Best Ball: The Art of Late Round Stacking (Fantasy Football)
Everyone and their mama knows that stacking in Best Ball is the way to go. On average 11 out of 12 teams in your league will have at least one stack.
We’ve written a ton of content this summer on the subject if you want to fully immerse yourself in the subject:
- Stackability Metrics: Best Ball Primer
- Best Ball: Stacking Strategy Through Simulation
- Stick to Stacking?: Exploring the Boom/Bust Strategy
- QB Tiers, Advance Rates & Players to Target
- Best Ball Stacking Strategy: DFS Podcast
But stacking is not just about chasing ceiling outcomes. A QB-WR combination or a QB-TE pairing has to actually “elevate” each player. In other words, if BOTH those players fail to return their draft cost, or what we would call meet their “expected value”, then your stack decreases your player’s advance rate.
On Thursday’s Best Ball Breakdown, Jason broke down the value of finding “elevated stacks” later in your drafts. I queued it up for you on YouTube if you’d rather hear Jason yourself:
Stacking: From Mahomes to Wentz
Let’s compare two QBs from 2021… Patrick Mahomes & Carson Wentz. Who had a better fantasy season in your mind?
Well, one of these QBs is revered as already one of the true GOATs and the other was scapegoated by his team and shipped off to annoy another set of teammates. You will get a vastly different reaction from fantasy managers and NFL fans alike when you bring up Mahomes or Wentz’s names. But we’re here to talk Best Ball so let’s get down to how their stacks paid off last year.
Nearly 47% of Patrick Mahomes lineups were stacked with either Tyreek or Kelce. Think about that and the amount of lineups in a massive tournament like Best Ball Mania which gave you little leverage on the field. These stacks HAD to hit and if they didn’t, you were playing behind the 8-ball already.
Those KC stacks failed to meet expectation despite their end-of-season fantasy finishes.
Patrick Mahomes finished as the QB4 but had an advance rate of only 14.2%… which was worse than Sam Darnold. Hold my barf bag.
Tyreek Hill finished as the WR6. He had some massive spike week. But if you stacked him with Mahomes, the stack was only slightly elevated with an advance rate of 17.1%. This was way behind expectation for two players you likely spent two of your first three picks with. That stack was only slightly better than Mahomes + Byron Pringle, who had two weeks inside the top-24 all year long.
Travis Kelce finished as the TE2 but 30 fantasy points behind Mark Andrews. He also was a 1st round draft pick, one of the worst advance rate TEs and someone I detailed fully in my TE Tiers article. If you stacked with Mahomes, it was disastrous at 10.8%.
If you were truly bullish on rostering these three together, consider your lineups dead at a paltry 14.3 percent. For more detail on the statistic, check out Best Ball Win Rates & What They Tell Us.
We want to stack… but in massive tournaments like Best Ball Mania, if the stacking partners don’t elevate the QB, it’s hurting you & becomes a trap of duplicated lineups.
Let’s reverse course and talk about everyone’s favorite QB: Carson James Wentz. Only 33% of Carson Wentz lineups were stacked with either Jonathan Taylor or Pitty City. He was a late pick after the sentiment of him being sent to Indianapolis soured everyone on his season outlook.
Wentz not only beat expectation (20+ percent advance rate) but his stacks were elevated despite finishing as QB14 on the year.
- Wentz + JTT– 43.5% advance rate
- Wentz + JTT + Pittman– 53.6% advance rate!
Yes, we know Taylor had an otherworldly season and Pittman was a major steal after going as WR46. But even stacking Wentz without either of these studs gave you a higher advance rate than Mahomes had. This goes back to one of the main principles of Best Ball and fantasy in general: opportunity cost.
Here are the simple takeaways:
- Value stacks are league winners.
- Early stacks have to be GREAT.
- Bad QBs can be elevated by their teammates.
- Find stacking combos of later WRs + later QBs for your secondary stacks.
Late Round Stacks We’re Into
Jason covered these on the segment but I’ll list them out here just for reference. Make sure you check out the Best Ball Primer for a full breakdown of these stacks and their ADP.
