DRAFT has a fun new contest available. The $1,000,000 Best Ball Championship gives you the potential to turn $25 into $100,000.
1. Understand the Payout Structure and Strategy Impact
Drafting a team on DRAFT is exactly like any other season-long redraft league. It is simply a 12-team snake draft. However, the optimal strategy is vastly different in this tournament because it is tougher to make the playoffs (just 1 of 12 teams) and even more difficult to make the finals (1 of 64 playoff teams advance to Week 16). Winning the big money requires drafting a truly special team.
Let’s dive right into the payouts because the prize structure should always influence optimal strategy.
As you can see above, the field of more than 40,000 is winnowed down to just 60 for the final. Winning your 12 team league is a worthy goal and guarantees you at least $100. You need to have a strong team over the first 12 weeks. However, the reason you are entering a tournament like this is the potential for huge rewards, which means you need to have a team that is peaking Weeks 13-16 that can finish near the top of the heap each week against other strong teams that have won their leagues.
The payout structure thus points to two important strategical imperatives:
- Draft for upside. A safe strategy is unlikely to distinguish your team amongst a field of more than 40,000. You need to take some risks. We will discuss some of the best risky but potentially rewarding options later in this article (running quarterbacks, rookie running backs, injury prone tight ends, etc.).
- Draft for late-season dominance. With most of the money reserved for teams that excel late in the season, you want to put together a team that will be at its best in the home stretch. That could mean drafting some young players who may not emerge as impact players until midseason. It could also make suspended players good targets with the late season playoff stretch run of primary importance.
2. Set Your Personal Rankings
How? First, go to the NFL page on Draft, located here. At the top of the page, you will see a button that says “SET YOUR RANKINGS.” You can drag and drop players to set your own personal rankings.
- If you time out on a pick and you do not have your own rankings saved, DRAFT will auto-draft the player with the highest ADP. You do not want to get stuck with Hunter Henry (or LeSean McCoy?) if you time out.
- It makes it easier to draft when you can see your top available players listed in order of your own personal rankings versus having the players listed by generic ADP.
- If something comes up and you multiple picks or have to leave a draft entirely, you will still get players you were relatively high on and not just simply end up with a mediocre team drafted solely by ADP.
3. Focus on Rushing Upside at Quarterback
There is relatively littler separation gained from passing yards in the DRAFT scoring format. In David Dodds’ 2018 projections, Drew Brees leads all passers with a projection of 4,336 passing yards. There are a whopping 20 other quarterbacks projected to throw for 3,536 or more yards. In terms of points per game, top-21 quarterbacks project to score within one or two points of each other if looking at just the passing yardage.
The two big separators in this format are total touchdowns and rushing yardage. The scoring favors quarterbacks who are capable of racking up points as runners. While rushing yardage at the position can be somewhat unpredictable from game to game and tough to count on in a typical league, the best ball format allows you to capture all of the big scoring weeks. Rushing touchdowns, which are worth 1.5x more than passing touchdowns, are especially important. Many of the highest-scoring quarterback weeks come via a solid passing performance that also includes a rushing touchdown.
4. Find the Sweet Spot at Quarterback
Quarterback production is important in this format but that doesn’t mean it is wise to use an early pick at the position. The depth of the position and ability to roster three quarterbacks and use just the highest score each week makes it possible to put up big numbers without using a premium draft choice.
Taking a quarterback before the seventh round only makes sense in two cases: (1) you feel Aaron Rodgers is going throw 40+ touchdowns, or (2) you believe Deshaun Watson will pick up where he left off last season. Rodgers is going so much earlier than the other quarterbacks that he would need to have a monster fantasy season to justify the price tag. His talent makes it possible but a career year given the depleted receiving corps may be too much to ask. Watson is a more interesting case. He isn’t going quite as high as Rodgers and Watson showed his immense weekly upside last season, scoring 34 or more DRAFT points in three of his final four starts. Watson doesn’t even need to completely replicate the ridiculous fantasy performances of last season to be a solid QB1. As Mike Clay recently noted, Watson was on pace for 52 total touchdowns last season. In DRAFT scoring, Watson would justify his ADP if he can produce even 75% as well as last season.
