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Expert DRAFTing Week 19

A how-to-guide to beating this week's snake drafts on DRAFT

Main Slate Playoff Special

DRAFT offers weekly fantasy contests with 5-man rosters (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR/TE) and 0.5-point PPR scoring (the same as FanDuel).  Instead of using a salary cap like other daily fantasy sites, teams are built through live snake drafts with 30-seconds per pick. In the playoffs, the three common draft sizes are Head-to-Head, 3-Team and 4-Team

With the special playoff slate, the format of this article will be slightly different. The focus will be on strategy and rankings for each of the three different draft sizes. With the smaller draft sizes, it was feasible to figure out a rough Average Draft Position (“ADP”) and this ADP has been included along with the rankings for each of the three Draft sizes. 

Please feel free to contact me (email or twitter) with any questions or if you are just looking for some extra advice for this week’s drafts. Constructive feedback on the article format and content is always appreciated.

How was ADP formed?

Draft doesn’t release Average Draft Position, so the only way to get a rough ADP is to participate in as many actual drafts as possible and track the results. I’ve participated in at least five Drafts of each size and tabulated an ADP for each. The method is pretty simple. For example, if a player was selected 4th in three drafts and 5th in two, his ADP would be 4.4. 

It gets slightly more complicated is for players who have been selected in some drafts and not others. I worked around the “undrafted problem” by assigning a draft pick value to the player for each draft he wasn’t selected in. For Head-to-Head, a player received a draft slot of “12” for every draft he wasn’t taken in (18 for 3-Team and 25 for 4-Team). For example, in five Head-to-Head drafts, Stefon was selected only once and it was at selection 4.02 (pick 10). So his ADP is listed at 11.2, with one pick at #8 and four picks listed as #12 for the drafts he wasn’t selected.

Position Breakdowns: ADP and Preferred Targets

Quarterback

Tom Brady is the consensus choice at 1.02 in all Draft sizes this week. The sharp play is typically to wait at quarterback. For example, last week the recommendation was to wait until round 4 to target Cam Newton. All that goes out the window this week with Brady far and away the top option at the position. Brady projects to outscore the other quarterbacks on this slate by at least three points and also has week-winning upside in a dream matchup. The Patriots have an implied team total of just over 30 points and 84% of the touchdowns against the Titans defense have come through the air. 

A big part of the reason why Brady is such an attractive first-round target is that there is nobody else at the position on the slate to be excited about. Case Keenum looks like the best of the second-tier options despite the many bigger-name quarterbacks on the slate. The Vikings are at home facing a New Orleans defense that has allowed 5-of-8 opposing quarterbacks to score 20+ fantasy points since Week 11. Jameis Winston (26.7) and Cam Newton (25.7) put up big fantasy performances against the Saints the last two weeks. Ben Roethlisberger is also a decent late-round option given how well he has played in recent weeks and the Steelers deep group of pass-game weapons. Still, he faces the league’s toughest matchup against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed an opposing passer to post 20+ fantasy points just 3-of-17 weeks so it is tough to get excited about his prospects. The same can be said of Drew Brees, who faces a Minnesota defense that has given up 20+ fantasy points just 2-of-16 weeks. 

Running Back

Le’Veon Bell will be the 1.01 in nearly every Draft of any size this week and is the obvious top play on the slate. He ended the regular season on a high note, averaging 25.4 Draft points per game over his final five games. The Jaguars have been solid against opposing running backs (12th-fewest fantasy points allowed) but aren’t one we go out of our way to avoid. 

Behind Bell, the ADP is all over the board. In general though, three backs generally make up the second tier: Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, and Derrick Henry. It is tough to justify Alvin Kamara’s ADP this week. He has a brutal matchup at Minnesota. The Vikings allowed just 15.2 fantasy PPG to opposing running backs, which led the league by a decent margin. Kamara’s opponent last week, Carolina, ranked third best in the league (17.7 PPG) and was able to shut down the New Orleans running game, holding Kamara to just 33 total yards. Minnesota has shut down top backs all season, including LeVeon Bell (11.1 points) and Todd Gurley (13.1 points). He is not a player who I am targeting at all in Head-to-Head Drafts. Fournette is a very solid option. He has been playing nearly 90% of the snaps each of the last two weeks and averaged 20 carries and 5 targets. His pass-game usage gives him the nod over Derrick Henry. Henry has been playing nearly all of the snaps since DeMarco Murray went down with a knee injury but has not seen more than two targets in any game. 

