Have you ever noticed how much more difficult it is to throw a party when you’re an adult?
It feels not too long ago throwing a party was as easy as handing out envelopes to every member of home room with an invitation to the local bumper car track, bowling alley, or water park. Aside from your parents futilely attempting to subdue the rambunctiousness of pre-teens, the planning hardly called for sophistication. There were no seating arrangements, no ice-breakers, no need to introduce people or keep others away from one another. Certainly, there was no worry about how to stock the liquor cabinet.
As you grow, you gain friends across diffuse pockets of your life who may never interact with one another but for your mutual friendship. Thus, the hosting of parties becomes a constant effort to ensure introductions are made, networks overlap, and harmony reigns. The most enjoyable gatherings depend on the best mix of people who are either naturally social or bring out the best in each other.
Finding the Right Mix
Your best ball tournament lineups are similar. You may love Bob from Tax as much as you love Javonte Williams at the two-three turn. But you never know if Bob will be on his best behavior if his ex-wife Sandy from Commercial Transactions, is in attendance. In the last edition of the best ball strategy guide, we talked about passive and active diversification and how to counter-balance these concepts. We want to create diversified portfolio of rosters. We want players in our preferred archetype at strong ADP value to increase our odds of a winning combination.
However, today we want to increase our odds of that winning combination beyond leaving it to random chance. Just as we know Bob and Sandy are better apart than together, we can increase our odds by avoiding certain combinations and prioritizing others. In the final part of my best ball strategy series, we talk roster constructions. As best ball summer reaches its close, I will discuss introductory elements of construction which also apply to your managed leagues, as well as how to take advantage of your “late” draft time in best ball.
Whether you are a first-time drafter using best ball to warm up for your home-league, or a portfolio drafter closing out your season, there is something here for you.
Note: This article’s advice is geared toward Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania. However, it is broadly applicable to any best ball tournament featuring a similar structure.
Roster Construction: An Allocation of Capital
Perhaps my least favorite question to answer with regard to best ball strategy is the ideal allocation of roster spots. Instead, how I want you to think of roster construction is an allocation of capital rather than positional slots. You are aiming to draft a balanced apportionment of capital between four positions for the roster spots you have available.
As you can see in the below series of tweets from Michael Leone, there were vastly different success rates with the same number of total running backs dependent on when you drafted them.
Here you can see Advance Rates for some Zero or Hero RB teams (in this image, early simply refers to the *first 5 rounds*). They did well, but suffered a lack of upside. In theory, though, Zero RB teams are set up well for an end of year playoff format like BBM3 if they advance. pic.twitter.com/46Uopt1Cmj
— Michael Leone (@2Hats1Mike) May 25, 2022
Don’t Learn Last Year’s Lessons
Studying the advance rates from previous years can certainly paint a picture of optimal constructions. However, even when factoring in both how many of each position you take, and when you take them, it is impossible to know what the “optimal” construction is. That is because the optimal roster construction in a given year is inextricable from the optimal player selections of a given year. The following chart is from Hayden Winks’ article on ZeroRB construction.
Last Year’s Round Two
Note the lower than average advance rates for ZeroRB constructions from Leone’s chart. Also note the distribution of points between running back and wide receiver in round two. This is not a coincidence. Round two running backs Austin Ekeler and Jonathan Taylor were two of the best possible picks in fantasy last year. Joe Mixon and Najee Harris each had successful seasons as well. Meanwhile, the round two wide receiver crop – Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf – got absolutely demolished. Barring Justin Jefferson, it was a Murphy’s law year for round two receivers. The round did produce the RB1 and RB2 overall.
Last Year’s Round Three and Four
Add in the relative smash-seasons from round three-four turn receivers, explosions from mid-round players Deebo Samuel and Mark Andrews, and the optimal construction reveals itself. Running backs early, receivers plus Andrews in the mid rounds, and ideally James Conner or Leonard Fournette in the mid-late rounds proved to be the most successful builds.
However, we are not trying to solve for last year’s optimal construction. Using last year’s stats to draw conclusions would lead you to believe that drafting first overall is un-winnable while the late first (the home of Ekeler-Taylor-Kupp-Andrews combinations) is the optimal draft slot. Some trends, such as the running back dead zone (see below article), have been persistent over a long enough sample of drafts that we can bake them into our draft strategy.
However, there is no “optimal” roster construction. There are a series of viable ones. Each roster construction is best executed by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the strategy you are employing.
