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Fantasy Draft Recaps

The Draft Strategy That Might Not Work

By Matt Schauf 7:15am EDT 8/29/15


Disclaimer: This article might not help you win a thing.

Most of the stuff we publish is basically suggesting some things you should do in your draft, whether it's specific players you should target or strategies to consider. I can't necessarily say that's the case here. Because Wednesday night's draft in the PFF Online Championship marked my 1st foray into their particular format.

The starting lineup in my 12-team, PPR-scoring league looks like this:

2 RBs
3 WRs
2 Flex (RB/WR/TE)
-- plus 9 bench spots

If you've played at least a bit of fantasy football, you can tell that setup inflates WR value. They become the steadiest -- and highest -- scorers in PPR. So owners will not only be drafting 3 to start plus probably another for the flex spot most weeks, but enough wideouts to fill 2 flex positions more often than not.

Still, I didn't realize just how heavily the league would be pursuing wideouts early: Antonio Brown went 1st overall. Receivers made up 4 of the 1st 5 picks and 5 of the 1st 7. Randall Cobb went at 1.07. Eighteen wideouts went among the top 30 picks.

So, from my 1st turn on, I had to not only think about what player I wanted but how I planned to build my roster. The early WR flurry made it pretty clear that at least most of the players I was drafting with were familiar with this format. But I decided early on that I wasn't going to let them shape my team.

Will my approach work? I don't know. Like I said, this is my 1st real crack at the particular format. And beyond winning this league, there's an overall prize to consider. So I wanted to build not only a contender but a team with as much upside as I could find.

Let's call this a case study in fantasy football team building. You can view the full draft board here. For DS Insiders, I'm going to break down how things went.

Round 1 (my picks bolded)

1.01 Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
1.02 Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
1.03 Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
1.04 Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
1.05 Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
1.06 Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
1.07 Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
1.08 Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
1.09 Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
1.10 Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
1.11 Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
1.12 Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

Brown going 1st was no big deal. It's not the 1st time I've seen that this year. But when 3 more WRs followed Bell off the board, I knew I was in for a different draft.

My MVP Board had Calvin Johnson recommended ahead of Gronk as my turn approached, and I probably would have taken him if he'd made it to me. Frankly, once he went, the board still told me Odell Beckham was a slightly better value choice than Gronk. I considered it strongly, and I think Beckham would have made for a fine pick at that spot.

But I don't really know yet whether he can go right on being anything close to the fantasy force he was over the 2nd half of last year. I do, however, know that Gronk can be fantasy's biggest offensive difference-maker whenever he's healthy. And as I see a Patriots offense with a tattered WR group and a questionable backfield, I can envision Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski building pretty fantasy things over the 2nd half of the coming season. And who do you think will be the easiest guy for Jimmy Garoppolo to target before Brady returns?

So, there's a chance that I regret this pick later. But if my biggest regret for the team is taking Gronk at the end of Round 1 ... I'll take it.

Round 2

2.01 Odell Beckham, WR, Giants
2.02 C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
2.03 A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
2.04 Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
2.05 Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
2.06 T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
2.07 Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
2.08 Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles
2.09 Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens
2.10 Matt Forte, RB, Bears
2.11 DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles
2.12 DeAndre Hopkins, RB, Texans

I certainly would have taken Beckham here if he'd made it past the turn, but hell if I'm gonna let you pressure me into taking A.J. Green over Anderson. That would have been a clear example of getting caught up in a position run and just grabbing the next guy over targeting value -- at least according to both the Draft Sharks projections and my own. My MVP Board agreed with me on Anderson being the pick here.

I didn't know what to expect from the WR group that would make it back to my next turn, but Beckham ends our top tier at that position. I expect Anderson to contribute consistent points in a strong offense (including plenty of receptions) and likely significantly outperform the RBs lingering to the 3-4 turn and beyond.

Round 3

3.01 Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
3.02 LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
3.03 Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
3.04 Davante Adams, WR, Packers
3.05 Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins
3.06 Andre Johnson, WR, Colts
3.07 Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins
3.08 Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
3.09 Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
3.10 Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
3.11 Frank Gore, RB, Colts
3.12 Golden Tate, WR, Lions

I was pleasantly surprised to see Gore make it back to me here. I think he stands out well ahead of other RBs who went in this range (which made me especially excited that the owner just before opted for Murray).

As Allen made it through most of Round 3, I hoped to see him get to my turn. I probably still would have chosen Gore ahead of him, because I'd rather open the season with a pair of top-12 RBs than 1 and a "next guy" at WR. But Allen's arrival might have landed me either him or Tate on the other side of the turn.

I hoped to see Tate get through anyway, but there's not much space between him and the Round 4 wideout I ended up with. So I had no internal struggle over the Gore selection.

Round 4

4.01 Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions
4.02 Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
4.03 Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets
4.04 Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
4.05 Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks
4.06 Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
4.07 Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
4.08 Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
4.09 Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
4.10 Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys
4.11 Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
4.12 Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

Like I said, Maclin and Tate sit pretty close on my board. Maclin might be even more depended upon in his offense, albeit with likely lower overall passing volume and a weaker QB. We've already seen Maclin line up in multiple slots, though, and even score out of the backfield this preseason. At the least, he has upside into high-WR2 territory. I'll gladly take him as the 21st wideout overall. And I'm now looking at solid target-floor wideouts to fill my top 3 slots.

