This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.
DRAFT announced Thursday the opening of their $3.5M Best Ball Championship tournament, a large-field best ball tournament with big payouts for those who can finish at the top. You need to place 1st in your initial 12-team league to advance to 24-team fields for Week 13 and onward for each case that you advance (the top three from each 24-team field advance to the next week). You can view the payout structure here.
DRAFT ran similar formats last year in $5, $25, and $125 variations, but for now it looks like they're just rolling with a $25 buy-in for 2019. This is in any case one of my most anticipated fantasy games of the year, and I'll be drafting a bunch of teams. I already drafted three on the day of its opening.
This article will talk about the teams I've drafted so far while breaking down my approach to the format, drawing on my experiences in last year's version of the game.
Because it's a tournament format and because only the first-place finishers through 12 weeks advance to the playoff rounds, it's crucial that we secure high-upside players with our picks. DRAFT scores at 0.5PPR rather than full, so cheap reception sources like Jalen Richard can't take us as far as they would in BestBall10 PPR scoring. We need yardage and touchdowns to reach the ceiling.
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For the first few rounds this doesn't change much – these are guys with high ceilings already, of course, and that's why we're always eager to pay up for them. But from the third round onward you need to keep ceiling specifically in mind, both because the nature of best ball scoring insulates you from the cost of week-to-week inconsistency, and because in this format second place is as much of a wipeout as 12th.
Here is a short list of players who I think are more valuable in this format as opposed to more risk-averse formats like a 2X payout structure. All ADPs cited are from May.
Any quarterback can do the trick at the right price, but particularly in 0.5PPR I think there's an edge in harnessing the week-to-week upside running quarterbacks can provide. The original standard scoring loophole is rushing production at quarterback, and with no PPR edge I love to target at least one of these quarterbacks in the 10th/11th-round range. Because running brings greater injury risk I usually try to pair them with a pocket passer in the same range (Roethlisberger, Goff, etc.), but it's a totally valid approach to take more risk yet and double down on running quarterbacks. Because these guys are picks in the double-digit rounds, I view their week-to-week upside so valuable partially because I can acquire it at no expense to my mid-round investments at RB/WR/TE.
These guys all carry various consistency concerns due to one or both of durability and job security, but they also offer pass-catching utility and unique weekly upside generally for their price ranges. If any of them should see one of the better-case scenarios this year, then they'd likely offer substantial profit for the draft slot. Even if they only produce to mid-range outcomes, their utility is boosted by the fact that you don't need to correctly guess ahead of time when they might produce or not, and in instances of in-game injuries the software switches to your next runner instead of leaving them in the lineup.
After the obvious standout receivers in the first three rounds, I try to chase cost-adjusted air yardage and touchdown upside at receiver. The 0.5PPR scoring slightly devalues PPR killers like Julian Edelman and Jarvis Landry while boosting players like those named here. These guys project for high average depth of target and for their prices I think their projected target volumes bode well for their total air yardage opportunity.
Targets downfield are the most difficult to complete and therefore lead to greater volatility than short routes, but they also offer the opportunity of yardage in bunches when the passes do hit their targets. Touchdowns increase in value for obvious reason when the value of receptions decreases. With an ADOT of 14.5 yards and red-zone looks on 14 of his 66 targets last year, Mike Williams is the ideal illustration of these principles.
With tight ends I follow the same general rule as with wide receivers, just with lower standards basically. Downfield and red-zone targets can create fantasy points in bunches, so that's mostly what I'll chase.
For as much as each of Andrews, Fant, and Thomas would be obnoxious to utilize in season-long leagues, the touchdowns you don't foresee will end up in your lineup all the same. Andrews' ADOT of 10.6 ranked 94th percentile among TEs, and Fant's 4.50 speed could lend itself to a similar downfield function in Denver's ostensibly Shanahan-like offense. I liked Thomas as a TE3 even before Houston cut Ryan Griffin, as nine of his 27 targets from last year were in the red zone.
Here are the three teams I've drafted so far. The draft pick assigned is listed next to the team number.
Team 1 (1)
With two of my three teams I've only selected two quarterbacks, and I think I'll generally keep it that way going forward. There's risk in the approach, but we need a lot of things to right to finish at the top anyway, and in general it's easier to end up with a zero at receiver or running back than it is at quarterback.
Beyond that, my main strategic consideration was selective stacking. It's easier to guess which offenses will pay off at which prices than it is a scattered selection of individual players, and once you're substantially invested in some offense your interests are tied to their broader outcome anyway. It therefore makes sense to keep an eye out for opportunities to lock in further shares of an offense at appropriate prices, both because it heightens your payout in the already defined good-case scenario, and because on a week-to-week basis it limits your vulnerability to bad luck. If Andrew Luck will produce almost all weeks but T.Y. Hilton can only catch touchdowns in some of those games, then as a prior Hilton investor I might be glad to own Doyle during the weeks that Hilton doesn't produce. As long as I'm buying them both at advantageous prices, it's merely cornering greater upside.
As you can see, I stacked not only Hilton with Doyle, but Williams/Watkins/Robinson in KC, Coleman/Breida/Goodwin in SF, and Coutee/Thomas in HOU. I'm weak at tight end, but I really like this team.
Team 2 (3)
I prefer the first team, but I like this one enough also. At the very least I was glad to get what I think was a decently supported Christian McCaffrey share. I perhaps should have taken Mike Williams to pair with Henry instead of the Godwin selection, but I was hoping to get OJ Howard at the next pick (didn't work).
Stacks in effect: CAR (Newton/McCaffrey), SF (Garoppolo/Breida/Pettis), IND (Hilton/Funchess/Doyle), SEA (Lockett/Moore)
Team 3 (9)
To be totally transparent here, I don't remember for sure what pick I had for this. I just remember it was near the turn and I was psyched to get Gurley. I should have written it down – unfortunately I can only view my roster at this point. Oh well. The general illustration stands.
I took Trubisky to be punitive toward the rest of the draft for letting him slip too long, but it probably wasn't to my benefit given how weak my WR4 situation is. I also wish I had maneuvered another stack or two – I only have Gurley/Henderson (LAR) and Allen/Williams (LAC) in this case. I need to start diversifying away from Breida, Goodwin, Moore, and Doyle generally going forward.