The fantasy football industry has evolved so far that we’ve come up with a near infinite list of different strategies, roster constructions, and more that we can use in our drafts. Debates will wage on for centuries between the Zero RB zealots and the RB bros about what’s better, but the actual truth is that it doesn’t matter.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in some of these strategies, bogged down in historical data that may or may not be applicable or just dead set on determining what is the “right” way to draft fantasy football, and especially best ball teams.
But the actual key to drafting in fantasy football (and again, especially in best ball) is that you are drafting like you’re right. Any of these various strategies can absolutely be successful. Zero RB, Robust RB, Modified whatever… they’re all viable. The key is not even anything about those specific strategies. The key is building them appropriately… building them as if you’re right.
What is Drafting Like You’re Right?
I was lucky enough to go on the Establish the Edge podcast with Mike Leone last summer at the beginning of the Best Ball draft season, and I discussed this idea for the first time (that episode is still very applicable and a worthwhile listen, in my humble opinion).
In order to win in these big Best Ball tournaments, an insane amount of things have to go your way. The NFL season is full of chaos, landmines and variance that is basically impossible to predict, but if you want to take home the big prize at the end of the season, you’re going to need so many different variables to fall together on one of your best ball teams.
In order for that to even happen, you have to draft a team that allows it to. When you set out to draft your team, how the first handful of picks come together for you will basically set the stage for whatever that “thing” that you need to go right is. It’s technically probably a couple of things, but it’s really one general theme. The team you draft is telling a story for how the season plays out in such a way that you’re competing for 7 figures worth of cold hard cash at the end of the year.
But it’s not some crazy complex 700 page novel. More like a bedtime story you read to your kid. Not many words, lots of pictures.
Robust RB Example
That’s where all these strategies *actually* come from. They’re the super high level epitome of drafting like you’re right. If I draft a few different early round running backs (Robust RB strategy), for that team, that’s the thing I’m assuming I’m right about. Those early running backs are going to be hits. Do I know they will be? Of course not, but by spending that amount of early draft capital on, say, 3 running backs, I now need to go in with the assumption they’re working out.
Because if they don’t work out, now I’m behind the 8 ball anyway. I have invested most of my most important draft capital in that position, so I’m naturally weaker in other areas relative to both the 11 other teams in my draft, but more importantly thousands of other teams in the tournament. And you aren’t saying, “Ok these are the 3 best running backs in fantasy”. Of course that would be ideal, but you’re simply saying these guys are good picks, have good to great seasons, stay healthy and this team is riding with them for the year.
Those picks were right. Now that I “know” that, I can build the rest of my team accordingly in order to maximize the benefit of those running backs being “right”. I don’t need a bunch more running backs. Maybe one, maybe two. We can debate the granular specifics based on site, tournament, etc., but you don’t want to be stockpiling a bunch more running backs and/or spending a bunch more top picks on the position.
Similarly, this is why handcuffing your running backs is a tough sell in your drafts. It’s not that there isn’t a scenario in which it can work. Of course there is. But it’s actively making a bet that one of your players, probably one of your most important players, is wrong for at least a stretch of the season. Likely an extended stretch. Then, you need to correctly identify the handcuff (harder than you think), that handcuff needs to put up strong fantasy scores when the starter is injured, the injury needs to be only during the regular season and not for too long, and then the starter has to come back for the playoffs and put up big scores.
Possible? Yep, but as much as we want to be shooting for “uniqueness”, there are tons of things we can do in drafts that also give us edges that don’t need THAT many crazy variables to hit.
Zero RB is also a great example of drafting like you’re right. You’ve made a bet against the most fragile position in fantasy football, running backs. You’ve also made that bet because the cheaper running backs in fantasy drafts, whether it be pure backups or timeshare/ambiguous backfields, have the potential via contingent value to gain massive amounts of value thanks to the fragility of the position. So much value that they can become greater fantasy assets than nearly all early round RBs (I.E. Leonard Fournette, James Conner, Rashaad Penny, etc. from 2021).
When you combine that with the stability of elite WRs and the unmatched upside that they offer over late round WRs, that’s the thing you’ve made your bet you’re right about. And thus, you structure your team accordingly.
It’s NOT Drafting Like You’re Perfect
The thing that I think we lose sight of sometimes is that there’s a huge difference between drafting like you’re right and drafting like you’re perfect. The irony of drafting like you’re right is that you’re almost actually drafting like you know you’re going to be wrong. But because you are “right” about that one thing… that one theme… it allows you to build a team that CAN be wrong about other things.
In a Zero RB team, you’re not drafting like every pick hit. In fact, it’s the opposite. You have made the bet that some of these later round RBs are going to elevate themselves over the course of the season to strong fantasy assets. Who knows which ones it will be, but that’s why we take a bunch of them. I am banking on my collection of stud WRs to carry me (and even in that case you don’t need to be “perfect” on every WR), and letting the fragility and contingency of RBs hit for me.
On the flip side, in a Robust RB team, I’m doing the same thing… in reverse. I have taken my 3 stud running backs, and that’s my “right” thing. In turn, I know I’m going to be wrong about some of the Wide Receivers I draft, but because I am “right” about those RBs, I am able to draft a higher quantity of wide receivers to withstand being wrong about some of them.
And that’s really it. The key to any strategy really is as simple as drafting like you’re right. But you draft like you’re right… because you know you’re going to be wrong.