Dion Lewis would be RB2 this week if Rex Burkhead wasn’t coming back from injury but is instead a bit of a wild card this week due to the unknowns regarding how much Burkhead will eat into his role. The Patriots are massive 13.5-point home favorites and Lewis emerged late in the season as a workhorse back for New England with Burkhead sidelined. In the final two weeks, he had 50 carries, 11 receptions, 286 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Tennessee has been relatively stingy against opposing running backs on the ground (just four rushing touchdowns allowed) but gave up a league-high 967 receiving yards to opposing backs (and five receiving touchdowns). If Burkhead is less than 100% and/or is eased back into the rotation and Lewis sees 20+ touches, he could easily be the week’s top back. The risk/reward combination places Lewis firmly within the second tier of running backs this weekend. 

Devonta Freeman tops the third tier narrowly over Mark Ingram. Like Ingram and Kamara, Freeman also has an extremely difficult matchup against a Philadelphia defense that gave up the second-fewest Draft points to opposing running backs in the regular season. Both Vikings backs, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, are in play in 4-Team Drafts. 

Wide Receiver and Tight End

The “upside down” drafting strategy of targeting wide receivers in the early rounds and waiting at running back that was suggested last week is slightly less attractive this week, but still a viable option. The running back matchups are extremely difficult across the board, so it makes sense to target generational talents like Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski ahead of the second-tier backs despite poor matchups. Jones and Gronkowski are great targets in the top-6 overall in all Draft sizes.

Jones, Brown and Gronkowski are generally going off the board between #3 and #8 overall and represent the top tier at the position. The matchup is scariest for Brown, who will line up against the league’s best cornerback duo (Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye), which makes Jones and Gronkowski higher priorities in Drafts. 

The second tier at wide receiver is deep. Michael Thomas leads this group in ADP but his matchup against shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes is scary. Either Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen is likely to see shadow coverage from top rookie Marshon Lattimore but it is unclear which receiver the Saints will try to take out of the game. Whoever doesn’t face Lattimore should have a big game. 

Zach Ertz, Brandin Cooks and Juju Smith-Schuster are also in play late in 4-Team Drafts. 

Head-to-Head Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. LeVeon Bell

2. Tom Brady

3. Julio Jones

4. Rob Gronkowski

5. Antonio Brown

6. Leonard Fournette

7. Derrick Henry

8. Dion Lewis

9. Adam Thielen

10. Case Keenum

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 LeVeon Bell 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Tom Brady 2 2 4 2 3 2.6
3 Julio Jones 3 3 5 3 4 3.6
4 Antonio Brown 5 5 6 8 2 5.2
5 Leonard Fournette 4 4 9 7 6 6.0
6 Rob Gronkowski 6 6 8 6 5 6.2
7 Michael Thomas 12 8 3 4 10 7.4
8 Alvin Kamara 12 12 2 5 12 8.6
9 Dion Lewis 7 7 12 10 8 8.8
10 Derrick Henry 10 10 7 12 6 9.0
11 Case Keenum 9 12 12 9 9 10.2
12 Stefon Diggs 8 12 12 12 12 11.2
13 Matt Ryan 12 9 12 12 12 11.4
14 Ben Roethlisberger 12 12 10 12 12 11.6
15 Adam Thielen 12 12 12 12 12 12.0

 

Strategy

The first two picks were the same in every draft, with Leveon Bell going at 1.01 and Tom Brady at 1.02. Based upon projections, these are the optimal choices. It gets more interesting at 2.01. You can lock up the top remaining running back, pair Rob Gronkowski with Brady or take one of the elite wide receivers (Julio Jones or Antonio Brown). The preference is slightly toward Jones and there is hope that you might be able to still get Gronkowski at the 3/4 turn.

After Bell, there is little separating the next tier of running backs. Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry get a slight nod over Dion Lewis and Alvin Kamara because we know they will be on the field nearly every snap and should get all of the goal line opportunities. If you are high on one of these backs, it makes sense to target them in the second round but otherwise, there shouldn’t be any sense of urgency because they all fall into the same tier. 

