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20 Rounds of Death: The Best Ball Workshop Breaks Down Every Pick

Pat Thorman’s MFL10 of Death VI wrapped up earlier this week. Shawn Siegele walks through 20 rounds of player selections as he tries to defend his 2017 and 2018 titles.

In the Best Ball Workshop No. 9, we used the Roster Construction Explorer and found the two best paths to a high win rate in BestBall10s. Today, we’ll look at how I used the workshop lessons on the individual positions as I attempted to build a super lineup that could compete with the industry heavyweights.

Round 1 – 1.04

Top Choices: Alvin Kamara, DeAndre Hopkins

With the No. 4 overall pick, I was guaranteed either my third-ranked player in Kamara or my fourth-ranked player, Hopkins. Ezekiel Elliott came off the board at No. 3, pushing me into the 1-Elite-RB construction that has been a consistent source of wins over the past three years. This was a bittersweet selection, breaking my streak of Zero RB squads and voluntarily moving away from an approach that was wildly successful in 2018.

RB1 Selected After Round 5 – 2018

Several of my top-15 national finishes in high stakes formats have been with the 1-Elite-RB construction,1 but I’ve rarely used it in best ball. The opportunity to experiment with a team highlighted by Kamara was too good an opportunity to pass up. Of the RBs with ridiculous PPG results from 2019, his combination of skillset, offense, and opportunity shift gives him the best chance to improve on already gaudy numbers.

The Pick: Kamara

Round 2 – 2.09

Top Choices: Zach Ertz, Mike Evans, George Kittle

Ertz, Evans, and Kittle rank 16th, 17, and 19th by my rankings, and all of them would be mild values with the 21st pick. WRs have a much better track record than TEs in the second round of BestBall 10s (9.0% to 7.4% in win rate), but a healthy Ertz or Kittle is going to be much more difficult to replace on your roster. The TE Lesson hammers home the importance of an elite TE, and the quality of options falls off a cliff after those two are gone.

There’s a very slight chance one will fall, but it’s only a sliver with RCE creator Mike Beers picking twice before I select again. I love Evans here, but it will be interesting to track the way this choice – and potential mistake – influences the draft throughout.

The Pick: Evans

Round 3 – 3.04

Top Choices: Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Adam Thielen

Ertz went at 3.02 and my preferred WR, Stefon Diggs, came off the board at 3.03. That left a choice between three quality options at receiver. I selected Hilton due to concerns about the passing volume in Los Angeles and Minnesota. The Colts are one of the fastest-paced teams in every game situation, while Philip Rivers is a walking delay-of-game penalty.2 Hilton has been more available to fantasy owners over the course of his career and offers a better safety/upside combination in the Indianapolis offense.

The Pick: Hilton

Round 4 – 4.09

Top Choices: D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley

Although both ADP and expert projections are less accurate than you might think, the quality of fantasy football information in the modern era leaves few exploitable holes. Essentially, fantasy experts and owners alike are knowledgeable-but-not-accurate, and that’s not meant as a criticism. Rather, it encourages us to find the remaining opportunities for outperforming our competitors.

Roster construction remains the largest of these opportunities, which is the reason we focus so heavily on the Roster Construction Explorer within the Best Ball Workshop. Another is the valuation for second-year players.

Year 2 is the only year where you see an increase in fantasy points. If you can only peruse one article before you draft this season, make sure it’s The Wrong Read No. 36 by Blair Andrews.

 

In Year 2 we also find that college production is still a relevant indicator, which means that RotoViz research on breakout age, Dominator Rating, and early declare will give you an advantage on owners who are looking at draft position alone.

Last season, I recommended drafting JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp even at their lofty ADPs. Owners were giving them credit for a second-year jump, but their projections were still well above the point total implied by ADP. This year that model likes Moore and Ridley even better.

The Pick: Moore

Round 5 – 5.04

Top Choices: Ridley, Tyler Boyd

At WR26, Ridley is going well below his rookie year finish. He’s my 36th-ranked player overall, and even that is likely too low. This was still a difficult choice with personal favorite Tyler Boyd also available. Both receivers would be fairly valued early in Round 4 and become screaming values in this area. I selected Ridley due to the higher-powered offense and his likely greater upside in the case of a teammate injuries.

Mike Clay eventually made the draft’s best value pick when he snagged Boyd at 6.05.

