In the competitive space of daily fantasy sports, you're either the hunter or the hunted. But what makes the sharks so much better than the competition?
The truth is, the continued success of DFS has given fantasy software developers ample time to create tools that can provide astute players with a distinct statistical edge. The focal point of most daily fantasy sports tools is the lineup optimizer.
Today I evaluate the best DFS lineup optimizers in 2020. You'll soon know which optimizer is best suited for your style of DFS, your sport of choice, and your wallet.
Let’s get started!
Comparing the Top DFS Optimizer Features
This table compares the fantasy lineup optimizers covered in this review. In the sections that follow, I review each optimizer in detail.
|Optimizer||Trial/Guarantee||Avg Rating||Our Rating||Sports Supported||DFS Sites Supported|
|1 Month (for $1)||NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL||DraftKings, FanDuel|
|1 Month Free (terms)||NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, NASCAR, eSports, MMA||DraftKings, FanDuel, FantasyDraft|
|7-Day Free Trial||NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL||DraftKings,, FanDuel, Yahoo DFS, FantasyDraft|
|100% Money Back Guarantee||NFL||DraftKings, FanDuel, FantasyDraft|
What is a Lineup Optimizer and Why is it Necessary in 2020?
You may have heard that less than 2% of DFS players earn over 90% of the player profits. One big reason for this is that the top players know how to leverage analytics that gives them a statistical advantage.
Lineup optimizers are tools that help you configure DFS lineups with the highest potential point output. It’s the primary tool used by the top players to start winning lineups consistently.
Let's take a closer look at lineup optimizers and why they're so crucial for people looking to win money playing daily fantasy.
Every DFS Optimizer aims to solve the "Knapsack Problem"
The classic knapsack problem (or more specifically, the “0-1 knapsack problem”) is a classic computer programming puzzle that asks you to solve this combinatorics question:
The Knapsack Problem
“Consider a thief gets into a home to rob and he carries a knapsack. There are a fixed number of items in the home – each with its own weight and value – Jewelry, with less weight and highest value vs tables, with less value but a lot heavy. To add fuel to the fire, the thief has an old knapsack which has limited capacity. Obviously, he can't split the table into half or jewelry into 3/4ths. He either takes it or leaves it…
Given a knapsack of a maximum capacity of W and N items each with its own value and weight, throw items inside the knapsack such that the final contents has the maximum value”
If you replace the knapsack in this problem with a salary cap-limited DFS lineup, then replace the items in the home with sports players, you'll have a true understanding of the problem that lineup optimizers aim to solve.
To begin evaluating this problem, lineup optimizer developers first assign a value to each player. Then, they utilize daily fantasy algorithm software to determine the precise players to include in your optimal fantasy football lineup (i.e., your knapsack) to maximize the potential point output of your entire DFS roster.
When you consistently start lineups with high potential, you'll win more contests and earn more money.
Do lineup optimizers work in 2020?
No one has the data necessary to definitively prove that lineup optimizers give you a huge advantage. However, empirical evidence suggests that these tools are incredibly effective.
Just review the documented success stories at Draft Dashboard, Daily Fantasy Nerd, DFS Army, and RotoQL to get an idea of how much you can win with a quality DFS lineup generator. Here is one that is particularly impressive.
A DFS Lineup Optimizer provides distinct statistical advantages
As more and more people try to make money playing DFS, the level of competition gets more and more intense. So it's only natural that being a consistent winner will get increasingly difficult over time.
But data-rich lineup optimizers provide statistical tools to help you maintain that slight mathematical edge, even as more players enter the space. And as the adoption of this type of DFS software expands, optimizers are becoming even more essential to your ongoing success.
An effective DFS Optimizer scales contest entry to boost earnings
Most above-average DFS players, with proper bankroll management, can consistently stay in the black. But to earn significant money playing daily fantasy sports, you need to scale-up.
One study found that the top eleven DFS players in the world spent an average of 2 million dollars in entry fees in a single year, accounting for an astonishing 17% of all entry fees!
