Expert DRAFTing: Conference Championships

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. As we move into the Conference Championships with a two-game slate, the two Draft sizes available are Head-to-Head and 3-Team.

With the special playoff slate, the format of this article will be slightly different. The focus will be on strategy and rankings for each of the different draft sizes. 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 two Draft sizes. 

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). 

Position Breakdowns: ADP and Preferred Targets

Quarterback

In terms of positional ADP, the picture couldn’t be clearer — Tom Brady is the QB1 in every draft, Case Keenum and Blake Bortles are QB2 and QB3 with Keenum going off the board ahead of Bortles in about 70% of the time. Nick Foles wasn’t drafted in any of the dozen Drafts I’ve participated in. 

As of Friday morning, the concern over Brady’s injury seems relatively low with reports indicating he “should be ok.” With the Patriots sporting a Vegas implied team total a full touchdown higher than any other team on the slate, Brady is the obvious best bet at the quarterback position. The big question is how early to take Brady. In Head-to-Head contests, I like Brady in the second round at 2.02 (with a slight preference for Rob Gronkowski over Brady at 2.01). In 3-Team Drafts, the drop off gets steeper at other positions and the projections point toward Brady being overvalued at his 1st-round ADP. 

The decision between Case Keenum and Blake Bortles as QB2 is a very difficult one. Bortles has been running more in recent weeks, averaging 63 rushing yards per game in the playoffs, which gives him the very slight edge. Bortles is a good bet to run for at least 25 yards against the Patriots and the game script (7.5-point underdogs) increases the likelihood that the Jaguars quarterback will have to be aggressive. 

Running Back 

There are three tiers at running back this week: 

  1. Solid Options- Leonard Fournette and Dion Lewis
  2. Committee Backs Facing Elite Defenses- Jay Ajayi, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon
  3. Dice Roll on Patriots Backups- Rex Burkhead and James White..

Leonard Fournette is the consensus 1.01 this Sunday. In the 10 drafts charted, Fournette went first overall 70% of the time and never fell past 1.02. While the matchup against the Patriots improved run defense is difficult and Fournette is nursing an injured ankle, he is the top option overall because he is the only running back on the slate who safely projects to dominate his team’s backfield snaps and touches. 

Dion Lewis is the only other running back with a case to be drafted ahead of Fournette and is the top choice at 1.02. The case for Lewis over Fournette would be much easier to make if Rex Burkhead wasn’t returning from injury to muddy the picture in the Patriots backfield. Lewis was dominant in Burkhead’s absence, averaging over 140 total yards per game in his last three outings. However, it is impossible to know whether the Patriots will continue to ride the hot hand with Lewis or return to the running back by committee approach that was successful for the majority of the season. 

On the two-game slate, we are forced to target running backs from the Minnesota versus Philadelphia game, which features the NFL’s two stingiest defenses against opposing running backs. Further complicating matter is the committee approach of both offenses. Jay Ajayi has been seeing plenty of touches (15 carries and 5 targets last week) but is ceding goal-line work to LeGarrette Blount and third-down snaps to Corey Clement. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have been splitting snaps for Minnesota, with Murray having had the edge in recent weeks with the Vikings consistently jumping out to early leads. 

James White had a solid fantasy game last week, scoring twice. But he was playing behind Rex Burkhead before Burkhead injured his knee. The Patriots game plans and player usage are notoriously difficult to predict. There is some upside with both Patriots backups, but the floor is non-existent. Ideally, you can secure your two backs in 3-Team Drafts before the final round and avoid having to choose between White and Burkhead. 

Wide Receiver and Tight End

Rob Gronkowski is the top pass catcher off the board in nearly every Draft this week. He makes sense to target as the third player off the board overall given his touchdown expectation and relatively solid matchup. 

The Vikings duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the next two pass catchers off the board in some order. Thielen probably has a higher floor. He has been incredibly consistent in terms of catches and yardage this season. Diggs has the higher touchdown expectation, scoring as many touchdowns in the past three games as Adam Thielen did all season. On the small slate, I lean toward the upside of Diggs over the safety of Thielen. 

Zach Ertz edges out Brandin Cooks as the fourth-best WR/TE option on the slate. Ertz has a target share of 26% with Nick Foles at quarterback and the Eagles are likely to be forced to pass more due to the Vikings stifling run defense. Cooks has been an afterthought for the Patriots offense in recent weeks and has an incredibly low floor. Despite the cold streak, he still has plenty of upside against a Jacksonville defense that has given up a number of long passing touchdowns down the stretch of the season (including three against the Steelers last week). 

