The NFL season is nearly upon us. Fans are scrambling to get their fantasy drafts in so they can figure out what individual players they are cheering for this season. I was very hesitant to write this article for a few reasons:
- I still have 2 drafts to go this week, and I am sure a few of my opponents will read this, and it will cost me a couple of my “fantasy crushes”.
- It puts my thoughts on record. People always seem to remember when you are wrong and forget when you are right. This is a negative EV post credibility wise.
- It contradicts my loyalty towards the New England Patriots and my disdain for certain players from other teams.
- Despite these reservations, I think putting my thoughts on paper is a good exercise and it should help me navigate my remaining drafts. Also, I know some people that are drafting soon and don’t have the time or motivation to read up on strategy, trends and projections. I hope this article helps!
A few notes on the ADP stats used and the league settings I am considering
All ADP data that I use in this article comes from The football guys most recent ADP report. The league settings that the analysis pertains to:
- A 12 team League
- 1 starting QB with standard scoring (4 points per throwing TD’s)
- 2 starting Running Back, 2 Wide Receivers and 1 Tight End with Point Per Reception scoring
- 1 starting team defense with standard scoring
- 1 starting kicker with standard scoring
Here is a breakdown of my thoughts for each position along with a couple of players I like and dislike for each position.
After a few seasons of being able to get away with a less “Running Back Centric” drafting strategy, there seems to be a premium on drafting Running Backs early and often again. The reasons:
- There are a few more clear cut starter RB’s this year.
- There are tons of really good fantasy QB’s this year (meaning you can wait until late to grab a valuable starter).
- There are even more valuable WR’s this year (WR is so deep, after picking up your first 2, you can be very patient in filling your roster).The league’s TE group is mediocre (outside of Jimmy Graham and possibly Jason Witten).
These conditions make it important to grab running backs early. This means I wouldn’t take anything else but a running back in the first round (I don’t like Calving Johnson in the first round) and that I am looking to have a MINIMUM of 3 running backs in the first 5 rounds. I like having one stud WR on my team, so a RB-WR-RB start is ideal.
Running Backs I like
Matt Forte at his ADP of 1.12 (12): I love Forte at this spot in PPR leagues. The Bears have revamped their dreadful Offensive Line and their new running back friendly scheme should boost Forte’s value in PPR leagues.
David Wilson at his ADP of 3.11 (35): I’m buying into the hype. Wilson has electric speed and not much competition in the Giants backfield now that Andre Brown is hurt. His upside is huge! If Wilson can stay out of Coughlin’s doghouse (blitz pickups and no fumbles please) he has the potential of being a top 5 fantasy back.
Joique Bell at his ADP of 12.2 (145): Bell is a better, more dynamic runner than Mikel Leshoure. Reggie Bush is slotted for a big role in the Lions’ offense this season, but he has injury issues. I love the value of picking Bell as a late round flyer. If a few things break his way, he has a lot of upside.
Running Backs I dislike
Arian Foster at his ADP of 1.6 (6): I am not denying that Foster is a fantasy stud. He should render RB1 numbers for your team. I just don’t like him as a first half of the first round pick. His floor is somewhat low due to his injury status (word is, he will be eased into his normal featured role) and the fact that he has such a talented backup in Ben Tate.
Darren McFadden at his ADP of 3.12 (36): He is injury prone, his team is horrible and he struggled last year. Spare yourself the headaches, let someone else draft him.
Shane Vereen at his ADP of 5.8 (56): He is a dynamic playmaker, but I don’t like drafting an unproven 3rd down back as my RB3. I don’t buy into the idea that he is going to “inherit Hernandez’ stats”. I like his talent, but the price is too steep.
The NFL has clearly become a passing league. Quarterbacks and receivers are overly protected, passing records are being shattered and quality fantasy wide receivers are everywhere. This means that you can wait on Wide Receivers in your draft AFTER YOU PICK YOUR FIRST ONE. My top tier WR’s consists of 8 players:
- Calvin Johnson
- A.J Green
- Dez Bryant
- Demariyus Thomas
- Brandon Marshall
- Julio Jones
- Andre Johnson
- Larry Fitzgerald
- I am aiming to own one of these players in all of my leagues. Missing out entirely on this group will hurt your chances, especially in PPR leagues. The bottom player of this tier has an ADP of 3.01 (25). This means you will need to draft one within the first 2 rounds in most leagues. Calvin Johnson is the only WR I would consider in the first round (late first round at that), so my base strategy for WR’s is to grab one in the second round and then be patient. This means I am going RB-WR in most of my drafts and then I will patiently fish for value at WR for the rest of the draft. Drafting just 1 WR is the first 5 rounds isn’t all that scary this year, even in PPR leagues, the depth within the position is sizeable.
