WR Early and Often Has Dominated Best Ball Mania But Is That a Historical Fluke? Simulating Thousands of Seasons and Millions of Teams to Find the Answer
Image Credit: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Justin Jefferson.

Over the last three months I’ve been working in collaboration with the RotoViz team to develop a tool to simulate Best Ball Mania (BBM) tournaments. This includes generating an original player pool for each “season,” simulating drafts, pulling fantasy scores from a weighted distribution, and finally adding up each team’s score using Underdog’s BBM roster settings. The simulation methodology includes injuries, bye weeks, quarterback changes, and more to help mimic the chaos of a real NFL season. The final dataset includes 1,000 simulated seasons, each generating 12,000 teams for a total of 12 million teams.

Helping Us Understand the Raheem Mosterts

The primary goal in building this simulation tool is to address the key challenges that come with analyzing large best ball tournaments. The first challenge is the impact that individual players can have on a single year’s data. For example, Raheem Mostert in 2023 put up one of the all-time great seasons for a running back drafted outside the top-100 selections in fantasy. Any analysis of 2023’s BBM4 tournament must account for Mostert’s outlier performance. Another challenge is that many drafters are utilizing multiple strategies to build their teams. Was a team successful because they stacked their quarterbacks? Or because they invested heavily in wide receiver? It can be hard to know. Finally, many constructions are used sparsely, which makes them hard to analyze effectively (1 QB, 5 WR, etc.). Simulations provide us with a much more fundamental view of best ball; untainted by single-season outliers and unknown correlations.

If you’re interested in more information on the methodology used to create these simulations, I’ll leave some additional notes at the end of the article. For now, let’s start by asking the big question.

What are the limits of drafting WRs early and often?

The most ubiquitous strategy gleaned from the first few years of BBM has been to select WRs early and often. Whether you call it zero RB or something else, the RotoViz community and other sharp drafters have leaned into WRs over the last four years to great success. However, four years of data on a brand new tournament format is not a lot. It’s possible that WR-heavy strategies have been on a hot streak lately, but aren’t fundamentally superior to other strategies. It’s also not clear how far we can push these WR-heavy builds. Simulated BBM data can help us answer these questions and more. Let’s dive in!

Want to understand the incentives and tradeoffs when crafting a BBM team for playoff advance, for Week 16 advance, or for Week 17 dominance? Michael Dubner dives into this question from a number of angles and helps you decide whether or not Week 17 Is Everything. 

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