The headline "This is how I lost everything," immediately popped into my head a few weeks back. My editors had given me $50 and an assignment to play daily fantasy football and write about the experience.
With fantasy football growing in popularity seemingly daily despite headlines of doom and gloom, I was intrigued.
It seemed simple enough.
I've played fantasy sports in some form since I was in middle school, but I've never dabbled in daily fantasy sports or been in a league with real money on the line.
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Luckily for me, my wife's cousin, Chris Elliott, has.
Conversations at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with my wife's family have turned into, "So, how're you doing in fantasy football?" in recent years so I knew I at least had one sounding board and someone to help me navigate daily fantasy sports (as with most big decisions, who doesn't turn to their wife's cousins?).
For entertainment purposes
Cousin Chris was helpful. He's been playing FanDuel for two years now. Like a lot of folks, Cousin Chris does it mostly for entertainment purposes, but wouldn't mind winning the big one if he were so lucky.
"I mean, I cross my fingers but I know I'm not going to cash in big," he said. "I only play to have money to keep playing. Mainly I do it to make the games more exciting."
Taking advice from Cousin Chris and Jason Quave, a Coastian who won $1 million last year on DraftKings -- plus a few hours of podcast listening and research -- I pieced together four teams on DraftKings for Week 11 of the NFL season.
For signing up, I was entered into a free $3 league. I also entered two "Millionaire Maker" lineups and a fourth lineup in a $10 50-50 league, where the top half makes $18 on the initial bet. (One thing to keep in mind on DraftKings is although the site will match your initial deposit, you have to "earn" the money. In other words, you don't just get one lump sum, which is a pretty big bummer.)
How the game works
The way daily fantasy sports works, you start with a budget -- $50,000 in the case of DK -- and must fill a nine-player lineup composed of a QB, two RBs, three WRs, a TE, a flex (RB, TE or WR) and a defense (FanDuel uses a kicker instead of a flex spot, which is essentially why I chose DK). Player values range from $2,000 to nearly $10,000.
The first bit of advice both Quave and Cousin Chris gave me was to build around a strong "stack," so I went with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on one team, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson on two teams and then Tony Romo and Jason Witten on the final team. Depending on the budget I had remaining, I sprinkled in Adrian Peterson, Danny Amendola, Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Rob Gronkowski, Charcandrick West, Stevie Johnson and a few others for a good blend of studs and sleepers.
Good, bad pairings
I felt pretty good about the Stafford-Johnson combo because they were going up against a porous Raiders defense. The duo did solid, netting me just north of 34 points combined. Ryan-Jones was easily my best stack, combining for 48.9, but my Cowboys fandom maybe clouded my judgment -- Romo-Witten scored just under 20 points. Bummer.
As Jamaal Charles' injury replacement -- another tip -- I felt confident enough to put the $4,500 West on each of my teams. Apparently so did everyone else, as he was the highest-owned player in Week 11 at 44.5 percent. The return was only so-so as he injured his hamstring but still racked up 8.4 points.
Outside of Jones' 28-point performance -- he caught nine passes for 160 yards BUT NOT ONE TOUCHDOWN -- Stewart and McFadden were two of my best investments. Costing $4,400 and $5,000 respectively, they racked up 21.5 and 20.9 points.
Gronk was easily my biggest disappointment. Visions of a huge performance against the Bills danced through my head when news broke Julian Edelman was lost to injury. Instead, I felt like I should have crushed a beer can on my forehead Gronk-style after the rowdy TE registered just 5.7 points, not good on a $7,700 investment.
Amendola, however, was a fantastic land on one of my teams. At a cost of just $4,000, he registered 23.7 points.
Not too shabby
By the time all the fantasy dust had settled, I had won a grand total of $88. My Millionaire Maker lineups placed 23,615th and 42,690th out of a measly 286,250 lineups. I placed 83,802nd out of 383,332 in another $1 million league and 10th out of 120 in my 50-50 league. So, off of a $50 investment I netted $38. Not bad for a Daily Fantasy Sports newcomer.
Maybe the headline should be "This is how I didn't lose everything."
Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.