Wide Receivers I like
Demaryius Thomas at his ADP of 2.9 (21): Peyton Manning has a new toy to play with in Wes Welker, but this shouldn’t decrease Thomas’ targets. If anything, he might get fewer double teams. Thomas is a speedy deep threat, is a great red zone target and catches passes from one of the best Quarterbacks of all time. He is getting picked behind Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones in most drafts, but don’t be fooled, Thomas is a top 4 fantasy Wide Receiver and he can hang with the likes of Dez Bryant and A.J Green.
Danny Amendola at his ADP of 4.4 (40): Is Amendola Wes Welker 2.0? Is he injury prone? The answer to both questions is an emphatic yes. These traits make Amendola one of the biggest Risk/Reward players in this year’s player pool. I normally prefer a more conservative approach to the first 4 rounds, but as I mentioned earlier, the WR position is so deep this season, that it allows me to be more aggressive on upside in this spot. If Amendola gets hurt, or doesn’t pan out, you are likely to find another Wide Receiver later in the draft that will give you WR2 production. In poker terms, this is a semi-bluff; you like your current holding, and even if it doesn’t hold up, you have a lot of outs!
Emmanuel Sanders at his ADP of 117 (10.9): Sanders demonstrates just how deep the WR position is this year. He is now a starting WR, the Steelers have made a commitment to Sanders (by matching the Patriots’ RFA offer from the offseason) and their offense should improve in the their offensive coach’s 2nd full season. Being taken as the 40th WR off the board, Sanders could offer high WR3 production.
Wide Receivers I dislike
Dwayne Bowe at his ADP of 4.5 (41): Am I supposed to believe that Alex Smith is the Quarterback that will revive Bowe’s production? Bowe has a slightly better Quarterback, more depth around him and a new coach. I am sure these factors will produce a slight improvement in Bowe’s stats, but I am betting that they won’t translate into the production you need out of a 4th round WR. Let someone else reach for Bowe at this lofty price.
Wes Welker at his ADP of 5.5 (53): I know this might sound like sour grapes coming from a Patriots fan, but I think middle of 5th round is a bit of a reach for Welker. He won’t contend for 100 catches this year because there are too many mouths to feed in Denver. Welker relies heavily on catches for fantasy production due to his low Yards per Catch and TD production. A very valuable Denver Bronco, Welker is an overrated fantasy football Wide Receiver.
T.Y Hilton at his ADP of 7.1 (73): Hilton is slotted as the 3rd WR on Indy’s depth chart. I doubt he matches the lofty 7 touchdowns to 50 receptions ratio he accomplished last year. Hilton is a talented player, but there are better options being drafted behind his current ADP (Steve Jonson, Greg Jennings, Kenny Britt and Vincent Brown only to name a few).
As most of my fantasy football buddies know, I am prone to waiting until the late rounds to draft my starting Quarterback. This year is no exception! There are so many valuable fantasy Quarterbacks this season that it’s hardly worth getting excited about drafting ANY of them. Unless you can grab one of the top 3 or 4 QB’s at a valuable price I would recommend waiting. It is perfectly acceptable to wait for the top 8 to 11 QB’s to be drafted before considering picking one yourself. This strategy gives you 6, 7 or even 8 rounds to stock up on elite Running Backs, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. My base strategy for QB this season is to wait for huge value to fall into my lap or wait to draft my favorite borderline QB1.
Quarterbacks I like
Peyton Manning at his ADP of 3.12 (36) or slightly later: Ok, so I think Manning’s ADP of the last pick of the 3rd round is a bit high, but I just wanted to sneak in a confession. I did end up drafting my most hated athlete of all time in one of my drafts (he was sitting there at my 5.1 (49) slot and I couldn’t resist). It felt dirty, I took a series of long burning hot showers afterwards, but I took him (it still hurts a little when I think about it).
Colin Kapernick at his ADP of 7.2 (74): Yes, Kapernick lost his best WR to injury in Michael Crabtree and he is bound to regress a little from his outrageously productive partial rookie year. But I feel that most pundits are missing the big picture. Kapernick has a great arm and will score a lot of his fantasy points with his legs. Rushing yards and TD’s will boost his value tremendously. I think Kapernick offers great value in the 7th round.
