Fantasy Football: 3 Team Stacks to Target in Best-Ball Drafts
In typical redraft and dynasty leagues, fantasy players are often looking for a blend of upside and safety for a given week. On the flip side, best ball is one of the few formats in which drafters should go out of their way to incorporate high-risk, high-reward selections into their portfolio.
In these formats, the payouts are typically top-heavy, normally rewarding those that finish within the top three with a majority of the pot going to first. In other words, we should have the Ricky Bobby mentality of "If you ain't first, you're last!"
A common large field tournament strategy in daily fantasy football is to stack players from one team, meaning roster construction constitutes a quarterback paired with one of his receivers. It's not uncommon to see upwards of two or three receivers in a lineup either. And we can do the same in season long best-ball leagues.
By stacking a team we can inherently increase our lineups' ceiling for a given week if the team faces a juicy matchup. A factor working in favor of this strategy is not setting a weekly lineup, as the highest-scoring players are taken for the week. In this format, owners must meet a higher roster limit depending on the draft site of choice, another reason why team stacking is more feasible in best ball.
One of the more profitable constructs last season was the Minnesota Vikings' offense. If you paired Adam Thielen (average draft position of 113 via MyFantasyLeague.com) and Stefon Diggs (ADP 61) with Sam Bradford (ADP 169), you were likely to be a winner. Okay, that was the case for Week 1, but Case Keenum -- mainly undrafted -- was often a viable option at quarterback last year.
This type of strategy was successful in part due to the large discrepancies in ADP. Stacking probably isn't as much of a viable solution where a team's top receivers are being clustered tightly together in early rounds, like this year's Kansas City Chiefs, Tyreek Hill (ADP 28) and Travis Kelce (ADP 24).
With that in mind, let's take a look at three offenses we can stack to give our lineups some boom weeks in 2018.
Marcus Mariota was about as impressive of a quarterback we had coming into the 2017 season, and was given ultra-high expectations by the fantasy community. Quite the opposite took place, as the Tennessee Titans were abysmal in the passing game, largely due to the team's ground-and-pound scheme and Mariota's nagging injuries.
To point out the oddities in his season, Mariota threw more interceptions (15) than he did touchdowns (13). His passing touchdown rate was at 2.9% last year, after posting 5.8% the previous year and 5.1% his rookie season. As a team, the Titans also rushed for more touchdowns (18) than they converted via the air.
Expectations are high again, but this time it's that both Mariota and his weapons will rebound this season. Mariota provides some standalone value himself as he possesses a nice floor with his running ability, as he's averaged four rushes per game over the last two seasons.
What also made Mariota so great in his first two seasons was his ability to produce passing touchdowns at an elite clip in the red zone.
|Red Zone||Attempts||Completion %||Touchdowns||Interceptions|
One of the tasks for new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will be getting the Titans to make more trips into the red zone and reclaim their efficiency in that area of the field. Under former head coach Mike Mularkey's tenure, the Titans were never able to generate red zone trips at a high frequency; from 2017 dating back to 2015, they ranked 26th, 18th, and 29th in trips, respectively.
On the few trips they made, they were league average at red zone scoring percentage last season, hitting 54.5% after placing first in 2016 (at 72.0%) and fourth in 2015 (65.0%). As fantasy owners know, touchdowns are oh so valuable, and the Titans' red zone woes were one of the reasons that Mariota's fantasy output left a lot to be desired.
As the team looks to turn a new page this year, the Titans look like a nice team to stock up on. Corey Davis is the first receiver being taken, at ADP 70, however, others might prefer to go with tight end Delanie Walker (ADP 81) due to the lack of top-flight options at the position. Drafters can then set their sights on Rishard Matthews (ADP 121), and then Mariota (ADP 126) at quarterback. Grabbing either Mariota or Matthews a round earlier than anticipated is a suitable approach in order to build a Titans stack.