With the possible exceptions noted above, the reason waiting at quarterback makes so much sense is the extreme depth at the position this season. Dak Prescott, who has finished QB6 and QB9 in DRAFT’s scoring the last two seasons, is currently going off the board in the 12th round (ADP of 137). Andrew Luck (ADP 112) and Patrick Mahomes (ADP 113) are two other high-upside quarterbacks who, in addition to the potential ability to put up big passing numbers, also have the athleticism to make an impact running the ball.
The depth at quarterback extends past the mid-rounds and into the final rounds of the draft. Blake Bortles has finished in the Top 10 in DRAFT scoring each of the past two seasons due to his running ability. His ADP of 160 means he is generally available in the 14th round.
5. Load up on Running Backs Early
An elite running back is the most valuable commodity in the DRAFT best ball format. In 2017, RB1 Todd Gurley outscored WR1 DeAndre Hopkins by 89.5 DRAFT points. In 2016, RB1 David Johnson outscored WR1 Jordy Nelson by 111.6 DRAFT points. If you have a shot to draft one of the top backs, don’t mess things up by overthinking. Pull the trigger early on Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson. Drafting in the Top 4 is a real advantage this season, as you are guaranteed an elite back.
While you should be looking at running back early, Antonio Brown is the one obvious exception and the logical pick at 1.05. He has finished top-10 non-quarterback scoring for five straight seasons in this format. (three seasons with 250-260 points and two seasons of 320+ points). His consistency and proven ability to explode for massive fantasy games makes him worth passing on the second tier of running backs.
Outside of the top-5 is when the decisions get more difficult. While there is a case to be made for a top wide receiver like DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, or Julio Jones, the lack of depth at the running back position and extreme upside of the running back position in this format makes the second-tier running backs more attractive as first-round picks. Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon III, and Dalvin Cook each have sufficient upside to make them prime options in the mid-late first round.
The ability to flex a third running back and the running back scoring advantage that 0.5 PPR provides makes grabbing multiple top backs one of the top priorities. It will be hard to advance to the finals without at least two RB1s. Pairing an elite running back with a second back boasting obvious RB1 upside, like Jerick McKinnon or Joe Mixon, is the type of strategy that could pay off handsomely.
6. Draft at least one rookie Running Back
We just discussed why a winning roster is likely to have two or three elite running backs. But how do you assemble a roster with three elite backs when you only have one first round pick? The best strategy is to prioritize high-upside rookie running backs in the 3rd-7th round.
We have had a rookie running back lead the league in rushing each of the past two years. Last season, 4 of the 12 RB1s were rookies (Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, and Christian McCaffrey). The 2015 and 2016 seasons also featured multiple rookies who finished in the Top 10 of running back scoring. At this time last offseason, Kamara and Hunt, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in RB scoring, were being drafted in the mid-rounds. The most loaded DRAFT rosters last season included Kamara and Hunt alongside successful early-round picks. With another highly touted rookie running back class hitting the NFL in 2018, it is likely that a rookie back will be one of the highest impact players in 2018.
In one of the deepest classes of running backs to hit the league in a decade, the realistic breakout options are plentiful. Rashaad Penny (ADP of 37) and Derrius Guice (ADP of 34) are obvious candidates to quickly emerge as workhorse backs, which makes them excellent targets late in the third round. Sony Michel (ADP of 42) is more likely to end up stuck in a committee role, but his upside in the explosive New England offense gives him the highest upside of any rookie back other than Saquon Barkley. Royce Freeman (ADP of 51) and Ronald Jones (ADP of 57) have slightly less upside but should be the clear top back with their respective teams in time for the crucial Weeks 13-16. The forgotten rookie has been Kerryon Johnson, whose ADP of 75 lags far behind the other backs in this tier. The improved Detroit offensive line and Johnson’s talent make him a fantastic draft target who is worth reaching for in the 6th round (maybe even the 5th round if there is a run on backs).
