Best Ball Roster Construction
Putting together an optimal squad is nuanced and fluid, with several variables always in play. Drafts are dynamic and roster construction acts as scale of balance.
For me, every team assembled is guided by the pre-determined draft slot which acts as a domino effect. For example. drafting out of the 11 or 12 slot makes it more probable to start out with back-to-back wide receivers such as Davante Adams and Odell Beckham. Drafting wideouts early means its more likely you take an extra running back, since your crop of pass catchers should be a position of strength.
Likewise, if you manage to grab both George Kittle and Zach Ertz, the optimal route would be to fade the position the rest of the draft. The key with roster construction is to find the positional sweet spot between underfill and overkill.
Quarterback (2-3 picks)
In 2019, drafters have the luxury of selecting from what might be the deepest quarterback class in recent memory. Gone are the days of major tier drops, and instead, an already static position is dominated by passers that are nearly impossible to differentiate from.
For Playdraft the sweet spot for the position is between two and three to a roster. Per Rotoviz, drafting two QBs has the highest win rate at 8.5%, though its barely above the 8.4%-win rate for selecting three QBs. As a onesie position (e.g. not RB or WR), the rule I tend to adhere to in an 18-man format is deciding between two quarterbacks and two tight ends. I will deviate and take three of each if I'm satisfied with my stable of running backs.
Running Back (5-6)
Have you ever seen a video of a Black Friday sale with the crowd stampeding into stores? Early on in drafts, the running back position is the same way. So much for Zero RB or going against the grain, it’s a mad dash to grab bell cows early and often. This can lead to surrendering value for perceived scarcity. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and lose site of your team construction.
On PlayDraft last season the highest win rate (8.6%) for running backs was tied between six and seven to a roster. The problem with drafting seven running backs is that your win rate at other positions will decline as a result.
Depending on draft slots I tend to take five running backs if I hit the position hard early. Six might be more prudent if you are taking multiple pass catchers in the first few rounds. For the most injury-prone position in a shallower format, its key to draft backs late who have standalone value but also the upside to jump tiers.
I don’t highly recommend handcuffs unless there are unique circumstances. For example, if you have the intestinal fortitude to draft Todd Gurley its not a bad idea to pair him with Daryl Richardson a few rounds earlier than ADP.
Wide Receiver (6-8)
It's a crime not to take at least seven receivers in a format that has three starting wideouts and a flex position. Usually if your final squad only has six WRs you probably overkilled another area of your team. Rostering too few receivers is probably one of the most common mistakes I see in lobbies. Late round lottery tickets that hit (2018 Tyler Lockett) can be the boost that propels your team to a first place finish.
In the first 5-6 rounds I tend to not think about what type of roster formation I want to end with, instead focusing on taking the best players in the highest tiers. Compiling a full and balanced roster comes into focus in the mid to late rounds. Waiting too long before considering your squads optimal lineup can lead to rushed and unnecessary decisions.
Below is the highest win rate by position for Playdraft in 2018. All info is per the Rotoviz app. As you can see one of the most optimized lineup constructions forces fantasy players to decide between tight end and quarterback. There is a slightly larger edge to taking only two tight ends but the position is also more likely to incur injuries.
Tight End (2-3)
Unlike quarterback, we are presented with several dilemmas including scarcity, high variance, and increased injury concern. There isn’t a position with a greater tier drop.
On any Best Ball platform I find myself shooting for dual elite tight ends early. On Playdraft this creates a monster win rate of 11% if you take two before the end of the fourth round.
Drafting three tight ends should be a signal that your two quarterbacks are elite to mid-level in order to compensate.