How To Attack Smaller Leagues
By Jeff Tefertiller
September 3rd, 2011

There is something about the eight or ten team leagues that make them a lot of fun. The size makes them much different than the standard 12-teamers. Just like with the larger leagues, it is a losing proposition to use standard draft strategies. An entirely different strategy is required to make the most of the draft. This article will specifically look at 10-team leagues using non-PPR scoring. We will examine strategies especially designed for the smaller leagues in order to best attack the draft and get the most from the roster. This will help you form a new strategy for your small-sized league.

Down to basics, what are the differences I should know about the small leagues?

  • Since there is no scarcity issues, everything is about the studs. The whole draft is focused on how to draft enough elite players to win. It is only through the studs that an owner can gain an edge over his leaguemates. The top two or three players at each position outscore the rest by tremendous amounts.

  • Knowing how to best attack the quarterback position is one of the biggest keys to small leagues? Is it necessary to select a passer early in the draft like in the bigger leagues?

  • The running back position is one where the drop-off in expected production comes earlier in 2011 than in years gone by. How can I take advantage of this phenomena?

  • With only fifty wide receivers rostered, on average, how do we gain an edge?

  • Is there is a valid reason to take a kicker or team defense early?
  • How do I best address these questions above?

  • Since we need studs in order to gain advantages, how best do I go about drafting these players? The top players at every position give their owners a huge edge. The best way to get these studs is to be proactive in your draft. When the value stagnates at one position, look for studs at another. In the first table below, we can see how a top wideout has a similar value to a large group of backs. So, why not gain an edge at receiver and select a similar rusher next round? It pays to be proactive and look for talent plateaus and drop-offs. Look for studs. A top kicker or defense might be a great pick earlier than you would think, especially if they give you a two or three points per game edge each week.

  • In smaller (eight or ten teams) leagues which start only one passer, there is no reason to address the position before the fifth round unless you get a stud on the cheap. There will be great fantasy quarterbacks available. In smaller leagues, owners want to wait on quarterback (because there are so many good options) which makes the good passers drop further. So, wait on quarterback and try to find studs at other positions.

  • We will look a little later at how weighted the values are slanted toward the backs. The ball carriers have a huge VBD value edge over the other positions so it is best to lock up as many top rushers as possible. The expected fantasy production for the players at the position has definite tiers. But, even the lesser fantasy starters are worth more than most all quarterbacks and every tight end.

  • Unless going after a bona fide stud (Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, or Hakeem Nicks), it is best to wait on the wide receiver position until ten or fifteen are off the board. There is very little difference in expected production so you might as well stock up on the position (running back) where you gain an advantage.

