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Expert DRAFTing Week 18

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

Main Slate Playoff Special

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. In the playoffs, the three common draft sizes are Head-to-Head, 3-Team and 4-Team.

With the special playoff slate, the format of this article will be slightly different. With the smaller draft sizes, it was feasible to figure out a rough Average Draft Position (“ADP”) and this ADP has been included along with the rankings for each of the three Draft sizes. The article begins with a position breakdown with special focus on ADP and the rankings and strategy for each of the three draft sizes follows.

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.

How was ADP formed?

Draft doesn’t release Average Draft Position, so the only way to get a rough ADP is to participate in as many actual drafts as possible and track the results. I’ve participated in at least five Drafts of each size and tabulated an ADP for each. The method is pretty simple. For example, if a player was selected 4th in three drafts and 5th in two, his ADP would be 4.4. 

It gets slightly more complicated is for players who have been selected in some drafts and not others. I worked around the “undrafted problem” by assigning a draft pick value to the player for each draft he wasn’t selected in. For Head-to-Head, a player received a draft slot of “12” for every draft he wasn’t taken in (18 for 3-Team and 24 for 4-Team). For example, in five Head-to-Head drafts, Matt Ryan was selected only once and it was at selection 5.02 (pick 10). So his ADP is listed at 11.6, with one pick at #10 and four picks listed as #12 for the drafts he wasn’t selected.

Position Breakdowns

Quarterback

The ADP at Quarterback is all over the board. In five Head-to-Head Drafts, five different quarterbacks were drafted. The one constant is that Quarterbacks are very rarely getting drafted early this week because none stand out as truly elite options. Cam Newton is the only quarterback who seems to be taken in most drafts. While he isn’t necessarily the clear #1, his relatively high floor due to his rushing ability (at least 50 rushing yards in 5 straight games) makes him a popular late round choice and the top option on the slate. Along with Newton, Alex Smith, Jared Goff, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan are the names being drafted most often. Among this group, Smith stands out from the pack slightly due to his consistent production this season and the fact that nearly all of the touchdowns allowed by the Titans this season have come through the air.

Running Back

In nearly every Draft of every size, Todd Gurley goes 1.01 and Alvin Kamara goes 1.02. This is how it should go as they are the top two options. Both have been on incredible hot streaks and have realistic multi-touchdown upside. Gurley has a significantly higher projection than Kamara due to not having to split carries and a higher projected number of touches. If you're drafting at 1.01 or 1.02, don't overthink it. These are your guys. 

In every single Head-to-Head draft, Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt were the third and fourth running backs selected (in some order). In the larger drafts, Fournette emerges as the clearcut RB3 in terms of ADP. His matchup against the Bills looks fantastic on paper (no team has allowed more fantasy points to the position) and the Jaguars are big home favorites. Hunt’s Chiefs are also big home favorites but the Titans have a “pass funnel” defense that has allowed just four rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs all season (lowest in the league). Hunt’s touches are way up in recent weeks but the matchup doesn’t setup particularly well for him with Charcandrick West now back and working as the primary pass-catching back.

Mark Ingram II and Devonta Freeman are usually the fifth and sixth running backs off the board in some order. In both previous matchups against Carolina, Kamara outscored Ingram. However, in the most recent matchup against the Panthers, both backs went for 20+ points. Freeman has a great matchup against a Rams defense that has allowed the 3rd most points to opposing running backs. In 3-Team Drafts, waiting until the later rounds for Freeman looks like a great move. In 4-Team Drafts, Freeman should be a priority target in the mid-rounds. 

After the top-6, it is wide open at the running back position. LeSean McCoy is going undrafted in most drafts. However, when he does get drafted, it is almost always very early. With his injury concerns and the other strong running back options, drafting McCoy early is a mistake. In the final round of a 4-Team Draft, McCoy’s risk is more palatable but players like Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey have similar upside with less risk and make for better picks. 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

The top of the board includes Michael Thomas, Julio Jones and Tyreek Hill. Thomas has the lowest ADP but Jones and Hill are coming off of the board soon after. Michael Thomas is the safest choice. In four previous matchups against Carolina, he has at least 5 catches and 68 receiving yards in every game. He also scored in three-of-four games. There is a surprisingly strong case for Tyreek Hill over Julio Jones at WR2. Jones is a prodigious talent and good bet to rack up the yardage. However, he has scored just 3 touchdowns this season and averaged only 5.8 touchdowns per season over the last four years (0.35 per game). Plus, the Falcons offense has just five passing touchdowns over the last six weeks. Hill has a higher touchdown expectation. He has averaged 10 touchdowns per season in his two years in the league. Taking a bigger picture view, it is also worth noting that Hill narrowly outscored Jones on the season in Draft fantasy scoring despite playing in one fewer game. 

