If the early rounds are where we lay the foundations for our team and decide on the strategies to follow, then the middle rounds are where we capitalize and start to take stands on certain players, fill out our stacks and find potential league-winners.
This article is the second of a three-part series looking at how to approach each third of the draft. Each article will provide strategy advice, positional allocation nuggets and player types to keep in mind.
- More Best Ball Draft Advice
- Best Ball Draft Primers: QB | RB | WR | TE
- Player Rankings & Notes: QB | RB | WR | TE
- 2023 Best Ball Draft Kit
Best Ball Draft Strategy & Advice: How To Approach Middle Rounds (2023 Fantasy Football)
Before considering how we approach the middle rounds, it’s essential to be mindful of how we’ve approached the early rounds. If you have four running backs by the start of round seven, then it’s time to forget about them for most, if not all, of the rest of the draft. In every draft I do, I have a few key points I keep in mind when I get to the middle rounds.
- Average Draft Position (ADP) Values
- Playoff Correlation
That’s not to say that these overrule factors like taking players who I really like or those who fall below their ADP for no good reason, but it does stay at the front of my mind for how I plan to react if a value pick pushes my team builds into a risky area.
Stacks & Playoff Correlation
If you liked Christian Watson enough to draft him, then it stands to reason that you’ve already decided that Jordan Love will have good fantasy weeks. So while you might not have the confidence to choose Love as your QB1, it makes sense to add Love to your watchlist and, if the opportunity arises, select him.
These middle rounds are where stacks are built out consistently, and it’s essential that we don’t reach heavily at this point. As Mike Leone has written about in his Best Ball Manifesto, the best teams find ways to stack while not overreaching for players in drafts. We want high-value stacks, but not at the expense of pushing ourselves into bad roster construction.
We made a model to rank all the team's in Best Mania III at the time their drafts occurred.
Here's how the elite teams differed from below average teams (~20th percentile).
For starters, elite teams got a lot more ADP Value in their drafts: pic.twitter.com/z7TEOyxDYj
— Michael Leone (@2Hats1Mike) April 20, 2023
Leone found that in his research, similarly to other people who have looked into this topic, drafters who took advantage of players who fall past their ADP can lead to an increase in total points and advance rate. When stacking, I’ll often push my luck to complete a stack. If you’ve already drafted Drake London and Kyle Pitts, not many of your opponents will be desperate to draft Desmond Ridder at his ADP, instead looking for players to compliment their own stacks.
In these situations, if I’m between two players, one who will complete the stack and one who won’t, I’ll often take the gamble that the stackable player will come back at a value. If you’re wrong, you still have a nice correlation of some of the best parts of that offense to set your roster up well. When we’re talking about quarterbacks past the early rounds, it’s also important to remember how replaceable their output typically is.
In 2022 there were 127 20+ point performances from quarterbacks, with 30 coming from players in the top 60 picks, 42 from picks 61-120 and 55 coming from quarterbacks selected later on in drafts. So while many quarterbacks outside the elites lack the ceiling of the top options, they do have a habit of finding their way to replacement-level scores.
In recent years playoff correlation has become a hot topic for these top-heavy best ball contests where so much of the prize money goes to the top few places. The idea is correlation can provide a spark to your team that sends it to the top of leaderboards in much of the same way it does in DFS. Of course, it’s tricky to project things over six months before the games take place, but if you can add extra correlations without reaching, it will boost the value of your stack, as Mike Leone pointed out in this Twitter thread.
We can also account for the impact of the regular season, team stacking, and number of QBs rostered in addition to Finals game stacking. pic.twitter.com/tEyXQ9NYEa
— Michael Leone (@2Hats1Mike) April 5, 2023
In the first part of this article, we talked about how starting off heavy at certain positions has historically led to different win rates. For instance, on Fantasy Football Player’s Championship’s (FFPC’s) TE premium format, if you don’t have a tight end before the end of round six, your team is already facing an uphill battle against below-average win rates.
At this point in the draft, it’s time to take a look at what your roster is looking like and quickly decide what your needs are going forward.
If you’ve deployed minimal resources to the running back position so far, then the good news is that we’re past the dreaded running back dead zone, regardless of whether you put stock in the traditional definition of rounds three to six, and now would be a good time to start adding some running backs.
As we can see below, drafters who took a running back before Round 3 and then waited till Round 7 or later to take their second advanced at an above-average rate typically and particularly if they drafted five or six running backs in total.
|Number of RBs||2021 Playoffs Advance Rate||2022 Playoffs Advance Rate|
Data via Rotoviz’s Roster Construction Tool
In 2022 Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders and Rhamondre Steveson were all found in the middle-round range, and the four of them boasted four of the top seven advance rates among running backs. In 2021 Leonard Fournette and James Conner were incredible league winners, and both had Underdog advance rates of over 35%.
In 2020, Antonio Gibson (ADP 91.3) had an advance rate of 32.5% which represented the fifth-highest among running backs, and he was the only member of the top five to have an ADP outside of the top 20. In 2019 Austin Ekeler and Miles Sanders were the standout running backs in the middle rounds, and in 2018 it was Nick Chubb and James White.
Year after year, the middle tiers deliver some of the best running back values, and it’s an area of the draft where, dependent on the strategy, I like to grab two or three when possible.
Strategy Key Points
No matter what approach you’re drafting, the table below gives a rough outline of the amounts of running backs or wide receivers you’ll ideally want to be taking in this area of the draft. For more on these strategies, check out the FantasyPros Best Ball Guide.
|Zero RB||Hero RB||Dual RB||Hyper Fragile RB|
|RB Selected in R1-6||0-1||1||2||3-4|
|RB Selected in R7-12||2-4||2-3||1-3||0-2|
|WR Selected in R1-6||4-6||3-4||2-4||2-3|
|WR Selected in R7-12||0-2||2-3||2-3||3-5|