Draft Strategy

Understanding Win Rates: The Picks that Won MFL10s in 2017

The following looks at the win rates1 of players drafted in close to 5,000 MFL10 best-ball leagues in 2017.2 This analysis follows the same format used in last year’s win-rate article.

It is worth repeating why I like the win-rate statistic so much: it distills the combination of player performance and draft cost into a single number. While roster construction matters, there is no substitute for picking good players at great prices. This data is an important reference for me as I develop my draft strategy for 2018. Here are some of my observations.

The Early Rounds – Diversify, Diversify, Diversify!

While it may have felt like injuries to top picks were ravaging the fantasy landscape this year,3 the early part of the draft was less treacherous in 2017 than in the year before. In 2017, there were eight players within the top 36 of ADP who had win rates below five percent – that’s six fewer than in 2016 and in line with 2015.  For context, the average win-rate is 8.3 percent (1 in 12). That does not mean the early rounds were a safe area to place your biggest bets, however.

For high-volume players, I warn against concentrating too much of your exposure in players with premium ADPs, because the risk outweighs the potential reward. Some might see Todd Gurley’s 31 percent and Le’Veon Bell’s 24 percent win-rate – the two highest at any position in 2017 – and think they have to take a stand on premium running backs to gain an edge. But Gurley and Bell do not tell the whole story.

It is not easy to identify “league winners,” and in the first few rounds, it is especially risky to try. Breaking 2017 ADP into four-round buckets, we find that the earliest group (rounds 1-4) was the only part of the draft to yield more players with win-rates below five percent (very bad) than players with win-rates above 12 percent (very good).

WinRatesByRound

My preference, and my advice, is to diversify picks in the early rounds and take more concentrated shots later in the draft where the punishment for mistakes is less severe. Below, you will find the win-rates for the first 36 picks by 2017 ADP.

PlayerPosADPWin.Rate
Johnson, DavidWR1.12.9%
Bell, Le'VeonWR2.124.1%
Brown, AntonioWR3.620.1%
Beckham, OdellWR5.23.6%
Jones, JulioRB5.69.4%
Elliott, EzekielWR6.47.9%
Evans, MikeRB7.35.1%
Green, A.J.WR8.36.0%
McCoy, LeSeanRB9.57.2%
Gordon, MelvinWR10.07.7%
Freeman, DevontaRB11.14.0%
Nelson, JordyTE13.03.0%
Thomas, MichaelRB13.46.6%
Howard, JordanRB15.65.1%
Ajayi, JayWR16.22.8%
Hilton, T.Y.WR16.25.3%
Cooper, AmariWR16.94.2%
Murray, DeMarcoRB17.95.6%
Bryant, DezWR18.56.3%
Gurley, ToddRB20.730.8%
Gronkowski, RobWR20.911.9%
Hopkins, DeAndreWR23.318.7%
Baldwin, DougWR23.710.7%
Fournette, LeonardWR24.19.1%
Cooks, BrandinRB25.19.2%
Miller, LamarWR29.08.8%
Thomas, DemaryiusWR29.510.9%
Robinson, AllenRB30.03.1%
Rodgers, AaronWR30.23.3%
Allen, KeenanRB31.89.7%
Kelce, TravisWR33.311.2%
Watkins, SammyRB34.16.2%
Jeffery, AlshonWR36.37.2%
McCaffrey, ChristianWR36.88.4%
Crowell, IsaiahWR36.95.2%
Adams, DavanteWR38.39.8%

Quarterbacks

Russell Wilson, the QB5 by ADP, generated the highest win-rate among quarterbacks at 16.1 percent. Cam Newton bounced back from a dismal 4.7 percent win-rate in 2016 to finish second in the 2017 rankings at 12.3 percent. Outside of those two, however, this was not a good year for the “early-round QB.” Wilson was the only QB in the top five by ADP to return an above average win-rate, and Newton joins him as the second of only two QBs in the top 10 to break the 8.3 percent threshold.

This year’s QB sweet spot spanned the ninth and 10th rounds, where each of QB11-QB15 generated a win-rate greater than 10 percent. Noteworthy picks from the later rounds include Carson Wentz (12th round) and Alex Smith (16th round). Both generated win-rates of 11.6 percent. The single lowest QB win-rate went to the QB with the highest price tag: Aaron Rodgers at 3.3 percent.

