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Exploring Best Ball Strategy for DRAFT: QB and TE - Footballguys

A tour through the quarterback and tight end spots across 135 DRAFT best ball rosters

As training camp looms and standard fantasy leagues prepare to draft, best ball football on DRAFT has been on its game for months. Many of us have been participating in DRAFTs as far back as March - and some have put together a wide portfolio of teams. Our James Brimacombe, for example, has already drafted more than 550 rosters, and he's not planning to stop anytime soon.

I've completed 135 DRAFTs myself, and like Brimacombe (and many others), I've kept close track of my picks. Through a simple Excel spreadsheet - it took less than five minutes to create - I'm able to keep a constant tally of my player exposures throughout DRAFT season. The benefits of keeping count like this are two-fold. For one, it allows you to track your draft patterns throughout the offseason. Along the way, I've been able to take quick looks over my exposures (and their ADPs) to examine which strategies I've wound up using most and least. For example, if I note that I'm exceptionally low on shares of top-tier tight ends, I know that, for diversity's sake, I'd probably better get my nose into the Rob Gronkowski/Travis Kelce game.

More importantly, it aids you in diversifying your portfolio. We all like the guys we like and hate the ones we hate, but our projections and expectations are usually (somewhat) wrong. Even rock-solid fantasy analysts and players will whiff badly on more than a few prospects; shrewd drafters are more concerned with the degree to which they were wrong. It's perfectly reasonable to want no part of Marquise Goodwin, but if you refuse outright to draft him at all, no matter the value, then you've got a decent chance of missing out on a big year. Goodwin and the 49ers, after all, don't care one bit about your projections.

For those drafting a bevy of best ball rosters, "love" and "hate" simply aren't enough. We need to keep our shares spread to some degree across the entire draft board. Melvin Gordon III is a no-brainer as a first-round pick, sure, but what if he's lost to a long-term injury or suspension? There's always a non-zero chance that last year's numbers were fluky; what if he merely under-performs well below his draft cost? No DRAFTer wants to be left holding the bag, with 80% of his or her first-round picks weighed down by Gordon.

With that in mind, here's how my 135-roster portfolio shakes out thus far. I've listed my exposure rate (what percentage of my rosters contains the player), as well as his ADP as of July 25. I've also included a scatter chart to help you visualize the ADP ranges where I've focused my pick.

Quarterback

Quarterback
Exp%
ADP
Quarterback
Exp%
ADP
Quarterback
Exp%
ADP
A. Rodgers 5.2% 4.04 P. Mahomes 10.4% 10.08 C. Keenum 1.5% 14.06
D. Watson 3.7% 5.10 P. Rivers 12.6% 10.10 A. Dalton 11.1% 15.05
R. Wilson 8.1% 6.05 M. Ryan 11.1% 11.02 R. Tannehill 5.9% 16.03
T. Brady 5.2% 6.11 M. Mariota 8.9% 11.04 T. Taylor 12.6% 16.06
C. Newton 7.4% 7.03 J. Goff 13.3% 11.07 L. Jackson 0.7% 17.06
C. Wentz 5.2% 8.05 A. Smith 8.1% 12.01 J. Flacco 13.3% 17.11
D. Brees 9.6% 8.05 D. Prescott 5.2% 12.07 B. Mayfield 4.4% 18.01
K. Cousins 8.9% 9.05 D. Carr 4.4% 13.03 S. Bradford 4.4% 18.04
J. Garoppolo 8.9% 9.10 J. Winston 11.9% 13.05 J. Rosen 11.1% 18.08
M. Stafford 13.3% 9.12 M. Trubisky 5.2% 13.05 S. Darnold 3.7% 18.11
A. Luck 3.7% 10.04 E. Manning 10.4% 13.10 A. McCarron 1.5% 19.01
B. Roethlisberger 11.1% 10.04 B. Bortles 8.9% 14.03

The scatter tells all you need to know about how I’ve targeted quarterbacks; there's very little in that bottom-right quadrant. With such a glut of borderline QB1/QB2 options on the board late, there’s been no reason to leap at the early-round guys with any regularity. Not only is the position exceptionally well-stocked, I just don’t see Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, or the others as demonstrably better than the rest. (I'm certainly not spending that premium pick on Watson very often.) In fact, I only project a 1.9 points-per-game dip from Rodgers down to my QB8, Matthew Stafford. I’ve really only chased the early-round quarterbacks in DRAFTs in which they drop well past ADP - basically, eliminating the chase aspect altogether.

As a result, my exposure is concentrated in those middle rounds. There, I can pick and choose 2-3 names from a pool of 14-18 guys I’d be happy with rotating throughout the year.

