Special to Yahoo Sports
In Yahoo Best Ball, simply picking the right players is not a realistic strategy. We also need to consider the implications of the no-transaction format.
A big part of that is roster construction. In other words, how many players at each position should we draft? It’s a simple question with a complicated answer for a couple of reasons.
First, our decisions should be dynamic to our positional strength — which is a function of draft capital. If our QB1 is Patrick Mahomes, he’s very likely to be the quarterback who counts in our lineup an overwhelming majority of weeks. In that scenario, selecting just two QBs (with different bye weeks, of course) is correct. But if the first QB we draft is Kirk Cousins, then taking three is correct.
Second, we need to account for positional volatility. The weekly range of outcomes at wide receiver is wider than at running back, tight end and quarterback. As you’ll see below, wide receivers should be our most-rostered position.
In order to solve the question of positional allocation, we took a data-driven approach. We looked at the last three years’ results, simulating roughly 26,000 teams based on average draft position (ADP) in search of winning roster constructions. The results:
* 10-team leagues, 20-player rosters
* Half-PPR, otherwise standard scoring
* 27% of prize pool to first place, 16.6% to second, 11.1% to third. Rest of prize pool to whichever team scores the most points each week (2.7% for 16 weeks).
* Starting lineup: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, FLEX, D
Recommendation: Take 2-3
Analysis: The data shows virtually no difference in cash rate or win rate between teams that selected two vs. three QBs. Taking four QBs was detrimental and is not recommended. We also (unsurprisingly) found that the optimal rounds for QB selection were between Round 7 and 13.
When deciding whether to take two or three QBs, keep draft capital in mind. If you do invest in a QB in the first six rounds, we recommend skewing toward 2-QB builds. A 2-QB roster of Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow is correct since Dak is an early round QB. But a 2-QB roster of Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Tannehill is not recommended as they are both late-round QBs. We’d want to add a Burrow type to that for a 3-QB construction.
Recommendation: Take 4-5
Analysis: The data shows that the market is over-investing in the RB position. Winning roster trends included taking RBs in the early rounds, but not taking a lot of them. Of course, that strategy opens ourselves up to downside at the most injury-prone (and worst job security) position, but we are not overly concerned with floor in this format. Only the top three spots of 10 get paid.
Note that the usability rate drops off far steeper at RB vs. WR. Generally speaking, we do not want our double-digit round flier selections to be at RB.
One interesting nugget we found in the data was a very good cash rate and the highest win rate for 3-RB constructions. The sample size here is very small (621 teams out of 26,208), so it’s not a strategy we can be confident in. But at a minimum, we can say that drafting just three RBs is viable as long as all three are early round selections and among Evan Silva’s first three RB Tiers.
Recommendation: Take 7-8
Analysis: The data shows that taking anywhere from six to eight WRs is reasonable. Anything less than six WRs shows a significant detriment to both cash rate and win rate.
The big-play nature of the WR position breeds volatility. Whereas RBs rely on volume to create usable scores, WRs can get it done on just a handful of targets. And since the Best Ball format doesn’t force us to identify exactly when those big plays will happen, we can gain more value from piling on later-round options. Our data showed that limiting WR selections to two or three in the first five rounds was optimal.
Yahoo average draft position (ADP) shows plenty of options for Round 12 or later. Dionte Johnson, Preston Williams, Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs, N’Keal Harry, and Allen Lazard are all staring at a path to weekly relevance with late-round ADPs.
Recommendation: Take 2-3
Analysis: The data shows that there’s not much difference in cash rate or win rate between taking two vs. three TEs. Taking just one TE shows a major detriment to rates. In other words, the tight end position strategy is similar to quarterback. If we invest in a Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews, or Darren Waller, optimal construction skews toward drafting just two total TEs.
Since Yahoo does not award premium points for tight end receptions like other sites, they are far less likely to show up in the flex spot. Still, taking just two late-round tight ends has not been a profitable strategy. Combos like Mike Gesicki, Hayden Hurst, and Chris Herndon on the same roster are comparable with something like just Travis Kelce and Dallas Goedert.
Recommendation: Take 2-3
Analysis: Defenses generate spike weeks through touchdowns and forcing turnovers, which are largely fluky events. So taking just one defense (even though we know they’ll play 16 games) isn’t a viable option.
The data shows that win rates and cash rates are very similar for two vs. three D/STs. Either way, we don’t recommend reaching for any defense as year-to-year stickiness is quite poor. Ideally, we’ll use Rounds 18, 19, and 20 for D/ST if going with three, or Rounds 19 and 20 if going with two.
Adam Levitan has been writing about Fantasy Football professionally since 2008 and is a two-time FSWA award winner. A podcast host since 2015, his podcasts have been downloaded over 5 million times.
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