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The Value of Participating in Early Best Balls (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
Jul 2, 2019

Joe Mixon’s ADP has already started to move up and will continue to do so

As most draft champions/best ball players know, drafting early can present huge opportunities. There is always a benefit in drafting early. There is sometimes a severe knowledge gap leading up to August, and as such, those who have been paying attention and researching the relevant fantasy football news are much more prepared for early drafts than some others may be.

While there are many draft champions formats out there, not all are created equal. You are not playing true best ball with an 18-man roster, or even a 22-man roster. True draft champions leagues should be 30+ players per team in a 12-team minimum format. If you have yet to try out anything over 25-man rosters, you owe it to yourself to get the true experience.

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Early jump on breakout players and rookies
The number one reason to draft early is that you are more likely to land the players you have identified as breakout candidates. The same applies for the top rookies. As the preseason drags on and more depth chart and training camp battle information becomes available, you are less likely to land these players.

The more information that is out there for the casual owners to take in, the less likely your targets can still be considered sleepers. You are in a race against fantasy analysts divulging the info that you are able to make use of right now. Draft in May, June, or early July and you will be able to steal rookies and your top sleepers all throughout the draft. Wait until August and you are likely to miss out on many, as the ADP of your targets will often spike due to increased discussion in the fantasy community.

Competitive advantage
There is always a competitive advantage in drafting early available to those who seek fantasy football knowledge all year long. The luck factor somewhat dissipates in favor of knowledge and skill. Luck is part of the fantasy football experience, but it should not be the main factor in winning or losing. Drafting early helps to avoid this. Of course, it cannot completely be avoided, but it is much more palatable if the luck or bad luck is due to injury as opposed to simply coming down to draft position based ‘luck.’

Valuing Players Prior to Draft
As you may or may not know, one of the major roster building differences between standard leagues and best ball leagues is that in best ball upside becomes even more important. With this being the case, after the first several rounds are in the books, reaching for high-upside players becomes the norm. With that in mind, it is suggested that owners be aggressive to land their targets. While this is the case in all leagues, it is more paramount in best ball.

This means boom-or-bust players may suddenly be more valuable than in leagues where you have to decide who to start each week. Robert Foster and John Brown of the Buffalo Bills project to have much more week-to-week variance than someone like teammate Cole Beasley who should see a more stable role in terms of both targets and receptions. While Foster and Brown may have more dud weeks, they will likely have multiple weeks where they outscore Beasley’s top performance of the season.

ADP Risers and Fallers
The greatest benefit of drafting early is being able to land your top targets later than you typically would later in the draft season. This is true not only in redraft and dynasty but best ball as well.

In some cases, however, you may actually be able to take advantage of falling ADPs for players, like James Conner. Conner was a top-10 back (eighth) based on DLF ADP in May but is not even in the top 10 in June ADP. In redraft, he has fallen from 1.10 to 1.12. This makes him a great potential value for owners that believe in him. Here are some first-round running backs who saw both their dynasty and redraft ADP rise from May to June.

Name May Dynasty ADP  June Dynasty ADP
Joe Mixon 13.63 11.33
David Johnson 16.83 14.5


Name May ADP June ADP
Joe Mixon 2.02  1.09
David Johnson   1.06 1.05

It is still early in the draft season and we can already see that the ADP of Joe Mixon and David Johnson has started to rise. This is true not only in redraft and best ball leagues but in dynasty leagues as well. While David Johnson has likely now reached his draft ceiling (first back taken after the fearsome foursome), Joe Mixon will likely continue to see his ADP rise over the coming months.

The shifts we see in ADP are often the most pronounced with high upside rookies. Let’s take a look at the Fantasy Football Calculator ADP changes for some of this years’ top redraft rookie targets. The date range is May 21 to June 23.

Name May ADP June ADP
Josh Jacobs 4.09 3.09
David Montgomery 6.09 4.07
N’Keal Harry 10.01 8.10
Miles Sanders 9.03 7.04
Kyler Murray 10.11 8.11

As the above chart illustrates, drafting early does indeed have its benefits when it comes to both rookies and undervalued players. As the offseason wears on, more and more information becomes available to the casual player which in turn causes ADPs to rise. With the five rookies above we have seen ADPs rise anywhere between one to three rounds. The other player segment that sees its ADP spike between May and August are the popular breakout candidates. Let’s take a look at some breakout candidates.

Name May ADP June ADP
Robby Anderson 7.06 6.10
O.J. Howard 6.01 5.06
Ronald Jones 11.12 8.11
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 14.06 12.07
Rashaad Penny 7.08 7.01
DaeSean Hamilton 13.10 12.10
Donte Moncrief 15.01 14.01

This list once again illustrates that drafting early has its benefits, even if we are talking about comparing May and June. The ADPs of many players, specifically rookies and breakout candidates will continue to soar.

You may have noticed that players like Chris Godwin are missing from the chart. This is because Godwin’s breakout potential has been discussed at length for the entirety of the offseason. He may well see his ADP rise over the coming months but has already jumped as high as 4.03 in some leagues.

In closing, there is one thing to be aware of as far as it pertains to multi league-best ball tournaments with a grand prize. Data collected by our friends at RotoViz suggests that your overall DRAFT team will score more points the later you draft. This is likely primarily due to being able to avoid players who are injured or lost for the season in July or August.

Taking on increased injury vulnerability for a superior roster is often the tradeoff when deciding to draft early. If your RB1 is lost for the season before it even starts, it will undoubtedly affect your weekly scoring potential. This impact may be felt even more in best ball leagues as you are not allowed to make waiver transactions. This is something to bear in mind for those who are considering tournament entries.

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.

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