Fantasy Corner: 2018 Draft Strategies

Preseason football will be kicking off shortly. For now, training camp is on and is my official start to what I like to call “Mock Draft Season.”

My best advice I give every year is to take some time during the month of August to run as many mock drafts as you can in preparation for your fantasy draft. You should be trying out different strategies with each mock until you find a style you like.

Below I will outline some strategies that I have personally used in different years and ones that you may want to implement this year. Each section below is the way I approach each strategy and how I incorporate them into my draft.

These strategies are based on a 12 Team, PPR, Redraft league only. The strategies below can also be applied to dynasty leagues as well, but with a different overall emphasis on long-term player importance.

Best Available Strategy

The Best Available strategy is exactly what it says. It’s the Ted Thompson (former Packers GM) mantra. You stay true to your board and take the best player available when it’s your turn to pick. You can stay true to some methods, but overall you are taking the best player no matter the position.

As it pertains to you the drafter, it means that you can sort your players in an “overall” grouping, and depending on your league format, pick the highest rated player available regardless of whether he is a running back, receiver, tight end or quarterback. Lets also be real here, your best available strategy should be targeting backs and receivers because of the late round QB strategy (you will read below) and it is also a PPR league.

If you feel that you want to include quarterbacks, then by all means go for it, but in a PPR, redraft format, backs and receivers take precedence unless you view the quarterback as equal.

Personally, I have drafted some nice teams using this strategy. They are typically balanced as far as starters go and can have some decent depth too. Bye weeks are always important and depending on how the position runs go during your draft, it may force you to reach for players past round ten. Your bench players will either have a lot of potential, or just be plain “meh.”

Late QB Strategy

Late QB is basically waiting as long as possible before selecting a quarterback in your league. I know what your thinking, “What if I miss out on Aaron Rodgers? What about Brees?” I can’t pass up Russell Wilson at pick four!”

In a PPR league, I tend to look at the quarterback position with a FPG (fantasy points per game) mindset. The position group is not the deepest but typically averages a double digit fantasy point return over the course of the season. There are always bad games, but typically never single digit performances. Let’s look at the example below and imagine that you feel you have missed out on the top tier quarterbacks so far:

Player A: 16.9 FPG in 2017

Player B: 15.9 FPG in 2017

When looking at the two, naturally you would want player A. He averaged more point per game and you have already missed out on the top tier quarterbacks. Well, Player A is Jared Goff who had a 60.8% owned share in 2017 versus Player B, Case Keenum who had 12% owned share. These are both late picks but show a respectable average overall. If asked in a casual conversation, one would naturally say that Goff is a way better quarterback than Keenum. But the numbers show for fantasy purposes, they are closer than one would think.

Here is another:

Player A: 21.7 FPG in 2017

Player B: 19.7 FPG in 2017

This example is close but begs the question, is a 2 point increase worth losing out on a gem running back or wide receiver in rounds 1-4 of your draft?

Player A is Russell Wilson who had a 99.2% owned share in 2017 versus Player B Alex Smith, who had a 64.2% owned share in 2017.

The way I see it, I would rather take a point or two drop on a quarterback average then lose out on the opportunity to hit on a running back or receiver in that second to third round reaching to get my top tier quarterback. Think about the backs and receivers available to you in those rounds. You could potentially have landed Keenan Allen, Christian McCaffrey, Mike Evans or Devonta Freeman.

Personally, I target the quarterback position at round eight or later. Now every draft is different, and if there is a position run going, maybe you break and take one in round four or five depending on how long you feel you can wait. However, through my numerous mock drafts, I was able to consistently draft Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Jimmy Garoppolo, and even Marcus Mariota.

Keep in mind that early in the season, you can always make a trade if you are really after that Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. You are also more likely to win an offer using the added depth on your roster from being patient on a quarterback.

My advice, run some mock drafts and do not pick that quarterback until round 8 or later. Fight the urge and see where you come out! Alex Smith may not be the flashy pick but it is a nice 19.7 FPG and it allowed you to not miss out on that tier two player!

Zero RB & Zero WR Strategy

My 2015 draft I ran a zero WR strategy and made it to the championship. In 2016, I ran a zero RB draft and finished second overall. Keep in mind, every draft is different. The run on specific positions and draft flow can vary depending on your league members styles and preferences.

These strategies do work but I found myself very active on the waiver wire and in the trade room. Not a bad thing, but I did work those rosters to death throughout the season.

The Zero strategy was nice because I was able to either dominate or keep weekly matchups extremely close. The downfall seemed to be that my zero position picks (position I did not target) could not generate enough points to seal the deal in the weeks I lost.

Depending on your league set up, earning the playoff bye should be important. My goal is to get the bye so I can have a well deserved week off and not be so invested in the games, but to also scout my potential opponents and breakdown possible matchups. If I see something I like or don’t like, I may need to hit the waiver wire to address that matchup.

The zero RB essentially lets you build a deep WR roster. The receiver group, when you look at it on paper, is much deeper than the overall RB class. If you are playing in a PPR league, mid-range receivers score more than running backs with similar rankings making the choice pretty easy for receivers who may catch a few passes a game versus the back who may only see limited action.

Check out a few examples of mock drafts I ran this week on the @sleeperbot app and see what you think. The mock settings were 12 team PPR, 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1FLEX, 1K, 1DEF and 6 bench spots.

Before we get into the mock draft results, I want to explain my approach to drafts in general.

The word “zero” is applied different ways when it comes to zero RB & zero WR. How long do you wait when running a zero strategy? How many spots in a row do you fill with the same position group? When do you go the other way?

My personal philosophy is to approach it like this. My first four picks are the specific position target. This allows me to field two tier one starters and also have another two solid picks to fill for players on bye weeks during the season.

The fifth pick goes towards a tight end selection. Picking a tight end at the five spot will almost certainly guarantee you a tier two or three player and may also steer the draft towards the position, opening up some area for quality players to drop and more options for you through your next few selections.

The next two picks (6th & 7th) are addressing my “zero” position I passed up earlier. If I wait much longer, the group is too depleted and picked over. Remember, this is PPR and I’m looking for scoring opportunity. I will need to address the zero picks here.

The next four picks have addressed my zero position but I also wouldn’t pass up a better receiver/back if available. You are essentially building your two starter spots for these players. It is late so you will need to hit on these players. The additional two are backups for bye weeks in the grand scheme of things.

We now arrive at the ten spot. As we discussed earlier, the late round quarterback strategy comes into play here. You will be surprised at who is still available when your on the clock.

The remaining spots are now filled by the best available strategy. You can fill them however you like, or by position. I prefer to round out an even roster and also grab a late tight end for the bye week. These should also be your deep sleeper picks, or any players you feel have some opportunity on their respective teams.

Below are my results from each mock draft. I am truly undecided on which fielded the best roster. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think. Post up on twitter for some conversation and retweet to see what others think!

ZERO RB        ZERO WR       BEST AVIL 2updated

ZERO RB                              ZERO WR                  BEST AVAILABLE

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