This is the second article in a multi-part series on how to attack the high-stakes Main Event, the flagship contest of the Fantasy Football Players Championship that pits 2,400 teams against each other in a race for the $500,000 grand prize. In the FFPC Strategy Sessions, we learn from one of the best, the 2017 regular season Main Event points champion, Monty Phan.
As I mentioned in the first part of this series, knowing the rules is essential to succeeding not just in the Main Event, but in any fantasy league. You’d be surprised at how often owners draft a team without knowing the starting lineup requirements or even the scoring system. A few years ago, I participated in the FFPC’s Bare Knuckle league, a live best-ball draft I’ve done every year since 2015. We had taken a break halfway through the 28-round draft when the guy sitting next to me said, “I just found out this is a best-ball league.” At the time, he had only one of the 24 quarterbacks that had been selected to that point. Needless to say, his team didn’t do well that season.
FFPC rules require 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end and two flex spots (RB/WR/TE). The two flex spots are key. If everyone has to start 2 RB, 2 WR and a TE, then those two flex spots are where you need to seize the advantage over your opponents. Win the flex, win the league.
As you can see in the chart from Blair Andrews’s Win the Flex App, the projected points for WRs are higher than those of RBs for around the first 100 picks in the draft. Granted, the ADP for the app was drawn from Fanball BestBall10s (which differs slightly from FFPC scoring and its 1.5 points per reception for tight ends), but the point is clear: In the single-digit rounds, WRs are more valuable than RBs, because it’s likelier that the WR will score more than the comparable RB.
So how do you apply this to the Main Event draft? We’ll start with roster construction. Despite the success of the Zero RB strategy – popularized on this site by high-stakes champ Shawn Siegele – I’ve never been able to fully commit to it. However, in Shawn’s excellent series examining winning best-ball strategies, there’s a modified version we have successfully employed in recent years, and that’s to draft an elite workhorse RB with our first pick, then hammer WRs and TEs thereafter, peppering with any RB value that drops.
Although the above ADP is pulled from FFPC best-ball leagues, you can get the general feel for how Main Event drafts will likely go. More than half of the top 25 picks are RBs, with nine WRs and the TE trio of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz. Let’s break down the first two rounds, divided into groups.
- Draft positions 1-5: This one’s easy. Just take Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott1, Alvin Kamara or David Johnson with your first pick. Depending on your view of the TE position – and there’s an argument to be made that having an elite starter provides a significant advantage – you have a decent shot at snagging Kittle or Ertz when it comes back around.
- Draft positions 6-9: This is the trickiest spot. Taking Kelce is very tempting at the sixth pick, and he becomes a better value the farther he drops. It’s certainly possible that his ceiling may have dropped a little with the news that Tyreek Hill would miss no time in the offense, but Kelce remains the best TE option. If you pass on Kelce or he’s unavailable, the safest option might be to grab DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Julio Jones or Michael Thomas, then in the second round look to take James Conner or Joe Mixon as your workhorse RB. With the Duke Johnson trade, Nick Chubb also becomes an intriguing option, since he’ll have the Cleveland backfield mostly to himself for the first eight of the FFPC regular season’s 11 games.
- Draft positions 10-12: If I don’t land a pick in the top five, then I hope I draft toward the end of the round. Here, it’s pretty easy to get a high-ceiling RB and elite WR. In a recent FFPC best-ball draft where I was at the 10 spot, I took Mixon with my first pick, based on Shawn’s persuasive argument that he could be 2017 Todd Gurley. I declined to grab a WR and took Kittle with my second pick, but that had more to do with my strategy for that particular contest. In the Main Event, I likely would have opted for Odell Beckham, who was also available.
With the first two rounds out of the way, the focus moves to WRs and flex starters (likely more WRs) for the next 4-5 rounds. Of the middle tier of TEs – Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry, Jared Cook and David Njoku – the one I value the most is Engram, either as a TE1 (if I didn’t grab one with my first two picks) or as a flex starter, since the premium scoring makes that a viable option. On a Giants offense that’s lacking healthy, experienced, non-suspended pass catchers, Engram could become a top receiving option based on volume alone.
Finishing out the single-digit rounds, from the sixth and beyond is when I start to consider the “1B” guys in committee backfields (Rashaad Penny, Royce Freeman, Ronald Jones), high-upside backup RBs (Austin Ekeler, Latavius Murray) or the starter who slipped well past his ADP (Tevin Coleman, Lamar Miller). The goal in the draft’s first half isn’t to end up with an equal balance of RBs and WRs; it’s to bolster the flex, which you want to fill with WRs (and possibly a TE), while not forsaking that second starting RB spot.
As Shawn points out in his write-up of the Apex Experts League draft, which gathers some of the top analysts in fantasy, this season’s WR pool can be considered “deep” only if too many RBs are being selected. In my experience, it’s much more likely in Main Event drafts that folks will start reaching for RBs than WRs. If WR value falls because of over-drafted RBs, that plays right into our hands. As Shawn wrote:
In order to provide some redundancy in the face of injuries and byes, I try to exit the higher-leverage rounds with 50% more players at a position than I’ll need starters. This means drafting a 3-RB, 6-WR team through the first half of the draft, what you might consider a Starting Lineup Plus.
Because RB value is most competitive with WR value in the range of picks 80 to 140, it makes sense for your Zero RB push to take place in this area of the draft.
That pick range of 80th to 140th translates to Rounds 7-12, which is line with our strategy. But because of the FFPC’s TE-premium scoring, we would look to have a 2-RB, 6-WR, 1-TE or 3-RB, 5-WR, 1-TE team through nine rounds (and possibly two TEs if warranted).
In the next installment, I’ll address the onesie positions of quarterback, tight end, kicker and team defense and the second half of the draft.
Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Joe Mixon.
- Assuming he ends his holdout. (back)