PlayerPosPosADPOvrADPWin Rate
Wilson, RussellQB576.416.1%
Newton, CamQB896.212.3%
Wentz, CarsonQB19135.611.6%
Smith, AlexQB26181.111.6%
Roethlisberger, BenQB12111.110.9%
Stafford, MatthewQB14117.710.6%
Rivers, PhilipQB15119.510.6%
Prescott, DakQB13113.710.3%
Cousins, KirkQB11103.710.1%
Bortles, BlakeQB22156.09.8%
Goff, JaredQB29203.78.1%
Brady, TomQB244.18.0%
Ryan, MattQB682.97.9%
Taylor, TyrodQB18133.97.7%
Dalton, AndyQB16127.07.7%
Watson, DeshaunQB27188.37.4%
Winston, JameisQB794.47.2%
Brees, DrewQB359.37.2%
Manning, EliQB17130.27.2%
Mariota, MarcusQB10100.27.1%
Flacco, JoeQB23159.77.1%
Palmer, CarsonQB20142.76.8%
Siemian, TrevorQB32216.66.7%
Cutler, JayQB25170.06.6%
Carr, DerekQB999.46.3%
Hoyer, BrianQB28193.66.1%
Kizer, DeShoneQB30207.36.0%
Bradford, SamQB24167.25.3%
Lynch, PaxtonQB34220.95.2%
Glennon, MikeQB31210.05.2%
Tannehill, RyanQB21148.05.1%
Garoppolo, JimmyQB36223.45.0%
Mahomes, PatrickQB33220.74.9%
Luck, AndrewQB465.14.7%
Trubisky, MitchQB35221.54.6%
Rodgers, AaronQB130.23.3%

Running Backs

For the second straight year, the three highest win-rates overall belong to running backs. Todd Gurley’s 31 percent is the highest single-season win-rate in my database, which tracks leagues going back to 2013. Landing a top-three RB has always been a winning result, whether drafted at the end of the second round (Gurley), beginning of the first (Bell), or deep in the 12th (Alvin Kamara).

Kamara, with a late-round ADP, is representative of the more typical league-winning RB picks from 2013-2015, after the 2016 chart was dominated by premium picks like David Johnson, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, and Le’Veon Bell. Along with Kamara, the late-round heroes of 2017 include Kareem Hunt (ninth round), Chris Thompson (16th round) and Jerick McKinnon (15th round). It was once again very difficult to find winning RB picks beyond the 16th round. For that reason I prefer to focus on wide receiver, tight end, and defense in that part of the draft.

