NFL Showdown DraftKings Strategy

NFL Showdown DraftKings Strategy

DraftKings introduced the current version of the NFL Showdown format in September 2018. Every week, they offer large field contests with six figure (sometimes seven-figure, like for the Super Bowl) prizes for 1st place. As you can imagine, it’s extremely difficult to reach the top of the leaderboard in these contests.

It’s even more difficult to win one of these contests by yourself – roughly ~70% of all DraftKings NFL Showdown slate top prizes have been “split” between multiple winners. A “split” results in all users “chopping” the pot – if 2 users tie for 1st place, they split the prizes for the top 2 places evenly, etc. The most dramatic version of this? 748 users split the top of the leaderboard for a Rams-Seahawks game on October 3rd, 2019, each winning $1,210.09 – a far cry from the $400,000 top prize they each were hoping for.

Whether you’re a 150 lineup (max entry limit) or casual player, you likely want to give yourself a chance to win the top prize “solo” if playing one of these contests. While I’ve never won a showdown tournament myself, I have taken a look at all the winning lineups to see what could be taken away from the strategies the winners used. Yes – every NFL game is clearly different, but there are some high-level tactics we can use as DFS players to improve our chances to win. Here is what I found:

Salary Usage

The top prize is split roughly 70% of the time by DraftKings users on these slates. One clear distinction between “solo” winning lineups and split winners? Salary usage.

A look at minimum, 1st quartile, median, 3rd quartile, and max salary usage for NFL Showdown winning lineups on DraftKings.

“Solo” winning lineups leave $2,300 in salary over on average, while winning lineups that split the prize average just $500 in salary left over.

Up and down the distribution of winning lineups, “solo” winners use far less salary than “split” winners. The best way to interpret this table is, if you’re using $49,500 or more of your allotted $50,000 salary dollars, you’re extremely likely to tie with at least 1 other user for the top prize if its the “right” lineup.

This is where a lot of people may disagree – I believe we should be trying our hardest to win 1st place with a unique build (especially with a million dollars on the line). You don’t need to spend all your salary dollars to jam in all the stud players you think you need to win. Instead, you should study usage trends with players to identify opportunities for ceiling. One way to do that? Look at air yards for WRs.

Captain Strategy

Another way winners tend to differentiate themselves from the field? Their utilization of the Captain spot (CPT) in their lineups. Here is the distribution by position of the CPT player in all tournament winning lineups since 2018:


Skill position players (especially WR/TE, pass catchers) tend to be the winning CPT. This diverges a lot from ownership data – week in and week out, top pass catchers are under owned at CPT compared to this implied probability (~40%) to be in the winning lineup, while QBs go over owned at CPT compared to their odds (about 20%).

The nice thing about this particular tidbit – placing a skill position player at CPT helps you a.) be more unique and b.) build a “more” optimal lineup for any given contest.

Expert Analysis

Don’t just take my word for it – listen to Brian Jester, CEO of Occupy Fantasy talk about this and more. Brian, aka “courtjesters” on DraftKings, won $1,000,000 with a unique lineup for the Super Bowl 53 contest using both of these key principles.

There’s far more to being successful in this DFS format – thankfully, Brian broke some of it down in a recent podcast:

Closing Thoughts

Showdown is a unique NFL DFS format that still hasn’t fully been “solved” by the marketplace of DFS users. By employing some key tactics (limiting salary usage, using a pass catcher at CPT), several users have found success. You may improve your own odds of winning some life-changing money by doing the same.

Winning lineup data logged and studied using RotoGrinders’ resultsDB tool. Check my work if you wish.