This is the 1st of a multi-part series. The other versions will be 12-team (non-PPR), 14-team (non-PPR), 10-team (non-PPR), Auction (PPR), and FPC formats. Jeff Pasquino will assist me in those efforts.
I started penning this article in 2002 to put my predraft thoughts to paper. Like most things in life, I find I do my best when I plan to succeed. This article is my attempt at that. I work hard at doing projections every year. At Footballguys, we also put together the most comprehensive Average Draft Position Lists. So the information about value is certainly readily available. The trick to having a perfect draft though is to anticipate those "pockets of value" and build your team so that you get the lion's share of these guys.
There is not one way to have a perfect draft. In fact, the biggest criticism I often get is that I am willing to wait on QB and/or TE in a lot of drafts. Many drafters show me teams where they grab a guy like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees early and then knock the rest of the draft out of the park. That's definitely possible. And against weak competition, it can be the preferred gameplan.
This article assumes fairly educated drafters. You need to decide whether your league is full of sharks, guppies or a combination of both. Count the number of Footballguys subscriptions and compare that to the number of guys crossing off players from their magazine cheatsheet to get a feel for this if you really are unsure. I state this here, because against softer competition the shark move is to grab the quality QBs and TEs too. You should do this because it's nearly assured you will also get many great players to slide to you at RB and WR. Against great competition, reaching for a player at the wrong time can quickly dismantle your draft and leave you missing the key "pockets of value" that can help your chances at winning.
Before we can have the "Perfect Draft", let's define our measure of success. After the draft, your team should have these qualities:
- Against multiple projection sets, your team always grades out as one of the best teams. And to make your life easy here, just run your roster through our Rate My Team application.
- You secured a great number of players that will outperform their draft position.
- You have quality depth (in the right places) to allow for postdraft trades.
- The majority of owners recognize that you have a team that should easily reach the playoffs.
- Your late round picks have the potential to be game-changing players
These aren't absolutes, but I list them here so we know what we are trying to build.
Let's start with the two basic principles of Value Based Drafting (VBD). I will expound on them as we go through this.
- All Players Have Value - Don't love anyone. Don't hate anyone. Get players that will significantly outperform their draft position and you will build a winning team.
- Understand What the Average Guy Thinks - You may believe someone will be the 10th best WR, but if everybody else does not then you should wait to maximize value.
If you don't follow these principles, you will not have a perfect draft. If you believe rookie WRs are always bad or drafting anyone over 30 is too big of an injury risk, then you will not have the perfect draft. Throw away the biases. Let value guide your draft. Let others succumb to prejudices and generalities. You are here to win your league. And you do that by getting value with every pick.
How do we define value? Value Based Drafting (VBD) has shown us that we can compare unlike positions for comparative value. The cornerstone of VBD starts with solid projections. And these projections can be manipulated to form Top 300+ lists. For this article, I will be using the Top 300 (PPR) list I created for the website. I have highlighted favorable differences in green to indicate players that may be bargains on draft day.
Let's have the perfect draft.
The goal is to get you the best possible team and to make sure you don't overpay for players that can still be had a few rounds later. What I look for are players that I project significantly better than where they are being drafted. The positional analysis tracks to my projections.
This article assumes a 12 team league using scoring that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Def and 1 PK. Fantasy points are calculated as follows:
- Passing TDs = 4 points
- Interceptions = -1 points
- Rushing/receiving TDs = 6 points
- Passing yardage = 0.05 pts per yard (1 pt per 20 yards)
- Rushing/receiving yardage = 0.10 pts per yard (1 pt per 10 yards)
The Top 50 Players
Because ADP is a crucial barometer on when players will get drafted, I believe it's important to merge the Footballguys Top 300 with ADP to create a single Top 50 draft list. This list appears here for PPR leagues
- For players that have a value lower than ADP, use the average of the two numbers.
- For players that have a value higher than ADP, use the value number.
Example: Player A has a value of 13 and an ADP of 21. His "drafting" value would be 17. (13 + 21)/2. Conversely, if Player has a value of 21 and an ADP of 13, his "drafting" value would be 21.
Doing this for the Top 300 list yields these Top 50 players (ranked from 1st to 50).
