Expert DRAFTing Week 9

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

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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.

Ezekiel Elliott Update

Ezekiel Elliott surprisingly won a temporary reinstatement on Friday afternoon and will be on the field Sunday for Dallas against the Kansas City Chiefs. He immediately slots in as the preferred pick at 1.04 in 3-Team, 6-Team and 10-Team Drafts. (Note: The strategy doesn't change in any of these three formats so the article won't be fully updated.) We just have one more top running back option before having to make difficult choices on who to select from the second tier. We still have a solid drop between the top-5 running backs and the next tier and should draft those top-5 backs at the top of the board. Th

The one draft size where strategy is impacted by Elliott's return is Head-to-Head. Before Friday afternoon, it appeared there was a little tier break between Todd Gurley as RB3 and Mark Ingram II at RB4. With Elliott in the mix now as RB4, there is very little separation between the top-4 running backs. Each has a solid matchup and comfortably projects for 20+ touches. Thus, there is no longer a sense of urgency to draft running backs early in Head-to-Head Drafts. The Head-to-Head rankings and strategy writeup is updated as of Saturday morning to reflect the latest news. 

Head-to-Head Rankings post-Elliott News

  1. Russell Wilson
  2. Julio Jones
  3. Michael Thomas
  4. Leonard Fournette
  5. Kareem Hunt
  6. Todd Gurley
  7. Dez Bryant
  8. Ezekiel Elliott
  9. Dak Prescott
  10. DeAndre Hopkins

 

With Elliott in the mix now as RB4, there is very little separation between the top-4 running backs. Each has a solid matchup and comfortably projects for 20+ touches. Thus, there is no longer a sense of urgency to draft running backs early in Head-to-Head Drafts.  With Deshaun Watson’s injury, Russell Wilson becomes the week’s clear top option at quarterback. He is worth targeting ahead of the top wide receivers. There isn’t an elite, slam-dunk play at the wide receiver and tight end position worth reaching for. With little separation at running back, Wilson becomes the best option at 1.01. Locking up two top wide receivers early also becomes a much more attractive proposition. It is now possible to wait until your final two picks and still land a pair of elite running backs.

3-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Leonard Fournette
  2. Kareem Hunt
  3. Todd Gurley II
  4. Mark Ingram II
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Michael Thomas
  7. Dez Bryant
  8. Russell Wilson
  9. Dak Prescott
  10. Drew Brees
  11. DeAndre Hopkins
  12. Michael Crabtree
  13. Alvin Kamara
  14. Carlos Hyde
  15. Mike Evans

Week 9 might be the shallowest week at the running back position we have had in the 2017 season. Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. LeSean McCoy played on Thursday night. Le'Veon Bell and Melvin Gordon III are on bye weeks. After the top-4 backs, there isn’t anyone who stands out as a slam dunk in terms of either usage or matchup. Thus, the top-4 backs carry a heavy value premium this week. 

The 1.03 spot looks like the ideal place to draft in Week 9 3-team Drafts. The top three backs are all in the same tier and Mark Ingram II at 2.01 gives you a nice edge on your opponent at RB2. 

There is just enough separation between the top-3 wide receivers and the lower-ranked options like Mike Evans to target Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Dez Bryant ahead of Russell Wilson (once the top-4 running backs are off the board). 

6-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Leonard Fournette
  2. Kareem Hunt
  3. Todd Gurley II
  4. Mark Ingram II
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Michael Thomas
  7. Dez Bryant
  8. DeAndre Hopkins
  9. Michael Crabtree
  10. Alvin Kamara
  11. Carlos Hyde
  12. Lamar Miller
  13. Russell Wilson
  14. Mike Evans
  15. A.J. Green
  16. Zach Ertz
  17. Travis Kelce
  18. Tyreek Hill
  19. Dak Prescott
  20. Drew Brees
  21. Doug Martin
  22. Devonta Freeman
  23. Chris Thompson
  24. Aaron Jones
  25. Alex Smith
  26. Matthew Stafford
  27. Amari Cooper
  28. Doug Baldwin
  29. Derek Carr
  30. Christian McCaffrey

There is a deep second tier of options at wide receiver this week. Quarterback also has solid depth. With the lack of depth at running back, the elite runners are slam dunk picks at the top of 6-Team Drafts. Once the top-4 are off the board, the Drafter at 1.05 is left in no-man’s land. There is a real lack of enticing options late in the first round. There isn’t a ton of separation between the top wide receiver (Julio Jones) and the #12 wide receiver (Doug Baldwin). Still, it is tough to reach for any of the remaining backs in the first round. 