It's an unavoidable fact. Winning more money means you'll have to enter more contests.
But entering more contests means your research and lineup decisions must be even more on point, or you could stand to lose big. Mass lineup research and bulk contest entry/management are two areas where lineup optimizers help solve these issues.
The Best DFS Lineup Optimizers of 2020
There are many daily fantasy research tools on the market, and developers create more every year. For 2020, I've limited my analysis to my four favorite lineup optimizers.
I even went as far as to rank the best optimizers according to the following metrics:
Let's get started with an overview of the best lineup optimizers for 2020.
Draft Dashboard supports a range of usable DFS tools
While their lineup optimizer is fantastic, additional features like their Position Optimizer tool, Perfect Lineups interface, and Top Players widget help you achieve roster maximization from different angles. This flexibility makes it the ideal tool if you like to approach lineup creation by first finding diamonds in the rough, then constructing the best fantasy lineup around them.
Daily Fantasy Nerd's affordable plans provide great value
Daily Fantasy Nerd isn't the flashiest lineup optimizer on the market, but it's one of the most effective. They've adorned their home page with success stories of users who have won over half a million dollars in prize money.
They also have some of the most affordable subscriptions plans of any lineup optimizer in this review- an excellent value for what they charge. Membership also affords you access to their bankroll management software.
DFS Army's expert staff makes their tools more effective
For daily fantasy players who are seeking useful tools and proven guidance on being a better overall player, DFS Army is worth considering. Their collaboration-based platform is unique in the industry as it aims to both make you more money and a superior competitor.
Another notch in DFS Army's belt is their support for many different fantasy sports. And you don't need to upgrade to an expensive package to get access, as every plan can utilize the tools for every fantasy sport.
DFS Pass combines an optimizer with stellar content
DFS Pass is a seasonal subscription package from The Fantasy Footballers. In addition to the lineup optimization tool, you get access to other daily fantasy goodies. This includes advice columns from proven industry performers, weekly picks based on contest type (Cash & GPP), stack reports, Vegas odds report, and more.
This isn't the most feature-rich optimizer in the industry, but it optimizes lineups for six fantasy football sites. Best of all, with a seasonal subscription you get access to this optimizer for one low price.
RotoQL is a high-end research site that emphasizes openness
RotoQL is one of the largest DFS research sites online. They have tools and apps for every imaginable daily fantasy use case. As such, they price their best plans at a premium compared to other DFS software creators.
But what separates RotoQL from other sites is their commitment to making their tools available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. Although you only have access to historical data with their free plan, it's a great way to learn your way around their site before you commit to one of their paid plans.
The Key Features of an Effective DFS Lineup Optimizer
Lineup optimizers are not one size fits all tools. While some DFS players insist on the most feature-packed optimizers, others prefer to utilize tools that emphasize simplicity and speed.
Here are other factors that may influence your choice of an optimizer.
In the next few sections, I dig a bit deeper into the essential features of lineup optimizers. I also reveal the best DFS lineup optimizer in each of the primary feature categories: usability, value, effectiveness, & tool suite.
A usable lineup optimizer should be versatile, but intuitive
DFS tools, especially lineup optimizers, were created to reduce the time needed to generate the best DFS lineups. Confusing and clunky interfaces increase research time, leading to lousy fantasy lineup decisions and poor contest performance.
The best lineup optimizers are feature-rich, but convey the most actionable player metrics clearly and concisely. Access to this data helps you to make faster, more informed roster decisions.
Streamlined research means you can enter more contests, win more prizes, and make more money.
Draft Dashboard promotes efficiency when building lineups
Draft Dashboard uses both smart design elements and unique metrics to make configuring lineups more efficient. For starters, they color-code most player statuses using a stoplight-style scheme. Green means a player is a smart play, yellow means a player is serviceable, and red indicates you should steer clear.
