Best Ball has become one of the most popular fantasy formats over the previous two to three years. The format allows players to draft for volume without being subject to the pains of in-season management. Draft it and forget it. Easy, right?
As the demand for the product has increased, so too has the size of the guaranteed prize pool tournaments, with last season being the first to see multiple sites offering contests with a million-dollar first prize. The draft window, or total time players can draft teams for specific contests, is forced to be quite large to fill a contest of that magnitude, which creates a situation where we have constantly fluctuating average draft position (ADP) amongst the total available player pool as the offseason runs its course. This concept is what we refer to as dynamic ADP and will be the focus of this article.
Early in the draft window, Darrell Henderson was being drafted between the 12th and 14th rounds. After the Cam Akers injury, he is now being drafted between the third and fifth rounds. Wide receivers like Marquez Callaway, Jakobi Meyers, Corey Davis, and Marvin Jones, Jr. have all jumped four to six rounds in ADP in the last two weeks alone. So, what do we do with these players now? How do we identify players that are likeliest to see their stock increase in the coming weeks prior to the start of the NFL season? And how can we generate a repeatable habit pattern to utilize in the future?
Let’s look at this first dilemma through the lens of Game Theory (you knew that was coming). First off, for backup running backs that jump over half the draft, my immediate reaction is to completely fade them because we are competing with rosters that drafted early in the draft window that immediately gained an RB2 out of thin air. In actuality, if we think about it logically and methodically, there are going to be very few rosters that will truly be able to take advantage of the “free” RB2 strictly from the sense of roster construction. Henderson is a poor example of this methodology as his ceiling was never what we want out of a running back handcuff. For him specifically, the full fade always made the most sense after the Akers injury.
Let’s examine this unique situation further in order to generate a repeatable habit pattern for the future. Due to the constraints of rosters in Best Ball tournaments, drafters are forced to create their best shot at an optimal roster with only 18 to 20 players, depending on which site and roster settings are being used. In order to capitalize on the “free” RB2 drafted in the 14th round, the drafter would have had to select that handcuff as their RB2 or RB3, considering optimal construction (if you’re wondering what optimal roster construction is in large field Best Ball tournaments, I highly recommend you check out my course on Game Theory in Best Ball). A vast majority of the rosters that drafted Henderson prior to the Akers injury likely drafted him as their RB4 or RB5 (or maybe even their RB6, which is a mistake in and of itself). I arrive at this conclusion based on the fact that most people who are drafting “zero-RB” this off-season are quite simply doing it wrong, but that’s a story for another day. However (why is there always a “however”), with Henderson in particular, round three to five valuation (RB2 territory) was always his ceiling, which mitigates some of the edge gained by early drafters.
Thusly, for those drafting early in the draft window, the optimal strategy for targeting running back injuries over the course of the remainder of the off-season would be to draft a top-six running back, and not take another until the second half of the draft; ensuring the other positions (quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end) are elite on the way. This places individual rosters in the best possible position to leap the field in the specific case of you spiking the case injury. Realize, you are still going to need to have some luck on your side to spike the nut running back injury, but this is the optimal way of ensuring as little has to go right for individual rosters. Draft an elite running back, grab an elite tight end if able, absolutely ensure you grab an elite quarterback; and fill out the wide receiver position with as much upside as possible before taking your second through fifth running back cuffs.
As for the wide receivers, the situation becomes a little more nuanced in a Best Ball setting based on the intrinsic variance at the position. Before I explain the why behind the how, I want to first express my reasoning for breaking my self-set exposure limits throughout the draft window at wide receiver. Personally, I take a “full draft window” approach to exposure, in that I almost don’t care where my exposure gets during a snapshot of any two-week window. I was absolutely hammering the previously mentioned four wide receivers for the past three weeks because I identified them as players likely to see their ADPs increase as the season approached. What do all four of them have in common? They are all lead wide receivers on offenses with a ton of preconceived notions and biases against them. As the general public finally comes to the realization that this is a new NFL season; and personnel, coaching, and schemes can and will change, their ADPs rise. I got upwards of 60% in exposure to a couple of these wide receivers through the first six weeks of my personal draft window. Now that their ADP has jumped several rounds, I simply don’t take them anymore, which manages my exposure organically.
Other wide receivers that I am still smashing at ADP include: my boy, Brandin Cooks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Tyrell Williams, Emmanuel Sanders, Elijah Moore, Rondale Moore, Chris Conley (who continues to remain undrafted unless I draft him), Byron Pringle, and Van Jefferson. This list has less in common compared to the previous one, but my general rules for identifying wide receivers that have a “better than perceived chance” of seeing their ADP rise are as follows:
The only time I am drafting a wide receiver that has shot up in ADP: is if I am building the roster in a different manner than what is expected from those that drafted them later. For example, I will draft the aforementioned four wide receivers now on rosters that start with four running backs, an elite quarterback, and an elite tight end, which would most likely be utilizing them as WR2s or WR3s. Every single roster that drafted those players over the previous two weeks drafted them as WR4-6 (okay, maybe not every single one, but that’s what I was doing and that’s what a large majority of the rosters with them on it were doing).
I drafted two rosters in the Draftkings Millionaire tonight (August 27) that utilized this tactic above, with one roster holding Cooks, Callaway, and Mike Williams as its first three wide receivers; and the other holding Cooks, Jarvis Landry, and Jakobi Meyers as the first three wide receivers. I also filled both rosters as 2 QB/4 RB/12 WR/2 TE constructions, ensuring all of quarterback, running back, and tight end were elite.
The big picture here is we want to avoid competing with rosters that would so clearly have an advantage over our own in the playoff rounds of these large field contests. Don’t chase dynamic ADP as players jump multiple rounds. Our goal in these contests isn’t to advance to the second round and fail to go any further because we’re facing teams with more value. We want to continually place ourselves in the most optimal positions to have variance work in our favor. We accomplish that through Game Theory. I hope this article helped open your eyes to the nuance of roster management, portfolio management, and dynamic ADPs.
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