Expert DRAFTing Week 4

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

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).  But instead of using a salary cap like other daily fantasy sites, teams are built through live snake drafts with 30-seconds per pick. The most common contest sizes are Head-to-Head, 3-Team, 6-Team and 10-Team. 

The positional breakdowns and rankings will be in a slightly different format this week than in the past. Instead of briefly discussing each of the top-50 players, the focus will instead be on a more in-depth analysis of the top players at each position and a deeper look at the players who are being overrated and underrated by the general public. 

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.

Theme of the Week: Understand the Tiers There are some clear tier breaks at the quarterback and running back position this week that should heavily influence your draft strategy in all contest sizes but especially 6-Team and 10-Team drafts. There are 12 relatively strong options at running back this week, which allows you to be aggressive in targeting the top quarterbacks and wide receivers in drafts with 6 teams or less. Quarterback is especially shallow this week and it is worth targeting one of the top passers in the second or third round of smaller leagues. In 10-Team drafts, the strategy changes drastically because there is a significant dropoff after the top dozen running backs. There must be an increased sense of urgency to lock in two strong running backs in the early rounds. 

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNS

 

Quarterback

1. Tom Brady Over the past two weeks Brady has thrown for 825 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has a deep and talented cast of pass catchers that present matchup problems even for talented defenses like the Carolina Panthers. Wide receiver and running back are deep enough (especially in 6-Team or smaller leagues) that you can reach a little bit to lock up Brady without taking too big a hit at other positions. The realistic 4-touchdown upside Brady carries every week is worth reaching for in the early rounds. 

2. Drew Brees (London) The Dolphins-Saints game isn’t on the main slate on the bigger daily fantasy sites and thus has flown under the radar slightly. On Draft, the default contests starting Friday and Saturday will include the London game and it provides fertile soil for fantasy production. The Dolphins defense ranks 2nd in DVOA against the run but dead last against the pass. Philip Rivers threw for 331 yards against this defense and even Josh McCown managed 249 yards despite playing safe after jumping out to an early lead. It’s the perfect spot for Brees to have his first huge fantasy game of the season. The options at quarterback get ugly pretty quickly, so don’t be afraid to reach for Brees. 

3. Russell Wilson Wilson’s Seahawks have one of the week’s highest implied team totals at 27.5 points. Seattle is a massive home favorite (13 points) against a poor Indianapolis defense that is especially weak against the pass. Indianapolis ranks 18th in pass defense DVOA (unadjusted for schedule strength) but has been relatively stingy against the run, which should force the Seahawks to keep throwing even if they build an early lead. Wilson has already rushed for 100 yards this season. Wilson projects for an extra 3-4 points as a runner that separate him from the pack of quarterbacks with similar passing projections. 

4. Matt Ryan The Bills defense has been excellent so far this season. Traveling to Atlanta to face Matt Ryan and an Atlanta Falcons offense that picked up where it left off after a record-setting 2016 season is a major step up in competition, however. Buffalo has faced Josh McCown and Trevor Siemian at home and a struggling Cam Newton on the road. Don’t be surprised if we see this pass defense exposed by Ryan. Devonta Freeman has as many rushing touchdowns as Ryan has passing touchdowns through three weeks so the touchdown expectation isn’t as high here as it is with the elite options. Ryan is a strong target however in the toughest quarterback week of the season to date. 

5. Dak Prescott Prescott is averaging 4.1 Draft points per game as a runner this season, which helps his floor and provides a sneaky-high ceiling as well. He has now rushed for a touchdown in 37% of his career starts after diving in for a score on Monday night. Prescott is the best of the second-tier options at the position but there isn’t enough separation between #5 and #10 to target Prescott before the final round in 6-Team or 10-Team contests. 

6. Carson Palmer

7. Carson Wentz

8. Trevor Siemian

9. Kirk Cousins

10. Marcus Mariota

Running Back

1. Ezekiel Elliott Aside from the debacle on the road against a Denver defense that is dominating all opposing running backs, Elliott has picked up right where he left off last season. In Week 1, he touched the ball 29 times and racked up 140 yards against a tough Giants defense. In Week 3, he touched it 25 times and totaled 94 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys are big home favorites and face a Rams defense that has given up the fourth most rushing yards in the league (139 per game) and 342 yards in the past two weeks. This is a clear breakout spot for Elliott who is a strong pick at 1.01 in all formats.