Round 5

5.01 Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
5.02 DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington
5.03 Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
5.04 Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers (before suspension)
5.05 Arian Foster, RB, Texans
5.06 C.J. Spiller, RB, Saints
5.07 Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
5.08 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
5.09 Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles
5.10 Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
5.11 Steve Smith, WR, Ravens
5.12 T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars

This might have been my toughest choice of the entire draft. Smith's sitting just ahead of Charles Johnson on my MVP Board. I want them both. I know that in this draft I can't count on the one I don't pick getting past the turn.

Perhaps I chose wrong here. It's quite possible I've been talking up Smith too much for my own good. I do, however, see a guy who should at least come out as a heavily targeted receiver in a Marc Trestman offense to open the year -- perhaps 1 of the league's most heavily targeted wideouts early. We'll see beyond that.

Besides, maybe the guy picking behind me doesn't care about Charles Johnson. He does already have Beckham, Cooks and Tate rostered.

Round 6

6.01 Charles Johnson, WR, Vikings
6.02 Alfred Morris, RB, Washington
6.03 John Brown, WR, Cardinals
6.04 Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers
6.05 Marques Colston, WR, Saints
6.06 Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
6.07 Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
6.08 Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers
6.09 Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears
6.10 Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
6.11 Roddy White, WR, Falcons
6.12 Chris Ivory, RB, Jets


In retrospect, I probably should have taken Johnson over Smith and used Boldin as a fall back in case the owner at the turn drafted Smith. I think I've talked myself into seeing more of a gap between Smith and Boldin than there really is. After all, our site projections have them basically tied -- with a slight edge to Boldin.

I still could have taken Boldin here, but Morris' value sat way ahead of any other RB still on the board and I knew getting a workhorse as my #3 would free me up to play with some picks for a while without feeling like I needed to address RB. I also expected other drafters to start hitting the RBs a little harder than they wound up doing in this range to make up for their early WR runs.

For what it's worth, I think the guy at the turn would have been better off taking Yeldon and Kelce. The Chiefs TE's drop to the middle of Round 6 made me feel a bit less good about my Gronk selection. But again, if my biggest regret winds up being the drafting of Gronk ... I'll take it.

From here on, I'll skip listing each entire round and just show my picks by round.

Round 7: Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington

I'm not excited about Garcon, but with 43 WRs already off the board, he looked like a solid bet to give me something around 4.5 catches and 50+ yards a week. I'd take that out of my late WR3 here.

Round 8: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks

I had my eye on Kendall Wright here to round out a lower-ceiling, higher-floor WR quartet, but he got snagged at the turn. That owner might have wound up doing me a favor, though, by giving me Wilson at a steep discount compared with his standard-league ADP. Wilson's our #3 projected QB, and I got him as the 5th passer here. The significant upgrades among his pass catchers plus his rushing ability give him a nice ceiling and floor week to week.

Round 9: Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

I don't know if his targets will balance out and Williams will turn into a more consistent contributor. But he's the kind of high-ceiling play in a given week that I'll like to team with my less-adventurous WR corps. He went 53rd among receivers in this draft, more than 2 rounds after Victor Cruz, Eddie Royal and Dorial Green-Beckham (among others). If Williams does turn into a more consistent target, then his ceiling climbs well into WR2 territory.

Round 10: DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins

Here was my 1st real "I'm going for it" pick. Parker might struggle through a disappointing rookie season after he lost most of the summer to foot problems. But a healthy Parker is a big-time talent who will play in an ascending offense with no clear, true #1 receiver. Jarvis Landry figures to lead the team in targets, but he's more of a short-range option. I still love Kenny Stills, and TE Jordan Cameron ranks among the best athletes at his position. But Miami clearly thinks quite highly of Parker. If things go well, maybe I snagged a big 2nd-half contributor. As my 5th receiver with 53 others already drafted, I thought it a good time to take that chance. And I doubt he would have made it back to me. This was also about where I started ignoring my MVP Board.

Round 11: Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

Who says you have to play wideouts at those flex spots to capitalize on receptions? Perhaps I should have snagged Jason Witten in Round 10 in that vein, but then he went in the middle of this round. Walker projects similarly and could even wind up his offense's top target for the 2nd straight season. At this point, the remaining TEs project for more PPR points than the remaining WRs.

Round 12: Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers

Ditto that last pick. Is there a chance Ladariu Green wows over the 1st 4 weeks and Gates returns to a reduced role? Sure. But we're also talking about a veteran TE with a terrific record and a highly efficient QB. Gates finished 3rd among fantasy TEs just last year and could prove to be a significant flex weapon for me here.

Round 13: Cody Latimer, WR, Broncos
Round 14: Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks

Time for more lottery tickets. I certainly don't head into this season expecting Parker, Latimer and Lockett to all pay out for me. But they all face opportunity and bring loads of talent. This was my way of combating the early WR load-up. At this stage, I don't want the next guy up in the projections. I want players with a chance to drastically outperform their projections.

Round 15: Dan Herron, RB, Colts

I'm not a handcuff guy, but the RBs and WRs don't look particularly good at this point, I already have 3 TEs and I don't feel the need to go defense yet. So I'll handcuff my #2 RB with a guy who looked solid when pressed into duty last year and who would play in the same top-shelf offense if Gore goes down.

Round 16: Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers

Suckers. If you let this guy linger on the board until 16 other QBs are gone, I will take him every time. If he busts for whatever reason, I'm not losing much. Having Russell Wilson, seeing Carson Palmer still on the board and knowing that the guy drafting behind me at the turn already had 2 QBs made me comfy with waiting this long for a backup. Palmer went next, with Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler and