Fantasy Football Best-Ball Strategy Guide (MFL10 and DRAFT)
Throughout this offseason, we’ve posted articles on best-ball leagues. Whether it be our beginner’s guide (read it here) or articles on which players fare better/worse in the best-ball format (read here). While those may have been helpful to many, there are still many who don’t know how many players to select at each position, as well as when to prioritize each position.
While there is no one strategy that will work every time, I’ve assembled a guide to help you understand which positions to target in your draft and which strategy will work more often than not.
Over the last few years, it’s taken roughly 2,500 points to win an MFL10 league. While it would be easy to just build a team to score a set amount of points based on projections, that’s impossible with best-ball formats. You need to understand that drafting an MFL10 team is different than redraft. You’ll want to take on more risk in best-ball than you would on your season-long teams, simply because the Frank Gore-type players who score exactly 10 PPR points seemingly every game won’t make their way into your best-ball lineup 90 percent of the time. That type of player could be useful in season-long, but not nearly as much in best ball.
As mentioned in the beginner’s guide, there are certain guidelines that you want to live by when building your roster. You’ll almost always fit inside of these boundaries because they are loose enough to veer off in just about any direction the draft takes you. With that being said, here they are:
- 2-3 QUARTERBACKS
- 4-7 RUNNING BACKS
- 6-8 WIDE RECEIVERS
- 2-3 TIGHT ENDS
- 2-3 D/ST
Rather than dive into one specific strategy, I’m going to give you a visual explanation of what kind of value you can expect from any position, at any given time, in an MFL10 best-ball draft. There are a lot of factors that will go into which position you’ll choose, but this will at least give you a starting point.
The above values represent point per game averages for that particular position, in that particular round, if all players were drafted at/around their ADP (average draft position). While you can never fully predict where every player goes, I can tell you that the 25th running back almost always comes off the board in the fifth round. Over the last four seasons, the 25th running back drafted has finished averaging in between 9.3-11.8 PPR points per game. By going through years of data and creating averages, I was able to give you an approximate value chart.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that there are some values missing. The reason for this is that ADP varies greatly once you get outside of the top 50 at running back and wide receiver, leaving some questionable numbers at best. Those are the areas of the draft where you want to aim for upside, players who are just one injury away from being vaulted into fantasy relevance. Now that we have our starting point, we can discuss the positions and how to attack them.
It seems that there’s late-round quarterbacks that everyone loves and they’re willing to wait for. The issue, of course, is that once everyone goes by the same strategy, it’s better to zig while everyone else zags. For instance, Aaron Rodgers going in the fourth- or fifth-round is a travesty and one I’ve been taking advantage of myself in best-ball leagues this year. Russell Wilson in the sixth-round is another one where the crowd has gone too far. You know that the MFL10 format doesn’t have waivers, right? All the projected starting quarterbacks will be owned, so there are some advantages to selecting a quarterback somewhat early (no, I’m not talking about the second- or third-round).
The advantages of getting someone like Rodgers or Wilson (or another quarterback who is extremely safe) is that you only need to grab one quarterback the remainder of the draft. Pair them with someone like Andy Dalton who is in no danger of losing his starting job, and you’re set at the position. When you wait to snag your first quarterback until the double-digit rounds, you’d better get three of them, unless Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan fall to you in those rounds, as that pairing gives you a solid floor with a decent ceiling.
Selecting a quarterback in rounds four through eight nets you 19.3-23.5 points, according to our chart, which is history, after all. The drop-off at running back and wide receiver is much more substantial and less predictable, which is why most gravitate towards them. Points per game are great and all, but just how consistent are the top-six quarterbacks when compared to those drafted 7-12, 13-18, etc.?
|ADP||Top-5 %||Top-12 %||Boom (26+)||Bust (Under 14)|
|7 to 12||18.0%||40.5%||14.3%||33.8%|
|13 to 18||15.6%||39.5%||11.5%||36.6%|
|19 to 24||12.3%||29.2%||9.1%||41.9%|
This is the reason for the late-round quarterback approach, though there are some flaws. Most believe by mixing and matching three quarterbacks in the 13-18 range that they can get better numbers than those of Rodgers or another early-round quarterback. Guys, that’s three quarterbacks who could all post their top-12 performance on the same week, leaving you in a bad spot considering only one will count. The important part that I want you to take away from this, though, is that drafting a quarterback from 7-12 or from 13-18, there’s not that much of a difference.
The dream scenario is to wind up with one of the top-six quarterbacks and another safe quarterback from the 13-18 range. When I say safe, I’m talking about a quarterback who has no shot of losing his starting job. Guys who are included in that range this year are: Patrick Mahomes, Mitch Trubisky, Andy Dalton, and Alex Smith.
The heart and soul of your best-ball team, right? I mean, we now have running backs being selected with 10 of the top 14 picks, according to early MFL10 ADP. There’s plenty of strategies out there on running backs – Zero RB, RB-heavy, Studs-and-Scrubs, etc. In the end, you need to hit on a few players who have high ceilings, no matter where you draft them. According to my study on “How Much Does Team Scoring Matter,” 75 percent of top-six running backs come from top-12 scoring offenses, so it should come as no shock to see guys like Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt atop the running back position last year. It’s not easy to find them, though, according to where they’ve been drafted over the years. Similar to quarterbacks, let’s take a look at how running backs have performed over the last four years based on where they were drafted.
|ADP||RB1%||RB2%||RB3%||Boom (25+)||Bust (Under 8)|
|7 to 12||34.1%||53.3%||73.5%||12.3%||24.3%|
|13 to 18||25.9%||51.9%||74.4%||6.3%||23.4%|
|19 to 24||18.0%||41.4%||61.7%||5.0%||35.6%|
|25 to 30||13.5%||29.6%||54.6%||3.9%||42.1%|
|31 to 36||13.8%||34.6%||55.0%||3.4%||42.3%|
|37 to 42||14.3%||27.9%||45.9%||4.1%||51.7%|
|43 to 50||12.8%||30.5%||47.0%||3.1%||49.9%|
There’s a clear break in the numbers here, as landing a top-six running back seems paramount to your success in best-ball leagues. They not only deliver at least RB2 numbers 75 percent of the time, but they only bust 10.6 percent of the time, giving you a solid floor. Meanwhile, those selected in between 7-12 and 13-18 look very similar, though the ones being drafted higher seem to have more “boom” performances. It makes sense, too, as players drafted in this range are those who are considered somewhat safe, but offer the upside of a top-six pick. Still, you’re likely better off going wide receiver over a running back in the 7-12 range, as we’ll find out in the wide receiver section.
All in all, you can see that it’d take at least four running backs drafted in the 25-30 range in order to make up for the amount of RB1 performances that a top-six running back gives you. And even if you were to combine all four running backs, they still wouldn’t have the amount of “boom” performances that your top-six running back did. Long story short, get one of the top-six running backs on your roster whenever possible.
The ideal strategy at running back would be to snag one in the first-round, then snag one of the top-six wide receivers with your next pick. This happens all too often with running back occupying at least 10 of the top 14 picks. Similar to the way it is with quarterback, the more talent you have on top of your roster at the position, the less you absolutely must take later in the draft. But know this – once the top-24 running backs are gone, you can somewhat take your time assembling the rest of your stable, as the remaining numbers for those drafted from RB25-50 are nearly identical, and as a matter of fact, those drafted from 31-36 have outperformed those drafted from 25-30. Keep in mind that this is four years worth of data. You should never leave a draft with fewer than four running backs, and even if you have just four, they better be really good. In most cases, you should end up with five or six of them on your roster.
Now that wide receivers had a down year in 2017, most are just waiting at the position, but has it gone too far? As is the case with most things, we’re programmed to accept recency bias as something that’s reality, which just happens to be last year’s fantasy numbers. But in a PPR format (MFL10s), did you know that over the last five years, 22 wide receivers have scored 300 or more points, while there’ve been just 14 running backs to hit that number? Wide receivers have more upside as a whole, though as talked about in the running back section, there’s a significant drop-off from the top-six over the rest of the field. Let’s take a look to see if it’s like that with wide receivers.
|ADP||WR1%||WR2%||WR3%||Boom (25+)||Bust (Under 8)|
|7 to 12||26.8%||45.9%||59.8%||13.9%||24.6%|
|13 to 18||23.1%||42.8%||57.5%||10.7%||25.1%|
|19 to 24||21.6%||38.9%||54.9%||11.3%||30.1%|
|25 to 30||16.4%||35.4%||52.5%||9.2%||33.1%|
|31 to 36||13.0%||33.2%||47.7%||5.1%||36.9%|
|37 to 42||13.0%||28.6%||40.7%||5.0%||44.1%|
|43 to 50||9.2%||21.2%||33.3%||1.9%||48.9%|
As expected, there’s a drop-off with wide receivers outside the top six, but not nearly as significant as the one with running backs. But here’s the best part – with most selecting the No. 12 running back before the No. 6 wide receiver is off the board, you’re typically able to get a top-six wide receiver in the second-round, which should make you feel all giddy inside. Once those top-six wide receivers are gone, though, you can see that those who are selected from 7-24 have a lot in common. There’s just over a five percent difference in WR1 output, there “boom” performances are nearly identical, and the bust rates aren’t much different, either.