2. Todd Gurley Gurley managed only 6 touchdowns last season on 321 touches. He scored just once every 53.5 touches. Through three weeks of 2017, Gurley has already equaled his touchdown total from last season with six scores in three games. On 78 touches, that is a touchdown once every 13 touches. That rate of scoring is probably unsustainable, but Gurley’s role in the offense should allow him to pile up the touches and continue to see opportunities inside the red zone. The narrow edge goes to Gurley over Hunt this week due to Gurley seeing 7.3 more touches per game. Gurley leads the Rams in targets, which makes him matchup proof and eases concerns of baking Gurley as a road underdog.

3. Kareem Hunt Hunt isn’t seeing as many touches as the other elite backs. He has touched the ball 22, 16 and 18 times over the first three weeks. What he has done with those 18.6 touches per game have been incredible, however. It is tough to fade a player like Hunt who has been on such a hot streak and who seems to break off multiple long, highlight-reel runs each game. But against a Washington defense that is allowing just 62.3 rushing yards per game, this could easily be the week Hunt’s fantasy production comes back to earth. 

4. Le'Veon Bell Bell looks like the same dominant back he was last season but has yet to put up one of the monster fantasy games that he regularly produced in 2016. One of Bell’s big games last season came in Baltimore when he put up 27.2 Draft points in Week 16. We know what Bell is capable of, even against this stout Baltimore defense. The big Week 16 performance stands out as an outlier however in the recent history of Pittsburgh-Baltimore games. Most of the games between these bitter rivals have been low-scoring slugfests in which neither team is able to generate much on the ground. 

5. LeSean McCoy We normally like to avoid running backs who are big underdogs and playing on the road due to the most likely game script leading to more passing while playing from behind. Buffalo is an 8-point underdog traveling to face a very good Atlanta team. However, this spot is an exception to the rule about road underdogs. McCoy is Buffalo’s leading receiver with 18 receptions. The Falcons have given up 26 receptions to opposing running backs in three weeks. McCoy could easily catch 6-8 passes this weekend and Buffalo falling behind doesn’t hurt his fantasy outlook. Even in Draft’s 0.5 PPR scoring, the likelihood of a healthy number of receptions and receiving yards give McCoy one of the highest floors of any position player on the slate. 

6. Devonta Freeman Freeman continues to separate from Tevin Coleman in terms of usage. He has handled 70% or more of the running back touches each of the past two weeks. The Buffalo run defense is solid but Freeman is at home with the Falcons listed as an 8-point favorite. It’s a decent spot for Freeman who has shown to have multi-touchdown upside. 

7. Dalvin Cook Cook has been a workhorse running back for the Vikings, averaging over 20 carries and 3 receptions per game. His 4.7 yards per carry average is especially impressive considering the Vikings mediocre offensive line. The Lions are a middle of the pack run defense (16th in DVOA) and are allowing 7.0 receptions per game to opposing running backs. 

8. Melvin Gordon III Gordon is dealing with a knee injury but participated in practice Thursday and, according to head coach Anthony Lynn, will definitely play Sunday against the Eagles. It’s a tough spot for Gordon. The Chargers offensive line ranks just 30th in adjusted line yards while the Eagles defensive line ranks in the top-5 in adjusted line yards. Gordon is heavily involved as a receiver and his volume alone makes him a weekly top-10 option but the Chargers are likely to lean on the arm of Philip Rivers this week.