notes

  • From those middle rounds, I’ve favored Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger the most. I'm not over the moon for those guys, but they're typically the best names on the board when I dip into the pool. Rivers and Goff are the ones that excite me from a value standpoint. Rivers continues to suffer from Chase the Upside Syndrome, but he’s finished as the QB12, QB9, and QB8 in the last 3 years. He’s a much better value play than Cousins or Garoppolo. Goff isn’t as rock-solid a QB1 option as the others, but he’s become a screaming value as his ADP has tumbled steadily since May, from Round 7 into 11. Goff is a bit volatile, but he posted three top-five weeks last year – same as Stafford, Roethlisberger, and Brady – and returns a full cast of playmakers. I’d much rather sit tight and scoop him up in Round 11 than chase a similar ceiling earlier.
  • Many of us have some ground to make up with Andrew Luck. With his health uncertain for the past year or more, I've shied away, with at least one league-mate always willing to chase his upside into Round 9 or 10. As a result, I have almost no Luck shares - and with good news on his shoulder, his ADP will only rise. I've started to prioritize him over Patrick Mahomes II II and Marcus Mariota, but I'd still rather have Ben Roethlisberger or Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • Mahomes is tough to evaluate. My projections love him, and if he can capture 80-85% of Alex Smith's 2017 magic, he'll wind up a steal. But he's also an unknown, swimming in the same ADP tank as proven year-in, year-out QB1 candidates. I've made sure to grab a healthy chunk of Mahomes shares, but only (a) when he falls beyond Round 10, and (b) once most of his tier has already been taken.
  • Further down the draft board, I’m stockpiling all the Tyrod Taylor I can. He’s a weekly QB1 threat from Round 14 or beyond - he finished in the Top 12 in 18 of his 44 Buffalo starts, after all - and he’s likely to hold down the Cleveland job for at least 8-12 weeks out of the season. I’m also looking to stop Jameis Winston’s slide in Round 13 or 14 whenever I can. My top quarterback can carry me through his suspension, which ends before bye weeks begin, and Winston boasts a top-five ceiling upon his return. Drafters are assigning too much value to those three missed games; there’s hardly a better QB2 option available after Round 12 or so.

TIGHT END

Tight End
Exp%
ADP
Tight End
Exp%
ADP
Tight End
Exp%
ADP
R. Gronkowski 12.6% 2.07 O.J. Howard 11.9% 12.01 V. Davis 2.2% 17.07
T. Kelce 11.1% 3.03 E. Ebron 16.3% 13.02 H. Henry 3.0% 17.11
Z. Ertz 5.2% 3.09 C. Clay 10.4% 13.09 J. Butt 8.9% 18.02
G. Olsen 5.9% 6.01 V. McDonald 10.4% 13.10 L. Willson 10.4% 18.05
J. Graham 5.2% 6.03 J. Cook 11.9% 14.01 G. Everett 1.5% 18.08
E. Engram 8.1% 6.10 T. Eifert 8.9% 14.04 T. Kroft 5.9% 18.10
D. Walker 7.4% 7.05 C. Brate 20.7% 14.09 V. Green 1.5% 18.11
K. Rudolph 2.2% 7.08 A. Seferian-Jenkins 19.3% 14.10 E. Dickson 3.0% 19.01
T. Burton 6.7% 8.02 R. Seals-Jones 4.4% 15.06 R. Gathers 2.2% 19.02
J. Reed 5.9% 8.11 A. Hooper 18.5% 15.06 A. Shaheen 0.7% 19.02
G. Kittle 5.9% 9.08 B. Watson 5.2% 15.11 J. James 0.7% 19.02
J. Doyle 22.2% 10.09 M. Gisecki 5.2% 17.01 J. Witten 8.1% 19.03
D. Njoku 11.1% 11.06 H. Hurst 13.3% 17.03 B. Jarwin 0.7% 19.03

Here, it's obvious I've concentrated myself toward the middle and late rounds. With fewer draft candidates than most positions, tight end forces you to plant your flag a little more firmly. As a result, most of my tight end depth charts follow a flow like this one:

Notes

  • As you can see, I'm less than 29% in on the Big Three. Much of that is due to my early-early drafting (pre-April), in which I avoided Rob Gronkowski like the plague due to contract and retirement concerns. Some comes from my dislike of Zach Ertz, who's a walking Questionable tag - and whose Eagles could be looking at big touchdown regression. All told, I'm clearly more comfortable stacking my tight end deck with mid- to late-rounders, gunning for (a) undervalued guys with volume potential, and (b) cheap touchdown upside. The key to this approach is quantity: if you're throwing a handful of picks at the wall, hoping two will stick somewhat, you want a literal handful. That's why roughly 15% of my best ball rosters feature four (dirt-cheap) tight ends.
  • It's not that I hate Kyle Rudolph; it's a value thing. I just don't see enough separation between him and the next five to seven names on the board, so I'm not interested in spending a top-80 pick on him.
  • In general, I hate the value of that ADP range. We've probably already seen Evan Engram's ceiling, now that Odell Beckham Jr Jr. is back in the fold, while Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham carry a lot of downside at this cost. I'm also somewhat regretful of the few Trey Burton shares I have. In that low-volume offense, and with physical specimen Adam Shaheen splitting snaps, I don't foresee Burton bringing home a TE1 season.
  • I'm severely bloated - in a good way - in Rounds 10-16. That's where the best ball value tends to lie, where players with flawed or limited outlooks can fill out your roster and offer cheap ceiling. I'm loaded heavily with Colts shares, considering Andrew Luck's lifelong adoration of his tight ends - and both Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron come relatively cheaply for that eight-touchdown upside. I'm all over Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, both of whom have already shown hefty touchdown potential, even in a timeshare. And I'm heavily concentrated on late-round guys with the potential to lock down full-time jobs, like Jake Butt and Luke Willson. In the quantity game, we're just looking for a handful of scattered top-five finishes, and at the tight end spot that often only requires three to five catches or a short touchdown.

Also, I have tackled the running back and wide receiver spots. That's the meat of your draft, so be sure to check it out here.