The Perfect FPC Draft
By Jeff Pasquino
August 25th, 2011

This is the 5th of a multi-part series. The final version will be Auction (PPR) format. A 12-team (PPR), 10-team (non-PPR), 14-team (non-PPR) and 12-team (non-PPR) have already been posted.

The Perfect FPC Draft

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I have studied, mocked, and drafted several teams in the FFPC format this year, and I have learned a great deal. The Footballguys' Players Championship (FPC) format has some unique scoring rules such as 1.5 points per catch for tight ends, two flex starter spots and also "action scoring" which gives credit for kick return scoring. Based on that information, ADP and VBD data I am able to give some thoughts as to how to approach the overall contest and also build a competitive team.

This article is loosely based upon David Dodds' Perfect Draft articles from previous years, and much can be learned from both David and those articles to account for some of the differences of the FPC from standard and even normal PPR leagues.

Now we all know that there is not one way to have a perfect draft. Based upon your draft slot and how the draft flows, draft plans must be fluid enough to adapt and change to accommodate the newfound valuable players that are falling down the draft board. This is where VBD charts and the Draft Dominator can really help, but for now we will talk about breaking the draft down into a few key "segments" and then addressing valuable players that should be available later in the draft.

This article assumes fairly educated drafters. You need to decide whether your league is full of sharks, guppies or a combination of both. Count the number of Footballguys subscriptions and compare that to the number of guys crossing off players from their magazine cheatsheet to get a feel for this if you really are unsure. Against great competition, reaching for a player at the wrong time can quickly dismantle your draft and leave you missing the key "pockets of value" that can help your chances at winning.

Before we can have the "Perfect Draft", let's define our measure of success. After the draft, your team should have these qualities:

  1. Against multiple projection sets, your team always grades out as one of the best teams. And to make your life easy, here just run your roster through our new Rate My Team application.

  2. You secured a great number of players that will outperform their draft position.

  3. You have quality depth (in the right places) to allow for bye week coverage and the inevitable injury bug.

  4. The majority of owners recognize that you have a team that should easily reach the playoffs.

These aren't absolutes, but I list them here so we know what we are trying to build.

Let's start with the two basic principles of Value Based Drafting (VBD). I will expound on them as we go through this.

  • All Players Have Value
    Don't love anyone. Don't hate anyone. Get players that will significantly outperform their draft position and you will build a winning team.

  • Understand What the Average Guy Thinks
    You may believe someone will be the 10th best WR, but if everybody else does not then you need to wait to maximize value.
  • If you do not follow these principles, you will not have a perfect draft. If you believe rookie WRs are always bad or drafting anyone over 30 is too big of an injury risk, then you will not have the perfect draft. Throw away the biases. Let value guide your draft. Let others succumb to prejudices and generalities. You are here to win your league. And you do that by getting value with every pick.

    How do we define value? Value Based Drafting (VBD) has shown us that we can compare unlike positions for comparative value. The cornerstone of VBD starts with solid projections. And these projections can be manipulated to form Top 200+ lists. For this article, I will be using the Top 300 list for PPR along with the 2010 FPC ADP Data compiled by Clayton Gray.

    Specific recommendations for a Perfect FPC Draft

    You need to approach this draft as if you are trying to end up with the best team out of the 600+ that will be playing. This is possibly the most important point. Beating 11 owners and qualifying for the big dance with a roster that can never win the event should not be the desired outcome. Things that work in your normal 12 team league can be counter-productive to fielding a winning FPC team.

    Specifically, I think these things are LOSING plays in FPC:

  • Handcuffing players with two picks in the first 8 rounds. You need to pick a side and gamble that it is correct. Handcuffs this early in a draft waste a roster spot that could easily go to another starting player in your lineup.

  • Taking a QB before Round 6. This has to do with the rules (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 flex + PPR). Take a look at how things change for the top QB as the rules change (from the VBD App):
  • 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (no flex, no PPR) - Aaron Rodgers (QB1) = 6th overall
  • 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (no flex, PPR) - Rodgers = 11h overall
  • 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (1 flex, PPR) - Rodgers = 18th overall
  • 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (2 flex, PPR) - Rodgers = 20th overall (FPC Scoring Rules)
  • This effect is even more evident when you examine where both QB3 (Drew Brees) and QB4 (Philip Rivers) end up (43rd and 50th with FPC scoring). Suffice it to say all of the elite QBs will be taken too early. Wait until the 6th or 7th round and then get ready to pounce on one of the best players left.

  • NOT taking a TE early. This is, by far, the biggest difference between the FPC and other scoring contests. With 1.5 points per catch, the Top 5-8 tight ends are elevated very high with many of them going in the first three rounds of the draft. Be prepared to step out there and get one earlier than you might expect - but there are two good benefits to this. First of all you get an elite class tight end, which many other owners are going to have. The additional benefit of an earlier run on tight ends (which happens often in FPC / FFPC drafts) is that other positions slide down the draft board accordingly. There can only be 48 players taken in the first four rounds. If 7-8 are tight ends, that means Top 20 RBs and Top 20 WRs will likely be available in Round 5.

  • Drafting a second quarterback too early. Unless you are planning on a quarterback by committee, your backup QB can wait until Rounds 11-16 of your draft. If you have a Top 7-8 quarterback you should be fine with him starting most of the time anyway. Only take two quarterbacks before Round 11 if you are going with a committee approach.

