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Player Win Rates Highlight 1 Big Mistake Drafters Are Making Early in BestBall10s

Over the past four years, Shawn Siegele has finished first, second, first, and first in the MFL10 of Death, proving it’s always better to be lucky, even if you are decent. In this series, The Best Ball Workshop, he discusses tactics and explains how you can use the RotoViz Best Ball Tools to create a virtual money machine from your best ball drafts. 

Waiting for the launch of the best ball tools from Mike Beers has been like waiting for your parents to get up on Christmas morning. And unwrapping them today gave me that same jolt you got when Santa perfectly delivered for your five-year-old self. Mike is a best ball savant, and his tools are everything you’d expect from this fantastic fantasy mind.

I’ve been cheating and playing with the toys behind the scenes, and so we’re going to jump right in with Lesson 1. But first, a little context.

The apps include tools for FFPC, Fanball, DRAFT, and Fantrax and are tailored to the format. You can track ADP and personal exposures, examine the types of builds players are using in 2019, and research what has worked in the past with the Roster Construction Explorer. Every time I dive into this tool, I look up later and find hours, not minutes, have passed. The RCE will form the basis for the Best Ball Workshop.

Contingency-Based Drafting

In last year’s strategy session, How to Create League-Winning Scenarios in the MFL10 of Death, I detailed the main principles for winning drafts:

  • Use structural drafting to increase your flexibility instead of limit it. Use it to supercharge your player-picking expertise instead of finding yourself chasing volume on players you’d otherwise prefer not to draft.
  • Instead of chasing early-season volume, emphasize scenarios where you can gain the largest shift in volume.
  • Create scenarios where as little as possible has to go right in order to win.
  • Win individual portions of the draft.

Over the course of his series, we’re going to discuss how to accomplish these objectives by using the different types of evidence at our disposal.

Player Win Rates

In Lesson 1, we start with the basics, looking back at 2018 to see who won and lost leagues.

Player Win Rates – Top 10 2018

RankPlayerPosADPPtsWin Rate
1Christian McCaffreyRB16.7351.20.27
2James ConnerRB200.3267.60.22
3Patrick MahomesQB129.2416.950.21
4James WhiteRB111.7246.30.19
5JuJu Smith-SchusterWR45.6261.70.18
6Saquon BarkleyRB7.9342.90.18
7Zach ErtzTE36.4240.80.17
8Davante AdamsWR19.2305.50.17
9Tarik CohenRB71.3219.550.17
10George KittleTE113.9214.40.16

Five of the top 10 players in win rate came from the running back position, and our first instinct would be to employ a RB-heavy approach as a result. But a closer look reveals James Conner from our list of Handcuffs Who Could Be RBs1 and James White and Tarik Cohen from our 2018 Zero RB Candidates.

If we focus on players drafted in the first four rounds, the picture changes.

Player Win Rates – First 4 Rounds ADP 2018

PlayerPosADPPtsW16
Christian McCaffreyRB16.7351.20.274
Saquon BarkleyRB7.9342.90.181
JuJu Smith-SchusterWR45.6261.70.181
Zach ErtzTE36.4240.80.171
Davante AdamsWR19.2305.50.168
Travis KelceTE27.72730.163
Alvin KamaraRB6.1327.70.158
Adam ThielenWR29.8287.30.145
Tyreek HillWR28.1286.30.143
Todd GurleyRB1.2372.10.131
Stefon DiggsWR32.8238.60.113
Amari CooperWR37.5203.30.109
T.Y. HiltonWR30.1210.10.102
Michael ThomasWR14.9279.70.100
Brandin CooksWR43.1210.80.095
DeAndre HopkinsWR8287.40.094
Jarvis LandryWR47184.10.093
Joe MixonRB23.6221.90.091
Derrick HenryRB37.2173.70.085
Melvin GordonRB11251.50.082
Ezekiel ElliottRB3.8311.30.081
Mike EvansWR23240.80.081
Antonio BrownWR5.2279.20.077
Julio JonesWR13.2284.30.075
Kenyan DrakeRB35.3182.30.074
Keenan AllenWR16.1238.90.070
Golden TateWR46172.30.069
Kareem HuntRB9.3230.20.066
Allen RobinsonWR42.3139.90.066
Josh GordonWR46.3138.70.062
Demaryius ThomasWR44.31500.057
Larry FitzgeraldWR34.2155.50.056
Mark IngramRB38124.90.056
Alex CollinsRB44.4108.60.052
Odell BeckhamWR10.7231.40.049
Jay AjayiRB4543.40.047
Doug BaldwinWR29.8111.50.045
Derrius GuiceRB3700.039
A.J. GreenWR19.6149.40.037
Jordan HowardRB25.5140.60.036
Rob GronkowskiTE23.8126.80.034
Dalvin CookRB14.3128.20.031
Leonard FournetteRB11.3104.30.029
David JohnsonRB3.3221.10.028
LeSean McCoyRB25109.90.026
Jerick McKinnonRB27.400.025
Devonta FreemanRB21.114.10.019
Le'Veon BellRB2.300.008

The top two players by win rate are still star RBs, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, but suddenly we see just how risky the position is. Only four RBs find their way into the first 16 players by win rate. By contrast, the first four rounds are full of RB landmines. Twelve of the bottom 16 players are RBs, including the worst seven.

The Roster Construction Explorer

Here’s where the Roster Construction Explorer comes in handy. We can test whether these individual win rates tell us something important about overall team win rates, and we can see if 2018 was a one-year aberration.

The RCE allows us to do a ton of different calculations, but we’ll start with something simple today and build out from it.

We can test whether RB-heavy or WR-heavy starts have been more successful by using the Round-By-Round settings. (We’ll set the Table Settings to TE to make it easy to see the differences.) By choosing a construction where we select three RBs in the first four rounds, we can investigate the win rates.

RBx3 revised

 

Over the last four years, 37,855 teams have selected three RBs in the first four rounds. The results are shockingly poor with an average score of 2180 and an average win rate of 6.7 percent.

By contrast, a start with three wide receivers was both more popular and much more effective.

WRx3 revised

 

Owners who started with three WRs in the first four rounds averaged over 2200 points and won 9.0 percent of the time.

This is particularly relevant as we head into 2019 with RBs gaining popularity. Last season, the RB-heavy start was almost as popular as WR-heavy and the gap in results was even more pronounced. RB heavy starts won less than five percent of the time, while WR-heavy starts jumped over 10 percent. The point gap rose to over 100.

More to Come

There’s more to it than this, of course. We’ll look at more individual seasons in the future, as well as examining a variety of ways you can boost your win rate well beyond 10 percent.

Finally, player selection does matter. Recommending you do whatever it takes to get Christian McCaffrey last season was one of my favorite calls for RotoViz subscribers. If you roster league-winning players, your results will reflect that. But while I owned a lot of McCaffrey last season, I passed on him in the MFL10 of Death and continued with the Zero RB approach that has paid dividends for me even in the RB-friendly seasons.1 Using structural advantages gives you the best opportunity to take advantage of both luck and your player-picking prowess.

This is just the beginning. We’ll dive into that and much more as we move through the lessons in the Best Ball Workshop.

  1. To be clear, RB-heavy had an edge in win rate for 2016 but was swamped by the large edge for WR-heavy in 2015 and 2018 when we look at the sample as a whole.  (back)

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