*** Note this is a generic PPR list. You can get a tailored list by entering your scoring criteria into the VBD or Draft Dominator applications:
- Pick 1.01 - RB1 Adrian Peterson, MIN/5 (ADP = 1)
- Pick 1.02 - RB2 Doug Martin, TB/5 (ADP = 3)
- Pick 1.03 - WR1 Calvin Johnson, DET/9 (ADP = 5)
- Pick 1.04 - RB3 Arian Foster, HOU/8 (ADP = 4)
- Pick 1.05 - RB4 Jamaal Charles, KC/10 (ADP = 2)
- Pick 1.06 - RB5 C.J. Spiller, BUF/12 (ADP = 6)
- Pick 1.07 - RB6 Ray Rice, BAL/8 (ADP = 7)
- Pick 1.08 - RB7 LeSean McCoy, PHI/12 (ADP = 8)
- Pick 1.09 - RB8 Trent Richardson, CLE/10 (ADP = 9)
- Pick 1.10 - TE1 Jimmy Graham, NO/7 (ADP = 11)
- Pick 1.11 - WR2 A.J. Green, CIN/12 (ADP = 13)
- Pick 1.12 - WR3 Dez Bryant, DAL/11 (ADP = 12)
- Pick 2.01 - WR4 Brandon Marshall, CHI/8 (ADP = 15)
- Pick 2.02 - RB9 Matt Forte, CHI/8 (ADP = 14)
- Pick 2.03 - WR5 Julio Jones, ATL/6 (ADP = 18)
- Pick 2.04 - WR6 Demaryius Thomas, DEN/9 (ADP = 19)
- Pick 2.05 - RB10 Marshawn Lynch, SEA/12 (ADP = 10)
- Pick 2.06 - RB11 Alfred Morris, WAS/5 (ADP = 16)
- Pick 2.07 - RB12 Chris Johnson, TEN/8 (ADP = 20)
- Pick 2.08 - RB13 Reggie Bush, DET/9 (ADP = 21)
- Pick 2.09 - WR7 Larry Fitzgerald, ARI/9 (ADP = 22)
- Pick 2.10 - RB14 Steven Jackson, ATL/6 (ADP = 17)
- Pick 2.11 - WR8 Roddy White, ATL/6 (ADP = 26)
- Pick 2.12 - WR9 Andre Johnson, HOU/8 (ADP = 27)
- Pick 3.01 - RB15 DeMarco Murray, DAL/11 (ADP = 30)
- Pick 3.02 - QB1 Aaron Rodgers, GB/4 (ADP = 29)
- Pick 3.03 - WR10 Victor Cruz, NYG/9 (ADP = 32)
- Pick 3.04 - WR11 Vincent Jackson, TB/5 (ADP = 34)
- Pick 3.05 - RB16 Darren McFadden, OAK/7 (ADP = 33)
- Pick 3.06 - WR12 Randall Cobb, GB/4 (ADP = 24)
- Pick 3.07 - RB17 Darren Sproles, NO/7 (ADP = 28)
- Pick 3.08 - RB18 Lamar Miller, MIA/6 (ADP = 35)
- Pick 3.09 - TE2 Rob Gronkowski, NE/10 (ADP = 36)
- Pick 3.10 - WR13 Dwayne Bowe, KC/10 (ADP = 40)
- Pick 3.11 - RB19 Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX/9 (ADP = 23)
- Pick 3.12 - QB2 Drew Brees, NO/7 (ADP = 25)
- Pick 4.01 - WR14 Danny Amendola, NE/10 (ADP = 42)
- Pick 4.02 - TE3 Jason Witten, DAL/11 (ADP = 41)
- Pick 4.03 - QB3 Peyton Manning, DEN/9 (ADP = 39)
- Pick 4.04 - WR15 Marques Colston, NO/7 (ADP = 45)
- Pick 4.05 - RB20 LeVeon Bell, PIT/5 (ADP = 44)
- Pick 4.06 - QB4 Cam Newton, CAR/4 (ADP = 47)
- Pick 4.07 - WR16 Antonio Brown, PIT/5 (ADP = 54)
- Pick 4.08 - RB21 Stevan Ridley, NE/10 (ADP = 31)
- Pick 4.09 - RB22 David Wilson, NYG/9 (ADP = 38)
- Pick 4.10 - RB23 Ryan Mathews, SD/8 (ADP = 55)
- Pick 4.11 - WR17 Wes Welker, DEN/9 (ADP = 43)
- Pick 4.12 - WR18 Jordy Nelson, GB/4 (ADP = 51)
- Pick 5.01 - RB24 Frank Gore, SF/9 (ADP = 37)
- Pick 5.02 - RB25 Shane Vereen, NE/10 (ADP = 59)
Note: There are 4 quarterbacks that appear on this list, but I am going to tell you a simple truth. Your team will end up a lot better if you wait until after this list is exhausted before choosing a quarterback. The reason for this is because there is exceptional value at quarterback once everyone in the league drafts one. In years where there were just a handful of difference makers, you could make an argument that you need an elite one. This year the QB pool is deeper than I have ever witnessed. Trust me here. Don't draft an early quarterback.
