Just as the 2017 fantasy football season ended, the 2018 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. 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.
THE DIFFERENT SITES
MFL stands for My Fantasy League, the site that runs these leagues, and most people play the $10 leagues … hence the nickname, MFL10. However, FanBall just bought this league format from My Fantasy League, so while the site has changed, the name of the best ball leagues has been kept.
MFL10s are draft-only, best-ball leagues. Entry fees range from $1 to $500, with payouts at the end of the season to the winners of the league ranging from $10 to $5,000. In this article, I'm going to focus on MFL10s because they are the site I play on most and one of the more popular sites. There is also FFPC best ball leagues and Draft, who have a really great app and is just as popular as MFL10's these days.
The payouts vary depending on the games you play; there are winner-take-all leagues, and then there are games where the top four or five finishers get paid. There are also leagues with just three teams, then ones with 10 teams and 12 teams. Pick speed is another option. In some leagues, there is just a 30-second clock between picks (a "fast draft"), and then leagues with four, or even eight, hours between picks (a "slow draft"). The lobbies of these sites have it all laid out for you and it's up to you to pick your poison.
The main difference between the sites is in scoring and in the number of players you draft. In MFL10s, for the most part, they are a full one point per reception leagues, you draft 20 players and it includes defenses. In DRAFT, they are 0.5 points per reception leagues, you draft 18 players and there are no defenses. In the FFPC leagues, it is one point per reception for wide receivers and running backs, 1.5 points per reception for tight ends, there are 28 rounds and you draft both defenses and kickers. As you can tell, it's a growing and varied landscape, and getting very popular.
Here are links to all three sites:
MFL10 BASICS & Personal Preferences
A reminder, this article is focusing on the MFL10 leagues, to get a proper rundown of the DRAFT options and site, check out Justin Howe's great article on that here.
In best ball leagues, once your 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."
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 experienced players. 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 three, 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: David Johnson, TY Hilton (Andrew Luck), etc ...) but I still ended up winning money on the season.
The drafts with just a 30-second clock take around 20 minutes to complete, and I play a good number of those for just $1 each. Those are a great way to prep for the upcoming draft in your home leagues for very little money and much more accuracy than mocks where people aren't paying attention or drop out halfway. I usually then have two or three drafts running with a 4-hour clock per pick that I do for $10 each. These drafts take about a full week to complete.
(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), 6 points for a rushing or receiving touchdown 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. You can take a look at the full scoring system here.
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, it's smart to grab a third quarterback if you waited too long on a quarterback and need a little more juice at the position. Other times, if there is a great value pick in the 19th or 20th round, it's okay to grab an extra wide receiver or running back. But for the most part, this is the lineup breakdown you should try to stick to.
In almost every single draft you will see Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott come off the board in the first four picks. Occasionally, you will see someone grab Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, or Antonio Brown, but it's rare. After the first four, those three usually come off the board next, with Kareem Hunt and DeAndre Hopkins sometimes in the mix as well. At the end of the first round and into the very early second round, that is usually where Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon III, and Dalvin Cook go. You will find that viable running backs go very early this year and it is possible to patch together a solid group of wide receivers in the middle and later rounds, so Devonta Freeman, Christian McCaffery, and Jerick McKinnon are usually snatched up by the end of the second round.
This means there is usually great value to be had at the receiver position, which is one reason not to grab Brown and Hopkins in the first. Odell Beckham Jr, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and Mike Evans are sometimes taken at the end of the first round, but almost always in the second.
The third round is where you can still grab some solid running backs, and it's worthwhile exiting the third round with at least two running backs on your team. Usually available at the end of the second and deep into the third are guys like Joe Mixon, Jordan Howard, Alex Collins, Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice, and Kenyan Drake.
"What about Rob Gronkowski", you ask? Last year, it was correct to mostly avoid Gronkowski when he went at the end of the first round or early in the second, but now that you can get him at the end of the second or even in the early third, that's just great value. However, keep in mind, while his stand-alone production is obviously far greater than any other tight end, since this is a best-ball league, selecting three quality tight ends much later in the draft allows you to collectively make up for his production, while also 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 third round if you want to be aggressive at the tight end position, and you can get Jimmy Graham and Delanie Walkers all the way in the seventh.
In general, be less worried about filling out your roster in the early rounds than getting a solid running back trio and taking the best impact player left on the board. Don't be afraid to reach to get your guy, these drafts can be unpredictable so don't assume he will come back around.
In the mid-to-late rounds, you should be balancing drafting players with weekly high ceilings with a few players with decent floors. Marquise Goodwin should be a great high-ceiling player this year on the 49ers, while guys like Cooper Kupp and Jamison Crowder should be a steady floor plays. Keep in mind, a wide receiver who scores around nine fantasy points in a week has a 50% chance of being usable that week, while a wide receiver who scores 12 fantasy points in a week has a 75% chance of being used.
At quarterback, the general strategy is to wait until at least Round 9 or 10 where right now you can usually scoop up players such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford while players such as Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Marcus Mariota are often going in the 11th round and later. With this in mind, grabbing quarterbacks with back-to-back picks in the 10th and 11th rounds should leave you in good shape if you don't reach for one earlier. If you really want to wait late, you can grab Mitchell Trubisky, Derek Carr, Alex Smith, and Ryan Tannehill much later and probably be good to go. Just watch the flow of your draft, as most people only take two quarterbacks.
