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BestBall10s Workshop No. 11: The Roster Construction Explorer Urges You to Load Up Early at WR

We’ve finally made it to the pivotal position. Shawn Siegele uses the Roster Construction Explorer to investigate the role of wide receivers in BestBall10s. If you prefer FFPC Best Ball, check out the work from FFPC gurus Monty Phan and John Lapinski.

When I began the Best Ball Workshop, I knew the Roster Construction Explorer had the potential to radically reform the way owners draft in best ball leagues. But working through the lessons has still been eye-opening. The RCE outperformed even my lofty expectations as we went through the QB, TE, and DE positions, discovering that you can win your league through the onesie positions alone.

It also reinforced how valuable an elite RB can be at the top of your draft. The rise of the uber-back is reflected in the results from the last three seasons, and we found that your foundational picks in the first two rounds should reflect this. We also discovered that even the uber-backs won’t redeem a RB-heavy lineup, and that RBs have even more ability to destroy your lineup than rescue it.

In the end, best ball leagues are all about wide receivers. Today we look at the receiver position and investigate the role it plays in taking down your league. You know loading up early is important, but it’s shocking just how big the advantage can be.

The Big Picture

With 20 roster spots and three starting WRs, we might guess that 6-WR, 7-WR, and 8-WR constructions are going to be deployed most frequently by drafters. This is exactly what we find.

Overall Win Rates 2015-2018

The 7-WR construction has been the most successful and the most popular. It’s also extremely consistent with an 8.7% win rate or better in every season.1 The bigger surprise may be that 6-WR has been slightly more popular than 8-WR, a construction with far better results.2

When should you select your WRs?

The answer to this question depends a little on the season. We can guess that an extreme WR-heavy approach was successful during 2015, the year of the RB Apocalypse.

4 WRs Selected in First 5 Rounds – 2015

 

We can also guess that the opposite was the case in 2016 when the RB Revival was paired with the WR Collapse.

4 RBs Selected in First 5 Rounds – 2016

 

Although easily the dominant approach, RB-heavy was far less potent in 2016 than Zero RB was the previous year.3

2017 and 2018 – The New Normal

We might be more interested in knowing the results from 2017 and 2018, years that represented a return to normal, albeit with the new normal including a higher-scoring environment for stud RBs.

In the Best Ball Workshop No. 8, we learned that RB/WR has been the most successful two-round start, followed by WR/RB and then RB/RB. We might still wonder if that RB/RB start becomes supercharged simply by selecting WRs in the next two rounds.

RB-RB-WR-WR Start (2017-2018)

This is a very strong construction, especially if you use the 7-WR approach that Mike Clay used in the recent MFL10 of Death.4

It’s surprising then that the WR/RB start is still superior if you follow it with consecutive WRs.5

WR-RB-WR-WR Start (2017-2018)

This start was also extremely successful in 2015, and drafters who choose this path are covered if the whispers about a “return to committees” ends up being true in 2019. This construction returned a 7-WR win rate above 11% in 2015, 2017, and 2018, giving it impressive consistency for an unfashionable approach. This construction was the MFL10 of Death choice of Ryan Forbes, the 2018 runner-up.

Of course, the most successful start does match our most successful two-round start: RB-WR.

RB-WR-WR-WR Start (2017-2018)

This construction also has one other advantage. It returned even better results in 2016, with owners winning at a rate of 11.7%. Denny Carter and I followed this construction, with Mike Beers using the modified version with a TE in Round 3.6

How Many WRs Do You Need in the High-Leverage Rounds?

There are a variety of ways to look at this question. One is to start with the premise that we’ll draft a single RB early and then try to determine when we need to take a second one.

RB1 in Round 1, RB2 After Round 5 2015-2018

  • If you start your draft with an RB, waiting until at least Round 6 to grab another has returned a 10.8% win rate. Over the last two seasons, this number jumped to 11.7%. That’s a provocative enough result in it’s own right, but that’s simply the conservative version. You can actually draft your RB2 anywhere in the first nine rounds. The win rate for an RB2 selection doesn’t fall below 9.0% until Round 10.
  • If we stipulate a WR-RB start instead, the win rates are not quite as gaudy, but waiting on your RB2 still returns a win rate above 9.0% until Round 9.
  • If you start RB-RB, you don’t need to draft your third RB until the late rounds. Drafting your RB3 in any individual round between Round 5 and Round 15 returns a win rate above 9.0%.7

We can also look at this question from the perspective of how potent WRs are in general.

