Just as the 2016 fantasy football season ended, the 2017 fantasy football season began. No need to wait until August or September get things going, MFL10-type best-ball leagues have been rocking and rolling for months now. Many people view the fantasy draft as the best part of the fantasy season, well; you are in for a treat, as that's what best ball leagues are all about. Not only are MFL10s fun to play, but you also can get a great understanding of the fantasy layout months before your season long league drafts begin. Trust me, you will be able to draft with your eyes closed come August.
I think many of us in the fantasy community take it for granted that everyone knows what MFL10s are, but after talking to a few friends that play fantasy football as a hobby (as opposed to an obsession), they have no idea what I'm talking about. Others have heard of MFL10s but for various reasons, they have been too intimidated to play them for fear of going up against the "pros/sharks" or because they think they don't have the time. Well, it's time to assuage some of those concerns by giving you some background information on these very fun leagues and also a few tips and tricks to help you succeed.
MFL10s are draft only, best ball leagues. Entry fees range from $10 to $500, with payouts at the end of the season to the winner of the league ranging from $100 to $5,000. MFL stands for MyFantasyLeague.com, the site that runs these leagues, and most people play the $10 leagues … hence the nickname MFL10. In this article, I'm going to focus on MFL10s because they are the most popular site for playing these leagues, but the FFPC has best ball leagues starting at $35 and Play Draft (who have a great app) just launched their leagues this past month, and offer payouts to the top four finishers and also feature quick draft leagues with a 30-second clock between picks. Both of those leagues are similar in that they are best ball leagues, but have slightly different scoring systems, team sizes and payout structures. In fact, MFL just launched 2X leagues in June, where the first through sixth place teams win money. As you can tell it's a growing and varied landscape, and getting very popular.
Here are links to all three sites:
MFL10 leagues consist of 12 teams and involve snake drafts, where each team gets up to 8 hours to make their selections. Once the draft is complete, your involvement is essentially over and you simply just monitor how well your team performs against all the other teams in your league during the season.
Your best lineup will automatically be started every week and the team that scores the most points at the end of the season (Week 16), wins. New leagues are launched continuously, and to join a league all you need to do is go to their website, deposit at least $10 in the bank through your PayPal account and then join a league. They will then email you the details for your league, let you know your draft position and it's "let the games begin."
I can also assure you that fantasy players of all levels are playing these. How do I know this? Because I have done many MFL10 leagues so far and some of the picks that are made are definitely not being made by pros. I've also played against many pros in some of these leagues and I can assure you again, they don't always make the greatest picks. Trust me, no reason to fear. In fact, it's often times fun to play against analysts to see how they attack a draft.
Two years ago I entered 11 leagues. I ended up winning 3, came in 2nd in one of them, two 5th place finishes, three 7th place finishes, one 9th and one 11th. So for $110 in entry fees, I won $310. A 28% win rate is pretty good in my opinion. Last season, I entered 35 of them and ended up winning $580. Not as big a win rate (14%), due to a slew of bad luck injuries on guys I was heavy on (ie: Keenan Allen) but I still ended up winning money on the season.
I usually have two or three drafts running at a time and have been playing this April already. Each draft takes about a full week to complete, so I will have many more entries this year than in years past.
(A bit of a pro tip, go to the contact section of the league you are in and check off the notifications that lets you know every time a player is picked, the emails become too much. Instead just make sure that the box to notify you when you are on the clock is checked. When it's your turn they will email you and then you can easily check to see who everyone else has picked to that point. Online I also like to view the board in "grid" format, to get a full landscape view of the draft.)
MFL10s use a standard PPR type scoring system, with 1 point per reception (PPR) and 4 points for a passing touchdown. Your weekly automated best lineup will consist of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 flex play (RB/WR/TE) and 1 defense.
GENERAL GAME PLAN
Now for some details; each team drafts 20 players and I usually stick to this breakdown:
- 2 QBs
- 5 or 6 RBs
- 6 or 7 WRs
- 2 or 3 TEs
- 2 or 3 Defenses
Occasionally I will grab a third quarterback at the expense of a defense or tight end if I am really happy with my defenses and tight ends and if I waited too long on quarterback and feel like I need a little more juice at the position. Other times, if there is a great value pick in the 19th or 20th round, I will grab and extra wide receiver or running back. But for the most part, this is the lineup breakdown I try to stick to.
For reference, at the end of this article is a roster construction breakdown from the 2016 season and win rates using some of the various lineup constructions. Also at the bottom, is a chart put out by Rotogrinder's Mike Beers, which details the win rates from having the Top 50 players (by ADP) on your team. As you can see from that chart, hitting on the right running backs is key. 26% of the winng teams had David Johnson, while 20% had LeSean McCoy. Health was key too, A.J. Green and Keenan Allen owners got very unlucky due to their injuries, which makes having proper depth important.
In almost every single draft you will see David Johnson, LeVeon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott come off the board in the first three picks. Occasionally, you will see someone grab Antonio Brown instead of Elliott, due to the Dallas offensive line losing two starters this year. After those three, the next four off the board are usually Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Julio Jones and Mike Evans. You will find that viable running backs go early and it is possible to patch together a solid group of wide receivers in the middle and later rounds, so Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard and Demarco Murray are usually snatched up by the end of the first round, or in the early second. Amongst receivers, A.J. Green is almost always a first round pick, and you are then looking at deciding between Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton and Michael Thomas. You can read my thoughts on all of these players in my tier rankings recently posted on Footballguys. A bit more on that later.
What about Rob Gronkowski you ask? Last year I was mostly avoiding Gronk when he went at the end of the first round, and that ended up being a good call due to Brady's suspension and Gronk's injury. While his stand alone production is obviously far greater than any other tight end, since this is a best ball league, drafting three quality tight ends much later in the draft allows you to make up for his production while making sure you have impact players at running back and wide receiver, since those are the positions where your MFL10 season will be won and lost. Travis Kelce is also a viable alternative in the 3rd round if you want to be aggressive at tight end position, and you can get Jimmy Graham all the way in the 7th. That said, due to recency bias, Gronk often times falls to the end of the second round or even into the 3rd. He is a no brainer, must grab, in the 3rd, but while I would label you a fool for not taking him in the second round in season long leagues, it's still okay to pass on him in the 2nd round in these best ball leagues.
In general, I'm also less worried about filling out my roster in the early rounds than taking the best impact player left on the board, although running backs do tend to go early this year. In the mid-to-late rounds I'm balancing drafting players with weekly high ceilings with a few players with decent floors. Tyrell Williams should be a great high ceiling player this year on the Chargers, while guys like Jeremy Maclin and Adam Thielen should be a steady floor plays. All three of those players are currently coming off the board in the 9th round or later. Keep in mind, a wide receiver that scores around 9 fantasy points in a week has a 50% chance of being usable that week, while a wide receiver that scores just 12 fantasy points in a week has a 75% chance of being used.