NFL Best Ball Expert Survey: Strategy Edition
Narrowing down the lengthy list of Best Ball draft strategies? Wondering which trends Chris Gimino and Beermakersfan have uncovered? Our Best Ball analysts explore their methods for approaching the draft-only format.
Best Ball Expert Survey: Strategy Edition
Which draft strategy do you prefer? A) Zero RB – B) Robust RB – C) Elite TE – D) Depends on draft slot
STLCards: Generally D; B if I get a top 4 selection
Beermakersfan: Always D for me; totally different strategies at different spots
Chris Gimino: B in Tournaments, D otherwise
JSURab: D – Always depends on draft spot
JoshADHD: D – Flow Like Water
How much do playoff matchups influence your drafting?
STLCards: Not much at all – only in a tiebreaking scenario. Making the playoffs is the most important step.
Beermakersfan: More of a tiebreaker if anything for me. It’s so tough to predict who will be healthy at that point of the season, and it’s even tougher to predict what defenses will be weak from year to year. Add that to defensive injuries and as you can see there’s too much variance to be putting a ton of stock in end-of-year matchups. Something to factor in for sure, just not a primary factor for me.
Chris Gimino: Only the obviously difficult should be considered, and not that strongly. How many times in recent years have we pegged a defense as beatable that winds up being solid? I’ll wait until camps have shaped teams further, and try to hone in on only the most brutal schedules for fades.
JSURab: I do look at them, but overall it is not a huge factor in my decision-making process.
JoshADHD: It’s impossible to predict what these teams will look like in December, so I largely ignore it and focus on the teams that I think will produce the most offense.
What’s the most surprising trend/stat that’s emerged in your research so far?
STLCards: The fact that people are still reaching for both Todd Gurley and Darrell Henderson. This backfield is nothing close to a sure thing. There’s no way both players live up to their current ADP, and it’s possible that neither player does.
Beermakersfan: With all the research that has been done on drafting quarterbacks late in drafts, people continue to put a premium on the position. There is so much parity among quarterbacks and there’s not a huge separation from the top guys to the names still on the board at QB 20-25. Let others go too early here while you gather up all the value falling at the running back and wide receiver positions.
Chris Gimino: The Arizona Cardinals ran a league-low 940 plays last season, and were one of the worst offenses in recent memory. The usage of interior rushes on early downs led to a league worst 37% early down success rate, and doomed their previous rookie quarterback to failure on predictable play call down and distances from a fairly bland offensive system. This is not withstanding a putrid offensive line and a quarterback who did not show any capability of elevating an offense on his own. There is great promise of improvement in 2019 for an uptempo, multi-wide receiver system under the new regime/quarterback that actually acknowledges analytics and gets their multi-dimensional top offensive threat David Johnson out in space where he belongs. We should believe in athletes with opportunity, and I expect Johnson will have a lot more of that in 2019. We already know he’s a great athlete.
JSURab: One trend that I’m noticing in Best Balls is how late some of these top tier wide receivers are going. People in the first three rounds are tending to reach for running backs. This causes guys like A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, and Amari Cooper to fall down the board as far as the end of the third round. These guys have top 10 wide receiver upside.
JoshADHD: I’m still surprised how much the crowd will press the running back position through the 10th round. I don’t believe you can recover any value drafting part-time backs in the seventh to 10th rounds, but drafters still press the button despite the cost. I think, because of this, it’s incredibly viable to load up at tight end and wide receiver in these rounds and draft upside running backs starting in round 12 or 13.
At what point in the draft do you start reaching for “your guys,” and why?
STLCards: I generally never reach for anyone. Every draft is its own entity, and you have to take what the draft gives you. In the final four or five rounds, you can play to personal preferences a little more, but I certainly don’t “reach” in the early and middle rounds. Don’t get cute!
Beermakersfan: I put a lot of time into my projections/rankings, which will not always agree with consensus ADP, making me a big believer in grabbing “your guys” at almost any point in the draft. That being said, the first few rounds tend to draft themselves so round 4-5 is where I really start getting aggressive. Trust your process and trust your gut and go get your guy. This is super important to implement when you are drafting at the turns as you have such a long wait and just blindly following ADP is a losing strategy in that scenario.
Chris Gimino: I believe in ADP apathy and rarely let the draft come to me. I am taking my guys without compromise starting at the top of the draft (CMC, DJ, Dalvin, Mack, Williams) and not having regrets about attacking young, ascending players as often as possible. It’s a volatile strategy, but first place is always my goal.
JSURab: I will always reach for guys with upside when there is no one that I’m really high on left on the board or if I am just higher on a guy than the consensus. You should never be just picking the guy with the next best ADP rank if you’re higher on someone that is a little lower down the board.
JoshADHD: I have no issue reaching for players I desire as early as the second round. Generally, any player you are willing to acquire well above ADP, you already value multiple rounds above said ADP. I don’t consider it a “reach” if I’m drafting a player at a discount according to my board.
What aspect of your strategy is most influenced by the Best Ball format?
STLCards: Manipulating via positions can be done a little more in Best Ball formats. You can set off runs during the draft at certain positions, especially if you are picking near the end/beginning of rounds. You can decide to go “zero RB” or “zero QB” and draft those spots only later in the draft. It’s a fascinating angle, and I really like the “late QB” strategy in 2019.
