The Ultimate MFL10 Strategy Guide

A position-by-position breakdown of how to approach MFL10 drafts

As the fantasy football continues to mushroom in formats and level of participation, the long-time league management leader My Fantasy League has given us the prototype best ball draft game to be the ready fix for those of us that love the draft as much as watching the season play out. There is a roster management option, but the draft-only best ball format allows you the ability to have a draft and not have to add another round of waiver moves, lineup setting, and trade talks to your already bloated regular season fantasy plate.

If you’re new to “best ball”, the idea is simple. Your best scoring players at each position score each week. There are no lineup decisions, no trades, no adds, no drops. This totally changes the lens of evaluating draft stock. Injury risk is more tolerable because your backups can automatically count when your starter is down and out. High weekly ceilings are more valuable than high weekly floors because you have a bench to be your firewall when your boom/bust starters bust. Rankings for best ball leagues will resemble redraft rankings, but with sometimes wide variations. I hope to have the time to put together a set of best ball rankings in the next week or so, but you’ll see a lot of my thoughts woven into my strategy guide.

Basic Parameters

Lineup

  • 1 QB
  • 2 RB
  • 3 WR
  • 1 TE
  • 1 RB/WR/TE Flex
  • 1 K
  • 1 D

SCORING/ROSTER/RULES OF NOTE

  • 22 Roster Spots
  • PPR
  • 4 pts per pass TD/pt per 20 pass yards
  • 10 - (-3) range for Team DEF Points Allowed
  • Winner Take All

A Note about Positional Value

Right off the bat, you can see that QB will be devalued even more since only one can possibly start and the scoring is not QB enhanced. Best ball’s forgiving nature of giving you potential mulligans for QB duds doesn’t help. Running Back will face roughly the same scarcity that drives its value in redraft leagues. Yes, your bench RB high scores automatically count, but even a cursory examination of game logs reveals that you shouldn’t count on many top 20 RB games from your bench. Wide receiver gets devalued more than QB. The boom/bust nature of WR weekly play and the depth league-wide at the position makes WR points that will actually crack your starters the cheapest points of all of the skill positions. Elite weekly tight production value is enhanced because it is very scarce, but mid-level production is in abundance and average TE1 types are devalued.

So our hierarchy of position value to break ties in early rounds is roughly:

  1. Running Back
  2. Tight End
  3. Wide Receiver
  4. Quarterback

A Note about Roster Composition

You should have a firm plan at least 18-20 deep on your roster, and an “ideal” 22, with the ability to change course when forks in the road early in your draft change the late-round priorities. Here’s my favorite roster plan:

  • 2 QBs - There are only a handful of third QBs that can add value, and solid starters are plentiful enough that a third isn’t usually needed here. I am open to going with three if you don’t take your first QB until the 10th round or later.
  • 5/6 RBs - I don’t love the bang for your buck on most running backs from the eighth round on. The odds of most of those players scoring for you are low. Even handcuffs aren’t that valuable because if your top starters aren’t scoring for you, your team’s ceiling (remember winner take all) has been hampered. Sometimes I am satisfied with my receivers after taking seven and will take a sixth RB, or otherwise use an extra spot to attempt paper over a top five that ended up weaker than I hoped. If you start RB-RB-RB, you'll definitely want to limit yourself to five here.
  • 7/8 WRs - This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Starting NFL wide receivers that will score for you 4-6 times for you are available well into the second halves of MFL10s. Give yourself a wide net of receivers with big play ability or very stable roles and watch yourself match the production of teams that invested two or three early picks. Two or three boom/bust receivers can produce roughly the same stat line as an elite receiver. Give yourself as many darts as possible at WR, although sometimes seven is enough.
  • 2 TEs - Ideally you are taking a top four TE, so you don’t need to invest too much in a backup to cover bye and be an injury insurance policy. If you don’t get a top four TE, it’s probably best to take a third and sacrifice a WR.
  • 2 PKs - You can steal 10-20 points with a third kicker. I just prefer to aim higher with my last swing at the pinata and risk missing it altogether.
  • 3 TDs - Three defenses is going to serve two purposes. First, there is a wider variation in defensive scoring (including actual negative scores for the week) and you have a better chance to catch a peak and avoid a valley. Second, it give you another chance at landing this year’s version of Kansas City or Carolina that can make you the #1 scorer in the league at the position.

