Thursday, Oct 21st
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Above the (Best Ball) Field

Finding Edges in a Seemingly Edgeless World

Sonic

Earth is the Best Ball. Kyrie Irving’s pontifications notwithstanding, science has uncovered that our beautiful planet is indeed a round one. From a distance, there appear to be no visible edges. But as we zoom in further, we discover countless angles encompassing myriad shapes and sizes. Best Ball tournaments on Underdog, Draftkings, and others present a similar situation. At a glance, it appears to be about a level playing field as you’ll see. Even the most novice of drafters have access to expert rankings, strategy videos, and articles. I mean, shit, the ADP for each player is right there on the freaking screen!

Sometimes the football gods will throw you a bone, however, and it’s up to you to seize the opportunity. My 2nd DK draft this season came on May 25th and it gave me hope right out of the gate. 

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A huge break for the guys in the 2nd and 3rd slots but cool for all of us. All I had to do was draft for value, build a couple of juicy stacks for upside and I was golden. Only competing against ten teams instead of eleven. A 9.09% edge in this environment is massive! 

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Shit. 

Ezekiel Elliott and Cam Akers seemed like a solid RB core to build on. My crystal ball was in the shop that week, however, and I was unable to foresee the eventual tear in Cam’s Achilles.

This is the pitfall of drafting 3+ months before the season but what am I gonna do…Not participate? I mean, it’s not like this draft is interfering with my family life or my work. The entire thing took less than the final 2 minutes of an NBA game. I’m not an addict. I have this thing completely under control. I don’t have a problem. YOU have a problem. 

Before going any further, I want to make sure I fully acknowledge “flyinggiant”. You have to appreciate the conviction displayed here in taking Carson Wentz with the 1st overall pick. He identified his guy and he didn’t pussyfoot around. He didn’t wait for this draft to come to him. He planted his flag. He shot his shot. He has a near 100% chance at a unique lineup. So, there’s that. 

Corner the TE Market?

There are other approaches to managing a draft where an immediate edge is identified. Perhaps this would be a chance to try something unconventional to try and gain leverage on the rest of this field? Kind of like in poker when a fish raises from middle position and you 3-bet your marginal holding from the cutoff to “steal the button’, this may be your opportunity to try a Double Stud Tight End team. Getting Travis Kelce in the 1st round and Darren Waller or George Kittle in the 2/3 range. Normally I’d advise against this since you are immediately drafting a player that can only be used in the flex, and thus damaging the value of your 3rd best RB or 4th best WR each week. It’s also tough to look at your draft upon completion and feel great about your high-end guys at the other positions. But if you want to gamble that flyinggiant is going to continue taking guys 135 spots ahead of their ADP then you should be able to at least partially compensate for blowing your wad at TE early by getting guys above their ADP consistently throughout the draft. This approach is obviously based on the assumption you’ll win TE over the course of the season and almost always use a TE in the flex. If taking this approach, then it’s probably wise to spend the next 6 rounds filling in the minimums at the other positions to avoid building a roster dearth of studs that offer both a high floor and those ceiling weeks we covet in Best Ball. 

I know you’re thinking about drafting all three of these Tight Ends. Tap the breaks a little, you lunatic. 

These are just my initial thoughts on this Double TE approach. I’d love to hear if you disagree and why. I’m all ears!

Is King Henry the Hero You’re Looking For?

If you’ve drawn picks 3 or 4 enough, you’ve faced the decision of starting your rosters with either Derrick Henry or Alvin Kamara. The answer may not lie in which is the better producer (they’re both ridiculous), but in the type of build you’re going for. 

Correlation in Best Ball rosters is obvious when you think in terms of stacking. But under the surface lies an edge in building rosters with positional players that complement each other from a floor/ceiling standpoint. 

There’s a real-life example in my household. Mrs. Sonic and I function well together emotionally because I have massive highs and lows and she is solid as a rock, maintaining a level head despite her surroundings. My volatility leads to plenty of excitement…while she keeps our lives from going completely off the freaking rails. 

