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BestBall Workshop No. 13 – What’s the Best Time of the Year for Zero RB?

To this point in the Best Ball Workshop, we’ve broken down the key tactics at every position, looked at the player selections that best fit dominant strategies, and synthesized our analysis with 7 Hacks to Win Your BestBall10s. Today, we dive into the calendar and look at whether some approaches work better at different times of the year.

One of the many terrific features of the Roster Construction Explorer is the ability to look at how drafting trends change from February to September. We can investigate whether certain strategies work better early in the offseason when depth charts are more fluid and compare them with training camp and preseason drafts to see if the extra information should influence our choices.

What’s the Best Time of the Year for Zero RB?

In Lesson 7, we discovered that Zero RB had outperformed RB-heavy by a wide margin. Although selecting your first RB outside of the first four rounds has returned a league-average win rate over the four-year period, it delivered win rates above 10% in both 2015 and 2018. With ADPs once again favoring a WR-heavy approach, it’s worth wondering if the strategy is better before training camps start. Have we already missed the window for 2019?

Zero RB Drafts, February-May (2015-2018)

This might be less compelling if the results jumped all over the place on a month-by-month basis, but Zero RB drafts return a win rate below 7.5% in each of the first four months. It’s tempting to think that unclear RB depth charts would create plenty of opportunities to grab contributing RBs late, but this lack of clarity works against Zero RB drafters. The results suggest drafters are reaching for trendy breakout RBs and then loading up late on players who find their spot on the depth chart damaged.

The Best Ball Dashboard provides some examples of 2019 fallers, and the list isn’t limited to these backs.

 

RBs can lose value through injury, free agency, and the draft, and since each middle- and late-round pick is crucial, Zero RB drafters actually benefit from greater clarity later in draft season.

Zero RB Drafts June-September (2015-2018)

Starting in June, Zero RB drafts jump above 8.5% and stay there for the rest of draft season. Again, the month-to-month consistency of the results is encouraging. These results were also consistent across seasons. Regardless of how successful Zero RB was in any given year, it was more successful later in the draft season.

The numbers are even more impressive when you use a 6- or 7-RB construction.1 It’s also exciting that the win rates are supercharged when you combine this approach with any of the other lessons. For example, a Zero RB approach with your QBs selected in the QB window gives a win rate above 11%.

How Does This Compare to a Balanced Attack?

A balanced start that comes out of the first four rounds with two RBs and two WRs is one of the safest and most popular approaches. This start is consistent across the NFL calendar with an 8.6% win rate through May and an 8.7% win rate the rest of the way.

Surprisingly, however, the balanced start has not been successful from June to September over the last two seasons.

Balanced Start June-September (2017-2018)

Runaway RB ADP following the 2016 RB Revival has contributed to poor win rates for balanced and RB-heavy constructions, and this really jumps out when we compare them to Zero RB constructions in this part of the draft season.

Zero RB June-September (2017-2018)

It’s possible, of course, that 2019 numbers will be more in line with pre-2017 results, but that will be very difficult with the RB prices we see today.

2017 offers an illustration of the role cost plays. Let’s say you wait another round and don’t select your RB1 until Round 6 at the earliest. Even with terrible WR performances in 2017, that construction still returned a post-May win rate above 9.0%. Despite those results, popularity plummeted in 2018 even as the win rate spiked to almost 2015 levels.2 RB1-After-5 has a better post-May win rate than Balanced in every season except 2016.

Zero RB is out of fashion, but that’s great news for drafters.

Is There a Dominant Strategy That’s Immune to the NFL Calendar?

Yes, the dominant approach we laid out in the Best Ball Workshop, Lesson 11 has a win rate above 10.5% from February to May and a win rate above 10.5% from June to September. It has only one month with a win rate below 10%, and it has an overall win rate above 11.0% from 2016 through 2018. With such consistency, safety, and upside, I couldn’t resist deploying it in this year’s MFL10 of Death.

Start from the Beginning With the Best Ball Workshop

Many owners are just getting into fantasy drafts as we move into the heart of the summer. If you have some free time over this festive week, try out the Best Ball Workshop for yourself. Many of the best tactics are unpopular in 2019, and that gives you a big competitive advantage before we even get to player selection. Combine the intelligence from the various lessons and turn your drafts into a money machine.

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
Lesson 11: The Roster Construction Explorer Wants You To Load Up Early at WR
Lesson 12: 7 Best Ball Hacks From the Roster Construction Explore That Will Juice Your Win Rates

The Roster Construction Explorer is your best ball Rosetta Stone, helping you unlock the mysteries of the format. The future will not perfectly resemble the past, and the RCE illustrates this in graphic detail. Take it for a spin yourself. Find out which trends have been consistent year-to-year and which bounce around randomly. You’ll find that some of the ironclad “rules” for best ball have not led to winning seasons. You’ll also discover that creating a money-making draft methodology is simpler than you’ve been led to believe.

The Roster Construction Explorer is the brainchild of best ball guru Mike Beers. And he has you covered in other formats. I’ve discussed the Fanball RCE today, but we also provide an FFPC Roster Construction Explorer and one for DRAFT as well. FFPC experts Monty Phan and John Lapinski write about best ball from the perspective of defending titlists, while Michael Dubner has you covered on DRAFT.

Image Credit: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sports. Pictured: DeAndre Hopkins.

NFL subscribers, the time to get into PGA DFS is now! For a limited time, upgrade your subscription by adding a 2019 Rest of Season PGA subscription at a $10 discount. Click here for details!

  1. Zero RB drafters should note that while 5-RB has been the more popular construction, 7-RB is far more successful.  (back)
  2. Ownership dropped from 2,046 in 2017 to a paltry 674 last year. Win rates jumped to 14.5%, as compared to 16.7% during the RB Apocalypse of 2015.  (back)

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