Swimming with the Sharks: Analyzing an Expert Best Ball Draft

andydalton

This weekend I had the great honor to participate in an MFL10 organized by Pat Thorman from Pro Football Focus. I’d really like to thank him for the invitation. It was a privilege to participate with the drafters he assembled, all of whom are top notch pundits and analysts, and all of whom have more experience than I. Briefly, here are the competitors.

I’m sure these gentlemen will have tweets and articles of their own to share, so please look for them. Below are a few thoughts about my roster and the MFL10 format.

MFL10s are draft-only best-ball PPR fantasy leagues. In other words, draft and forget; your roster is automatically optimized. A $10 entry fee returns a $100 prize for winning the league. RotoViz has a lot of MFL10 related content, here, all of which is top notch and worth checking out if you’re thinking of playing.

I drafted from the number five position, and here’s how my draft played out. The Value column shows a positive number if I acquired the player below their current ADP, and a negative number if I “reached” for the player and took them before their current ADP. Although it’s not a principal goal of mine, winning the ADP battle is an important component of a successful MFL10 strategy. After the player/position columns, I listed the next four players at that position that were selected in the draft, to give a sense of who I could have selected instead.

MFL10 of Death

My PickMFL10 ADPADP ValueSELECTIONPositionOn the board
56.88-1.88Thomas, Demaryius DEN WRWRCalvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall
2017.122.88Bell, Le'Veon PIT RBRBMarshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, CJ Spiller, Zac Stacy
2935.25-6.25Bush, Reggie DET RBRBToby Gerhart, Shane Vereen, Doug Martin, Andre Ellington
4457.4-13.4Bell, Joique DET RBRBRyan Mathews, Bishop Sankey, Alfred Morris, Pierre Thomas
5362.76-9.76Decker, Eric NYJ WRWRKendall Wright, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, Percy Harvin
6867.760.24Maclin, Jeremy PHI WRWRGolden Tate, Brandin Cooks, Terrance Williams, Emmanuel Sanders
7790.26-13.26Woodhead, Danny SDC RBRBSteven Jackson, Fred Jackson, Ray Rice, Jeremy Hill
9285.96.1Olsen, Greg CAR TETEKyle Rudolph, Heath Miller, Zach Ertz
101111.77-10.77Stills, Kenny NOS WRWRCecil Shorts, Marvin Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Markus Wheaton
116114.261.74Clay, Charles MIA TETELadarius Green, Martellus Bennett, Tyler Eifert, Jace Amaro
125156.4-31.4Baldwin, Doug SEA WRWRJarrett Boykin, Josh Gordon, Brian Hartline, Cody Latimer
140134.595.41Dalton, Andy CIN QBQBPhilip Rivers
149154.03-5.03Smith, Alex KCC QBQBBen Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Palmer
164149.0114.99Woods, Robert BUF WRWRJames Jones, Andre Holmes, Odell Beckham, Stevie Johnson
173206.5-33.5Floyd, Malcom SDC WRWRStephen Hill, Rod Streater, Marqise Lee, Davante Adams,
188176.511.5Brown, Andre HOU RBRBJames Starks, Isaiah Crowell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Latavius Murray
197187.079.93Patriots, New England NEP DefDefN/A
212200.2911.71Hauschka, Steven SEA PKPKN/A
221240.94-19.94Eagles, Philadelphia PHI DefDefN/A
236200.9635.04Moore, Denarius OAK WRWRNone
245252.08-7.08Gano, Graham CAR PKPKN/A
260252.97.1Sturgis, Caleb MIA PKPKN/A