Building Your "Core" - Your First 5 Picks
You are looking to grab the best player available until this list is exhausted. But use some common sense while you do this. This list includes 25 RBs, so you should make sure you secure at least 2 backs off this list (as that position will have dried up considerably).
I would pay little to no attention to bye weeks during this phase. You have plenty of time to adjust after these Top 50 players are gone.
I would limit myself to just 1 TE from this list unless the extra TE is drafted in the 8th round or later (Trade value alone makes the selection worthwhile).
After the Top 50 - Assessment Phase
The transition from the Top 50 to rounding out your team based on need is a critical one. Your anlysis here can instantly turn a good draft into a great one. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your weaknesses:
- How many backs did you secure? The average owner should have 2.1 RBs. Do you have 3 or more including one in the 1st round? Is this a position of strength for your team?
- Did you draft a QB or TE (The average owner should have 0.33 QBs and 0.25 TEs) yet? If so consider yourself done at this position until much later in the draft. If you have not drafted these positions yet, do not panic. Good ones will be available later.
- Assess your bye week situation. If three or more of your first five players are off on the same bye week, I will usually sacrifice that week so that I can be strong in every other week. If that is not the case, then I look to patch the holes with complimentary players that could have big weeks during these rough spots. Teams lining up against New Orleans, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Buffalo, and Detroit should all yield good results during these weeks.
As an example, Let's say you landed this team after 5 rounds (from the 4th position):
- 4. WR Calvin Johnson, Det/9
- 21. RB Reggie Bush, Det/9
- 28. WR Andre Johnson, Hou/8
- 45. WR Marques Colston, NO/7
- 52. RB Ryan Mathews, SD/8
Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: QB (none taken), a major week 9 bye issue, a slight week 8 bye issue developing
Unless significant value presents itself, my next few rounds plan would be:
- Grab another quality back at RB if available
- Fill out roster need at QB and/or TE
- Grab a player sliding at WR ONLY if he represents exceptional value.
- Try and grab players without a week 8 or 9 bye unless they represent significant value.
Note the departure from looking for value at all cost here. WR may represent value at your next pick, but this selected player may rarely see the field with the stars you have already drafted. It is generally better to fill out your key roster spots instead of amassing a lot of value that you may not be able to use. So use your head. Are you able to select a RB, TE, or QB that represents at least fair value (ADP and value numbers are in line with the selection)?
Let's look at another example. This one from the 10th position:
- 10. RB Trent Richardson, Cle/10
- 15. WR Brandon Marshall, Chi/8
- 34. RB Darren McFadden, Oak/7
- 39. TE Rob Gronkowski, NE/10
- 58. RB Shane Vereen, NE/10
By landing 3 RBs 1 WR, and 1 TE you are well on your way to a perfect draft. Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: QB (none taken), Major week 10 bye issue.
Unless significant value presents itself, my next few rounds plan would be:
- Fill out roster need at WR
- Fill out roster need at QB
- Grab a player sliding at RB ONLY if he represents exceptional value.
- Try and grab players without a week 10 bye unless they represent significant value.
Moving to Fill Positional Needs
If you followed this plan up to here, you should not have selected a QB within the top 50 picks.
Last year we saw the rise of the rookie quarterback. Guys like Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson all were major contributors to your fantasy roster at the quarterback position. Other young players like Colin Kaepernick emerged to lead the 49ers. This wouldn't be so note-worthy if during this QB rebirth of sorts, the old guys left the game. But that did not happen. The normal familiar veterans (Brady, Manning brothers, etc) are all hanging around and playing great too.