With wide receivers, it’s a much more gradual decline you see when looking at this chart, making it easier to pick your spots when selecting them. I mean, even those being selected in the 25-30 range are producing at least WR3 numbers 52.5 percent of the time. Ideally, you get one of the top-six guys, two of those drafted in the 7-24 range, and then fill out your draft as you go from there. This is the one position where it doesn’t hurt to grab more, no matter who is atop your depth chart. It’s because you start three of them automatically, which gives the guy you drafted in the 18th round a shot to produce if he catches a long touchdown. Running backs drafted that late are only going to matter if there’s an injury. You should leave your best-ball draft with a minimum of six wide receivers.
It’s no secret that the tight end position is the most difficult to predict, as it’s extremely touchdown-reliant. There are a few tight ends atop the draft who don’t need touchdowns as much as others, but are they worth the equity you have to shell out in order to acquire them?
|ADP||Top-5 %||Top-12 %||Boom (20+)||Bust (Under 7)|
|1 to 3||32.3%||65.2%||26.1%||23.6%|
|4 to 6||17.0%||36.6%||12.4%||42.5%|
|7 to 9||26.5%||53.0%||12.6%||30.5%|
|10 to 12||13.5%||39.9%||6.1%||40.5%|
|13 to 18||12.9%||34.4%||6.8%||43.2%|
|19 to 24||13.1%||29.1%||8.3%||51.6%|
Volatile much? Seriously, that should be on a t-shirt. As you can see, if you don’t get one of the top-three tight ends, you might as well close your eyes and pick a couple. I’m kidding, of course, but those drafted from 10-12 over the last four years have outproduced those who were drafted from 4-6 based on TE1 performances. When you pay for a tight end in best-ball, you’re paying for their “boom” performances more than anything, which is why those who shy away from Jordan Reed in best-ball aren’t too sharp. Any time you can get a tight end outside the top-10 who has hit the “boom” number in 19.2 percent of his career games, you do that. He’s a steal in best-ball leagues right now.
Here’s a fun stat from the article I referenced at the top about which players are better in best-ball leagues: Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce accounted for 11 of the 32 games in which a tight end cracked 20.0 PPR points in 2017. Think about that for a second. A massive 34.4 percent of the best performances for tight ends last year came from two players, who also missed a combined three games. On top of that, they also posted the lowest “bust” rate among tight ends, as just five of their combined 29 games netted you less than 7.0 PPR points.
Those two are seriously in a league of their own and let’s say that you snagged a top-six running back in the first-round and then the top-six wide receivers were gone by your next pick, you should really contemplate taking one of them near the 2/3 turn in your draft. They give you such a weekly advantage at the hardest position to predict in fantasy football. Zach Ertz isn’t quite on their level, but he’s not too far off them over the last two years, as he’s hit 20 or more PPR points in 6-of-29 games (20.7 percent of the time). If you don’t get any of those guys, you’re going to draft three tight ends. As you can see by the chart, it doesn’t make much of a difference where you draft them (outside of Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, of course).
You’ve likely already come to the realization that you shouldn’t be drafting a defense early in your MFL10s. When looking at the value chart, you can see that by drafting a defense in the 11th-round round, you’re only getting a three-point advantage over those who wait until the 17th round. Meanwhile, you’re missing out on every other position. Seriously, if you feel the need to draft a defense in the 11th round, I’d rather you take another quarterback. Just don’t do it. There is so much variance year-over-year that you cannot accurately project what a defense and its special teams unit will do. Because of that, draft your defenses from round 15-20. Based on your preference, you can draft either two or three of them.
Summing It All Up
You now know that running backs and wide receivers, particularly those being drafted inside the top-six at their position are the “must-haves” in your best-ball league, but that the wide receiver drafted seventh isn’t that far off the wide receiver being drafted 24th. You also know that the late-round quarterback approach isn’t the only one that will work. Oh, and tight ends… well, good luck. It’s important to remember at each position that the stronger your depth chart is at the top, it’s less important to add significant depth at that position later. Instead, add more potential to the positions you’re weaker at.
By now, you should be prepared to dominate your MFL10s. The last piece of advice is to have fun. Just because your sheet has one player over another, it doesn’t mean that you need to take them. Get your guys when you can, because there is no guarantee you’ll have the opportunity on your next pick.