play, but it was a solid move that nearly 20% of players used. The idea isn’t to get the most expensive defense, but getting one in a good match-up always helps. In fact, I’d suggest having a small list of bad NFL offenses and selecting a cheap one of those units.

DraftKings $1 Million Winner

Contest: Week 1 NFL $1M Play-Action [$1 Million Guaranteed]
Winner: Payne77
Point Total: 238.04

PlayerPercentage OwnedPoints

Carson Palmer – 4.1% – 28.68
Carlos Hyde – 5.2% – 35.2
Demarco Murray – 12.5% – 14.6
DeAndre Hopkins – 3.7% – 32.8
Julio Jones – 3.7% – 34.4
Tyler Eifert – 3.7% – 34.4
Jordan Reed – 2.3% – 19.3
Jets Defense – 15.4% – 17

Stacking: Not at all. All 9 positions came from different teams.

Basic Strategy: Mix in cheaper selections with a few studs. This is a constant. Adding 2-3 true studs is where it’s at in daily fantasy contests. After that, getting players in good match-ups is key. Julio Jones was only added by 3.7% of owners, because of how expensive he was. Demarco Murray and Jets Defense were the only selections over 10%, so Payne77 was going for players not everyone would want.

Chasing Points: Not Applicable, since this was Week 1.

Obvious Plays: I’d put Demarco Murray and Julio Jones in that category. DeAndre Hopkins is an elite player on talent, but his quarterback situation keeps him from being in the elite category.

Several of the not-so-obvious picks were nice spot plays. Jordan Reed is highly productive, when he’s healthy. If you ever find a game he goes into healthy, he’s likely to put out good numbers, if he doesn’t get injured. Playing him at the start of the season, when his health is likely to be at its maximum, is a good strategy.

The same can be said for Carson Palmer, who had a nice matchup versus the Saints. In fact, most of the players on this team…Carson Palmer, Demarco Murray, Julio Jones, Tyler Eifert, and Jordan Reed…have a similar theme. All of them are talented, but have a recent or longstanding issue with getting injured often. I suppose one legitimate DFS strategy would be to find the injury-prone talents and start them, because their price likely would be deflated.

Defense: Against, this player started the Jets Defense. This was a popular play in Week 1 and, given they scored 17 points, I bet a lot of owners who finished in the money had the New York Defense.

Final Analysis:

In the final analysis, I don’t know what we learned, except that you should target 2 to 3 blue chip studs, then find situational players with big upside against lousy opponents. As the season goes on, it becomes easier to know who the really bad teams are, due to injuries, toxic locker rooms, and old-fashioned bad play. When you do, finding players likely to “go off” should become a little easier.

The question is price. Each of these owners decided to go cheaper by playing either a low-cost quarterback, skimp on defense, or get one cap buster at wide receiver and/or tight end. In the cases they did that, the capbuster ended up being either Travis Benjamin or Tyler Eifert.

Ultimately, to get the winning combination, you need to get massively lucky. Each of them fielded a roster full of players with big potential, but each of them also fielded a team which scored between 228.04 and 246.18. Anyone who has played on DraftKings has to know how insanely hard that is to do.

To illustrate my point, let me give an example. Before I do, let me say I understand that the scoring system in my old league is not the same as the one used by DraftKings. Ours is a little deflated from the DK scoring system, but it’s a league with 9-man starting lineups and a comparable scoring system.

With that i mind…in my old local leagues, we’ve played 21 years and only twice has a player gone over 200. It’s a once-a-decade phenomenon. That’s what is going on in a daily fantasy sports Sunday Millionaire contest. Every week, someone fields a lineup only seen once every 10 years or so in the regular flow of fantasy football.