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2019 Best Ball Reciprocal Pairings (Mario & Luigi Draft Strategy)

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Yahoo has added best ball! (receive $10 worth of points when you sign up with this link). Make sure you truly understand my 2019 Best Ball Reciprocal Pairings before drafting! Ask me any questions you may have in the comment section!

In best ball there are no roster changes. The team you draft is the team you own.  So unlike in normal fantasy football where you just draft the best team and update it later, in best ball you need to punt value at times in order to get pieces that fit better for your own specific needs.  Here we explore perfectly pairing your players for the long haul.

For more best ball content

An introduction of best ball is and my own tiers and rankings can be found here.

See Fantasy Six Pack’s official best ball rankings

F6P’s traditional fantasy football rankings

I’ve also done a positional guide for best ball, breaking down some of the nuances of each spot.

2019 Best Ball Reciprocal Pairings

Free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

We’ve Been Doing It Wrong

Every article on best ball is a collection of the following cliches:

  • Spread out your bye weeks
  • Prioritize job security
  • Draft for depth
  • Draft boom or bust players
  • Get lucky & get paid

Except for emphasizing boom and bust mentalities, it’s essentially treated no differently from traditional fantasy football.

It’s time we start actually treating best ball like what it really is.  The single biggest difference is not the optimized lineups.  It’s the inflexibility to play the waiver wire.

People are so focused on boom and bust talent that they ignore the much bigger picture.
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Schedule Compatibility of Your Roster is the Most Important Metric

Most people are drafting the wrong bench players.  This is where you earn your edge and collect your winnings at season’s end.

For example, when looking for a QB2, most people look at the available QBs and choose their favorite QB that doesn’t have the same bye week as their QB1.  In fact, they should look at much more than the bye week numbers.

If everything goes according to plan, the scores of your bench players are rarely going to count.   The few times you’ll need them is when your starters have bye weeks and tough matchups.  So it’s more important that they will do well during those periods than during the season in general.

When your QB1 is on bye, whether your QB2 is at Chicago or at home vs TB has massive implications for the one game where you’ll need to count on him the most.

Therefore, we should toss out season long thinking with our backups.  After we draft the starter, we need to isolate the schedule down to those few games where the starter will be least likely to produce.  This means we’ll need flexible rankings that change after we start drafting players at that position.

Once we have the starter, it’s more important to find the best partner for your starter rather than the best player in general.

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I Introduce Mario & Luigi Draft Strategy

Methodology

I combined last year’s data with heavy influence from power rankings, roster turnover, home/away status, and expert opinions to attain a rating for each team.   This was heavily skewed towards fantasy purposes in mind.

Most games had a neutral setting but some skewed towards helping or hurting fantasy production.  I initially split ground and air but the difference over multiple matchups was so slight that they were later aggregated.

A script then analyzed the weeks where teams had byes and very tough matchups.  Most teams were between 3-5 difficult games a year.  The script then took a look at what every single other team was doing during that time period.  Bye were treating as extreme negatives and the bye weeks themselves of the team being analyzed was weighted more heavily than the difficult matchup weeks.

Most teams were neutral.  But there were a few teams who had extraordinarily good matchups and others with terrible ones during these periods of difficulty.  I gathered the outliers and created this chart

  • Mario – this is your starter
  • Luigi – has an absolutely easy schedule when Mario will face tough times
  • Yoshi – it’s an easy schedule but not on the same level as Luigi
  • Toad – nothing special but better than other options, Toad is more a tiebreaker than a narrative builder
  • Koopa – avoid this team as it shares bad matchups and bye weeks with Mario
  • Yellow – strong reciprocity, which is especially useful if it’s more a platoon than starter/bench
  • Red – medium reciprocity
  • Blue – slight reciprocity

Note: avoiding Koopa is far more important than pairing your Mario with a Yoshi or Toad

The Chart

Mario & Luigi Chart for Best Ball

*indicates didn’t meet minimum threshold

You Drafted Mario, Where’s Luigi?

If you draft Andrew Luck as your QB1.  Looking at the chart, his ideal partners are Flacco and Stafford.   Yuck.

We can rule out Flacco here for concerns over job security.  Stafford though, that’s someone who merits a second look.  Stafford has warts.  He is a borderline QB2 that’s sometimes undrafted. But then again, it’s not unreasonable for him to produce as QB2 to Luck.

Stafford faces OAK, ARI, GB & TB during some of Luck’s toughest spots.  Whatever your feelings may be on Stafford, it’s not unreasonable that anyone could put together a pretty good string of games against those 4 teams.

Perhaps there’s a better argument for taking Stafford as QB3 to get the matchups without having to rely upon Stafford in other weeks if something happens to Luck.

Beware Koopa

The real edge this research provides is rather telling you who not to draft.

