Expert DRAFTing Week 7

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

Main Slate Breakdown

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. 

First, we will dive into the rankings and draft strategy for each of the four Draft sizes. If you are interested in why the players are ranked where they are in the overall rankings, make sure to check out the in-depth breakdowns of the top options in the positional rankings. 

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: Monitor the Injury News

The key to success in this week's Drafts is going to be how you adjust your strategy and rankings based upon the latest injury news. There are a number of key injuries that will drastically swing the rankings. Leonard Fournette is the prime example. If we get confimation that Fournette will defintiely play on Sunday, he ranks as the #3 running back. However, there has been growing pessimism about the likelihood he plays. As of this update (Saturday morning), it is tough to draft him with confidence unless we see some reporting he is likely to suit up. Chris Ivory would become a top-10 option if Fournette it out. But again it is also impossible to confidently draft Ivory as a top-20 running back until we get some solid reporting that Fournette is out. Is Ivory worth a selection as RB20 based upon the calculated gamble that Fournette will be out? Perhaps. That is a risk/reward decision that is worth weighing and considering in 10-Team Drafts.

Similar questions surround DeMarco Murray. If he is out, Derrick Henry moves up to at least a top-15 option. Keenan Allen seems likely to play but isn't a lock based upon a shoulder injury he suffered in practice late in the week. When in doubt, go with the safe options and avoid players with a questionable tag and let someone else shoulder the injury risk. 

To win in Week 7, you will need to make sure you are armed with the latest information about injury expectations. Follow Dr. Jene Bramel on twitter and make sure you do a quick check of the news in the minutes before you log on to draft. The rankings below represent a snapshot in time, as the article is posted on Friday morning each week. It isn't feasible for me to edit the article and instantly update the rankings and strategy writeups based upon each breaking news item, especially in a week like this where there are so many moving pieces. 

 

Head-To-Head Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Ezekiel Elliott
  2. Le'Veon Bell
  3. A.J. Green
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Tom Brady
  7. Leonard Fournette* (draft only if we get confirmation he will be active)
  8. Todd Gurley
  9. Dak Prescott
  10. Michael Thomas

The later in the week it gets, the more separation we see at the top of the running back rankings. As such, Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell should be the top two picks in whichever order the drafter prefers. Both are near locks for at least 25 touches. Elliott gets the slight nod at 1.01 due to a much better matchup but Bell has proven to be essentially matchup-proof and is also a fantastic option this week. The separation between the top two and the next tier has developed mainly due to continued injury concerns about Leonard Fournette. He is the ultimate wild card in Week 7. Fournette has been an unstoppable force when healthy this season and has a solid matchup against Indianapolis. However, he is nursing an ankle injury which makes his availability, potential effectiveness and risk of re-aggravation during the game all real concerns. Todd Gurley has been losing 3rd-down snaps in recent weeks and faces an extremely difficult matchup against a stout Arizona Cardinals defense. 

We also see a smaller tier break after the top three wide receivers. A.J. Green, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones have proven in recent years to be strong weekly plays regardless of matchup and are worth trusting despite some potentially difficult matchups. The second tier of Michael Thomas, Dez Bryant and Mike Evans have not been as consistently productive but are each solid options in their own right. 

Tom Brady continues to get the nod as the top weekly quarterback option. It makes sense to take Brady as high as 2.01 if none of the wide receivers stand out as must-owns. 

3-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Ezekiel Elliott
  2. Le'Veon Bell
  3. A.J. Green
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Leonard Fournette* (draft only if we get confirmation he is active)
  7. Todd Gurley
  8. Tom Brady
  9. LeSean McCoy
  10. Michael Thomas
  11. Dez Bryant
  12. Dak Prescott
  13. Marcus Mariota
  14. Mike Evans
  15. Carlos Hyde

While there are reasons to be bullish about Carlos Hyde in a favorable matchup at home against the Dallas Cowboys, we still see a bigger drop off in projected scoring at the running back position from #1 to #6 than we do at the other positions. Thus, Elliott and Bell should be the clear top two picks. After 1.02, it is wide open. Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder at the wide receiver position in Week 7. Waiting until the final two rounds and settling for whichever two of the top-6 are still available is a strong strategy if none of the top options stick out. 