How to Conceptualize Roster Construction
While it is embedded with similar confounding variable concerns, the data demonstrating how many running backs to take contingent upon a given number early is more educational. It should not be surprising the six combinations above 18-percent have three different numbers of “early running backs” and three different “total running backs” figures. Positional construction is about leveraging the strength of your early picks and building through volume at the other positions. One of my favorite ways to do this is with “extreme” builds. These are most commonly referred to as “Hyper-Fragile” and “Zero RB” builds.
Anti-Fragile Drafting – Zero RB
There are countless explorations of each strategy I won’t break down in detail for this piece, but for a “TLDR.” In a “classic” Zero RB, you are drafting no running backs early or in the “dead zone.” You of course are drafting a metric tonne of running backs in rounds seven – eighteen: the data would suggest at least seven. There are several modifications of this strategy such as “HeroRB.” Doing any such version has clear ramifications for your build strategy in the context of an underdog draft with just 18 rounds.
- Based on your deprioritization of RBs early in the draft, you should draft under the assumption you are starting WR in the flex.
- If you are starting four wide receivers in your optimal lineup, you need to draft at least six even in the most extreme Zero RB build, likely seven.
- Given you are drafting a high volume of running backs, and retaining a baseline number of WRs, you have few remaining draft slots for QBs and TEs.
- Zero RB is best executed by leveraging your first six+ non-running back selections to win both QB and TE.
On the other hand, hyper-fragile builds open with three early running backs and a maximum of four total. These constructions lend themselves more toward late round quarterback and/or tight end. The weekly variance of receivers is higher than with running backs. However on a season-long level, receivers can be more predictable. Past the top 100 in ADP, there have been just 12.75 receivers, on average, with a win rate above 10-percent. For reference, there are 38 receivers total with an ADP prior to the last round, after ADP 100. The majority of hits in this range come from rookie or second year players. For the most part, we know what a wide receiver is once established in the league.
If you're going to invest in late round WRs the most profitable ones to invest in have been either rookies or second year WRs
At least 50% of the WRs who returned a 10%+ best ball win rate drafted outside the top 100 over the last four years were either rookies or 2nd year WRs pic.twitter.com/5knTNANcDF
— Corey Buschlen (@FootballStock) August 19, 2022
We know receiver production is more a function of talent than running back because you have to earn your targets. Therefore, a receiver cannot benefit from injury to the same extent. Because of this, in order to build sufficient production and upside into your lineup, you have to draft receivers in the early and middle rounds. That prioritization of receiver, added to your opening three running backs, leaves little room to attack early tight ends or quarterbacks.
Natural Diversification in Construction
The benefit of these builds is that the natural inclinations of the build push you toward optimal choices. As shown above, and explained in the foregoing passage, late round running backs are a higher upside bet than receivers. Therefore, in a Zero RB build, you are benefitted by pushing as many late round picks into running backs as possible by clearing out all three other positions. However, since you reach diminishing returns more quickly with late round receivers, you are benefited by saving tight end and quarterbacks selections into these slots. Because the weekly variance of receiver is higher than running back, you naturally have more slots available for ‘onesie’ positions in a running back early build than Zero RB.
Commonality Amongst Builds
Despite vastly different underlying principles, these builds share more in common than you may think. Both strategies create a ceiling by leveraging being “right” at one position and building the optimal construction around that assumption. As well, each weaponizes a crucial element of the running back and receivers positions. Zero RB weaponizes receiver’s season-long stability as a function of talent, and running back’s volatility as a function of heightened injury risk and higher contingent benefit. Hyper-Fragile weaponizes running back’s weekly stability in terms of production when healthy, and wide receivers’ volatility week to week.
Not every roster you build needs to have an extreme structural build. But going into each draft – in best ball or managed – with knowledge of structural goals will help you tailor a roster which functions as a cohesive unit and compliments itself throughout your draft.
Drafting with Intentionality
In the last article, I discussed the importance of intentionality in building exposures across your portfolio. I am always preaching to draft with “intentionality.” What does that mean?
Drafting with intentionality manifests in many ways. The above discussion of structural draft strategies is a great example. But in any structure of draft you can be intentional about your choices. Essentially, it means you are making choices in each round in a correlated fashion to the rest of your draft preceding it. You are also using a proactive mindset about the remainder of your draft.
It means you are drafting with a plan. Drafting with Intentionality is drafting a team, rather than players.
