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Going Deep

Win Rates: When Should We Draft Fantasy WRs?

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: June 15, 2020, 3:13 pm ET

The team at RotoViz is building some awesome tools for best ball leagues, and Jack Miller (@JackMiller02) is right in the middle of breaking down its analysis. In his Twitter thread, he shared the win rate (how often a team wins their fantasy league) based on which round a fantasy team drafted their first, second, third, and fourth wide receiver. Here are the results of that thread in chart form:

 

WRWinRate

 

The black line right in the middle of the chart represents the average win rate in FanBall best ball leagues (8.3%), so a dot above the black line has been a profitable strategy since 2015 and a dot below the black line has been a losing strategy. In general, drafting receivers early in best ball leagues has been profitable. Just look at the upper left corner where the win rate percentage is highest. 

 

Before we go any further though, I want to lay out some caveats (you can skip them if you don’t care). First, win rates are reflective of past leagues and may not fully translate to future fantasy seasons. For example, the mid to late 2010s were relatively weak at the very top of the quarterback position for fantasy, but I expect that to change slightly with Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson looking like absolute studs for the next few years. Secondly, the sample sizes of some win rate data is probably too small to fully generalize, especially when we break down teams too thinly. For example, saying something like “the win rate is __% when a team takes two tight ends and two running backs within the first four rounds” is overfitting in my opinion. Lastly, strategies with high win rates can be slightly correlated with the skill of the drafters, not because of the strategy itself but because they are simply just drafting the “right players” in other rounds. For example, many of the best fantasy analysts use the late-round quarterback strategy for good reason, but these same analysts are also making the best picks in general, so the win rate of the late-round quarterback could be slightly overstated.

 

When to Draft Our 1st WR

 

WR1WinRate

 

The absolute latest we should draft our first fantasy receiver is in the 4th round because the win rate drops from 8.4% in the 4th round to 6.9% and 5.5% in the 5th and 6th rounds. You’ll find yourself eating out of the Arby’s dumpster if you try a RB-RB-TE-QB start or something similar to that. Instead, it’s best to grab our first fantasy receiver in the 3rd round (9.0%), although there’s not much of a difference between that and a 2nd round first receiver (8.7%). 

 

 

When to Draft Our 2nd WR

 

WR2WinRate

 

We can’t wait until the 6th round or later to draft our second fantasy receiver. The average win rate of teams who draft their second fantasy receiver in rounds 6-10 is a dismal 6.1%. It’s essentially an eliminator to wait that long. Instead, we should draft our second fantasy receiver in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th round where the average win rate is 8.9% (my previous research backs this up, too). Notice I didn’t include the 2nd round, though. That’s because teams who start the draft WR-WR have a win rate of 7.7%. That’s below average. More on this later.

 

 

When to Draft Our 3rd WR

 

WR3WinRate

 

This chart shows a larger discrepancy between strategies. Teams who draft their third fantasy receiver in the 4th or 5th round have a win rate of 9.5%, and teams who wait until the 7th round or longer have a win rate of 6.8%. Simply put, make sure to draft receivers early and often in fantasy drafts. In fact, RotoViz’s Jack Miller tweeted that “WRs picked in Rounds 3-6 of best ball drafts have averaged an 8.9% win rate. They've never posted below an 8.4% mark in any single year.” That’s money in the bank. By the way, all of you guys should be following Jack Miller on Twitter (@JackMiller02). 

 

 

When to Draft Our 4th WR

 

WRWinRate

 

When it comes to drafting our fourth fantasy receiver, it’s best to do it relatively early. Teams who draft their fourth receiver in the 5th, 6th, or 7th round have a win rate of 9.3%. That win rate drops to 7.8% when we wait until the 8th, 9th, or 10th, or 11th round. We can basically ignore the data on the right side of the chart because almost nobody waits until the 12th round to draft their fourth fantasy receiver. Or at least I’d hope so.

 

 

Recap

When to Draft Fantasy WRs Optimal Rounds Latest Recommended Round
1st WR 2nd or 3rd 4th
2nd WR 3rd or 4th 5th
3rd WR 4th or 5th 6th
4th WR 5th, 6th, or 7th 7th

 

 

WR-Only Starts

Here are the win rates of teams that only drafted receivers at the start of fantasy drafts...

WR-WR: 7.6%

WR-WR-WR: 7.9%

WR-WR-WR-WR: 7.8%

Because the average win rate of best ball leagues is 8.3%, the data suggests that it’s a losing strategy to completely start with receivers early. It’s still possible to use the “zero RB” strategy, but I think some tweaks need to be made. That could mean a RB in the first round and then 3-4 WRs after, or grabbing a TE like Travis Kelce while primarily drafting WRs early.

 

 

My Optimal Start

 

 

More Historical ADP Data

Go here.

WRADP

 

 

My Fantasy Football Content

1. 2019 Yards Per Carry Plus/Minus Rankings

2. 2019 Rushing Efficiency Rankings

3. 2019 Receiving Efficiency Rankings

4. 2019 Expected Passing TD Rankings

5. 2019 Expected Rushing TD Rankings

6. 2019 Expected Receiving TD Rankings

7. 2019 Big-Play Rushing Rankings

8. 2019 Expected Yards After The Catch Rankings

9. 2019 Deep Target Efficiency Rankings

10. 2019 Expected YPA Rankings

11. 2019 Expected Fantasy Points (WR)

12. 2019 Expected Fantasy Points (TE)

13. Reviewing Late-Season Production - QBs & TEs

14. Reviewing Late-Season Production - RBs & WRs

15. NFL Depth Charts - QB, RB, WR, TE

16. Free Agency Winners and Losers

17. Rookie RB Pass-Blocking Report

18. How Predictive Is Late-Season Production?

19. Insights After Analyzing Historical ADPs

20. Projecting NFL Pass/Run Splits in 2020

21. Projecting Plays Per Game and Offensive Pace

22. Win Rates: When Should We Draft WRs in Fantasy?

 

My Real Football Content

1. Stop Running It Up The Middle

2. Run From Shotgun, Not Under Center

3. Throw Beyond The First Down Marker

4. How Often Do Running Backs Block?

5. Should the NFL Run More in the End Zone?