MLS Fantasy Golden Rules
In the MLS Fantasy Golden Rules series, we will be going over some basics for beginners and some refreshers for veterans. We are aiming to cover some of the broader questions that get brought up and clear up some common errors we see holding players back from their desired final rankings. With the change to unlimited transfers, these can be implemented right away and it’s still early enough in the season where mistakes are not game breaking.
Rule 1: The Fantasy Mullet (Aka Balancing Floor and Ceiling)
As manager deal with the early season budget crunch by attempting to maximize points and raise their team value as quickly as possible, we must look at our first Golden Rule. Groom your Fantasy Mullet!
A traditional mullet is business in the front and party in the back, but that’s not the case in fantasy. Flip it around and put your business in the back and party up front. This means your front 7 in either a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation should get the bulk of your budget and your defensive set should be as cheap as possible.
So What’s the Business in the Back?
The business in the back is finding the most production at the cheapest price. Getting the highest return on investment early in the season can boost both your score and value beyond the average player.
The most important stat to consider here is Dollars per Point which can be used to sort players in Fantasy MLS. Managers will want to look for the lowest value, ie the cheapest cost for a point you can get.
Currently Nick DeLeon of TFC leads this category at 423.1k $/P. His production was the best ROI possible for all defenders after his adjusted value following his 13 points in Round 1. Comapre this to Michael Murillo who is currently the highest priced midfielder. His $/P is 1.2m and he only managed 6 fantasy points. Graham Zusi of SKC was the king of defenders in 2018, but his 2 points in Round 1 see his $/P at $3.4m and that’s after a loss in value. This simple stat shows just how much your modest investment is paying off. As you managers dig through the numbers, they’ll find the cheaper options give a far better ROI and free up money to be spend elsewhere.
Splurging here does not raise your ceiling enough and generally hurts your floor in the attacking portion of your lineup.
Author’s Note: We have a small sample size and a defender’s goal being 6 points really skews these results. We will revisit $/P later with more data, but this trend does hold true. The cheaper defenders that score consistently tend to remain the highest $/P of all players in the game.
Why Party up Front?
Statistically, your largest points getters come from your front 7. Whether you risk 3 forwards looking for a massive week or take the steady option in midfield production, the vast majority of your points come right here.
Midfielders and Forwards have higher point ceilings than defenders and goalkeepers as their chances for scoring points are greater. Midfielders tend to be the steady points producers with a higher points floor while Forwards to fall in the Boom or Bust category scoring a load of points or next to none.
Stacking your attacking lineup with the highest possible floor and ceiling players give both a higher average score and a greater chance at setting one of the top scores of the round.
Author’s note: With my lineup in Round 1, I was able to fit in four premium players for a total of 44 points on my roster. This was only possible by building my Fantasy Mullet.
Floor versus Ceiling
Knowing how to balance your floor and ceiling is crucial in Fantasy MLS and having the budget up front helps you earn positive results. Snagging those steadily high midfield producers plus the premium forward or two that will net you 2-3 goals in the round is essential.
Raising your floor is the idea that picking steady bonus point producers reduces the risk of lower scoring weeks. A player that goes 60 minutes with 3 consistent bonus points will always give you a 5 for the round.
The easiest way to understand floor vs ceiling is classifying where points come from. Your floor is minute points, passing points, and bonus points you can reasonably expect a player to get. These are replicable from game to game. Your ceiling is goals, assists, clean sheets, and penalties won and conceded. These are largely speculation, but you can follow trends, and some are easier to speculate than others.
Lodeiro playing a possession game against FC Cincinatti’s defensive shape lead to 6 bonus points is the perfect example of a great floor. You could reasonably expect a minimum of 6-7 points from his first round. This is great for managers as they routinely get these points. Zlatan facing off against a rebuilt Chicago defense is the perfect example of raising the ceiling. This was tasty matchup that fans would expect to produce multiple goals, hopefully by Zlatan. Unfortunately, players don’t always reach their ceiling and managers are left with little ROI.
Why this Works
After all this, some managers might ask why we don’t just use $/P as the primary metric of picking our roster. This is a great question and can be easily shown. The first thing to try is building a team that uses its budget for the best ROI. This will leave money left over and forces higher spending in the back.
Currently Ebenezer Ofori of NYCFC and Andreas Ivan of NYRB are tied at 600k $/P of all midfielders. We go down the list from there and it’s 6 spots in that we find our first premium players, Diego Valeri of Portland and Lucho Acosta of DC United. Both are currently valued at $11m compared to the $6m of Ofori and Ivan putting their $/P at 733.3k. They each earned 15 points compared to the 10 of Ofori and Ivan.
Managers might use $/P for forwards, but a lot of the best forwards are reliant on goals and assists to score fantasy points rather than bonus points. This number tends to be lower because of this. Picking the right matchups helps manager mitigate the low scoring weeks and capitalize on the best returns for the position. As we look at the current stats, Quintero is the top rated $/P forward and is a premium player and Zlatan is 18th as the 2nd best premium forward on the list.
We discussed defenders’ $/P above but left our one key factor. Murillo is the lowest $/P premium defender(started at either $6.5 or $7.0) of all defenders and is not in the top 20 $/P of defenders. There is a lot more to choose from here and not nearly the same drop off in points. Sacrificing 4-8 guaranteed points from the defense for a potential 15-20 points from the front 7 is nearly always worth it.
Why This is a Golden Rule
It’s hard to image one of the top lineups in the game not including at least 1 of Valeri, L. Acosta, or Leodeiro. It’s funny to image a world where Jordan Morris is the 2nd best striker in the league and the only man in front of him plays for Minnesota United.
It’s early in the season, so taking the numbers presented only paints a rough picture. We’ll revisit the topic of $/P when we have better data to sort through to give a clearer view.
In general, you will get enough ROI from cheap defenders to ensure a higher floor and ceiling from your front 7. These results are repeatable and generally used by the top Fantasy MLS players. As with all rules, there are times to break from them, but sticking to this one will improve your game and provide the most opportunities for success with the added perk of being able to add one or two extra elite players to your roster. Maybe this helps speculate on raising the ceiling to try and catch the leaders or maybe it gets turned in to a higher floor to maintain your current overall ranking.