Best Ball Teams Recap and Analysis
A report on how my best ball teams have fared so far, which strategies worked out best, and my hits and misses as we enter post-season play
I absolutely love best ball. Doing analysis for season-long fantasy football is great, and perhaps what I am best at, but the grind of managing teams can be overwhelming. Best ball provides the opportunity to take part in the absolute best part of fantasy — drafting — without having to do any of the work after the fact.
I think I’m a pretty good best ball player, and love the macro-strategies that go into it (I wish I was better at things that had faster turnover rates, but that’s for another time). The purpose of this post is to recap how my tournament teams are doing across a variety of contests, but also to take a look at the strategies going into those teams, and my hits/misses on various takes.
Both Underdog and DraftKings are entering the playoff weeks of their respective best ball tournaments, while Drafters has three weeks remaining in their total-points contest. Here is how my teams have performed overall:
Underdog Best Ball Mania - 3/4 teams in playoffs (75%; base rate 21.4% with overlay)
Underdog The Bubble - 14/49 teams in playoffs (28.6%; base rate 25%)
DraftKings Millionaire - 1/9 teams in playoffs (11.1%; base rate 8.3%)
DraftKings Play-Action - 6/20 teams in playoffs (30%; base rate 13.8% with overlay)
Expected Playoff Teams - 16.6
Actual Playoff Teams - 24
Drafters Best Ball Championship - 5/18 (27.8%) teams top 10%, best currently 74th
Overall, I am pleased with the results. I beat the base rate in each contest, and have some live bullets to win big prizes.
Most of the analysis portion will be best if done through an Underdog lens. It is where I have selected the most teams, and the site keeps track of both my teams and player exposures in a readily available way.
Underdog ADP was also by far the sharpest, which put more emphasis (to me) on strategy versus player valuations. There were three main strategies I used in my drafts: Zero RB, Modified Zero RB, Hyper-Fragile RB. Here is how teams fared for each.
Zero RB - 5/12 (41.7%)
Modified - 8/23 (34.8%)
Hyper-Fragile - 4/15 (26.7%)
Other - 0/3 (0%)
Functionally, you can consider “other” to mean drafts where I took a best player available approach due to some value I saw, rather than sticking with one of my preferred approaches.
I don’t think that these results are particularly surprising. Most of my hyper-fragile teams have only three RBs, so there is some expectation that they will be less successful that the other squads. I also have a bunch of James Conner and Jonathan Taylor on these teams.
As a staunch proponent of Zero RB, I wish that I had selected more teams in that fashion. Of course, most of my successful teams had Antonio Gibons (and those teams are likely dead with Gibson expected to miss Week 14), so that helps a lot. But I think that strategically my error was in building too many modified teams from the back-half of the draft board.
Miles Sanders (9.4%) and Joe Mixon (7.5%) are players I should have almost exclusively been building into modified builds with them in the second round, or hyper-fragile teams with two of the more questionable first-round RBs (Chubb, Jacobs, Drake). We already know that the late-first round RBs are giving away a bunch of points to the early-first round RBs, so building around just one of them didn’t make a ton of sense.
The modified approach is my favorite. This year, having Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, or Dalvin Cook gave you a great base. The teams with Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and — to a lesser extent — Ezekiel Elliott likely did not fare as well. But having one RB produce points for you each week gives you a lot more room for error with your RB2.
My QB exposure was incredibly balanced. My most-owned passer came in at just 17% (Matthew Stafford), and I ended up with 28 different signal-callers on my teams. I tried to build my teams around different offenses, based on the receiver values on the board throughout my draft. In other words, my teams are heavily correlated. Building in this fashion gave me a lot of diversity naturally, without having to worry a lot about being overweight on any particular players.
RB is where things got messy for me pretty quickly. Here were my top RB exposures this season:
Obviously Gibson was a total smash, and is a part of around half of my advancing teams. A lot of the research done in the off-season pointed towards RBs in ambiguous backfields being the most likely to break out and provide huge value. This would be players such as Gibson, Moss, and, for me, Dillon (which was incorrect).
Sure, Bowden was traded, but he was always a handcuff. The same goes for Mattison and Pollard. Vaughn I think was someone who early on was expected to be in a timeshare, and then saw his value crumble with the addition of Leonard Fournette.
I should have been taking more of players such as Nyheim Hines (5.7%) who I liked very much, but continued to take Evans over (the two players shared a bye week, making it unlikely I would select both). Players such as Jerick McKinnon (13.2%) and Darrell Henderson (3.8%) also fall into this category.
Of course, they won’t all be success stories, but you don’t need all home runs with your later-round RBs. Avoiding zeroes is critical. The handcuff-types are accepting a bunch of zeroes from the start, which I believe is sub-optimal.
WR was where I made a lot of money:
Shenault wasn’t quite the success I wanted him to be, but he was still a starting WR who accumulated four different scores over 10 points. Boyd, Lamb, and Jones greatly out-produced their ADPs. Gage and Washington were similar plays to Shenault. Then there was Higgins, who absolutely crushed, and would probably be a stone-cold WR2 had Joe Burrow not gone down with injury.
Late round WRs that were in line to start, and young players with upside were great way to attack WR this season. Perhaps next year we will see rookies be overdrafted with the success of the 2020 class, but generally these are areas to extract value. It is also worth mentioning that many of my WR selections past the 10th round or so were dedicated to completing stacks with my QBs. This was another great way to diversify.
Last, but certainly not least, the TEs:
I am a huge believer in stud TEs for best ball, and will continue to draft them at great volume. The issue this year is that many of them have missed time. Kittle and Andrews recent injuries/illnesses cost me a lot of points down the stretch. Ertz missed a lot of time, but was also a total bust from the get-go.
Gesicki and Hockenson have been pretty good — TEs 6 and 4 respectively — but didn’t break out quite as much as I was hoping. They were fairly cheap though relative to their production.
It is worth noting that most of my teams were two-TE builds, giving me an extra roster spot to play with. Because the top TEs score so many points, I have likely outscored many teams with three-TE builds even with some missed time. Any team with Kelce is going to be extremely formidable in the playoffs.
The name you’ll notice that didn’t make this list was Darren Waller (3.8%). I am a believer in and supporter of Waller, and have him in a couple of my dynasty leagues. But he was coming off the board in a portion of the draft where I was frequently targeting other positions. Next year, I’ll have to do a better job of getting all of my preferred TE targets, even if it makes me a little uncomfortable.