Darnell Mooney or Cole Kmet / Justin Fields
Fields’ rushing upside is what we care about in 4-point passing TD leagues. I’ve shared this stat multiple times but he was one of six rookie QBs over the last decade to average 35+ rushing yards per game. That sample also included some wonky play-calling from Matt Nagy, injuries, and a lack of a clear plan of how to best utilize him. The ADP is nice where you’re not asking him to have an outlier season although I’d argue it’s still in the cards. Remember that awful Patriots/Cam Newtonseason of 2020 where it looked like he couldn’t throw the ball accurately more than 7 yards down the field? He essentially was used as an option QB throwing eight total passing TDs but rushing for 39.5 yards per game with 12 rushing TDs. He had three massive spike weeks and two more with 20+ fantasy points. If you got that type of production from Fields in the 11th round, you could see him north of a 20 percent advance rate. Mooney saw 140(!) targets last year and should be in line for similar volume in 2022. Beyond the lack of TDs last year, Kmet is likely the 2nd target in his offense, and in our UDK projections, we have him over 100+ targets. Over the last decade, I compiled every third-year TE that saw 100+ targets… ALL of them finished inside the top-10 at the position making Kmet an easy value and prediction to be a good advance rate player in 2022.
George Kittle / Trey Lance
Despite Lance’s ADP rising a two rounds in the last month, his ceiling is still not ultimately being taken into account in a format that makes it due on upside. In 4-point passing leagues, rushing QBs can make up the difference in scoring in a massive way. Let’s give Trey Lance a conservative 20 passing TDs… gross. If he continues to run the ball 8+ times a game which also is conservative, it’s not out of the question he runs for 750+. He ran for 120 in his two starts. That amount of rushing yards is the same as nearly an extra 19(!) passing TDs. Among QBs to average 8+ carries per game over the last decade, their average finish was QB6. The post-hype status makes him even more enticing. As I mentioned recently on Twitter, Kittle didn’t miss a beat when Jimmy Garoppolo was out.
George Kittle Since 2018
35 games w/ Jimmy Garoppolo:
🔴Avg 7 targets
🔴69.0 rec. yards
17 games w/ CJ Beathard/Nick Mullens:
🔴91.7 rec. yards
Do what you will with this information. pic.twitter.com/x0zQF8A7Yf
— Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) July 27, 2022
Devante Parker or Hunter Henry / Mac Jones
Jones was about as solid as you could ask as a rookie with the second-highest completion rate of any rookie QB behind only Dak Prescott. His stacking partners are going so late it’s downright disrespectful. DeVante Parker is the final “WR1” drafted in terms of ADP among all the 32 NFL teams. Jason is much more bullish on Jones than Andy & Mike but stacking him with Hunter Henry late is just too easy to make happen. I would rather take a stab at a 2-man stack with Jones at the end of your draft than throw a dart at a random WR4 who might not even make the roster of their team. At QB25, an advance rate north of 16 percent is doable. The price for Henry (TE16) is juicy in an offense we like with Mac Jones in Year 2. He’s becoming one of my highest rostered TEs fitting the mold of the “advance rate TEs going past pick 150” data I shared in the TE Tiers article. 7+ TDs feels like a comfortable projection.
Christian Kirk / Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence was arguably one of the worst Best Ball draft picks in 2021 with a sub-10 percent playoff advance rate taken at QB15! Yes, there was some optimism but last year was rough. His ADP did not fall that far as he’s being grouped among other QBs with clear upside. The stacking partners with Lawrence are tough to figure out. Christian Kirk was paid but no one would truly consider him a WR1 in the NFL. As Matthew Betz recently unpacked, Kirk has the upside to have a true outlier season amongst a WR group that desperately needs a playmaker.
Michael Thomas or Chris Olave / Jameis Winston
Where you’re drafting Winston, you need him to start all 17 games and provide at least four spike weeks. Michael Thomas‘ ADP has dipped each week as the uncertainty of playing and the pain of drafting him last year still stings. Uncertainty breeds fear but this is Best Ball so we care about upside so MT’s WR1 prowess is still there. Through those first seven weeks last year, Winston was 5-2 as the starter and had two spike weeks. At this price, Winston fills in as a solid QB2 pairing with one of my favorite players (Chris Olave) or a cheaper Jarvis Landry.
Kadarius Toney / Daniel Jones
This could go in so many different directions. I’m terrified to take Jones and Toney and yet I’m intrigued by their collective upside and the tempo that should increase with new head coach Brian Daboll. Jones is wildly erratic with the occasional boom games thanks to his sneaky rushing floor averaging 26.3 rushing yards per game in his career. Toney is a true separator targeted on 27 % of his routes, the 5th best among WRs with 100+ routes in 2021. That rate also ranks 4th highest among 77 rookie WRs w/ 50+ targets since 2014. Swing for the fences my friends!
I think Baker is going to be a great late QB to take with CMC, DJ Moore and Anderson/Marshall (who ever gets the WR2 targets). If CMC stays healthy, he could be a better version of the Wentz/Taylor/Pittman stack last season.