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How To Attack Smaller Leagues

Strategy on Attacking Your Smaller League Draft

Small leagues are a lot of fun.  There is something about the eight or ten team leagues that make them enjoyable.  Maybe, it is having a team full of very good players.  The size makes them much different than the standard twelve team leagues.  Just like with the larger or two-quarterback 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 ten 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?

a.  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.

b.  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?

c.  The running back position is one where the drop-off in expected production comes later in 2016 than in years gone by, especially in non-PPR leagues.  How can I take advantage of this phenomena?

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

e.  Is there is a valid reason to take a kicker or team defense early?

How do I best address these questions above?

a.  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 the top wideout (Antonio Brown) has a similar value to a large tier of backs, and the next two receivers are not far behind.  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.

b. In smaller (eight or ten teams) leagues which start only one passer, there is no reason to address the position before the eighth 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 a quarterback (because there are so many good options) which makes the good passers drop further.  So, wait on a quarterback and try to find studs at other positions.  It is best to wait until there are eight quarterbacks off the board before even looking at selecting a passer.  You may even want to consider waiting until some teams start taking backups and take two of the tier with Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers.

c.  We will look a little later at how weighted the values are heavily 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 every quarterback – yes, even Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers - and every tight end, even Rob Gronkowski.

d.  Unless going after a bona fide stud (e.g., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, or A.J. Green), 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 – especially in non-PPR leagues - so you might as well stock up on the position (running back) where you gain an advantage.

e.    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 there is just one quarterback and one tight end valued in the first two rounds.  If we look at just the first two rounds of a ten-team draft (in terms of VBD), ten running backs and eight wide receivers are worth a pick.  Further, even with the strong showing by Rob Gronkowski last year, he is barely a Top 10 player.  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

