How to Attack Your Small-League Non-PPR Draft - Footballguys

Strategy on Attacking Your Small Non-PPR League Draft

Small leagues are a lot of fun. There is something about the size of 8- or 10-team leagues that make them enjoyable. Maybe, it is having a team full of very good players. The size of these types of leagues makes them much different than the standard 12-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 10-team leagues using non-PPR scoring. We will examine strategies specially 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 to 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 select enough elite players to win weekly and through the playoffs. 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 2018 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 to best address the questions above?

a. Since you need studs to gain advantages, how best do you 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 wideouts (Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins) have a similar value to a large tier of backs, and the next 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. Seek out studs. A top kicker or defense might be a great pick earlier than you would think, especially if they give you an edge of a few points each week. 

b. In smaller (8 or 10 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 at least 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 Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, and Philip Rivers.

c. We will look a little later at how the weighted 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 the top players at the position has definite tiers. But, even the lesser fantasy starters are worth more than every quarterback – yes, even Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers - and every tight end, even Rob Gronkowski. 

d. Unless going after a bona fide stud (e.g., Brown, Hopkins, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr, or A.J. Green), it is best to wait on the wide receiver position until 10 or 15 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 10 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 10 are gone. The stud gives you an extra few points per game, so it is a viable strategy. Also, target kickers with the starting gig locked up, on high scoring offenses, and a late bye week. 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. If your leaguemates look to employ this same approach, too, be prepared to pick up defenses a week before needed, even if this strategy uses two roster spots at times.  

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 no quarterback or tight end valued in the first two rounds. If we look at just the first two rounds of a 10-team draft (in terms of VBD), eighteen running backs and just two wide receivers are worth a pick. Further, even with the strong upside of Rob Gronkowski, especially with Julian Edelman suspended to begin the season, he is barely a top-30 player.

Here are the league variables:

  • 10 teams
  • 16 roster spots
  • Non-PPR scoring

And here are the starting requirements:

  • 1 Quarterback
  • 2 Running Backs
  • 3 Wide Receivers
  • 1 Tight End
  • 1 Flex (RB, WR, or TE)
  • 1 Kicker
  • 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
PosRnk
Player
Team
Points
VBD
1
RB
1
Todd Gurley
LAR/12
272
177
2
RB
2
Ezekiel Elliott
Dal/8
264
169
3
RB
3
Le'Veon Bell
Pit/7
250
154
4
RB
4
David Johnson
Ari/9
244
149
5
RB
5
Alvin Kamara
NO/6
225
130
6
RB
6
Melvin Gordon
LAC/8
211
115
7
RB
7
Leonard Fournette
Jac/9
204
109
8
RB
8
Kareem Hunt
KC/12
203
108
9
RB
9
Dalvin Cook
Min/10
202
107
10
RB
10
Saquon Barkley
NYG/9
192
96
11
RB
11
Devonta Freeman
Atl/8
182
87
12
RB
12
LeSean McCoy
Buf/11
179
84
13
WR
1
Antonio Brown
Pit/7
197
80
14
WR
2
DeAndre Hopkins
Hou/10
193
77
15
RB
13
Jordan Howard
Chi/5
166
70
16
RB
14
Jerick McKinnon
SF/11
165
70
17
RB
15
Christian McCaffrey
Car/4
161
66
18
RB
16
Joe Mixon
Cin/9
154
59
19
RB
17
Derrick Henry
Ten/8
152
56
20
RB
18
Alex Collins
Bal/10
151
55
21
RB
19
Kenyan Drake
Mia/11
148
53
22
QB
1
Aaron Rodgers
GB/7
369
50
23
WR
3
Julio Jones
Atl/8
165
49
24
RB
20
Lamar Miller
Hou/10
144
48
25
RB
21
Jay Ajayi
Phi/9
142
46
26
TE
1
Rob Gronkowski
NE/11
151
45
27
WR
4
Odell Beckham Jr
NYG/9
160
44
28
RB
22
Derrius Guice
Was/4
135
40
29
QB
2
Tom Brady
NE/11
356
36
30
RB
23
Ronald Jones II
TB/5
129
34
31
WR
5
Keenan Allen
LAC/8
150
33
32
WR
6
Michael Thomas
NO/6
149
32
33
RB
24
Rashaad Penny
Sea/7
127
32
34
RB
25
Isaiah Crowell
NYJ/11
127
32
35
WR
7
A.J. Green
Cin/9
148
31
36
RB
26
Tevin Coleman
Atl/8
126
30
37
WR
8
Mike Evans
TB/5
146
29
38
RB
27
Royce Freeman
Den/10
124
28
39
RB
28
Sony Michel
NE/11
123
28
40
QB
3
Deshaun Watson
Hou/10
347
27
41
RB
29
Carlos Hyde
Cle/11
122
26
42
WR
9
T.Y. Hilton
Ind/9
143
26
43
WR
10
Adam Thielen
Min/10
142
25
44
RB
30
Marshawn Lynch
Oak/7
121
25
45
QB
4
Russell Wilson
Sea/7
345
25
46
WR
11
Tyreek Hill
KC/12
141
24
47
RB
31
Dion Lewis
Ten/8
118
23
48
QB
5
Drew Brees
NO/6
343
23
49
WR
12
Davante Adams
GB/7
139
22
50
RB
32
Jamaal Williams
GB/7
117
22