After Tom Brady, quarterback rankings are going to vary wildly for everyone since the next handful are so tightly bunched together in terms of projections. Expect to see Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan to be the most popular options in the later rounds of 3-Team Drafts. However, consider Marcus Mariota as a viable option as well. Mariota has a tantalizing matchup in Week 7. Nobody has ever gone broke betting against the competence of the Cleveland Browns. 

6-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Ezekiel Elliott
  2. Le'Veon Bell
  3. Leonard Fournette* (draft only if we receive confirmation he is active)
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. A.J. Green
  6. Antonio Brown
  7. Julio Jones
  8. LeSean McCoy
  9. Tom Brady
  10. Michael Thomas
  11. Dez Bryant
  12. Mike Evans
  13. Rob Gronkowski
  14. Carlos Hyde
  15. Devonta Freeman
  16. Larry Fitzgerald
  17. Demaryius Thomas
  18. Melvin Gordon III
  19. Jay Ajayi
  20. Mark Ingram II
  21. Dak Prescott
  22. Marcus Mariota
  23. Matt Ryan
  24. Drew Brees
  25. Jordan Howard
  26. Jerick McKinnon
  27. Zach Ertz
  28. Jarvis Landry
  29. Jordy Nelson
  30. Carson Wentz

Running back is the deepest it has been 1 through 12 the entire season. Unlike most weeks, it is an absolutely viable strategy to punt running back until the final two rounds. For example, in our Footballguys 6-Team Draft Keith Roberts took Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Tom Brady with his first three picks and was still able to land Carlos Hyde and Jordan Howard in the final two rounds. Each of the top-12 running backs looks like a good bet for 20+ touches this week so you aren’t at a huge disadvantage if you take a patient approach at the position. Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell are still the best picks at the top of the draft, however. Each has a solid chance of hitting 30 touches in Week 7.

Quarterback is also deep this week. Week 6 was difficult with Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott on bye and Tom Brady not playing on the main slate. Week 7 features the league’s top quarterbacks each in above-average spots. Brady has been playing at such an elite level, he is worth targeting in the 2nd round. The depth of the position makes waiting until the 5th found if you miss out on Brady the optimal strategy. 

10-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Ezekiel Elliott
  2. Le'Veon Bell
  3. Leonard Fournette *(draft only if we get confirmation he is active)
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. LeSean McCoy
  6. A.J. Green
  7. Antonio Brown
  8. Julio Jones
  9. Carlos Hyde
  10. Devonta Freeman
  11. Tom Brady
  12. Michael Thomas
  13. Dez Bryant
  14. Melvin Gordon III
  15. Jay Ajayi
  16. Mark Ingram II
  17. Mike Evans
  18. Rob Gronkowski
  19. Larry Fitzgerald
  20. Jordan Howard
  21. Jerick McKinnon
  22. Adrian Peterson
  23. Dak Prescott
  24. Marcus Mariota
  25. Matt Ryan
  26. Demaryius Thomas
  27. Zach Ertz
  28. Jarvis Landry
  29. Jordy Nelson
  30. Brandin Cooks
  31. Chris Hogan
  32. Drew Brees
  33. Christian McCaffrey
  34. Joe Mixon
  35. Doug Martin
  36. Derrick Henry
  37. Adam Thielen
  38. Doug Baldwin
  39. Keenan Allen
  40. Pierre Garcon
  41. Carson Wentz
  42. Kirk Cousins
  43. Devin Funchess
  44. T.Y. Hilton
  45. Russell Wilson
  46. Cam Newton
  47. Carson Palmer
  48. C.J. Anderson
  49. Chris Thompson
  50. Frank Gore

