Drafters Fantasy is the most unique Best Ball platform for Best Ball players to play on, and that’s because it is the one site who utilizes a Cumulative format. The Cumulative format is drastically different from the Playoff Format we see on sites like DraftKings and Underdog.
If you’re just getting into Best Ball or you’re diving into Drafters for the first time, we put together a new series called “How to Win At Best Ball” and the first entry into the series dives into the rules differences between all the sites, including Drafters. If you prefer video (or audio format), we’ve also got a video version here.
I also highly recommend taking a look at our General Overview for Drafters NFL Best Ball just to help you get up to speed with the overall Drafters format.
2023 offers some very unique variables for Best Ball and Fantasy Football in general, but particularly on a site like Drafters. Given the cumulative format, we know that we have to have a team that can rack up a ton of points starting in Week 1, but we also have to sustain that level of production all the way through the end of the season. We have to score the MOST points across the entire season against tens of thousands of other teams. That’s wildly different from a Playoff format tournament where, of course, we do still need to have a super strong team, but we only have to beat very small subsets of teams leading up to the championship round in Week 17.
Below is our preferred strategy for attacking Drafters NFL Best Ball tournaments in 2023, including the following key areas:
- Drafting Like We’re Right
- Stacking & Correlation
- Bye Weeks Matter?
- Finding Outliers
- Our Core Player Targets
Drafters Fantasy 2023 NFL Best Ball Tournament Strategy
Drafting Like We’re Right
If you’re a more seasoned Best Ball player, you’ve probably heard this phrase tossed around quite a bit, but if not, I wrote at length about why we should Draft Like We’re Right in Best Ball.
This premise is probably the lynchpin of Best Ball strategy in general, but especially on Drafters I think it’s important to reiterate why it’s so important.
We’ll get to specifically why this concept is so important as it relates to stacking, correlation and outliers below, but the general idea is that in order to score the most total points out of tens of thousands of teams on Drafters we know inherently that many different things are going to have to break our way over the course of the season.
The NFL season (and offseason) is littered with chaos. We are never rooting for any player to get hurt, but the fact is that it is going to happen. It’s almost impossible to describe how little chance we have of predicting how an NFL season will play out. Teams change, coaches change, schemes change, players break out and of course players get injured. So if we can’t predict these things, what the heck do you mean by drafting like we’re right? You just said we’re never going to be right!
And that’s really the key difference. Best Ball is not a game of predicting the future. It is, however, a strategy game of building out teams that maximize our payoffs when something or a few things do happen. If you draft Austin Ekeler in the first round, if you are wrong about him or he gets hurt, guess what? You’re not going to win this tournament. Drafting the handcuff to your first round running back is not going to save you if he has a terrible season, and it won’t even save you if he were to get injured. So when we draft Austin Ekeler, we should set out to draft the rest of our team like Austin Ekeler was a hit. Moreover, we want to draft our teams like we were right about some theme or some combination of themes. If I draft Ekeler and Saquon Barkely with my first two picks and I am right about those two picks, I probably don’t need to draft a boatload of running backs onto that team. Because if I’m right about those two players, they’re going to be scoring big points for me in my lineup for much of the season.
This is true in any format of best ball, but I find that our competitors will often look at the Drafters cumulative format as a place that they can just draft a bunch of super balanced teams that aren’t set up to really catapult themselves to the top in those instances they hit on a few critical things. That’s an edge for us.
Stacking & Correlation
A myth you may hear from time to time in Drafters strategy is that stacking and correlation is less important than on a Playoff Format site. Don’t fall into this trap.
From a stacking perspective, it’s actually pretty straightforward. We know that in any one individual week, a stacked pairing of, say, a QB and one of his WRs can offer big benefits. If the QB throws for a bunch of yards and TDs, obviously one or multiple of his pass catchers will be accumulating that production. That means that their ‘spike weeks’ will be correlated, which we know is extremely important to racking up a large number of points in a given week. But on Drafters, we also want to capitalize on that type of correlation over the course of the entire season. For instance, in 2022 the Eagles produced a monster offensive season. Jalen Hurts led all QBs in points per game, but even more importantly in total number of Spike Weeks and Nuclear Weeks. Because Hurts and the Eagles offense was so effective in producing big games, that spilled over into his skill players and pass catchers. AJ Brown was the WR9 by ADP, but tied Justin Jefferson for the 2nd most Spike Weeks amongst WRs. DeVonta Smith was the WR36 by ADP, but he crushed his draft price ending with the 4th most Spike Weeks amongst all WRs. He was also tied for 4th amongst WRs in nuclear weeks. So while he had a few more duds than the top end WRs, which caused him to be ‘just’ the WR16 in points per game, his huge spikes were insanely valuable especially at his cost. When we paired him with Jalen Hurts, we were getting huge weeks frequently from our QB and his pass catcher and those weeks were coming together at the same time, producing big total points over the course of the season in our best ball lineups simply by correlating the pass catcher with the QB.