The bottom line is that there have never been more "quality" QBs playing each week than what is available this season. I drafted Russell Wilson in an expert league in round 10 the other day. Tony Romo also routinely goes this late despite putting up over 4,000 passing yards last year. So for every drafter that pulls the trigger to get a Brees, Rodgers, or Peyton Manning early, some drafter (read YOU if you are wise) will grab someone like Romo or Russell as much as 6 to 7 rounds later. And I am telling you with conviction, there is not enough difference to make getting the "elite" guys even worthy of a draft strategy this season.
Waiting is for Winners...Draft the 12th QB
From my own projections, here are my top fantasy quarterbacks for this year:
- Aaron Rodgers (02.03), GB/4 (376 Fantasy Points)
- Drew Brees (02.04), NO/7 (363 Fantasy Points)
- Cam Newton (03.12), Car/4 (360 Fantasy Points)
- Peyton Manning (03.01), Den/9 (356 Fantasy Points)
- Matthew Stafford (05.07), Det/9 (347 Fantasy Points)
- Colin Kaepernick (05.09), SF/9 (338 Fantasy Points)
- Matt Ryan (04.08), Atl/6 (338 Fantasy Points)
- Andrew Luck (06.07), Ind/8 (334 Fantasy Points)
- Tony Romo (07.02), Dal/11 (333 Fantasy Points)
- Tom Brady (04.03), NE/10 (329 Fantasy Points)
- Robert Griffin III (05.11), Was/5 (328 Fantasy Points)
- Russell Wilson (07.01), Sea/12 (325 Fantasy Points)
Now consider the people that took any of the top 10 names on this list. Are they looking to add a quality backup? Would you if you drafted Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, or Matt Ryan? This dynamic defines the solution. Once 11 people have drafted their quarterback, you can wait another 12 to 20 picks and get the next guy. Who is it? It depends on your draft, but it's usually Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck or Tony Romo. And all of these guys would have that "elite tag" in any other year. Draft them all as your starter with confidence (and at a significant discount to every other drafter overpaying for the position.
But David...what if someone snipes the 12th quarterback from me? This is the beauty of waiting. You aren't penalized by this at all as their are still plenty of solid quarterback options that could easily threaten the top 12
Besides drafting the 12th Quarterback, here are the guys that I think represent great value this year:
Andy Dalton, Cin/12 (Value = 87, ADP = 112) in the 9th round or later - The team promises to play a more uptempo offense. They added weapons in the passing game and have AJ Green. Andy Dalton seems poised to have his best year as a pro yet.
Josh Freeman, TB/5 (Value = 112, ADP = 133) in the 11th round or later - Universally under-valued every year, Freeman has all the pieces to be a great QB this year. He has two very capable WRs in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. He has an electric RB who can catch. He plays behind one of the best OLs. And he plays in a division with some of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Alex Smith, KC/10 (Value = 118, ADP = 169) in the 12th round or later - He draws an early schedule that is among the best I have ever seen (@Jac, vs Dal, @Phi, vs NYG, @Ten, vs Oak). Even if you expect him to finish the season as the 20th best QB, he should be way better than that in these opening weeks. He also finishes against cupcakes Oakland and Indianapolis for your fantasy playoffs in weeks 15 and 16. You can get him as an after-thought, but he should produce way above his ADP.
Jake Locker, Ten/8 (Value = 177, ADP = 236) in the 17th round or later - This isn't all that sexy of a pick, but Jake has Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, and even Chris Johnson in space to contend with. Jake also quietly rushed for 7.1 yards a carry in 2012. It's not out of the question to see it all come together for Jake and he has a break-through year.
Matt Flynn, Oak/7 (Value = 184, ADP = likely undrafted) in the 18th or later - The Raiders look to be playing from behind in a lot of contests this year. But garbage fantasy points count the same as those scored in the 1st half. Matt has a lock on the starting job and it won't take much to exceed his average draft position.
In most leagues, running backs are golden. Yes they can run and catch, but the real reason they are golden is that there simply are not enough of them to go around. More and more teams are using a committee approach to the running back position, pulling the starter both on obvious passing downs and sometimes in goal line situations. It has made the workhorse backs (that do all three roles) even more valuable, but also created a bigger pool of next tier backs that don't do it all. If you followed the Top 50 plan from above, you likely have a nice stable of backs on your roster to build the rest of your team around.