9. Carlos Hyde

10. Leonard Fournette

11. Christian McCaffrey

12. Jay Ajayi (London)

13. Joe Mixon Are these the “same old Browns” or is the defensive improvement against the run legitimate? The Bengals have rushed for at least 144 yards in five straight games against Cleveland. In those five games, the Bengals have averaged 205 rushing yards per game. “Same old Browns” would mean a potentially huge day for Joe Mixon. But the Browns brought in coordinator Gregg Williams in the offseason and his defenses have historically been very tough against the run. Four of his last six defenses finished the season in the Top-5 against the run. Through three weeks, the Browns have been fantastic against the run. They rank 5th in yards against, 6th in run defense DVOA and have held opposing running backs to just 3.4 yards per carry. Mixon had 21 touches last week and should see a similar workload again in Week 4. You need to decide where you stand on Mixon if you are doing 10-Team drafts this week. He resides in a no-man’s land between the top tier of running backs and the bottom group and there is a good chance you will have to make a call on whether or not to take him in the third round .

14. Mark Ingram II (London)

15. Chris Thompson

16. Chris Carson

17. C.J. Anderson

18. Mike Gillislee

19. DeMarco Murray

20. Javorius Allen

Wide Receiver and Tight End

1. A.J. Green Under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Green saw 13 targets last week against Green Bay. He projects to have another huge workload this week. John Ross and Tyler Eifert remain it and Brandon LaFell is playing through a knee injury. The Bengals have little in the passing game outside of forcing it to Green. With double-digit targets, Green should have another big game against subpar Cleveland cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor. Green has the best matchup of the top-tier wide receivers and a strong history of success against the Browns. He scored a touchdown and racked up 125+ yards in both of his last two matchups against Cleveland. Green is worth strong consideration at 1.01 in all Draft formats. 

2. Antonio Brown The Ravens defense is tough and normally plays well against the Steelers. In 2015, Baltimore held Brown under 10 Draft points in both meetings. Brown bounced back last season, however, scoring 18.0 and 20.6 in his two meetings against the Ravens. It’s a decent spot for the league’s best wide receiver. Brown shouldn’t fall too far in drafts, but he’s not a player you need to target too aggressively in Week 4. 

3. Julio Jones Jones faces another tough matchup against a Buffalo pass defense that ranks 3rd in DVOA. He also hasn’t been seeing heavy red zone targets like the coaching staff talked about all offseason. Despite the tough matchup, Jones is still a player to target early in drafts every week. He has averaged a ridiculous 107 receiving yards per game since 2014. 

4. Odell Beckham Jr Jr Beckham was finally healthy in Week 3 and took advantage of an injury-riddled Eagles secondary to the tune of 9 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. His Week 4 matchup is solid but perhaps not as strong as some might think after Stefon Diggs torched Tampa Bay last Sunday. The Buccaneers were decimated by injuries before and during their Week 3 matchup. Top cornerback Brent Grimes didn’t play and the two top pass rushers, Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence both exited early with injuries. Getting those three defenders back in the lineup will be a major boost for a Tampa Bay defense that allowed just two 20+ point fantasy performances by opposing wide receivers in 2016. 

5. Michael Thomas (London) With the season on the line in a must-win Week 3 matchup, the Saints peppered Thomas with targets early to open things up against the tough Carolina pass defense. Thomas produced a solid 18.6 Draft points. His matchup this week is absolutely ideal against a Miami Dolphins defense that ranks 2nd in DVOA against the run but dead last in DVOA against the pass. Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and the Saints passing offense should have a field day against the Dolphins. 

6. Rob Gronkowski In the history of the NFL, Gronkowski ranks second in receiving touchdowns per game. Nobody has as high of a weekly touchdown expectation as Gronkowski when he is healthy. Tom Brady has been on fire over the past two weeks and Gronkowski has also thrived. He has averaged 7 catches, 102.5 receiving yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks despite resting a minor injury in the second-half of the Week 2 blowout of New Orleans. Adding to Gronkowski’s upside is that his aDOT is an incredible 12.6 yards downfield. He is being targeted multiple times every game on deep balls so unlike most tight ends, Gronkowski has the big-play ability to score from anywhere on the field. 

7. DeAndre Hopkins Hopkins is the only receiver with at least seven catches in every game this season. He has a high floor because the Texans have to force targets his way due to lack of other options. The Texans have allowed a top-10 receiver each of the first three weeks, so this is a nice spot for another solid week from Hopkins.

