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Superflex 101: Draft Strategy

What’s going on #NerdHerd? I know it’s been a minute since I put out my last article but I’ve been getting hammered at work recently. Contrary to popular belief, us DynastyNerd’s writers aren’t all ballin’ outta control (yet!). We ain’t in this for the Benjamins fam. We in it for the love of the game! We put out some Twitter polls recently and it turns out the most desired topic is #Superflex (“SF”). You have no idea how pumped I was to hear that! In my eyes, SF is the new age of fantasy football and honestly the only way to play. In a few years from now, the fantasy community will look back and view single QB leagues the way we all look at Non-PPR leagues right now #shame. Glad you’re all joining us to make single QB leagues a thing of the past! In this article, I’m going to provide an introductory course to the Superflex draft strategy. By the end of this, y’all are going to have PhDs in superflexing. Without further to do, let’s start with the basics.

What is Superflex? 

Basically, it’s adding an additional flex spot into the starting lineup except that you can use it to start either a QB/WR/RB/TE. Why is that important? In general, starting a QB2 will net you more points than the RB3/4 or WR3/4 and you will also do so on a more consistent basis. In 2018, the average RB 3/4 and WR 3/4 scored anywhere from 8-12 PPR points per game. Meanwhile, a QB 13-24 scored between 14-20 PPR points per game. So although you can start a non-QB in the slot, you place yourself at a huge disadvantage by doing so.

Key Implication: Resource Scarcity

Since everyone will need to start 2 QBs, that generally means that they will draft and own at least 2 QBs if not 3. Why 3? It’s to cover bye weeks and in case of injury. Trust me when I say this, nothing derails your championship run faster than losing a starting QB. So it’s always safer to roster 3. If you take nothing else away from this, at least remember that. Now for all you math wizards out there, I’m sure you noticed right away the problem this creates. There are only 32 starting QBs in the NFL so in your typical 12 team league, if everyone owns at least 3 QBs, that means you’re going to be rostering back-ups. And for fantasy purposes, there’s even less than 32 that you would feel comfortable starting. No one is jumping in excitement to roll out with Fitzpatrick/Rosen in their starting lineup right now. The end result is positional scarcity at the QB position. QBs are some of the most sought after assets in SF and always hold excellent trade value. After the draft, it’s almost impossible to acquire a QB without giving one up in exchange. And this dynamic is what brings me to my next point.

Why play SF?

In your traditional single QB league, the value of QBs is so depressed. Even topless muffins have more appeal and if you are a Seinfield fan, you’ll know that’s a hell of a low bar. Since you only have to start one, there’s almost no reason to own more than two. In redraft formats, streaming QB is almost always the best strategy. JJ Zachariason famously developed the #LateRoundQB off this premise. So a lot of SF advocates will make the argument that SF is more realistic and parallels the NFL by making QBs in fantasy as valuable as they are in real life. Personally, I could care less about that because, in the real NFL, teams also aren’t starting 2 QBs at once either. The reason why I love SF comes down to two things:

  1. Increases trade activity: It accomplishes this by creating additional valuable trade assets and through positional scarcity. In a single QB league, if you lose a QB to injury or retirement (moment of silence to our boy Luck), you can easily acquire one for a bag of chips and a ham sandwich. In SF leagues, you have to give up valuable assets to replenish QBs because there is a limited quantity. Economics 101 fellas #supplyanddemand. Creates demand for more trades and who doesn’t love a league with more trade deals (other than Trump)?
  1. Increases variance to drafting strategy: This is the more important point and why I’m writing this article. I no longer play single QB leagues in both redraft and dynasty because the draft itself is so vanilla it would make Haagen-Dazs proud. Everyone is going off similar rankings and a similar playbook. You can guess the first few rounds with minimal variance. In an SF league, because of the finite amount of QBs and various approaches you can take, each draft is vastly different from the next depending on how your league mates value the QB position. I’ve been in drafts where 2 QBs are taken in the first 3 rounds and been in others where 15 are taken. And that type of variance is exactly what we’re all looking for because at the end of the day, isn’t fantasy just one big gambling addiction? #Degens

SF Drafting Strategy

When it comes to drafting in an SF league, you can throw your typical top 200 player rankings out the window. I normally don’t use a list like that anyway because I employ a positional tier-based ranking system. In SF, this becomes even more important. My SF drafting strategy comes down to one simple factor: find the last QB in my rankings I’d be comfortable starting and make sure I draft at least 2 QBs before that. Sounds simple but once you dig into it, there are various ways to satisfy that condition. All in all, I’d say there are 4 paths you can take. I’ll try and outline the pros and cons of each while providing you with an example of what your team might look like after the first 10 rounds of a draft so you can get a sense for #rosterconstruction. I’ll be using the latest dynasty SF ADP from FFPC but just heads up that SF ADPs are highly variable from draft to draft so make sure you go with the flow of your league mates. Remember the mantra we have here at the #FantasyBatCave: #BeWater. Now let’s get it!