But two or three quality backs don't make a powerhouse fantasy roster...Having depth at RB does.
Here are the other RBs that I would target for value (outside of the top 50 picks):
DeAngelo Williams, Car/4 (Value = 66, ADP = 89) in the 7th round or later - This has more to do with Jonathan Stewart unable to get healthy over any thing else. Stewart's timetable for recovery continues to slide on his chronically bad ankles. Let someone else wait for Stewart to try and get back on the field. DeAngelo is getting all the 1st team reps and will have the opportunity to smash his current ADP when Stewart fails to secure any significant time.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atl/6 (Value = 100, ADP = 122) in the 10th round or later - Despite everyone saying all the right things about Steven Jackson, I am not a buyer. Jackson is old for RB standards (30) and has taken a lot of punishment. I see a bigger role for the talented Rodgers this year.
Christine Michael, Sea/12 (Value = 145, ADP = 174) in the 13th round or later - It's hard not to get excited about what this player brings to the table even as a rookie. He is a great fit to run behind this talented offensive line in Seattle. If Lynch were to miss time, Michael would likely be a top 10 RB the rest of the way (and possibly a lot better than this). When taking late shots at RB, this is exactly the kind of player you should be targeting.
Mike Tolbert, Car/4 (Value = 168, ADP = 209) in the 16th round or later - This is another strong hedge that RB Jonathan Stewart just isn't right. If Stewart does miss significant time, Tolbert should get the majority of goal line carries and be use used on 3rd downs at a minimum. In a pinch Tolbert has also shown he can be an every-down back (was used in that role in San Diego due to injuries a few years back).
Justin Forsett, Jax/9 (Value = 175, ADP = likely undrafted) in the 19th round or later - MJD is old and recoverying from a serious injury. If he were to break down, Forsett should be a major benefactor.
The biggest key to having a great wide receiver corps is following the Top 50 plan above and then swooping in and stealing the players that slide unnecessarily in a draft. Here are some guys that should represent excellent value this year:
DeSean Jackson, Phi/12 (Value = 62, ADP = 72) in the 6th round or later - The Maclin injury practically guarantees a big role in this offense. His speed should also be used to keep defenses from stacking too many in the box to stop a likely run-oriented Philadelphia game plan on most weeks. This has career year written all over it.
Mike Williams, TB/5 (Value = 60, ADP = 81) in the 7th round or later - Playing with a great offensive line, I think the ceiling is high for Mike this season. He was targeted 71 times in his last 8 games (just 7 less than Vincent Jackson during the same stretch), but managed to catch just 34 of these (Josh Freeman's accuracy was abysmal down the stretch).
Vincent Brown, SD/8 (Value = 69, ADP = 109) in the 8th round or later - He was looking good in 2012 before an ankle injury cost him the season. Now healthy, he is again having a great camp. The Danario Alexander injury cements Brown as the top target on a team that will be required to thrown often to catch up. The OL is possibly the league's worst though so Brown might need to do a lot of his damage after the catch.
Chris Givens, StL/11 (Value = 103, ADP = 121) in the 10th round or later - Despite the fantasy community anointing talented rookie Tavon Austin as the WR1 for the Rams this season, all signs point to Chris Givens being that guy. With his blazing speed, Chris has huge upside in the alter rounds.
Brian Hartline, Mia/6 (Value = 105, ADP = 138) in the 11th round or later - While Mike Wallace sulks on the sideline, Brian Hartline is developing important chemistry with Ryan Tannehill. Brian set career highs in receptions and yards in 2012. He actually finished with over 1,000 yards receiving yet managed just 1 TD. That's an anomaly that can only improve this season.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ind/8 (Value = 132, ADP = 162) in the 13th round or later - This has more to do with Reggie Wayne turning 35 this season than being in love with DHB's skillset. Reggie took in a ridiculously high 213 targets last season so if he were to miss any time, DHB could be set up for a lot of production.