Travis Kelce is the fourth WR/TE off the board just ahead of Robert Woods. The Titans have been solid against opposing tight ends this season but this is still a matchup where Kelce should find success. Woods also has a fairly neutral matchup against the Falcons and Desmond Trufant. While Trufant hasn’t lived up to his shutdown reputation this season, he is still not a player opposing teams want to aggressively target.

Beyond the top-5, it is wide open at the position. Cooper Kupp, Mohamed Sanu, Devin Funchess, Delanie Walker, Ted Ginn Jr, and Dede Westbrook were each taken in at least one draft. Kupp and Sanu are the preferred options in the final rounds of 4-Team Drafts but ideally you can lock up a pair of top pass catchers so you don’t have to shop in the bargain aisle in the final round.

 

Head-to-Head Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. Todd Gurley

2. Alvin Kamara

3. Michael Thomas

4. Tyreek Hill

5. Julio Jones

6. Leonard Fournette

7. Cam Newton

8. Kareem Hunt

9. Travis Kelce

10. Alex Smith

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 Todd Gurley 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Alvin Kamara 2 2 2 2 2 2.0
3 Michael Thomas 4 4 3 4 3 3.6
4 Julio Jones 6 5 4 5 5 5.0
5 Kareem Hunt 3 7 9 3 10 6.4
6 Tyreek Hill 5 6 5 12 6 6.8
7 Travis Kelce 7 10 6 6 8 7.4
8 Leonard Fournette 8 8 7 8 4 7.0
9 Cam Newton 9 9 8 9 7 8.4
10 Drew Brees 12 3 12 12 12 10.2
11 Robert Woods 12 12 12 7 12 11.0
12 Alex Smith 10 12 12 12 9 11.0
13 Jared Goff 12 12 10 12 12 11.6
14 Matt Ryan 12 12 12 10 12 11.6

Note: The D1 through D5 columns show the actual draft slot in five real drafts (with "12" representing a player that went undrafted). The ADP column on the far right is the average of these draft positions. 

Strategy

The first round is almost definitely going to be Gurley-Kamara. The biggest choice to be made in Head-to-Head drafts is whether you want to use an early pick to lock up your preferred RB2. While I prefer Fournette over Hunt, the two are in the same general tier so I am okay with letting my opponent make that choice if it means I can lock up two of the top-3 at wide receiver. Thus, in the 2nd round, I prefer selecting wide receiver over running back. There is a bigger drop off from Julio Jones to Travis Kelce (or Robert Woods) than there is from Fournette to Hunt (or Ingram/Freeman). 

It makes sense to make Cam Newton a 4th round priority. His rushing production (averaging over 8.0 PPG as a runner in the second-half of the season) gives him a leg up over the other options this week. With their season on the line and Newton their best runner, we could even see a few more carries for Newton than normal. 

3-Team Draft Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. Todd Gurley

2. Alvin Kamara

3. Michael Thomas

4. Tyreek Hill

5. Julio Jones

6. Leonard Fournette

7. Travis Kelce

8. Robert Woods

9. Cam Newton

10. Kareem Hunt

11. Alex Smith

12. Devonta Freeman

13. Mark Ingram II

14. Jared Goff

15. Cooper Kupp

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 Todd Gurley 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Alvin Kamara 3 3 2 2 2 2.4
3 Leonard Fournette 6 2 4 3 5 4.0
4 Michael Thomas 5 9 3 5 6 5.6
5 Julio Jones 2 5 7 8 7 5.8
6 Tyreek Hill 7 6 5 4 8 6.0
7 Mark Ingram II 4 8 6 10 3 6.2
8 Travis Kelce 12 10 10 6 4 8.4
9 Kareem Hunt 8 7 8 11 12 9.2
10 Robert Woods 9 13 11 9 14 11.2
11 Drew Brees 11 4 12 18 11 11.2
12 Cam Newton 10 14 9 14 13 12.0
13 Devonta Freeman 18 15 15 7 10 13.0
14 Cooper Kupp 18 11 18 12 18 15.4
15 Alex Smith 13 18 18 15 15 15.8
16 Jared Goff 18 18 14 13 18 16.2
17 Mohamed Sanu 18 18 18 18 9 16.2
18 Ted Ginn Jr 18 18 13 18 18 17.0
19 LeSean McCoy 14 18 18 18 18 17.2
20 Matt Ryan 18 14 18 18 18 17.2
21 Devin Funchess 15 18 18 18 18 17.4

Note: The D1 through D5 columns show the actual draft slot in five real drafts (with "18" representing a player that went undrafted). The ADP column on the far right is the average of these draft positions.  