With only three or four slam dunk options at running back, every single owner is going to have to roll the dice and hope for the best in drafting their RB2. Picking the correct option from amongst this deep second tier will be a major key in deciding who wins Week 9 Drafts. As detailed in-depth in the positional rankings below, Alvin Kamara and Carlos Hyde are the preferred options in this tier. Kamara has a great matchup and has been extremely efficient in producing over 1.1 fantasy points per touch. Hyde’s pass-game usage makes him one of the few game script independent plays on the slate. 

10-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

  1. Leonard Fournette
  2. Kareem Hunt
  3. Todd Gurley II
  4. Mark Ingram II
  5. Russell Wilson
  6. Julio Jones
  7. Michael Thomas
  8. Dez Bryant
  9. Alvin Kamara
  10. Carlos Hyde
  11. Lamar Miller
  12. Dak Prescott
  13. Drew Brees
  14. DeAndre Hopkins
  15. Michael Crabtree
  16. Mike Evans
  17. A.J. Green
  18. Zach Ertz
  19. Doug Martin
  20. Devonta Freeman
  21. Chris Thompson
  22. Aaron Jones
  23. Travis Kelce
  24. Tyreek Hill
  25. Amari Cooper
  26. Doug Baldwin
  27. Alex Smith
  28. Matthew Stafford
  29. Christian McCaffrey
  30. Ameer Abdullah
  31. Joe Mixon
  32. Tevin Coleman
  33. Adrian Peterson
  34. T.Y. Hilton
  35. Devin Funchess
  36. Golden Tate
  37. Derek Carr
  38. Cam Newton
  39. Alex Collins
  40. Alfred Morris
  41. DeMarco Murray
  42. Marvin Jones Jr
  43. Jarvis Landry
  44. Sterling Shepard
  45. Carson Wentz
  46. Matt Ryan
  47. Jameis Winston
  48. Larry Fitzgerald
  49. Jordy Nelson
  50. Damien Williams

Drafting in the top-4 is a massive advantage this week. The teams with a true workhorse running back will have a real advantage over the competition. From a strategic perspective, you can play it a little safer in the later rounds if you land a top pick. You already have a built-in advantage, so it is not necessary to try to put together a QB-WR stack or to roll the dice on a boom/bust RB2.

In 10-Team Drafts, there is an increased urgency to draft two running backs with relatively safe workload expectations. The major usage questions surrounding lower-ranked running backs like Alfred Morris and Damien Williams makes runners like Doug Martin and Lamar Miller, who are locked in as the lead backs for their teams, much more valuable. If you can get one of the top-10 backs in the second round, that is probably the way to go. 

There is a bit more separation than normal at quarterback in 10-Team Drafts. With a number of top passers on bye and passers like Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan facing very difficult matchups, it is worth targeting a top-5 quarterback in the first three rounds. 

