How To Attack Smaller Leagues
By Jeff Tefertiller
August 14th, 2012

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 are 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 2012 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 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 at an outstanding value. 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 these 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 (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or Julio Jones), 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 one quarterback and zero wide receivers were valued in the first rounds. If we look at just the first two rounds of a ten-team draft (in terms of VBD), three quarterbacks and one wide receiver are worth a pick. Further, even with the strong showing by the elite tight ends (Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski) last year, they are not valued as Top 20 players. 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.

    It is obvious looking at the table below that smaller leagues dictate a strong nucleus of running backs.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player
    Team/Bye
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    1
    RB
    1
    Arian Foster
    Hou/8
    267
    166
    1.01
    2
    RB
    2
    Ray Rice
    Bal/8
    256
    155
    1.02
    3
    RB
    3
    LeSean McCoy
    Phi/7
    232
    131
    1.04
    4
    RB
    4
    Chris Johnson
    Ten/11
    201
    100
    1.06
    5
    RB
    5
    Matt Forte
    Chi/6
    198
    97
    2.01
    6
    RB
    6
    Darren McFadden
    Oak/5
    197
    96
    1.09
    7
    QB
    1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/10
    391
    91
    1.03
    8
    RB
    7
    DeMarco Murray
    Dal/5
    192
    91
    2.05
    9
    RB
    8
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/7
    186
    85
    2.09
    10
    RB
    9
    Trent Richardson
    Cle/10
    185
    84
    2.04
    11
    RB
    10
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Jac/6
    184
    83
    1.08
    12
    RB
    11
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/11
    183
    82
    4.04
    13
    RB
    12
    Doug Martin
    TB/5
    177
    76
    5.03
    14
    WR
    1
    Calvin Johnson
    Det/5
    210
    76
    1.05
    15
    RB
    13
    Steven Jackson
    StL/9
    176
    75
    3.04
    16
    RB
    14
    Fred Jackson
    Buf/8
    172
    71
    4.01
    17
    RB
    15
    Marshawn Lynch
    Sea/11
    170
    69
    3.07
    18
    RB
    16
    Ryan Mathews
    SD/7
    169
    68
    3.03
    19
    RB
    17
    Michael Turner
    Atl/7
    164
    63
    4.05
    20
    RB
    18
    Frank Gore
    SF/9
    161
    60
    4.08
    21
    RB
    19
    Adrian Peterson
    Min/11
    161
    60
    3.01
    22
    QB
    2
    Tom Brady
    NE/9
    357
    58
    1.07
    23
    QB
    3
    Drew Brees
    NO/6
    355
    55
    1.10
    24
    RB
    20
    Reggie Bush
    Mia/7
    155
    54
    6.01
    25
    RB
    21
    Willis McGahee
    Den/7
    155
    54
    7.08
    26
    TE
    1
    Jimmy Graham
    NO/6
    168
    51
    2.03
    27
    TE
    2
    Rob Gronkowski
    NE/9
    167
    50
    2.06
    28
    RB
    22
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/9
    150
    49
    6.07
    29
    RB
    23
    Darren Sproles
    NO/6
    149
    48
    4.06
    30
    RB
    24
    Donald Brown
    Ind/4
    147
    46
    9.05
    31
    RB
    25
    BenJarvus Green-Ellis
    Cin/8
    145
    44
    6.10
    32
    QB
    4
    Cam Newton
    Car/6
    343
    44
    2.08
    33
    RB
    26
    Isaac Redman
    Pit/4
    143
    42
    7.05
    34
    WR
    2
    Julio Jones
    Atl/7
    172
    38
    3.09
    35
    WR
    3
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Ari/10
    172
    37
    2.02
    36
    QB
    5
    Matthew Stafford
    Det/5
    333
    34
    2.07
    37
    RB
    27
    Mark Ingram
    NO/6
    132
    31
    9.09
    38
    WR
    4
    Andre Johnson
    Hou/8
    164
    29
    2.10
    39
    WR
    5
    Greg Jennings
    GB/10
    161
    27
    3.02
    40
    WR
    6
    Roddy White
    Atl/7
    161
    27
    3.05
    41
    WR
    7
    A.J. Green
    Cin/8
    161
    27
    3.08
    42
    RB
    28
    Stevan Ridley
    NE/9
    127
    26
    8.05
    43
    RB
    29
    DeAngelo Williams
    Car/6
    125
    25
    9.08
    44
    RB
    30
    Jonathan Stewart
    Car/6
    123
    22
    8.03
    45
    WR
    8
    Dez Bryant
    Dal/5
    154
    20
    5.02
    46
    WR
    9
    Percy Harvin
    Min/11
    154
    20
    5.06
    47
    RB
    31
    Roy Helu
    Was/10
    119
    18
    7.09
    48
    WR
    10
    Mike Wallace
    Pit/4
    152
    18
    4.10
    49
    RB
    32
    C.J. Spiller
    Buf/8
    118
    17
    8.06
    50
    WR
    11
    Victor Cruz
    NYG/11
    151
    17
    3.10

