There is no one defined way to play fantasy football, and that’s one of the greatest things about this game that we all love. Season-long leagues — where you can get together with your home league buddies, coworkers, etc. or draft teams on countless sites like FFPC and RTSports — are the most popular format in fantasy football.
Some people swear by dynasty fantasy football as a year-round format where you have full control of your team no matter when. Best Ball is taking over in a major way as a year-round format with massive multi-million dollar tournaments down to contained leagues of various sizes. DFS is hugely popular as people are already setting lineups in the preseason and there’s a huge amount of strategy that goes into setting the right lineup based on the contest size, prize pool, etc. Don’t forget auction/salary cap, where there is no limit to the build you can make as long as you manage your budget effectively.
No matter what kind of fantasy format you prefer, there’s something you can take from each one to translate into season-long fantasy football. The fantasy football ADP and fantasy football rankings may stay the same, but the macro and micro edges you can gain from taking some of the strategies from other formats are invaluable. Let’s take a look into what we can take from these different fantasy formats.
Taking Auction/Salary Cap Strategy into Season-Long Fantasy
The first thing we can take comes from the auction/salary cap side, and you would think that drafting in a snake format and participating in an auction are two different animals. And they are! You need completely different strategies for taking down both, but there is quite a bit you can take from auction fantasy football, like:
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in the King’s Classic Auction League with some of the best and brightest the fantasy football industry has to offer, with names like Brad Evans, Jeff Ratcliffe, Bob Harris, Andy Behrens, Pat Daughtery and, of course, our own Howard Bender and Colby Conway. To help me strategize, I developed tiers based on the maximum amount I would prefer to spend on each player with an overall $200 budget.
If you look at the dollar amounts under the “MAX $” column, you can see the underlined tiers coincide with dropoffs in how much I would spend on a player. It’s probably the easiest way (at least for me) to put actual values on players to be able to easily construct tiers to use in your fantasy football drafts. That’s a great starting point for tiers because, of course, we do have our quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end dynamic tiers here in the Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide that you can use in conjunction with tiers you develop on your own.
Using Auction Principles For Your Season-Long Roster Construction
This one is a bit sneaky as far as how to use auction principles, but if you think about each position and the draft capital you allocate, you can use the principles of auction fantasy football to help build structurally sound positional groups.
For example, if you draft three running backs to start your draft, the auction equivalent with values would be a $50, $45, and $35 player on average. That’s a huge chunk of positional allocation to the running back position, so you shouldn’t be drafting running backs in the fifth, seventh, and eighth as well. Essentially, a “stars and scrubs” approach to the position would be the optimal way to continue building out running backs on your team if you started with two or three backs.
Spreading running backs throughout your draft would equate to a “balanced” approach with one or two early, a couple in the middle, and then a few late. For the true sickos (like me, the ZeroRB zealot or those willing to get more ideological), you can take a running back early in Rounds 1-3 and then sprinkle some upside plays later to make a patchwork RB2 out of multiple backs.
Taking Best Ball Strategy into Season-Long Fantasy
We love best ball around these parts, and it’s taken the fantasy industry by storm over the last several years. Of course, Underdog Fantasy (Use promo code “ALARM” for up to a $100 deposit match!) has been front and center with DraftKings, Drafters, Best Ball 10’s, FFPC, NFC, and other platforms getting in on the best ball fun. But what can we take away from best ball drafts to use in our season-long leagues?
Who is “Better in Best Ball?”
Best Ball ADP may seem similar to Season-Long ADP to the naked eye, but there are some big differences the further you go down the draft board. Some players are better best ball picks than in season-long, and the opposite is true as well.
Best Ball scoring (especially in tournaments) is weighted towards upside and spike week potential, whereas season-long scoring can still benefit from spike week potential, but you have to have that player in your lineup. It’s more about consistency. Setting your lineup in Week 1 of a season-long league lends itself to veteran deference in the beginning; are you feeling good about putting Tank Bigsby in your lineup? Nope.
The players that are typically “better in best ball” picks are high-aDOT wide receivers that can crack your lineup with a long touchdown. If you can put Gabe Davis into your season-long lineup, and he gets a 70-yard touchdown? Well, it's very good for you because you hit the jackpot. More often than not, you’re getting the consistently low weekly scores he gives you if you’re putting him in your lineup.
These are the things you need to think about in season-long drafts as well: are you comfortable putting wild-card players in your lineup that aren’t the best bets for early-season production, like Quentin Johnston, Marvin Mims, Sam LaPorta, Roschon Johnson, or Kendre Miller? All of these players I mentioned happen to be rookies, but that also applies to veteran players whose roles are uncertain, running back handcuffs, WR3 or further down the depth chart who need things to break right to see more routes, and so on.