Brandon Lafell, Car/4 (Value = 146, ADP = 173) in the 14th round or later - He is the clear WR2 on the Panthers. He posted career highs in catches, yards, TDs and yards per catch. He is a player on the rise having bettered his stats each of his first three years in the league. Additionally, starter Steve Smith, at age 34 is nearing the end of his career.
Stephen Hill, NYJ/10 (Value = 166, ADP = 201) in the 16th round or later - Someone has to catch passes in New York. Santonio Holmes looks to be milking his time his roster spot before he injury settles with the team. No one is questioning the physical tools Hill came into the league with. He has them in spades. He underwhelmed as a rookie, but is getting good reviews in training camp. Late in drafts, these are the guys you target.
Jon Baldwin, KC/10 (Value = 178, ADP = likely undrafted) in the 19th round or later - The team promises to run an uptempo offense and draws the easiest starting schedule of any NFL franchise. He is still flying way below the radar, but some WR has to catch passes that isn't named Dwayne Bowe.
Some other WRs will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the above targeted bargain list. In recap, grab approximately three receivers in rounds 2 through 6 and then wait for exceptional value to emerge at WR because it always does.
The New England Patriots rolled out two rookie TEs in 2010 and those players took the league by storm. That continued through 2011 and many more teams are now deploying two TE sets to confuse defenses.
Because so many more teams are utilizing the TE position, there are almost always bargains at this position late in a draft. In fact once the top 7-8 names come off the board, there is minimal pressure on the TE position the rest of the draft (in leagues that start just 1 TE). It's no surprise that since TEs catch a relatively small amount of passes, primarily on short and intermediate routes (again, excluding the top tier guys), there usually isn't a great deal of variance between the sixth-best PPR TE and the 10th best. Last year the 6th best TE scored 183 fantasy points while the 10th best contributed 168 points (15 point difference or 0.9 points per game).
So ultimately, once you get past the big TEs, you're really debating over approximately a few points per week (which is why it can be wise to just wait until the later rounds to select a TE).
The tight end that I will be targeting in most of my drafts this year is Jermichael Finley, GB/4 (Value = 67, ADP = 96) in the 7th round or later.. The difference between the 2011 and 2012 stat lines for the talented (yet often under-producing) Finley had to do with TDs. He scored 8 TDs in 2011 and just 2 in 2012. These TD numbers should easily improve this season with the departure of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson not yet at 100%. WR Randall Cobb is also battling a biceps tear/strain that could render him less than 100% all year. The biggest positive to take away from last year for Finley is that he caught 6 more passes despite 7 less targets.
Here are the other TEs that I think represent great value in drafts this season:
Jordan Cameron, Cle/10 (Value = 106, ADP = 149) in the 11th or later - WR Josh Gordon will start the year suspended and signs point to the team leaning on Cameron a great deal this season. Gifted with a basketball type frame, Cameron is built to succeed in a Norv Turner offense that has a history of utilizing the TE. He also gets to play on a team that has one of the best OLs ensuring that he should be able to release on a lot of plays as a check down.
Fred Davis, Was/5 (Value = 124, ADP = 147) in the 12th or later - He is playing for a contract and by all indications is completely recovered from the achilles injury that derailed last season. He has minimal competition at the position on his team, and the team could use his production. This late, picks are all about possible upside.
David Ausberry, Oak/7 (Value = 223, ADP = likely undrafted) in the 19th round or later - He is the starting TE in Oakland. Matt Flynn, with his weak arm, could be using Ausberry as a safety valve a lot this season. He is flying miles below the radar, but has a big upside. TEs accounted for 88 receptions and 907 yards for Oakland last year.
In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate PK in the last two rounds of your draft. In leagues that draft this position real late (most leagues), look towards the second to last round to grab the one kicker you will roster. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait until their last pick to take their kickers and end up missing the good kickers by a few picks. Most likely that sleeper WR you want in the second to last round will still be there for you in the last round. In waiver wire friendly leagues (most), don't be afraid to draft just one kicker and add others as necessary during the season to cover the bye weeks and/or exploit matchups.
The kicker I am targeting in a lot of drafts is Randy Bullock, Hou/8. You can usually get him after 6 kickers are taken.
Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken. I suggest you wait until 7-9 defenses get selected and then take the Steeers defense with confidence.
