Best Ball Strategy Series: Avoiding Dead Roster Spots

I always love looking at my best ball playoff teams from last year, especially my BBM3 Finals team on Underdog. But what is more beneficial is to look at the bad teams. The teams that placed 10th-12th in the pod and look at WHY those teams did so poorly.

Yes, this is very results-based, and in some cases like injuries, you have no control. But in other cases, like roster constructions, stacking or player stands, my bad teams left me asking myself, “What was I thinking?”

In my weekly strategy video, I discussed the importance of avoiding dead roster spots or unusable players. These are players that don’t give you any points throughout the best ball season, and I’ll include the Hassan Haskins and Jalen Tolbert’s that gave me under 2 points all season! Yikes!

REASONS FOR DEAD ROSTER SPOTS:

-Injuries:

We have no control over this one. Well, we may know certain players are more injury-prone. Or certain positions or archtypes of players (like rushing QBs) may be prone to more injuries. In these cases, you may just want to make sure your roster construction or positional allocation accounts for this. (See the Trey Lance & Matthew Stafford lineup below). But in the end, injuries are out of our control.

 

-Benchings:

Certain players could be benched due to inefficient play, QB being the most likely. This would most likely be your 3rd QB. If you’re only drafting two QBs, I would recommend not having the QB2 be a QB in the late rounds who could be at risk of being benched.

 

-Sliding Down Depth Chart/No True Playing Time:

Trusting training camp buzz is hard to trust and a tricky thing for best ball drafts and ADPs to buy. It is important throughout the entire summer we make sure there is context to every report and not make knee-jerk draft reactions to Twitter buzz or camp reports. Really think through and dig deeper at the reports or the buzz on a particular player to make sure there is actual signal and not just noise. I’ll have plenty more strategy articles on this topic as the NFL Preseason starts!

There are plenty more screenshots from my bad best ball teams last year where I was guilty of buying into buzz on a player. My top dead roster spots last year were Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans, Isaiah Spiller, Mark Ingram, Jalen Tolbert, and Sky Moore. Not cute, but there was a time last summer when I had really bought into these players having a potentially valuable role on their offense for their ADP.

 

SO HOW DO WE DRAFT LATE-ROUND FLIERS?

First of all, I’m not saying your lineup has to be perfect. I didn’t pull the #math or spreadsheets to tell you the more live players you have going into playoffs, the better position you are in to make playoffs and succeed in playoffs.

Considering that it’s football and injuries will happen, you should set yourself up to limit dead roster spots. Basically, don’t get too cute with too many true fliers. These are players whose value is contingent on another player being injured or traded. Or players that would really need to make a huge jump on the depth chart.

Yes, there has been true handcuff running backs that end up being late-round heroes due to injury or trades. Two years ago, Rashaad Penny stepped in for Chris Carson and Justin Jackson stepped in for Austin Ekeler (week 16) and provided massive scores. Last year, we saw Samjae Perine and D’Onta Foreman have major spike weeks during the season when they got the lead role. And each year, whether it’s a young receiver or a receiver further down the depth chart, we see a few guys emerge with spike weeks.

But these are of course hard to identify, especially before training camps and preseason. The good news about best ball is if you miss on a guy that was able to step into a great role, that doesn’t mean your team is dead. You just need to have a good team to compete. Plenty more on fading on best ball this summer. But the point is, don’t try to hit on every possible handcuff RB, because in reality, only a few will hit.

 

HOW I’M HANDLING LATE ROUND PICKS:

-I’m only drafting two or three players per draft that really need injuries to emerge (true fliers).

This is why I have usually drafted my 4th RB on Underdog by the 130s. It’s also why I don’t mind spending late-round picks on a 3rd QB or 2nd and/or 3rd TE right now. These picks don’t need an injury to be on the field to contribute to their team and your best ball team.

-In the mid to late rounds, I would rather draft running backs in committees than a true handcuff RB that needs an injury to get on the field.

-For receivers, I really am focusing on the top 3 receiving options on NFL teams for the most part. Like I said, maybe one or two per draft I’ll take a true flier pick on. But you don’t want to have several of these types of receivers on one team or it could look like the team below.

-As much as I love elite TEs, this is another reason why I don’t mind a late-round or “zero TE” strategy where I just draft 3 TEs in the last five or six  rounds. There is plenty of value there where TDs can be found. Who knows, maybe you’ll draft this year’s Evan Engram.

-Once preseason reports are firmer, then I’ll be willing to take more shots on handcuff running backs as late-round fliers. For now, I’d rather spend my late-round picks on positions with more clarity – QBs, TEs, and WRs that are still likely 3rd on the depth charts or routes run this season.

Bottom line…there is risk with all these late-round picks. Try to find as much clarity as you can. And for the gut picks or picks you really taking more risk on, just limit those to 2-3 players per draft.

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