Stacking: By the Numbers

By: Randall Blakeslee @_fantasykings
Stacking: By the Numbers

It is the age-old question, “should I draft to stack players outside of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)?” Stacking, which is pairing a QB with a WR or TE from the same team, is a popular gaming method in DFS. If you have Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. in your DFS lineup, every time OBJ scores a TD, instead of 6 points per TD, you get 10 (4 points for Manning’s passing TD + 6 points for OBJ’s receiving touchdown). However, how does this translate in season long, redraft leagues?

In 2017, Eli Manning finished outside the top 20. He scored 216 points on the season, 182 points behind the league’s top QB, Russell Wilson.1 I do not think I ever went into a draft thinking, “I need to target Eli this year.” Other than picking him up off of the waiver wire in 2015, where he threw for 4,436 yards and 35 TDs, Eli is not a typical redraft, must-have target. He is currently owned by only 23% of the teams on Yahoo, which speaks volumes. So, we circle back to the initial question, “do I purposely draft to stack?”

Believe it or not, there are times where strategically drafting a stack works. Yahoo’s MVPs of the 2017 Fantasy Football Season honorably mentioned Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, both finishing second at the position in fantasy.2 Meaning, a lot of last year’s championship teams featured one or the other, if not both. They were definitely stacked on a bunch of winning squads.

The key to stacking – or even basic drafting strategy for that matter – in season long leagues is drafting the best player available in each round without reaching. By reaching, I mean drafting a player entirely too early based on their Average Draft Position (ADP) and for the most part, based on common sense. If you are going to stack, do it right. If you draft Antonio Brown at his current ADP at 4.8, you must target Big Ben at or above his current ADP at 99.1 (10th round) and not reach for him.3 If drafted properly, you do not miss out on those valuable early to mid-round targets by reaching for Ben prior to the 10th. Chances are, Ben is not a reachable QB for a lot of managers even though he is owned by 93% of players on Yahoo. It is also worth noting he finished the 9th QB overall in 2017 and AB finished the way he normally does, on top. Targeting this particular stack likely gives you a good return on your investment (ROI).

The problem occurs when trying to stack a QB and WR combo with ADPs within the first three rounds. If your stack targets are Rodgers (ADP 2.8) and Adams (ADP 2.3), you have to reach for one or the other in the first round. On average, both are being drafted within the first two rounds. If you’re like me and wait on drafting a QB, this stack target is not feasible. Granted, the ROI is worth it if Rodgers comes close to replicating his 2016 numbers, tossing 4,428 yards and 40 TDs and rushing for 369 yards and 4 TDs (446 glorious fantasy points) and Adams is the beneficiary of 25% of those yards and TDs.

So, I did not scare you off and now you want to make an informed decision when targeting a stack for your next draft. Good for you. I am proud, but cautiously optimistic. The best way to determine your strategy is to do what the “experts” do. Compile and run the numbers. So, for your researching pleasure, I did it for you.

Note: For Rodgers, Luck, Odell, and Hilton, 2016 numbers were used respectively for a more accurate depiction of their potential floor to ceiling.

When you look at the data, keep in mind that if you stack, every receiving yard and TD your WR/TE catches correlates with the stacked QB in your line up. When Luck tosses a dime to TY Hilton for 50 yards and a trip to the end zone, you just scored 17 standard scoring points on one play:

4 pts – passing TD
6 pts – receiving TD
5 pts – receiving yards (1 pt per 10 yards)
2 pts – passing yards (1 pt per 25 yards)

I know what you are thinking, “what stack targets do you recommend?” I am glad you asked. Here are my top 3 stacks that will not break the draft bank for obtaining both picks and highly likely to give you a ROI that you are happy with:

Luck and TY – In case you forgot, Luck finished as the top fantasy QB in 2014, throwing for 4,761 yards and 40 TDs, adding 273 yards on the ground with 3 TDs. His following season was cut short with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. He bounced back in 2016, finishing as the #4 QB in fantasy, only to sit out all last season due to a very, very troubled shoulder.

Now he is back and looks healthy this preseason. He is a prime candidate to bounce back in a big way, especially since the Colts’ defense ranks dead last in most rankings. Ergo, Luck is running for his life and passing to catch up. Luck is currently sitting until the 11th round. Grab TY in the 3rd or 4th and come back around for Luck.

Big Ben and AB – I fairly covered this stack five paragraphs ago. If you target WRs in the first round or AB is the best player available when you are on the clock, grab him with pride and come back around to Ben at or around the 10th. Nothing wrong with going after AB at any position in the first round, especially in PPR. Besides raw talent, do you know what makes a WR a top tier fantasy play? Receptions to targets ratio. AB’s receptions/targets over the past 5 years:

2017 — 101/163 (61.9%)
2016 — 106/155 (68.4%)
2015 — 136/193 (68.4%)
2014 — 129/182 (70.9%)
2013 — 110/165 (66.7%)

If Le’Veon Bell, Ben, and AB are on the field throughout the entire season, expect Ben to continue to pepper AB with targets like he is mad at him. I must caveat with the fact that I am personally fading AB this year. I know. I know. I am crazy. I am not arguing that fact. I just feel since AB is already hurt and 30 years of age, the PPR king has to start to decline at some point. Again, I know I am in the minority here. I can live with that.

Brees and Michael Thomas – Thomas quietly finished as the 6th best fantasy WR last year, catching 101 targets, posting 1,245 yards and 5 TDs. Brees finished outside the top 6 (11th) for the first time in five years, meaning his ADP is manageable this year. The Saints’ defense improved exponentially in 2017 and ground game took on a fantasy life all on its own. Both equate to Brees not having to sling the rock as often. However, this opens up room for improvement and balance for one of the more accurate QBs in the league. This stack is my favorite on the year.

If Brown, Hopkins, and OBJ are off the board, I target Thomas next. Yes, even over Julio Jones. During his first two years in the league, Thomas averages 98 receptions, 1,191 receiving yards, and 7 TDs. While Julio’s yards are always insanely high, he only posted double digit TDs (10) once in his career, back in 2012. I digress.

The below ©NFL Next Gen stats graph highlights the connection between Thomas’ week 15 routes, where he caught 9 receptions, 93 yards, and 1 TD. It also shows Drew’s more accurate and effective passing areas on the field. I overlayed both of their charts to present the graphical representation of their connection and what makes them a solid pair to own. 4

Honorable Mentions for 2018

Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs
Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins
Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin


Yes, it can be beneficial to properly stack your QB with a WR or TE in season-long, redraft leagues. No, you should not go into your draft with stacking as your top focus or even a secondary for that matter. The majority of the time the draft will not play out as you hope. However, once you have your top WR on your board, think about the possibility of drafting the appropriate QB to stack if it is a QB you normally target or would not mind having on your roster. With that, happy drafting and good luck!

  3. (ADPs via draft analysis)