8. Mike Evans Evans was held in check by Xavier Rhodes last week (7-67-0 on 12 targets) and the Vikings last week. He faces a similarly tough matchup in Week 4 against Janoris Jenkins. It still makes sense to grab Evans if he falls too far in 6-Team or 10-Team drafts, but he’s not a top Draft target this week. 

9. Larry Fitzgerald Fitzgerald has one of the most advantageous matchups of the week against undersized slot cornerback K’Waun Williams. Despite the huge 13-149-1 performance last week, Fitzgerald is best viewed as a high floor/low ceiling receiver. In terms of Draft strategy, he is a perfect WR2 target in 6-Team and 10-Team drafts if you feel great about your high upside choices in the previous rounds. If you don’t feel like you’ve already built a high-upside lineup, then lower-ranked options like Brandin Cooks and Stefon Diggs are better picks. 

10. Stefon Diggs

11. Keenan Allen

12. Brandin Cooks As detailed in last week’s article that pegged Cooks as a top-8 option, he has been held in check by speedy cornerbacks but produced elite fantasy numbers matched against slower corners. He profiles to have huge upside again in Week 4 facing James Bradberry (4.50) and Daryl Worley (4.64). 

13. Demaryius Thomas

14. Dez Bryant Bryant has faced a murderer’s row of top cornerbacks to start the season: Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib, and Patrick Peterson. He will face Pro Bowler Trumaine Johnson of the Rams in Week 4. While Johnson has a strong reputation, he is not a lockdown corner and is the best matchup that Bryant has had this season. Johnson was torched by Pierre Garcon last week for 142 yards.

15. Tyreek Hill

16. Emmanuel Sanders

17. Jarvis Landry

18. DeVante Parker

19. Zach Ertz

20. Doug Baldwin Baldwin would be ranked inside the top-10 if he didn’t carry health concerns. He is expected to play through the groin injury that knocked him out of last week’s game. Whether he will be able to full speed is a concern. As is the risk that he aggravates the injury and has to leave the game early again.

Draft Strategy


2-Team Drafts

1. Ezekiel Elliott

2. A.J. Green

3. Tom Brady

4. Todd Gurley

5. Antonio Brown

6. Kareem Hunt

7. Julio Jones

8. Odell Beckham Jr Jr

9. Le'Veon Bell

10. Drew Brees

The strategy is completely wide open this week. There is minuscule separation in the projections between RB1 and RB4, WR1 and WR4 and the top two quarterbacks. Drafts this week provide you with a lot of freedom to target the players at each position you feel most strongly about in whatever order you choose because the fallback options at each position are incredibly strong. 

The narrow nod at 1.01 goes to Ezekiel Elliott. He has the best chance of scoring multiple touchdowns this week against a Rams defense allowing 1.7 touchdowns per game to opposing backs. 

If your opponent takes Elliott 1.01, the best move at the 1/2 turn is to add the top receiver (Green) and top quarterback (Brady). There is very little downside to waiting at running back and taking whoever falls to you from the loaded top four at the position this week.

3-Team Drafts

1. Ezekiel Elliott

2. A.J. Green

3. Todd Gurley

4. Kareem Hunt

5. Antonio Brown

6. Le'Veon Bell

7. Tom Brady

8. Julio Jones

9. Odell Beckham Jr Jr

10. Drew Brees

11. LeSean McCoy

12. Devonta Freeman

13. Michael Thomas

14. Rob Gronkowski

15. Russell Wilson

The biggest difference between 2-Team and 3-Team drafts is we start to see a bit of separation between the top options at running back and the lower-ranked options. LeSean McCoy has a nice floor due to his pass game usage, but he hasn’t scored yet this season and thus his touchdown expectation lags behind the top guys. Devonta Freeman has been seeing heavier usage than Tevin Coleman, but he is still in much more of a committee than any of the other top backs. Ideally, you are able to lock in two of the top four backs. 

At 1.01, Elliott is an easier choice than he was in the 2-Team drafts due to the sharper fall off at the position. While the top receivers are still in play in the first couple rounds, it is worth considering going RB-RB from either the 2-spot or the 3-spot. 

