Expert DRAFTing Week 14

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).  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 player rankings and draft strategy for each of the four Draft sizes. For Week 14, the format will include a much more extensive strategy breakdown focused upon comparing the top options at each position to each other in lieu of the in-depth 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: Decision-Making Process In this week’s Expert Drafting article, I want to experiment some with a slightly different format. Instead of a full breakdown of each top player in the positional rankings sections, I am going to go more in-depth on the pluses and minuses of the available options versus each other in the Draft strategy section. The goal is to provide an insight into the thought process used to formulate the rankings and also to give you enough information for you to really weight the pros and cons and decide where you stand on the key decision points for the week. 

Some of the key choices to really analyze and dig in on are Le'Veon Bell versus Antonio Brown at 1.01, Melvin Gordon III versus Todd Gurley versus LeSean McCoy as the second running back, and Alex Smith versus Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Derek Carr and Jared Goff as the second quarterback. We’ll dive into these comparisons in-depth in the strategy sections below.

Head-to-Head Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Antonio Brown

2. Le'Veon Bell

3. Melvin Gordon III

4. Tom Brady

5. Keenan Allen

6. DeAndre Hopkins

7. Todd Gurley

8. LeSean McCoy

9. A.J. Green

10. Alex Smith

The first big decision in Head-to-Head Drafts this week is picking which Pittsburgh Steelers star to target at 1.01. The entire Steelers offense flows through Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, which will be especially true this week with JuJu Smith-Schuster suspended. A strong argument could be made for either player at 1.01 this week. Most weeks, the easy default is to go with Bell. Bell’s expectation in terms of touches per game dwarfs that of any other player. Based upon volume alone, he is the odds-on favorite to rack up the week’s highest total yardage. From a yardage perspective, Bell is the easy choice. However, we also really have to focus in on touchdown expectation in this format. Here, the edge for Brown is obvious and it helps to make the case for him as the best choice at 1.01. The Steelers haven’t scored a single rushing touchdown at home this season. Bell’s career numbers also show a surprisingly low number of touchdowns when playing at home. In 28 career home games, Bell has just 13 total touchdowns (9 rushing and 4 receiving), which is less than 0.5 per game. Meanwhile, in 29 home games over the last four seasons, Brown has 30 receiving touchdowns (over 1.0 per game). While Bell is a good bet to rack up yardage, Brown is actually the safer bet to get into the end zone. We’re splitting hairs here, but with the Ravens top cornerback Jimmy Smith out, Brown should be in store for a monster game and gets the narrow nod over Bell at 1.01.

The next big choice is what to do at 2.01 and which running back ranks second this week behind Bell. Ranking Melvin Gordon III above Todd Gurley will likely be a contrarian view. However, the matchups point to Gordon having both a higher floor and higher ceiling. Gurley and the Rams face a Philadelphia defense that has allowed under 46 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs through 12 weeks. Their total of 549 rushing yards allowed to opposing backs leads the league by almost 300 yards (Minnesota is 2nd best with 822 yards against). Meanwhile, Gordon matches up against a bad Washington defense that has allowed over 1,600 total yards and 13 touchdowns to opposing running backs this season. While there is a perception that Gurley handles a heavier workload, the opposite has been true in recent weeks. In terms of opportunities (targets plus touches), Gurley has averaged just 21.2 per game since Week 9. Over the same stretch, Gordon has averaged 23.3. 

With the top of the board at the running back and wide receiver positions bunched fairly close together, it makes sense for Tom Brady to be a priority. It’s a brutal week at the top of the board at the quarterback position. The mainstays all have brutal matchups. The tough matchups for most of the top quarterbacks make Brady’s plus matchup against the Dolphins and Alex Smith’s prime matchup against the 32-ranked pass defense of the Raiders the two spots we want to target. While both Brady and Smith have similar projections, Brady’s floor is much higher. The Chiefs offense has been the 4th-most inconsistent this year in terms of DVOA variance from wee-to-week. Some weeks, they perform at an elite level. Other weeks they perform like a below-average offense. It is hard to trust Kansas City and Alex Smith as much as we do Tom Brady, even in a prime matchup for the Chiefs. Thus, Brady makes sense as early as 2.01 and should go off the board sometime in the 2nd or 3rd round.

3-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Antonio Brown

3. Melvin Gordon III

4. Todd Gurley

5. LeSean McCoy

6. Keenan Allen

7. DeAndre Hopkins

8. Leonard Fournette

9. Tom Brady

10. A.J. Green

11. Brandin Cooks

12. Tyreek Hill

13. Alex Smith

14. Philip Rivers

15. Lamar Miller

The case for Brown over Bell at 1.01 is much easier to make in Head-to-Head than it is in 3-Team Drafts. The drop off from RB5 (Leonard Fournette) to RB6 (Lamar Miller) is fairly significant. Thus, there is great emphasis on landing two top backs and a better case for Bell over Brown. 

The depth 1-through-6 at the wide receiver position is fantastic this week. Brown and Allen have been on historic hot streaks and get the nod at the top of the board. Allen is the first wide receiver in NFL history to notch 10+ catches, 100+ receiving yards and 1+ touchdowns in three consecutive games. DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green are elite talents that have seen massive volume of late and have plus matchups as home favorites. Hopkins gets the nod at WR3 over Green because his targets have been more consistent. Finally, Brandin Cooks has a plus matchup against Miami and could see a couple extra targets with Rob Gronkowski suspended, while Tyreek Hill’s speed is a major mismatch against the Oakland secondary. Cooks and Hill are more reliant on catching a deep touchdown to really provide value. Thus, they rank at the bottom of the list and provide you some incentive to try to roster two of the top four at the position to lessen your risk. Both Cooks and Hill are ideal candidates to stack with Tom Brady and Alex Smith, respectively. If Cooks or Hill gets loose for at least one long touchdown, their quarterback is likely to have a strong fantasy outing. 

