Draft Strategy

MFL10 Draft Strategy Guide: RB Draft Strategy

By Jason Phelps and Jared Smola 8:45am EDT 6/23/15

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with MFL10 leagues, check out the Intro article before reading on about RB strategy.

Spoiler alert -- the MFL10 RB strategy is simple: load up early. Check out the data …

How Many RBs Should I Draft?

The chart below shows how many points we can expect a team to score based only on the number of RBs rostered.

The optimal strategy is to select 4 RBs. That’s an interesting finding because selecting just 4 is a contrarian play. Over the past 2 years, only 8% of teams went with 4 RBs. The vast majority -- about 72% -- drafted 5 or 6 RBs. So drafting 4 -- and then using the extra roster spots to enhance other positions -- can give us a distinct advantage.

It’s also worth noting that some teams that selected just 3 RBs have fared quite well. But that’s based on a sample size of just 47 teams. As the confidence intervals show (those thinner red lines), taking just 3 RBs might also be an awful idea. We need more data to draw conclusive results, so we hope to have a better idea after this season. For 2015, don’t deploy the 3-RB strategy. Let others be the guinea pigs.

As the charts below show, rostering just 4 RBs is the optimal strategy regardless of whether you load up on them early in your draft. But adding that 5th makes more sense if you don’t go RB heavy early (i.e. 4 RBs in your first 5 picks).

When Should I Draft My RBs?

The data here is overwhelming. Selecting 4 RBs among your first 5 picks gives your team the highest expected point total.

Check out the chart above again. If you take 4 RBs in your first 5 picks and then don’t take any more RBs, you’re expected to score 2,378 points. If you take a 5th RB, that number drops to 2,350.

If you don’t secure 4 RBs within your first 5 picks, your expected point total is 2,330 -- 48 below the optimal strategy. That number climbs to 2,346 if you don’t take 4 RBs early and roster just 4, but even that expected point total is below the RB-heavy marks.

Based on the data from the last 2 years, your odds of winning your league and finishing among the top 2 climb sharply when you take 4 RBs within your first 5 picks. Your win rate jumps from the average 8.3% to 10.4%. Just by using this strategy each draft you can expect to at least break even. The odds of placing go from 16.7% to 19%.

The charts below show the optimal time to take each of your top 4 RBs.

Ideally, you’ll land 2 of the first 16 RBs off the board. And you’ll have 4 RBs by the time 29 have been selected.

Notice the dip around the first 3 picks in the RB1 chart. That’s a result of the early-1st-round RBs that have busted over the past 2 seasons: Doug Martin, Arian Foster and Ray Rice in 2013; Adrian Peterson in 2014. That’s not a fluke, either. Top-ranked RBs tend to have a high bust rate. So your best bet might be to snag Rob Gronkowski or an elite WR in the 1st round, and then take 4 straight RBs. We’ll have more on overall draft strategy in the final part of this series.

It’s also worth pointing out the peaks and valleys in the RB3 and RB4 charts. That data says that you should try to get your 3rd and 4th RBs before 25-30 RBs are off the board. But if you can’t, you should wait until late in the draft -- around RB45 to 60 -- to fill out your 3rd and/or 4th RB spots.

If you do feel the need to take a 5th RB, the data shows that you shouldn’t do so until the 14th round or later.

Who Should I Target?

You’ll want to consult our  RB rankings and MFL10 ADP when targeting your early-round RBs. These guys tend to present good value within the first 4 rounds:

Arian Foster
C.J. Anderson
Frank Gore
Andre Ellington

If you’re looking for a RB late, keep these guys in mind:

Roy Helu
Terrance West
DeAngelo Williams
Theo Riddick
Lance Dunbar
Fred Jackson
Jerick McKinnon
Montee Ball
Andre Williams

Next up: MFL10 WR Strategy

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