3-Team Draft Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. LeVeon Bell

2. Tom Brady

3. Julio Jones

4. Rob Gronkowski

5. Antonio Brown

6. Leonard Fournette

7. Derrick Henry

8. Dion Lewis

9. Alvin Kamara

10. Adam Thielen

11. Michael Thomas

12. Case Keenum

13. Ben Roethlisberger

14. Devonta Freeman

15. Stefon Diggs

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 LeVeon Bell 1 1 1 2 1 1.2
2 Tom Brady 2 2 2 1 2 1.8
3 Julio Jones 5 4 3 5 5 4.4
4 Alvin Kamara 4 9 11 3 3 6
5 Antonio Brown 3 3 9 9 7 6.2
6 Derrick Henry 11 6 5 6 6 6.8
7 Leonard Fournette 8 8 4 11 4 7
8 Rob Gronkowski 7 5 8 8 8 7.2
9 Dion Lewis 9 10 10 4 11 8.8
10 Michael Thomas 10 12 6 7 18 10.6
11 Adam Thielen 6 11 14 18 9 11.6
12 Devonta Freeman 18 14 7 18 14 14.2
13 Zach Ertz 14 13 18 10 18 14.6
14 Matt Ryan 18 7 18 18 13 14.8
15 Ben Roethlisberger 15 15 18 18 10 15.2
16 Case Keenum 12 18 15 14 18 15.4
17 Brandin Cooks 18 18 18 13 12 15.8
18 Mark Ingram 13 18 18 12 18 15.8
19 Marcus Mariota 18 18 12 18 18 16.8
20 Stefon Diggs 18 18 13 18 18 17
21 JuJu Smith-Schuster 18 18 18 18 15 17.4
22 Drew Brees 18 18 18 15 18 17.4

 

Strategy

The strategy at the top of the draft is still obvious, with Bell and Brady as the top options. Drafting from 1.03 is where the tough choices have to be made. There is a little tier drop between Alvin Kamara and Devonta Freeman but the bigger gap comes between the top tier at wide receiver and the late-round options like Stefon Diggs (who may be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore). Thus, the lean is toward locking in a pair of top receivers at 1.03/2.01 and hoping Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis make it back around to 3.03. 

4-Team Draft Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. LeVeon Bell

2. Tom Brady

3. Leonard Fournette

4. Julio Jones

5. Rob Gronkowski

6. Derrick Henry

7. Antonio Brown

8. Dion Lewis

9. Alvin Kamara

10. Adam Thielen

11. Michael Thomas

12. Devonta Freeman

13. Case Keenum

14. Ben Roethlisberger

15. Stefon Diggs

16. Brandin Cooks

17. Zach Ertz

18. Mark Ingram

19. Latavius Murray

20. Drew Brees

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 LeVeon Bell 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Tom Brady 2 2 4 2 3 2.6
3 Alvin Kamara 7 3 2 4 7 4.6
4 Antonio Brown 5 6 6 3 4 4.8
5 Julio Jones 6 8 8 6 5 6.6
6 Leonard Fournette 8 7 5 8 6 6.8
7 Rob Gronkowski 9 9 10 5 2 7.0
8 Derrick Henry 4 10 3 11 11 7.8
9 Michael Thomas 10 5 9 15 9 9.6
10 Dion Lewis 12 11 11 12 8 10.8
11 Devonta Freeman 14 13 7 10 13 11.4
12 Ben Roethlisberger 3 4 17 25 12 12.2
13 Adam Thielen 16 14 12 9 10 12.2
14 Mark Ingram 11 12 13 7 25 13.6
15 Brandin Cooks 13 18 20 13 14 15.6
16 Latavius Murray 18 17 16 14 18 16.6
17 Case Keenum 17 16 19 16 17 17.0
18 JuJu Smith-Schuster 15 20 15 25 16 18.2
19 Zach Ertz 25 15 25 17 19 20.2
20 Drew Brees 25 19 25 19 15 20.6
21 Stefon Diggs 19 25 14 25 25 21.6
22 Matt Ryan 20 25 18 25 25 22.6
23 Delanie Walker 25 25 25 18 25 23.6
24 Marcus Mariota 25 25 25 20 25 24.0
25 Jay Ajayi 25 25 25 25 20 24.0

 

Strategy

Again, the targets at 1.01 and 1.02 are LeVeon Bell and Tom Brady. The tough decisions come when drafting at the back half of the first round at 1.03 and 1.04. With four teams, the drop off at running back gets slightly steeper and makes starting with two pass catchers a riskier strategy. While the WR/WR (or WR/TE) strategy is still viable, the preference is to pair one of the top pass catchers with one of the top second-tier backs at the turn. So for example, if taking Leonard Fournette at 1.03, you know you at least one of the top tier pass catchers will make it back to you at 2.02. Similarly, at the 1.04/2.01 turn, the strategy that gives you the most flexibility in the draft is to pair a top back with a top receiver so you are in the position to take advantage if a top player at either position slides to 3.04. 

In 4-Team Drafts, you don’t have to reach to put together a stack but if all things are close to equal, stacking in the late rounds is a good strategy. For example, if you have drafted Tom Brady early, you might bump Brandin Cooks a couple spots up your queue because if Brady has a big game, Cooks is likely to as well. Similarly, Case Keenum is a nice later round target if you have selected Adam Thielen and/or Stefon Diggs. The tie-breaker on a 5th-round choice between Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees may also be potentially decided by whether you already drafted Antonio Brown or Michael Thomas.