This time of the fantasy football offseason, two things are the primary focus for gamers: Dynasty leagues and best ball drafting.
Outside of covering the free agency fallout for the moves that have been made over the past week, the primary focus for me this offseason is establishing a foundation of player ranks and writeups that we will add to throughout the offseason. You can find all of those in the 2021 Draft Central hub, but in preparing for joining early best ball drafts, we can put that information into action.
For anyone new to best ball, the format has grown exponentially in popularity over the past few years. At its core, best ball leagues are fantasy football leagues that remove week-to-week management. You draft your team and your optimal lineup automatically gets set for the highest score each week. It is that easy. No waivers, no trades, and no management in season. When the dust settles, the best team(s) take home the prizes.
The two most popular places to currently compete in best ball leagues are on Fanball BestBall 10s and in FFPC satellite leagues. With those two places being the focal point of popularity, we are going to dive into some data from the tools available at RotoViz that you to further dive into the past few seasons for what has been ideal lineup allocation and construction per position just to provide a few guidelines in building successful teams. The difference between those two particular formats is that Fanball is a 20-player roster compared to a 28-player roster for FFPC leagues.
Underdog Fantasy is also growing in popularity and focusing on growing in the industry, but without that data and just a one-year sample size overall, we are focusing primarily on those two formats up top. Overall in our sample, we are looking at over 340,000 Fanball rosters and 50,000 FFPC rosters.
Last week, we explored optimal roster builds for the quarterback and running back positions and the differences both of those positions have on each of those primary sites. The wide receiver position is handled differently on both sites.
Fanball requires three wide receivers every week to be in your lineup with just one regular FLEX position (RB/WR/TE) whereas FFPC requires only two starting wide receivers with two RB/WR/TE FLEX positions for the starting lineup. You can still max out with four wide receivers potentially in your weekly lineup on both sites, but there is more wiggle room to not take on a bad number from a receiver over in FFPC formats. With that in mind, let’s dive into a look at how the results have played out for wideouts in these leagues.
Number of Total WRs Selected and Win Rate
|# of WR||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
*FanBall Data is from 2015-2020
*FFPC Data is from 2017-2020 (no SuperFlex)
As usual, we are starting from the highest vantage point and then working our way down the line. Top-down, nearly 49% of all Fanball users left their drafts with seven wide receivers, which is by far the most common approach. There is success with the herd over our inherent baseline win rate, but look at the two groupings right outside of those 7WR clubs. 6WR builds are the second-most common practice, but fall below that baseline win rate and well below the 8WR teams, who have the highest win rate listed, and the best among the primary cluster of approaches.
In FFPC formats, 8WR is the most taken track at 32.7% of all teams with the highest win rate while anywhere from 7-9 WRs rostered is above our desired threshold of standard success.
As we have been doing so far, let’s cross-reference these overall results against the 2020 season on its own.
2020 Number of Total WRs Selected and Win Rate
|# of WR||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
Isolating what worked (and did not) last year, the most prevalent approaches on both sites stayed at the top in popularity, with 7WR builds dominating the field at Fanball by a wide margin and 8WR builds leading the way in FFPC formats. Both were successful once again.
At Fanball, 8WR builds jumped 7WR builds for good measure and those teams delivered a 9.5% win rate. That spike in win rate is something that stands up for 8WR teams over our large sample. Only 3.6% of all teams there went the extra mile adding a ninth wide receiver, but the win rate (9.0%) of those teams was strong, although an outlier compared to our overall six-year sample.
In FFPC leagues, 7-9WR builds all remained successful with those 8WR teams bringing in the best results once again. Only 57 total teams went really thin with just five wide receivers in the 28-player format, but there was a 10.5% surge in win rate with that approach among those teams.
With the parameters that you want to have 8WR builds on both sites as the most common approach and can have success with 7-9 WRs still, let’s go further down the rabbit hole.
Allocation and Success Rate for First WR Drafted
|WR1 Round||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
In our running back post, we highlighted that over 60% of all teams on both sites have used their first-round picks on running backs. Those teams have had more success than our first-round wide receiver drafters. First-round wide receiver teams have particularly struggled over on FFPC, whereas the results at Fanball are still right at the baseline win rate.
Taking that thought a step further, no total number of wide receiver builds at FFPC have a win rate over the baseline when taking a WR in the first round over our four-year sample size.
We do start to see success in FFPC beyond that point, however. FFPC teams taking their WR1 in subsequent rounds climb each round all the way through Round 5.
You have to start three wideouts at Fanball every week, so waiting to get started on the position as long as the FFPC format is tougher to do. Rounds 2-4 teams all climb over the first-round success, but all teams taking their WR1 later than the fourth round at Fanball have posted a combined 6.7% win rate with no amount of total wideouts rostered having a win rate over the standard threshold.
While starting out with a wide receiver to open is not recommended, it is still going to happen in leagues. If you feel forced to take a wideout right away, here are the opening approaches attached to that lead wideout and their success.
The Best Ways to Follow Up a Round 1 WR
|Start||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
While 37.1% of all Fanball teams starting off with a first-round wide receiver have a modest 8.2% win rate, teams doubling down with two wideouts to open dip down to 7.7% and teams going WRx3 to open are at 8.0%.
Teams jamming in early wideouts in FFPC formats have fared much worse, with first-round WR drafters posting a 6.6% win rate, but then dipping down to 5.4% with WR-WR opens and 5.5% going with three straight receivers to start drafts.