Beyond the top five, Danny Amendola, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Kyle Rudolph are all in play. While none stand out as especially appealing options, the lean is toward Alshon Jeffery if you have to reach for somebody from this tier. The matchup is tough and Jeffery hasn’t shown great chemistry with Foles, but he is the top talent in this tier and best bet to find the end zone. 

Head-to-Head Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. Leonard Fournette

2. Dion Lewis

3. Rob Gronkowski

4. Tom Brady

5. Stefon Diggs

6. Adam Thielen

7. Jay Ajayi

8. Latavius Murray

9. Zach Ertz

10. Blake Bortles

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 Leonard Fournette 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Rob Gronkowski 2 3 2 3 3 2.6
3 Dion Lewis 4 2 4 2 2 2.8
4 Tom Brady 5 4 5 6 4 4.8
5 Adam Thielen 3 6 3 7 8 5.4
6 Stefon Diggs 8 5 8 4 6 6.2
7 Latavius Murray 6 8 6 10 7 7.4
8 Jay Ajayi 12 7 12 5 5 8.2
9 Jerick McKinnon 7 12 7 12 12 10.0
10 Brandin Cooks 9 12 12 8 12 10.6
11 Case Keenum 10 10 10 12 12 10.8
12 Zach Ertz 12 12 9 12 9 10.8
13 Blake Bortles 12 12 12 9 10 11.0
14 Danny Amendola 12 9 12 12 12 11.4

 

 

Strategy

Leonard Fournette and Dion Lewis are the obvious choices at 1.01 and 1.02, respectively. The first big decision is between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski at 2.01 and either option is appealing. The drop off is slightly bigger from Gronkowski to Zach Ertz, so he gets the nod narrowly. At the 2/3 turn, grabbing either Gronkowski or Brady is a no-brainer to split the duo up. The choice then is between the two Vikings wide receivers. Diggs gets the narrow nod due to his higher touchdown expectation. 

Jay Ajayi gets the nod narrowly over Latavius Murray in the fourth round. Murray is a better bet to see goal-line carries but Ajayi has been more involved in the passing game and has shown more big-play ability. 

Blake Bortles’ rushing ability gives him the very narrow edge over Case Keenum at quarterback. 

3-Team Draft Rankings, ADP and Strategy

Rankings

1. Leonard Fournette

2. Dion Lewis

3. Rob Gronkowski

4. Tom Brady

5. Stefon Diggs

6. Adam Thielen

7. Jay Ajayi

8. Latavius Murray

9. Jerick McKinnon

10. Zach Ertz

11. Brandin Cooks

12. Blake Bortles

13. Case Keenum

14. Alshon Jeffery

15. Rex Burkhead

Average Draft Position

ADP RankPlayerD1D2D3D4D5ADP
1 Leonard Fournette 1 2 2 1 2 1.6
2 Dion Lewis 2 3 1 2 3 2.2
3 Tom Brady 3 1 4 3 1 2.4
4 Rob Gronkowski 4 4 3 4 4 3.8
5 Adam Thielen 5 5 6 7 8 6.2
6 Stefon Diggs 10 6 7 6 7 7.2
7 Jay Ajayi 9 13 9 5 5 8.2
8 Latavius Murray 15 7 5 9 6 8.4
9 Case Keenum 6 15 11 8 10 10.0
10 Jerick McKinnon 11 9 10 12 9 10.2
11 Brandin Cooks 8 8 8 14 15 10.6
12 Zach Ertz 12 10 14 11 12 11.8
13 Blake Bortles 14 14 12 13 14 13.4
14 Rex Burkhead 7 18 18 10 18 14.2
15 James White 18 11 13 18 13 14.6
16 Danny Amendola 12 18 18 18 11 15.4
17 Alshon Jeffery 18 12 15 15 18 15.6

 

Strategy

In 3-Team Drafts, there is an incentive to lock up one of the second-tier backs as your RB2 in the third round so you don’t have to take a major risk on Rex Burkhead or James White. While Jay Ajayi, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon aren’t exciting options, you can at least bank on double-digit touches and a reasonable floor. 

There is almost no separation between Blake Bortles and Case Keenum, so it makes sense to wait until your final pick at quarterback if you don’t land Tom Brady in the second round. If you can avoid having to take a major risk on somebody like Rex Burkhead or Alshon Jeffery, waiting on quarterback looks like an optimal approach.


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