Mock drafts are an excellent exercise to work out strategies, get battle tested, and refine player versus player decision-making as a clock ticks down. My go-to site to quickly join a mock draft is fantasyfootballcalculator.com. In this mock draft, I tested out 'zero wide receiver' strategy - explaining the concept in the draft plan section.
- 12 Teams
- PPR Scoring, 6pt Passing TDs
- Start QB-2RB-2WR-TE-Flex
- Draft Position: 1.06
If I had a typical strategy in redraft leagues it would be waiting on quarterback and tight end as a general rule. In this mock draft, I would try out 'zero wide receiver'. Late-round receiver would be another name where the goal is to load up on other positions early and go with an upside-based and volume approach at wide receiver in the later rounds. As a result, I would be open to a stud quarterback and tight end in the first few rounds and plan on being aggressive with running backs within the top tiers. Doing a zero wide receiver or zero running back mock draft refines the optimal late-round selections at various positions, which can often reverse engineer the best early round strategy.
With a few wide receivers typically in the top-5, I projected to get a shot at Todd Gurley or David Johnson at 1.06, which ended up correct. After four straight receivers to open the draft and Gurley at 1.05, I happily took David Johnson at 1.06. If both had been taken, I would have considered Adrian Peterson or Ezekiel Elliott in my zero running back test.
The best case scenario would have been for Ezekiel Elliott to make it back to 2.07 (he went 2.05). Next would have been Jamaal Charles (surprisingly went 1.10). I would have been satisfied with Lamar Miller even, who went 2.02. I ended up taking Mark Ingram, sticking to my running back-heavy approach. I took Ingram in another mock in early Round 3 and knew my next selection would be a difficult decision. It pained me to not take a wide receiver like Mike Evans or Amari Cooper here in the mid-second. The optimal start would have been Johnson then receiver then Ingram on my board.
As expected, I had tough time deciding on my 3.06 selection. Potentially, I could have waited on Ingram, but then Round 2 would have been a stretch at quarterback (all were available) or taking a non-Rob Gronkowski tight end. Both seemed like a value loss. Carlos Hyde ended up being my selection here as I do not like the Thomas Rawls, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy types in this zone. I swirled around Dion Lewis (this is full PPR league) for a few seconds, but decided Lewis might make it back to me in Round 4 - plus Theo Riddick and Charles Sims are similar functioning players whom I like much later in the draft. Hyde is a high-variance play as my flex.
I was planning on quarterback or tight end being the pick here, depending on the number of quarterbacks off the board between 3.06 and 4.07. It turned out Aaron Rodgers was the lone signal-caller drafted, so I floated the position to the next round and took Greg Olsen. I saw a flat tier at wide receiver and the point of the exercise is to wait on receiver and load up elsewhere. Olsen stood out at tight end over Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker.
With Cam Newton and Russell Wilson drafted in the late fourth, I passed on quarterback with Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger in my next zone. I took Jordan Matthews as my first receiver. His floor is higher than DeVante Parker and Donte Moncrief, fitting well with the zero-receiver approach. I also thought (which ended up being incorrect) Parker or Moncrief could make it back in Round 6.
The good news about Parker and Moncrief off the board is Ben Roethlisberger made it to 6.07 (after Luck and Brees were drafted, finishing off the first five quarterbacks). I was now venturing into high-variance land for receivers in Round 7 and beyond to fill out my depth chart behind Jordan Matthews. Only potentially mixing in Charles Sims as my RB4 in the coming rounds would halt collecting receivers in the near-term.
Carlos Hyde was a factor in this pick. If I had a more secure RB3, I would have gone wide receiver here (Tyler Lockett, John Brown, Kevin White available of note). However, Sims is a sturdy RB3/4 in PPR with RB1 upside if Martin should falter or miss time. As a result, I target Sims frequently in the Round 7/8 range and felt he was unlikely to return to 8.07. On the flip side, I did not have a sense which receivers would survive the turn. As a result, I took Sims and stayed flexible on my WR2.
Tyler Lockett and John Brown were gone before the end of Round 7. Lockett would have been my 'run to the podium' pick at 8.07 if available. Kevin White was my next target and selection. Sterling Shepard was also a consideration and he was drafted at 9.02 to provide a data point.
I found some good fortune with my target board finally in these middle rounds with Dorial Green-Beckham at 9.06. While some may go conservative in zero-receiver strategy, I view high-upside shots mandatory to find one or two strong producers and potentially win a league. Green-Beckham can be a dominant No.1 in Tennessee and with Matthews at WR1, I need to hit on one or two receiver max in these rounds to field a strong team.
Devin Funchess was a topic in the chat during the draft and I thought going Green-Beckham in Round 9 would prevent me from getting Funchess in Round 10. Funchess slipped, however, and becomes my WR4. Beyond Funchess, I had a target list of Torrey Smith, Tavon Austin, LaQuon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, and Sammy Coates in the coming rounds to finish off my receiver corps. Most of them would be gone before my next selection.
As mentioned above, my target list at receiver was largely cleared out with only Sammie Coates surviving the Round 10/11 turn. Coates was the pick without much thought. If I had passed on Charles Sims in Round 7 (taking Tyler Lockett), I liked the value of C.J. Prosise, who would drafted at 11.07 here as well. Another non-receiver stuck out value-wise in Round 11, Zach Ertz. While I had Greg Olsen, I earmarked Ertz as a target player if he made it back in Round 12. Two teams were without tight ends on that side of the draft, one passed on tight end in Round 11 and 12 and two tight ends, Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen, were selected over Ertz. I happily took Ertz at 12.07. I have strong odds on Jordan Matthews and Ertz producing well in Philadelphia this season.
Chris Hogan was a luxury upside shot in Round 13. If the Patriots depth chart breaks right, Hogan can emerge. It may take as little as Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola missing time. The final two picks were difficult. I had James Starks and Chris Johnson (some preseason David Johnson insurance) on my running back list and a few first or second-year receivers remaining. James Starks was my pick at 14.07 as I continue to distrust Eddie Lacy and Starks has largely outplayed him over the years. In the final round, I took Michael Thomas with targets available in New Orleans. Breshad Perriman and Phillip Dorsett were also in consideration for a final flyer pick.
*Draft Round in parenthesis*
I consider drafting upside receivers one of my stronger fantasy owner skills, so waiting on wide receiver was comfortable. Swapping Charles Sims for Tyler Lockett in retrospect would have boosted the odds of finding a quality WR2/3 or two. Zach Ertz available so late (two rounds after Eric Ebron even) made Greg Olsen less optimal in Round 4, which could have been Jordan Matthews and cascaded to DeVante Parker or Donte Moncrief my pick in Round 5. There are so many connected waves of selections in a draft. At quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a high-upside option, but seeing Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, and Matthew Stafford all in Round 12 and beyond reminds me of my value-chasing, late-round quarterback roots of drafting in a typical format.