A Note about “Winner Take All”

In a typical fantasy league, you are aiming to make the playoffs and see if you can get hot or lucky in the playoffs. In a winner take all best ball league, you can’t think that way. You are necessarily going to take a tack that is probably a 25% winner at best - ie high risk. You have a 8.33% chance as one of 12 teams and you want to increase that, and you won’t do that by playing it safe. Sure, some teams are going to collapse, but not every team. You must have a player or two “hit” and produce well above his ADP to win one of these. With a few exceptions, weekly and season-long ceiling is more important than floor.

QB Strategy

Peyton Manning was the bomb last year, but let’s face it, he won’t reproduce those numbers. Let’s say he did for a second. Peyton plus just about any starting QB last year would have been around 450. If you didn’t go for just any old #2 QB and took Drew Brees, you would only get up to 500.3. You’ll find that getting 380-400 is pretty cheap at QB, and investing in Peyton’s shaky 450 will cost you a fourth round pick even in the best-case scenario. Pass on Peyton.

What about Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers? Combining a half-season Rodgers or full-season Brees with just about any QB gets you to 400, and combining them with another QB1 like Cam Newton can get you to 430 or so. To fully evaluate Brees/Rodgers as choices in the early fifth, we need to look at what is possible if you invest less. Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck add even less edge for a sixth.

A boring combination of Rivers and Romo, currently costing you a 10th and 11th round pick, would have scored 380.2 last year. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, costing about an 8th and 9th, would have scored 362.4 last year, and that was struggling through horrible dry stretches at times. Colin Kaepernick and Russell WIlson would have combined for 370.5 last year and they cost a 9th and 10th (and should be better this year).

You’re getting the picture here. 380 is easily attainable, and 400 is reasonable on a budget plan.

With slightly more invested, you don’t have to settle for the safe 380-400 (although that works for me as a strategy). What you ideally want here are quarterbacks with higher weekly ceiling and more variance. QBs with a running element and QBs who can take over the game as passers with good passing games built around them. 

QB Targets

7th Round: Nick Foles 
8th Round: Robert Griffin III 
9th Round: Matt Ryan
10th Round Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady
11th Round: Russell Wilson 

Ideally, you’ve landed two of these guys. If you get the higher weekly upside of Foles or Griffin, you might be able to afford passing on the second tier of targets and getting Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers in the 12th. Ryan Tannehill and Carson Palmer are your “oh #$%@” plans in the 13th if you keep getting sniped. If you feel a little sickened by your top two QBs, you can always take Geno Smith, Jake Locker, or EJ Manuel (in that order) in the 16th or 17th round, but be warned that without a breakout season, they probably won’t add more than 20-25 points to your bottom line.

RB Strategy

Your RB strategy is very unsubtle. Big weekly running back scores are one of the scarcest commodities in best ball leagues. The well dries up quickly and if you feel like you’re overpaying for production early, it just gets worse the deeper you get into your draft. Sure, you may feel like you have an ace up your sleeve, but your ability to build in backup plans in case your player evaluation is wrong is much easier at other positions. Go big, and go early. If you think you can land Jordan Cameron in the fourth, I’m all for an RB-RB-RB start.

The sad reality is that even your “stud” RBs are likely to give you only 6-7 20+ point PPR games at most. This also means that you shouldn’t plan on getting your flex score from your RB and draft to optimally fill two spots. You might get a hit at running back that allows you to flex one at times, but if you have a lineup that is likely to give you flex scoring from your RB, you probably overinvested in the position. I have seen a 5 RB start and it just leaves too much weakness elsewhere

Chasing boom/bust RB points in the mid-rounds seems foolish to me when you see the strategic QB/TE choices or terrific WR value with a much higher probability of boosting your bottom line on the board at the same time. I would forego RB until the late rounds after getting my core early and focus on backups in high upside running games or sneaky PPR/goal line role playing backs with the ability for occasional outburst.

RB Targets

Early 1st: Jamaal Charles,LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte 
Post-Jimmy Graham 1st/Early 2nd: Demarco Murray
Post-Murray 2nd: Marshawn Lynch
3rd Round: CJ Spiller, Andre Ellington, Alfred Morris

**Note: To satisfy the need to go RB early, all kinds of names can fit in the early target list. These are my favorite. The main point is to take your favorite RBs with at least two, if not all three of your first three picks**

6th Round: Trent Richardson 
7th Round: Frank Gore
8th Round: Steven Jackson (Falcons running game produced 5 20+ point games in 2013)
9th Round: Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead
10th Round: Fred Jackson 
13th Round: Lance Dunbar 

15th or later

Dexter McCluster
CJ Anderson
James White
Jacquizz Rodgers
James Starks
Chris Polk
Theo Riddick
Mike Tolbert
Marcel Reece

What about handcuffs?