Unlike in 6-Team Drafts, there should be a major sense of urgency to lock in two top running backs in the first three rounds. There is a tier break after the top 13 running backs (once Adrian Peterson is off the board) who each project for 20+ touches. Backs like Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, Doug Martin and Derrick Henry are decent gambles this week. But they are just that — gambles. The optimal strategy is to lock in two of the safer, high-floor backs early. Drafters should especially make efforts to avoid getting stuck with one of the lowest-ranked backs this week. Even if it means reaching a bit in the third round for one of the aforementioned backs that we classified as gambles. 

The quarterback depth mentioned above in other draft sizes goes 10-deep. There should be absolutely no panic at the position this week. If the “worst case” scenario from waiting is ending up with Cam Newton or Carson Palmer in the 5th round, sign me up. 

Each Drafters board is likely to look wildly different at the wide receiver position. Some will rank the Patriots top weapons much higher due to upside. Others will look more favorably upon the option of locking in guaranteed targets with safer options like Demaryius Thomas, Keenan Allen and Jarvis Landry. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder at the position and hitting on the correct WR2 options could be the big separator in Week 7. 

Quarterback Rankings

  1. Tom Brady The Patriots have a huge 30-point implied team total in a game against Atlanta that boasts one of the highest game totals of the season (56.5 points). It would be a surprise if the game wasn’t a shootout. The last time these two teams met was in the Super Bowl, when Brady threw for 446 yards and completed 43 passes.
  2. Dak Prescott Prescott should benefit from a high-paced game. San Francisco’s offense has been the fastest paced in the league this season and has faced the most offensive plays against. After a decent start, the 49ers defense has struggled over the past four weeks, allowing over 22 Draft points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Prescott has been hot in recent weeks. He has accounted for 10 touchdowns (8 passing and 2 rushing) in his last three games. 
  3. Marcus Mariota The news that Mariota has been moving around well in practice and should be back close to 100% on Sunday vaults him up the list of top quarterback options for Week 7. Cleveland is a textbook example of a defense that funnels the opposing offense toward throwing the ball. The Browns are 3rd in DVOA against the run and 32nd against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 21.2 Draft points per game against Cleveland this season. The Titans team total of 25.5 points is very similar to those of the Falcons (Matt Ryan) and Saints (Drew Brees). Given the strengths and weaknesses of the Browns defense, Mariota is most likely to have a direct hand in nearly all of the scoring. He also has rushing upside that Ryan and Brees do not. 
  4. Matt Ryan Ryan hasn’t been nearly as productive in 2017 as he was last season. After averaging 309 passing yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game in 2016, Ryan is averaging 271 passing yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game this year. Ryan has thrown just one touchdown in 4-of-5 games and his lone game with two touchdown passes also included three interceptions. 
  5. Drew Brees Brees has been very solid this season, averaging 264 passing yards and 2.0 passing touchdowns per game. The Saints travel to Green Bay and have a decent implied team total of 25.8 points. However, the Saints offense has shown nice balance in recent weeks. Brees hasn’t thrown for over 270 yards since Week 2. The matchup is mediocre. The Packers haven’t given up more than 252 passing yards in any game this season and will likely look to slow the game down with Brett Hundley making his first start of the season. 
  6. Carson Wentz
  7. Kirk Cousins
  8. Russell Wilson
  9. Cam Newton Newton has been fantastic in recent weeks, scoring at least 23.6 Draft points in each of his last three games. He is also running the ball more (26 rushing attempts over the last three). However, the matchup is tough this week. The Panthers team total is just 21.8 points. Newton may also be without his top wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin. 
  10. Carson Palmer Palmer has averaged 18.7 fantasy points per week over the past five weeks. He has a high weekly floor. Palmer’s 269 passing yards in Week 1 is his season low and he is averaging 309.5 passing yards per game on the season. 