You may prefer Ben Roethlisberger to Mathew Stafford (who wouldn’t?) but PIT is @LAC in Luck’s bye week. If you dive deeper, you’ll see that like other Koopas, most of Ben’s easiest matchups come at the same week as Luck’s easy matchups and vice versa.
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I have no doubt that the PIT barrel neck will put up more fantasy points than the DET barrel neck over the entire season.  But if you isolate for only the games where Luck is not in a good position to rack up fantasy points, Stafford appears to be in the favorable position.  And if you’re thinking about the other weeks, then why on earth did you invest an early pick in Luck?

With Mario At the Helm, Avoid the Value Koopa Trap

It’s easy to ignore a natural QB2 like Ben as there are many other options.  It’s harder to do when a QB1 falls to you very late.

Let’s say you drafted Luck and you’re also very high on Dree Brees.  You’re preparing for your 11th round pick and notice he’s still on the board.  While Brees is good value that late, that can also be said any half dozen players as well.  Even the players who belong in the 11th round will still be good players.

We can’t just see they have different bye weeks and hit the draft button.  The truth is, having Andrew Luck as QB1 severely reduces Brees value to our team.  He may be a huge asset this late, but not for us.  Brees is @JAX the week of Luck’s bye.  That’s about as bad a matchup as one can ask for and that’s the only week of the year we are guaranteed to rely upon him.

If Brees and Luck will both get 30 points in week y and 15 points in week x but Stafford gets 10 points in week y but 20 points in week x then you’ll score more points overall with Stafford despite that he’s nowhere near as good as the other two overall.  The fact that you can also end up with a better WR or RB if you pass on “value Brees” is just another added incentive to beware value Koopa.

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The Ideal Partnerships: Reciprocal Pairings

Sometimes the skill gap between your starter and the bench player is a little less demarcated as with Luck and Stafford.  In these platoon situations, we’re not just looking for a backup but for the players to back each other up.

Reciprocal pairings have most utilty in pairing up two QBs or TEs of the mid and later tiers.  But also have practical impacts on WR and RB as well.  When in doubt between two players, I’ll consult that chart.  If one has a lot of good backups available then I’ll pivot and draft that player over the other.

This is a big reason why I often don’t end up with many Eagles other than Ertz on my roster.  With every draft pick, there’s usually a few options all a coin flip in skill difference and the Eagles are harder to match up with than many other teams.  It’s not just the Eagles, there are a number of teams that don’t really have any natural partners.  I still draft them, but just not as frequently as others without this data might.

Super Mario Bros (Yellow)

These are such perfect pairings that they aren’t just Mario Bros, but rather Super Mario Bros.  It’s often 2x Mario/Luigi partnerships.  These are highlighted on the chart in yellow.

If the idea of punting at QB doesn’t make you vomit, pairing Kyler and Darnold may be for you.  They both have tantalizing upsides and your bench will be much stronger than most other teams because you used didn’t use early picks at QB.  Even if they are the worst two QBs in the NFL this year, it’s going to be difficult not to get some pretty decent fantasy stats from them when just isolating for their easiest matchups.

The real beauty of this plan is that when it backfires, you perversely wind up with better QBs.  When I wait for Kyler and miss, that means he went very early.  Thus there are QBs who I actually liked better than Kyler still left for me to draft.

With other positions, it can sometimes be dangerous to wait for a specific late round player to fall to you.  This is not the case at QB.  QB is deep and impossible to strike out.  Beware TE though, if you wait for a late TE1, you could be at the wrong end of a run and wind up with pure garbage.

As great as this combo could be, I’ll still regularly grab an extra veteran QB as insurance.  So long as you’re not picky, there’s always one or two boring veterans like Cousins or Brady who are still around in the 18th round.

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Pair these peacocks together and let them fly

Just Plain Mario Bros (Red)

Here it’s not the smashmouth combo as with Super Mario Brothers, but there are still a number of great platoon options here.

If I wind up with Brees, then I’ll be sure to pair him with the upside of Lamar and their reciprocal scheduling.

But the big one here for me is Guice and McCoy.  These are often two of the last RBs to get drafted and make for a perfect RB3 & RB4 when you go zero RB.

This group is also full of bailouts if you got caught with your pants down at TE.  Turns out that Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen pair up nicely with each other.  As do Kyle Rudolph and Austin Hooper.  Not that I recommend going that route, but it’s a decent plan b if you missed out on the good TEs.

Not Quite Bros, Just Mario Cousins (Blue)

It’s better to be Mario Cousins than total strangers.  But it’s much more important to not match Mario with Koopa.

