Large leagues are a lot of fun. The size makes them much different than the standard twelve teamers. It is a losing proposition to use standard draft strategies in the bigger leagues. An entirely different strategy is required to make the most of the draft. This article will look at sixteen team leagues using non-PPR scoring. We will examine strategies especially designed for the larger leagues in order to best attack the draft and get the most from the roster. These will help you form a new strategy for your larger league.
Down to basics, what are the differences I should know about the larger leagues?
- In general, the larger the leagues, the more positional scarcity comes into play. In twelve team leagues, there might be twelve starting quarterbacks you would be fine with as your starter. But, when the number of teams bumps up to sixteen, there will be a few fantasy squads with poor quarterback play. This is true at the running back position as well. There are not many at the position you want to rely on each and every week as a fantasy starter.
- Anyone who has been caught in a position run in a standard twelve team league knows how hopeless and frustrating it can be knowing there is nothing you can do now to help the situation. These runs at a specific position, especially quarterback, running back, and tight end are even more important in the larger leagues. The extra teams means the runs can be longer and those left out are in even worse shape than in the smaller leagues.
- Since most larger leagues have fewer roster spots per team, each one is important. Knowing how to strike the best balance is the key. This involves the tight end, kicker, and team defense positions as well as finding depth at running back and wide receiver.
- Knowing when to take a kicker or defense is a bigger issue in the larger leagues because of the risk and return decision for the pick used compared to the scarcity of few good options at either position.
How do I best address these issues above?
- Due to fewer desirable alternatives at the quarterback and running back positions, expect to select your starters earlier than in twelve teamers. While it seems crazy for most fantasy owners, it might be best to draft a starting quarterback in the first two rounds, especially if you are picking at the end of the first round. There are two reasons for this strategy. In all league sizes, if you are drafting at the end of round one, you need to have positions of strength in order to make up the sizable deficit at the running back position. So, selecting a quarterback at the 1/2 turn helps get a stud at the position. The other aspect to think about is how many at the position could be gone before your third round pick. You could take QB3 in the early part of the second round or the QB10 at the end of the third round. There is a huge difference in the predictability of future production as well as the certainty of the situation in the elite passer. Since the scoring is non-PPR, the value favors the running backs and quarterbacks, but especially the ball carriers. The depth at the quarterback position may allow an owner to risk the position longer, especially if for adding running backs. For this reason, you may need to have your starters at both positions before moving on to wide receiver or tight end. Your leaguemates know the scarcity is coming, too, so they will load up on the two positions accordingly. When this happens, you must be proactive and stay the course. Many think they can find value at other positions, but there will be nothing left but dregs at quarterback and running back. At that point, who cares what you have at wide receiver. The league does not reward you with PPR (Points Per Reception) so the stud receivers you covet in other leagues are not enough of an advantage in bigger leagues not rewarding PPR.
- Positional runs are brutal. You need to plan ahead and be proactive. Stay ahead of the runs by picking your core positions early. This means, as stated above, loading up on starters at quarterback and running back with the thought that there are plenty of options at wide receiver which provide similar production to those selected earlier. As you move to the middle rounds of your draft, start keeping tabs on the tight end, kicker, and team defense positions. Make a list of players you will be happy with as fantasy starters at those positions and be proactive as your list gets smaller and smaller.
- Roster management is very important in the larger leagues. Many times, it is best to select only one kicker and one team defense. Make sure to draft those with late byes. By midseason, there will be plenty of options available on the waiver wire. The key is finding starters at those positions with a late bye so you will not need to use an extra roster spot early in the season. At the tight end position, there are differing opinions as to the need for rostering a backup. If you have a stud at the position, meaning you have one of the better starters in expected production, then it is best not to roster a backup. You invested a quality pick at the position. There is no need to use two roster spots, too. But, it is best to have a quality reserve tight end if you do not have a top tight end. That is one position where players emerge and disappoint every year. As far as how to best manage your depth roster spots, think about what your league rewards compared to the strengths (and weaknesses) of your starting lineup. In the non-PPR leagues, running back play is rewarded. It might be best to stash an upside back or handcuff of a starter. Since the wide receiver position is likely a point of weakness, and there are plenty of very good receiver prospects for this season, rostering a few additional pass catchers is a good idea. This extra quantity balances the perceived lack of quality.
- As touched on a little earlier, it might be best to address the kicker and team defense positions a little earlier in larger leagues than in twelve team leagues. Each year, there are multiple factors which minimize the number of desirable options. Just think how few kickers and team defenses have late bye weeks (as discussed above), good strength of schedules for matchup purposes since we are only carrying one at each position, and have solid kicking jobs settled. This should make your list very short for both positions.
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 22 of the first 30 players, listed in order of value, are running backs. The league variables used were sixteen 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. Only six receivers made the top thirty picks and even that number seems high. The relative number of ball carriers in relation to available starting spots for the position is small when compared to the wide receiver and quarterback positions. There will be many teams who have poor starting running backs. A fantasy team with two Top 16 running backs has a huge advantage over the competition. Yes, the VBD suggests to take a few running backs before any other position, but knowing your leaguemates will take the passers early and often should bring the position into consideration.
Below is a table with the Top 100 players from the Footballguys projections. Notice how the VBD drops way off after the top few running backs compared to the other positions. This is very important since it illustrates how valuable those top ball carriers are when compared to the lesser options at the position. The wide receivers and quarterbacks are tightly bunched in comparison.
|76||QB08||Robert Griffin III||Was/5||314.6||10||6.02||23||2|
In the first round of the draft, the initial sixteen picks of the draft, all but one are running backs ... according to the VBD. Then, half of the players in the second round are ball carriers. This illustrates the importance of stock-piling the players at the position.
After 29 running backs in the Top 50, the position slows down as only 15 of the next 50 are backs. But, still, ball carriers occupy 44 of the Top 100 overall. Even though the VBD values may not be high for the lesser players – in comparison to the other positions – you are still encouraged to take one high so you do not get stuck on the wrong side of a position run. As stated above, it is best to come out of the first three rounds with two running backs and one quarterback. The depth at the wide receiver position allows an owner to wait until the fourth round to address the position. With the ability to start three running backs (with one in the flex), taking a rusher in the fourth or fifth round may be the best move. It will also create more of a shortage at the position for your leaguemates.
Given the non-PPR nature of the league, the wide receivers and tight ends are de-valued in comparison to the PPR leagues. Unless a player is projected to score a high number of touchdowns, there is little difference between several options. For this reason, it is best to avoid players in offenses who should not score well. This year has a few viable tight ends so you are encouraged to wait until the first six or eight are off the board before worrying too much about the position unless you can get Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski at a huge value.
Please feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller) so feel free to ask me questions there.
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Value Plays: Week 14 - December 3