  1. Double Stud QB: The basis of this strategy is simple. You open up your draft in the first 2 rounds by locking down 2 elite QBs. In my experience, this strategy typically works best when picking from either really early position or late position. From early position, you can grab #Mahomies with a top 3 pick (I’ve only seen him make it past 1.02 once this entire offseason in drafts I’ve been a part of) and still be able to grab a top 8 QB on the way back. Typically, you want to favor age here and grab the younger studs. From later position, you can usually grab 2 top 4 QBs.
    • Pros: One of the best parts of this strategy is that you no longer have to worry about QB runs later in the draft and secure two of the most important slots in your starting roster. While others are scrambling to make sure they don’t miss out on QB runs, you’ll be there to scoop up the value that falls to you in those early-mid rounds. As a bonus, If you start the QB run with back to back QB picks, that might be enough to start the panic amongst other owners. Furthermore, given the longevity of QBs, this naturally sets your team up for the long-term. QBs are one of the hardest resources to replenish through the draft. We’ve been a bit spoiled in the last couple years with a sudden influx of young talent (Goff, Wentz, Baker, Mahomes, Watson, etc.) but that certainly isn’t the norm. There’s usually only a couple of new viable starters per year and the hit rate for QBs outside of the top 3 picks is nothing to get excited about. I know people overuse this world a lot but guys like Mahomes and Watson are truly generational. So knowing you have 2 young studs locked in for the next 10+ years is very comforting.
    • Cons: As with most things in fantasy, it all comes down to opportunity cost. By starting your draft with 2 QBs, that means you’ll be passing on that elite tier of skilled position players. Top RBs like Kamara, CMC and Mixon as well as young WRs to build around like Adams, Nuk and JJSS will all be gone. For most people converting to SF for the first time, this is a significant hurdle they are unable to overcome. And this is one of the reasons why I don’t implement this type of strategy myself too often. You will really need to hit on those middle round and future rookie picks in order to fill out the rest of your roster.
    • Sample Draft: I’m going to provide an example assuming we pick from the back part of the draft so anywhere from 1.09-1.12. I’d kick it off with Watson as my 1st pick followed by Baker. In my eyes, these are 2 of the young guys to lead the next generation of QBs and gives you a great balance of a running QB with an elite pocket passer. They’re also both on great offenses and should provide anchors to your team for the foreseeable future. In the 3rd/4th, I’d take 2 out of Diggs, Cooks and Allen. I’m typically a WR early type of guy cause RBs are always the easiest to replenish through the draft whereas hitting on WRs is extremely difficult. And this year, you can consistently get these guys in the late 3rd and early 4th. The disrespect shown to Allen and Cooks in particular is shocking. I like Mike Williams as much as the next guy but let’s not forget who the WR1 was in 2017. Allen is young, in his prime and an absolute route technician. I’d bet money this dude has one of the nastiest crossovers on the court. The moves he puts on DBs at the LOS is embarrassing. Even when I’m watching, I’m like “DAMNNNNNNN Keenan! Have mercy bro that dude has a family!” And Cooks puts up season after season of elite production but for some reason gets ignored. In the 5th/6th round, grab 2 of D. Moore, C. Godwin, D. Williams, S. Michel. When going early QB/WR, I absolutely love Damien Williams as a target. Everyone just assumes he’s gone next year but I don’t think so. If he balls out this year, he may provide another 1-2 years of value. Dude is electric and on an elite offense. KC has bigger holes to fill on that swiss cheese defense before they get to RBs.
  2. Double Mid-Tier QB: Basically you lock down stud skilled positions in the early rounds and take your QBs once you see QB runs starting. Now the timing may vary from draft to draft but basically I’m targeting my first QB in that QB9-12 range and then grabbing another in the following round or the one after that. In my personal experience, that run typically starts in the mid-late 3rd which means I’m taking my first QB in the late 3rd / early 4th. I only execute this strategy only when I’m picking from middle positions (1.05-1.08) so I can actually react to QB runs as they occur. If you try to do this from the ends where there’s 20+ people between your picks, it’s like playing russian roulette passing on a QB in each round.
    • Pros: This strategy is my favorite to implement because it allows you to take the draft as it falls to you and capture value at other positions. Why is this strategy really effective? Well if you think about drafting QB as the opportunity cost of drafting elite RB/WR, when you’re reacting to a run, you basically get to extract maximum value at other positions and minimize your opportunity cost of drafting a QB compared to early QB drafters. It’s the same concept as late-round QB strategy in single QB. When you’re the first one to draft a QB, you are praying that a run starts behind you. The longer the rest of the league waits to draft a QB, the higher your opportunity cost was for drafting that QB.
