It’s finally that time of year- draft season. You and your buddies have gathered around to celebrate the return of the NFL and, with it, the revival of your league. The smell of your friend’s special mac’n’cheese that you can never seem to remake fills the room. Poorly placed balloons and talking can be heard in the background. You proceed to scarf food down and enjoy the company of you league-mates until a shout can be heard. The commissioner has announced the draft will be starting soon. Casually you pull out your phone and open your fantasy app of choice. It’s been a while so the app has updated and you struggle to get into the lobby but you eventually make your way there. You always do.
Finally the draft begins and you have the pick you didn’t want. Well shoot. At least this can’t get any worse right? Scanning through the queue you begin to realize it can. You barely prepared for the draft and have no clue who you want. All that trash talk you spewed while helping yourself to the mac’ fills you with a heavy feeling of dread. Your wallet on the other hand begins to feel empty as you remember how much money you put in this league.
I’m here to make sure this isn’t you come draft night. Here I’ll help you find the strategy that’s right for you. But don’t worry, I won’t be shoving my ideas down your throat. I’m just a fan-alyst after all. Instead I’ll guide you through the 3 most popular draft strategies that I have seen in the fantasy community (zero-RB, RB-heavy, and value-based drafting) and give you an idea as to whether that’s the right one for you or not.
Without further ado, enjoy!
(Note: All ADPs are referenced from 4for4.com)
Out of the three I’ll be covering, this approach is by far the most polarizing in the community. Some live and die by it, others refuse to even think about it. Regardless where you fall on this spectrum I highly recommend you keep an open mind. For I believe 2018 might be the best year to deploy this strategy yet.
All of you who despise this approach are already thinking to yourself what a fool I am, but let’s look at the ‘why’ before jumping to conclusions.
The zero-RB strat’ involves acquiring talent everywhere but RB until round 6 or 7. Activists believe RBs are too risky so they go for a mixture of pass-catcher RBs, veterans in committees, and lotto tickets later on with the hopes of sheer volume overcoming their lack of elite talent at the position.
In all honesty it is pretty risky. However RB is more deep than it has been in a while and better talent can be acquired later in the draft than we’re used to. Players like Marshawn Lynch and Duke Johnson are almost always available at round 6 or later. Furthermore, the surplus of middling talent in the middle rounds tends to leak into the bottom half of the draft allowing one to snag discounts like Royce Freeman.
My recommendation is to start taking RBs at round 5. By doing so you greatly improve your odds of getting the RBs previously named or the others that occasionally fall into round 5 but not 6 (i.e. Kenyan Drake). Leaving your team with a healthy enough balance of solid contributors and high-upside characters to succeed during the season.
However I only recommend this strategy to those in leagues that grant 0.5 PPR or higher. Mainly because pass catching RBs can be had late in drafts and give you a solid 8-12 points per week each. Regardless of format, be sure to target rookie RBs too. They made up 4 of the top 10 in PPR last year and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened again.
You can find all the RBs I recommend for zero-RB truthers below.
RBs with ADPs: Royce Freeman, Marshawn Lynch, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Duke Johnson, Kerryon Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, Jordan Wilkins, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Peyton Barber, Giovani Bernard, and Matt Breida.
For every yin there is a yang. RB-heavy is the sister of zero-RB. As the name implies, it involves acquiring as much talent at running back as possible in order to compensate for the risk that comes with drafting said position.
It’s a solid idea considering the league is in the early stages of a pass happy era. Thanks to the leagues tendency to throw it, plenty of value can be found at QB and WR late in drafts. Many of the top TE talents have struggled with injury or carry significant risk with them in 2018 so waiting on them isn’t a bad idea either. Especially with young guys like preseason-phenom David Njoku and Travis Kelce 2.0 AKA Trey Burton available in the mid to late rounds.
On top of that, more passing means less rushing and the number of workhorse RBs in the NFL has dropped as a result. High demand and low supply prevents everyone from getting bell-cows therefore justifying moderate reaching for anyone with high potential to be one. Furthermore, by using data from fantraxhq.com I was able to determine RB1s tend to outscore WR1s. RB1s and WR1s being defined as a top-12 player at their position.
To give you an idea of how significant the difference between an RB1 and a WR1 is take a look below.
A 9 year window of data doesn’t lie. RB1s bring more value to a team than WR1s. The only year this wasn’t the case, 2016, was the result of an abnormally high number of injured RBs. Hence, it’s better to invest in running backs than receivers in order to maximize your scoring.
Nonetheless, I recommend this strategy to beginners or casual players as a surplus of RBs makes it hard for your team to finish worse than .500. Just be prepared for hardship at receiver as finding a WR1 in the late rounds is hard and you may not be lucky enough to grab the next Odell off the waivers. Considering receiver will likely be your weak link, I have provided several affordable ones below.
Notable WRs with an ADPs round 6 or lower: Chris Hogan, Sammy Watkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Will Fuller, Marquise Goodwin, Jamison Crowder, Robby Anderson, Kenny Stills, Nelson Agholor, Jordy Nelson, Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller, Tyler Lockett, Mike Williams, Chris Godwin, and Kenny Golladay.
Here we come to the community-favorite method. Value based drafting involves taking the best value left on the board. Once again, the name makes this a huge shocker.
The last con being the main reason many avoid this method. My solution is to trade the position you have surplus of early in the season. A risky move as there may be no suitors. However it should work as someone should be thin at your position of surplus due to you hogging the higher end talent during the draft.
If that doesn’t work you’ll have to rely heavily on your ability to acquire talent via the waiver wire. Therefore it’s not for the faint of heart. I suggest only experienced players and football junkies use this approach.
Talent likely to fall that I recommend value drafters to take include: Melvin Gordon, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Devonta Freeman, Steffon Diggs, Zach Ertz, Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry, Marvin Jones, Royce Freeman, Dion Lewis, Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead, Will Fuller, Kyle Rudolph, and Trey Burton
My personal preference is the zero-RB strategy in 2018. The large gap separating the top tier receivers from the rest of their pack and volume of upside RBs this year make it hard to think otherwise. However this is my opinion. I won’t force you to do the same.
Regardless of which strategy is your favorite, it’s important to remember one thing: Be flexible. Just because I’m a fan of the zero-RB method doesn’t mean I always abide by it. Draft based off the flow of the draft. This doesn’t necessarily mean cave-in when a run on a position occurs. Rather, it means to take what’s best for your team at all times. If the best fit feels like too far of a reach, don’t do it. Opt for better value instead.
Forcing yourself down a narrow mindset will put you in the same boat as the anonymous draftee described in the intro. Winning your league comes down to flexibility, strategies just help. Keep this in mind and you’ll certainly be feeling better about your team than your recreation of your friend’s famous draft day meal.