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Solo Elite TE: An Unconventional DRAFT Best Ball Championship Strategy

Now that we have entered the optimal month to draft in the DRAFT Best Ball Championship, I’m looking for every edge RotoViz can create to improve our chances of taking down the $1 Million first-place prize.

RotoViz has published a variety of articles detailing how to approach best ball drafts for 2019. Shawn Siegele’s Best Ball Workshop is the most comprehensive best ball article series you will find on the internet.

The DRAFT Roster Construction Explorer has provided us with valuable insight, including evidence that RotoViz’s favorite draft strategy will help someone win the $1 Million prize.

While we’ve already found the onesie position strategy you can use in every DRAFT Best Ball Championship entry, there are still other reasonable approaches to take with the onesies. Shawn Siegele found that we should target stud TES, and Ryan Collinsworth’s Passing Revolution article series suggests the same. So, I wanted to see what would happen if we took this to the extreme by drafting just a single elite TE.

Tight End Win Rates

As a refresher, we’ll first take a look at DRAFT win rates based on the number of roster spots dedicated to tight ends.1

We see that 2-TE and 3-TE roster constructions are by far the most popular and the most successful roster constructions. All other roster constructions seem to provide a win rate below expectation.

But, we also know that Early Tight End has provided a structural advantage in recent years.

Early Tight End Win Rates

Now, let’s filter the dataset to look at teams that drafted an early tight end in Rounds 1-4.

TE1 in Rounds 1-4

The 10.9% win rate for Early Tight End teams provides an impressive 2.6% win rate over expectation. When taking an Early Tight End approach, 2-TE and 3-TE roster constructions still provide the highest win rates.

However, the Solo Elite 1-TE roster construction also provides a positive win rate over expectation (+1.0%). That’s even with Rob Gronkowski finishing as the TE11 despite being drafted as the TE1 in 2018.

Ownership

The Solo Elite-TE approach has been a +EV roster construction over the past two years. Still, you may wonder why we would use that strategy as opposed to Early 2-TE or 3-TE roster constructions, both of which boast higher win rates.

The DRAFT Best Ball Championship is not a traditional best ball league. We are not just competing against 11 other owners. We want to come in first-place out of thousands of contestants. Differentiating your roster matters.

Over 40,000 teams utilized an Early 2-TE or 3-TE construction over the past two seasons. By contrast, only 1,843 teams opted for the Solo Elite-TE roster construction over the same span.

2018 Best Ball Championship Results

The DRAFT RCE has a tournaments tab that allows us to look at how teams fared in the Best Ball Championship as opposed to traditional best ball leagues. To recalibrate our expectations, we should use the following survival rates as our baseline for advancing in the playoffs of the DRAFT Best Ball Championship. Use the bottom row labeled “total.”

Now, we can compare those baseline rates to rosters that drafted an Elite TE1 in Rounds 1-4.

Like in traditional best ball leagues, rostering 2-TE and 3-TE is more effective than Solo Elite-TE. However, Solo Elite-TE was still a +EV strategy. You can see this by comparing the survival rates of the 1-TE row in the above chart to the baseline survival rates in the previous chart.

The Solo Elite-TE strategy provided a win rate on par with expectation in the first round. But, it also boosted win rates by a relative increase of 35% in the second round and nearly 100% in the third and fourth rounds.

Solo Elite-TE ownership remained low in the Best Ball Championship. Just 0.4% of all entrants used the strategy. Even among teams that drafted at least one elite TE, only 1.6% of them went with the Solo approach. Elite-TE with 2-TE and 3-TE roster constructions were over 25 times more popular than 1-TE.

Employing Solo Elite-TE in the 2019 DRAFT Best Ball Championship

While it worked for different reasons, Mike Beers’ 3-Elite RB roster construction similarly embraced a hyper-fragile approach. If you are going to use high equity draft capital at TE, those players better contribute starting scores for your team pretty much every week if you are going to win. Even if you draft a late-round TE, the points added to your roster’s score would be minimal.

The bye week would be the “guaranteed” week the filler TE would score points for your roster. Even then, there is no guarantee that ~insert unreliable TE name here~ would score more than a few points in any given week. When ~insert unreliable TE name here~ does have a random touchdown, we also can’t guarantee that it will coincide with a down game for your elite TE.

Instead, use that roster spot on a late round RB with league-winning upside, WRs with spike-week potential, or a third QB in the optimal QB Window.

If you’re able to get Travis Kelce at the 1/2 turn, George Kittle at the 2/3 turn, or Zach Ertz at the 3/4 turn, then I would consider using the Solo Elite-TE strategy. O.J. Howard could make the leap into the Elite TE group this year, so it could also make sense to grab him at the end of the fourth round and stack him with Jameis Winston.

If you want to embrace even more fragility, you could extend this Solo Elite-TE roster construction into the fifth and sixth rounds if you are confident in Evan Engram or Hunter Henry. The RotoViz Staff Rankings suggest that you should consider Engram more strongly and may want to think twice about Henry.

Coincidentally, Solo Elite-TE meshes perfectly with (Modified) Zero-RB, along with other Best Ball hacks that will boost your win rate. Even though the sample size is small, here are the impressive results of teams that went Modified Zero-RB (RB2 after Round 5) with a Solo Elite TE.

Admittedly, the Solo Elite-TE best ball roster construction violates Best Ball Guru Mike Beers’ original Best Ball roster construction guidelines of taking two or three tight ends. However, the DRAFT Best Ball Championship is a different beast that may be winnable with an unconventional strategy.

Image Credit: Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Zach Ertz.

  1. All data is based on 12-man DRAFTs from 2017-2018.  (back)

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