Beermakersfan: Putting more value into the boom/bust players that can be frustrating to roster in your season long leagues. These guys can be tough to predict when spike weeks will come when you are making weekly sit/start decisions, but the Best Ball format captures all the upside without the frustrating decisions.
Chris Gimino: I am willing to forego consistency in favor of the potential for usable, spiked weeks. In seasonal drafts, I do tend to value players who can produce with greater consistency vs. those with low floors and high ceilings.
JSURab: Considering the Best Ball format, one strategy that I like is taking shots with guys that have big play potential but are usually not safe week to week. These players could provide a great advantage if they have a few weeks in the season where they go off for big games.
JoshADHD: I’m willing to take much more risk in a Best Ball format knowing that I need to compound high scores across the week and season in order to win. While it makes sense to install some floor on your roster, the high-variance picks will remain the reason you win or lose at the end of the season.
How do you approach injury-prone players or players potentially facing suspensions?
STLCards: My tendencies are much more conservative on this front, but you can afford to take a few more risks in Best Ball formats. After all, about a third of every roster is going to get injured at some point anyway. My conservative nature is a bit of a personal flaw in this department, and I’ll willingly admit that!
Beermakersfan: I’m less likely to take a chance on these type of guys (suspended players) in a Best Ball format, because I want as many guys as possible with the ability to contribute to my weekly score. Think about it: if I have 18 guys going against your 15-16 guys, I’m in a much more favorable position. Injuries will happen on any roster, but if I have control over not putting myself behind that 8-ball by avoiding these guys, I generally feel much better about my team. As for “injury-prone,” I’m absolutely fine grabbing a guy at a discount while others shy away (Leonard Fournette is a great example this season and a guy I think is vastly underrated.)
Chris Gimino: Injury-prone is a vastly overused term in a game dominated by injuries. I only consider it in the most extreme cases. There isn’t anybody I’m fading specifically because they are “injury-prone.” As for suspensions, I’m willing to draft anyone for the right price, and I expect a discount if missed games are a high probability. I don’t need Kareem Hunt types with uncertain roles, but clear spike potentials like Tyreek Hill are worth pursuing in this format.
JSURab: Most of the time these injury-prone guys drop in drafts where you are getting a good value on them. In football, injuries happen all of the time. I never just fade players because of an injury unless it is extremely severe. Suspensions are different; it depends on the length, but I usually stay away on any that are more than four games. They also have to be going in a spot in the draft where I consider it a value. I will never reach for a guy who is being suspended for any amount of games.
JoshADHD: Injury-prone players don’t bother me unless a player frequently incurs soft-tissue injuries that haven’t healed quickly. If the injuries have been “freakish” in nature (broken bones, torn ligaments) I will often load my rosters anticipating better luck in the coming season. Suspended players, on the other hand, require the proper price correction in order to justify drafting them. In some cases, that means removing them from your board altogether.
Who is this year’s James Conner?
STLCards: Darrell Henderson is the easy answer here, but I’ll opt for someone else. How about D’Onta Foreman, who’s gaining traction once again this year. Foreman is lightyears more talented than the current version of Lamar Miller, and I’m intrigued by the upside.
Beermakersfan: I think Damien Harris will end the year as the New England running back to own this season. He really only has injury prone Sony Michel in front of him, and we know the Patriots’ offense can provide a ton of valuable goal line work. Harris is also a good pass catcher that could keep a guy like Rex Burkhead on the sidelines. They spent a third-round pick on him for a reason and it’s only a matter of time until he’s the lead dog.
Chris Gimino: Three names to watch are Rashaad Penny, Malcolm Brown and Miles Sanders. Penny has the DNA to carry the load in that style of offense, and showed up the one time he got 10+ carries last year. Brown is the real beneficiary from a Todd Gurley absence, not Darrell Henderson. Henderson will have a static role, while Brown is likely to show the most profit for your best ball team (way cheaper). Sanders is a question mark, but we know Jordan Howard is nothing special and it would be easy to envision a scenario where they fire up their new toy for lead duties.
JSURab: Talented second-year player Royce Freeman is a guy who could end up taking a bigger role in the Denver offense. With Phillip Lindsay not being the biggest back, they may scale down his workload and give Freeman more opportunities.
What offense is being ignored too much in draft rooms?
STLCards: This is the Ravens almost by default. Lamar Jackson has been going as a back half quarterback. Nobody else outside of Mark Ingram is really being drafted at all. Justice Hill is an intriguing rookie talent. Miles Boykin seems to be on the rise. One of the other receivers could surprise. There’s potential here.
JSURab: One cheap stack that jumps out is the Bills. All three of their top wide receivers along with quarterback Josh Allen have an ADP of 131 or higher, so this stack is extremely affordable. We know Allen wants to throw the deep ball, if he can improve his accuracy these WRs are a value late in drafts.
Nathan Coleman: One team that comes to mind is the Seahawks. Tyler Lockett ranked first in yards per target despite only seeing four per game. Chris Carson should see an uptick in passing volume as the coaching staff has gushed about his ability as a receiver. Russell Wilson was incredibly efficient on just 427 attempts (20th), throwing for 35 touchdowns. All three Seahawks are currently being drafted outside the top 12 at their respective positions, and each have a strong chance of finishing well above their ADP.
JoshADHD: I’ve been stacking passing games for NYJ, IND, ARI and BAL lately given recent steep discounts due to preseason results, injuries, what-have-you. Of those four, I believe BAL offers meteoric passing game upside because of how steeply the Ravens are discounted.