Layering your Position Groups
One of the best manifestations of drafting with intentionality is layering positional groups. It’s best to take lessons in this regard from a real football team. While there are 22 “starters,” every NFL team has a variety of roles on their team. Some players will play nearly every snap. Other positions are rotated situationally. Often those usage decisions depend on the investment of the team. The same applies in fantasy football!
I tend to draft more WR-heavy builds than RB-heavy builds. Therefore, I will rely on that as my primary example, but it works both ways.
RB2 as a Living Organism
The great Ben Gretch has often referred to the RB2 slot in your lineup as a “living organism.” One of the fascinating differences between managed and best ball is how you action this concept. In a managed league, you have the opportunity to live out this “organism” in a sequential fashion. As the below tweet of mine shows, there are several parts of your RB2 equation in a managed league which may manifest for a set period in time.
N Chubb: 15.2 PPG
D Montgomery: 15 PPG
J Jacobs: 14.9 PPG
D Booker Weeks 5-9: 15.8 PPG
D Williams Weeks 6-10: 17.8 PPG
D Foreman W14-17: 14.1 PPG
C-Pat full-year: 14.5 PPG
Eli Mitchell full-year: 15.0 PPG
— Jakob Sanderson (@FF_RTDB) February 22, 2022
In a managed league, you are filling in the beginning and the end of a story with little plot devoted to the middle. You ought to walk out of a Zero RB draft with a Week 1 plan at RB 1. You should also have several upside bets who you hope manifest by the end of the season. (assume for the duration of the article when I reference Zero RB builds I also mean Hero RB builds unless specified)
In a best ball league, you have to calibrate your RB room season long without access to waivers. In order to to balance the need for the sufficient upside in the playoff weeks with the sufficient production to advance, it means each selection has to be meaningful.
Back to Part 1
Back in Part 1 I referred to each player’s ADP as being comprised of component parts. These parts are primarily standalone value and contingent value. It is essential to determine the use case of each for a given build and on each team.
There are two obvious holes to a Zero RB team. The first is a lack of immediate production. The second is a possible lack of projectable upside. A way to get around the latter is by building in high-end contingent value.
The Upside Swings
The best way to think through this tier is to ask yourself a question. If the surrounding circumstances for this player broke right for them to reach a reasonable ceiling, what would that ceiling look like? Rachaad White and Alexander Mattison may be the best examples of this archetype. These players project poorly from a median standpoint behind elite RB1 options. However, each has a skillset which portends a three down role if injury luck befalls them. Mattison has shown this in the past. White’s ceiling can be projected based on his size and college receiving profile.
In a previous column, I broke down the upside of White’s prospect profile:
Having at least one player with significant contingent upside is absolutely essential in a Zero RB build. This is true in most builds. We know that running backs will get hurt, and there will be beneficiaries of that misfortune. Foregoing elite contingent value profiles gives your eventual opponents a known edge given the likelihood you will be up against players of this profile in the playoff rounds. If you miss out on the first wave of elite contingent value, there may be options available late.
Target good offenses with a history of producing high-value running back touches who may have ambiguous depth charts beyond the lead back. Options such as Eno Benjamin and Samaje Perine are my favorite late round options who are priced late in drafts because of ambiguity regarding who holds the number two role. Each has three down skillsets and the requisite size to produce high ceiling fantasy performances. Think Darrel Williams – who could fit this mold again in 2022 – and Justin Jackson as examples from last year.
The Standalone Starters
Pass-catching running backs are perfectly crafted for best ball formats. Despite a consistent role, players in the archetype of Nyheim Hines are actually rather inconsistent in managed leagues. Their role is highly dependent on game script and matchup week to week. Alternatively, players like Mattison you either know to start or know to bench on game day. However, in a best ball league that is not a concern. Hines has a guaranteed role in the offense making him a viable option to open the season as a contributing running back. He also adds potential splash weeks over the duration of the season.
Similar to the above tier, there is a balancing act at play. If you take Hines instead of a White or Mattison, opt for a Perine or Benjamin later. My preferred approach is to prioritize upside bets early with players such as J.D. McKissic, Dontrell Hilliard, or Ameer Abdullah in the late rounds to serve this standalone role.
Some players don’t fit so neatly into these standalone vs. contingent compartments. Often, these are my favorite targets. Darrell Henderson and Melvin Gordon stand out as options who each possess a three-down skillset. They also have even performed as a clear lead running back on their current team in the past. While there is ambiguity regarding their early season role, the consensus of the beat reporting is they will have one. With a mix of early-season equity for high-value receptions or goal-line work, and immense contingent value in top offenses, these players work well in any build at any time with a paltry cost on the 9-10 turn.
