Best Ball Draft Strategy: The Tight End First Approach
TE First Best Ball Strategy
Best Ball is quickly becoming one of the more popular forms of fantasy sports, especially for fantasy football. While some play it to sharpen their skills as a form of mock drafting, others are choosing Best Ball as a league format for leagues. DRAFT currently has a $3.5 Million dollar Best Ball tournament which I recently wrote about here, which is gaining a lot of hype, and strategy talk amongst the industry circles.
One early indicator of a unique new strategy is the “Tight End First” approach. We have all played fantasy football enough to know the advantage that you can get from an elite tight end, and heading into 2019, there’s only one player that fits the mold of being drafted with a first-round pick.
If you’re new to DRAFT and best ball leagues, there are a few things to note before you start drafting. The roster construction in DRAFT consists of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, and 1 FLEX (RB, WR, or TE). What makes these drafts so fun is that you simply draft your team and let the website do the rest. Each week, the website will optimize your team’s highest-scoring players at the positions mentioned above. There is no waiver wire, no trades, and no setting your lineup each week.
For this piece, I’ll be using DRAFT’s current ADP and 12-team format.
Tight End | Kansas City Chiefs
With an ADP of 9.9, Kelce is the first tight end off the board and is a late-first round pick in most 12-team leagues. In 2018, Kelce totaled a whopping 264.7 points in DRAFT scoring, which was good for the number one tight end. No wide receiver had more points than him. He totaled 116 receptions on 175 targets, 1,487 yards, and ten touchdowns. There’s no denying the advantage you get from a guy like Kelce. With the Tyreek Hill issues and high-powered passing offense in Kansas City led by Patrick Mahomes, all signs point to Kelce getting more work than you can ask for out of a tight end.
George Kittle may cause some debate with some fantasy owners after his ridiculous 2018 season, but I believe it was more of a perfect storm with injuries to the receivers in San Francisco. While they both have elite upside, Kelce is the one that appears to be much safer and more likely to repeat last year’s numbers.
Ideally, I like to build my best ball teams with three quarterbacks, three tight ends, and fill in the rest with running backs and wide receivers. I don’t really worry about covering bye weeks until the later rounds in the 7-8 round range. Kelce’s bye week is Week 12, so be sure to cover yourself there.
If you’re going to build around an elite tight end, you’ll need to use your first-round pick. If I have a pick in the 8-12 range in a 12-team league, I have no problem building around Kelce. The elite running backs are likely gone after the first five picks or so, and you’re looking at Melvin Gordon, LeVeon Bell, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, and Travis Kelce. Personally, I like to build my team around an elite running back if possible, but if you’re in the 8-12 pick range, I’m all for taking Kelce with that first pick.
After you take Kelce with your late first-round pick, you’re looking at a tier of guys with great upside in the second round. Todd Gurley’s ADP has fallen enough that you can build around a core of Kelce and Gurley, which is excellent and offers great upside, which is what you want in best ball leagues. If you’re more comfortable with a running back like Joe Mixon, James Conner, or Dalvin Cook, you can go that route. If you’re more interested in taking a wide receiver, you’re looking at guys like Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., or JuJu Smith-Schuster. Personally, I’m looking for someone like Mixon or Jones to fall to me with that early second-round pick, but in best ball leagues you want exposure to many different players rather than investing heavily in a few guys that you love.
Be sure to load up on your running backs and wide receivers if you go tight end early. In these best ball leagues, I like to grab high-upside players more often than not. Some running backs with solid weekly floors like Lamar Miller and Mark Ingram are nice options to pair with an elite tight end. Wide receivers with high upside can be found much later in drafts with guys like DeSean Jackson, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. These guys aren’t necessarily the most exciting players to own, but having that ‘boom’ potential every week can pay off in best ball leagues.
This first lineup is from Gridiron Experts writer, Derek Wiley (Twitter @DWiley1223). Pairing Kelce with Gurley is a very solid way to start a best ball draft off. Ertz also came at a solid value in this particular draft, and covers him on Kelce’s bye week, and more importantly, it really corners the tight end market in this draft.
This next lineup is from Gridiron Experts writer, Matt Hicks (Twitter @TheFF_Educator). Grabbing Kittle in the second round after taking Hopkins in the first is an excellent way to start off a best ball draft in this format. The running back position is by far the weakest point here, but Ingram has a very safe floor this year. Grabbing a handful of valuable handcuffs is a good way of giving yourself some nice upside at a position that you waited on.
Owning the Tight End Position
There is a major drop off at the tight end position after the first three guys are off the board. If you don’t want to use that first-round pick on Kelce, you can grab George Kittle (ADP of 22) or Zach Ertz (ADP of 22.9) towards the end of the second round. If you really want to mix it up, you can grab Kelce and Kittle with your first two picks depending on how your draft shapes up. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this, but it’s always nice to mix it up a bit in your best ball leagues.
The tight end position can offer a massive advantage in fantasy football with someone like Kelce, Ertz, or Kittle averaging 15 or more points per week, and having opponents waiting on tight ends and using someone like David Njoku or Hunter Henry and risking a dud of a week. The three elite tight ends offer great upside and give you a significant advantage over your opponents on a weekly basis.
Late Round Tight Ends
One of the obvious and nice things about drafting an elite tight end early is that you can load up on running backs and wide receivers. When you wait on a tight end, it can get tough watching later round tight ends fall and ‘hoping one falls to you in the next round’ can go south quickly. If you’re grabbing someone like Kelce with your first pick, I recommend targeting a couple of high upside tight ends later. Typically, I like to build my best ball rosters with three tight ends. A few late-round guys that I’ve found myself pairing with Kelce that offer good weekly upside are Cameron Brate, Jordan Reed, and Chris Herndon.
At the end of the day, there really isn’t a perfect strategy for best ball leagues. You can build your team in many different ones. Tight End First is a strategy you can use to give yourself a nice advantage over your opponents at the tight end position.
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