Quarterback Rankings and Breakdown

  1. Russell Wilson Deshaun Watson was the obvious top quarterback for Week 9 until he tore his ACL in Thursday practice. Watson had been on an incredible 5-game hot streak but we will have to wait until next season to see if he can stay hot. Wilson has been on his own 5-game hot streak. He has thrown for 1,652 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 120 yards and 1 touchdown over that stretch. Washington has been an average pass defense (16th in DVOA), so this is another solid spot for Wilson, playing at home as a 7-point favorite. 
  2. Dak Prescott Prescott has shown a strong combination of high floor and high ceiling this season. He has at least 17 Draft points in 6-of-7 games and has two 30+ point performances. Prescott may be forced to shoulder even more of the offensive load for Dallas with Ezekiel Elliott suspended. Following a string of mediocre performances, the Chiefs defense has fallen all the way to 26th in DVOA. Teams have moved the ball against Kansas City and with Ezekiel Elliott out, the Cowboys offense should run through Prescott. 
  3. Drew Brees Brees is as efficient as ever. His 7.81 yards per attempt in 2017 is above his career mark of 7.56 and above his 2016 mark of 7.74 (when Brees threw for 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns). Despite the efficiency, his overall fantasy numbers are way down. Due to a decrease in passing attempt (especially inside the 10-yard line, where he has thrown just 13 passes this season), Brees hasn’t shown much of a fantasy ceiling this year. His 22.2 Draft points in a Week 2 shootout are his season-high for 2017. Last season, he topped 23 points in 8-of-16 games. However, if ever there was ever a spot for Brees to have one of the monster weeks he has produced in the recent past, Week 9 against Tampa Bay may be it. The Buccaneers ranked 31st in pass defense DVOA and have allowed the 3rd most Draft points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
  4. Alex Smith It doesn’t feel like Alex Smith should be ranked as a top-5 option but the exciting plays at quarterback dry up very quickly in Week 9. The fantasy football perception by many of Smith this year, as a steady and reliable fantasy option without major upside, couldn’t be further from the truth. In 4-of-8 games Smith has scored 16.1 fantasy points or less. In the other 4-of-8 games, Smith has scored at least 25.7 points. There has been no in-between, Smith has either been a fantasy QB2 or an elite fantasy QB1 in equal measure. Against the 26th ranked DVOA Dallas defense and in a game that is expected to potentially develop into a shootout, Smith is more likely to have another of his big weeks than he is to have a poor fantasy week. 
  5. Matthew Stafford Stafford has thrown for 735 passing yards total the past two weeks despite playing a pair of excellent pass defense (New Orleans and Pittsburgh). Expect another big yardage day for Stafford against the Green Bay Packers middling pass defense. The key for Stafford’s fantasy hopes will be finishing more drives in the end zone. He has thrown just six touchdowns over the last five weeks. 
  6. Derek Carr Like Stafford, Carr has thrown for a bunch of yards over the past two weeks, with 730 total passing yards against Kansas City and Buffalo. Much of the yardage against the Bills came in garbage time but it is also fair to note that the weather was a major issue for the Oakland passing offense as well. Weather shouldn’t be an issue in Miami, where it is forecast to be 78 degrees with light winds. The Dolphins overall pass numbers look solid but that is primarily due to game script. Miami is very beatable in the passing game.
  7. Cam Newton
  8. Carson Wentz
  9. Matt Ryan
  10. Jameis Winston