If your late-round RB matches up with your starter, that’s cool, but I don’t think it’s totally necessary. If a running back you take in the first round or two misses a good part of the season, it’s probably curtains for you anyway unless the handcuff is a revelation. This is not a survivor league. You are not putting insuring against a terrible score at the top of your list of goals. Handcuffing is not a priority, and if you pursue it too strongly, you will cap the upside of your running back corps and leave yourself vulnerable to poor weeks or overinvest at running back in terms of roster spots.

WR Strategy

Wide receiver is pretty easy. Don’t invest in the first three rounds. Elite WR picks are likely to give you 1-2 30+ point games and 3-6 20+ point games. That is roughly what you get from an early RB pick, and those weeks are much harder to find later at RB than they are at WR. I know WR seems like a safe haven, but you should resist it unless you are really confident in your ability to nail mid-round RB picks. I’m not. Wait until you see the target list. You’ll understand.

WR Targets

4th Round: Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
5th Round: DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith, TY Hilton
6th Round: Emmanuel Sanders, Julian Edelman, Mike Wallace, Eric Decker, Marques Colston
7th Round: Reggie Wayne, Sammy Watkins
8th Round: Dwayne Bowe, Brandin Cooks
9th Round: Kenny Stills, Justin Hunter
10th Round: Kelvin Benjamin, Marvin Jones, Riley Cooper
11th Round: Anquan Boldin, Danny Amendola, Greg Jennings, Jordan Matthews
12th Round: Markus Wheaton, Jarrett Boykin, Brian Hartline
13th Round and later: Cody Latimer, James Jones, Doug Baldwin, Andrew Hawkins, Andre Holmes, Rod Streater, Miles Austin, Malcom Floyd

I’m sure you have other favorites. The point is that a committee of 7-8 wide receivers taken between the 4th and 15th rounds is the way to go.

A Note about Handcuffs

I’m actually for a WR handcuff more than a RB handcuff in this case. Before he broke his collarbone, we would have been talking Marquess Wilson as a possibility here, but the answer is to take Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer in the 6th and 15th. They could both hit if Wes Welker goes down (or maybe not even that), and between the two of them, it is very likely that at least one will be one of Peyton Manning’s top targets in any given week. Manning produced three top 20 wide receivers and a top three tight end last year. You want a piece of that, trust me.

TE Strategy

If you draw an early draft pick, the goal is RB-Gronk. Draw a later draft slot, and shoot for Graham-Murray. Going Graham-Gronk is not advisable. If you miss out on the elite, Julius Thomas in the third or Jordan Cameron in the fourth is the fallback. Jimmy Graham (or a healthy Gronk) basically gets you to 300 (if not more) with any top 15-18 TE as a #2. Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis last year only got you to 275. Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, and Charles Clay did get you to 283.9 last year, but that’s going to cost you a 7th, 10th, and 11th. I do think Jordan Cameron is a great value in the fourth and again endorse an RB-RB-RB-Cameron start.

Whether or not you land a top 4 tight end, you’ll want to add an upside tight later. If you don’t land one, you’ll need three tight ends on your final roster.

Later Upside TE Targets

10th Round: Zach Ertz, Ladarius Green
11th Round: Martellus Bennett, Charles Clay
12th Round: Dwayne Allen, Heath Miller
13th Round: Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Tyler Eifert

Desperation 3rd TEs when you just don’t feel great about your top two:

Mychal Rivera
Coby Fleener
Marcedes Lewis

Kicker Strategy

Not much to see here. You want two starting kickers, preferably on good teams, and with a good accuracy and durability track record. Take advantage of variance, which is spiked a bit with a distance bonus for field goals over 40 yards. Protect against kicker injury/collapse, which could give you a zero at the position.

A third kicker would add 10 to 20 points to your bottom line, but as I said above, I prefer to aim higher with my dart.

I don’t see the need to take a Gostkowski/Prater/Tucker as one of first kickers off of the board. You can take kickers in the 20th and 21st round and be just fine.