Running Back Rankings

  1. Ezekiel Elliott As with each of the top running backs this week, there is some reason for concern with regard to Elliott’s forecast this week. The appeal of Elliott’s 6-game suspension came to a critical juncture this week and entering the week, there was a good chance Elliott would be suspended for this game. He received a favorable judicial decision on Tuesday evening and will definitely play but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has been distracted by the court case. All that being said, Elliott has the best on-field matchup of the week. Adjusted for the quality of the opponent, San Francisco’s defense is giving up the second-most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing running backs. Elliott has at least 25 touches in three straight weeks and projects for at least that many in what should be a fast-paced game that Dallas is favored in. Give me Elliott at 1.01 in Drafts of all sizes this week. 
  2. Le'Veon Bell Bell is as matchup-proof as any running back in the league. The Chiefs defense had been stout against the run before Bell gashed them for 179 rushing yards on 32 carries last week. On expected volume alone, Bell is a fantastic option. He has averaged 34 touches per game over the last three weeks. The matchup against Cincinnati is at least some cause for concern, however. Bell hasn’t topped 100 rushing yards or scored a touchdown against the Bengals since the teams’ first meeting in 2014. 
  3. Leonard Fournette If Fournette is able to play and perform anywhere near the level we have seen from him in the first six weeks of the season, he should have a monster week. Fournette has scored in every game of his NFL career and has topped 100 total yards in 4-of-6. The Colts rank slightly below average in normalized fantasy production allowed to opposing running backs (22nd overall). The ankle injury Fournette suffered late last week against the Rams is the big concern. Fournette says he believes his sprained right ankle will not keep him out Sunday against Indianapolis but said: "it's up to my coaches if they're going to let me play or not." Do not ignore the risk that Fournette is limited or that he gives it a go and tweaks the injury early in the game. Before you draft, check the latest news on Fournette’s injury status and decide for yourself whether the risk is worth the reward. 
  4. Todd Gurley The matchup against Arizona is a tough one. The Cardinals rank 4th in DVOA against the run and are only allowing 38.8 receiving yards per game to opposing running backs. Gurley is averaging 24.3 touches per game on the season though and is worth an early pick on volume alone. 
  5. LeSean McCoy McCoy is a safe option due to what should be a heavy workload. He has seen 27, 18, 21, 23 and 25 touches in his five games this season. He faces a mediocre Tampa Bay run defense that allowed Adrian Peterson to explode for 25.4 Draft points last week. The primary concern for McCoy is upside. He has yet to score a touchdown in 2017 and hasn’t rushed for 80 yards since Week 1. 
  6. Carlos Hyde Hyde has a good matchup at home against a Cowboys defense that has allowed an opposing running back to run for at least 118 yards in 3-of-5 games. Even in the two games in which Dallas didn’t get gashed on the ground, they still gave up 18 receptions (9.0 per game) to the opposing backs. 
  7. Devonta Freeman
  8. Melvin Gordon III
  9. Jay Ajayi
  10. Mark Ingram II
  11. Jordan Howard The matchup against Carolina is a tough one. However, the Week 6 matchup in Baltimore was also supposed to be a difficult one and Howard was able to rush for 167 yards against the Ravens. The Bears will be determined to force feed the ball to Howard as they hope to keep as much pressure off of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky as possible. In Trubisky’s two starts, Howard has 55 rushing attempts (27.5 per game). Based on talent and volume of work, Howard is a fantastic RB2 option in 10-Team Drafts. He also makes punting running back to the final rounds of 6-Team Drafts an intriguing calculated gamble. 
  12. Jerick McKinnon
  13. Adrian Peterson
  14. Christian McCaffrey
  15. Joe Mixon Mixon has seen the majority of the Bengals running back touches each of the past three weeks and the Cincinnati offensive coaches stated that their primary focus in the bye week was on how to get the running game rolling. The Steelers defense has given up the 7th most fantasy points to opposing running backs and was dominated by another rookie running back, Leonard Fournette, in their last home game. 
  16. Doug Martin
  17. C.J. Anderson
  18. Chris Thompson
  19. Derrick Henry Henry is a great late-round RB2 option with high upside. DeMarco Murray is questionable with a lingering hamstring injury. Even if he plays, Henry should be a solid option. Henry has at least 13 carries in each of the Titans wins and should have a favorable game script in Week 7 with the Tennessee favored by 5.5 points against Cleveland. 
  20. Frank Gore