The Pick: Ridley

Round 6 – 6.09

Top Choices: Jared Cook, Will Fuller, Christian Kirk,

I had hoped that O.J. Howard or Eric Ebron would reach this position as Ebron’s ADP suggests, but MFL10 owners were more aggressive with the second-tier TEs this season. Robby Anderson and Jarvis Landry also came within five picks of making it back, but the absence of these four players made this pick a challenge.

Even when moving from a bad quarterback to an elite one, Cook isn’t the kind of player who inspires confidence with his career track record. On the other hand, TE becomes a wasteland once the new Saints TE is gone. If I pass here, it will be a difficult wait through the next six picks. In the end, I still couldn’t bring myself to draft him at this level even though he’s close to Fuller in both my rankings and the staff composite.

Kirk offers breakout potential in a high-volume passing offense, but there’s so much we still have to learn about the new Arizona offense. By contrast, Fuller’s risk is all injury-related. The upside is insane.

The 2016 first-round pick averaged over 20 PPG with Watson in 2017 and then 15-plus with him a season ago. Big-play receivers are often over-hyped in best ball since their inconsistency can leave your weekly lineup full of low scores, but Fuller is the full package with blowup weeks as a bonus.

The Pick: Fuller

Round 7 – 7.04

Top Choices: Cook, Darrell Henderson

Once you move out of the first six rounds, you start to see extremely high win rates when you take a second RB to go with our 1-Elite-RB construction.

RB1 in Round 1, RB2 after Round 6 (2016-2018)

The other benefit of this construction is in consistency over the last three seasons. While RB-heavy and Zero RB have both had individual seasons with extremely high win rates over that time, they’ve posted at least one season with extremely low win rates as well. 1-Elite-RB has been flexible, with an above average win rate in all three seasons and a win rate above 10% in two of three.

Drafting Henderson would have given me “The Rams Kamara” and set the stage for a team with serious upside at RB to go with all of the WR firepower. Unfortunately, there are many more compelling options at RB than at TE, which led to the less exciting pick.

The Pick: Cook

Round 8 – 8.09

Top Choices: Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman

Earlier in the round, I intended a double-dip at quarterback similar to the Luck/Aaron Rodgers tandem Mike Beers landed in between my picks. Instead, I was unable to resist the WR value. Sutton fell to WR46, nine receiver slots below his ADP of WR37. Even with Joe Flacco at QB, Sutton is a player I’ve been stockpiling in all formats. He’s another second-year receiver with breakout potential, and in Sutton’s case, competition for targets is almost entirely lacking.3

Even in a mildly disappointing rookie season, the former SMU star gained 704 receiving yards. Sutton’s superior prospect profile is being undervalued in relation to players like Dante Pettis and Keke Coutee.4

The Pick: Sutton

Round 9 – 9.04

Top Choices: Freeman, David Njoku

Njoku would have been a steal by ADP and simultaneously a better fit for overall roster construction, but skill and volume concerns make him a tricky breakout candidate. Freeman was an easy choice after my other RB target – Ronald Jones – was snapped up more than a round earlier by the frustratingly astute Rich Hribar. The perfect post-hype RB candidate,5 Freeman falls a round below his normal ADP as owners scramble to fill WR slots with viable starters.

The Pick: Freeman

Round 10 – 10.09

Top Choices: Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Nyheim Hines

Last year’s RB28 as a rookie, Hines could lose receiving volume to an upgraded WR corps, but Luck has always peppered his RBs with targets. Hines was an undervalued rookie who developed faster than expected according to his own head coach. With passing-down backs consistently finding the fantasy top 10 over the last decade, the second-year stud is a good example of how inexpensive RB points can be.

The Pick: Hines

Round 11 – 11.04

Top Choices: Brees

We’ve finally reached the point where there’s a void at RB and WR. I like plenty of remaining players at those positions, but most of them are available much later. Between my selection of Brees and my selection at 12.09, the only intriguing names to leave the board were Kalen Ballage and Tre’Quan Smith. I’d highlighted both as targets, but more in the Round 14 range where they sit by ADP.

We learned in Best Ball Workshop No. 3 that QB isn’t as devalued as many owners believe. Beers’ selection of Luck and Rodgers a couple of rounds earlier could be the move that allows him to win the league through the onesie positions.

It’s trendy to wait as long as possible at QB, but it’s also worth remembering that you’re going to lose the RBs and WRs that are available in whichever rounds you ultimately devote to QB. In order to avoid getting stuck with lower level QBs and losing my favorite sleepers in those rounds anyway, I try to force myself to select QB in the first round where I don’t absolutely have to have a player at another position.