We can even take it a step further, especially when the cost is reasonable, and include the running back in that stack. Miles Sanders was drafted as the RB34, but he was tied for the 6th most Spike Weeks amongst all running backs with 6, and 4th most Nuclear Weeks with 4. The Eagles offense was the epitome of how things come together “when we’re right”. The offense was so explosive and scored so many points, everyone was able to eat. Sometimes both Sanders and the Hurts plus WR stack hit big in the same week, and other times when Hurts was just ‘ok’, he was producing a fine score, but Sanders was adding a huge spike to our running back points. You can absolutely include RBs in your stacks on any site, especially at reasonable prices, but on Drafters it can be even more effective because we don’t have to worry about the one week issue in week 17 where it’s a bit more difficult for the pass game AND the running back to have ceiling games at the same time to help us finish first in that final week.
But we also don’t have to stop there when it comes to correlation, and this is where things can get really fun (if you like getting a little galaxy brained like me). A couple years ago I outlined what I’d call ‘Scenario Based Upside’. What this really means is that sometimes scenarios play out that we ultimately can’t predict, in particular injuries or massive shifts in a team’s offensive approach from what we expect over the summer. Two years ago this happened with the Baltimore Ravens. Their entire defense collapsed due to injuries, and the team we expected to be the run heaviest team in the NFL suddenly became very pass happy. We all remember this being the driving force in Mark Andrews dominating fantasy football, but that change in offensive approach also was a benefit to Marquise Brown. Andrews got all the hype (rightfully so), but Hollywood had 5 Spike Weeks that season, including two nuclear weeks, and finished as a top 25 fantasy WR despite being drafted around WR50 by ADP. Whether you had Lamar Jackson or not in your draft, correlating Andrews and Brown allowed you to benefit from a scenario in which the Ravens simply outperformed expectations through the air.
More often we see this play out with injuries. Somewhat famously, Darrynton Evans that summer was my poster boy for this. He himself got injured and thus didn’t work out, but he was the backup to Derrick Henry and being drafted late drafts. We know that Derrick Henry is/was the identify of the Titans offense. They’re extremely run heavy feeding Henry on the ground, but if something were to happen to Henry, they couldn’t just continue that same gameplan… since no other back is the same as Henry. So if you correlated Titans pass catchers with Evans, and even Ryan Tannehill, you would benefit from the scenario in which something happens to Henry (and he did get hurt) and multiple other players benefit. In this case, the Titans pass game and Evans would benefit as the Titans would likely need to throw more in the absence of the Big Dog. More often this likely comes into play with pass catchers benefitting from more volume if a teammate were to get injured (or traded), but generally these types of correlations can pay off in a HUGE way. And while we aren’t predicting injuries, we are trying to add these little correlations that give us the potential to capitalize if something chaotic occurs.
Worrying *too much* about overlapping bye weeks in Playoff Formats is something I think the industry can be a little too worried about at times, but I do think it’s something we should at least note on Drafters. Given how important every point is over the course of the entire season and how much less important “uniqueness” is without the playoff rounds, we do want to be cognizant of our players’ bye weeks. I don’t think we want to ever be taking zeros at any position, particularly QB. Sure it’s possible you just draft the stone cold nuts and blow the field away in points score, but that’s incredibly unlikely in contests of these sizes. We also want to make sure that we have enough firepower at RB/WR/Flex in essentially every week, so it’s important to keep an eye out during your draft that we don’t run into the issue of too many players at those positions being on bye in the same week. That can be tricky given the fact that we are stacking players from the same team frequently, which obviously means they’ll be on bye in the same week. We shouldn’t set any specific rule on this, but it’s just something to keep in mind and be smart about during our drafts.
