The ante in best ball drafts right now is to have 4 decent WRs, and right now that means drafting them somewhat early. Because everyone is so obsessed with scouting WRs right now, it's going to be quite difficult to find fantasy WR breakouts, especially when looking for WR1-2 level breakouts. Last year, 86% of the spike weeks at WR came from the top-36 WRs in current ADP. That's a much higher rate than it is for the top-12 QBs, the top-24 RBs, or the top-12 TEs, so I'm not comfortable punting the position ... too much.
This column will help to answer just how many WRs we've needed through each round in these best ball tournaments. I have the RB version of this column here (and quite frankly that one is more interesting).
Let's dive in...
I have an old column (July 2021) on this here.
There's no point in writing about Zero WR because everyone knows that is dumb, so let's get straight to 2-WR teams. Some may go RB-heavy, draft an elite QB, and/or draft an elite TE early, and there could be very clear problems with that strategy because of sacrificing WR points.
2020: 2-WR builds tanked in Rounds 5-6, and it was definitely time to close the draft if you only had 2 WRs through Round 9.
2021: 2-WR builds tanked in Rounds 5-6, and it was definitely time to close the draft if you only had 2 WRs through Round 9.
2022: 2-WR builds tanked in Rounds 4-5. This was the biggest early WR year in the Underdog Fantasy era, so it's not surprising to see this kick up one round.
I don't see this trend really changing. Get your 3rd WR through about Round 5-6 no matter what.
Right when I was hired at Underdog Fantasy in Summer 2021, I wrote a column called The Golden Rule of Best Ball, which argued for at least 4 WRs through Round 7-8. Let's see if that's held up (to see if I truly do know ball).
2020: Having 4 WRs was nearly optimal from Rounds 4-12. It was exactly optimal to have 4 WRs through Round 7.
2021: Having 4 WRs was nearly optimal form Rounds 5-13. It was exactly optimal to have 5 WRs through Round 7, with 4-WR builds extremely close behind.
2022: Having 4 WRs was nearly optimal from Rounds 4-13. It was exactly optimal to have 5 WRs through Round 7, with 4-WR builds extremely close behind.
Without question, I know ball.
The relative surprise is how deep the 4-WR range goes. Most wouldn't believe that we could ride a strong 4-WR team until Round 12 or so, but that's held true for each of the last three seasons. One explanation is that WRs are more consistent week-to-week than the public thinks. WR1s in ADP are going to crack your top-3 WR or FLEX spots on a chunk of their down weeks, as that bar is only around 10 half PPR points, but some draft as if stud WRs have a more volatile range of outcomes than they actual do. The best way to leverage an elite WR start is to actual use their value by stopping with 4-6 good WRs only.
Most best ball points come from players drafted through Round 10. That's when things really start to fall off on average, so I like to view roster construction as through Round 10 more than I do through Round 18. Let's investigate how many WRs we've needed through Round 10 so far:
2020: 4-6 WRs through Round 10 was optimal, with 3- and 7-WR teams well behind.
2021: 4-6 WRs through Round 10 was optimal, with 7-WRs up next.
2022: 5-6 WRs through Round 10 was optimal, with 4- and 7-WR teams not far behind.
This likely remains stable because of diminishing returns (7 is too many this early) and the predictability of the top-36 WRs. Right now, the top-36 WRs in 2023 ADP accounted for 86% of the WR spike weeks last year. It's rare for many random WRs to meaningfully make an impact, so you need to draft a starting lineup full of decent WRs early.
Once again, this is an overrated thing to analyze because of diminishing returns dictating how many WRs you'll need in your particular draft, but if it's what you guys like to reference, then I'll walk through this, too.
2020: 7-10 WRs was optimal through Round 18, with 6-WR builds giving up about 15 regular season points.
2021: 6-10 WRs was optimal through Round 18, with all being separated by just 10 regular season points.
2022: 6-9 WRs was optimal through Round 18, with 7- and 8-WR teams leading the pack.
It depends on how many stud WRs you drafted in the early rounds, but it's safe to finish with 7-9 WRs (though I do advocate for more 6 WR teams when going Zero RB). There also could be something to WR prices becoming more expensive, potentially leading to fewer WRs needing to be drafted overall.
Re-read When You Have Too Many WRs.
Re-read Draft More 6-8 WR Teams.
Re-read Radicalized Zero RB.
Roughly stay on track with 1 WR every other pick.
2-WR teams tank in Round 5.
4-WR teams were nearly optimal from Rounds 4-12.
Have 4-6 WRs through Round 10.
Safe to have 7-9 WRs through Round 18.
Re-read When To Draft RBs (Updated).
Play Best Ball Mania IV ($15M).