  • Drafting a first defense and/or first PK in the first 2/3 of the draft. The RBs, WRs and TEs are going to dry up. You need to have your share of these players to improve your chances that one emerges. Quite often the defenses predicted to be the elite ones to have for the coming season are not all that for fantasy purposes. Let someone else grab the Jets, Eagles or Vikings too early. Use your last picks to secure a kicker and defense and do not draft more than one.
  • I have examined a lot of strong rosters from both the Pros vs. Joes, previous seasons of the FFPC and also from my drafts and mocks this year and I believe the winning teams had this in common:

    1. Winning teams usually took the best players available in the first round, but not a quarterback. This may very well mean selecting a WR or TE based upon a late draft position. After 5 rounds, these teams usually had 2 RBs, 2 WRs and a tight end.

    2. Drafting RB, RB, RB with your first three picks is generally a LOSING strategy. In fact, the biggest key to winning is finding that all or nothing RB later in the draft so you can stockpile elite WRs in rounds 2 and 3.

    3. The most common strong start had two TEs, two RBs and two WRs after Round 6. It did not matter how the order went so long as two of each spot was rostered.

    4. Winning teams had a deep roster with deep talent pools at two or three of the non-QB spots. Teams can win with deep rosters at RB and TE, WR and TE or RB and WR. This lends itself back to drafting the best players available early in the draft.

    5. Winning teams had a solid CORE (first 6 picks) and many fliers AFTER that. These teams also were very active in the blind bidding process through the season.

    6. Some of their HOMERUNS hit (either by the draft or waivers) to give them a very solid lineup every week. These homeruns by definition are not value picks. They are swings for the fences. Most end up being whiffs, but some (when hit) catapult teams to the top of this event.

    7. Teams drafted to win their first eleven games. You need to have the best record or the most points after 11 games to play in week for the right to join the Championship bracket (where all the big money is). So choosing second half guys (rookies, drug suspensions, tough early schedules, etc with any early picks is a recipe for disaster). Wins are important NOW.

    8. All things being equal (same projected fantasy points), take the WR or TE that catches a lot of balls over the Red Zone TD producer. Guys like Jason Witten and Wes Welker excel in PPR leagues because of all of their catches. If the TDs match that pace, you could have an elite producer.

    Generally, I would look to have this positional grouping after Round 6: 2 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE.

    After Round 9 I would want to have grabbed my starting QB and two more depth players at either RB or WR. Typically a roster would have 1 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR and 2 TE.

    After Round 12 I would want to be here: 2 QB, 4 RB, 4 WR and 2 TE as I added more depth behind my flex starter candidates at RB and WR and then grabbed my QB2 in Round 12.

    Let's Have the Perfect FPC Draft

    The goal is to get you the best possible team and to make sure you don't overpay for players that can still be had a few rounds later. What I look for are players that I project significantly better than where they are being drafted. The positional analysis tracks to my projections.

    This article assumes a 12 team league using scoring that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 Def and 1 PK. It also assumes this scoring criteria: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 1 point per reception, 4 points per passing TD, 6 points per rushing/receiving TD, -1 points for interceptions.

    In a 12-team draft, there is pressure to grab the quality RBs and WRs before they are gone. In a FPC draft, there is pressure on RBs and WRs plus elite TEs. This point is important, because failure to lock up solid starters at all three spots within the first six 5-7 rounds will likely cost you a chance at competing for the title.

    Instead of concentrating on things by position, I believe the correct approach is to grab the best player available until the Top 50 are off the board. With some luck and creating the right Top 50 list, you are hopeful to still be drafting from this list when you complete the 5th round (60 picks). If you are still using this list in the 7th round, you are positioned well to make a strong run in this contest.

    Creating the Perfect 50 List for FPC Leagues

    Because ADP is a crucial barometer on when players will get drafted, I believe it's important to merge the Top 300 Players (PPR) with ADP to create a single Top 50 draft list. Here is how I create this list.

  • For players that have a value lower than ADP, use the average of the two numbers.
  • For players that have a value higher than ADP, use the value number.
  • Example: Player A has a value of 13 and an ADP of 21. His "drafting" value would be 17. (13 + 21)/2. Conversely, if Player has a value of 21 and an ADP of 13, his "drafting" value would be 21.

    Next, with the help of Clayton Gray I was able to build an ADP list for the FPC contest. The source data was the 2010 FPC ADP Data, which I compared against the current ADP for PPR to determine what FPC ADP data should look like. To do that I used the positional breakdown of the Top 60 picks and compared that ADP to the Top 60 from 2010 FPC Drafts and married up their positions. For example, the current ADP for Ahmad Bradshaw is 29 in PPR drafts, which puts him as RB14. From 2010 FPC Drafts I know that RB14 has an ADP of 33, and so on. That is how I got the FPC ADP part of the data for the next step in making the Top 50 list.

    Doing this for the Top 300 PPR List and the FPC ADP Data yields these Top 50 players (ranked from 1st to 50th).