Another winning strategy to deploy after the draft for defenses is simply to look two games ahead in the waiver process. Most teams will have one or two defenses meaning that half of the defenses are available as free agent pick ups each week. By looking two to three weeks ahead at who will be playing Jacksonville, Buffalo, NY Jets, Cleveland and Oakland you likely can find a cheap defense that should perform well against subpar offenses. Drop this defense after their "quality game" so that you can continue to pick up other defenses that will have good weeks. Because of this strategy, I advise you to draft just one defense and look to play matchups the rest of the way. Every year two or three defenses are predicted to be terrible but end up playing great.
Putting It All Together
1. Draft for value until the top 50 players is exhausted. These are your "core" and will define how you approach the rest of the draft.
2. Look to select the 12th quarterback off the board 10 to 20 picks after the 11th QB is taken. Add Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman or Alex Smith as key depth to allow maximum flexibility in playing great matchups. Make sure to laugh every time someone else takes an early QB too.
4. Add value at RB, WR and TE in the middle rounds to protect bye weeks, add critical depth, and give yourself a chance to trade off talent to bolster your squad as the season progresses.
5. Use the final rounds to add your kicker, a defense and to go after young players in a "Swing-For-The-Fence" mentality. These are players who most likely have a reserve role now, but could be huge fantasy producers should they be given a larger role in their offenses. All should be able to be drafted after round 15. At quarterback I like Jake Locker, Matt Flynn and EJ Manuel. At running back I like Roy Helu, Jonathan Dwyer, and Knile Davis. At wide receiver I like Brandon LaFell, Rod Streater, Markus Wheaton, and Keenan Allen. At tight end I like Rob Housler, David Ausberry, and Luke Stocker as younger players that could dominate if given the chance.
6. Unless your league has some exotic scoring that elevates defenses, it is best to wait until the last few rounds to grab your defense. After 7-9 defenses are off the board, you should be able to grab the Pittsburgh Steelers.
7. Wait until the second to last round and grab your kicker. Target Randy Bullock who is flying way below the radar after missing last season due to injury.
Well that is it folks. Hope you all do well in your coming drafts. Remember, the key is not to just follow the Top 200 list but to see where it differs substantially from average drafts. This is how you get value with every pick. And value is how you build winning fantasy teams.
Here is a sample team drafted from the 3rd position.
- Rd 1 - Pick 3 - RB Doug Martin, TB/5
- Rd 2 - Pick 22 - RB Reggie Bush, Det/9
- Rd 3 - Pick 27 - WR Roddy White, Atl/6
- Rd 4 - Pick 46 - RB Leveon Bell, Pit/5
- Rd 5 - Pick 51 - WR Antonio Brown, Pit/5
- Rd 6 - Pick 70 - WR Cecil Shorts, Jax/9
- Rd 7 - Pick 75 - TE Jermichael Finley, GB/4
- Rd 8 - Pick 94 - Quarterback #12 (likely Russell, Romo or Luck)
- Rd 9 - Pick 99 - WR Vincent Brown, SD/8
- Rd 10 - Pick 118 - WR Chris Givens, StL/11
- Rd 11 - Pick 123 - RB Jacquiz Rodgers, Atl/6
- Rd 12 - Pick 142 - WR Brian Hartline, Mia/6
- Rd 13 - Pick 147 - TE Jordan Cameron, Cle/10
- Rd 14 - Pick 166 - QB Alex Smith, KC/10
- Rd 15 - Pick 171 - RB Christine Michael, Sea/12
- Rd 16 - Pick 190 - RB Roy Helu, Was/5
- Rd 17 - Pick 195 - WR Stephen Hill, NYJ/10
- Rd 18 - Pick 214 - Best Defense
- Rd 19 - Pick 219 - Best Kicker
- Rd 20 - Pick 238 - TE David Ausberry, Oak/7
More from David Dodds:
Interview with Nigel Eccles of FanDuel - June 30
FanDuel Book Preview - Subscribers Only - May 28
Cracking FanDuel: Week 18 - January 3
Playoff Top 130 (Performance) - December 30
Footballguys Postseason Subscriber Contest Rules - December 30
Playoff Top 130 (PPR) - December 30
Cracking FanDuel: Week 17 - December 27
Game Predictor: Week 17 - December 25
Cracking FanDuel: Week 16 - December 20
Game Predictor - Week 16 - December 17