Running Back Rankings Breakdown

  1. Leonard FournetteThe Bengals run defense was stout early in the year and currently ranks 10th in run defense DVOA but has shown signs of weakness over the last two weeks. Le'Veon Bell amassed 192 total yards against Cincinnati in Week 7 and the Colts duo of Frank Gore and Marlon Mack combined for 164 total yards in Week 8. Jacksonville leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (169.0 ypg) has shown they will give Fournette all the touches he can handle. He has been a full participant in every practice should see a massive workload in Week 9 as long as he doesn’t suffer any setbacks with his ankle. 
  2. Kareem Hunt Hunt hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3. Winning Drafts is so touchdown-dependent due to the 0.5 PPR scoring and lack of yardage bonuses. It is tough to count on Hunt to get into the end zone in Week 9 based upon recent history. It makes him a risky pick at 1.02. But Hunt is one of the few backs this week who is nearly guaranteed 20+ touches with upside for more and who has a solid matchup. Dallas ranks just 30th in run defense DVOA. If there was ever a week for Hunt to snap the scoreless streak, Week 9 is it. 
  3. Todd Gurley Gurley had a hot start to the season and then saw his fantasy production come back to earth a bit in Week 5 and Week 6. He didn’t find the end zone in either week but what really hurt was that he caught just 1.5 passes per game on 2.5 targets per game. Any worries that Gurley’s role as a pass catcher was decreasing were mostly put to bed in Week 7 when he saw 8 targets against Arizona. The workload should be there for Gurley in his Week 9 matchup against the New York Giants. The matchup looks good on paper. The Giants have given up the 6th most normalized fantasy pointsto opposing running backs over the last five games and rank 24th in run defense DVOA.
  4. Mark Ingram II Ingram looks like an elite option on the surface but becomes a slightly tougher call when you dig in a bit more. He has 30, 26, and 24 touches over the last three weeks. However, there is some reason for concern as to whether he will keep seeing so many touches if New Orleans has to take a more aggressive offensive approach. Ingram accumulated his 24 touches in Week 8 despite playing just 31 snaps (split evenly with Alvin Kamara). That per snap usage rate is unsustainable. The Saints have had early leads in each of the past three weeks and were able to take the air out of the ball and still hold on for the victory. In a more competitive game, we may see Ingram and Kamara continue to split snaps but see their usage rates be more similar.
  5. Alvin KamaraKamara is getting plenty of playing time (50% of the snaps last week) but not seeing quite enough touches to be considered amongst the top RB1 options on a weekly basis. He has 15, 14, 14, and 11 touches over the past four weeks. It is a sign of just how shallow the running back position is this week that Kamara is in consideration as a top-5 option at the position. In a fantastic matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that is allowing the second-most normalized fantasy points to opposing running backs over the last five games, Kamara is worth taking a chance on even if he projects for just 12-15 touches. Kamara has averaged 14.9 Draft points per game over the last four on 1.1 points per touch. 
  6. Carlos Hyde Hyde should see a heavy workload in a decent matchup. The Arizona Cardinals have given up the 17th most normalized fantasy points to opposing running backs over the past five games. Hyde is relatively safe from a game script perspective. If San Francisco gets ahead or keeps it close, he sees heavy usage as a runner. If the 49ers fall behind, Hyde sees valuable looks in the passing game (23 targets over the past 3 weeks). The biggest concern for Hyde is the health of the San Francisco offensive line. Left tackle Joe Staley is out with a broken orbital bone. The 49ers will get back right tackle Trent Brown who returns after sitting out with a concussion.
  7. Lamar Miller The implied team total for Houston has fallen nearly six points since the news of Deshaun Watson’s torn ACL on Thursday. Without the presence of the superstar young passer sharing the backfield with him, Miller’s fantasy prospects take a big hit. The offense was scoring over 35 points per game over their last five outings and the rising tide lifted all of the main pieces of the Texans offense. While Miller should still see a solid workload, his effectiveness should decrease. Without Watson last season, Miller scored just 6 touchdowns in 14 games and averaged less than 5.0 yards per target out of the backfield. He is still a solid play against Indianapolis but the injury to Watson knocks him down a few spots in the running back rankings. 
  8. Doug Martin It is difficult to find running backs in Week 9 who safely project for 18+ touches. Martin is one of the very few that qualify. With Jameis Winston at less than 100%, expect Tampa Bay to lean heavily on Martin against New Orleans. The Saints have allowed 102 rushing yards to Jordan Howard and 131 yards to Aaron Jones over the last two games. 
  9. Devonta Freeman
  10. Chris Thompson
  11. Aaron Jones Even with Ty Montgomery fully healed from the rib injury that sidelined him in Week 4, Jones has done enough to remain the lead back in the Green Bay Packers offense. He is averaging a healthy 5.6 yards per carry and has shown better vision and proven a more natural runner than Montgomery. 
  12. Christian McCaffrey
  13. Ameer Abdullah
  14. Joe Mixon
  15. Tevin Coleman
  16. Adrian Peterson
  17. Frank Gore
  18. Alfred Morris Jason Garrett has been very noncommittal about how he plans to use Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith in Ezekiel Elliott’s absence. “Your question is how do you substitute them, we're going to give them each opportunities, we're not going to lay out what that plan is,” Garrett said. “We'll get opportunities to practice and work day-by-day this week. Each of those guys will have the opportunity to help us.”
  19. Damien Williams Williams narrowly gets the nod over Kenyan Drake this week due to his expected usage as the goal line back. Williams is also the most reliable back in the passing game and should be the primary third-down back. Drake should be the “starter” and is expected to “be utilized as the lead back in Miami’s base packages.” While Drake could see more snaps and touches, Williams’ touches in the passing game and inside the 10-yard line are worth more from a fantasy perspective. Neither Williams nor Drake is an overly attractive option in Week 9 but some owners will have to go there in 10-Team Drafts because of the lack of running back depth this week. 
  20. Demarco Murray Murray has practiced fully in recent days and looks good to go against Baltimore on Sunday. The Ravens defense has been much better against the run in recent weeks since the return of defensive tackle Brandon Williams. 