PK Targets

Phil Dawson
Robbie Gould
Adam Vinatieri
Alex Henery
Nick Novak
Shaun Suisham
Nick Folk

22nd round Desperation Kickers

Mike Nugent
Josh Scobee

Defense Strategy

Three is the magic number. The 10 to (-3) points allowed point scale introduces much wide variance, even leaving you exposed to a negative score for the week.

The only elite defense from 2013 that should be considered likely to repeat is Seattle. Is it worth it to take them at their ADP of the 9th/10th round? No way. It would hamper your strategy at at least one other position, and for a questionable benefit. Seattle plus two typical defenses would have scored in the 240-270 range last year unless those other two defenses were Kansas City and Carolina, in which case the trio would have scored 310. Most combinations of three with a moderate hit like Buffalo or Chicago leading can get you to 230-240. Land a Carolina or Kansas City as one of your random three, and you are in the 260s and hanging with that team that passed on a valuable QB, TE2, or Boom/Bust WR to get Seattle.

By the way, if you take Seattle, don’t assume you can get away with carrying only two defenses. Seattle and New Orleans would have combined for 218 last year. Seattle and Indy? 211. Even Seattle and San Francisco, doubling up on “elite” defenses, only got you 239, and at a stiff cost. Seattle and Kansas City did produce a gaudy 286, so I suppose you can blow up the death star with Seattle and the #1 sleeper defense, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The way to win this position is find the Carolina or Kansas City, but also play it safe and get a defense or two likely to have the outbursts you need to keep from being one of the low scorers in any scenario. More likely, you’re hoping at least one of your picks hits the target and you post 230-240 to not cede too much to the top team at the position. Combinations like NYG/TEN/ATL, BUF/MIA/NE, PHI/BAL/CLE and ARI/BUF/NO that were cheap by 2013 ADP standards got you there. Hitting on KC and teaming them up with the modest combo of HOU/MIA gets you to 265, which is only four points less than SEA/CAR/PIT and six points less than SEA/ARI/PHI. Investing in two studs, but not Seattle, like CIN/SF got you ranging from 262 (ATL as third) to 284 (MIA as third). The problem with this strategy is that turnover at the top end of fantasy defenses makes it harder to reliably feel like you’re getting two studs with two high picks. The optimal combo here is 1 or 2 top 10-12 picks with 1 or 2 picks outside of the top 15 defenses searching for a KC/CAR to have three total.

Defense Targets: Anchors

16th Round: CAR, STL, KC, NE, DEN

DEFENSE TARGETS: THIS YEAR’S CAR/KC?

18th Round: HOU (personnel upgrade), CLE (defensive head coach)
19th Round: NO (personnel upgrade), BAL (personnel upgrade)
20th Round: PHI (team upgrade)
21st Round: MIA (quality pass rush), MIN (new defensive head coach)
22nd Round: OAK (personnel upgrade)

A few MFL10 Perfect Drafts

Round
Option 1 Players
Option 2 Players
Option 3 Players
1
Jimmy Graham
Adrian Peterson
Matt Forte
2
Demarco Murray
Rob Gronkowski
Marshawn Lynch
3
Andre Ellington
C.J. Spiller
C.J. Spiller
4
Roddy White
Andre Johnson
Jordan Cameron
5
DeSean Jackson
Torrey Smith
T.Y. Hilton
6
Emmanuel Sanders
Julian Edelman
Mike Wallace
7
Reggie Wayne
Nick Foles
Sammy Watkins
8
Steven Jackson
Dwayne Bowe
Robert Griffin III
9
Matt Ryan
Fred Jackson
Justin Hunter
10
Tom Brady
Zach Ertz
Kelvin Benjamin
11
Anquan Boldin
Russell Wilson
Greg Jennings
12
Dwayne Allen
Jarrett Boykin
Philip Rivers
13
Cody Latimer
Doug Baldwin
Delanie Walker
14
Andre Holmes
Andrew Hawkins
James Jones
15
Dexter McCluster
Malcom Floyd
Rod Streater
16
New England D
Denver D
St. Louis D
17
Theo Riddick
Jacquizz Rodgers
James White
18
Chris Polk
James Starks
Houston D
19
Phil Dawson
New Orleans D
Mike Tolbert
20
Philadelphia D
Alex Henery
Robbie Gould
21
Shaun Suisham
Nick Folk
Nick Novak
22
Oakland D
Minnesota D
Miami D