Brees rallied to QB6 in PPG scoring among full-season players a year ago, and the departure of Mark Ingram could free this offense up to really fly again in 2019.

The Pick: Brees

Round 12 – 12.09

Top Choices: Matt Breida, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky, Dak Prescott

It’s hard not to have a cake-and-eat-it-too thought process at the QB position. I want the rushing upside without the injury risk, and 3-QB was a definite consideration at this point. (The RCE tells us that 2-QB has better overall win rates, but that 3-QB in the window is extremely successful as well.) In his 2019 guest appearance, Denny Carter made the case for the Konami Code runners.

Jackson’s lack of efficiency – especially as a runner where Expected Points suggested he would double Josh Allen in a stat where he was actually outscored – cloaks a workload that gives him an elite floor and absolutely crazy ceiling. Although he’s not expected to run as often this season, any improvement as a passer puts Jackson into a category all by himself. It might even be a category that allows him to compete with Patrick Mahomes.

The Pick: Jackson

Round 13 – 13.04

Top Choices: Breida, Allen, Trubisky, Jimmy Garoppolo, Greg Olsen

I have Breida at No. 88 overall after moving him down due to the pectoral injury. I’ve also passed on him for at least three rounds as a result, even though the injury isn’t expected to impact his availability for camp. That Jerick McKinnon also isn’t practicing probably makes the recent news on this backfield a net plus for Breida. The San Francisco backs will be a headache for regular redraft owners but nirvana for best ball drafters. Even the losers in this backfield could post some monster games during the season. Still going off the board at the 10/11 turn, Breida qualifies as one of my best values.

The Pick: Breida

Round 14 – 14.09

Top Choices: Jalen Richard, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, Mike Gesicki

Between Hines and Richard, I’ve rostered 162 targets from a year ago. It’ll be a challenge for Richard to match his numbers, but the landscape is ripe to do so.

Richard’s RB29 finish occurred in relative obscurity, toiling as he did for a moribund Oakland squad. The Raiders could be improved and yet still terrible, setting the stage for a passing-down back to excel. The injury to Isaiah Crowell thrust Josh Jacobs into a big role, and he’ll have plenty on his plate without being asked to catch 50-plus passes.6

The Pick: Richard

Round 15 – 15.04

Top Choices: Marqise Lee, Gerald Everett, Fant, Gesicki, Equanimeous St. Brown

With all of the legitimate TE options long gone, I’m looking at some flyer possibilities. Fant owns mega-comps and is already generating positive buzz in Denver, but that would give me three members of the Broncos offense. My team construction has been heavy on elite offenses to this point, with only minor detours for breakout candidates at bargain prices (Freeman, Sutton). Even in a good rookie season, Fant is unlikely to be a difference-maker.

Instead of burning a pick on a TE position with several even options, I get lured into the rocks by Lee’s siren song. He’s not expected back until a couple of weeks into training camp, which raises red flags about his performance level well into the season. On the other hand, I’m intrigued by his potential with a real NFL QB.

The Jags have a lot of bodies, but Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, and Terrelle Pryor have all played their way to the fringes of the league. Meanwhile, D.J. Chark doesn’t join the group of second-year WRs with encouraging projections. Dede Westbrook is the player to own in this offense, but a healthy Lee would earn serious volume. Rostering injury-recovery players on the discount has not historically been a good tactic, but I couldn’t resist the temptation with Lee.

The Pick: Lee

Round 16 – 16.09

Top Choices: Darwin Thompson, Everett, Duke Johnson, Texans, Rams

I’d have selected Everett several rounds earlier if not for a bye that overlaps with Cook. The Rams starter enjoyed plenty of breakout buzz a year ago, but that hype’s gone into hibernation after a disappointing season where he failed to crest five points over the first eight weeks of the season.

Everett rebounded to hit double digits five times over the second half, and has been a matchup nightmare during OTAs. Playing in an elite offense is a nice bonus.

From a roster construction perspective, the ongoing TE quandary has a trickle-down effect at Team Defense. My preference is to use a 3-DEF construction with those defenses being selected in Rounds 16 through 18 and all coming in the top half of the position. Defensive points played a big role in my performance over the last several years, and I hesitate to give that up for a flyer TE.

The Pick: Everett

Round 17 – 17.04

Top Choices: Chiefs, Eagles, Colts, Thompson

I like to roster the defensive units for high-scoring teams that put pressure on opponents to catch up. Kansas City lost some pass-rushing prowess in the offseason but could morph into a more attacking unit overall.

