This is the second of a multi-part series.
I started penning this article in 2002 to put my pre-draft 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 no one way to have a perfect draft. In fact, the biggest criticism I often get is that I am willing to wait on a quarterback and/or tight end in a lot of drafts. Many drafters show me teams where they grab a guy like Patrick Mahomes II, Lamar Jackson, or Dak Prescott 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 game plan.
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/or Dominator apps and compare that to the number of guys crossing off players from their magazine cheat sheet 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 quarterbacks and tight ends too. You should do this because it's nearly assured you will also get many great players to slide to you at running back and wide receiver. 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 post-draft 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 wide receivers 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 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 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 defense, and 1 kicker. Fantasy points are calculated as follows:
- Passing touchdowns = 4 points
- Interceptions = -1 points
- Rushing/receiving touchdowns = 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 60 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 60 draft list. This list appears here for non-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 B 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 60 players (ranked from 1st to 60).
*** Note this is a generic non-PPR list. You can get a tailored list by entering your scoring criteria into the Draft Dominator or VBD applications:
- Pick 1.01 - RB1 Christian McCaffrey, CAR/13 (ADP = 1)>/li>
- Pick 1.02 - RB2 Saquon Barkley, NYG/11 (ADP = 2)>/li>
- Pick 1.03 - RB3 Ezekiel Elliott, DAL/10 (ADP = 3)>/li>
- Pick 1.04 - RB4 Derrick Henry, TEN/7 (ADP = 6)>/li>
- Pick 1.05 - WR1 Michael Thomas, NO/6 (ADP = 7)>/li>
- Pick 1.06 - RB5 Dalvin Cook, MIN/7 (ADP = 4)>/li>
- Pick 1.07 - RB6 Josh Jacobs, LV/6 (ADP = 9)>/li>
- Pick 1.08 - RB7 Alvin Kamara , NO/6 (ADP = 5)>/li>
- Pick 1.09 - RB8 Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC/10 (ADP = 8)>/li>
- Pick 1.10 - WR2 Davante Adams, GB/5 (ADP = 11)>/li>
- Pick 1.11 - WR3 Tyreek Hill, KC/10 (ADP = 13)>/li>
- Pick 1.12 - RB9 Joe Mixon, CIN/9 (ADP = 15)>/li>
- Pick 2.01 - WR4 Julio Jones, ATL/10 (ADP = 14)>/li>
- Pick 2.02 - RB10 Aaron Jones, GB/5 (ADP = 16)>/li>
- Pick 2.03 - RB11 Nick Chubb, CLE/9 (ADP = 10)>/li>
- Pick 2.04 - RB12 Miles Sanders , PHI/9 (ADP = 12)>/li>
- Pick 2.05 - RB13 Austin Ekeler, LAC/10 (ADP = 21)>/li>
- Pick 2.06 - WR5 Kenny Golladay, DET/5 (ADP = 24)>/li>
- Pick 2.07 - WR6 Chris Godwin, TB/13 (ADP = 22)>/li>
- Pick 2.08 - TE1 Travis Kelce, KC/10 (ADP = 19)>/li>
- Pick 2.09 - QB1 Patrick Mahomes II II, KC/10 (ADP = 17)>/li>
- Pick 2.10 - RB14 James Conner, PIT/8 (ADP = 30)>/li>
- Pick 2.11 - WR7 Mike Evans, TB/13 (ADP = 26)>/li>
- Pick 2.12 - QB2 Lamar Jackson, BAL/8 (ADP = 23)>/li>
- Pick 3.01 - WR8 Amari Cooper, DAL/10 (ADP = 29)>/li>
- Pick 3.02 - WR9 DeAndre Hopkins, ARI/8 (ADP = 18)>/li>
- Pick 3.03 - RB15 Kenyan Drake, ARI/8 (ADP = 20)>/li>
- Pick 3.04 - RB16 Chris Carson, SEA/6 (ADP = 27)>/li>
- Pick 3.05 - RB17 David Johnson, HOU/8 (ADP = 34)>/li>
- Pick 3.06 - TE2 George Kittle, SF/11 (ADP = 25)>/li>
- Pick 3.07 - RB18 Le'Veon Bell, NYJ/11 (ADP = 36)>/li>
- Pick 3.08 - WR10 Calvin Ridley, ATL/10 (ADP = 40)>/li>
- Pick 3.09 - WR11 Allen Robinson, CHI/11 (ADP = 38)>/li>
- Pick 3.10 - WR12 A.J. Brown, TEN/7 (ADP = 42)>/li>
- Pick 3.11 - RB19 Melvin Gordon III III, DEN/8 (ADP = 39)>/li>
- Pick 3.12 - WR13 D.J. Moore, CAR/13 (ADP = 41)>/li>
- Pick 4.01 - RB20 Raheem Mostert, SF/11 (ADP = 49)>/li>
- Pick 4.02 - WR14 JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT/8 (ADP = 33)>/li>
- Pick 4.03 - RB21 Mark Ingram II II, BAL/8 (ADP = 46)>/li>
- Pick 4.04 - WR15 Adam Thielen, MIN/7 (ADP = 31)>/li>
- Pick 4.05 - TE3 Mark Andrews, BAL/8 (ADP = 43)>/li>
- Pick 4.06 - WR16 Odell Beckham Jr Jr, CLE/9 (ADP = 35)>/li>
- Pick 4.07 - WR17 Cooper Kupp, LAR/9 (ADP = 37)>/li>
- Pick 4.08 - RB22 Todd Gurley, ATL/10 (ADP = 28)>/li>
- Pick 4.09 - RB23 Jonathan Taylor, IND/7 (ADP = 44)>/li>
- Pick 4.10 - QB3 Deshaun Watson, HOU/8 (ADP = 51)>/li>
- Pick 4.11 - WR18 DK Metcalf, SEA/6 (ADP = 53)>/li>
- Pick 4.12 - RB24 Devin Singletary, BUF/11 (ADP = 52)>/li>
- Pick 5.01 - QB4 Kyler Murray, ARI/8 (ADP = 56)>/li>
- Pick 5.02 - TE4 Zach Ertz, PHI/9 (ADP = 47)>/li>
- Pick 5.03 - WR19 Courtland Sutton, DEN/8 (ADP = 55)>/li>
- Pick 5.04 - RB25 Cam Akers, LAR/9 (ADP = 59)>/li>
- Pick 5.05 - QB5 Dak Prescott, DAL/10 (ADP = 45)>/li>
- Pick 5.06 - TE5 Darren Waller, LV/6 (ADP = 64)>/li>
- Pick 5.07 - WR20 Terry McLaurin, WAS/8 (ADP = 58)>/li>
- Pick 5.08 - QB6 Russell Wilson, SEA/6 (ADP = 54)>/li>
- Pick 5.09 - WR21 Robert Woods, LAR/9 (ADP = 48)>/li>
- Pick 5.10 - WR22 Tyler Lockett, SEA/6 (ADP = 50)>/li>
- Pick 5.11 - WR23 T.Y. Hilton, IND/7 (ADP = 60)>/li>
- Pick 5.12 - RB26 Kareem Hunt, CLE/9 (ADP = 66)>/li>
Note: There are just six 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 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 quarterback pool is as deep as ever. Trust me here. Don't draft an early quarterback.