- If you've taken the plunge to a superflex fantasy football league, here's a primer on some draft strategy
Earlier this summer I penned my magnum opus, Why Your League Should Embrace the Superflex Format. I honestly consider it my most important work of draft prep season because of its central message: Fantasy football is already great but can be better, and the superflex format is the best, most fun way to play. If you are unfamiliar with how superflex works, please click the link above to learn why it is the best way to play fantasy football, given the realities of the modern NFL.
The second installment of our superflex series moves behind the why and focuses on the how. Namely, how can you succeed in a superflex league? How do you adapt your draft strategy to fit this new format? How do you build a superflex champion? Understand, first and foremost, that it is all about the quarterbacks. That, however, isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds. Here are three key tactics to deploy in any superflex league.
Don’t go overboard
You might think that since you’re now starting two quarterbacks, you need to completely alter your typical draft strategy. It’s true, quarterbacks are more important in superflex leagues, but you don’t need to go back to the drawing board entirely. Many of the tactics that apply in traditional leagues apply in superflex leagues, too. Leagues are still won with stud backs and receivers. Mid- and late-round breakouts are still among the game’s most valuable players in terms of return on investment.
Most importantly, quarterbacks can still be had late. What changes, however, is the definition of late. Five quarterbacks—Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Carson Wentz (why?)—are coming off the board in the first two rounds of a typical superflex draft. Your standard “wait on a quarterback” targets, guys like Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, are being selected late in the fourth and early in the fifth. That might seem early to your traditional-fantasy-football brain, but it’s all relative. In a traditional league, the No. 12 quarterback by average draft position, Ryan, goes about 70 picks after the first quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. In superflex leagues, the last starter at the position is the 24th quarterback, Eli Manning, and he goes about 82 picks later than Rodgers, while Ryan is approximately 41 picks behind fantasy’s top signal-caller.
Quarterbacks are undoubtedly more valuable in superflex leagues, but patience is still key. That brings us to point No. 2, the driving force behind success in the superflex format.
Above all else, keep close tabs on the quarterback position
Nailing your quarterback picks is the surest way to win a superflex league. This does not necessarily mean that you use your first two picks on your top two quarterbacks, though that can be a winning move. It means that you maximize the draft-slot value (or dollar amount if you’re in an auction league) of your quarterback selections, relative to every other position. The best way to do that is to read the flow of your draft or auction with respect to quarterbacks, constantly calculating and re-calculating the right moment to strike.
Consider the ADPs discussed in point No. 1. Let’s say you sit back hoping to nab a couple of quarterbacks ranked in the 10 to 16 range. That would mean you enter your draft planning on waiting until the fourth round to go after a quarterback, which could land you a foundation of, say, Le’Veon Bell, Keenan Allen and Davante Adams. From there, ADP says you could pair two players from the group of Stafford, Ryan, Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, Marcus Mariota and Alex Smith. In my estimation, that’s an excellent foundation for a strong superflex team.
At some point, however, the elite quarterbacks are going to be worth grabbing. Rodgers is the sixth pick in a typical superflex draft, after the top-four backs and Antonio Brown, and that’s an appropriate spot for him. Someone with a mid-round draft slot going opposite of the approach in the above paragraph could take Rodgers in the first and Drew Brees in the third, filling in around them with the likes of Michael Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Lamar Miller through five rounds. That, too, is the core of a competitive team.
Here’s the thing, though. You don’t need to be a superflex veteran to understand that your draft is highly unlikely to conform exactly to ADP. You could sit back on the quarterback position, and your plan could look excellent through three rounds before a run on quarterbacks leaves you staring at your 17th-ranked quarterback as the best choice left in the fourth round. Brady could look too good to pass up in the middle of the second round, but if the rest of your league pumps the breaks on the position, he’ll look a whole lot worse when your rivals are getting Ryan and Rivers a full four rounds later.
As such, you have to hold on loosely to your quarterback plans going into your draft or auction. The room will help determine when you should make a move, but you’re going to have to get a little lucky, too. If you wait, you’ll need your league mates to play along. If you dive in early, you’ll have to hope that you can start a run that keeps the quarterback market at the value you set. There is no perfect answer here, since you’re depending on the whims of 11 or so other people, so reading the room is crucial. But if there’s one principle to fall back on: When you have to start two quarterbacks every week, you’d rather be too early on the position than too late.
Tier your quarterbacks
I don’t mean to belabor the point, but success in a superflex draft really is all about the quarterbacks. Again, it’s not necessarily about having the best quarterbacks in a vacuum, but about getting the best value at the position, calculated by draft slot—or dollars spent—and overall production.
Production, of course, is the great unknown. As confident as you might be in your quarterback picks on draft day, you won’t know what they’re going to do for you until the games start. All you can do in that regard is make the best decision with the information you have at hand.
You do, however, have some control over the value part of the equation. As we discussed above, value doesn’t just depend on your picks. It’s also set by the overall market for each position, and your league mates have influence over that, as well. The best way for you to control as much as possible is to not only rank each quarterback individually, but to divide your ranks into tiers, too.
Consider, once again, the ADPs we’ve highlighted throughout this column. For the sake of conversation, let’s say it’s the middle of the third round, and Rodgers, Watson, Brady, Wilson, Wentz and Cam Newton are off the board. You cannot know what will happen after you make your pick, but you do know that you don’t want to get caught scrambling at quarterback. What do you do?
If you tier your quarterback rankings, you’ll have a much better idea. For my money, Brees belongs in this tier, and then the position takes a bit of a dip. As such, I would grab Brees here, knowing that I don’t place the same value on the next group of quarterbacks. Let’s say, however, that you have Brees, Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo all as part of this tier, or as three quarterbacks making up the next tier. You might be more willing to wait another round, hoping that at least one of the three will still be available when your next pick rolls around.
Tiering your rankings at every position is a great tactic in any fantasy football format, but it’s especially important with quarterbacks in superflex leagues for two reasons. First, they really do hold sway over the format. Second, their supply is finite and much lower than that of running backs or wide receivers. In turn, the demand increases, especially as resources become scarcer. Dividing your quarterbacks into tiers will give you a better chance of taking the plunge at the position at the right time, which is the most bankable way to build a championship team in the superflex format.