PlayerPosPosADPOvrADPWin Rate
Gurley, ToddRB1020.730.8%
Bell, Le'VeonRB22.124.1%
Kamara, AlvinRB47137.320.9%
Ingram, MarkRB2055.119.0%
Hunt, KareemRB38107.618.5%
Thompson, ChrisRB63180.715.0%
McKinnon, JerickRB59168.713.3%
Johnson, DukeRB37107.411.8%
Powell, BilalRB2672.611.8%
Williams, JamaalRB52151.911.0%
Hyde, CarlosRB1643.210.5%
Bernard, GiovaniRB49143.710.3%
Forte, MattRB42124.610.1%
Burkhead, RexRB57165.010.0%
Gore, FrankRB3498.59.8%
Lewis, DionRB62180.59.6%
Fournette, LeonardRB1124.19.1%
Miller, LamarRB1229.08.8%
Richard, JalenRB72206.08.7%
Anderson, C.J.RB2157.78.7%
Riddick, TheoRB3184.58.4%
McCaffrey, ChristianRB1336.88.4%
Coleman, TevinRB2359.98.3%
Gallman, WayneRB79214.68.2%
Murray, LataviusRB48138.38.1%
Elliott, EzekielRB36.47.9%
Sproles, DarrenRB50147.27.8%
Vereen, ShaneRB66190.77.8%
Gordon, MelvinRB510.07.7%
Yeldon, T.J.RB70197.67.7%
Jones, AaronRB82219.27.7%
Stewart, JonathanRB45131.47.7%
Washington, DeAndreRB64184.77.6%
Carson, ChrisRB71200.67.5%
Ivory, ChrisRB73206.17.5%
Oliver, BrandenRB86222.17.4%
White, JamesRB43125.37.3%
Conner, JamesRB69197.67.3%
McCoy, LeSeanRB49.57.2%
Drake, KenyanRB84220.17.1%
Foreman, D'OntaRB60172.17.0%
Cohen, TarikRB81216.17.0%
West, TerranceRB44129.56.9%
Booker, DevontaeRB67195.86.8%
West, CharcandrickRB75209.16.8%
Peterson, AdrianRB2982.36.8%
Woodhead, DannyRB2774.66.7%
Martin, DougRB3387.36.7%
Perine, SamajeRB39112.86.7%
Sims, CharlesRB65187.66.6%
Williams, JonathanRB56164.66.5%
Mack, MarlonRB61172.56.4%
Smallwood, WendellRB68196.96.4%
Zenner, ZachRB85221.66.4%
Rodgers, JacquizzRB58165.66.3%
Kelley, RobRB40115.06.2%
Lynch, MarshawnRB1951.56.1%
Turbin, RobertRB77212.76.0%
Montgomery, TyRB1848.66.0%
Gillislee, MikeRB3082.65.9%
Lacy, EddieRB2880.95.8%
Abdullah, AmeerRB2462.55.8%
Hightower, TimRB83219.35.7%
Charles, JamaalRB51149.35.7%
Murray, DeMarcoRB917.95.6%
Henry, DerrickRB2572.55.6%
Mathews, RyanRB74208.25.6%
Rawls, ThomasRB46135.35.5%
McFadden, DarrenRB54158.15.4%
Perkins, PaulRB3284.65.3%
Cook, DalvinRB1744.25.3%
Crowell, IsaiahRB1436.95.2%
Prosise, C.J.RB35101.55.2%
Williams, JoeRB55158.35.1%
Howard, JordanRB715.65.1%
Blount, LeGarretteRB36103.35.0%
Ware, SpencerRB2257.94.9%
Dixon, KennethRB41117.14.9%
Hill, JeremyRB53154.64.9%
Morris, AlfredRB78214.34.9%
Mixon, JoeRB1540.44.7%
Henderson, De'AngeloRB80215.74.6%
Freeman, DevontaRB611.14.0%
McNichols, JeremyRB76210.33.7%
Johnson, DavidRB11.12.9%
Ajayi, JayRB816.22.8%

Wide Receivers

I thought last year was bad for early-round wide receivers! 2017 managed to edge out 2016 in the premium WR disappointment department. Eight of the top-12 WRs by ADP returned below average win-rates (vs. seven in 2016) and only four of the top-20 WR picks exceeded a 10 percent win-rate (seven of them hit that mark in 2016). Antonio Brown (20.1 percent) and DeAndre Hopkins (18.7 percent) were this year’s standouts among the WR1s, thriving on extremely high target volume and (mostly) dodging injury.  Sandwiched between them was elder statesman Larry Fitzgerald, a fifth-round pick who generated a 19 percent win-rate for his best ball teams.

Last year’s WR win-rate champion, Jordy Nelson, finished dead-last among qualifying receivers, returning just a three percent win-rate despite a relatively clean bill of health.4 Later picks sneaking into the top 10 include Adam Thielen (10th), Robby Anderson (16th), Marvin Jones (10th), Nelson Agholor (18th) and Kenny Stills (14th).