7. Take advantage of the Depth at Wide Receiver
The depth of the wide receiver position manifests itself most clearly in a few sections of the draft.
The first target area to grab a wide receiver is in the second round. With most owners justifiably focused on adding multiple top backs, we are seeing reaches at the position in the early second round. The reaching at running back causes elite wide receivers like A.J. Green and Davante Adams to slide into the late-2nd round. Both Green and Adams have the potential to put together excellent seasons and have shown the explosiveness to have the type of 30+ point weeks that can make your seasons.
The second target area to grab wide receivers is in the mid-rounds. The best ball format favors players who are boom/bust from week-to-week, which makes explosive receivers who are reliant on catching deep balls much more attractive. Brandin Cooks (ADP of 51), Marvin Jones Jr (ADP of 54), Sammy Watkins (ADP of 59), Chris Hogan (ADP of 60), and Will Fuller V (ADP of 71) are ideal high-upside targets. Each is a big-play threat capable of posting a few huge weeks.
The third target area for wide receivers is in the late rounds. While others are filling in holes on their rosters with low-upside running backs and handcuffs, the late rounds provide opportunities to add bottom-of-the-roster wide receivers who are capable of putting up big weeks or even emerging as consistent difference makers. Kenny Golladay, Mike Williams, Chris Godwin, and John Ross are second-year receivers who fit this bill and make excellent options deep in drafts.
8. Build an Advantage at Tight End
Tight End may not get quite as much attention as the higher-profile positions, but it is a key position to gain separation from the competition. When you think about gaining separation from the pack, the key is to have a few monster scoring weeks at each position. Most of the top-25 quarterbacks have proven they have the ability to put together a big fantasy outing on any given Sunday. How many tight ends are capable of having multiple 20+ point game? The answer last year was just two: Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. Gronkowski is one of the best options in the second round this year. He is a generational talent capable of having the type of season in which he laps the field at his position. Kelce is a tougher call at his current ADP. He hasn’t put up impressive touchdown numbers (5.5 per season) and the receptions aren’t as valuable in this format.
9. Injury Prone Tight Ends are Worth Drafting
Even if you miss out on the top few elite tight ends, you still have a chance to get elite production from the position in the later rounds. Gambling on an injury-prone tight end can give you similar upside at a fraction of the draft cost.
Jordan Reed is the most intriguing mid-round option. He is the type of high-upside player who can help you win your league and then advance far in the DRAFT Best Ball Championship playoffs. Everyone understands the injury risk associated with Reed. He has had major issues with both lower body injuries and serious concussions. In a normal redraft league, these concerns rightly push him down the board. However, the balance of risk versus reward is vastly different in this tournament. Remember the goal is to draft an elite team that is able to separate from the thousands of other entries. Play with the mindset that you want to take on more risk than normal as long as the upside is legitimate. Reed has proven to be a massive fantasy difference maker when healthy.
Tyler Eifert is a top late-round target. Eifert’s ADP has fallen for legitimate reasons. He sat out recent OTAs and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was cryptic about when he might be available next. Plus, Eifert has barely seen the field in recent years. However, it is worth remembering that the last time we saw a healthy Eifert, he scored 13 touchdowns in 13 games. The upside is tantalizing. Especially at his current 14th round ADP.
10. Stack to Win!
Remember that even if you get almost everything right in your draft and your super team earns one of the 60 spots (out of 40,680 entries) in the Week 16 Championship, you still have to compete against 59 other elite teams. While $2,000 (the last place prize if you make the Week 16 final) is nothing to sneeze at, you want to give yourself the best chance to compete in the finals. As in other DFS tournaments, stacking a wide receiver or tight end with your quarterback can increase your upside and chances of winning the DRAFT Best Ball Championship. The advantage can be especially big with some of the highest upside options. Combos like Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams can push you to the top of the Week 16 standings.