The Ambiguous Backfields
The last archetype to consider is the ambiguous backfield members. There are several players such as Chase Edmonds, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Bills and Patriots running backs, or Antonio Gibson, who are drafted post-dead zone but are either live to be, or projected to be, the starter. I recommend targeting players in this range who play in good offenses, have the sufficient size to handle a workload, ideally a history of handling a workload, and have receiving upside. You likely can’t find all these criteria or else they would not go in round seven or later. But my favorite is Edwards-Helaire. He’s a player who hits nearly every criteria at least dating back to his college profile.
Below is a Best Ball Mania entry I did with a Zero RB build. I targeted two “ambiguous” running backs in Edmonds and Gibson. Then my next two backs were contingent plays in Mattison and Herbert. Because of that, I finished out the roster with two players who project to hold standalone value in Mostert and Hilliard. I would not typically roster two running backs from the same team. However, given the cost of the Miami backfield is so cheap, I am more open-minded to doing this in certain circumstances. I’ve done the same with Chiefs running backs. It is unlikely Edmonds and Mostert can pay off in the same week. However, it is very possible both can pay off over the course of a season.
While I have mostly discussed this layering concept in terms of running backs for a Zero RB team, the concept applies in every build. If you are building with multiple early running backs, you will want to apply the same strategy at receiver. Due to your early choices you’ve foregone receivers with elite projectable upside. This is exactly what you do at running back in Zero RB. Therefore, you want to capture that same weekly upside by taking shots on downfield receivers in explosive offenses. As well, build in seasonal upside by taking big cuts on rookies, Year 2 players, and receivers with contingent upside due to crowded depth charts.
However, you have to balance this upside chasing with picks who preserve a weekly floor in the early season. Similar to pairing a Nyheim Hines with an Eno Benjamin, consider pairing Jakobi Meyers or Jarvis Landry with Alec Pierce or K.J. Hamler.
Consolidating Your Strength
The same applies to your position of strength. If I have banked significant upside with three early running backs, I’m more inclined to select a Nyheim Hines late. My running back room does not lack upside. However, it is fragile because of my need to devote as many of my other roster spots to the other positions as possible. Therefore, I am apt to take a running back with a consistent role late as my fourth in a hyper-fragile build. Hines can fill in for byes or injuries in-season. This also allows you to stop at just four backs. Therefore, you may devote nine or more picks to receiver. Fantasy gamers need to make up for a lack of projectable upside with volume. Hines can allow you to do so.
In more balanced builds, I’m generally devoting a maximum of one selection in my running back room to a floor play. For instance, if I start with a dual RB open, – Dalvin Cook and D’Andre Swift – I would ideally take five running backs total. If my third back is Hines or Cordarelle Patterson, my last two backs are likely pure upside plays. If my third running back is Rachaad White, one of my final two picks likely profiles for a standalone role.
Correlation: Important and Nuanced
I have discussed the necessity of stacking a lot in past articles, as has every other best ball writer you’ve read. But I will quickly restate one of my favorite passages from my best ball strategy series last year regarding the way stacking advantages your lineups:
There is a misconception that stacking is about increasing the total ceiling of your lineup. In fact, it is about minimizing the number of correct assumptions one has to make to realize their ceiling. Today we make the concept crystal clear with some inspiration from Robert Frost.
You are tasked with arriving at a destination within ten minutes, to which two roads diverge (in a yellow wood).
Road A is marked by four sets of lights, each of which has a 50-percent chance of turning green or red upon your arrival. The light will remain the color it turns for two minutes. The distance between each light requires two minutes of travel time.
Road B has the same four sets of lights, but rather than turning at random, the lights are synchronized such that if you reach the first light while it is green, all subsequent lights will be green thereafter.
Of course you would choose path B. The fastest possible time to reach your destination is still eight minutes, but the odds of reaching under ten are much better with the correlated set of lights.
If that thought experiment didn’t drive home the point for you fully, the linked article above covers it in depth. Correlating outcomes is a benefit from a season-long perspective in any format to reduce the number of correct assumptions required to reach a ceiling outcome. However, the impact of the best ball playoffs puts a particular spotlight on the weekly aspect. In addition to the work on stacking my previous piece I want to share some data compiled by myself and Lucas Gilbert of Full Tilt Dynasty.