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 two 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 lagging the running backs, and we will see them start catching up in the table below. 

Rank
Pos
PosRnk
Player
Team
Points
VBD
51
QB
6
Cam Newton
Car/4
341
22
52
WR
13
Doug Baldwin
Sea/7
138
22
53
TE
2
Travis Kelce
KC/12
127
21
54
RB
33
Mark Ingram
NO/6
116
21
55
WR
14
JuJu Smith-Schuster
Pit/7
137
21
56
RB
34
Marlon Mack
Ind/9
115
20
57
WR
15
Brandin Cooks
LAR/12
134
17
58
QB
7
Carson Wentz
Phi/9
337
17
59
WR
16
Stefon Diggs
Min/10
133
16
60
WR
17
Alshon Jeffery
Phi/9
131
14
61
WR
18
Josh Gordon
Cle/11
130
13
62
WR
19
Amari Cooper
Oak/7
128
11
63
WR
20
Allen Robinson
Chi/5
126
9
64
RB
35
Chris Thompson
Was/4
104
8
65
PK
1
Stephen Gostkowski
NE/11
157
8
66
RB
36
Rex Burkhead
NE/11
103
7
67
RB
37
Tarik Cohen
Chi/5
102
7
68
WR
21
Demaryius Thomas
Den/10
123
7
69
WR
22
Marvin Jones
Det/6
123
6
70
DEF
1
Jacksonville
Jac/9
158
6
71
WR
23
Larry Fitzgerald
Ari/9
123
6
72
RB
38
Kerryon Johnson
Det/6
99
4
73
TE
3
Zach Ertz
Phi/9
110
4
74
QB
8
Alex Smith
Was/4
322
2
75
TE
4
Jimmy Graham
GB/7
108
2
76
WR
24
Golden Tate
Det/6
117
1
77
WR
25
Marquise Goodwin
SF/11
117
0
78
TE
5
Greg Olsen
Car/4
106
0
79
DEF
2
Minnesota
Min/10
150
0
80
QB
9
Kirk Cousins
Min/10
320
0
81
RB
39
Giovani Bernard
Cin/9
95
0
82
PK
2
Justin Tucker
Bal/10
147
-1
83
WR
26
Michael Crabtree
Bal/10
116
-1
84
RB
40
Devontae Booker
Den/10
94
-1
85
QB
10
Matthew Stafford
Det/6
318
-1
86
QB
11
Jimmy Garoppolo
SF/11
318
-2
87
WR
27
Devin Funchess
Car/4
115
-2
88
PK
3
Greg Zuerlein
LAR/12
145
-2
89
PK
4
Wil Lutz
NO/6
144
-3
90
QB
12
Ben Roethlisberger
Pit/7
317
-3
91
WR
28
Robby Anderson
NYJ/11
114
-3
92
QB
13
Philip Rivers
LAC/8
316
-4
93
PK
5
Matt Bryant
Atl/8
143
-4
94
RB
41
C.J. Anderson
Car/4
91
-4
95
WR
29
Sammy Watkins
KC/12
111
-5
96
DEF
3
Philadelphia
Phi/9
143
-5
97
PK
6
Chris Boswell
Pit/7
138
-7
98
RB
42
Corey Clement
Phi/9
88
-8
99
PK
7
Mason Crosby
GB/7
138
-8
100
RB
43
Matt Breida
SF/11
88
-8

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 can still get studs at the other positions through the first 10 rounds. This is the reason 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. The ability to start three running backs in leagues not rewarding points for receptions slants the weighting toward the ball carriers. 

Feel free to (email me) with feedback. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIn, and Google+, so you can ask me questions on one of these as well.