  • There are at least ten good kickers and team defenses so every team can have a good option. You should employ one of two strategies for the kicker position. Either take a stud earlier than you would think, or wait until ten are gone. The stud gives you an extra few points a game so it is a viable strategy. For the team defense position, it is best to play matchups with a smaller league. There will be plenty of good options available on the waiver wire each week from which to choose. Many times, it is better to have a mediocre defense with a great matchup than a good defense with a mediocre matchup.
  • When we look at the VBD (Value Based Drafting) application, we quickly realize how valued the running backs are when compared to the other positions. The VBD accounts for positional scarcity and available options at other positions using the Footballguys.com projections. It is amazing that only five quarterbacks and six wide receivers were valued in the first two rounds. The league variables used were ten teams, sixteen roster spots, non-PPR scoring, and starting requirements of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 flex, 1 kicker, and 1 team defense. The depth at the quarterback and wide receiver positions means that a fantasy owner can afford to wait on those positions while stocking up on rushers.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player
    Team/Bye
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    1
    RB
    1
    Arian Foster
    Hou/11
    233.4
    85
    1.02
    2
    QB
    1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/8
    354.8
    80
    1.08
    3
    RB
    2
    Adrian Peterson
    Min/9
    226.3
    78
    1.01
    4
    RB
    3
    Ray Rice
    Bal/5
    218.4
    70
    1.05
    5
    RB
    4
    Chris Johnson
    Ten/6
    216.7
    69
    1.03
    6
    RB
    5
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/6
    216.4
    68
    1.04
    7
    WR
    1
    Andre Johnson
    Hou/11
    190.5
    66
    1.07
    8
    QB
    2
    Michael Vick
    Phi/7
    340.1
    65
    1.10
    9
    WR
    2
    Calvin Johnson
    Det/9
    185.6
    61
    2.02
    10
    RB
    6
    LeSean McCoy
    Phi/7
    205.6
    58
    1.06
    11
    RB
    7
    Darren McFadden
    Oak/8
    203.6
    56
    2.04
    12
    WR
    3
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/7
    179.1
    54
    2.08
    13
    RB
    8
    Rashard Mendenhall
    Pit/11
    194.9
    47
    2.01
    14
    QB
    3
    Tom Brady
    NE/7
    321.7
    47
    3.03
    15
    WR
    4
    Roddy White
    Atl/8
    171.5
    47
    2.03
    16
    RB
    9
    Steven Jackson
    StL/5
    193.2
    45
    2.07
    17
    WR
    5
    Mike Wallace
    Pit/11
    168.8
    44
    3.06
    18
    RB
    10
    Matt Forte
    Chi/8
    191.4
    43
    3.01
    19
    WR
    6
    Vincent Jackson
    SD/6
    168.1
    43
    3.05
    20
    QB
    4
    Tony Romo
    Dal/5
    315.2
    40
    4.10
    21
    RB
    11
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Jac/9
    186.7
    39
    1.09
    22
    QB
    5
    Philip Rivers
    SD/6
    313.6
    39
    3.08
    23
    RB
    12
    Frank Gore
    SF/7
    185.5
    38
    2.05
    24
    RB
    13
    Peyton Hillis
    Cle/5
    184.0
    36
    3.04
    25
    WR
    7
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Ari/6
    160.4
    36
    2.09
    26
    RB
    14
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/7
    183.4
    35
    4.03
    27
    WR
    8
    DeSean Jackson
    Phi/7
    160.1
    35
    4.01
    28
    WR
    9
    Greg Jennings
    GB/8
    159.1
    34
    2.10
    29
    QB
    6
    Drew Brees
    NO/11
    308.1
    33
    3.02
    30
    RB
    15
    LeGarrette Blount
    TB/8
    177.7
    30
    4.02
    31
    QB
    7
    Peyton Manning
    Ind/11
    302.6
    28
    3.09
    32
    WR
    10
    Dwayne Bowe
    KC/6
    152.1
    27
    4.04
    33
    WR
    11
    Miles Austin
    Dal/5
    151.1
    26
    3.10
    34
    RB
    16
    Jahvid Best
    Det/9
    174.3
    26
    4.09
    35
    RB
    17
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/8
    170.8
    23
    5.01
    36
    RB
    18
    Mark Ingram
    NO/11
    170.2
    22
    5.09
    37
    WR
    12
    Mike Williams
    TB/8
    146.5
    22
    4.06
    38
    RB
    19
    Michael Turner
    Atl/8
    167.5
    20
    2.06
    39
    WR
    13
    Dez Bryant
    Dal/5
    143.2
    18
    4.08
    40
    WR
    14
    Brandon Lloyd
    Den/6
    143.1
    18
    6.02
    41
    TE
    1
    Antonio Gates
    SD/6
    130.8
    18
    4.05
    42
    WR
    15
    Reggie Wayne
    Ind/11
    141.1
    16
    3.07
    43
    WR
    16
    Santonio Holmes
    NYJ/8
    139.5
    15
    6.01
    44
    WR
    17
    Brandon Marshall
    Mia/5
    138.0
    13
    5.05
    45
    QB
    8
    Ben Roethlisberger
    Pit/11
    287.3
    12
    7.06
    46
    RB
    20
    Ryan Mathews
    SD/6
    159.7
    12
    4.07
    47
    RB
    21
    Felix Jones
    Dal/5
    159.4
    11
    6.03
    48
    WR
    18
    Mario Manningham
    NYG/7
    135.7
    11
    8.03
    49
    WR
    19
    Percy Harvin
    Min/9
    134.6
    10
    7.02
    50
    DEF
    1
    Pittsburgh
    Pit/11
    158.0
    6
    9.03