Thompson is the guy I really want, and Pat Thorman has just selected him in a rookie draft we’re in together, giving me pause. Enough other choices remain at RB to take the risk.

The Pick: Chiefs

Round 18 – 18.09

Top Choices: Colts, Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Jamaal Williams, Devin Singletary

Indianapolis will be DE16, and while the ADP of DE11 probably isn’t particularly meaningful, it’s the last defense that fits my criteria, especially if I finish with only two.7 I expected at least three defenses to go in the upcoming six-pick gap and not many RBs, of which I have a few options.

The Pick: Colts

Round 19 – 19.04

Top Choices: Thompson, Armstead, Singletary, Jamaal Williams

I’m adding Carlos Hyde in dynasty when the price is right, but he’s unlikely to be a serious impediment to the young backs if they continue to flash. Thompson crushed his pro day and generated consistent rave reviews during OTAs. The Chiefs prioritize athleticism and receiving ability in their backs, not draft status. Imagine LeSean McCoy with Mahomes, and suddenly self-discipline becomes impossible. I’ve tried to avoid reaching for Thompson – he’s unlikely to score many points in 2019 – but the upside is mouthwatering.

The Pick: Thompson

Round 20 – 20.09

Top Choices: Arizona, Marcus Mariota, Singletary, Hayden Hurst, Jason Witten

The RCE prefers I use my final pick at TE with this construction. Witten is the more proven name, but reports of a 25% snap role are in line with his age and season lost to retirement. By contrast, Hurst is a rookie bust playing in a low-volume passing offense. The floor here is extremely low and could turn this essentially into a 19-player, 2-TE roster.

Glass-half-full drafting has served me well in the past, and the No. 25 pick from last year’s draft has been a recent puff piece staple. He offers a less expensive way to play a Baltimore breakout than admittedly more appetizing gambles like Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews.

The Pick: Hurst

Hurst’s selection finishes off a roster where 10 of the 18 position players are in their first three years in the league. Only one of those 10 players is a rookie, and he’s both a late-round pick and an RB, the position where you should target rookies for safety and upside.

What’s Next?

We’ll continue to highlight roster construction, breaking down the win rates for the creative constructions from MFL10 of Death VI. Until then, check out the rest of the Best Ball Workshop, a series of cheats and hacks that will boost your win rates and turn your best ball drafts into money machines.

Lesson 1: Owners Are Taking the Wrong Lesson from 2018 Player Win Rates
Lesson 2: Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz Want You to Stop Giving Away This Big TE Advantage
Lesson 3: QB Is More Important Than You Realize and Easy to Exploit
Lesson 4: Best Ball Owners Are Abandoning the Dominant Defense Approach in Record Numbers
Lesson 5: You Really Can Ride These Simple ‘Onesie’ Tactics to a Best Ball Title
Lesson 6: Deploy These 8 Players to Execute Our Tactical Plan So Far
Lesson 7: Zero RB or RB-Heavy? Shocking Results from the Roster Construction Explorer
Lesson 8: RB-Heavy Will Kill Your Best Ball Results, But There Is an Early Round Perfect for RBs
Lesson 9: MFL10 of Death: Building an Elite Early-Round Foundation With the RCE and the RotoViz Screener

Image Credit: Steven King/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: D.J. Moore.

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  1. Including my No. 11 finish in last year’s FFWC Main Event and the No. 1 overall finish in the 2013 NFFC Primetime.  (back)
  2. This translated into a No. 2 ranking for the Colts in passing expected points, compared to a No. 22 ranking for the Chargers.  (back)
  3. With Emmanuel Sanders coming off of an Achilles injury, Sutton should be the runaway WR1.  (back)
  4. Pettis and Coutee both flashed serious ability as rookies, making them trendy selections. It will be interesting to see how they emerge from crowded depth charts.  (back)
  5. Many Denver scribes believe the third-round pick will be given a chance to unseat UDFA breakout star, Phillip Lindsay. I love both backs and expect them each to play a solid role in best ball, with any type of injury turning the survivor into a league winner.  (back)
  6. Jacobs would have been a great fit as a complementary back who could split early-down touches and focus on his pass-game skills. Unfortunately, he’ll have to shoulder a much bigger load unless Doug Martin finds Jason Witten’s fountain of youth.  (back)
  7. With so many players on the bye in Weeks 9 and 10, I was looking for defenses with other byes so that I could at least get the benefit of defensive optimization in that week, hopefully providing a boost to what otherwise may be a paltry score.  (back)
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