    Rank
    FPC ADP Rank
    Diff
    Pos
    Player
    Team
    Avg
    Top 50 Rank
    1
    1
    0
    RB1
    Arian Foster
    HOU/11
    1
    1
    4
    2
    -2
    RB4
    Adrian Peterson
    MIN/9
    3
    2
    2
    3
    1
    RB2
    Ray Rice
    BAL/5
    2.5
    2.5
    6
    4
    -2
    RB5
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/6
    5
    4
    3
    7
    4
    RB3
    LeSean McCoy
    PHI/7
    5
    5
    5
    5
    0
    WR1
    Andre Johnson
    HOU/11
    5
    5
    16
    6
    -10
    RB10
    Chris Johnson
    TEN/6
    11
    6
    8
    8
    0
    WR2
    Calvin Johnson
    DET/9
    8
    8
    9
    9
    0
    WR3
    Roddy White
    ATL/8
    9
    9
    18
    10
    -8
    RB11
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    JAX/9
    14
    10
    7
    14
    7
    RB6
    Darren McFadden
    OAK/8
    10.5
    10.5
    15
    11
    -4
    WR5
    Larry Fitzgerald
    ARI/6
    13
    11
    12
    12
    0
    QB1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/8
    12
    12
    10
    15
    5
    WR4
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/7
    12.5
    12.5
    50
    13
    -37
    TE3
    Antonio Gates
    SD/6
    31.5
    13
    11
    18
    7
    RB7
    Rashard Mendenhall
    PIT/11
    14.5
    14.5
    47
    16
    -31
    TE1
    Jason Witten
    DAL/5
    31.5
    16
    22
    17
    -5
    WR7
    Greg Jennings
    GB/8
    19.5
    17
    30
    19
    -11
    WR12
    Reggie Wayne
    IND/11
    24.5
    19
    17
    22
    5
    QB2
    Michael Vick
    PHI/7
    19.5
    19.5
    14
    26
    12
    RB9
    Matt Forte
    CHI/8
    20
    20
    52
    20
    -32
    TE2
    Dallas Clark
    IND/11
    36
    20
    13
    28
    15
    RB8
    Steven Jackson
    STL/5
    20.5
    20.5
    20
    21
    1
    WR6
    Vincent Jackson
    SD/6
    20.5
    20.5
    21
    23
    2
    RB13
    Frank Gore
    SF/7
    22
    22
    60
    24
    -36
    TE4
    Jermichael Finley
    GB/8
    42
    24
    25
    25
    0
    WR8
    Mike Wallace
    PIT/11
    25
    25
    19
    33
    14
    RB12
    Peyton Hillis
    CLE/5
    26
    26
    27
    27
    0
    WR10
    Miles Austin
    DAL/5
    27
    27
    23
    35
    12
    RB14
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/7
    29
    29
    61
    29
    -32
    TE5
    Vernon Davis
    SF/7
    45
    29
    39
    30
    -9
    QB6
    Drew Brees
    NO/11
    34.5
    30
    24
    37
    13
    RB15
    Jahvid Best
    DET/9
    30.5
    30.5
    48
    31
    -17
    RB19
    Michael Turner
    ATL/8
    39.5
    31
    26
    36
    10
    WR9
    Dwayne Bowe
    KC/6
    31
    31
    34
    32
    -2
    WR15
    DeSean Jackson
    PHI/7
    33
    32
    29
    39
    10
    QB3
    Tom Brady
    NE/7
    34
    34
    72
    34
    -38
    TE6
    Owen Daniels
    HOU/11
    53
    34
    28
    41
    13
    WR11
    Brandon Marshall
    MIA/5
    34.5
    34.5
    38
    38
    0
    WR17
    Wes Welker
    NE/7
    38
    38
    35
    44
    9
    WR16
    Mike Williams
    TB/8
    39.5
    39.5
    51
    40
    -11
    RB21
    LeGarrette Blount
    TB/8
    45.5
    40
    31
    49
    18
    WR13
    Brandon Lloyd
    DEN/6
    40
    40
    32
    51
    19
    WR14
    Santonio Holmes
    NYJ/8
    41.5
    41.5
    36
    48
    12
    QB5
    Philip Rivers
    SD/6
    42
    42
    42
    42
    0
    RB17
    DeAngelo Williams
    CAR/9
    42
    42
    90
    43
    -47
    TE9
    Jimmy Graham
    NO/11
    66.5
    43
    40
    46
    6
    WR18
    Dez Bryant
    DAL/5
    43
    43
    37
    52
    15
    RB16
    Felix Jones
    DAL/5
    44.5
    44.5
    65
    45
    -20
    RB26
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/8
    55
    45

    The First 50 Players

    Essentially you are just looking to grab the best player available until this list is exhausted - but use some common sense while you do this. You must take at least one RB, one WR and one TE within the first five rounds of the draft (no exceptions). Additionally limit yourself to at most one QB or two TEs from this list. If you draft a QB because he represents value, then you must quickly address the other positions because you must catch up your depth at those key spots.

    I would pay little to no attention to bye weeks during this phase. You have plenty of time to adjust after the Top 50 players are gone. The list above only has them there for your reference - focus first on accumulating talent.

    After the Top 50 Players are Taken - Assessment / Building Your Core Phase

    The transition from the Top 50 to rounding out your team based on need is a critical one. Your analysis here can instantly turn a good draft into a great one. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your weaknesses:

  • How many backs did you secure? Is this a position of strength for your team? If the answer is no, this should be your prime objective. You will need a minimum of two to start, so if you have only two consider adding depth soon.
  • How many wide receivers did you secure? Is this a position of strength for your team? If the answer is no, this should be your prime objective. You will need a minimum of two to start, so if you have only two consider adding depth soon.
  • Did you draft a QB yet? If so consider yourself done at this position until at least Round 11 in the draft. If you have not drafted quarterback yet, do not panic. Good ones will exist throughout the draft, but if you want a Top 8 QB you better grab one as soon as possible. Otherwise grab two of the next 7-9 guys on your list and build a strong QB by committee.
  • Do you have two TEs yet? If not, consider looking hard at getting another one before the Top 15 are gone. Elite TEs are worth a good deal in 1.5 PPR leagues, plus with the dual flex rule a stud TE can serve as a nice flex starter. Grab one if there is good talent left.
  • Assess your bye week situation. If two or more of your first four players are off on the same bye week, I will usually sacrifice that week to be strong in every other week. If that is not the case, then I look to patch the holes with complimentary players that could have big weeks during these rough spots. Teams lining up against Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Denver should all yield good results during these weeks.