PlayerPosPosADPOvrADPWin Rate
Brown, AntonioWR13.620.1%
Fitzgerald, LarryWR2651.019.0%
Hopkins, DeAndreWR1123.318.7%
Thielen, AdamWR47109.015.0%
Anderson, RobbyWR71182.414.5%
Tate, GoldenWR2345.314.1%
Jones, MarvinWR49113.413.7%
Agholor, NelsonWR87206.513.5%
Hill, TyreekWR2446.213.1%
Stills, KennyWR64163.013.0%
Woods, RobertWR66166.912.7%
Goodwin, MarquiseWR94215.512.7%
Crabtree, MichaelWR2244.212.5%
Funchess, DevinWR78191.812.4%
Diggs, StefonWR2548.111.7%
Kupp, CooperWR75187.011.1%
Landry, JarvisWR2039.311.1%
Shepard, SterlingWR56136.711.1%
Lee, MarqiseWR67168.111.0%
Thomas, DemaryiusWR1429.510.9%
Sanu, MohamedWR69180.510.9%
Ginn Jr., TedWR54134.810.8%
Baldwin, DougWR1223.710.7%
Matthews, RishardWR50115.610.7%
Wallace, MikeWR51117.59.9%
Fuller, WillWR63162.69.8%
Adams, DavanteWR1938.39.8%
Allen, KeenanWR1631.89.7%
Garcon, PierreWR3677.99.7%
Richardson, PaulWR90211.59.6%
Jackson, DeSeanWR3777.99.6%
Jones, JulioWR35.69.4%
Wright, KendallWR82203.69.3%
Cooks, BrandinWR1325.19.2%
Crowder, JamisonWR3057.78.9%
Lockett, TylerWR57145.58.9%
Nelson, J.J.WR68178.68.7%
LaFell, BrandonWR99217.58.6%
Sanders, EmmanuelWR2957.68.5%
Benjamin, KelvinWR3264.28.5%
Hogan, ChrisWR77189.98.4%
Williams, TerranceWR102224.48.2%
Brown, JaronWR92214.38.1%
Cobb, RandallWR3882.28.1%
Rogers, EliWR93214.98.1%
Beasley, ColeWR62160.08.1%
Williams, TyrellWR4393.37.9%
Smith-Schuster, JuJuWR81201.97.9%
Amendola, DannyWR72182.67.8%
Parker, DeVanteWR3573.87.8%
Smith, TorreyWR88207.37.7%
Decker, EricWR4191.47.6%
Maclin, JeremyWR4292.67.6%
Hurns, AllenWR74185.07.6%
Aiken, KamarWR91214.07.5%
Benjamin, TravisWR95215.87.5%
Jeffery, AlshonWR1836.37.2%
Gabriel, TaylorWR65165.97.1%
Austin, TavonWR73183.06.9%
Bryant, MartavisWR2854.76.7%
Doctson, JoshWR52126.66.7%
Thomas, MichaelWR713.46.6%
Conley, ChrisWR86206.36.5%
Marshall, BrandonWR3468.76.5%
Jones, ZayWR60155.66.5%
Bryant, DezWR1018.56.3%
Britt, KennyWR48112.96.3%
Samuel, CurtisWR80197.86.3%
Watkins, SammyWR1734.16.2%
Matthews, JordanWR46102.06.2%
Miller, BraxtonWR101218.56.2%
Coleman, CoreyWR4493.76.0%
Green, A.J.WR58.36.0%
Brown, JohnWR45100.06.0%
Golladay, KennyWR70181.45.9%
Dorsett, PhillipWR97217.55.8%
Enunwa, QuincyWR53128.95.8%
Moncrief, DonteWR3365.15.8%
Boyd, TylerWR84205.75.7%
Perriman, BreshadWR58150.35.6%
Boldin, AnquanWR83205.25.6%
Stewart, ArDariusWR100217.75.5%
Gordon, JoshWR76187.15.5%
White, KevinWR55135.75.5%
Meredith, CameronWR3984.85.4%
Sharpe, TajaeWR89208.85.4%
Hilton, T.Y.WR816.25.3%
Henderson, CarlosWR98217.55.3%
Evans, MikeWR47.35.1%
Ross, JohnWR59152.35.1%
Treadwell, LaquonWR85206.25.0%
Godwin, ChrisWR96216.55.0%
Mitchell, MalcolmWR79197.54.9%
Edelman, JulianWR2754.34.9%
Williams, MikeWR61158.34.7%
Davis, CoreyWR4085.44.7%
Snead, WillieWR3161.44.4%
Cooper, AmariWR916.94.2%
Beckham, OdellWR25.23.6%
Pryor, TerrelleWR2139.43.5%
Robinson, AllenWR1530.03.1%
Nelson, JordyWR613.03.0%

Tight Ends

Tight end win-rates maxed out close to 14 percent for the second year in a row with Zach Ertz taking home the crown with a mark of 14.4 percent as the 10th TE off the board. Ertz was the only TE to exceed 12 percent this year. Tight ends as a group have generated a relatively narrow range of outcomes over the past several years, generally not making or breaking most rosters. I recommend a diversified approach to the position – the payoff for concentration just hasn’t been very high. The only TEs from the double-digit rounds to break 10 percent were Jason Witten (11.9 percent), Cameron Brate (11.1 percent), and Evan Engram (10.2 percent).