Wide Receiver and Tight End Rankings Breakdown

  1. Julio Jones With the injury to Deshaun Watson knocking DeAndre Hopkins down a few spots, there isn’t a slam-dunk #1 option this week at the wide receiver position. Julio Jones hasn’t been able to fully get on track this season (just one touchdown and one 100-yard game). The matchup is also less than ideal for Jones against the Carolina Panthers’ 7th ranked pass defense (DVOA). Jones had his biggest game of 2016 (42.0 Draft points) against this Carolina defense. The Panthers rank just 22nd in DVOA against opposing #1 receivers. Jones looks like he is narrowly the top option in a very down week for wide receivers. 
  2. Michael Thomas There is a solid case for Thomas as Week 9’s top wide receiver. The matchup is pristine. Tampa Bay gives up the most adjusted fantasy points against opposing wide receivers, 13.3 points above expectation according to Scott Barrett. They are dead last in the league, allowing 8.2 points above expectation to opposing WR1s. Thomas has had a very consistent workload this year. He has at least 8 targets in 6-of-7 games. The biggest issue for Thomas has been the Saints run-heavy approach down around the goal line. Drew Brees has thrown just 13 passes inside the 10-yard line, which is a big reason Thomas is on pace for just 4.6 receiving touchdowns this season. 
  3. Dez Bryant The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed the 6th most normalized fantasy points against to opposing wide receivers over the past five games. The Chiefs do not move their cornerbacks around or use shadow coverage, which allows the opposing offense to dictate WR/CB matchups. No team gives up more targets (10.4) or yards (112.7) to opposing running backs and the Chiefs rank 29th in DVOA against opposing WR1s. It is a fantastic spot for Bryant. The Cowboys are 1.5-point home favorites in a game with a massive 52.5 game total. In a potential shootout, Bryant has as much upside as any wide receiver in Week 9. While it looks like a dream spot on paper, it is worth noting that Bryant hasn’t scored 16 Draft points in any game this season. 
  4. DeAndre Hopkins The injury to Deshaun Watson is a massive blow to Hopkins’ fantasy value. Hopkins averaged just under 10 Draft points per game last season with Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage at quarterback. While his weekly projection should be better than that going forward the rest of the season, he isn’t going to be the consistent 20+ point per week fantasy performer he was in the first half of the season. The Colts have allowed the most normalized points to opposing wide receivers over the last five weeks. Due to the matchup, Hopkins remains a top-5 option at wide receiver this week. However, if he fails to produce in Week 9, there should be major concern about his prospects in the final eight games. 
  5. Michael Crabtree Crabtree has averaged 8.8 targets over the past four weeks and continues to be peppered with targets in the end zone. While the Dolphins haven't allowed much in terms of raw production, they've given up the eighth-most adjusted net yards per attempt and the 10th-worst touchdown rate. 
  6. Mike Evans Evans is likely to see shadow coverage from emerging star rookie Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore ranks first among all cornerbacks in the ProFootballFocus player rankings. Evans’s size and leaping ability will be a big test for the rookie cornerback, however. Evans is seeing 9.7 targets per game on the season despite a number of difficult cornerback matchups, so he remains a top weekly play regardless of who is lining up against him. 
  7. A.J. Green
  8. Zach Ertz
  9. Travis Kelce
  10. Tyreek Hill
  11. Amari Cooper
  12. Doug Baldwin
  13. T.Y. Hilton Hilton was in a sneaky great spot for a big fantasy week before the injury to Deshaun Watson. The Colts may not need to be as aggressive in a game where the Las Vegas point spread has moved six points toward Indianapolis. Still, Hilton remains a solid option this week. He has averaged 94.2 receiving yards per game in 10 career games against Houston. 
  14. Devin Funchess
  15. Golden Tate
  16. Marvin Jones Jr
  17. Jarvis Landry
  18. Sterling Shepard
  19. Larry Fitzgerald New Arizona starter Drew Stanton is a 33-year old journeyman with more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (14). In nine starts with Stanton as the starting quarterback in 2014, Fitzgerald scored no touchdowns. The matchup against the 27th ranked DVOA pass defense of San Francisco keeps Fitzgerald on the board for Week 9 but going forward, Stanton is probably going to be a major drag on Fitzgerald’s fantasy prospects. 
  20. Jordy Nelson

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