In the final round of the draft, there should be some natural stacking opportunities for the Brady and Brees owners. You certainly don’t have to go out of your way to stack in a 3-Teamer but there’s nothing wrong with locking in some positive correlation either.

6-Team Drafts

1. Ezekiel Elliott

2. A.J. Green

3. Todd Gurley

4. Antonio Brown

5. Kareem Hunt

6. Tom Brady

7. Le'Veon Bell

8. Julio Jones

9. Odell Beckham Jr Jr

10. Drew Brees

11. LeSean McCoy

12. Devonta Freeman

13. Russell Wilson

14. Michael Thomas

15. Rob Gronkowski

16. Matt Ryan

17. Dalvin Cook

18. Melvin Gordon III

19. DeAndre Hopkins

20. Mike Evans

21. Carlos Hyde

22. Leonard Fournette

23. Larry Fitzgerald

24. Stefon Diggs

25. Keenan Allen

26. Brandin Cooks

27. Christian McCaffrey

28. Jay Ajayi

29. Dak Prescott

30. Carson Palmer

In 6-Team drafts, the most interesting dynamic this week is the lack of depth at the quarterback position. After the top four, there aren’t any passers with overly attractive floor-ceiling combinations. Ideally, you’re not one of the two teams left picking from amongst quarterbacks like Dak Prescott, Carson Palmer, and Carson Wentz late. Unlike most weeks, it makes sense to reach and grab a top quarterback in the second or third round. 

The decision to use a premium pick on a quarterback is made easier by the strong depth at running back all the way down to Jay Ajayi at RB12. The top running backs still maintain their relative value but there shouldn’t be the typical sense of urgency to lock in a solid RB2 in the second or third round since the running backs from #7 through #12 all have similar projections.

10-Team Drafts

1. Ezekiel Elliott

2. Todd Gurley

3. Kareem Hunt

4. Le'Veon Bell

5. A.J. Green

6. Antonio Brown

7. Tom Brady

8. Julio Jones

9. Odell Beckham Jr Jr

10. LeSean McCoy

11. Devonta Freeman

12. Drew Brees

13. Russell Wilson

14. Dalvin Cook

15. Melvin Gordon III

16. Michael Thomas

17. Rob Gronkowski

18. Matt Ryan

19. DeAndre Hopkins

20. Mike Evans

21. Carlos Hyde

22. Leonard Fournette

23. Christian McCaffrey

24. Jay Ajayi

25. Joe Mixon

26. Larry Fitzgerald

27. Stefon Diggs

28. Keenan Allen

29. Brandin Cooks

30. Mark Ingram II

31. Chris Thompson

32. Chris Carson

33. Demaryius Thomas

34. Dez Bryant

35. Tyreek Hill

36. Emmanuel Sanders

37. Jarvis Landry

38. Dak Prescott

39. Carson Palmer

40. C.J. Anderson

41. Mike Gillislee

42. DeVante Parker

43. Zach Ertz

44. Doug Baldwin

45. DeMarco Murray

46. Carson Wentz

47. Trevor Siemian

48. Kirk Cousins

49. Marcus Mariota

50. Javorius Allen

In 6-Team drafts, there isn’t a rush to lock up a solid RB2 because the position goes 12 deep. The dynamic changes drastically in 10-Team contests because there is a big drop off once you get past the top 12 or 13 guys. There are significant tier breaks at running back whereas the projections are extremely flat at wide receiver and quarterback. Thus, it behooves you to try to lock up your second running back by the third round at the latest. Landing a pair of top runners will provide a tangible advantage in 10-Team leagues this week. 

The top-4 wide receivers and top-4 quarterbacks still retain significant value because there are tier drops after those guys as well. Once you get into those second tiers at wide receiver and quarterback, all the options are pretty similar and you will likely see these lower-end wide receivers and quarterbacks fly off the board in wildly different orders in each draft. You should try to enter each 10-Team draft with a couple quarterbacks and few WR2s who you have researched and feel best about because you will likely be targeting those positions in the last couple rounds.



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