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 write ups 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 further dive into yourself over 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. Outside of overall roster size, the quarterback position does not have any scoring or lineup differences between those sites.
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.
Number of Total QBs Selected and Win Rate
|# of QB||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
*FanBall Data is from 2015-2020
*FFPC Data is from 2017-2020 (no SuperFlex)
Starting with a look at Fanball, teams are locked in on taking two or three quarterbacks with 2QB teams making up 55% of all teams drafted. With the inherent baseline odds of winning a 12-team league at 8.3%, the 2QB has held an edge above baseline win rates.
With the 28-player rosters over at FFPC, there are more rosters spread out ending with 2-4 quarterbacks, but nearly 62% of the field is leaving their draft with three quarterbacks in those drafts.
2020 Number of Total QBs Selected and Win Rate
|# of QB||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
With 2020 specifically isolated, all of these results were similar, but there were a couple of notes. On Fanball, we saw the 3QB teams surpass the amount of 2QB teams, but the edge in win rate that the 2QB teams had overall over the previous five years widened. There is still viability in specific 3QB drafts over there that we will explore a bit down the line, but 2QB drafters had more success in bulk.
In FFPC formats, 3QB teams still dominated the field and operated above baseline win expectations, but 2QB teams showed more upside despite the number of teams to apply that approach falling well below the overall sample size. A lot of that could do with the massively strong season we had from high-end quarterback play last season where top-quarterbacks were fantasy anchors in 2020.
But now that we have an idea on a target area for how many quarterbacks you should roster, let’s dive into when you should be taking them and how to make each approach work on its own if going that specific route.
Allocation and Success Rate for First QB Drafted
|QB1 Round||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
Being early to the quarterback market in fantasy football has been a long-running no-no and these best ball formats are no exception. We do not even get above the baseline win rate for QB1 selections until Round 6 or later on Fanball and Round 7 in FFPC formats.
The last time a quarterback was the QB1 in overall scoring in back-to-back seasons was Drew Brees in 2011-2012 and the last time a passer was the QB1 in points per game in consecutive seasons was Daunte Culpepper in 2003-2004. Let’s take a quick look at the top quarterbacks in ADP in these formats over the sample size we have been using.
|Year||QB1 ADP||Fanball Win%||FFPC%|
Aaron Rodgers in 2018 was the closest we have come to the QB1 in ADP being a baseline contributor to winning rosters.
While you do not want to be the first in line to beat your peers to the QB1, if you look back above, you also do not want to go the late-round quarterback approach in these formats when shopping for your QB1, either.
With a ballpark on how many quarterbacks you should be drafting and when is the most optimal time to take your first one, let’s take things a step further by looking at the most successful points in the draft to take your second and third quarterbacks pending your team build.
QB2 Selection for 2QB Teams
|Round||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
2QB teams had more overall success at Fanball, even with 2020 seeing more teams deploy a 3QB approach. Of 2QB drafters over there in the sample, those teams selecting their QB2 beyond Round 13 have had just a 7.4% win rate compared to 9.4% prior despite 32.9% of the 2QB teams trying to round out their 2QB approach with a lower-end QB2 option.
Here is where we have the core of what we are going to drive home. Selecting late-round quarterbacks overall has not yielded strong overall results, no matter how many quarterbacks you are selecting.
Of course, fantasy football loves to laugh at any hard rules. 2020 Justin Herbert teams posted a 12.9% win rate in Fanball and a 12.4% win rate in FFPC leagues with an ADP of 223.0 and 264.4 on each site. Over the samples above, those win rates were the highest for any quarterback selected outside of the top-200 on each site over that span.
But in bulk, running into late-round league-winning backups has been a fruitless endeavor. Of the top-20 seasons in quarterback win rate over each sample, only 2020 Herbert and 2015 Kirk Cousins (13.1%) are there for passers taken at pick 200 or later on Fanball while only 2020 Herbert and 2017 Jared Goff (12.3% win rate) make that arbitrary top-20 cutoff in FFPC formats.
This also applies with a “stars and scrubs” approach — the idea that you can just take someone like Patrick Mahomes and a throw-in QB2 to cover his bye week or fill in for a down week. 2QB teams taking their QB1 prior to Round 7 had just a 7.4% win rate over our sample and those teams taking their QB1 prior to Round 7 and then their QB2 after Round 12 sag down to just a 6.4% win rate overall. Taking a QB1 in the opening five rounds and then a QB2 after Round 13 has netted a lackluster 5.9% win rate.
