Last week I did a best ball primer for DLF, discussing the format as well as a league I participated in last year. Today, I’m talking about strategy of the format, how the best ball format change how you value the positions differently as well as specific players.
For me, quarterback strategy is pretty simple. Quantity > Quality. The Best ball format, along with the roster sizes of most dynasty leagues, makes the late round quarterback strategy even more appealing. However, the key to it being successful is having nice volume with three or even four NFL starting quarterbacks. In redraft/MFL10s, sometimes it is harder to roster three quarterbacks due to the restriction of only 20 roster spots. In a dynasty league with 25-30 roster spots, it allows you the flexibility to roster more quarterbacks. Last season, 83 of the 192 QB1 weeks in 12 team leagues were produced by players who didn’t finish the season as a QB1 – this is why the concept of streaming works in re-draft leagues. However, not everyone is the best at analyzing quarterback matchups, so picking between your 3-4 quarterbacks on your roster in dynasty each week can become frustrating. In Best Ball, that frustration goes out the window, and your combination of three QB2’s can consistently have at least 1 QB1 week between them each week.
[inlinead]In recent years, running back by committee has been more and more prevalent among NFL teams, predicting the running back position week-to-week is not as easy as it used to be. Even teams with a clear #1 running back have second stringers who have the occasional big game. Behind Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis had three games of 19+ PPR points and six games of 8+ PPR points, and it would have been difficult to start him in any of those games without injuries/bye week issues. The best ball format gives value to players without a clear role who have the ability to have the occasional big play/big game. Also, I think that while reaching for a “handcuff” can be a dangerous move, having a monopoly on a backfield like Cincinnati (Jeremy Hill/Giovani Bernard), New Orleans (Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, Mark Ingram) and New England (whoever they have at running back) can be fruitful because you will always get the points from that team. Coaching decisions become less frustrating and the need for backs with “guaranteed” carries/targets lessens.
The common opinion on wide receivers in best ball is that you want the big play guys – the Mike Wallaces and DeSean Jacksons of the world. I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment. I think it is good to have a mix of both. If you only have big play receivers who are inconsistent week-to-week, you run the risk of having low scores in your optimal lineup, however, if you are only rostering the Kendall Wrights and Jarvis Landrys of the world, your big 20+ point games will be few and far between at receiver. So, when you are constructing your team, going best player available is often the best move, you have to recognize you need a mix of both big plays and consistency, not just one or the other.
Each year, a tight end or two who was on nobody’s radar (even in dynasty), comes onto the scene early in the year to put up numbers.The fact you can find a Larry Donnell or Niles Paul off the waiver wire during the season does lend better to the late round tight end strategy, but when you can’t make inseason waivers moves or trades, season long stability at the tight end position is more valuable. Like the quarterback position, TE1s are very fluent week to week. This is where the numbers game comes into play. I do think the advantage of Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham is more apparent than at the quarterback position because I think tight end is less predictable from a season long perspective. Seven of the top 12 scorers at the tight end position in PPR last season were not selected as top 12 tight ends in 2014 MFL10’s and six of them were not top 12 tight ends per DLF August ADP.
One common perception is you have to have depth in best ball to come out on top – this sentiment I absolutely agree with. You have to have the depth to overcome injuries, bye weeks and even suspensions. One of the more common off-season conversations I’ve seen the last few years goes something like, “How many random firsts is a top ten startup player worth?” In the best ball format, I think that the studs are a little less valuable, so I’m less likely to trade three or four first round picks (or players at that value) for one player. Trading the farm for one player can kill your depth and severely hurt your team. Even the best players don’t finish top 12/24 at their position every week. For running backs and wide receivers, I think a pair of RB/WR2 types will be better for your team than one RB/WR1.
In leagues that allow for in-season trading, being active during your “productive struggle” is essential. If your team as a whole is struggling and you know you won’t finish as one of the top teams, it is imperative to try and sell your veterans, particularly ones without long term value. When you trade players like Ahmad Bradshaw or Malcom Floyd, not only are you getting an asset back in a trade, you are also helping yourself get a higher draft pick, which can be even more valuable than the asset you are getting back. This works for both best ball and normal dynasty leagues, but in best ball, it is simple math, the less players you have, the less likely you are to have players putting up big scores.
Do you have any strategies that you think work best in best ball? Do you agree or disagree with many of my points? Let me know in the comments section.