High Floors or High Ceilings
By Ryan Hester
August 30th, 2012

Every year leading up to draft season, there are players described as "safe" or as "players with high floors." There are others who are more risky, "high-ceiling" players. Many people single themselves or their league-mates out as the risk-averse type or as the gambling type. The risk-averse group will say that they take fliers in late rounds, but everyone does that. If we truly knew what we were getting from guys picked after the 10th round, they'd be getting picked higher (or not at all).

For the purposes of this exercise, we'll be picking 5th in a 12-team standard league snake draft. We'll look at players whose Consensus ADP's (average of all five fields on the FBG ADP page last updated on 8/20) are within a reasonable number slots of our pick. At the end, we'll have two teams from which we'll pick the best mix of players (one per round obviously).

First of all, this strategy will keep your opponents guessing. Secondly, having some high-floor players will keep your team competitive when your "boom or bust" guys don't boom. I believe a championship team can't just have safe players though. Whether it be drafting or acquiring through the waiver wire, every successful fantasy team has players that can win them a week almost on their own.

Players highlighted in GREEN are "high floor, low ceiling" players while players highlighted in PURPLE are "high ceiling but potentially low floor" guys. Please keep in mind that having Ray Rice as a GREEN player doesn't mean I think his ceiling is lower than Ryan Mathews because Mathews is a PURPLE player. The designations are simply given relative to other players in the same round. The italicized players are the actual selections used.

Rounds 1-3

Round
Player
Pos Rank
ADP
1
LeSean McCoy
RB3
3.50
1
Calvin Johnson
WR1
6.17
1
Tom Brady
QB2
6.17
1
Chris Johnson
RB4
7.33
1
Drew Brees
QB3
8.17
1
Darren McFadden
RB5
10.50
2
Adrian Peterson
RB9
19.67
2
Jamaal Charles
RB10
20.83
2
Marshawn Lynch
RB11
21.50
2
Julio Jones
WR4
22.00
3
Ryan Mathews
RB13
26.00
3
Roddy White
WR8
26.50
3
Trent Richardson
RB14
27.83
3
Brandon Marshall
WR9
31.83
3
Fred Jackson
RB15
31.83

It's hard to say anyone in Round 1 is without a high floor. But a truly conservative owner may just go for as sure of a thing as possible, and Brady certainly fits that bill. A player who is more willing to take risks looks at McFadden and sees a player who is a top-three RB when he plays.

Rounds 2 and 3 begin to get interesting as there are multiple high floor players but also multiple guys who could win his owners a matchup in any given week with Julio Jones and Ryan Mathews. Jones is a physical beast who could go for 150 yards and two touchdowns multiple times throughout the season.

Mathews is a player who was being considered a top-five overall pick before breaking his collarbone in the first preseason game. A risky owner would pick Mathews for that top-five talent and not be dissuaded by the one or two games he might miss early. The conservative player, though, makes sure to snag his second running back in Fred Jackson a guy who will provide consistency.

Rounds 4-6

Round
Player
Pos Rank
ADP
4
Mike Wallace
WR15
44.33
4
Marques Colston
WR16
46.00
4
Eli Manning
QB7
46.00
4
Percy Harvin
WR17
46.50
4
Doug Martin
RB20
47.67
4
Demaryius Thomas
WR18
50.50
5
Aaron Hernandez
TE4
53.67
5
Matt Ryan
QB8
54.67
5
Tony Romo
QB9
54.67
5
Peyton Manning
QB10
54.83
5
Brandon Lloyd
WR20
55.83
5
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
RB22
57.00
6
Steve Johnson
WR24
61.67
6
Antonio Brown
WR25
62.67
6
DeSean Jackson
WR26
63.50
6
Eric Decker
WR27
65.17
6
Jason Witten
TE7
70.67
6
Jonathan Stewart
RB25
73.83
6
Isaac Redman
RB26
73.83
6
Peyton Hillis
RB27
74.00

Round 4 is where the teams really begin to reach a pivotal point. As you can see, in the portion around our draft position, almost every player fits one of these teams. Marques Colston leads the charge for our safe team. You know what you're getting with him. Doug Martin, Percy Harvin, and Demaryius Thomas all represent players whose paths to fantasy stardom don't have many impediments along the way. This owner chose Harvin, though, because of the ability to break a game wide open any time he touches the ball and the many ways in which he gets that opportunity.