WR4 Selected By Round 6 (2017-2018)

A roster that is top-heavy with WRs returns very strong win rates. And it’s helpful to remember that this doesn’t include the RB Apocalypse. These are win rates over the last two seasons that featured the rise of the uber-backs.

We know that RB-heavy teams post catastrophic win rates, but what about balanced rosters? To highlight the value in stocking up at WR early, we can contrast the WR-heavy lineup with one that selects three RBs in the first six rounds.

RB3 Selected By Round 6 (2017-2018)

The big gap remains.8 If you prefer to look at the full four-year period instead, the gap closes but remains large at 9.2% to 7.8%.

RCE Results Follow the Logic

It’s always important to remember that the future may not directly resemble the past. 2015 and 2016 were very different seasons. And in some cases, individual player-seasons will have a big impact on results in a way that we should not necessarily expect to be representative.9 But we should also be responsive to what has worked historically, especially when it fits with what with what we know about the structural aspects of the WR position within the format.

  • You must start more WRs.
  • WRs are undervalued in drafts relative to points scored.
  • Elite RBs have a higher injury rate, creating more opportunities for league winners to emerge late at the RB position.

If the last several years are any indication, we’ll see a top RB emerge and become this year’s Christian McCaffrey. Whoever that player happens to be, you’ll want to surround him with WRs.10 The deck is simply too stacked against RBs, which is why they returned the seven lowest win rates among players drafted in the first four rounds last season.

In 20 Rounds of Death, I went through my picks on a round-by-round basis and pointed out a big exploitable opportunity in player selection. But consistently out-picking elite opponents is difficult. Choosing to follow a winning roster construction is easy. And if you are good enough to out-pick your opponents, why not do both?

To become a best ball ace like Mike Beers, jump into the Roster Construction Explorer and try the other lessons in the Best Ball Workshop.

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
Lesson 10: 20 Rounds of Death: Using the Best Ball Workshop To Supercharge Player Selection

Image Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Mike Evans.

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  1. You can use the RCE to break down the results by year.  (back)
  2. Drafters are discovering this slowly but surely, as 8-WR has been slightly more popular than 6-WR in both 2017 and 2018.  (back)
  3. If you’re wondering about a slightly less RB-heavy start, the numbers were similar for three WRs within the first four rounds.  (back)
  4. With savvy player selections throughout, Mike is one of the early favorites.  (back)
  5. The RB-RB start has a higher average score because it was much more popular in 2018, the higher-scoring of the two seasons.  (back)
  6. Mike’s modified TE start has yielded a 16% win rate over the last three seasons. Check out the TE Lesson for more on the value of Elite TE.  (back)
  7. In the not-that-important-but-kind-of-funny category, 35 owners started RB-RB and selected their third RB in Round 15. They won at a rate of 14.3%.  (back)
  8. The higher average score for this construction is the result of differences in popularity across seasons with different scoring landscapes. The WR-heavy approach was slightly more popular in 2017 – a low-scoring year – while the balanced approach had twice as many adherents in 2018 than in 2017, giving it more representation in what was a higher-scoring fantasy season. In the individual seasons, WR-Heavy outscored Balanced by a margin of 2318 to 2254 in 2018 and 2103 to 2096 in 2017.  (back)
  9. With a limited number of stud TEs, we can see the role of injuries very clearly in the TE results.  (back)
  10. My hypothesis about the ADP we’re seeing this season – in a year coming off very good results for WR-heavy and Zero RB drafts – is that the results for someone like McCaffrey are encouraging drafters to take multiple shots at RB in order to improve their chances to hit on “the guy” at RB. Unfortunately, those tactics end up crushing your win rate. You’re much better off grabbing a single stud RB, loading up at WR, and then trying to hit this year’s James Conner.  (back)
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