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FFPC Best-Ball Tournament Playoff Strategy and Stacks - Drafting to Win It All

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This is one of the best times to draft for best-ball leagues, especially big tournaments like the FFPC Best Ball Tournament with a $200k prize! Rookies are being overhyped and are still overvalued. A consensus ADP has just started to form into something that will change drastically in a few weeks once training camp and exhibition season begins. This is when veteran best-ball players can take advantage.

You're likely familiar with how a best-ball league works by now but the FFPC Best Ball Tourney is slightly different. A huge tournament like this is essentially broken down into parts like a redraft league. Weeks 1-14 are the regular season where you have to win your league to qualify for the postseason, and that's where the real money comes into play. Then, you have weekly single-elimination tournaments for weeks 15, 16, and 17. In order to win the grand prize, you'll need to survive and advance with a team built for the postseason. The problem is, no waivers, trades, or lineup decisions are allowed so you'll have to do it all upfront.

To borrow a phrase from Farmer Pete, "Week 17 is all that matters." Great advice, so let's put it into action. Stacking is a well-known strategy that boosts your odds in best ball, so I'm going to look at some of the ideal strategies and stacks for championship week to reverse engineer a potentially winning team for the FFPC Best Ball Tournament.

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Don't Draft a Tight End Early

You want it. You think you need it. A stud tight end at the beginning of your draft to solidify the position and get a big edge. It's not a bad strategy to go for one of the top players at this position in any format because of how shaky it gets beyond tier two, but in a TE-premium format like FFPC, it's almost a necessity.

The problem is that everybody knows this and the ADP shakes out accordingly. The top four tight ends – Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts, Darren Waller – are all gone within the first 24 picks in FFPC's Best Ball Tourney. That makes the return on investment minimal and leaves the lower-drafted players as far better value picks.

Drafting a TE early was not a winning strategy in 2021 for FFPC leagues. Kittle and Waller had injury-plagued seasons and wound up being draft busts. Pitts came into the league with much fanfare and was selected as the TE6 pick with an ADP of 42. He ended Week 17 with an 8.8% win rate in FFPC Slim leagues, barely above the average of 8.3%. Kelce had a solid season but finished as the TE4 so that was a big letdown for those who drafted him third overall on average.

Only Andrews paid off and he turned out to be a league-winner in most cases. However, a lot of things conspired to make Andrews so valuable (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both tearing their ACL in the preseason, Baltimore's defense being surprisingly atrocious, Tyler Huntley starting multiple games and hyper-focusing on Andrews).

Meanwhile, four of the top six TE win rates by Week 17 came from players drafted outside the top 150.

Win rate data from RotoViz

Rob Gronkowski, who we'll discuss further below, was taken at 135 because of the uncertainty surrounding his playing status (sound familiar?). After Kelce, the rest of the top 10 included discounted veterans like C.J. Uzomah, Jared Cook, and Hunter Henry.

Drafting Kelce or Andrews or Pitts feels like the key to a winning strategy in TE-Premium leagues but it usually isn't. The second tier of TEs filled with guys unlikely to breakout but still being drafted highly such as Dallas Goedert and Mike Gesicki are best ignored. Dalton Schultz was a revelation last year but his draft price has climbed to the point he is hard-pressed to return +EV (expected value).

Who should you draft instead? Let's peek at the current state of TE ADP as of mid-June:

Player Team ADP Pos. ADP Earliest Latest
Travis Kelce KC 5.5 1 2 10
Mark Andrews BAL 10.1 2 7 15
Kyle Pitts ATL 17.6 3 11 24
Darren Waller LV 26.1 4 16 33
George Kittle SF 30.3 5 20 37
Dalton Schultz DAL 46.1 6 33 58
T.J. Hockenson DET 51.5 7 43 65
Dallas Goedert PHI 67.6 8 56 82
Zach Ertz ARI 77.9 9 38 95
Dawson Knox BUF 85.3 10 71 105
Pat Freiermuth PIT 96.2 11 80 114
Rob Gronkowski FA 99 12 85 108
Mike Gesicki MIA 105.3 13 87 128
Irv Smith Jr. MIN 113.2 14 96 125
Cole Kmet CHI 114.8 15 102 127
Albert Okwuegbunam DEN 115.6 16 93 139
Noah Fant SEA 126.2 17 112 135
Robert Tonyan GB 131.5 18 108 151
Hunter Henry NE 134.4 19 96 156
Tyler Higbee LAR 136.5 20 120 157
David Njoku CLE 140 21 123 155
Gerald Everett LAC 141.1 22 131 168
Evan Engram JAC 150 23 122 171
Logan Thomas WAS 157.7 24 120 186
Hayden Hurst CIN 163.7 25 142 187
Austin Hooper TEN 168.6 26 152 200
Brevin Jordan HOU 177.3 27 148 201
Taysom Hill NO 190 28 143 238
C.J. Uzomah NYJ 203.1 29 162 237
Mo Alie-Cox IND 203.7 30 179 239

I don't mind going with Zach Ertz if he falls beyond the 80th pick because the DeAndre Hopkins suspension will play in his favor. Pat Freiermuth, Cole Kmet, and Irv Smith Jr. could all take big leaps this season – I don't mind waiting for any of them as my first tight end paired with another TE with high-scoring upside like Robert Tonyan, David Njoku, or Brevin Jordan.

Final note: Noah Fant was the highest-scoring TE  in Week 17, or championship week for fantasy last year. Gronk, Andrews, and Kelce followed but they were beaten out by Fant. Anthony Firkser scored 11.4 PPR points, and George Kittle had 4.5 that week. Randomness happens. This doesn't mean to just give up and throw darts, it means you should probably take at least three TEs and put the odds in your favor by shooting for the ceiling and looking ahead at the schedule. Let's do just that.