Correlated Ceilings in 2021
Stacking in the playoff rounds is in some ways a defensive strategy. If you had Joe Burrow in Week 17 last year, but no Ja’Marr Chase, you were likely drawing dead. The utility of stacking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to a degree. Because stacking is beneficial, elite pass catchers are more commonly paired with their quarterback. Thus, the likelihood of not facing teams with the half of the stack you do not roster in the final are low.
Last year this played out to a practically scripted extent. Burrow was the QB 1 overall in both Week 16 and 17. In Week 16 Tee Higgins was the WR 1 overall. In Week 17 Ja’Marr Chase was WR1. Your odds of winning any tournament were massively improved by having Burrow and his pass catchers. The largely un-drafted Tyler Huntley was QB 1 in the first playoff week – Week 15. However, Patrick Mahomes was the QB 2 and highest scoring, commonly drafted QB. That week Travis Kelce finished as the TE 1 and Tyreek Hill the WR 2.
To make matters even more stack-o-licious, Mark Andrews was the TE1 in Week 16 playing against the Bengals. In the following week, the Chiefs Darrel Williams was the RB 3. Full game stacks paid off to such a degree they have taken on heightened importance in strategic conversations for the 2022 best ball slate.
While the playoff weeks featured roaring success for stacks, the season-long results were more mixed. Counting Mahomes as the de facto QB 1 of Week 15, eight times of 17 weeks in the best ball season did the week’s optimal drafted lineup feature a quarterback and one of his skill players. This means the QB 1 played on the same team as that week’s RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, WR3, TE1, or FLEX 1.
Those combinations were:
Josh Allen – Emmanuel Sanders
Sam Darnold – D.J. Moore
Lamar Jackson – Marquise Brown – Mark Andrews
Patrick Mahomes – Darrel Williams
Justin Herbert – Austin Ekeler
Patrick Mahomes – Tyreek Hill – Travis Kelce
Joe Burrow – Tee Higgins
Joe Burrow – Ja’Marr Chase
As well, in five of the 17 weeks, the optimal lineup also featured a member of the opposing team of the QB 1. If we exclude players drafted in less than half of best ball mania entries, that number increases to seven of 17. Also, this does not include all instances of two opponents reaching the optimal lineup without including the quarterback.
Expanding the Sample
For this section I wanted to expand the sample beyond optimal lineups to determine just how often quarterbacks and their pass catchers hit a ceiling together. To do that, Lucas Gilbert tracked every top six quarterback finish, top 12 receiver finish, and top six tight end finish from the 2021 season. (Seriously, follow him on twitter)
Lucas’ data was illuminating. The 108 top six quarterback finishes produced 85 top 12 receiver finishes and 35 top six TE finishes. That means, on average, every top six quarterback was correlated to greater than one WR1 or top-half TE1 performance each week.
Unsurprisingly, this correlation was strongest among pocket passers. The season’s top 12 quarterbacks were responsible for 77 QB1 finishes (71-percent). Those 77 produced 70 WR1 or top-six TE finishes. This is a lower figure than the field at large. The three most prolific rushers of the 12 – Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts produced a WR1 or top-half TE1 finish on just nine of their twelve QB1 finishes. Notably, notorious spreader of the football Dak Prescott produced a top WR or TE on just half his QB1 finishes.
This does not include QB-RB stacks which vary wildly in correlation between offenses. Austin Ekeler and Justin Herbert are a fantastic stacking option. Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook are less likely to hit their apex in the same week even if they are positively correlated overall.
Another notable takeaway is in 35-percent of correlated ceiling games as defined above, the pass catcher was drafted outside the top 48 WRs or top 12 TEs. In 31-percent of outcomes, the highest scoring pass-catcher was not the first one drafted from their team. Therefore, there is legitimate ceiling in double-stacking or stacks with secondary or tertiary options if you miss early targets.
Stacking is an unequivocally positive strategy. Season-long you derive benefit from offenses that surpass expectations. In a weekly context, you align ceiling outcomes in your lineup at a high rate. Also, you increase the odds of filling multiple portions of the optimal lineup in a given week by stacking elite options. However, given how weighted these occurrences were to the highest scoring offenses, you may not realize the same weekly edge from stacks of lower-projected teams. Overall, while there were several instances that stacking was not essential to the highest scoring lineup of the week, your odds are unequivocally better for doing so. Particularly when drafting pocket passers, you should make stacking a priority within ADP ahead of your personal rankings of the players.