    As an example, Let's say you landed this team after 5 rounds (from the 4th position):

  • 4. RB Jamaal Charles, KC/6
  • 21. TE Jason Witten, Dal/5
  • 28. RB Peyton Hillis, Cle/5
  • 45. WR Santonio Holmes, NYJ/8
  • 52. WR Brandon Lloyd, Den/6
  • This is not a bad start. You have some bye week concerns in Weeks 5 and 6, but no two are at the same position. You have time to recover from that slight issues. You have two solid backs, two receivers and a stud tight end.

    So in this example your next steps would be:

  • Grab another starting running back in the next two rounds (before they dry up).
  • Add one WR in the next 3-4 rounds (without a Week 10 bye).
  • Add your starting QB in the next round or two if a Top 8 one is available.
  • Add a second TE in the next 3-4 rounds.
  • Fast-forwarding this roster, you should have 1 QB, 3 RBs, 3 WRs and 2 TEs after 9 rounds.

    Here is another example (drafting from the 11th position):

  • 11. RB Darren McFadden, OAK/8
  • 14. WR Hakeem Nicks, NYG/7
  • 35. WR Dwayne Bowe, KC/6
  • 38. TE Owen Daniels, HOU/11
  • 59. QB Tony Romo, Dal/5
  • Assessing where you are:

  • You just got your stud QB. Shut that position down for the next several rounds.
  • You have two strong starting WRs. This is not a position of need, but you should likely add one in the 8th or 9th round for depth.
  • You have just one RB. This should be your top priority since you need to start 2 each week and the good ones will dry up fast. Look to grab a RB in the next round and another in Rounds 8 or 9.
  • You have a strong TE, but do not rest here. Two studs are better than one, and with the ability to flex a TE into your lineup a second one is still desirable. Look for a Top 15 TE if still available with one of your next two picks.
  • You have no bye week issues, so you are fine there and later depth will cover any issues that develop.
  • Fast-forwarding this roster, you should have 1 QB, 3 RBs, 3 WRs and 2 TEs after 9 rounds.

    See the theme here? That's right.

    The Perfect FPC Draft should have 1 QB, 3 RBs, 3 WRs and 2 TEs after 9 rounds.

    Moving to Fill Positional Needs

    Quarterbacks

    Here are the quarterbacks that I think represent great value this year:

  • Tony Romo, Dal/5 (Value = 33, ADP = 51) at pick 4.10 or higher. This Dallas offense should be among the league's best in 2011. The Dallas pass catchers (WRs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten) create huge problems for defenses. All are exceptional at getting open in space with the WRs especially skilled at producing yards after the catch. The passing game should also carve out the middle making dump passes to Felix Jones extremely effective. Felix Jones at top speed isn't someone who will be easy to catch. He remains one of the fastest running backs in the game. This team had these pieces in place last season, but struggled trying to make Marion Barber and Roy Williams bigger pieces of the offense. Both were wildly inconsistent and both are now no longer with the team. Dez Bryant and Felix Jones will be asked to do more in 2011 and based on camp reports, both look ready to deliver on that expectation. Romo's value here is hidden because of the injury that shortened his season last year. Don't sleep on him. I generally don't like taking a QB very early, but if he is still on the board at the start of round 5, he represents too much value to pass on.

  • Ben Roethlisberger, Pit/11 (Value = 56, ADP = 70) in the 6th round or later. If you failed to land Tony Romo at the beginning of the 5th round or later, you need to set your sights on grabbing Ben Roethlisberger in the 6th round of your fantasy draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the easiest pass schedule in 2011 and a team built to exploit that fact. WR Mike Wallace has emerged as one of the best deep threats in the game. He is having a good camp and being praised that he has learned even more routes to add to his "get open deep" style. Hines Ward and Jerricho Cotchery are veterans that will run smooth routes to help move the chains. The Steelers also have an under-appreciated TE in Heath Miller and a running back who is more skilled at catching passes than advertised. Both are expected to be heavily involved in this "pass-first and pass-often" offense.
  • If you fail to land either of these players, wait until nine to ten QBs are off the board. A lull then happens and you are usually able to get QBs 11 to 14 at a significant discount since the majority of the teams that took a QB early don't want to waste another high pick on a QB when they have other needs.

    Generally the majority of these players will all still remain:

  • Josh Freeman, TB/8 (Value = 73, ADP = 78)
  • Matthew Stafford, Det/9 (Value = 71, ADP = 85)
  • Eli Manning, NYG/7 (Value = 84, ADP = 88)
  • Sam Bradford, Stl/5 (Value = 120, ADP = 91)
  • Joe Flacco, BAL/8 (Value = 89, ADP = 99)
  • Jay Cutler, Chi/8 (Value = 105, ADP = 106)
  • Kevin Kolb, Ari/6 (Value = 96, ADP = 112)
  • Of these guys, I think Freeman, Stafford, Flacco and Kolb represent the most upside. I especially like Stafford's situation where he has a great WR in Calvin Johnson and a team built on succeeding through the air. The Detroit Lions also have an improved defense and should get more chances to score because of it. When you get into this range of QBs, you should be strong at the other positions. The safe move is to grab two of these guys and play matchups. All will have some explosive weeks and all play in offenses that should favor the pass to the run in 2011.

    Late in the draft, I like these quarterback flyer picks to represent value:

  • Jason Campbell, Oak/8 (Value = 134, ADP = 211) in the 13th round or later. He had an extremely productive season in 2011 and has no competition this year to hold onto that job. The Raiders offense is better than most expect while their defense took a step back with the loss of star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Both RBs (Darren McFadden and Michael Bush) are capable pass catchers. The Oakland WRs are under-appreciated in the league, but should be good enough to move the chains.