In Round 5, Brandon Lloyd jumped off the page as the player who the gambling fantasy owner would grab. He's one of many weapons in the New England offense, but his reunion with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels gives many owners a memory of 2010 when Lloyd was the top receiver in all of fantasy-land. Safety First believes that tight end is a more predictable position, so he grabs Hernandez who is either third or fourth at the position on nearly everyone's list.

Round 6 sees our first potential "reach" when The Risk Takers grab Peyton Hillis. He's healthy again this year; he's reunited with former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll; and he's on a team that wants to run the ball 500 times this season. On the other side, Eric Decker won't break a game open, but he'll catch a lot of passes and could end up being Peyton Manning's security blanket a solid #2 WR.

Let's look at the rosters through six rounds:

Safety First
Risk Takers
Pos
Player
Pos
Player
QB
Tom Brady
QB
RB
Marshawn Lynch
RB
Darren McFadden
RB
Fred Jackson
RB
Ryan Mathews
RB
RB
Peyton Hillis
WR
Marques Colston
WR
Julio Jones
WR
Eric Decker
WR
Percy Harvin
WR
WR
Brandon Lloyd
TE
Aaron Hernandez
TE

And now, back to drafting.

Rounds 7-9

Round
Player
Pos rank
ADP
7
Torrey Smith
WR29
78.33
7
Robert Griffin III
QB12
78.67
7
Roy Helu
RB29
80.00
7
Stevan Ridley
RB30
80.33
7
Donald Brown
RB31
80.67
7
Reggie Wayne
WR30
82.00
8
Kevin Smith
RB35
89.00
8
Ben Tate
RB36
89.17
8
Jay Cutler
QB14
90.17
8
Brandon Pettigrew
TE9
90.17
8
Tony Gonzalez
TE10
90.33
8
Matt Schaub
QB15
91.17
8
Kenny Britt
WR32
92.83
9
Michael Bush
RB37
101.33
9
Jacob Tamme
TE11
106.33
9
Titus Young
WR36
106.67
9
Darrius Heyward-Bey
WR37
107.00
9
Cedric Benson
RB38
107.17
9
David Wilson
RB39
108.00

The Risk Takers are going for broke with Robert Griffin III. Even if Griffin ends the year as the #8 QB, this pick represents tremendous value. His best tools deep accuracy and athleticism could lead him to a higher finish than that.

The Risk Takers also waited on a tight end, but Brandon Pettigrew was still available in Round 8. He's going as TE9, but on a pass-first offense, he has a top-five ceiling. Kenny Britt may seem too risky for Safety First, but he's less risky when you consider he represents the team's #4 WR.

In Round 9, Michael Bush is a high-upside backup but also fits the bill of a backup on a safe owner's team due to his goal line presence and the 10-15 touches per game he'll get. The Risk Takers have been shooting for the moon all draft long, so why would they stop here? Darrius Heyward-Bey has a huge ceiling.

Rounds 10-12

Round
Player
Pos rank
ADP
10
Lance Moore
WR42
118.17
10
Houston Texans
TD5
119.33
10
Randy Moss
WR43
120.50
11
Carson Palmer
QB18
124.83
11
Jahvid Best
RB44
126.83
11
Green Bay Packers
TD7
129.67
11
Sidney Rice
WR45
129.83
11
David Akers
PK1
130.83
11
Andy Dalton
QB19
131.17
11
Jacquizz Rodgers
RB45
132.00
12
Pierre Thomas
RB46
134.50
12
Austin Collie
WR47
138.83
12
Mason Crosby
PK3
141.33
12
Daniel Thomas
RB48
142.50
12
Ryan Fitzpatrick
QB21
144.17
12
Evan Royster
RB49
144.67

Take note that Safety First has zero highlighted players in Round 11 but two in Round 12. This owner needed a running back and liked what Pierre Thomas had to offer over Jahvid Best (who isn't even practicing yet) and Jacquizz Rodgers. The Risk Takers continue to go for broke with Randy Moss and Jacquizz Rodgers two sleepers on the opposite ends of the age spectrum. They also grab Ryan Fitzpatrick as a committee quarterback in case they were wrong with their expectations of Griffin III.