The Final Countdown – Taking Advantage of the Late Draft Window
There is no shortage of commentary devoted to the benefits of drafting early. Most notably, that you can draft players who will be unattainable at the same cost later. This is a concept called Closing Line Value. Generating closing line value on your lineup doesn’t necessarily mean your team is better (See: Callaway, Marquez). However, it does mean you have built combinations around a player that are no longer possible at the current ADP. This can help you in the playoffs if the players you generated closing line value on are central to a winning lineup.
However, despite that foregone opportunity, there are also benefits to drafting in the final window of Best Ball Mania. There is an advantage to be gained after 70-percent of entries have been drafted. The same advantage exists in any other long-running tournament.
The first is one that I discussed in passing in Part II.
When a tournament is near its closure, you have awareness of the ADP over the course of the tournament. Fantasy gamers are also aware of what combinations of players are commonly drafted. Below is a team I drafted recently with this idea in mind.
Drafting with Intentionality – Creating Unique Combinations
For most of Best Ball Mania’s draft period, Patrick Mahomes has been drafted in the late-4th or early-5th. This is the opposite turn from Travis Kelce. This made them a more difficult stacking option. However, in that same period, Juju Smith-Schuster, who in early drafts was a mid fifth, rose to the late fourth. This environment meant Mahomes and Smith-Schuster were easily stackable. However, they were at the opposite turn from Kelce. One would need to take one of Smith-Schuster or Mahomes well ahead of ADP and have the other fall past ADP in order to match them with Kelce. The other option is to take Kelce well ahead of his ADP.
After selecting Kelce materially after his ADP, I decided to aim for the rare double-stack. To increase my odds I selected Smith-Schuster first. With both his primary stacking options off the board, it increased my odds other drafters would defer Patrick Mahomes until my pick. Based on the ADP alignment, the odds Mahomes, Kelce and Smith-Schuster are picked frequently together, especially with Davante Adams and Mike Williams are quite low. This is drafting with intentionality. It is important to enter drafts with awareness of each player’s price, the patterns of drafts, and the motivations of your opponents. Doing so can extract unique edges like this lineup.
While any unique player combination based on ADP can have value, I would prfioritize combinations which also make sense in the context of a correlated lineup. Look for teammates, Week 17 opponents, or players which benefit from the failure of others in your draft range to group together in unique ways.
Reverse Closing Line Value
There are two other player selection edges which can best be exploited in late drafts. The first is “reverse closing line value.” Just as a Round 17 Julio Jones drafter from June is benefitted from his ascending ADP, you can stick your hand into danger and grab the falling knives of late draft season. The above draft is a great example. Josh Jacobs and Antonio Gibson are not players I was particularly fond of at cost this year. However, as their cost has dropped, I not only find them more palatable, but see additional value in them.
What if the market is wrong about Antonio Gibson? What if he benefits from a Brian Robinson injury? His early season drafters may advance at a high-rate, but my Round 10 Gibson team is at an advantage against them in playoff weeks. The market is often wrong. Last year’s late fallers included Ja’Marr Chase, Jonathan Taylor, Marquise Brown, and D’Andre Swift. All four crushed their ADP. Chase was essential to winning the tournament.
Unique Player Additions
The last point I will discuss is the addition of unique players. These are players who are rarely drafted at all. Last year, I reached the finals of the Puppy Two with Justin Jackson and Rashaad Penny as my final two picks. Not only did they carry me with their production, but both had a less than 100-percent draft rate. This decreased the likelihood they were matched by my opponents. I discussed ownership extensively in Part I of the series.
The best way to generate low ownership is to take players who are drafted on far less teams than any other player. On the draft featured above – which I tailored to the contents of this article – my last three picks were Samaje Perine, Dontrell Hilliard and Daniel Bellinger. Each player has gone undrafted in a majority of Best Ball Mania entries. We are not particularly efficient at making late round picks as it is, so we are better off maximizing the benefit of being right in the unlikely event we are. When you can, maximize the benefit of these picks even more by creating leverage or correlation.
Purposeful Dart Throws
In this draft I made intentional choices about each of these apparent dart throws. Daniel Bellinger of course is stacked with the rest of my Giants. Samaje Perine and Dontrell Hilliard are both backup running backs to players commonly drafted from the 1.09 and 2.04 spots respectively. By deferring Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry for Adams and Kelce, I am already making a bet against the two early running backs. So why not action that bet further by betting directly against them?
The Final Word
Thank you so much for following along with what has been a really fun series of best ball strategy this summer. I wish you luck with the stretch run, and in all your best ball and managed leagues! Stay tuned for the launch of my in-season column coming soon that will feature (much) shorter editions of my strategic advice for managed leagues.