Commentary

  • The first four picks were LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and Adrian Peterson. I could have gone with Eddie Lacy. But Demaryius Thomas is arguably the top wide receiver this year, so I’m happy with this pick.
  • Starting in round two I went running back at three straight picks. It’s not quite RBx6, and it’s not quite Zero WR, but it’s also definitely not Zero RB. In any case, this was intentional. Because of the format, there’s no trades or waiver activity, so you’re stuck with the players you draft. I wanted to have some exposure to “reliable” RBs capable of producing big weekly scores.
  • To that end, my first RB was Le’Veon Bell. He’s a RotoViz favorite, and frankly he’s a value in round two.
  • My next two picks are technically reaches, but I think my reasoning is solid.1 I’m basically following one of the lessons I learned here, by taking two RBs from the same team with a smaller than normal ADP gap. In Reggie Bush and Joique Bell I basically get two RBs who at a minimum will likely both put up flex or RB2 numbers each week. In any given week, one or both of them can also put up a big RB1 point total. And should one be lost to injury, the other will arguably be one of the most desirable RBs in the NFL from a fantasy perspective. In other words, I think I’m guaranteeing2 myself RB1 production, with potential for more. Whether or not this is a good strategy remains to be seen, but that’s what I was going for.
  • Eric Decker was also a bit of a reach, but I like him way more than the four WRs selected after him. After all, he’s the ADP gift that keeps on giving. He’s the number one WR on his team with a proven ability to score touchdowns.
  • Jeremy Maclin is a player I like. There are cheaper ways to play the Eagles offense, but there are also good reasons to like Maclin. Besides, if Nick Foles really does throw 45 TDs, there will be plenty of production to go around.
  • Danny Woodhead is the pick I most wish I could do over. I took him earlier than necessary3 and in hindsight Fred Jackson and Jeremy Hill may have been better picks. On the other hand, Woodhead is decidedly younger than F-Jax and has a more clear role than Hill. I’ll live with it.
  • This article by Jacob Rickrode tells you everything you need to know about why Greg Olsen is a strong choice this year.
  • I’m happy with Kenny Stills, too. He’s got a very productive rapport with Drew Brees, and is set for a higher workload.
  • I took my two quarterbacks back to back in rounds 12 and 13. In a 22-round draft, that’s not exactly “late round QB.” This might be something I’d do differently, if I could. Jonathan Bales makes a good case for early round QBs, and had I waited, I might have taken the Shawn Siegele approach, nabbing Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown, and Ryan Fitzpatrick–all after round 15. To be honest, I was worried about getting squeezed out. I knew which teams had QBs, and which were hanging around for the late round options. Ten quarterbacks were selected after my selection of Alex Smith. So I probably gave up some value by picking in the middle rounds, but I also avoided the rush at the end of the draft. In the end, I’m a little dissatisfied with this part of my draft.
  • My three late round WRs were Robert Woods, Malcom Floyd, and Denarius Moore. With Sammie Watkins drawing attention, perhaps Woods can build on a solid rookie season. Moore, and especially Floyd, if healthy, can produce big games that are helpful in this scoring format.
  • This article by Kevin Cole really explains optimal roster construction nicely. I wasn’t quite comfortable going with just four RBs as he suggests (thus the very late Andre Brown selection), but I did more or less match his roster construction template.
  • Part of Cole’s strategy is to roster three kickers, a strategy I heartily endorse. Here’s why: kickers are capable of putting up weekly point totals similar to top players at any other position. Capturing these totals helps you win. Kicker scoring is extremely volatile and unpredictable. Therefore, the only way to get an edge is to roster more kickers. This gives you more chances of “hitting” in any given week. It also protects you against the dud weeks all kickers produce from time to time. This table illustrates what I’m talking about:
Week Wk 1 Wk 2 Wk 3 Wk 4 Wk 5 Wk 6 Wk 7 Wk 8 Wk 9 Wk 10 Wk 11 Wk 12 Wk 13 Wk 14 Wk 15 Wk 16
High Score 14 18 17 18 20 16 16 18 16 19 16 19 20 18 24 15
Kicker Zuerlein Novak Prater Akers Crosby Crosby Vinatieri Brown Folk Hauschka Carpenter Feely Vinatieri Prater Bailey Brown
Kicker’s Low 1 4 4 0 4 4 3 0 2 2 3 2 3 4 3 0

The top row shows the highest kicker point total for the week; the second row shows the kicker who accomplished that feat.4 The third row shows that same kicker’s lowest weekly point total from the season. Notice that no kicker had more than two top weeks? There’s no consistency there. Three kickers not only covers you against bye weeks and gives you opportunity to catch those high scores, it also offers you downside protection against those crappy low scores.

Conclusion

If you’re not playing MFL10s yet and would like to know more, or if you have any feedback about my decision making process, let me know in the comments, or better yet, head over to our message boards. The gentlemen I’m competing against are all worth following and reading, so please look for their content as well.

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Find me on G+

  1. Kindly inform me otherwise in the comments.  (back)
  2. Unless both are lost to injury.  (back)
  3. Although maybe not, as several drafters employed very unique strategies.  (back)
  4. Get it, “feet?”  (back)
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