    The table above represents the Top 50 players in terms of VBD. There are a few things that jump out. As we discussed, the value of studs is immense. Notice the VBD values for the three top players in comparison to the rest of the players, even very good players. Who would have thought that these players would hold values equaling two others, who are still worth first round picks? Also, the wide receivers are just starting to gain ground on the running backs, and we will see this trend continue.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player
    Team/Bye
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    51
    WR
    20
    Steve Johnson
    Buf/7
    130.4
    6
    6.07
    52
    RB
    22
    Knowshon Moreno
    Den/6
    153.5
    6
    5.04
    53
    TE
    2
    Jermichael Finley
    GB/8
    118.1
    6
    5.10
    54
    WR
    21
    Kenny Britt
    Ten/6
    130.0
    5
    7.10
    55
    TE
    3
    Jason Witten
    Dal/5
    117.5
    5
    5.08
    56
    TE
    4
    Vernon Davis
    SF/7
    117.1
    5
    6.06
    57
    RB
    23
    Fred Jackson
    Buf/7
    152.5
    4
    7.07
    58
    WR
    22
    Wes Welker
    NE/7
    128.4
    4
    5.06
    59
    PK
    1
    Nate Kaeding
    SD/6
    132.1
    3
    14.10
    60
    WR
    23
    Austin Collie
    Ind/11
    126.2
    1
    7.09
    61
    WR
    24
    Anquan Boldin
    Bal/5
    125.2
    0
    7.01
    62
    TE
    5
    Dallas Clark
    Ind/11
    112.6
    0
    5.03
    63
    WR
    25
    Marques Colston
    NO/11
    124.8
    0
    5.07
    64
    PK
    2
    Mason Crosby
    GB/8
    127.6
    0
    17.05
    65
    RB
    24
    DeAngelo Williams
    Car/9
    147.6
    0
    5.02
    66
    WR
    26
    Santana Moss
    Was/5
    124.3
    0
    8.10
    67
    DEF
    2
    New York Jets
    NYJ/8
    149.8
    -1
    11.01
    68
    DEF
    3
    New York Giants
    NYG/7
    149.7
    -1
    15.03
    69
    QB
    9
    Matt Schaub
    Hou/11
    274.0
    -1
    6.04
    70
    WR
    27
    Mike Thomas
    Jac/9
    123.6
    -1
    10.02
    71
    RB
    25
    Marshawn Lynch
    Sea/6
    146.8
    -1
    7.08
    72
    DEF
    4
    Green Bay
    GB/8
    149.0
    -1
    9.09
    73
    PK
    3
    Alex Henery
    Phi/7
    124.5
    -3
    20.06
    74
    PK
    4
    Stephen Gostkowski
    NE/7
    124.5
    -3
    17.09
    75
    WR
    28
    Jacoby Ford
    Oak/8
    121.2
    -4
    12.02
    76
    DEF
    5
    Philadelphia
    Phi/7
    145.1
    -4
    11.06
    77
    QB
    10
    Matthew Stafford
    Det/9
    270.1
    -5
    9.08
    78
    TE
    6
    Rob Gronkowski
    NE/7
    107.2
    -5
    10.07
    79
    RB
    26
    Cedric Benson
    Cin/7
    141.7
    -6
    6.05
    80
    DEF
    6
    New England
    NE/7
    142.2
    -7
    13.01
    81
    PK
    5
    Dan Bailey
    Dal/5
    118.1
    -8
    ---
    82
    PK
    6
    Shaun Suisham
    Pit/11
    117.8
    -8
    27.06
    83
    DEF
    7
    Detroit
    Det/9
    140.3
    -8
    17.10
    84
    PK
    7
    Garrett Hartley
    NO/11
    116.8
    -9
    18.03
    85
    PK
    8
    Sebastian Janikowski
    Oak/8
    116.5
    -9
    17.08
    86
    WR
    29
    Julio Jones
    Atl/8
    115.7
    -9
    9.01
    87
    RB
    27
    Daniel Thomas
    Mia/5
    137.9
    -10
    7.04
    88
    DEF
    8
    New Orleans
    NO/11
    137.3
    -11
    17.03
    89
    PK
    9
    Neil Rackers
    Hou/11
    114.3
    -11
    17.07
    90
    QB
    11
    Matt Ryan
    Atl/8
    263.8
    -11
    6.08
    91
    RB
    28
    Ryan Grant
    GB/8
    136.4
    -12
    6.09
    92
    PK
    10
    Adam Vinatieri
    Ind/11
    112.6
    -12
    20.05
    93
    PK
    11
    Billy Cundiff
    Bal/5
    112.1
    -12
    24.04
    94
    PK
    12
    Matt Bryant
    Atl/8
    110.9
    -13
    19.03
    95
    QB
    12
    Josh Freeman
    TB/8
    261.5
    -13
    8.02
    96
    PK
    13
    Jason Hanson
    Det/9
    110.9
    -13
    ---
    97
    WR
    30
    A.J. Green
    Cin/7
    111.3
    -13
    9.04
    98
    TE
    7
    Marcedes Lewis
    Jac/9
    98.8
    -14
    9.10
    99
    DEF
    9
    Chicago
    Chi/8
    132.6
    -14
    13.04
    100
    PK
    14
    Lawrence Tynes
    NYG/7
    109.6
    -15
    26.04

    When looking at the VBD spots from player 51 through 80, the wide receivers start catching up, the value at quarterback and tight end is still apparent. As discussed above, having studs is the only way to gain an advantage. This is why the kickers are actually a decent play when the value running back and wideout plateaus.

    Every league is different but this article should help you form a winning strategy in smaller leagues.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to tefertiller@footballguys.com. Also, I am on Twitter so feel free to ask me questions there.

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