A Cross to Bear

How to pick your DraftKings daily fantasy soccer defenders

There’s a terrific set of fixtures to get your teeth into this Sunday so we thought we would take the opportunity to have a look at the defender selection process for DraftKings , the US operator that is planning to enter the UK market in Q4 this year.

DraftKings currently have an 8 a-side fantasy soccer product where you need to select a goalkeeper, 2 defenders, 2 midfielders, 2 forwards and a flex who can occupy any of the outfield positions. A detailed look at their fantasy football game rules and scoring system can be seen in our DraftKings review.

DraftKings fantasy Soccer

If you are familiar with our Advanced section you will know that it is important to analyse how points are awarded for each playing position and then to combine these factors with the key fundamentals needed to select winning line-ups. The following table assumes that required minutes played to earn defensive bonus points for clean sheets and single goal games have been satisfied and the breakdown shows average points per game splits for goals scored, assists, crosses, fouls won and the aforementioned defensive bonus points:

Average Draftkings PPG for Defenders

It’s worth noting that ‘Crosses’ are accounting for over 1/3rd of the total accumulated points for this data set and that the statistics are provided by Stats LLC. The exact description of a cross is somewhat vague but it would appear to be any ball played into the box from a wide area that reaches its intended target or is cleared/blocked. Corners are excluded.

The following pie chart gives a clearer indication of the overall breakdown for the listed players:

DraftKings Defenders PPG

With such a big proportion of points being awarded for ‘crosses’ it is difficult to justify the inclusion of a centre-back although a case can be made for Eric Dier since he has been misclassified and is playing in a more advanced role in midfield. Dier’s key strengths were documented in a recent WhoScored article by Ben McAleer but these wouldn’t appear to favour how action points are awarded by this particular operator. With ‘crosses’ seemingly worth their weight in gold a sensible strategy is to look for a combination of players who rank highly in this department aligned with a favourable fixture where defensive bonus points might be claimed.

Team Expectancies

Having said all that, a quick look at the table above indicates that all of Sunday’s fixtures are very evenly matched so ‘player pricing’ and ‘team news’ should be the decisive considerations. You are given a $50m budget from which to draft your 8 players – offensive midfielders and forwards generally have a greater scope for big scores so the majority of your available funds should be spent on these. It will boil down to your own gut feelings… but if you follow these guidelines and reference our piece on Selecting Defenders you should give yourself a firm defensive base from which to attack any daily fantasy football contest!


NB. Kindly note that since this article was first published DraftKings have revamped their soccer product, switching from an 8 a-side version to an 11 a-side format as well as making additional scoring amendments.