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Best Ball Draft Strategy: Middle Rounds (2024 Fantasy Football)

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 on approaching each third of the draft. Each article will provide strategy advice, positional allocation nuggets, and player types to consider.

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. Data has shown that having four wide receivers through seven rounds or five through nine rounds is advantageous. In every draft I do, I have a few key points that I keep in mind when I get to the middle rounds.

  • Stacks,
  • ADP Values
  • Playoff Correlation
  • Strategy

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 they do stay at the front of my mind for how I plan to react if a value pick pushes my team’s build into a risky area.

Best-Ball: How to Approach the Middle Rounds

Best Ball Draft Strategy: Middle Rounds

Stacks & Playoff Correlation

If you liked Terry McLaurin enough to draft him, then it stands to reason that you’ve already decided that Jayden Daniels will have good fantasy weeks as the unquestioned Commanders starter. Whilst you might not have the confidence to choose Daniels as your QB1, it makes sense to add Daniels to your watchlist and select him if the opportunity arises. These middle rounds are where stacks are built out consistently, and it’s essential that we don’t reach them 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.

Leone found that in his research, like other people who have looked into this topic, drafters who took advantage of players who fall past their ADP can increase total points and advance rate. When stacking I’ll often push my luck to complete a stack. If you’ve already drafted CeeDee Lamb not many of your opponents will be desperate to draft Dak Prescott 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 talking about quarterbacks past the early rounds, it’s also important to remember how their output typically is replaceable.

QB 20+ Pt games Avg ADP
Week1 7 105.37
Week2 16 119.22
Week3 12 100.05
Week4 11 110.24
Week5 8 98.16
Week6 3 110.6
Week7 8 108.26
Week8 11 115.81
Week9 6 105.18
Week10 7 133.91
Week11 8 126.76
Week12 9 108.31
Week13 8 126.76
Week14 11 156.89
Week15 7 158.62
Week16 12 130.45
Week17 9 134.8
Average 153 120.6

In 2023, there were 153 20+ point performances from Quarterbacks, with 53 coming from players in the top 65 picks, 32 from picks 65-150, and 67 coming from quarterbacks selected later on in drafts. 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. If we miss out on the elite options then taking a bulk-buy approach to the quarterback position can be worthwhile, with three rather than two quarterbacks, but it’s important to remember four-QB builds have always been suboptimal.

(Data Via Rotoviz)

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 that correlation can provide a spark to your team that sends it to the top of leaderboards in much the same way it does in DFS. It’s tricky to project things over six months before the games take place, but if you can add extra correlations without reaching them, it will boost the value of your stack, as Mike Leone pointed out in this Twitter thread.

Strategy

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 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 historical below-average win rates.

(Data Via Rotoviz)

At this point in the draft, it’s time to look at what your roster looks 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 particularly if they drafted five or six running backs in total.

Number of RBs 2021 Playoffs Advance Rate 2022 Playoffs Advance Rate 2023 Playoffs Advance Rate
3 19.70% 11.50% 11.10%
4 16.70% 16.30% 17.30%
5 20.70% 19.10% 20.30%
6 22.70% 18.60% 19.60%
7 22.50% 15.80% 19.10%
8 22.70% 11.90% 13.90%

(Data via Rotoviz’s Roster Construction Tool)

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.

Key Points

No matter what approach you’re taking, the table below gives a rough outline of the number of running backs or wide receivers you’ll ideally want to take in this draft area. 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

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