  • Cam Newton, Car/9 (Value = 145 ADP = 184) in the 14th round or later. Although the Panthers have not yet identified the week 1 starting QB, most expect Cam Newton to be that guy. He will be very raw as a rookie, but should be able to gain enough yards and TDs rushing to be an above average fantasy player. This late you are looking for a player that has a high ceiling. Cam fits the bill.

  • Tarvaris Jackson, Sea/6 (Value = 161, ADP = 230) in the 16th round or later. This is all about the weapons the Seahawks have acquired this offseason. Adding WR Sidney Rice and TE Zach Miller instantly make this offense better. WR Mike Williams caught only 2 TDs last season, but should be a great redzone target with his frame. WR Golden Tate enters his second year and should also contribute. Jackson should also add decent rushing yardage to his totals making him more valuable as a fantasy QB than some expect. He is off to a rocky preseason start, but that only helps to lower his draft day price. He is worth stashing on your roster in the hopes it all comes together for the Seahawks this year.
  • Running Backs

    In most leagues, running backs are golden. Yes they can run and catch, but the real reason they are golden is that there simply are not enough of them to go around. But if you followed the Top 50 plan from above, you should have a nice stable of backs on your roster.

    But two or three quality backs don't make a powerhouse fantasy roster...Having depth at RB does.

    Here are the other RBs that I would target for value:

  • Felix Jones, Dal/5 (Value = 37, ADP = 49) in the late half of the fourth round or later. He is an excellent situation this year with the departure of Marion Barber. The team drafted the talented DeMarco Murray, but so far Jones has looked the part of the clear RB1 on this roster. He has game-breaking speed and should catch a lot of passes. His inability to stay healthy the past few years has pushed down his value considerably here.

  • Marshawn Lynch, Sea/6 (Value = 62, ADP = 67) in 6th round or later. He showcased his considerable talent in last year's playoffs yet gets no love in 2011. Neither Justin Forsett nor Leon Washington should steal away many carries from a healthy Lynch making him one of the safer RBs to roster this season. The Seahawks have added significant weapons in WR Sidney Rice and TE Zach Miller this offseason. Both of those players should free up running lanes for Lynch to exploit.

  • Tim Hightower, Was/5 (Value = 67, ADP = 90) in the 7th round or later. Despite a logjam at RB on the Redskins, Hightower has emerged as the clear favorite to start the year as RB1 for the team. He should see better running lanes than he ever encountered in Arizona. His pass-catching abilities could make him a sneaky pick this fantasy season.

  • Brandon Jacobs, NYG/7 (Value = 86, ADP = 124) in the 8th round or later. The Giants have indicated that Jacobs will have a bigger role in 2011 after gaining a whopping 5.6 yards per carry last season. Despite just 147 rush attempts last season, Jacobs finished with 823 rushing yards and 9 TDs. He is being drafted as an after-thought, but should have a substantial role in the Giants offense.

  • Rashad Jennings, JAX/9 (Value = 106, ADP = 126) in the 10th round or later. Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to look the worse for wear, and Jennings is poised as a handcuff to MJD’s RB1 status. Jennings was a feature back in college (Liberty) and the Jaguars love his game and want him to get more touches, even if Jones-Drew is not injured. If Jennings does get more work, he offers great RB1 upside.

  • Delone Carter, Ind/11 (Value = 149, ADP = 138) in the 13th round or later. He starts the year backing up Joseph Addai, but that might not be how the year ends. There was considerable questions whether the Colts would bring back Addai, but they did end up resigning him in the offseason. I think that has a lot more to do with making sure a less than 100% Peyton Manning stays healthy as Addai understands the blocking schemes better than the other backs on the roster. But as a runner, Addai has been pretty bad. He has logged just two 100-yard games in his last three seasons and missed considerable time due to injury in 2010. Delone Carter is the kind of player that you draft late and just wait for the opportunity.

  • Shane Vereen, NE/7 (Value = 152, ADP = 156) in the 13th round or later. Shane Vereen has not practiced much this offseason and there has been some talk the team could even put him on the injury list. I don't buy it for a second. The Patriots traded up in the NFL draft to select Vereen and I think we will see him as the starting RB before the season ends. The other backs they have on their roster (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead are nothing special. They did well when called upon last season, but they don't possess the skill set that Vereen has. Right now, Vereen's stock is dropping fast. But no one is doubting that Patriot's backs will collectively perform well this season. They just aren't thinking Vereen will be a big part of that mix. I say talent eventually wins out and Vereen's draft day plummet is your gain. Stash him away with a late pick and you can thank me later.

  • Javon Ringer, Ten/6 (Value = 183, ADP = 169) in the 15th round or later. Although I think Chris Johnson will be the starting RB for the Titans this year, I never thought this holdout would get this far. Both sides seem to be hunkering down in their respective positions. It's enough for me to pass on Chris Johnson this season at or near his ADP. Javon Ringer stands the most to gain if Chris Johnson were to miss any time.

  • Bernard Scott, Cin/7 (Value = 170, ADP = 160) in the 15th round or later. Without Carson Palmer, I suspect teams are going to stack the line to prevent the run. If preseason game 2 is any indication, Cedric Benson may not have any room to maneuver this year. I don't necessarily see Bernard Scott as a workhorse back, but I also am not in love with Benson's skill set in this offense. Add in Cedric Benson's off-field problems (that may even lead to a suspension this year) and I think Scott will get a shot at being the main RB sometime this season. This late, all you are hoping for is a chance.

  • LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ari/6 (Value = 160, ADP = 227) in the 15th round or later. No one gained more than Stephens-Howling when Ryan Williams was lost for the season. The Cardinals could still make a move for another running back, but from what I have seen, they may not need to. Stephens-Howling has a great burst and should be able to contribute both as a 3rd down and change of pace back. And with Wells injury history, you can do worse than stashing this guy on your roster just in case.