They also developed a proprietary player ranking metric called Dash Rank. Dash Rank is a score (from 0 to 100) that indicates the relative strength of a player for a specific slate of games. This useful metric makes it easy to identify the most valuable starters for your upcoming contests.
Daily Fantasy Nerd emphasizes simplicity and flexibility
Of all of the lineup optimizers in this review, Daily Fantasy Nerd has by far the cleanest interface. They're able to squeeze an obscene amount of player stats and projections into a straightforward, scannable UI.
Best of all, most of their metrics can be sorted, filtered, and adjusted based on your custom projections. This simple approach to data presentation makes it easy to customize the optimizer to your liking and focus on the metrics that you value most.
A valuable daily optimizer should provide bang for your buck
Somewhere between cost and effectiveness lies value. The goal for every productive DFS player is to find a lineup optimizer that produces the best return on your investment.
Let's look at a few optimizers that are affordable and have a proven track record of success.
Daily Fantasy Nerd offers valuable, affordable optimization tools
If you're looking to generate quality DFS fantasy lineups without breaking the bank, Daily Fantasy Nerd has the best DFS optimizer for the price. Their $24.99 monthly package (the Veteran) is 20% cheaper than every other lineup generator in this review.
The one drawback to their entry-level plan is that you can only optimize lineups for one DFS site. While that is adequate for most DFS players, you'll need to upgrade to their higher-priced plans if you play on multiple hosts.
DFS Army supplements its tools with helpful advice
DFS Army delivers value by providing full access to the most popular DFS sites (and every supported sport) in all of their subscription packages. They are one of the only research sites in this review that does not force you into a higher-priced plan for these additional services.
DFS Army's pricing structure is meant to give all of their customers the tools they need to compete, even in their cheapest package. Their premium plan is only necessary for DFS players who wish to use the community-based features of their service.
An effective fantasy lineup optimizer produces outstanding results in minimal time
Just about every DFS lineup builder you can find on the web provides some level of value. But just because a tool is functional doesn't mean that it is effective.
Effective lineup optimizers accomplish two primary goals:
- They simplify and streamline lineup generation quickly and at scale
- They back up their tool reputation with proven, documented successes
Let’s look at two optimizers that are proven to generate winning lineups consistently.
DFS Army's pros make you a more effective player
What makes DFS Army so attractive is their commitment to making you a better daily fantasy player. Their mission statement says it all: “Pros helping Joes”.
But using an optimizer in isolation sometimes isn't enough in today's daily fantasy landscape. You frequently need to be able to identify the most profitable contests, sometimes configure an optimal fantasy lineup tailored to a specific contest type, juggle multiple rosters efficiently, and manage your bankroll intelligently. The pros at DFS Army can help you in all of these areas.
Daily Fantasy Nerd produces deep tournament winners
When it comes to the effectiveness of a lineup optimizer, results matter. While we can never fully know how well a specific tool's users are performing overall, it's hard to ignore the success stories detailed at Daily Fantasy Nerd.
On their home page, you can check out (and validate) success stories from users that have won $85,000, $100,000, and even as much as half a million dollars! If you're looking for a powerful optimizer with minimal cost, Daily Fantasy Nerd could be the answer.
A DFS Lineup Generator should be the centerpiece of a comprehensive software suite
If you look at the sites with the best lineup optimizers, you'll notice that their roster generation tool is usually the core of a more extensive tool suite. The best DFS research sites develop additional tools that address other common daily fantasy problems:
- Managing your contest selection and bankroll
- Delivering exclusive player news in a timely fashion
- Helping you identify sneaky value plays
- Integration with popular DFS sites for bulk contest management
Let’s look at a few sites that excel when it comes to developing tools that complement and enhance their base lineup optimization functionality.
The RotoQL tool suite is vast and intelligently integrated
RotoQL has the most comprehensive collection of DFS tools of any site in this review. You can tell that they focus on the little things that make a big difference when you're building high-performing lineups.