Strategy

The biggest difference between the rankings and the ADP comes at running back. The idea is that there are six excellent running back options this week, so there is no harm in waiting. Devonta Freeman is almost always available late in the draft and he makes for a fine RB2 this week. With bigger drop offs at other positions, waiting until round 5 to take your RB2 is a strong contrarian strategy.

The biggest drop off comes at wide receiver/tight end, where we see a substantial drop from a player like Julio Jones at WR3 to Cooper Kupp at WR6. Once Gurley and Kamara are of the board, the goal should be to fill your two wide receiver positions as quickly as possible. Drafting from the 1.03 spot allows you the unique opportunity to lock up two of the “big 3” at wide receiver and you should have your pick at the position. You can get aggressive here due to the running back depth. Leonard Fournette isn’t a vastly superior option compared to Devonta Freeman or Mark Ingram II, so there shouldn’t be a big rush to take him in the top-5 (where he is going in most 3-Team Drafts). 

4-Team Draft Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. Todd Gurley

2. Alvin Kamara

3. Michael Thomas

4. Leonard Fournette

5. Tyreek Hill

6. Julio Jones

7. Travis Kelce

8. Kareem Hunt

9. Robert Woods

10. Devonta Freeman

11. Mark Ingram II

12. Cam Newton

13. Alex Smith

14. Cooper Kupp

15. Christian McCaffrey

16. Mohamed Sanu

17. Jared Goff

18. Drew Brees

19. Derrick Henry

20. Devin Funchess

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 Todd Gurley 1 1 2 1 1 1.2
2 Alvin Kamara 2 2 1 3 2 2.0
3 Leonard Fournette 3 3 3 6 3 3.6
4 Michael Thomas 6 4 4 2 8 4.8
5 Mark Ingram II 4 7 7 7 5 6.0
6 Kareem Hunt 8 6 5 4 11 6.8
7 Julio Jones 7 5 10 9 6 7.4
8 Tyreek Hill 5 9 8 11 7 8.0
9 Travis Kelce 9 10 9 8 9 9.0
10 Devonta Freeman 10 12 12 10 10 10.8
11 Robert Woods 12 14 11 12 12 12.2
12 Christian McCaffrey 11 8 17 16 16 13.6
13 Drew Brees 19 11 18 15 13 15.2
14 Cooper Kupp 15 18 13 14 18 15.6
15 Mohamed Sanu 17 16 14 13 19 15.8
16 Jared Goff 20 15 16 20 14 17.0
17 LeSean McCoy 25 25 6 25 4 17.0
18 Cam Newton 18 13 20 19 17 17.4
19 Alex Smith 16 17 25 17 15 18.0
20 Devin Funchess 14 25 15 25 20 19.8
21 Derrick Henry 25 20 25 5 25 20.0
22 Tevin Coleman 13 25 25 25 25 22.6
23 Dede Westbrook 25 25 25 18 25 23.6
24 Matt Ryan 25 25 19 25 25 23.8
25 Delanie Walker 25 19 25 25 25 23.8

 Note: The D1 through D5 columns show the actual draft slot in five real drafts (with "25" representing a player that went undrafted). The ADP column on the far right is the average of these draft positions. 

Strategy

We see slightly more of a drop off from the top options to RB8 (Derrick Henry). However, with DeMarco Murray likely out, Henry is still a relatively strong option who is a near-lock for 20+ touches and the upside to see close to 30 touches. Compared to the late-round options at wide receiver, Henry doesn’t seem too bad an option. 

Wide receiver/tight end is clearly the most shallow position this week and we see that fact show up when looking at the WR6-WR8 options in 4-Team Drafts. Looking at it in terms of projections, there is a bigger gap between the top receivers and the late-round receivers than there is between the second-tier running backs (Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, Devonta Freeman and Mark Ingram II) and the third-tier backs (Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry). Due to this, the optimal Draft strategy is to make the top wide receivers a major priority in the late-first and second rounds.