  • Toby Gerhart, Min/9 (Value = 202, ADP = 259) in the 16th round or later. I have no reason to predict that Adrian Peterson won't be stellar again this year. But if he does go down to injury, I have no doubt that Toby Gerhart would produce at a very high level. In a season where the players are getting significantly less practice and contact time, I suspect we are going to see a lot of backs pull hamstrings, tweak muscles, and miss time. This is a cheap stash that could produce big if Adrian Peterson were to miss time this year.

  • Isaac Redman, Pit/11 (Value = 212, ADP = 259) in the 17th round or later. Rashard Mendenhall is a Top 10 running back, and the clear handcuff to him is Isaac Redman. If anything were to happen to Mendenhall - or if the Steelers just want to give him a rest down by the goal line now and then - Redman is the back to have. The price is right for a high upside flyer with one of your very last draft picks.
  • Wide Receivers

    The biggest key to having a great wide receiver corps is following the Top 50 plan above and then swooping in and stealing the players that slide unnecessarily in a draft.

    Here are the other WRs that I would target for value:

  • Santonio Holmes, NYJ/8 (Value = 44, ADP = 51) in the 4th round or later. He showed he was the best WR on the Jets at the end of last year after losing time due to a suspension. The team moved Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery so I suspect Mark Sanchez will lean heavily on Holmes all year long.

  • Brandon Lloyd, Den/6 (Value = 43, ADP = 49) in the 4th round or later. He was the number one fantasy receiver last year and represents great value in drafts this year. Kyle Orton remains the QB for now which should keep Lloyd's stock up. Not enough has changed in Denver for Lloyd's stock to have plummeted to his current ADP.

  • Steve Johnson, Buf/7 (Value = 41, ADP = 53) in the 4th round or later. The Bills sent Lee Evans packing leaving very little left at the wide receiver position outside of Steve Johnson. Lee Evans opened up the underneath routes that Johnson thrived on so his departure may hurt him in one statistic (yards after the catch). But with a bunch of no names competing for looks at WR2, I expect Johnson to see a huge uptick in targets. Even if those are shorter passes, he should represent great value in drafts this year.

  • Mario Manningham, NYG/7 (Value = 44, ADP = 66) in the 5th round or later. He finished the 2010 season with three 100-yard games where he scored in all three efforts as well. The departure of Steve Smith should significantly increase Manningham's targets and production in 2011. He is a must-have player near his ADP.

  • Percy Harvin, Min/9 (Value = 43, ADP = 55) in the 5th round or later. Supposedly the migraines are in the past and if they are, I expect Percy Harvin to have a great season for the Vikings. The rest of the Vikings receivers (Berrian, Aromashodu, Jenkins) all are weak WR2 options. Veteran QB Donovan McNabb is going to figure that out quickly and I expect him to target Harvin early and often in games.

  • Santana Moss, Was/5 (Value = 58, ADP = 77) in the 6th round or later. He finished as the 18th best WR last year. At his current ADP, he could have his production slide off a cliff and he still would represent value. It's easy to hate Rex Grossman as a quarterback, but there is one thing he will do a lot of...and that's take long shots down field. Moss is 32 (and that can be a cause of concern by itself), but I think he still has at least one good season in him.

  • Mike Thomas, Jac/9 (Value = 64, ADP = 83) in the 6th round or later. This is all about opportunity. This team lacks people that can catch the ball. Mike Sims-Walker is now in St. Louis and the team did nothing to add to the WR position in free agency. Thomas should see a huge increase in targets and production this season, despite likely being double-teamed more than ever.

  • Jacoby Ford, Oak/8 (Value = 93, ADP = 108) in the 8th round or later. Another player who electrified crowds last year is sliding down draft boards as he recovers from injuries. He is too skilled to forget forever though. Look for this talented playmaker to eventually be starting again for the Raiders.

  • Lee Evans, Bal/5 (Value = 95, ADP = 131) in the 10th round or later. He has needed a change of scenery for sometime now. This speedy receiver needs time to run his long routes. In Buffalo (where they seemingly had a bottom 5 offensive line for years now), the QB was usually sacked before Lee could finished his route. Throw his past stats out the window and watch how fast he still is. I expect him to thrive in a Baltimore system that can use his skill set.

  • Denarius Moore, Oak/8 (Value = 107, ADP = 194) in the 10th round or later. He is tearing up the preseason both in practice and in the games. Every year a few players come from seemingly nowhere to become a dominant force once the games are played. He is a low-risk shot at gaining an extremely valuable player on your fantasy roster.

  • Robert Meachem, NO/11 (Value = 116, ADP = 131) in the 10th round or later. Something is just not right with Marques Colston, and Robert Meachem stands to benefit the most. Meachem was WR45 last year on just 66 targets, catching 44-638-5 for the Saints. Drew Brees crosses the 4,000 yard line with regularity, so even if Colston is fine you would have to expect more than 66 targets for Meachem this season. Meachem is available near WR50 in many drafts and offers WR3 value with WR2 upside -- that's hard to beat.

  • Nate Burleson, Det/9 (Value = 103, ADP = 150) in the 11th round or later. He is having a strong camp and has locked down the WR2 job in Detroit. With Calvin Johnson constantly drawing double-teams and defenses also keying on the explosive Jahvid Best out of the backfield, Burleson should be able to play pitch and catch with Matt Stafford in 2011. He has looked great in the preseason games, but is still flying way below the radar.