Player

Team

Pts

ADP

VBD

1

RB1

Todd Gurley

LA/8

237

3

105

2

WR1

Antonio Brown

PIT/8

234

1

102

3

RB2

David Johnson

ARI/9

232

6

99

4

WR2

Odell Beckham Jr

NYG/8

224

2

92

5

WR3

Julio Jones

ATL/11

224

4

91

6

RB3

Ezekiel Elliott

DAL/7

218

8

86

7

RB4

Adrian Peterson

MIN/6

213

5

81

8

RB5

Jamaal Charles

KC/5

209

17

76

9

TE1

Rob Gronkowski

NE/9

179

9

75

10

RB6

Lamar Miller

HOU/9

206

13

74

11

RB7

Devonta Freeman

ATL/11

204

15

72

12

WR4

DeAndre Hopkins

HOU/9

197

7

65

13

WR5

A.J. Green

CIN/9

197

11

65

14

RB8

Mark Ingram

NO/5

193

26

61

15

RB9

LeVeon Bell

PIT/8

193

10

61

16

RB10

Doug Martin

TB/6

192

21

60

17

QB1

Cam Newton

CAR/7

388

19

59

18

WR6

Jordy Nelson

GB/4

186

16

54

19

WR7

Dez Bryant

DAL/7

183

12

51

20

WR8

Allen Robinson

JAX/5

180

14

47

21

RB11

LeSean McCoy

BUF/10

179

30

47

22

RB12

Eddie Lacy

GB/4

178

22

46

23

RB13

C.J. Anderson

DEN/11

178

36

46

24

WR9

Brandon Marshall

NYJ/11

177

24

45

25

RB14

Matt Forte

NYJ/11

176

35

44

26

QB2

Aaron Rodgers

GB/4

374

28

45

27

WR10

Alshon Jeffery

CHI/9

173

18

41

28

WR11

T.Y. Hilton

IND/10

171

31

39

29

RB15

Thomas Rawls

SEA/5

169

33

37

30

WR12

Mike Evans

TB/6

168

20

36

31

QB3

Russell Wilson

SEA/5

366

43

37

32

RB16

Carlos Hyde

SF/8

166

39

34

33

WR13

Demaryius Thomas

DEN/11

166

32

34

34

RB17

Latavius Murray

OAK/10

166

41

34

35

WR14

Amari Cooper

OAK/10

164

23

32

36

WR15

Sammy Watkins

BUF/10

163

29

31

37

QB4

Andrew Luck

IND/10

361

40

31

38

WR16

Keenan Allen

SD/11

161

25

28

39

WR17

Brandin Cooks

NO/5

159

27

27

40

TE2

Greg Olsen

CAR/7

131

45

27

41

TE3

Jordan Reed

WAS/9

130

37

26

42

RB18

Ryan Mathews

PHI/4

157

60

25

43

QB5

Drew Brees

NO/5

355

52

25

44

RB19

Dion Lewis

NE/9

155

48

23

45

RB20

Jeremy Hill

CIN/9

154

51

22

46

WR18

Jeremy Maclin

KC/5

154

46

22

47

RB21

Matt Jones

WAS/9

152

54

20

48

TE4

Travis Kelce

KC/5

123

62

19

49

QB6

Ben Roethlisberger

PIT/8

349

53

20

50

RB22

Jonathan Stewart

CAR/7

148

59

16

The table above represents the Top 50 players in terms of VBD.  There are a few things that jump out as obvious items of note.  As discussed above, the value of studs is immense, especially at the running back position.  Notice the VBD values for the four top players in comparison to the rest of the players, even very good players.  Also, as we progress to the 50th overall player, the wide receivers are still lag the running backs, and we will see them start catching up in the table below.

Rank

Pos

Player

Team

Pts

ADP

VBD

51

RB23

Frank Gore

IND/10

148

80

16

52

RB24

Duke Johnson

CLE/13

147

64

14

53

WR19

Randall Cobb

GB/4

147

38

14

54

RB25

Giovani Bernard

CIN/9

146

69

14

55

RB26

Jeremy Langford

CHI/9

145

57

13

56

WR20

Doug Baldwin

SEA/5

145

47

13

57

WR20

Eric Decker

NYJ/11

145

58

13

58

WR22

Jarvis Landry

MIA/8

144

42

12

59

RB27

DeMarco Murray

TEN/13

144

49

11

60

TE5

Coby Fleener

NO/5

117

77

12

61

TE6

Tyler Eifert

CIN/9

116

68

12

62

TE7

Delanie Walker

TEN/13

114

71

10

63

WR23

Larry Fitzgerald

ARI/9

140

56

8

64

WR23

Kelvin Benjamin

CAR/7

140

34

8

65

WR25

Michael Floyd

ARI/9

140

55

7

66

TE8

Zach Ertz

PHI/4

113

98

9

67

QB7

Tom Brady

NE/9

338

79

8

68

WR26

Donte Moncrief

IND/10

138

65

5

69

QB8

Carson Palmer

ARI/9

337

74

7

70

WR27

Golden Tate

DET/10

137

50

5

71

WR28

DeVante Parker

MIA/8

137

66

5

72

QB9

Blake Bortles

JAX/5

335

76

6

73

TE9

Julius Thomas

JAX/5

108

100

4

74

TE10

Gary Barnidge

CLE/13

108

90

4

75

QB10

Eli Manning

NYG/8

334

88

4

76

WR29

Jordan Matthews

PHI/4

135

61

2

77

RB28

Ameer Abdullah

DET/10

134

72

2

78

RB29

Melvin Gordon

SD/11

134

70

1

79

WR30

Julian Edelman

NE/9

134

44

1

80

WR31

Allen Hurns

JAX/5

133

67

1

81

WR32

DeSean Jackson

WAS/9

133

85

1

82

TE11

Antonio Gates

SD/11

105

126

1

83

RB30

Arian Foster

MIA/8

132

105

0

84

WR33

Josh Gordon

CLE/13

131

122

-1

85

TE12

Dwayne Allen

IND/10

100

146

-5

86

QB11

Jameis Winston

TB/6

330

103

1

87

RB31

DeAngelo Williams

PIT/8

131

89

-1

88

QB12

Philip Rivers

SD/11

324

92

-5

89

RB32

Rashad Jennings

NYG/8

130

93

-2

90

RB33

Danny Woodhead

SD/11

130

78

-3

91

WR34

John Brown

ARI/9

129

73

-3

92

RB34

Jay Ajayi

MIA/8

127

75

-5

93

WR35

Michael Crabtree

OAK/10

128

86

-5

94

WR36

Emmanuel Sanders

DEN/11

128

63

-5

95

RB35

Isaiah Crowell

CLE/13

126

109

-7

96

RB36

Justin Forsett

BAL/8

125

87

-7

97

RB37

T.J. Yeldon

JAX/5

124

81

-8

98

WR37

Tyler Lockett

SEA/5

126

83

-7

99

WR38

Tavon Austin

LA/8

126

124

-7

100

QB13

Marcus Mariota

TEN/13

321

130

-9

When looking at the VBD spots from player 51 through 100, the wide receivers begin 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 positions plateau.

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

Please feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIN, and Google+ so feel free to connect where most convenient