Ideal Best Ball Roster Construction (2021 Fantasy Football)
With fantasy football turning into a year-round venture instead of “something you do to get out of the house” or “I swear, I’m working on our taxes!”, different formats have popped up aside from the tried and true standard, half-PPR, and PPR formats. Perhaps the most popular of these new games is Best Ball.
If you want a great primer on the format itself, check the Best Ball Beginner’s Guide from our own Mike Tagliere.
Today, we’re going to go into some of the format’s intricacies. That includes where to zig, where to zag, where to find value, and what can sink you before you ever get going in your Best Ball draft.
Know Your Format
This advice is pretty simple, but it can go a long way to set you apart from the pack. Check your scoring system. How many starting spots are there? How many flex spots comprise your lineup? Does the league use a Superflex? How many points per reception? Do tight ends get increased scoring in your format (tight end premium)?
Travis Kelce and Darren Waller were head and shoulders above the rest of the tight ends in 2020. In a tight-end premium format, where the position gets increased scoring per reception, you can expect any tight end’s average draft position (ADP) to play a significant factor. Even if you are or aren’t a believer when it comes to #TeamEliteTightEnd, the inherent nature of the format and perceived scarcity will cause the position as a whole to be drafted much higher than in regular fantasy formats.
Use this to your advantage to nab value and select running backs, wide receivers, and other positions. Then pick your tight ends when the value is right. You will only need to draft upwards of three total, but you can get away with drafting two if you choose an elite tight end and then fill in a late-round option.
The “Konami Code” Quarterback
The age of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger propping up your fantasy roster in the late rounds is over. For fantasy purposes, you want an elite quarterback or, at the very least, one that can provide a rushing element in addition to those gaudy passing numbers.
Half of the top-12 quarterbacks who topped the position in rushing yards were among the highest win rates on Bestball10s teams. Getting the “Konami Code” quarterback at a value in relation to ADP is paramount to your roster construction and overall strategy.
Last season, eventual QB1 Josh Allen and QB2 Kyler Murray went anywhere from the end of the fifth round to the seventh round of Best Ball drafts. Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and even Aaron Rodgers all finished among the top-six quarterbacks as mid-draft picks.
You don’t need to draft high-end quarterbacks in the third or fourth round to succeed. Find the guys who have reasonable avenues toward being the QB1 of 2021, and then find value.
My quarterback target in Best Ball drafts will be Dak Prescott. He has enough of a rushing floor with at least three rushing touchdowns every season so far and an average of 305 yards rushing in four full seasons before his injury-shortened 2020. Prescott will have passing volume galore — provided he has the fortune of good health — for the Dallas Cowboys this season. The QB5 in FantasyPros’ Best Ball Rankings should be a hot commodity starting in the fifth round of drafts this summer.
More Wide Receivers than Running Backs?
Over the last four seasons, wide receivers have more projected fantasy points scored than running backs at every ADP level, with this being especially true in PPR formats.
Prioritizing your core players (wide receiver and running back) is incredibly important in every stage of fantasy drafts. With running backs going as early as ever, 2020’s first-round running back crop was anything but fruitful. Consensus 1.01 Christian McCaffrey and 1.02 Saquon Barkley each missed virtually the entire season, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a bust at his price point, Joe Mixon was a scratch for all but six games, and Nick Chubb also missed time with injury. Not good.
The more flex options you have, the more beneficial it will be to draft wide receivers in the second round and further. Historically, receivers have proven to outproduce the running backs drafted in that same ADP. Typically, you’re into the “teens” among running backs at this stage and still drafting the top-12 receivers.
Once we get into the third round, essentially an RB “dead zone,” virtually all running backs that have a starting job or receiving work to themselves are gone. Once you’re able to draft a running back in the first round, you can pick off so much high-end wide receiver depth and 100-plus target candidates, as well as the elite tight ends.
Of the top-12 winning roster constructions in 2020 BestBall10 drafts, nine featured more wide receivers than running backs. Only two of the top roster constructions featured fewer than seven wide receivers.
You also want to be selective with your running backs to find that perfect balance. In 2020, running backs drafted in the ninth round or later had 11 total fewer RB1 finishes in Weeks 1-16 than all running backs drafted in the first three rounds. It was a ridiculously beneficial year for late-round running backs and, conversely, an abysmal year for early-round rushers.
With COVID-19 and no training camp to speak of, chaos reigned supreme in 2020. This should normalize in 2021, but there is still prevalent running back underperformance after the first round.
So what did we cover? More wide receivers than running backs, securing a dynamic potential overall QB1 finisher for 2021, and all in all, knowing the league settings and finding the value within the parameters will give you more than success in creating your optimal Best Ball roster construction for 2021.
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