Wide Receiver and Tight End Rankings

  1. A.J. Green Green is an elite talent and recent history suggests he is worth targeting when he faces the Steelers. In his last four regular-season games against Pittsburgh Green has amassed some incredible receiving lines with just one dud (2-38-0 in Week 2 of 2016). Aside from that game, here is what Green has accomplished against the Steelers in recent years: 11-118-1, 6-132-1, and 11-224-1. 
  2. Antonio Brown Brown is a target-hog. He already has 74 targets this season, which puts him on pace for 197 on the season. Brown is also arguably the league’s most talented receiver. He is a guy who you draft early every week regardless of matchup. However, the divisional matchup against Cincinnati may be enough to knock Brown from the top of the wide receiver rankings. Ignoring an incredible performance by Aaron Rodgers, the Bengals have allowed only 4.73 yards per attempt and two total touchdowns to opposing passers. More importantly, the Bengals have had a tremendous amount of success in limiting Brown in recent matchups. In the last four meetings, Brown has had lines of 4-39-0, 3-58-0, 6-47-1 and 7-87-0. 
  3. Julio Jones Jones is off to a slow start in 2016. He has yet to score a touchdown and is averaging just 5 catches and 73.4 receiving yards per game. There is also reason to believe that the Patriots defense will consistently double-team Jones, as New England regularly attempts to take away the opposing team’s top weapon and force someone else to beat them. All that being said, there are plenty of encouraging signs for Jones this week. The Patriots rank last in the league in pass defense and have given up a whopping 14 touchdown passes already. New England could be without two of their top three cornerbacks. Eric Rowe is out and Stephon Gilmore didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday. 
  4. Michael Thomas Some will be scared away from Thomas after he let down fantasy owners in what should have been a great spot last week. We can probably chalk that up as an aberration due to a fluky game script. New Orleans jumped out to a huge early lead on the strength of three defensive touchdowns. The Packers rank near the middle of the pack in pass defense DVOA but have given up solid production to #1 receivers this season: 9-97-0 to Adam Thielen, 5-52-1 to Dez Bryant, 10-111-1 to A.J. Green and 5-108-0 to Julio Jones. 
  5. Dez Bryant Dallas faces a San Francisco defense that ranks 26th in DVOA against the pass and 23rd in DVOA against opposing #1 receivers. Dez Bryant has been the wide receiver whose fantasy performance is most closely correlated to the quality of the opposing cornerback. In fact, he has led the NFL over the last three seasons with 3.36 fantasy points per target against cornerbacks ranked in the bottom-25 of ProFootballFocus’ position grades. Each of San Francisco’s starting cornerbacks ranks near the bottom of PFF’s positional rankings (79th, 90th and 112th out of 114). Bryant hasn’t exploded for a big 20+ point fantasy game yet this season. If it’s going to happen, this should be the week. 
  6. Mike Evans
  7. Rob Gronkowski
  8. Larry Fitzgerald
  9. Demaryius Thomas
  10. Zach Ertz
  11. Jarvis Landry
  12. Jordy Nelson
  13. Brandin Cooks
  14. Chris Hogan
  15. Adam Thielen
  16. Doug Baldwin
  17. Keenan Allen
  18. Pierre Garcon
  19. Devin Funchess
  20. T.Y. Hilton

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