  • Andre Roberts, Ari/6 (Value = 101, ADP = 210) in the 11th round or later. He is quietly having a stellar camp and has locked down the WR2 job in Arizona opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals look like they will again have trouble running the ball so it would not shock me to see Kolb throwing a lot of passes in 2011. With Fitzgerald constantly drawing the double-team, Roberts should be able to build on his successful rookie season. His skill set is the reason the team allowed Steve Breaston to leave in free agency.

  • Earl Bennett, CHI/8 (Value = 140, ADP = 191) in the 12th round or later. Bennett and Cutler have been playing together since college, and in Mike Martz’s pass-happy system Bennett should have some nice upside value. The Bears have to protect Cutler, but with no true stud WR1 on the roster Bennett could emerge as the top target for a highly productive passing game. That is just the type of wide receiver you want to gamble on late in your draft - a low risk guy with very high upside.

  • Brandon Gibson, StL/5 (Value = 154, ADP = 259) in the 14th round or later. The St. Louis Rams have a lot of WRs that should probably be better than Gibson, but it seems their entire WR corps is injured right now. That's vaulted Gibson to running with the first team in practice and so far he is exceeding all expectations. He did manage 620 yards in a part-time role in 2010. It's not unthinkable that he emerges in his 3rd year in the league.

  • Brian Robiskie, Cle/5 (Value = 155, ADP = 259) in the 15th round or later. The Cleveland Browns will be running a version of the West Coast this season and if this preseason is any indication, they should be way more successful passing the football in 2011. QB Colt McCoy looks a lot more poised in his second year and he seems perfect to be able to execute the short passing game. The player that might be a pass-catching magnet in this offense is Brian Robiskie. He runs clean routes and has looked solid in camp. He is running with the first team and seems to have a lock on one of the WR positions.
  • Some other WRs will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the above targeted bargain list. In summary, grab quality receivers early and then wait for exceptional value to emerge at WR because it always does.

    Tight Ends

    PPR leagues do spread out the tight end scoring a lot more than standard leagues, but thanks to the 50% increase for tight ends (1.5 points per catch) this position has heightened value. Another key to tight ends is that up to three of them can start for you in any given week due to the Dual Flex rule, so make sure you have at least three viable options with your 20 selections. Typically the very elite guys go to early (Witten, Gates, and Dallas Clark) and I expect that trend to continue this season.

    The New England Patriots rolled out two rookie TEs in 2010 and those players took the league by storm. Not only is it rare for rookie TEs to even contribute in their first year, these players lined up in weird formations that caused defenses fits. It led to Tom Brady putting up ridiculous passing stats including an impressive 22 TDs with no interceptions in his last 8 regular season games last year. It should come as no surprise then to see a few other NFL teams (Carolina and Seattle) also poised to play two TEs at times in hopes of duplicating the success New England had last year. Even outside of what New England was doing, the Tight End arrived in 2010. Twenty-four TEs caught 40+ passes last year (more than any year in history).

    Because so many more teams are utilizing the TE position, there are almost always bargains at this position late in a draft. In fact once the top 7-8 names come off the board, there is minimal pressure on the TE position the rest of the draft (in leagues that start just 1 TE). It's no surprise that since TEs catch a relatively small amount of passes, primarily on short and intermediate routes (again, excluding the top tier guys), there usually isn't a great deal of variance between the fifth-best PPR TE and the 12th best. Last year the 5th best TE scored 180 fantasy points while the 12th best contributed 162 points (18 point difference or 1.1 points per game).

    So ultimately, once you get past the big TEs, you're really debating over approximately a few points per week (which is why it is wise to just wait until the later rounds to select a TE).

    The tight end that I will be targeting in most of my drafts this year is Rob Gronkowski, NE/7 (Value = 71, ADP = 73 in FPC Format) in the 6th round or later. I am betting the magic that New England deployed last year carries over into 2011 especially with the team having better receivers (Ochocinco addition, Welker fully recovered) on the field. Defenses will not be able to stop all of New England weapons and Gronkowski should be more polished in his second year. He scored ten TDs on just 59 targets. Imagine what he could do if they involve him more. He is the TE you can get outside of the top 5 that has a chance at finishing as the top TE in 2011.

    About the same time that Gronkowski will be selected, Kellen Winslow, TB/8 (Value = 77, ADP = 78 in FPC) will also likely be taken. He is a decent fallback position should you miss out on Gronkowski. I would target him in Round 7 should you not land Gronkowski because other Footballguys play in your league.

    Here are the other TEs that I think represent great value in drafts this season. Keep in mind that TEs go much earlier due to 1.5 PPR and the Dual Flex:

  • Dustin Keller, NYJ/8 (Value = 112, ADP = 117 in FPC, about TE17) in the 9th round or later. Both Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress should stretch defenses. This could easily carve out the middle of the field for Keller to exploit.

  • Jared Cook, TEN/6 (Value = 131, ADP = 124 in FPC, about TE18) in the 9th round or later. He caught fire at the end of last year posting 40+ yards receiving in 5 of his last 6 games including a 5 catch, 96 yard / 1 TD effort in week 16. The team lacks a true WR2 so Cook should see more targets in 2011.

  • Fred Davis, WAS/5 (Value = 150, ADP = 240+) in the 13th round or later. I think Chris Cooley is damaged goods. He still isn't practicing and is having his knee drained constantly. If Chris Cooley goes to IR, Fred Davis' value will skyrocket.

  • Lance Kendricks, STL/5 (Value = 169, ADP = 240+) in the 14th round or later. The rookie TE has had a good camp and should win the TE1 job for the Rams. With as many injuries as the Rams' WRs have, Kendricks could emerge as one of the better options in this offense.
  • Place Kickers

    In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate PK in the last two rounds of your draft. In leagues that draft this position real late (most leagues), look towards the second to last round to grab the one kicker you will roster. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait until their last pick to take their kickers and end up missing the good kickers by a few picks. Most likely that sleeper WR you want in the second to last round will still be there for you in the last round. In waiver wire friendly leagues (most), don't be afraid to draft just one kicker and add others as necessary during the season to cover the bye weeks and/or exploit matchups.