What is interesting here is that while Round 1 wide receiver teams are not as strong as Round 1 RB teams, WR-RB starts have had a higher win rate (8.7%) than RB-WR starts (8.5%) at Fanball. We will be delving further into early-round allocation at the position, but being aggressive at wide receiver attached to an early-round running back has advantages at Fanball if going wide receiver to start a draft. Going a step further, the highest win rate here attached to a Round 1 WR is actually WR-RB-TE at 11.1%, although it is attached to just a 3,410-team sample in our overall total.
Early-round tight ends have been a bit of Best Ball hack that we will cover more in their own post and in FFPC formats, the only way to consistently salvage a Round 1 WR start has been by going with a tight end over the next two rounds as the only win rates above the baseline involve a tight end in Round 2 or Round 3.
In the running back post, we highlighted how “Modified Zero RB/RB1 Anchor 1” approaches have been successful on both sites as opposed to just jamming in running backs repeatedly with early-round picks and the data backs that up here when allocating early-round picks to wideouts.
Allocation and Success Rate for Total WRs Drafted Rounds 1-6
|# of WRs||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
At Fanball, nearly 92% of all teams are leaving the first six rounds of their drafts with 2-4 wide receivers. 3WR teams through six rounds are the most common path and have strong results, but the lower end of 2WR teams through six rounds are nearly double the size of 4WR teams despite those 4WR teams through six rounds seeing much more success. A common theme developing is that waiting on filling your wide receiver roster at Fanball is not a track that has led to a lot of positive results.
Over at Fanball, teams waiting to take their WR3 until after Round 6 have posted just a 7.3% win rate as opposed to a 9.0% win rate for teams taking their third wideout prior. Teams at Fanball taking their WR4 in the opening six rounds have a 9.4% win rate compared to an 8.1% rate later.
If combining this early-round allocation table with the opening top-down success rates based on the number of total wide receivers rostered, Fanball teams with 3WR through six rounds have had high win rates with 7WR builds (9.1% win rate) and 8WR (9.4%). Fanball rosters taking 4WR through six rounds have the luxury of allocating one fewer resource to the position, as those teams taking seven total wideouts have had a 10.2% win rate and a 9.4% win rate with 8WR.
In FFPC formats, the results of skewing more towards selecting wideouts in the early rounds are not as heavy as they are at Fanball, but are above water at the 2WR-4WR teams through six rounds with the most common teams being 2-3 wideouts through those opening six rounds. Despite that popularity, the 4WR teams through six rounds have had a touch more success.
While those results are less pronounced than at Fanball due to only being forced to start two wideouts, you still can get four wideouts in your FFPC weekly lineup through FLEX spots. There are still edges to be had when going under the hood of how to max out each wide receiver approach in the early rounds of FFPC formats.
FFPC teams taking only 2WR through six rounds have had their most success going thin at the position. Those teams have 11.5% win rates going only 5WR total. 3WR teams through six rounds have a 9.1% win rate when going with 9WRs in total and 8.9% at 8WR. 4WR teams through six rounds have the best results in the table above at 8.6% and those teams have a 10.0% win rate when taking 7WR in total, with success at 8WR (9.4%) and 9WR builds (9.1%).
Can Late-Round WR Work?
We already stated that waiting on your WR1 at Fanball is a tough assignment, so it is not surprising to see that teams waiting to select their WR1 until the double-digit rounds have a paltry 2.9% win rate.
Teams taking earlier wideouts in hopes of landing an anchor and then waiting to fill out their depth with low-capital receivers have not fared much better. 1,426 Fanball teams have tried selecting their WR2 in the double-digit rounds with a 4.5% win rate while 14,102 teams have tried to take their WR3 or later in the double-digit rounds with a 6.5% win rate.
FFPC formats offer some flexibility, however. FFPC teams waiting to take their WR1 in the double-digit rounds have had a 9.7% win rate. Of course, that is a less common road traveled, as those 977 teams make up just 0.2% of all teams drafted. If going that extreme route, 10WRs in total have been the most successful, posting a 13.2% win rate and make up 40.3% of those 977 total teams.
Despite that potential anomaly of stacking 10 late-round wideouts and logging out working, late-round wide receiver as part of a stars and scrubs approach has had much more success in FFPC leagues as well.
Teams waiting to take their WR2 in the double-digit rounds had an 8.6% win rate (again, 10WR in total are best attached to that approach with a 10.7% win rate), while FFPC teams selecting their WR3 in the double-digit rounds have had an 8.5% win rate with winning rates above the baseline settling on 8-11 WRs in total.
Wrapping things up for the TL; DR crowd…
- Top-down, 8WR team builds are the most successful on each site.
- Round 1 WRs are not as successful as Round 1 RBs.
- If taking a WR in the first round at Fanball, follow up with at least one RB in the next two rounds.
- Adding a TE in the next two rounds to any Round 1 WR build is the best way to turn those Round 1 WR teams into winners on either site.
- Spamming WRs in succession to open a draft on either site is not a winning approach.
- More support that Modified Zero-RB/Anchor RB1 approaches give the most consistent results. Specifically, be more aggressive with WRs in the early rounds at Fanball.
- Late-Round WR does not work at Fanball, but can work in FFPC formats with 10WR builds.