After sporting a high-flying offensive attack in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons faced the hard reality of regression in 2017. After posting 4,944 passing yards, a 38:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 9.3 yards per pass attempt as one of 2016's best offenses, it's generous to say that Matt Ryan's play came down a level or two last year. To note, his touchdown rate of 7.1%, which is amazing in itself, was nearly cut in half last season (3.8%).
Even though offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian received a lot of flack for his play-calling on a weekly basis, the Falcons still posted the eighth-best adjusted Net Expected Points per play on the whole season, meaning that given the situation -- down, distance and field position -- they added well above league average to their expected point total. Stud wideout Julio Jones was still an animal, too, despite only scoring three touchdowns last year, as he ended the year fourth in total reception Net Expected Points last year.
This will be Ryan's second season working with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. And just remember it took him a full season with Kyle Shanahan to post eye-popping numbers, elite level efficiency, and gaudy fantasy numbers. Entering this season, not much has changed in terms of offensive personnel, outside of adding first-round pick Calvin Ridley to the receiving corps. To further ensure fantasy viability, their offensive line figures to be one of the best in the league, based on Pro Football Focus' preseason ranks.
With that said, Ryan is a bounce-back candidate this season, and can be had at an ADP of 129. If you find yourself drafting in the back half of the first round, who other to pair Ryan with than Jones. You can often find Jones at the first-to-second turn, and if you are looking to pair Jones with another weapon, then drafters can have their choice of slot receiver Mohamed Sanu at ADP 137 or the young Ridley three spots later. If you find your roster wide receiver heavy, then Austin Hooper -- the TE22 on draft boards -- is an interesting second tight end option.
I know what you are probably thinking, "The Miami Dolphins? Gross!". Before diving in, I thought the same, but there are some key things to point out. For one, Ryan Tannehill has spent the offseason rehabbing his 2016 knee injury and has been practicing with the team, so he is set to reclaim his hold on the quarterback position after Jay Cutler was brought in to lead the offense in 2017. Offensive personnel has also changed since Tannehill last played, as 223 targets have been vacated from the Jarvis Landry trade and Julius Thomas' departure.
To fill those missing targets, the front office signed receivers Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson and drafted tight end Mike Gesicki There seems to be a divide among the fantasy community as to who will be the third receiver, though, given Amendola (WR72) and Wilson's (WR73) average draft positions.
The returning cast starts with DeVante Parker, who has largely been inefficient in his career. In terms of Target Net Expected Points per target, Parker was the worst among players with 90-plus targets. However, youth and a 25.3% target market share are in Parker's favor. As for his batterymate, Kenny Stills, he fared much better from a Net Expected Points perspective and actually was top 10 in air yards last season, despite Cutler being one of the worst passers on a per-attempt basis (27th in Adjusted Yards Gained).
It's very easy to glaze over the Dolphins during your drafts, but there are some good nuggets that make them worth a look as a stack. According to Warren Sharp, they have the second-easiest strength of schedule for offenses. There will be plenty of easy matchups within the division, and outside of it as well. Their offensive line is also expected to improve after finishing last season as the fourth-worst unit by Pro Football Focus.
Regression has been a common theme with these three teams, however, none might be more primed for a breakout than Miami. The Dolphins have been cheap in drafts this year as Parker is WR40 with teammate Kenny Stills being drafted six receivers later. If you happen to miss out on one of them, it won't take much to grab one of the two slot receivers as they are practically free. But this is a situation to monitor throughout training camp. Tannehill is often going as the 27th quarterback off the board, making him a good QB2 or QB3 for your rosters.
The Final Word
Like most draft strategies, the general advice is to not go into a best-ball draft with the idea of creating team stacks or coming in with a detailed plan. Drafting is a fragile process and understanding that there may be a few rounds that don't bounce your way is critical to winning your draft.
As your draft unfolds and you happen to land a player or two you really like, then it's okay to reach (as long as it's within reason) on your quarterback or the third player to fill out your roster. Just remember to embrace the variance and live by Ricky Bobby's famous words.