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Best Ball Win Rates: 2019 Awards

Shawn Siegele uses the Best Ball Win Rates tool to hand out awards to the top performances in six categories. 

Each week I’ve been using our Best Ball tools to evaluate a different fantasy position. We’ve already begun grading the Best Ball Workshop, a series of how-to strategy articles built on the insights from Mike Beers’ Roster Construction Explorer.

Today we pause to hand out some much-deserved hardware after a record-breaking fantasy season.

MVP

Christian McCaffrey

The MVP category hasn’t featured much suspense since mid-season, but McCaffrey’s ability to maintain his ridiculous performance levels was nonetheless astonishing.

He first jumped over 30% in win rate after his 48-point explosion in Week 5, the second 40-plus performance in the opening weeks. Carolina’s superstar dropped below 30% during his Week 7 bye but only needed two weeks to climb back into rarefied air. McCaffrey sustained that level the rest of the way, scoring 30 or more points on five occasions and only dropping below 20 points once. His final two-week score of 69.8 points pushed him above 35% for the season.

In fantasy football lore, three names loom over all others: LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, and Priest Holmes. Their legendary seasons were unlike anything we’ve seen for over a decade. (David Johnson’s magical 2016 was the closest, and offers a sad reminder of what should have been.) Since that time the NFL has undergone a sea change at RB, and it seemed we would never witness another back ascend to those heights.

McCaffrey is not yet scoring rushing TDs at that level, but he’s otherwise taken the position beyond even what Faulk and Holmes were able to accomplish. He stands beside the top performances from the last 20 years and dwarfs the competition in receptions.1

Top RB Performances 2000-2019 (Weeks 1 through 16)

The Breakout Star

Chris Godwin

Among receivers selected in at least 1,000 leagues, Tampa’s new star led the way with a 16.2% win rate. He just edged the historic season from Michael Thomas (15.7) in spite of a hamstring injury that kept Godwin out of Week 16.

Godwin did much of his damage in a four-game flurry early in the season. He went into the bye with a 25% win rate. Although he slowed down going forward, his 37.4-point outburst in Week 12 gave him a win rate boost heading into the stretch run.

Godwin acted as the perfect complement to Mike Evans, and their profiles emphasize the contrast. Evans had a single additional target but 530 more air yards. Despite that gap, Godwin caught 19 more passes for 176 more yards, and held a large edge in yards per target (11.2 to 9.8). Part of this boils down to catch rate, but Godwin was also much more dynamic after the catch.

Godwin’s elite skill set all over the field is confirmed by his location chart which shows dominance deep and over the middle, balanced by plenty of production out wide.

The 2019 George Kittle

Tie – Mark Andrews and Darren Waller

Back-to-back 25-point performances to open the season pushed Andrews above 20% in the early going. He would run hot and cold through the year, finishing in single digits six times, but the highs were enough to give him the fifth-best overall win rate. A favorite of John Lapinski’s TE model analysis, Andrews’ breakout in Year 2 follows Blair Andrews’ findings in the Wrong Read: TEs are not as slow developing as commonly believed and top-100 picks break out most often in their second seasons.

A great story about perseverance and the possibility for change, Waller confirmed the summer hype with a string of impressive performances in Oakland’s pedestrian offense. Devin McIntyre again demonstrated his clairvoyance in predicting the key element that would pour gasoline on Waller’s breakout.

The Zero RB League-Winner

Austin Ekeler

Ekeler, with his elite receiving ability and freakish athleticism (4.4 forty, 40-inch vertical, 6.85 three-cone), is basically a version of McCaffrey who shares time with one of the NFL’s best backs. That makes him . . . Alvin Kamara?

This is what we wrote in recommending Ekeler as the No. 2 back on our Zero RB Candidates Countdown.

If you think that reminds you of anyone, it should. In his must-read series on RB game script and its impact on fantasy performances, Ryan Collinsworth compares him to a top-five RB.

Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara are literally the same player, but in different backfield situations. Just look at each player’s career Opps% splits, heat-mapped based on our entire running back sample:

Ekeler’s 2019 proved that little separates him from the greats. He finished as the overall RB4, but his splits with Gordon are truly extraordinary. Even if you get rid of his epic first month, the 16.9 PPG in a timeshare would still place him at RB11.

Nothing about Ekeler’s athletic profile or on-field performance suggests anything other than star. In fact, his size/athleticism package is better for the contemporary NFL than many backs with far more perceived value. I may be biased as an Ekeler owner everywhere, but I recently gave him another big boost in my dynasty rankings to reflect his true status.

The Sleeper

D.J. Chark

Chark was only drafted in 887 BestBall10s, cementing his sleeper status, but he finished with the No. 4 overall win rate despite a Week 14 injury that led to only 3.8 points over the final two weeks.

A fixture on the early-season fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) leaderboard, Chark’s efficiency dropped off down the stretch as the Jaguars began to shuffle quarterbacks amid their collapse.

Chark will need to prove he can handle increased defensive attention in his third year to prove this largely out-of-nowhere campaign wasn’t a fluke, but his 2.4 FPOE/G numbers are a very good sign for 2020 consolidation.

The Transcendent QB

Lamar Jackson

One more 30-plus performance in Week 16 was enough to push Jackson above 20% and give him an almost identical win rate to Patrick Mahomes in 2018. I went in-depth on Jackson’s breakout season and explained why QB is an under-emphasized component to best ball dominance in Best Ball Win Rates: QBs Demonstrate the Value of the Roster Construction Explorer.

Honorable Mentions

History Maker – Michael Thomas

Dead Zone RB Dominator – Aaron Jones

Zero RB Breakout Rookie – Miles Sanders

Make sure to check out the Best Ball Win Rates tool to analyze what worked and what didn’t for your roster, and try some of these great apps if you’re interested in more visualizations for the stats mentioned in this piece.

Image Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Christian McCaffrey.

  1. Faulk missed two games in both 2000 and 2001, and Holmes missed a game in 2002. Both of them finished just above McCaffrey in per game scoring.  (back)

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