    • Cons: Honestly, there’s very little downside to this strategy and it has been my personal favorite. The only thing I will say is it is more of a risky strategy since you aren’t taking your 1st QB until QB10+ range, there’s a chance that you may be looking at a QB20+ range for your 2nd starter. But honestly given how deep this year is, I’m totally fine with it. As I mentioned above though, you should only do this when drafting from middle position because the entire strategy relies on your ability to react to runs and if you’re at the ends with 20 picks in between you, passing on a QB can really burn you.
    • Sample Draft: Would kick off the draft by taking Adams and Evans as the elite WRs to build my team around. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know my love for Adams knows no bounds. Been my WR1 since last season. His route running literally brought Ochocinco to tears. He made a grown man cry by running routes….let that sink in. In the 3rd, I’d be looking to pick up someone like Diggs to fill out my WR stack. But if you want to go RB, I’d look to guys like Kerryon Johnson or Aaron Jones. This is when the QB6-8 range will be drafted so still too early. In the 4th is when I’d be looking to grab my first QB. My favorite targets have been Cam, Ryan, Winston and Dak. Great floors / ceiling combo that I’d happily start as my QB1. Now if you’re feeling risky, you could grab another skilled position in the 5th like Moore or Godwin before picking up your next QB out of that Darnold/Trubisky/Cousins group. Personally, I’ve been smashing Lamar Jackson in the 5th all day long. His floor/ceiling combo is pretty insane and nothing pleases me more than to have him as my QB2. If you take LJax, then guys like Michel, Sanders, Woods, Lockett, Boyd should be there for you in the 6th. 
  3. Late Round QB: Similar to single QB leagues, you wait on QB until the late middle rounds when the second wave of the QB run starts. You’re basically looking to target your first QB in the QB16-20 range. The premise of this strategy is based on building a stacked skilled position group before filling out your QBs with cheaper veterans. This is a strategy that really only works in dynasty given the age discount you can get on guys like Roethlisberger, Brees, and Rivers that you normally wouldn’t be able to get in redraft leagues. I find that this strategy is best employed from an early pick so you can secure one of the elite RBs to take full advantage of the “win-now” mentality.
    • Pros: The main advantage of this strategy is that you will gain an advantage for skilled positions. Your team will actually look even more stacked than single QB leagues because of all the value that gets pushed down as others invest in QBs in the early rounds. Meanwhile, you’re buying the production of veteran QBs at a discount. And there is always an aging QB that is available for purchase on the market. Right now it’s Brees, Rivers, and Big Ben. In a couple years, it’ll be guys like Ryan and Cam who you can buy on the cheap. 
    • Cons: The obvious con here is that it’s a bit of a risky strategy and lacks long term viability unless you are really on top of your trading game. Your ability to compete in future years is highly dependent on your leagues willingness to deal aging veterans to you at reasonable prices. And as I mentioned above, it’s hard to acquire a QB without giving one up in SF formats, even for aging guys so if you’re going to try and trade for a QB without giving one up, it’s going to cost you a premium. And your leaguemates will know that you’re desperate for QBs as well so they will likely be swingin in to try and take advantage by low balling you Miley Cyrus style #wreckingball. 
    • Sample Draft: Going to illustrate this “win now” strategy from the 1.01. Kicking it off with everyone’s favorite #Baequon. Then at the turn, we’ll go ahead and stack the underrated James Conner with the NFL’s most talented wideout Julio Jones. Ideally, you want to start with a couple stud RBs to because you can get elite veteran WRs for a discount as well as younger guys with potential in the middle rounds where the RBs really fall off a cliff. At the 4th/5th turn, would grab my guy Damien Williams again and grab one of OJ Howard or Engram. Love getting a top TE to gain an advantage at another skilled position over those going early QB. Given you’ll be investing most of your future resources in QBs, it’s better to not have to worry about TE which also has positional scarcity. At the 6th/7th turn, is when you would be grabbing your 1st QB. Ideally, someone like Cousins falls but if not, Rivers or Big Ben are good options.
  4. Single Stud + Late Round QB: The final strategy is kind of a mix of #1 and #3. Full disclosure, I think this is the weakest approach of them all. You start off by taking a top 3-4 QB in the 1st or 2nd round and then waiting on your second until after the second QB run hits in the mid-late single digit rounds.
    • Pros: The rationale behind employing this strategy is that you don’t have to worry about the QB run that hits in the 3rd-5th rounds which allows you to snag the value that falls there before closing the loop on a second QB in that QB20+ range. And similar to #1, you get to land that cornerstone QB to build your team around for the future.
    • Cons: I think this strategy lacks commitment. When it comes to SF, it’s about picking your battles and securing positional advantages where you think it’s most valuable. When employing this strategy, you don’t really secure a positional advantage anywhere. Not only do you give up the opportunity to draft a stud WR or RB in the 1st round, you also don’t secure your QBs of the future because your second QB is likely in a lower tier. And you still have to worry about QB runs that may cause you to miss out on your guy. Like I said, this is the weakest strategy of them all.
    • Sample Draft: This draft would look almost identical to #3 if you were to open from the 1.01-1.02 except instead of taking Saquon its Mahomes.