Here are the current rosters.

Safety First
Risk Takers
Pos
Player
Pos
Player
QB
Tom Brady
QB
Robert Griffin III
QB
QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB
Marshawn Lynch
RB
Darren McFadden
RB
Fred Jackson
RB
Ryan Mathews
RB
Michael Bush
RB
Peyton Hillis
RB
Pierre Thomas
RB
Jacquizz Rodgers
RB
Daniel Thomas
RB
WR
Marques Colston
WR
Julio Jones
WR
Eric Decker
WR
Percy Harvin
WR
Reggie Wayne
WR
Brandon Lloyd
WR
Kenny Britt
WR
Darrius Heyward-Bey
WR
Lance Moore
WR
Randy Moss
TE
Aaron Hernandez
TE
Brandon Pettigrew

Round-by-Round Breakdown

Let's look at the selections made by the two teams on a round-by-round basis so we can more easily build our "super team."

Safety First
Risk Takers
Rnd
Player
Rnd
Player
1
Tom Brady
1
Darren McFadden
2
Marshawn Lynch
2
Julio Jones
3
Fred Jackson
3
Ryan Mathews
4
Marques Colston
4
Percy Harvin
5
Aaron Hernandez
5
Brandon Lloyd
6
Eric Decker
6
Peyton Hillis
7
Reggie Wayne
7
Robert Griffin III
8
Kenny Britt
8
Brandon Pettigrew
9
Michael Bush
9
Darrius Heyward-Bey
10
Lance Moore
10
Randy Moss
11
Pierre Thomas
11
Jacquizz Rodgers
12
Daniel Thomas
12
Ryan Fitzpatrick

Below, I've highlighted my selections from each round and laid out the "Super Team."

Safety First
Risk Takers
Rnd
Player
Rnd
Player
1
Tom Brady
1
Darren McFadden
2
Marshawn Lynch
2
Julio Jones
3
Fred Jackson
3
Ryan Mathews
4
Marques Colston
4
Percy Harvin
5
Aaron Hernandez
5
Brandon Lloyd
6
Eric Decker
6
Peyton Hillis
7
Reggie Wayne
7
Robert Griffin III
8
Kenny Britt
8
Brandon Pettigrew
9
Michael Bush
9
Darrius Heyward-Bey
10
Lance Moore
10
Randy Moss
11
Pierre Thomas
11
Jacquizz Rodgers
12
Daniel Thomas
12
Ryan Fitzpatrick

The Super Team

Pos
Player
Round
QB
Robert Griffin III
7
QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick
12
RB
Darren McFadden
1
RB
Fred Jackson
3
RB
Peyton Hillis
6
RB (flex)
Michael Bush
9
RB (flex)
Jacquizz Rodgers
11
WR
Julio Jones
2
WR
Percy Harvin
4
WR
Kenny Britt
8
WR (flex)
Lance Moore
10
TE
Aaron Hernandez
5

What this team may lack at quarterback, it more than makes up for in unbelievable promise and established talent at the other positions. Even if McFadden suffers another injury, starting Jackson, Hillis, and either Bush or Rodgers at flex is still quite strong. The depth at running back here also provides some trade possibilities to upgrade the quarterback position during the course of the season.

If I could draft a team with a top-five RB, a top-four WR, and a top-three TE as my every-week-no-matter-what starters, I'd be happy. If that team also had a top-15 RB and two additional top-20 WRs, I'd be thrilled. The bench is filled with proven talents (Moore), sleepers with upside (Rodgers), and guys who offer both (Britt and Bush).

Summary

I'd recommend doing an exercise like this and/or one of the many, many others provided by the Footballguys staff in the past few weeks before your draft. Get to know your opponents and what rankings lists they prefer, grab an ADP list (there's one sortable and customizable by multiple sources available here on the site), and perform this exercise for your draft slot. If you're 5th or close to it, I already did it for you. If you're not, pick an acceptable range such as one or two slots either way around your pick and determine the range of players that will most likely be available to you.

While many things change during a draft, you'll find that most of your preparation will help you. For instance, there will inevitably be more than one player you like in a certain round. Should the one you don't pick slide, you'll definitely know who to pick at a great value in the next round. Preparation leads to domination!

Please ask questions or send comments to me by email at hester@footballguys.com.

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