One of their unique, innovative tools is the Real-Time Trending Players feature. This RotoQL interface provides a complete and current (refreshed every thirty seconds) perspective of hot and cold players leading up to game time. This data is invaluable for those looking to leverage last-minute, stealth roster adjustments.
Draft Dashboard's tools approach optimization from varying viewpoints
Draft Dashboard has an assortment of tools that let you conduct lineup optimization from multiple angles. In this way, they allow you to dictate how to build the best daily fantasy lineup based on your strategies and tendencies.
I've used Draft Dashboard for over a year now, and they are always adding new and insightful features. Recently they've added Player Watch Lists and 3D Game Visualizer tools to their already impressive feature set.
Can you try a daily fantasy lineup optimizer for free?
Everyone wants to try before they buy. Luckily, most of the lineup optimizers in this article have some sign-up deal that allows you to test the goods before forking over your cash.
Draft Dashboard provides a full month of free access
Draft Dashboard has the best sign-up deal of any tool in this review. For only $1, you get full access to their complete tool suite for an entire month.
If you cancel your membership at any point during the first month, they'll terminate your subscription, and you won’t owe anything. This extended trial period is an excellent deal if you want as much time as possible to get acclimated to a tool before subscribing.
Best of all, a free month lets you validate that the tool is profitable before you come out-of-pocket.
Daily Fantasy Nerd offers seven days of full access to all tools
Daily Fantasy Nerd offers all new users a seven-day free trial to experiment with their lineup optimizer. During that time, you'll have full access to every tool, DFS site, and sport they support.
Although this isn't quite as nice as the full free month for $1 you'll get at Draft Dashboard, it's enough to test their lineup optimization features thoroughly.
My advice would be to pick a trial period that spans at least two slates of games. This way, you can get a complete picture of how well the optimizer is working for you by entering some real contests.
DFS Army offers free access for new DFS site registrants
DFS Army provides a free month of their service to some new members, but it comes with a catch. To qualify to this deal, you'll have to create a DraftKings or FanDuel account and make (at least) a $20 deposit. I reviewed DraftKings if you want to check out their platform before signing up.
If you already have an account on these DFS hosts, you're unfortunately out of luck. Because these sites validate your identity, and only allow you to register once, you must truly be a new customer to take advantage of this deal.
RotoQL's offers no free trials but will reimburse dissatisfied users
RotoQL doesn’t offer any free trials with their line of DFS tools. However, they do say that if you’re not satisfied with their lineup tools, you can request a full refund any time in the first three days of your paid membership.
Although this may seem like an inferior sign-up deal compared to other optimizers, it's important to remember that RotoQL lets you experiment with their full suite of tools for free, every day. Yes, the free plan only enables you to apply the tool to historical data. But that's still a great way to try before you buy.
The Daily Fantasy Lineup Optimizer with the Widest Sports Coverage
Every daily fantasy lineup optimizer in this article supports all four major US sports leagues (the NFL, NBA, MLB, & NHL). However, as contests for these sports get saturated with DFS players, new sports leagues are being introduced to the fantasy world.
Players looking for lucrative contest opportunities are experimenting with new fantasy sports leagues and having huge successes. But which fantasy lineup generator supports the most significant number of sports in 2020?
DFS Army has a DFS lineup optimizer for seven major sports
If you like some variety in your daily fantasy game, DFS Army is worth checking out. They support an additional lineup optimizer for golf (the PGA), stock car racing (NASCAR), and mixed martial arts (MMA).
Although they don't have a dedicated lineup optimizer developed for every sport, they do provide content for other DFS sports including arena football, college baseball, college football, soccer, tennis, and the WNBA. When it comes to supporting many different sports, DFS Army is the best DFS lineup optimizer.
The DFS Optimizer That Integrates with the Most DFS Sites
Many daily fantasy players utilize several different DFS hosts when looking for contests, trying to identify the weakest possible competition. These players need to be able to quickly optimize their daily fantasy sports lineups for platforms beyond DraftKings and FanDuel.