The table above provides a summary of the teams through 10 rounds. Couple of things I want to highlight before I conclude this novel. 

  1. Always draft an extra QB. You’ll notice that regardless of which strategy I chose, I always took a 3rd QB. Why? I said it before and I’ll say it again. Nothing derails your championship run faster than losing a starting QB. Be smart and play it safe because if you don’t draft an extra QB and one of your starters goes down, you will be paying an arm and a limb to replace him. There is no cheaper place than the startup draft to acquire QBs. In a lot of drafts where people aren’t appropriately valuing QBs, I often find myself taking 4 or 5. You can never have enough QBs in SF because they are valuable trade assets going forward. You’ll be the only guy who can afford to trade away a QB without getting one in return and that is incredibly valuable. You’ll be able to flip that QB for RBs/WRs anytime you want. In SF leagues, even Mariota is worth something. He’s going dirt cheap in all drafts right now and I suggest you take him over that WR4/5 dart. 
  2. In terms of my personal preference, I prefer the double mid-tier QB strat the most and the single-stud QB the least. And I think there’s some data to suggest this. I honestly can’t remember who tweeted this out but you’ll just have to take my word for it. It’s out there somewhere in the Twitter ether. Someone pulled win probabilities for various SF startup draft openings and opening with 3 WRs was the highest win percentage, followed by double QB while single QB was at the bottom. To me, that makes sense given the single stud QB approach just feels like a non-committed approach where you lack a significant advantage at every single position.
  3. I tend to favor RBs in the early rounds for win-now approaches like the late-round QB strategy. This isn’t specific to SF but I do find it’s easier to land multiple top RBs in early rounds because the QBs being taken earlier pushes stud RBs down the board. I typically don’t employ this strategy as much because it lacks flexibility. Starting with WRs will provide you with more optionality in later rounds. You can choose to pivot to a “productive struggle” team or stay on the win-now path depending on how the draft falls to you. But if you go heavy RBs, you’re committed to the win-now approach. I have one league where I did a win-now ZeroWR SF draft and have Barkley, Chubb, Cook, Michel all on the same team. If I fade injuries, that’s going to be a hard team to beat but if I fail to take the chip in the next 1-2 years, the longevity of my team is at risk. 

I’ll leave things there for now before this SF manuscript gets out of hand. If you’ve been on the fence about diving into SF, I hope this has helped recruit you to the dark side. Do you know how they always say the grass is always greener? Well, in this case, it really is. The grass on this side is so green it’ll make your neighbors jealous. Come on over and I promise you’ll never regret it. If you’ve got other questions about SF strategy that I didn’t answer here, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @MikeMeUpP! Happy hunting #NerdHerd!

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