Tony Romo at his ADP of 7.3 (75): We all know of Tony Romo’s woes in clutch games. But we are looking for valuable FANTASY FOOTBALL QUARTERBACKS not winning players. Romo has a great receiver group to throw to led by one of the league’s most dynamic players in Dez Bryant and one of the best safety valves in TE Jason Witten. If you miss out on Kapernick early in the 7th round, don’t worry about it, you can fall back on Romo.
Russell Wilson at his ADP of 8.1 (85): Russell Wilson has all the skills to become an elite Quarterback in the NFL. Yes, his team runs the ball a ton and yes they have one of the best Defenses in the game, but those deterring factors are balanced by his running ability. Wilson is a borderline QB1 (which as we mentioned earlier isn’t such a bad thing) with a ton of upside.
Quarterbacks I dislike
Drew Brees at his ADP of 2.12 (24): Arguably Fantasy Football’s best Quarterback, my only beef with drafting him is the steep price. You just give up too much value by not picking a RB or a WR in this spot to justify taking a Quarterback in a year that everyone in your league will get good production from this position.
Tom Brady at his ADP of 4.11 (47): The best Quarterback of his era, he commands the Patriots offense impeccably, his accuracy is uncanny and he is money in clutch situations. All that being said, Brady’s new receiving core is young and green and I am convinced that the Patriots will focus more on their running game this season. I think the 4th round is a bit of a reach for fantasy football’s version of Tom Terrific.
Robert Griffin III at his ADP of 6.10 (70): I like Griffin’s skill set, but there are much safer options in the 7th round and later. It’s just not a good year to invest in a Quarterback this early with such injury issues.
The Tight End position has been depleted by injuries, imprisonments and lack of star power. That being said, there is some value remaining. My strategy is to keep an eye open for ADP value and if it doesn’t materialize, I will take a Tight End in the 8th to12th ranked range (in the 9th round or later). In general, I won’t be drafting a backup Tight end, but if you feel the need to do so, I do have a couple of options listed below.
Tight Ends I like
Jermichael Finley at his ADP of 7.8 (80): With Greg Jennings moving on, Finley is primed to become a featured target in Green Bay again. Finley has been disappointing thus far, but has the upside to outperform his 7th round ADP by a considerable margin.
Dwayne Allen at his ADP of (200): Allen will go undrafted in a lot of leagues, but it might be a good idea to draft him as a late flyer. He has a better fantasy skill set than teammate Coby Fleener and he should get more targets this year. If you are looking for a cheap backup TE, Allen is your guy.
Zach Sudfeld at his ADP of 15.8 (152) : Sudfeld has been a pleasant surprise in Patriot’s camp and I suspect that he will be a popular waiver wire pickup early in the season. If you end up rolling the dice with Gronkowski, it is essential to handcuff him to Sudfeld (it’s ok to giggle at the mention of Patriot Tight Ends and handcuffs, I swear, go ahead, I won’t hold it against you… ok that’s enough).
Tight Ends I dislike
Jimmy Graham at his ADP of 2.1 (13): I must confess that I advised one of my buddies to draft Graham in the first round of his 10 team league’s draft. There is a premium on “stud players” in smaller leagues, so the pick fits in that format. I wouldn’t draft Graham until at least the middle of the 2nd round in a 12 team league.
Rob Gronkowski at his ADP of 4.3 (39): Spare yourself the agony of drafting him this early (grab a Running Back instead). We have no idea when Gronkowski will start playing and how durable he will be this season. There is too much uncertainty to deal with to draft Gronk this early.
Antonio Gates at his ADP of 9.1 (97): One of the most productive Tight Ends in the history of the NFL, you should lay off taking Mr. Gates in the 9th round. Gates has lost a step or three the last few years. He was GREAT, but if you are still looking for a TE in the 9th round, you are better off waiting a few more rounds for players with more upside, like Jordan Cameron (in the 12th) and Fred Davis (in the 13th).
Team Defense and Kickers
My strategy for Defense and Kickers is to wait for the final 3 rounds of my draft to pick the best Defense available and for the final 2 rounds to pick the best kicker available. The preseason projections for these 2 positions are so subjective that I don’t feel the need to invest in any of the “hyped” options. Draft kickers and Defenses late and work the waiver wire and find good matchups throughout the season.
Any thoughts? Please use the comments and let the debates begin.