The hotbed for optimal approaches in going two or three quarterbacks is to strike in the QB4-QB15 range per ADP on both sites. Build your quarterback stable around passers from that pocket of price point. On Fanball, 2QB teams that selected both of their quarterbacks in Rounds 7-12 increased their win rate to 10.1% while 55.3% of those teams had a top-six scoring team in their league.
In FFPC formats, 2QB teams (a strategy deployed only 16% of the time overall and 10% in 2020) that have been successful are the ones operating in a similar fashion. 2QB teams there that selected both of their quarterbacks in Rounds 7-12 had a 9.3% win rate compared to just a 6.5% win rate when selecting their QB2 later than the 12th round.
QB3 Selection for 3QB Teams
|QB3 Round||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
3QB teams at Fanball rose in popularity in 2020 and saw depressed results largely because they fell into the same trap discussed above. They were selecting low-leverage players as their QB3. Over the full sample, 65% of the 3QB teams at Fanball selected their QB3 after Round 14 when the win rate for teams taking their QB3 prior to that had a 9.3% win rate. Those teams had just a 7.7% win rate. 3QB teams selecting both their QB2 and QB3 in double-digit rounds posted an overall 8.0% win rate with diminishing returns each subsequent round their QB3 is selected. Even going star QB1 and then two lower-end quarterbacks has not yielded strong results.
But 3QB teams at Fanball loading up in that strike zone of QB4-QB15 we highlighted above have been stellar. 3QB teams there selecting all three of their quarterbacks in Rounds 7-12 had an 11.0% win rate, which is higher than the 2QB teams in that range.
In FFPC formats, the 3QB approach is by far the most popular team set up and has produced the most consistent results. There is a way to enhance that approach by striking the same chords we have been.
Those 3QB teams selecting their QB3 in Round 15 or earlier produced a 9.4% win rate compared to an 8.4% afterward, which is at least still at the baseline expectancy. But FFPC 3QB teams selecting both their QB2 and QB3 after Round 15 had just a 5.0% win rate historically. 3QB teams at FFPC selecting their QB2 in the opening 10 rounds had a 9.3% win rate compared to an 8.5% win rate afterward.
Loading up on those mid-round quarterbacks has been the most successful approach, just as it is at Fanball. 3QB teams selecting all three of their passers Rounds 7-13 in FFPC formats sit at a 10.2% win rate and make up 21.3% of our 3QB team sample, which is a significant amount.
QB4 Selection for 4QB Teams
|QB4 Round||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
Given the difference in overall rostered players, taking four quarterbacks is not a strategy deployed frequently or recommended on Fanball, so we’re only focusing on FFPC drafts in our final breakdown.
Those 4QB teams are not strong in bulk despite making up 19.0% of the overall strategy in our FFPC sample. That is because those teams are almost always waiting to tack on passers at the tail end of drafts. 62.5% of all 4QB teams have selected their QB4 over the final five rounds of those 28-round drafts. Those teams have a modest 8.0% win rate. Par for the course, those teams selecting both their QB3 and QB4 in those final five rounds dip down to a 7.6% win rate while 4QB teams selecting all of their backups (QB2-QB4) over the final 10 rounds of the draft fall down to a 5.7% win rate.
We are in the small sample zone compared to the higher sample of 3QB FFPC teams stacking mid-round quarterbacks, but 4QB FFPC teams selecting all four of their quarterbacks prior to Round 15 have an 11.0% win rate. That sample only makes up 2.2% of the overall 4QB team sample, however. If you want to get really minuscule, there have been just 154 4QB teams (0.5% of the sample) to take four quarterbacks Rounds 7-12 in FFPC formats, but those teams had a 29.2% win rate.
Bringing this home, here are the TL; DR easy bullet point principles we can take away that were consistently common…
- Avoid being the first team in at the quarterback position (don’t chase the QB1).
- Avoid a late-round quarterback approach no matter how many quarterbacks you roster (the 2020 Herberts have not been commonplace).
- Fill your QB roster with mid-round options in the QB4-QB15 target area.