Week 17 Matchups to Exploit - Double Stacks Including TE

There are dozens of potential stacks you can exploit in Week 17, but rather than listing off every viable QB-WR  or QB-TE pair, I'll get more detailed and go into the best double stacks. That means either a QB-WR-WR trio of teammates or a QB-WR-TE set. Since we are discussing a TE-premium format and already established that we aren't targeting a TE early, it makes sense that you pair a later-round TE with his quarterback to maximize the benefit in FFPC.

Keep in mind that any of these stacks or others that you opt for should occur naturally at cost. Don't reach more than a round on any player to force a stack because then you're losing out on value.

Tampa Bay Bucs vs Carolina Panthers

Tom Brady + Mike Evans + Cameron Brate

This pick was originally set to be Gronk at his declining ADP in the hopes that he returns. That isn't looking like a great move anymore. Brate is the logical candidate to be the TE1 for Tom Brady now, with only fourth-round pick Cade Otton behind him. Brate's current ADP is 195 overall but you can bet that's going to rocket up shortly. If you want a share of him, the window is now before he becomes essentially undraftable.

Gronk's retirement is just another reason to view Evans as a solid WR1. Plus, it's unlikely Chris Godwin is ready to start the season or close to 100% for much of the first half. He isn't an exciting young receiver but he's a smart pick and possesses arguably the highest floor among top-15 receivers.

Meanwhile, the quarterback who attempted the most passes in the NFL and posted over 5,000 passing yards is being taken as the QB8, making him more than affordable. In the final week, he and the Bucs will face a Carolina team that could be playing under a lame duck coach or even an interim coach if they aren't playoff-bound by then. Brady ended the regular season with 326 yards and three TD at home versus Carolina in 2021 and had a similar performance in 2020 with 341 yards and three TD. He won't hesitate to keep the foot on the gas pedal no matter what the teams' records are by Week 17.

Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons

Kyler Murray + Marquise Brown + Zach Ertz

It's all but official that Kyler Murray will be the highest-paid Cardinal in NFL history. They acquired Hollywood Brown to serve as the WR1 while DeAndre Hopkins serves his suspension, perhaps even beyond. This could be one of the most productive season-long stacks as it is but Week 17 is too enticing to ignore. The Cards face the Falcons, which were a bottom-10 pass defense and could be worse this coming year.

It's tempting to take the ADP discount on Hopkins, but in FFPC leagues I'd much prefer Ertz as a discount TE1. Splitting time between Philadelphia and Arizona in 2021, Ertz wound up as the TE5 in PPR leagues yet his draft price hasn't climbed too much. Now he gets a full offseason to connect with Murray and will see an uptick in targets without Hopkins for six games. The championship-week matchup is just gravy.

Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings

Aaron Rodgers + Allen Lazard + Robert Tonyan

After another disappointing playoff exit, Aaron Rodgers is back for more and he'll be without his top wideout from the past several years. Someone has got to inherit Davante Adams' vacated targets and it looks like Lazard is the frontrunner for the main role. He recently signed a one-year tender as a restricted free agent so he is essentially in a contract year again. The opportunity and motivation are there, making him an extremely intriguing pick that can be had outside the top 100 picks.

Tonyan is a forgotten man because he missed most of last season due to injury. He wasn't off to a rocking start, averaging 25.5 yards per game in the five contests he played. That's not what he was drafted for, though. Either he scores double-digit touchdowns or he's a bust. If Tonyan can score 11 times in 2020 while Adams was scoring 18 times, he can do it again without Adams around.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

Justin Fields + Darnell Mooney + Cole Kmet

It might be a scary prospect to go all-in on the Bears offense but the draft price makes it more palatable. Anyway, Fields doesn't need to be your starter as he's going at QB16, Mooney is being drafted as the WR30, and Kmet is TE15. Fields is the ideal backup quarterback for best-ball because we're less concerned with consistency and more with high weekly ceilings. His rushing ability brings that and his rocket arm can ensure that Mooney is always a home run threat. Mooney averaged 7.1 yards of cushion last year, tied for sixth-highest among all receivers.

Chicago projects to have one of the weakest strengths of schedule ranked 25th according to The Athletic. That culminates with a Week 17 contest with Detroit.  It's debatable how much touchdown upside there is to be had in this game but presumably, both offenses will be better than last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

Trevor Lawrence + Evan Engram + Marvin Jones

The best part of this stack is that you don't have to invest in an early QB/WR pair and we're putting a pass-catching tight end that is available at pick 150. Whether you believe Engram going to Jacksonville is a positive or not, the risk is negligible here. This team doesn't have a true alpha receiver and now has a coach in Doug Pederson who oversaw the best years of Zach Ertz's career in Philly.

The reason I've selected Jones instead of Christian Kirk is draft cost and projected EV. Kirk was signed to a boatload of money to serve as the primary slot receiver and may well lead the team in receiving. However, I don't anticipate it to be by a big margin and neither does PFF. They have Kirk finishing with 71.6 receptions, 910 yards, and 5.7 TD, good for 197.3 PPR points. Marvin Jones is projected for 66.4 receptions, 840 yards, and 5.8 TD, totaling 185.4 fantasy points. Kirk is being drafted as WR42 in round 9 on average while Marvin Jones is WR75 and selected in round 16.

Engram is the type of TE we want, Lawrence is a low-risk QB2 that can be taken past round 10, and Jones is a late-round flier being taken even after recently-retired Robbie Anderson. The final week matchup with the Texans is also preceded by a Week 16 matchup with the Jets, making this combo enticing for an endgame scenario.

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