PlayerPosPosADPOvrADPWin Rate
Ertz, ZachTE1095.514.4%
Witten, JasonTE17153.011.9%
Gronkowski, RobTE120.911.9%
Kelce, TravisTE233.311.2%
Brate, CameronTE19156.511.1%
Graham, JimmyTE570.110.9%
Walker, DelanieTE893.410.5%
Rudolph, KyleTE790.710.3%
Engram, EvanTE21166.310.2%
Doyle, JackTE13120.79.6%
Kittle, GeorgeTE40222.89.3%
Clay, CharlesTE26193.39.3%
Watson, BenTE37219.99.1%
Cook, JaredTE24183.09.0%
Pitta, DennisTE29198.28.5%
Gresham, JermaineTE41225.78.4%
Hooper, AustinTE16141.08.2%
Gates, AntonioTE25191.18.1%
James, JesseTE28195.28.0%
Higbee, TylerTE32210.07.8%
Ebron, EricTE12111.27.7%
Fleener, CobyTE15140.27.6%
Miller, ZachTE31209.17.6%
Seferian-Jenkins, AustinTE30203.67.5%
Davis, VernonTE39222.47.4%
Thomas, JuliusTE18154.57.3%
Swoope, ErikTE38220.37.3%
Shaheen, AdamTE36219.67.1%
Fiedorowicz, C.J.TE20162.86.7%
Henry, HunterTE994.16.7%
McDonald, VanceTE33211.76.2%
Allen, DwayneTE27194.06.2%
Everett, GeraldTE35216.16.1%
Bennett, MartellusTE11100.75.8%
Howard, O.J.TE14137.55.8%
Njoku, DavidTE22170.75.8%
Olsen, GregTE454.75.5%
Barnidge, GaryTE34215.15.4%
Green, LadariusTE23175.65.4%
Eifert, TylerTE673.25.0%
Reed, JordanTE345.44.6%

Defense

For the fourth straight year, none of the top three defenses by ADP finished with an above average win-rate. In fact, zero of the first eight defenses off the board fared better than random chance for their owners. The two defenses with the latest ADPs, the Saints and Lions, both finished in the top five in win-rate. I continue to advise saving your DEF picks for the last three rounds of the draft, and generally drafting three of them when you do.

PlayerPosPosADPOvrADPWin Rate
Saints, New OrleansDEF32234.014.2%
Ravens, BaltimoreDEF14208.814.0%
Rams, Los AngelesDEF16210.312.4%
Jaguars, JacksonvilleDEF10201.112.3%
Lions, DetroitDEF31233.511.1%
Eagles, PhiladelphiaDEF12202.910.5%
Chargers, Los AngelesDEF15210.210.4%
Buccaneers, Tampa BayDEF18217.010.2%
Bears, ChicagoDEF25231.710.1%
Panthers, CarolinaDEF9194.29.0%
Dolphins, MiamiDEF22224.48.7%
Redskins, WashingtonDEF28232.68.6%
Bengals, CincinnatiDEF19221.28.5%
Titans, TennesseeDEF23227.38.3%
Cowboys, DallasDEF24230.38.2%
Colts, IndianapolisDEF30233.17.9%
Packers, Green BayDEF21223.37.9%
Cardinals, ArizonaDEF7182.77.8%
Steelers, PittsburghDEF11202.27.8%
Seahawks, SeattleDEF4170.07.5%
Chiefs, Kansas CityDEF2161.67.3%
Bills, BuffaloDEF20222.37.3%
Giants, New YorkDEF8193.17.2%
Falcons, AtlantaDEF13203.97.1%
Browns, ClevelandDEF26231.97.0%
Vikings, MinnesotaDEF6179.86.7%
Raiders, OaklandDEF17216.86.7%
Jets, New YorkDEF27232.56.6%
Patriots, New EnglandDEF5178.66.3%
49ers, San FranciscoDEF29232.76.3%
Texans, HoustonDEF3166.85.9%
Broncos, DenverDEF1148.55.4%

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  1. Win rate is a ratio defined by the number of times a player was on a first place roster divided by the total number of times that player was drafted. This analysis encompasses players drafted in at least 500 MFL10, MFL25, MFL50 or MFL100 leagues.  (back)
  2. “2X,” or double-up, leagues have been excluded.  (back)
  3. I think it feels that way every year  (back)
  4. I guess Aaron Rodgers matters. Who could have guessed?  (back)
By Mike Beers | @beerswater | Archive

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