    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, as we progress to the 50th overall player, 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
    12
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/11
    151
    17
    4.03
    52
    WR
    13
    Steve Smith
    Car/6
    150
    16
    5.01
    53
    RB
    33
    Chris Wells
    Ari/10
    116
    15
    8.01
    54
    WR
    14
    Demaryius Thomas
    Den/7
    149
    15
    5.07
    55
    QB
    6
    Michael Vick
    Phi/7
    312
    13
    4.09
    56
    WR
    15
    Brandon Marshall
    Chi/6
    147
    12
    4.02
    57
    WR
    16
    Jordy Nelson
    GB/10
    147
    12
    4.07
    58
    RB
    34
    Peyton Hillis
    KC/7
    113
    12
    8.08
    59
    TE
    3
    Antonio Gates
    SD/7
    128
    11
    5.10
    60
    WR
    17
    Vincent Jackson
    TB/5
    145
    10
    6.04
    61
    TE
    4
    Aaron Hernandez
    NE/9
    127
    10
    6.03
    62
    WR
    18
    DeSean Jackson
    Phi/7
    144
    10
    7.04
    63
    RB
    35
    Michael Bush
    Chi/6
    110
    9
    10.08
    64
    WR
    19
    Denarius Moore
    Oak/5
    142
    8
    9.10
    65
    WR
    20
    Miles Austin
    Dal/5
    142
    8
    5.05
    66
    WR
    21
    Marques Colston
    NO/6
    141
    7
    5.04
    67
    RB
    36
    Ryan Williams
    Ari/10
    108
    7
    12.01
    68
    WR
    22
    Steve Johnson
    Buf/8
    139
    5
    7.02
    69
    QB
    7
    Eli Manning
    NYG/11
    304
    5
    5.09
    70
    PK
    1
    Stephen Gostkowski
    NE/9
    136
    5
    14.08
    71
    WR
    23
    Antonio Brown
    Pit/4
    139
    4
    7.07
    72
    QB
    8
    Philip Rivers
    SD/7
    302
    3
    6.06
    73
    DEF
    1
    San Francisco
    SF/9
    149
    2
    10.01
    74
    RB
    37
    Cedric Benson
    FA
    102
    1
    22.09
    75
    RB
    38
    Pierre Thomas
    NO/6
    101
    0
    14.02
    76
    WR
    24
    Dwayne Bowe
    KC/7
    134
    0
    6.05
    77
    WR
    25
    Wes Welker
    NE/9
    134
    0
    3.06
    78
    RB
    39
    Kevin Smith
    Det/5
    101
    0
    12.05
    79
    DEF
    2
    Philadelphia
    Phi/7
    147
    0
    12.03
    80
    WR
    26
    Torrey Smith
    Bal/8
    134
    0
    8.04
    81
    QB
    9
    Matt Ryan
    Atl/7
    299
    0
    7.10
    82
    PK
    2
    Mason Crosby
    GB/10
    130
    0
    15.07
    83
    QB
    10
    Tony Romo
    Dal/5
    299
    0
    5.08
    84
    DEF
    3
    Baltimore
    Bal/8
    146
    -1
    12.10
    85
    WR
    27
    Jeremy Maclin
    Phi/7
    133
    -1
    6.02
    86
    TE
    5
    Vernon Davis
    SF/9
    116
    -1
    7.01
    87
    TE
    6
    Jason Witten
    Dal/5
    116
    -1
    7.03
    88
    PK
    3
    David Akers
    SF/9
    128
    -2
    16.04
    89
    DEF
    4
    Chicago
    Chi/6
    144
    -2
    13.02
    90
    RB
    40
    James Starks
    GB/10
    98
    -3
    9.04
    91
    WR
    28
    Brandon Lloyd
    NE/9
    131
    -4
    6.08
    92
    WR
    29
    Eric Decker
    Den/7
    130
    -4
    8.02
    93
    PK
    4
    Randy Bullock
    Hou/8
    125
    -4
    25.10
    94
    PK
    5
    Garrett Hartley
    NO/6
    125
    -4
    18.08
    95
    TE
    7
    Jermichael Finley
    GB/10
    113
    -4
    7.06
    96
    PK
    6
    Nate Kaeding
    SD/7
    125
    -5
    20.10
    97
    DEF
    5
    New York Jets
    NYJ/9
    141
    -5
    16.01
    98
    PK
    7
    Jason Hanson
    Det/5
    124
    -5
    20.04
    99
    DEF
    6
    Pittsburgh
    Pit/4
    141
    -5
    12.07
    100
    DEF
    7
    New England
    NE/9
    140
    -5
    17.06

    When looking at the VBD spots from player 51 through 100, 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. For this reason, an owner who loads up on running backs early on can still get studs at the other positions through the first ten rounds. 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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