MIA and BUF receivers go really late in Yahoo best ball.  They are coincidentally Mario Cousins.  There’s nothing sweeter than rounding off your WR corps with the final picks with bench pieces that truly back each other up.  I love grabbing John Brown, Zay Jones, Kenny Stills and Devante Parker with some of my final picks.  Sadly, John Brown’s stock is rising and he’s been going earlier and earlier.  Albert Wilson is not a target of mine, but plenty of people like him and he’s nearly always undrafted at Yahoo.

Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers are also two good fantasy QBs who tend to fall late and work well together.  This is the opposite of the much more exciting and volatile Darnold/Kyler pairing for those who want to punt QB but with safety in mind.
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Lastly, LOL Defense

It’s Team Defense, it doesn’t deserve a fancy title.  So long as you get 2 defenses that don’t share a bye, literally nothing can go wrong.

However, if you think that defense matters, these would be the teams in order of my best ball model’s preference.  I’ve also listed the teams to target and avoid as DEF2.  For further reading, here’s a refresher on my defense draft strategy in part 2 of this series.

Best Ball Defensive Pairing

The Good

New England overwhelmingly emerges out of the ashes to be a top target in best ball.  It not so much the quality of the team defense, it’s much more about the scheduling.  Facing the rest of their division is perhaps the most unfair advantage in all of the professional sports.  In fact, NE was naturally 5th overall before I decreased the weight of the schedule.  At some point talent has to stand for something 🙂

Fact that NE has it easy doesn’t just improve their own individual prospects either.  Even if you don’t naturally view them as valuable (pretty much nobody has them in their top 10 but me) then they still more often than not have the easiest schedule when your primary target faces an elite offense or is on bye.

In fact, NE is best possible DEF2 option for every single team that doesn’t share its bye week.  That’s just incredible and that flexibility and soft schedule shoots it way up the rankings.  If CHI/LAR/BAL are off the board, I would rather pair NE with any other DEF than to have LAC & MIN, the next two highest rated defenses according to my model.

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Pats will be facing a lot of those easy 2nd and goal situations this year.

The Bad

Coincidentally, teams that are surprisingly far down my best ball rankings are due to scheduling purposes as well.  HOU and JAX don’t just have it rough on themselves, but it’s difficult to pair them off because they are Koopa for so many other teams.  This doesn’t mean I think they will be bad so much as just not ideal for best ball.

I just prefer the team with the softer schedule that will easier matchup with DEF2.  You don’t want to punt draft equity securing your DEF2.  But if you take HOU or JAX as your DEF1, it’s going to be tricky finding a Luigi or even Toad to pair off with and the draft board will be full of Koopa.

Not only do those teams have a tough schedules, but they don’t even pair well with any other of the top 20 or so defenses either.  Just look at how frequently they wind up as Koopa!  That’ll be an easy fade for me for what is an otherwise pretty popular team.

Sadly, I already drafted HOU & JAX a few times before I had finished this part of my research.  Oops.

The Ugly

Like with the Mario Bros, this is more about avoiding pairing your Mario with Koopa than pairing with NE.  You can hate the Pats and fade them, that’s a valid strategy.

Whatever you do avoid these Teos:

  • Don’t draft just 1 defense
  • Don’t draft more than 2 defenses
  • Ensure your two defenses have different bye weeks
  • When possible and avoid pairing with Koopa

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That’s really all there is to it.  It’s defense, so long as you follow those rules, you can’t possibly pair off incorrectly.

Final Thoughts

Although most examples here were simple and straightforward such as QB1 and QB2, you should take advantage of more advanced and nuanced processes this information can yield.

For example, if you draft Deandre Hopkins as WR1, you can look at this and it can help plan out the rest of your WR moves going forward.  For example, a few rounds later, if deciding between Golladay, Cooks and Edelman, you can notice that both NE & LAR match well with NYJ.  HOU, also matches well with NYJ.  Factor in that Edelman shares a bye with Hopkins and that difficult decision suddenly becomes easy.  But what makes it easy isn’t from this round itself, it’s in another round or two when draft Robby Anderson.  Now you have 2 strong WRs and your WR3 is ideally set to perform on weeks when those ones will struggle the most.

Take the best players early on and then from that point on, you can use these charts to mix and match appropriately.  So long as you don’t give up draft equity (ie take Robby Anderson 2 rounds too early just to complete the trifecta) or don’t lose sight of team needs then this should be a winning formula in your leagues.


Good luck and remember, the schedule is far more important in best ball.


Make sure to visit the F6P Fantasy Football Page for more advice to get you prepared for the 2019 season.

About DFSx42

DFSx42 is a tech consultant who built his own models for DFS. He's a cash game specialist that primarily plays on Yahoo as "Adam" where you can see his H2Hs for every sport and every slate. Recently finished 5th overall in the Yahoo Cup, a season long DFS league with over 100k competitors. Yahoo Cup Standings

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