The Player Combos and Roster Constructions That Work in Both Best Ball and Season-Long
You shouldn't just group a bunch of running backs and/or wide receivers together and call it a day. You need to have some semblance of balance, just like in best ball. For running backs specifically, I use something called a “CARS” system, which I detailed in my ZeroRB Strategy and Late Round Running Back article if you want the full breakdown. Here are the key points:
- Contingent value backs
- Ambiguous backfield backs
- A backfield with two or more backs where roles are uncertain
- Examples: D’Onta Foreman, Rashaad Penny
- Receiving backs
- Standalone value backs
Drafting the running backs in the first few rounds is much easier than drafting them in the backend. So when you put together a group of running backs on your bench, you don’t want just to draft a bunch of contingent value backs and then call it a day because then you have zero production in case your starter gets hurt. Would a bench of Jerome Ford, Ty Chandler, Chase Brown, and Sean Tucker get the job done in any of your running back slots? Likely not. Mixing early-season production with late-round upside is a recipe for fantasy success.
Some of my favorite combos for running backs include one of each column:
The same general thesis works for wide receivers work the same: you shouldn’t be just adding a bunch of rookie wide receivers without adding some stabilizing veterans to provide some cover for you on your season-long roster. You may be able to get away with having a bench full of receivers like Justyn Ross, John Metchie, Tank Dell, Puka Nacua, and Josh Downs, but if your starter(s) go down, who are you putting into a season-long lineup? If these receivers haven’t earned consistent work on the field, you’re dropping all of them and finding players on waivers who are at least on the field and, while they might not be sexy, can put up points. Players that are drafted very late or could be available post-draft, like Robert Woods, Darius Slayton, Van Jefferson, and DeVante Parker are virtually guaranteed to see at least 70% of routes in the first few weeks of the season and likely through the entire season as long as they’re healthy. So mix in productive “unsexy” veterans with some of the ascending talents that could flash late-season upside. Give yourself some floor in season-long so you can put yourself in a position to USE your upside later on.
Of course, this is context-dependent with your roster construction. If you drafted a bunch of wide receivers early, you may not even be in a position where you can take even one or two wide receivers in the later rounds because you need to focus on other positions. You have your floor built-in with your wide receiver draft capital, so if I have receivers in numbers, I’m still trying to hammer in upside late versus a veteran receiver that may not even crack my lineup in a best-case scenario.
Taking DFS Strategy into Season-Long Fantasy
We all love DFS, right? Believe it or not, we can take some DFS concepts and bring them over to season-long fantasy football.
If you’ve read any of my articles, watched Lightning Round, or have been in a best ball draft with me, you’ll know I prioritize stacking and correlation. That’s actually using a DFS principle in best ball, so hooray for synergy! But we can also take that same principle from DFS and apply it to our season-long leagues, but to a degree.
Making Correlated Bets on Offenses We Love
What are the offenses that we love in fantasy football this season? I mean, for me, the offenses I’m targeting for huge production this season are no surprise, some of the best teams in the NFL. The Eagles, Bengals, Dolphins, Vikings, and Chargers immediately come to mind as offenses with multiple players I want to target. Wouldn’t it make sense to make principled stands on offenses through more than one player? Even on season-long teams where you have to set your lineups each week, I’ve drafted AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith together. I’ve drafted Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle together. Hell, in an industry auction league where I have to set lineups each week, I got Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, AND Keenan Allen. Is that overboard? You can make that case, but the thesis from all of these plays is that they are all correlated bets on the success of their offenses and how much of that offense flows through each of those players I selected.
Brown and Smith combined for a whopping 56% of the total targets in Philadelphia last season, and I see no reason why an extremely efficient offense can’t have those two players combine for at least 50% of the targets this season. The reason this offense is so condensed is because the role players in Philadelphia just don’t get on the field that much in the passing game. Quez Watkins wasn’t much of a factor last season, and it’s very unlikely the light production that is expected of Olamide Zaccheaus will impact the upside and bottom line of the Eagles offense.
Chris Wecht from Fantasy Points put this graphic together about the Eagles' offense last season and breaking down the types of targets each player on the Eagles earned, whether it was the first read and subsequent progressions from quarterback Jalen Hurts (purple), second read (light blue) and so on.
