In a recent conversation with a friend that I’m in a season long fantasy league with, the topic of draft position and just how big of an advantage drafting at the top of the draft gives you. The idea is that the gap between players 1-5 and 9-12 is too wide to make up.
Obviously we know that this isn’t necessarily true. Players move in and out of that top 5 every season, but assuming it is, assuming the difference between David Johnson and Michael Thomas is the 123 points that NumberFire projects it to be, how do you make it up?
It is certainly possible to give yourself a significant advantage in the remaining rounds of your draft by not doing these two things: don’t draft a quarterback or tight end until round 8 and don’t draft a kicker or defense before the last two rounds of your draft.
Obviously there are some exceptions to this rule, if the value is simply too good to ignore, for example Brees in the 6th or Reed in the 7th, you break the rule. Otherwise, you load up with 7 RB/WR in the first 7 rounds, and 8 in the first 10 rounds.
The QB and TE positions are volatile, every season the top 20 gets completely shook up, and in the end the difference between the number 5 QB and number 12 QB in fantasy is around 1.5 PPG. The exact same thing can be said for the tight end position. Both groups are deep, and if you draft two players in the 8-15 range of the position group, you are either going to hit on one player or at worse play matchups all year.
Here is a quick look at this draft strategy in action, from one of the toughest spots in the draft order to pick, number 10:
Strategy for Rounds 1 and 2
I have been on the receiver band wagon for the past few seasons, but I think it’s about time the workhorse running back makes a comeback. How many legitimate 3 down backs exist in the NFL this season? I can name 8. Getting two on my roster in the first two rounds gives me a huge leg up on the at least 5 owners that won’t have any.
Admittedly, I got somewhat lucky having both guys available, but Gordon/Murray or Gordon/Gurley wouldn’t have been a bad start either.
Strategy for Rounds 3 and 4
Starting RB/RB/RB is less that ideal, particularly if you are in a PPR league and are drafting Isaiah Crowell. That being said, I have no interest Lynch, Pryor, or Hill here, and knew that I could get Robinson or Adams after the turn.
Allen would have been the pick in round three, but I have a rule that I have to at least see a guy play before drafting him. With Mike Williams out and way behind for the foreseeable future, if Allen has returned to form he would be the steal of the round that late.
While Crowell isn’t the sexiest pick, he’s a bell cow back running behind one of the most expensive offensive lines in the NFL. Cleveland will need to keep the ball out of their QB’s hands and out of the opponents hands if they plan to hang around in games this season. With his new deal already in place, Crowell could see a ton of carries this season as the Browns look to cash in on their investment.
Allen Robinson is one of those receivers that is dropping because he burned his owners last season. With no Julius Thomas, no Marqise Lee, an oft-injured Allen Hurns opposite, this feels like a 150 target season for Robinson.
Strategy for Rounds 5 and 6
I would have drafted Watkins or Landry had they fallen to me, but getting a fourth bell cow back in the first five rounds is a decent consolation prize. Anderson’s value has dropped because of Jamaal Charles’ arrival in Denver, but we know what the Broncos plan is for Charles: 10 touches per game, primarily in no huddle and passing down work. Anderson will see the bulk of the carries in this backfield, and all of the work around the goal line.
I took Crowder significantly ahead of his ADP here, but I think there is a chance he could become a PPR monster this season. We all know what the Redskins are replacing: 135 receptions on 216 targets between Jackson and Garcon.
They let those guys walk out the door for a reason, and it wasn’t Pryor. If it was he would have gotten more than one year. They want more Jamison Crowder… They need more Jamison Crowder. Pryor will likely take around 100 of those targets, and Crowder will take a nice chunk of the remaining 116.
Strategy for Rounds 7 and 8
It’s tough to fully endorse Moncrief without seeing Andrew Luck back healthy, but the potential upside a healthy Moncrief/Luck could have is impossible to ignore in the 6th round. Moncrief scored 7 touchdowns in under 9 games, in what was an injury-riddled 2016 season.
He is in a pile of receivers that are way undervalued in the 6th and 7th rounds, and is why loading up on RB’s in rounds 1-5 makes so much sense. If you can get 2 of Crowder, Sanders, Maclin, Garcon, and Moncrief in rounds 6 and 7, you are going to be set up for success at the receiver position. All five guys have top 20 upside, and very little downside given just how many targets they should see this season.
Speaking of targets, they are the reason I prefer Zach Ertz over Martellus Bennet, Eric Ebron, Hunter Henry, and Kyle Rudolph. Ertz already had a huge role in Pederson’s Eagles offense heading into the 2017 season. However, when the team moved Matthews that role exploded. He is now the only remaining familiar face for Wentz, and will likely see a ton of targets from 3rd down, to check down, to red zone.
Strategy for Rounds 9 and 10
I was somewhat disappointed to end up with Jameis in the 9th. I had been able to get Cam or Cousins in the 9th in previous drafts, with Mariota and Winston going ahead of them, and then Stafford or Manning in the 11th. However, as I stated in the intro to this article, the gap between Winston/Bortles and Newton/Stafford is so small it’s irrelevant.
I am consistently getting Corey Davis in the 10th. That may be a round early, but he’s a guy that is way undervalued right now just because of the number of weapons the Titans have and the fact that he’s been out. If you can get him in the 9th/10th round of your draft, jump on it. This guy is legit, he’s locked in as the starting X receiver, and can do it all. He will take a slant to the house, beat you over the top, catch lobs in the red zone, and adds some much needed speed to the Titans offense.
Some other names I like in the 9th and 10th rounds:
Marvin Jones – still the number one receiver in Detroit, will improve dramatically in year two in this offense.
John Brown – live with Palmer throughout the entire offseason, if he can stay healthy has legitimate top 15 upside.
Quarterbacks – if you don’t love the QB/WR options slotted here, and have names further down the draft board you want to target, grab two QB’s and be done with the position. Make sure you use week-to-week matchups to determine which two to pair together.
Strategy for Rounds 11 and 12
Here is another example of getting a player you like in every round of the draft. Pete Carroll will tell you exactly what he thinks about every player on his roster, and has been telling us for two years that Lockett is a superstar. After scoring 5 touchdowns in the final 7 games of his rookie campaign, Lockett’s production dipped last season as he dealt with significant injuries that slowed him way down throughout the year. He’s an explosive player that can give you a nice boom play in plus matchups.
You aren’t getting PPR players after round 10, so you might as well target a player like Lockett with big play ability, and proven role on a powerful offense.
Latavius Murray should have been off the board before round 12. Again, if your league is drafting early, and guys like Davis and Murray are dropping because they are missing preseason games, jump on the chance to steal that value. There is a significant chance that Murray takes back, and keeps, the early down and goal line work in Minnesota. If that is the case, I have 5 RB1’s on my roster in a 12 team fantasy league.
Strategy for Rounds 13, 14, and 15
I don’t play in any leagues that only have 15 roster spots, with a flex, defense and kicker. Hopefully yours don’t either. The emphasis should be in drafting the best team, not having the top spot on the waivers in the right weeks. That being said, I didn’t draft a kicker. Assuming round 16 was the final round, I would have there.
The gap between the best and worst kicker and defense is generally around 2-3 points per week. In reality, if you have the 12th best kicker or defense, you are also able to play matchups with the defenses on the waiver wire, and are likely going to be able to match or outproduce the top defenses and kickers in your league.