Shawn Siegele examines the BestBall win rates for wide receivers, looks at big games from Tyler Lockett and Mohamed Sanu, and takes a round-by-round look at the preferred roster construction from the Best Ball Workshop.
Each week in my adventures down the rabbit hole of the Best Ball Win Rates tool, I like to choose a specific position or question for closer examination. Last week we analyzed the RB position and explored the performance of the Dead Zone RBs compared to the Sweet Spot RBs. Elements of that question spill into this week as we examine roster construction with an emphasis on early-round WRs.
How Is Our Preferred Construction Looking?
The Best Ball Workshop recommended a Single-Elite-RB construction. This lineup featured an RB in Round 1, followed by at least four players drawn from the WR and TE positions.
Historically, elite TEs drafted in Rounds 1-2 have struggled to post strong win rates, while those drafted in Rounds 3-5 have dominated. This is partly due to Rob Gronkowski’s injuries as a highly drafted TE and partly due to the opportunity cost of drafting a TE in the range where you need to land a stud RB-WR combination to start.
This has been true again in 2019, although the win rates may be slightly misleading.
Travis Kelce has outscored George Kittle and Zach Ertz, but few owners are winning with him. This is partly due to the greater expectations of a player drafted at the 1/2 turn than the 2/3 turn, and partly due to the early-round players these TEs are paired with.
Kittle and Ertz are in the range where they’ll be on a lot of Christian McCaffrey teams. Kelce is in a range where he could be paired with Michael Thomas (10.7%), but otherwise it’s nothing but land mines. After the top six players in ADP, Davante Adams begins a stretch of 11 consecutive players where Thomas is the only one with a win rate above 6.5%. Kelce actually has the fourth-best win rate in this group, as seven of the players are below 4.0%. (This group is relatively evenly split, with four RBs and three WRs.)
WRs in Rounds 2-5
The good news first: We have some very high-scoring players in this must-draft area for WRs. Five receivers currently sport win rates above 15%, and four of them reside in this hot zone.
Cooper Kupp and Chris Godwin led the way entering Week 9, but a Kupp bye and two more monster performances from Tyler Lockett and Mike Evans pushed the latter duo into the lead. Lockett joins D.J. Chark as the only two WRs above 20%.
The bad news: We also have a handful of receivers who have been absolutely dreadful. Last year in the early-round battle between RBs and WRs, the eight lowest win rates came from the RB position. This season a quintet of big-name receivers is offering plenty of competition.
The extenuating circumstances have been fairly obvious in the cases of A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, and Brandin Cooks, although Cooks was certainly struggling before concussions took him out of play. JuJu Smith-Schuster has not been able to overcome an injury to his starting quarterback in the same manner as Michael Thomas.
Odell Beckham really stands out. The situation in Cleveland hasn’t been particularly conducive to fantasy scoring, but that’s also a reminder that you don’t want to target established WRs who switch teams. Beckham hasn’t done anything well and is barely matching Jarvis Landry, another player who is just a shell of his former self.
Using the Weekly Stat Explorer, we can see how similar the two players have been.
Meanwhile, it’s been a long, frustrating slog for Green owners. Expected back this week, he will now miss yet another game. Without a late-season push, Green is positioned to be the only player to finish back-to-back seasons with a win rate below 4.0%.1
How Do RBs and WRs Compare?
In McCaffrey, the RB position has the only player with a win rate above 30%. WRs hold a 5-4 advantage in players with win rates above 15%, a 12-6 advantage in win rates above 12%, and a whopping 27-10 advantage in win rates above 10%. But this doesn’t really answer the important question, because in 2019 almost everyone knows you need to be WR-heavy in terms of the total construction. Seventy-four percent of rosters featured a 7- or 8-WR construction.
Win Rates in the Key Rounds
In examining our preferred construction, we need to know how the two positions have fared in the key rounds. These are the current average win rates for players with ADPs that ended up in the following rounds.
Based on the numbers in the Kelce section, you probably expected a wasteland in Round 2. The WR numbers are pulled up by Evans. The RB results are bolstered by Dalvin Cook (17%) and Nick Chubb (9.7%).
After a balanced Round 2, the other numbers swing heavily in favor of the WR position. Still, win rates for Dead Zone RBs are well above those of the last four seasons.
Although first-rounders have spent large portions of the year banged up, health has been a key for the rest of the early-round RBs. Kerryon Johnson is the only serious injury. If James Conner is able to suit up on Sunday, 21 of the 22 RBs drafted in Rounds 2 through 5 will be available.
Mover of the Week
We covered Lockett and Evans at great length again this week, and deservedly so, but we have a lower-profile riser as well. Mohamed Sanu took advantage of greater familiarity with the Patriots offense and a rare New England deficit to rack up 24 points on 14 targets.
Sanu’s win rate dropped only slightly during the previous three-game stretch where he scored a total of 11.5 points. Given the obstacle of changing teams and learning a difficult new offense on the fly, his No. 8 win rate among WRs is doubly impressive.
As long as N’Keal Harry remains an afterthought, Sanu is poised to build on his current numbers. Although he has two individual seasons with 20% target shares in his career, the 14 targets against Baltimore matched a previous career high.
2019 has been a banner year for three breakout TEs. All of them boast rare TE win rates above 14.5%. Check them out in the Best Ball Win Rates tool and come back next week when we take a closer look at the TE position.
Image Credit: Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Tyler Lockett.
- Derrius Guice and Jerick McKinnon are also in the mix, although both players sit at or above 4.0% currently. (back)