But which lineup optimizer features algorithms flexible enough to apply to more DFS sites?
Daily Fantasy Nerd supports the four most popular DFS sites
Daily Fantasy Nerd is the optimizer that provides the most DFS host coverage. Every lineup optimizer in this review supports generating Draft Kings and FanDuel lineups. But DF Nerd goes further to offer customized optimization for Yahoo DFS contests and FantasyDraft.
To gain access to all four DFS sites, you’ll need to subscribe to their MVP Plan. This plan runs $79.99 per month but is the best deal going if you need to optimize lineups for as many platforms as possible.
The Best Budget DFS Lineup Generator
If you've just started playing daily fantasy sports, it can be hard to justify extra expenses. This is especially true when you're just starting to build a bankroll.
Luckily, there are lineup optimizers that are full-featured yet won't break the bank.
Daily Fantasy Nerd has a budget plan for single host players
If you're looking for a cheap lineup optimizer to experiment with while you learn the DFS ropes, the best deal going is at Daily Fantasy Nerd. Their lowest-level subscription plan (the Veteran) is only $24.00 per month.
The Veteran plan supports a single DFS host. But if you’re not a high-volume player, it's unlikely that you'll be playing on multiple hosts anyway. This plan allows you to generate up to 10 optimal lineups at a time, but there is no cap on the total number of optimizations you can run.
The Best Free DFS Lineup Optimizer for 2020
If you can't pull together the cash (or don't want to pay) for a quality lineup optimizer, you have a couple of options. For example, Daily Fantasy Fuel has a free DFS lineup optimizer that is simple and seems to be adequately maintained. It’s probably the best free DFS lineup optimizer available in 2020.
Fantasy Football Nerd also maintains an optimizer that isn’t entirely free but costs only $8.75 for an entire year (pretty darn close to free compared to other tools).
The risk associated with using a free DFS lineup optimizer
Free DFS tools are great. But beware of any free lineup optimizer that claims to produce outstanding results. If they're free, that means the lineups they're suggesting are likely being used extensively across many different DFS hosts.
Remember, the best DFS lineups are well-researched but also deviate from the norm. And that isn’t possible if you’re configuring your rosters based solely on the output of free lineup optimizers.
Draft Dashboard is an Excellent Fantasy Lineup Optimizer with a Lower Barrier to Entry
Draft Dashboard provides an assortment of tools that help you build the best possible lineups for the most popular DFS sites. Their design elements make it particularly simple to manipulate base lineups and quickly evaluate replacement players with higher potential.
Their lineup optimization tools support the NFL, NBA, NHL, and (recently added) MLB. A consistent design makes it easy to transition from sport to sport as you prepare for various contests.
I wrote a detailed DraftDashboard review that covers their best features. It's an especially good read if you're considering signing up for their one month $1 trial.
Daily Fantasy Nerd Features a Simple Daily Fantasy Optimizer with Proven Results
If you're like me, you prefer tools that are simple yet effective. It's true, bells and whistles are useful in some circumstances. But in an arena like DFS where time is of the essence, you want quick results.
Daily Fantasy Nerd’s player projection metrics are straightforward, yet comprehensive. It's simple to integrate your projections, tweak their daily fantasy sports algorithm, and generate lineups that are both unique and productive.
It doesn't hurt that they are also the cheapest lineup optimizer with some of the most massive documented payouts of any DFS tool. My DFS Nerd review has more info on their line of daily fantasy software.
DFS Army Aims to Make You a Better DFS Player
DFS Army is a fantastic tool for both entry-level players and daily fantasy veterans who are looking to improve their overall game. Their community-based approach, support for many different sports, and comprehensive plans make their service a smart choice for anyone looking to make more money in daily fantasy sports.
I reviewed DFS Army in one of my previous articles. If you want to learn more about DFS Army and their suite of collaboration-based DFS tools, it's a must-read. Their platform and services are very desirable for daily fantasy novices.