    The kicker I am targeting in a lot of drafts is Alex Henery. He is flying a bit under the radar because people associate Akers with the Philadelphia job.

    Defenses

    Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken. I suggest you wait until 3-4 defenses get selected and then take the Patriots defense with confidence. If you someone miss them, you can wait until a few more come off the board before grabbing the Saints. I expect both to be very good defenses this year.

    Another winning strategy to deploy after the draft for defenses is simply to look two games ahead in the waiver process. Most teams will have one or two defenses meaning that half of the defenses are available as free agent pick ups each week. By looking two to three weeks ahead at who will be playing Denver, Cleveland, Cincinnati, etc you likely can find a cheap defense that should perform well against subpar offenses. Drop this defense after their "quality game" so that you can continue to pick up other defenses that will have good weeks. Because of this strategy, I advise you to draft just one quality defense and look to play matchups the rest of the way. Every year two or three defenses are predicted to be terrible but end up playing great.

    Putting It All Together

    In Summary

    1. Use the Top 50 List to grab as much "core" talent as possible

    2. Assess your strengths and weaknesses after the Top 50 picks are gone. Look to fill in your roster as well as adding more RB, WR and TE depth should significant value be present.

    3. At the end of 9 rounds, you should have 1 QB, 3 RBs, 3 WRs and 2 TEs.

    4. QB value is available throughout the draft so just wait until it emerges. Unless you get a top guy at a reduced price, look to grab your first QB after 8 or 9 have been taken.

    5. Stockpile value wide receivers. Some will bust, but others will help you win your league. In this format, allocate no less than 7 roster spots for wide receivers. When in doubt choose younger players that have higher ceilings. To win the FPC you must connect on some cheap talent.

    6. Keep a pulse on TE throughout the draft and do not wait too long to grab your first tight end. They will go early in most drafts, but if for some reason they are falling do not hesitate to grab two studs. If there is a run on them as expected, do not wait and grab at least one of them before the studs disappear. The good news about a tight end run is that RB and WR values will fall to later rounds. Jared Cook and Dustin Keller are solid TE2s to target.

    7. Wait on defense, but don't be afraid to grab the first or second one in Round 12. If defenses go earlier than normal, wait for 6-8 defenses to be picked before you take your first. Do not add a second defense unless you feel you can spare two roster spots, but odds are a flyer on a RB or WR is a better value. Work the waiver wire weeks ahead of great matchups for value.

    8. Wait on kicker, but don't be afraid to grab the first or second on your list in round 14. If kickers go early, take the fifth to eighth kicker off the board.

    Well that is it folks. Hope you all do well in your coming drafts. Remember, the key is not to just follow the FPC Top 50 and then the Top 300 PPR Lists but to see where it differs substantially from average drafts. This is how you get value with every pick. And value is how you build winning fantasy teams.

    Here is a sample team drafted from the 7th position (All picks taken at or before their ADP).

  • Rd 1 - Pick 7 - RB LeSean McCoy, PHI/7 (ADP = 7)
  • Rd 2 - Pick 18 - WR Reggie Wayne, IND/11 (ADP = 19)
  • Rd 3 - Pick 31 - TE Jermichael Finley, GB/8 (ADP = 60, higher in FPC)
  • Rd 4 - Pick 43 - RB DeAngelo Williams, Car/9 (ADP = 42)
  • Rd 5 - Pick 55 - WR Mario Manningham, NYG/7 (ADP = 66)
  • Rd 6 - Pick 66 - TE Rob Gronkowski, NE/7 (ADP = 73 in FPC format)
  • Team breakdown: 0 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE

  • Rd 7 - Pick 79 - QB Matthew Stafford, Det/9 (ADP = 85)
  • Rd 8 - Pick 90 - QB Sam Bradford, StL/5 (ADP = 91)
  • Rd 9 - Pick 103 - WR Jacoby Ford, Oak/8 (ADP = 108)
  • Rd 10 - Pick 114 - RB Brandon Jacobs, NYG/7 (ADP = 124)
  • Team breakdown: 2 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, 2 TE

  • Rd 11 - Pick 127 - WR Lee Evans, Bal/5 (ADP = 131)
  • Rd 12 - Pick 138 - RB Delone Carter, Ind/11 (ADP = 138)
  • Rd 13 - Pick 151 - TE Fred Davis, Was/5 (ADP = 240+ but TEs go early in FPC)
  • Rd 14 - Pick 162 - New Orleans Saints defense
  • Rd 15 - Pick 175 - TE Lance Kendricks, StL/5 (ADP = 240+ but TEs go early in FPC)
  • Rd 16 - Pick 186 - WR Earl Bennett, Chi/8 (ADP = 191)
  • Rd 17 - Pick 199 - RB Toby Gerhart, Min/9 (ADP = 237)
  • Rd 18 - Pick 210 - RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ari/6 (ADP = 259)
  • Rd 19 - Pick 223 - Best kicker available
  • Rd 20 - Pick 234 - WR Brandon Gibson, StL/5 (ADP > 240)
  • Team breakdown: 2 QB, 6 RB, 6 WR, 4 TE, 1 PK and 1 D/ST

    Note: I have crafted this team to be balanced with four TEs, 6 RBs and 6 WRs. Locking up high end TE2s plus a few wideouts that could break out are never a bad idea. This is the type of balanced roster with solid upside that could vault a team like this way up the rankings should these later players take advantage of their potential.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.

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