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Best Ball: Spreading Out Exposure in Late Picks (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Tom Strachan | @NFL_Tstrack | Featured Writer
Apr 24, 2022
Devin Duvernay

Even if you’re entirely positive Devin Duvernay is cheap in the 20th round and that this is his year, there are so many unknowns at this point of the draft, so it is highly recommended to track your exposure throughout the off-season.

Most fantasy football players are familiar with the importance of late-round draft picks, whether that’s Cordarelle Patterson in 2021, James Robinson in 2020, or any of the long line of difference-makers many drafters blindly ignored. Unfortunately, there are no waivers in best ball, and if you’re drafting in the spring, you have to be mindful of the difference these late-round players could make to your rosters. 

The players in the late rounds also have the most potential to significantly improve their ADP between now and the start of the season. If Dalvin Cook were to suffer a season-ending injury at OTA’s, it would result in Alexander Mattison jumping from round 10 to at least round three. But, the knock-on effect would likely see Kene Nwangwu go from being undrafted to being consistently picked up in rounds 12-15, if not higher. After J.K Dobbins and Gus Edwards got injured this last off-season, Ty’Son Williams jumped to the fifth round at one point, despite a lack of evidence that he could handle being a lead back.

If you’re drafting more than a handful of teams, individual player exposure becomes a vital metric to track, particularly when entering a large field tournament with thousands of other teams. Even-weight is 8.3 percent. We get this by dividing 100 percent by the number of teams in our draft, 12. As fantasy managers, it’s unusual for us not to take strong stances on players, and while we want to take stands for the right reasons, it’s important not to be too heavy on one player.

In the early rounds, it’s very easy to stay roughly around the market on players. For example, in 2021, if you were overweight on Christian McCaffrey, it meant you had been gifted a surprising amount of 1.01 with your randomly assigned draft picks, or you happened to draft in a lot of rooms with CMC faders.

In the late rounds, it can become relatively easy to become overweight on players, and the importance of tracking this matters. It’s a widely accepted part of fantasy drafts that reaching on players matters far less in later rounds than in those early rounds. Hence, people have a habit of getting their guys when the players immediately facing them are not appealing. These stances have the potential to pay off largely, but the chances of a player in the late rounds having a breakout year are also somewhat slim.

Looking back to pre-draft 2021 ADP, 88 players consistently had an ADP of 150 or higher on Underdog, equivalent to a mid-twelfth-round pick onwards. This includes the incoming rookies who would have their situations, and ADP changed by the draft, but it is worth keeping them in this sample to gain a broader picture of what was occurring in these rounds. Of course, many players will find their way into and out of this range between April and September, but these 88 provide us with necessary perspective.

Players drafted in range Avg. Games Avg. FPTS Total Avg. FPTS/G Avg Points as a season end rank in .5PPR PPG Avg. FPTS Total as a season end Overall Rank
LR QB 15 11.07 150.25 12.42 31 35
LR RB 28 9.46 63.98 5.49 67 64
LR WR 23 10.70 70.36 6.17 86 82
LR TE 22 13.45 74.89 5.31 26 24

 

Quarterback - Fifteen quarterbacks were drafted in this range, and five finished inside the top 24 at the position. Still, only three averaged above 15 points per game, and only three had more than seven usable fantasy weeks.

Running Back - Twenty-eight backs were drafted in this range, with five finishing as an RB3 or better and only two of those making it into the top 24. 86 percent of those running backs failed to average 10 half PPR points per game, and only three put up more than five usable weeks.

Wide Receivers - Nineteen receivers were a part of this sample, and only one (Van Jefferson) was able to play their way into the top 36 and finish as a WR3. Russell Gage was the only player to average over 10 half PPR points per game, and Gage, Allen Lazard and Van Jefferson were the only receivers with more than five usable weeks.

Tight End - the most productive position of the late rounds was tight end, where almost one-quarter of the sampled players put up top twelve finishes at the position and had nine or more usable performances.

These stats help to tell part of the story, but we can't lose track of the fact that best ball relies on more than season totals and final finishing positions. We want usable weeks from our players in best ball and preferably lots of them. Another metric we can explore for these late-round dart-throws is usable weeks.

This table shows us how many weeks a quarterback or tight end averaged a finish inside the top 24 at the position and how many weeks a running back or wide receiver averaged a finish inside the top 36. I increased the depth for receiver and running backs due to the depth at the position and increased numbers of these players per NFL roster compared to a quarterback or tight end.

While many within the fantasy community will point to the depth at wide receiver in the late rounds, this table shows how often those depth receivers do very little for our rosters. We still need to take shots in this area rather than fade it entirely, but we have to be realistic about these players and what they will bring to our rosters. This table looks at the hit rate of players for finishing as a QB2, RB3, WR3 or TE3.

If we were to point solely towards rookies, suggesting that they hold the true upside of these rounds, then we find that they averaged four useable games as a group. For every Elijah Moore who experiences spike weeks, there is a Dyami Brown floundering on your bench, failing to create a role.

Advance rate, much like useable weeks, can help see things from a purely best ball perspective. In Best Ball Mania II, two teams per draft advanced, which means a player's breakeven advance rate is 16.67 percent. Our total average for this sample was 15.13 percent, below average, which is fair given the nature of these picks. Of the group, 30 percent managed to advance higher than expected, leaving 70 percent of picks from the middle of round twelve and onwards unhelpful to our rosters.

From looking at these numbers, it becomes clear how difficult it is to extract value from these round 12 onwards picks. While several players will outplay their position each year, many will flounder on your best ball bench spots, hardly ever cracking the starting lineup. Taking an overview of all this data gives us a convincing argument for why we should spread exposure later in drafts.

The most sensible approach is to spread your exposure depending on the rounds you're in. The earlier the pick, the more potential it has to ruin a team if you're hit by injuries, suspension, or poor performances. Depending on the number of drafts you do, these numbers can look quite different, but if you're doing over 100 drafts, I like to stick roughly to this approach.

  • Round 1-3 - 15% max
  • Round 4-6 - 20% max
  • Round 7-10 - 25% max
  • Round 11-14 - 30% max
  • Round 15-20 - 35% max

When players get to these levels, it doesn't always mean it's time to stop drafting them, but these levels act as a trigger for me to look at that player's situation again. Am I comfortable taking an aggressive stand on them? Have I been overdrafting them? If another player was added to that skills group, how badly could that affect this player's performances? Even when we're entirely positive Devin Duvernay is cheap in the 20th round and that this is his year, there are so many unknowns at this point of the draft. So, taking as many shots as possible on different players will be a more sensible choice. Last year I mostly missed out on players like Amon-Ra St.Brown and Cordarelle Patterson by being too focused on certain other late fliers, and this year I will aim to spread my exposure a little thinner.

As my rosters with those players progressed, I regret not taking slightly more of them at such a low price. I prefer to let my roster dictate my late-round picks and choose players who will stack well with my quarterbacks. Of course, in the event of a spike-week for them or my quarterback, my roster will benefit even more. Still, it's worth periodically examining who you have very little exposure to, assessing the situation, and deciding whether or not to pursue them in the future.

I highly recommend tracking your exposure throughout the off-season, and you can download a copy of my google sheets template for free.


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