Some will look to target Russell Wilson over Philip Rivers, which is understandable based upon how dominant Wilson has been of late. However, it is a real risk to roster Wilson in Head-to-Head and 3-Team contests this week. Jacksonville has yet to allow a single top-12 weekly fantasy performance to any of the quarterbacks they’ve faced this season. Wilson may be the toughest matchup in the league, but it is tough to count on him on the road against such an elite pass defense. It is worth watching injury news on Jalen Ramsey, however. Ramsey is likely to shadow Doug Baldwin. If Ramsey can’t play, it gives Wilson a matchup to exploit and gives wilco’s fantasy stock a small but real bump.

6-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Melvin Gordon III

3. Antonio Brown

4. Todd Gurley

5. LeSean McCoy

6. Leonard Fournette

7. Keenan Allen

8. DeAndre Hopkins

9. A.J. Green

10. Tom Brady

11. Brandin Cooks

12. Tyreek Hill

13. Larry Fitzgerald

14. Lamar Miller

15. Samaje Perine

16. Alex Smith

17. Philip Rivers

18. Giovani Bernard

19. Jordan Howard

20. Carlos Hyde

21. Travis Kelce

22. Adam Thielen

23. Michael Crabtree

24. Kareem Hunt

25. Mike Evans

26. Josh Gordon

27. Alex Collins

28. Carson Wentz

29. Jared Goff

30. Russell Wilson

In 6-Team Drafts, the top-5 running backs take on greater value and each is worthy of a 1st-round selection. One of the big decision in the first round is whether to take Antonio Brown (if he is still on the board) or simply take the highest-ranked running back available. It is an extremely difficult decision and one I’ve personally struggled with at times this week. In the staff 6-Team mock draft, I took LeSean McCoy at 1.04 over Brown and was pleased with how my team turned out when a pair of wide receivers I like fell further than expected. However, the deeper I get in my research, the more I think Brown is worth taking ahead of players like Todd Gurley and LeSean McCoy. As discussed in the Head-to-Head Draft section above, over the last four seasons Brown is averaging more than one touchdown per game at home. He has been especially brilliant in night games. In fact, Brown has scored 123% more touchdowns per game in his career when playing in primetime than he has in early starts. Make Brown a first round priority this week. 

The wide receiver position is much deeper comparatively than the quarterback position this week. On one hand, it feels off to target quarterbacks, especially non-elite fantasy names like Alex Smith and Philip Rivers, over pass catchers like Adam Thielen, Mike Evans and Travis Kelce. However, there are really no bad options in the top-12 at wide receiver/tight end. When you start looking deeper at the 2-versus-2 decisions, it makes sense to lock in one of the top quarterbacks and wait until the fifth round and take whoever remains at wide receiver. If players like Adam Thielen and Mike Evans (in solid matchups) are the worst case scenario, you can’t go wrong waiting. 

10-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Melvin Gordon III

3. Todd Gurley

4. LeSean McCoy

5. Leonard Fournette

6. Antonio Brown

7. Keenan Allen

8. DeAndre Hopkins

9. Lamar Miller

10. Samaje Perine

11. A.J. Green

12. Tom Brady

13. Brandin Cooks

14. Tyreek Hill

15. Larry Fitzgerald

16. Giovani Bernard

17. Jordan Howard

18. Carlos Hyde

19. Kareem Hunt

20. Alex Smith

21. Philip Rivers

22. Alex Collins

23. Kenyan Drake

24. Marshawn Lynch

25. Alfred Morris

26. Travis Kelce

27. Adam Thielen

28. Michael Crabtree

29. Mike Evans

30. Josh Gordon

31. Marvin Jones Jr

32. Dion Lewis

33. Rex Burkhead

34. Carson Wentz

35. Jared Goff

36. Russell Wilson

37. Ben Roethlisberger

38. Marvin Jones Jr

39. Devin Funchess

40. Davante Adams

41. Dez Bryant

42. Golden Tate

43. Robby Anderson

44. Alshon Jeffery

45. Zach Ertz

46. Mike Davis

47. Jamaal Williams

48. Matthew Stafford

49. Jameis Winston

50. Cam Newton

In a week in which we are somewhat starved for strong quarterback matchups, Matthew Stafford is an extremely tempting option against the awful Tampa Bay pass defense. However, it is extremely hard to pull the trigger on him (or his top receiving options, Marvin Jones Jr and Golden Tate) until we know more about how impacted he will be by the hand injury he suffered against Baltimore. While all signs point to Stafford attempting to play through the injury, there are major concerns about how effective he will be playing with an injured throwing hand. His fantasy numbers took a major hit down the stretch of the 2016 season when he suffered a similar injury. The risk/reward on pairing Stafford with Tate or Jones in the final two rounds of a 10-Team draft is probably worth it but know you are indeed taking a big risk with rostering any of the Lions this week. 

The running back options at the bottom of the top-20 aren’t awful in Week 14 but, as per usual, there is a major premium on rostering the top backs who are locked into workhorse usage. Do not sleep on Giovani Bernard as one of these workhorse backs if Joe Mixon continues to be a long shot to suit up. With Jeremy Hill already on injured reserve, there is little left on the Cincinnati Bengals roster at the running back position behind Bernard. He projects to play at least 80% of the snaps and get as many touches as he can handle in a game where the Bengals are 6.5 point home favorites. The Bengals have also shown real improvement in the running game over recent weeks, including averaging over 6.0 yards per carry last week against the Steelers.

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