IDP Best Ball Draft Strategy: The Impact of Impact Plays
How will my LB/DLs slot? How long to wait before taking a DB? Here is why sacks are the stat to chase in IDP best ball.
I am drafting in a best ball league withand its subscribers. Check them out. They still have a lot of drafts open.
After having completed one draft and now 19 rounds through a second, I had some thoughts about how best ball works and how best ball draft strategy differs from that of a managed league.
We’re drafting 31 players at three positions for a team where the top four at each position will score each week, plus four flexes. It’s a 12-team league, so that means there will be 372 players in the league, and each week the top 48 players at each position are starting-caliber. This being Sleeper, edge rushers classified as LB/DLs (and a couple of LB/DBs) will be distributed by position according to what maximizes your point total.
The IDP Show uses the Big 3 scoring system, which is favorable to sacks and kick return yardage:
Punt and Kick Return Yards: +1 pts per 10 yards Interception: +6 Interception Return Yards: +1 pts per 10 yards Any TD: +6 Sack: +5 Sack Yards: +1 per 10 yds QB Hits: +2 Tackle for Loss: +3 Forced Fumble: +4 Fumble Recovery: +3 Solo Tackle: +1.3 Assist: +0.75
Impact plays (INTs, sacks, fumbles forced and recovered) are more valuable compared with other popular scoring systems like IDP123 and even my own (RotoBaller Standard). Big 3 awards a total of 11.3 points for a solo sack (when solo, TFL and QB hit points are stacked on) and 6 for a pick, compared with just 1.3 for a solo tackle, while IDP123 awards a total of 11 points for a sack, 6 for a pick, and 2 for a solo tackle. My scoring system values solo sacks at 8.4 points after stacking and solo tackles at 1.4 points and interceptions at 10.
To simplify: the scoring system gives solo tackles fewer points than other scoring systems, so impact plays score more relative to solos. Also, assisted tackles are worth a little bit more than half a solo tackle, which is interesting.
The takeaway: lean towards drafting players who are going to make big plays. Draft players who will make sacks, picks, and return touchdowns.
In best ball, your best players are slotted into your starting lineup each week, so you do not have to worry about guessing whether Aaron Donald will make two sacks this week or come up with just two tackles.
The winner of the league is the team that scores the most points all season. That means Pats CB, kick returner, and occasional WR Marcus Jones (whom I wrote about in a guest post at The IDP Guys’ Substack) scoring 50 points in one single week and 5 points in four other weeks is just as valuable as Jags LB Foye Oluokun scoring 10 points for five straight weeks.
So, thoughts on draft strategy…
In the first two rounds, people gobble up the best sack-making outside linebackers, defensive ends, and a couple of big-play DBs. DAL LB/DL Micah Parsons, SF DE Nick Bosa, PIT LB/DL T.J. Watt, and BAL LB Roquan Smith go in the first half of the draft.
JAX LB Foyesade Oluokun isn’t as valuable, given that he rarely makes impact plays, but he’ll still go in the middle of the first; his 10+ tackles eight games a season will give your team a solid base and put him in your top 4 LBs most weeks.
LAC S Derwin James, CAR S Jeremy Chinn, and PIT S Minkah Fitzpatrick are the DBs to go in the first two rounds. I wouldn’t recommend taking a DB that early. SF S Talanoa Hufanga is a good pick in round 4 or 5.
You should concentrate on filling out your LB/DL slots early. Sacks are most valuable and more frequently occurring than interceptions. Make sure you have a stable of elite edge LBs who will pad a stat sheet with sacks, tackles, and fumble recoveries. They should make it into your starting lineup most weeks and have enough monster weeks to rocket you to the top of the season-long scoring total.
Defensive tackles who make sacks are valuable. There are not as many DL-onlys who make a lot of sacks, and there are very few who make a lot of tackles, so if you get someone like PIT DT Cameron Heyward, who made 10+ sacks in each of the last two seasons and 7+ sacks in six seasons overall, then you will fill one DT position many weeks, allowing your top LB/DL to slot as a LB.
Lean towards LB/DL, not pure off-ball LBs. Give two LBs of similar value, go with the one who has dual position eligibility. That way, Sleeper can put them in the right place.
Quality DTs and DEs help out your LB/DL. The LB/DL strategy goes hand-in-hand with having quality DL-only players. If the DLs do their job, then the LB/DLs are slotted at LB and flex. If you have a poor-quality DL, that means your LB/DLs will be slotted at DL, and your weaker LBs will fill the LB slot.
There are a lot of DBs available late. DEN CB Patrick Surtain and NYG S Xavier McKinney in round 15. DAL CB Trevon Diggs in round 17. GB CB Jaire Alexander in round 20. Even the best DB only makes 5-10 INTs a year, and a large number of them make 2-4 each year, a group that fluctuates wildly.
Many drafters wait until round 10 or later to snag their first DB—see the logic above. DBs (but for a few) also do not have positional flexibility, and you probably don’t want them filling your flex if you have good LB/DLs.
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I played around with the data a little bit for the top 200 IDP scorers of 2022 in the first five weeks of the season. (The data is from FantasyPro’s database, which uses a different scoring system, but is close enough to illustrate positional value).
The data shows:
DBs and LBs (including LB/DL who are primarily LB) make up a majority of the top 200 scorers of 2022.
Elite DL are valuable. Like TEs, the very best are so far ahead of the next. LV DL Maxx Crosby was #1 of all IDP in 2022.
DL spike weeks drive scoring. While fewer in number and averaging fewer points per game than DBs, DL get credit for more of their points than DBs in the final point totals. They might have a game with 0 sacks in which they do not make your top 4 DL or top 4 flex. But they will also have weeks in which they make 2.5 sacks and score ~30 points, and all of that will go into your season-long scoring total.
DL had the fewest wasted points. In the sample, 45% of all points DL scored would have qualified as DL/flex and gone into a hypothetical team’s season-long points total. That compares with 44% of LB points and 36% of DB points.
My model is simplified; it would be very difficult to account for LB/DL distribution and truly distribute flex and all.
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