When keeping with this strategy, the earliest you are usually reaching for a tight end is in Round 7 if Delanie Walker, Jimmy Graham or Evan Engram are sitting there (assuming Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, Zach Ertz and Gronkowski are already gone). Otherwise, you're likely grabbing one in the ninth, with Kyle Rudolph, Trey Burton, and Jordan Reed being the primary targets. Other targets for tight ends in the 10th and 11th rounds are George Kittle and David Njoku. After that, you are looking at depth pieces such as Eric Ebron, Austin Hooper, Cameron Brate, Jack Doyle, O.J. Howard, Vance McDonald, and others who all go off the board in the 12th round and later.
For those tempted by the talent in this year's rookie class, only look to add them as third tight ends, if at all. The tight end position is notoriously tough to adjust to coming from the college to pro game, never mind going up against massive defensive lineman and linebackers that are as fast as they are big. If you want to reach for one, it would be Hayden Hurst on the Ravens. He's older (24) and should have a decent role right away. Another sneaky move is to lock up a tight end unit, such as Howard and Brate, or Ebron and Doyle, counting on them to score 8 to 10 touchdowns between them. In this best-ball format, you don't have to guess who to start every week.
On the defensive side, some people grab three defenses the final three rounds of the draft. That is certainly a viable strategy. Most often, however, just grabbing two is a solid strategy this year, especially when reaching for your first one a bit earlier. It's fairly easy to take a top rated defense in Round 14, and then pair them with another solid defense later on. This early in the fantasy season, taking a stab at one of the better defenses is a more reliable option than trying to guess on many of the skill position players available at that point in the draft. So take your shot, and then load up on an extra skill player later by only taking two defenses. Most of the times, the guys you're targeting late are going to still be there anyhow. As preseason games get under way and people gain a better picture of the team's starters and depth charts, you might be more likely to start drafting defenses late. Below you can find my defensive tier rankings.
Defensive Tier Rankings
Jaguars > Rams>Vikings > Eagles
Chargers >Saints > Patriots > Texans > Titans > Ravens>Broncos
Bengals > Falcons > Bears > Packers>Buccaneers>Steelers
Browns >Redskins > Cowboys > Bills
Panthers > Chiefs > Jets >Seahawks
Opinions vary greatly when it comes to rookies. Many veteran players espouse that we should avoid all rookies. I agree it is prudent to be careful not to overload on rookies and buy into too much of the hype. At the same time, don't make the mistake of not taking advantage of rookies who are well priced with defined roles and in good offenses. Last year guys like Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt were fantasy gold for teams. That said, the hype train also killed people who spent early picks the past two years on some of the receivers, players such as Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Corey Davis, and John Ross.
Two rookies in good situations are Sarquon Barkley and Darrius Guice. They are both special players who will dominate touches in their respective backfields. Rookies needing more caution, however, are guys like Sony Michel, Ronald Jones II, and Royce Freeman who could be stuck in major committees but are still going in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds.
There is no waiver wire in these leagues, and there is no glory coming in second place. The goal is to win. In order to win, you need to score more points on the season than all the other teams. Playing it safe won't get it done.
The key is to make sure you have some upside guys on your team, especially late in the draft, that can help you win weeks and put up big points. Target some high-end handcuffs even if you don't have the starter that could become RB1 or RB2's if they get the starting job due to injury. Some guys that fit this bill are the Steelers' James Connor, San Francisco's Matt Breida, the Ravens' Kenneth Dixon, Seattle's Chris Carson, and the Colts' Nyheim Hines.
As for wide receivers, look for guys that can bank big weeks, players such as Mike Wallace, Ted Ginn Jr, Taylor Gabriel, Tyrell Williams, and John Brown. While these players may be frustrating to own in season-long leagues due to week-to-week inconsistency, they will undoubtedly all have some blow up weeks, which is huge in best-ball leagues, especially when they are drafted late.
ADP (average draft position) is key when drafting, so make sure to check out the MFL10 ADP list. You want to get a sense of when different players are going off the board so you can better plan your picks. You don't want to reach for a guy two or three rounds early if you don't have to. Just make sure you adjust the dates so the range is no more than a month long. The default starts in February, and those drafts are just not relevant anymore.
TIERS and DRaft Strategy
When drafting, it's smart to always have a tier sheet handy. Organizing players by tiers is far more beneficial than merely ranking players.
One could rank Odell Beckham Jr. over Julio Jones, but it is impossible to truly predict who will finish better between the two of them. Maybe Jones has 50 more yards on the season then Beckham, or maybe Beckham has one more touchdown. Who knows; but both should finish better than a guy like Alshon Jeffery.
Organizing players by tiers also allows you to plan your picks by waiting on a particular position if many players in a current tier are still available. This will allow you to select a player at another position when there is a dropoff there. You also want a healthy mix of players that have high floors and high ceilings on a week-to-week basis, so if you grab a possession guy like Cooper Kupp, pair him with a high ceiling guy like DeSean Jackson.
You can grab tier rankings on Footballguys here.
Lastly, I don't subscribe to any stringent strategy such as Zero RB, Zero WR, or Value Based Drafting (VBD). Instead, I think you should choose the best player available on your board, while keeping in mind ADP, overall roster construction and taking into account the flow of the draft and positional scarcity.