The same play happens for the Miami Dolphins with Hill and Waddle, who combined for 51% of targets and now enter 2023 without Mike Gesicki and Trent Sherfield, who were tied for third in target share last season with just 9.3% each. That’s 18.6% gone from a Miami target pie where nobody else of consequence likely steps in to get even close to that mark. We could see Hill and Waddle approach Brown/Smith levels of target consolidation in 2023.
While I do get the argument that tying too much fantasy draft capital into one offense could blow up with an injury, the upside for me is much too strong with the information we have about these offenses, considering wild cards about some offenses and how they’ll operate in 2023. Think Chris Olave with new quarterback Derek Carr. Think Garrett Wilson with new quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Think Davante Adams, who is awesome, but how will he mesh with Jimmy Garoppolo? That’s information we DON’T have and won’t have until Week 1.
Taking Dynasty Strategy into Season-Long Fantasy
And finally, Dynasty. Sweet, sweet dynasty; the year-round format that combines rookie drafts and grinding edges in the offseason to pay off during the season. I mean, most dynasty formats involve the lineup-setting format, but taking strategies from a year-round, multi-season format to bring to a single-season, self-contained league are pretty numerous, but the one exercise I love to do involves some prognostication into the future. Maybe no tin-foil hats or crystal balls (unless you’re into that sort of thing), but we can get in our time machines for this one to ask one question:
Who Will Be a Top-24 Overall Pick in 2024 Season-Long Drafts?
2024 fantasy football seems so far away, and there’s a lot of subjectivity involved, but taking dynasty formats into account (and MY dynasty rankings, which I updated on Friday), we can look at who we think will be valued in 2024 based on career trajectory, age, team situation, and other factors that heavily influence the market. This exercise allows us to use our dynasty brain to help predict the future and project the stud players we should be drafting this year at a value compared to next season when they’re rounds more expensive.
Note: This exercise is heavily inspired by Stealing Bananas with Ben Gretch and Shawn Siegele, who undertake this exercise each season and is one of the most thought-provoking listens each season. Part 1 (1st Round) & Part 2 (2nd Round)
What can we glean from 2022 to 2023? Well, let’s start by putting 2022’s final ADP and then placing 2023 ADP right next to it to compare the last two seasons:
Just in the first round, the differences between ADP from just 12 months are stark in contrast. 13-of-24 picks were running backs in 2022, but a seismic shift in the draft landscape to 2023 sees 13 wide receivers being drafted in the top 24. Also, more quarterbacks are pushed up into the first two rounds.
What could be shifting the ADP in favor of the wide receivers over running backs in 2023 are the following factors:
- Star running backs are aging out without numerous top running back options to replace them
- Running back fantasy scoring trending downwards
- Continued emphasis on passing game in real-life NFL offenses
- Continued de-emphasis on running backs, particularly bellcow “three-down” profiles
- Devaluation of running backs as a whole as teams shift to more committee backfields
With all of these factors, plus the last two years of ADP in mind, let’s try and make a quick sketch of what we think 2024 ADP could look like based on the information we have…
2024 Projected ADP
I have 13 wide receivers in my projected 2024 but one more running back than this season’s ADP, which sees some newcomers and younger plays taking hold of more premium draft spots. Of course, guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Christian McCaffrey and others are still familiar names within the top of drafts, but we could be seeing some big-time shifts in WHO is in the top 24 rather than what positions make up the first two rounds of drafts.
But of course, it’s not just doing the exercise to project 2024 ADP, but it’s what players make the rise. Targeting second-year breakout performers where they are in 2023’s ADP can really supercharge your rosters this season and turn a good team into a great team.
Players like Drake London, Jaxon-Smith Njigba, and Christian Watson on the receiver side have the athletic profile, talent, draft capital, and team situation to make these leaps. Same with Bijan Robinson making the leap to a top-2 pick next season, per my projection. Jahmyr Gibbs being a Round 1-2 turn pick is the same thing: having all of the necessary upside but team situation, draft capital, etc. Breece Hall getting healthy and asserting himself as a dominant running back despite the presence of Dalvin Cook and then getting the backfield to himself in 2024 seems like a fine recipe for a late-first-round pick next season.
- 2023 FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT GUIDE
- 2023 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet
- 2023 NFL Pre-Season Player Projections
- 2023 Fantasy Football Position Rankings
- Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 12 Team PPR - 2023 Draft Guide
- 2023 Fantasy Football Round Up August 25: Jerry Jeudy Injury & Latest Jonathan Taylor Trade Rumors
- Howard Bender's Fantasy Football Fades 2023
- Trey Lance Traded To The Dallas Cowboys