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Are High Stakes Best Ball Leagues Exploitable?

The FFPC was nice enough to provide us access to the FFPC API which allows you to do things like get draft results and see what free agents are available in specific leagues. I want to do some digging on the data because I think it can answer some interesting questions.

The first question that occurred to me to ask is: Do drafters in best ball leagues (the FFPC calls these leagues “Draft Experts” leagues) act differently than drafters in non-best ball formats?

After some initial checking I would say the answer is mostly “no.” Despite the format differences, drafters in both contests act similarly.

Here’s a graph where I’ve plotted ADP for the DE leagues versus ADP for the other drafts in the database (FFPC calls these “Classic” leagues). You can see that it’s mostly a 1:1 relationship.

Rplot157

The place where there is some divergence is in the later-round QB selections. In most season long formats the priority of drafting a second QB is low, whereas the DE teams at least place more priority on those selections. I’ve cut off part of the graph for clarity but they also make a similar choice in mostly selecting a second kicker and defense. But ADP in the early rounds matches up pretty closely which means that the best ball drafters aren’t prioritizing RBs early.

Considering that we suspect optimal strategy in MFL10s probably differs a little bit from optimal strategy in most PPR formats, I think it’s fair to wonder if that information is making its way into the FFPC format. To be clear, the optimal roster allocation for winning FFPC Draft Experts leagues might differ from an MFL10. But it’s possible that the widespread data availability on roster allocation in MFL10s has closed inefficiencies in that market, while those inefficiencies could in theory persist in FFPC drafts.

However, it’s not totally fair to say that the data availability in MFL10s has made those contests more sharp, because it’s possible that the FFPC drafters are following MFL10 ADP in drafting (and then making slight tweaks for the TE premium scoring). I say that because I ran some summary numbers and while MFL10s are slightly heavier on RBs in the early rounds, the numbers are still close. FFPC drafts are generally within a few RBs in terms of the number selected by the third round for instance.

But I think it is fair to say that either the Classic drafters are unknowingly following optimal best ball strategy, or the DE drafters aren’t optimizing for their format.

The data from FFPC is still scarce enough at this point that we really don’t know what the optimal strategy is. We don’t have last year’s results to examine for instance.

But this piece from AJ Bessette lays out a strategy that isn’t very close to the average of what drafters have been doing in the DE format. Compare AJ’s decision to take four kickers and defenses versus these averages I compiled from drafts:

[Edit: the data in this table may be off due to looking at some drafts that weren’t complete. Apologies for the error. An update is in progress. Initially it still looks like teams on average draft a few more PK and DF although they average about 2.5 of each drafted per team]

POS  Avg Taken per Team
DF              2.04
PK              1.87
QB              2.92
RB              8.38
TE              3.86
WR              8.93

You can see that even though the DE teams have 28 rounds to make picks, they still don’t even take two kickers on average. And these drafts are happening at a time when lots of camp kicker battles haven’t been decided. Some of these picks are going to be drawing dead in September.

This is just my first look at this issue but I’m excited that the FFPC has provided us with a data set that allows us to go behind the MFL10 analysis we’ve done here on the site.

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