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I don’t know how she puts up with me…but that’s another article for another day.

Although we always recommend keeping some flexibility and adjusting your approach as the draft unfolds, I usually lean towards a robust RB or hyper fragile RB strategy with Henry while Kamara’s production seems to be a nice fit for the Hero RB/Anchor RB approach. (use the google machine if you’re unfamiliar with these terms, as they are crucial to know!)

As shown below, Henry will have his share of duds over the course of the season. Lacking a pass-catching dimension, the Big Dog will often lose significant volume when game script tips in favor of the opponent. Last year he fell below the RB2 average four times and below the RB1 average two additional times. By comparison, Kamara posted only two duds and one additional week that fell just below the RB1 average. 

Many assume that players with a boom or bust reputation are perfect for Best Ball and there’s some truth to that. They’re certainly better for this format than managed leagues where you can completely screw yourself when you roster a dude like Desean Jackson and he gives you a 1/9/0 line, only to bench him the following week when he catches multiple bombs. 

Keeping in mind how Best Ball scoring works, you need to balance your volatile players with some high-floor producers to avoid Best Ball’s two potential disasters:

1. The Obvious: Having too many busts at one position in the same week, resulting in a lack of usable scores. Or;

2. The Hidden: Wasting a 16th round player’s lone spiked score of the season because other players also happened to have their rare ceiling games that week. 

The easiest position to envision is the “onesies” where QB and TE (barring the rare TE in flex) only post the single best score. Pairing a “Konami Code” QB with your pocket passer is a worthwhile strategy because the running QB’s higher floor has a higher likelihood of providing a usable score on those inevitable days where Baker Mayfield or Matt Stafford’s passes don’t find the end zone. 

With Henry, I recommend starting RB/RB and then coming back in Round 6 with someone like Myles Gaskin. He tends to put up the type of consistent numbers that can provide a RB2 score on those days where one of your top two running backs run into a floor game. Gaskin missed some time last year but provided an excellent floor when given the keys. 

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Before embarking on 150 drafts, it may be worth your time to make a list of players you’d like to group together for these purposes.

Getting Freaky in the Rear

Don’t be nasty. I’m talking about the final rounds of your draft, you sicko. 

I’ve been in a few drafts with last year’s Underdog Best Ball Mania winner, Justin Herzig, and I took one obvious thing away from the experience: The man drafts for value. He bobs and weaves, lying in the weeds, ready to pounce on a player that slides past his ADP. Using the first several rounds to pick off players that have slid down the board is a wise strategy not only for value reasons but also for differentiation. A roster that is predominantly made up of players that were taken 4+ slots past their ADP will be unique and it will have happened organically. If you can focus on value while still keeping an eye on stacking teams that you feel will frequently be at the top of Vegas’ over/under totals throughout the year, you should be in business.

The final edge to shoot for is differentiation at the end of the draft. Rankings are neat and everything but let’s face it, these are human beings we are dealing with here. Once you get past the top 175 players, no one really knows what the hell is gonna happen. All of these dudes are dependent on an injury in front of them or a cosmic bond to eventually develop with his teammates to really differentiate themselves. 

Take this as a license to get weird. Peel yourself away from focusing on value and grab that guy you have a feeling about because you saw him torch defenses in the Pac 12. Complete your stacks with a team’s 4th wideout because you have the same birthday, whatever. Most players in the first 15 rounds of a Best Ball tournament are going to be close to 100% owned. The only contrarian picks will come from grabbing someone off the board in the final round or two. 

Who will be this year’s Mike Davis or James Robinson? 

Is it a late-round rookie like Atlanta’s Javian Hawkins or LA Chargers’ Larry Roun(There’s no D!)tree? 

Or is it just a veteran that is thrust into a voluminous role like KC’s Darrell Williams or Buffalo’s Matt Breida?

It’s hard to know. But sometimes in Best Ball, as in life, you gotta be like flyinggiant and shoot your shot. 

Good luck and Happy Drafting! 

Sonic

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