One could argue that this section sort of aligns with the “draft like you’re right” and “correlation” sections above, but I think the macro idea is important to call out separately. Given that you’re going to have to finish first out of more than 100k teams in the big Drafters tournament, it’s not going to be enough to just have reasonable “hits” on players. Not every player is going to be a hit, even on the winning team. Last year, the winning Drafters team was effectively a 1 QB with Jalen Hurts and… Zach Wilson. That should show you the variance in how these things can play out.
But that’s why outliers are so important. Even the very best teams are not going to hit on every pick. But the best teams WILL have massive hits on several players. The combination of those huge hits and a little luck on health and how the scores blend together over the season is precisely how you win these tournaments. Since we know that really can’t predict exactly how scores will blend together or who will stay healthy, that means that our focus should be on finding outliers because those are the deciding factor in chasing down these cumulative tournament wins. You might be able to navigate your way through the playoff format without having the biggest outliers in that year over the course of the season because of the variance of each group you’re in through each round or the variance of individual playoff weeks, but if you didn’t have Cooper Kupp or Mark Andrews two years… you just weren’t winning.
With that being said, outliers can come in all shapes and sizes. I myself can be guilt of relying too heavily on young players, rookies, etc. Those players absolutely offer a ton of value as potential outliers because they naturally have a very wide range of outcomes given the lack of a sample size about who they are as players or their role in their NFL offense. But we can also see the opposite situation create an outlier as we did with Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was a former first round pick who had a ton of question marks heading into the season. New coaching staff, the team brought in THREE different backs, coach Josh McDaniels had typically utilized a committee, they did not utilize Jacobs’ 5th year option and then he was even playing in the very first preseason game. We absolutely should take into consideration all these variable about a player when assessing their value. But, we as a market probably swung too far the other way on a talented player with a strong profile for fantasy in a reasonably strong offense (especially after acquiring Davante Adams).
That negative context plummeted Jacobs’ cost, which created a very real buying opportunity (one which I stupidly ignored). Yes, the indicators were worrisome for Jacobs, but this was still a 1st round pick with an every down skillset that had upside to be one of the top backs in all of fantasy, which is of course what ended up happening. It’s not about whether we “predicted” this Jacobs season at all, despite what some may try to convince you. It’s simply that he had a potential outlier profile, especially at the very reduced price of last year.
The difficult part is that most of the time these outliers don’t hit. That’s why they’re outliers! But one of the biggest edges in all of best ball is the willingness to embrace these uncertain situations with players who offer a very wide range of outcomes and particularly huge potential upside. The market may not have viewed Jacobs in that way, but the truth is he was. We’ll see this ALL THE TIME with players who may not project in their median projection to be amazing picks. A player that stands out to me in that regard this year is Kadarius Toney. Clearly, there are issues with projecting Toney. He is constantly hurt, and he didn’t earn a full role in his first year with the Chiefs. So our opponents often get major sticker shock with a player like him in those middle or early-ish rounds. But Toney is another former 1st round pick who the Chiefs just traded assets to acquire, and he has been incredibly productive from an efficiency standpoint whenever he is on the field. Talent and efficiency is not the issue, you just need playing time, particularly when we know he’s in the best offense in the NFL attached to the best QB in the NFL. Will Toney stay healthy? Who knows. Will he take on a full time role? No idea. But if we knew those two things would come true, he would never be going in the 7th round of drafts, especially with WR pricing being higher than ever before.
Core Player Targets
The great thing about Best Ball is that everyone is going to have their own specific player takes. But, here at Spike Week, we’ve identified a core group of players that we believe stand out on Drafters as the types of players that give us the greatest chance to take down these tournaments. It largely goes back to the “draft like we’re right” idea, where we want to find the players who can create ‘outsized gains’ if they hit, meaning if things come together for a player, we want them to be massively outproducing either their draft cost or their peers at their position not only in total points over the season, but in HOW they score those points. Players who are delivering huge spike weeks (no pun intended) end up adding more points to our total score than players who have a flatter scoring distribution, and we want to have as many players on our roster that can deliver those spikes as possible.
You can find all of our Core Picks for every Best Ball site here, but below is our list of favorite players at each position on Drafters.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
Hunter Henry, New England Patriots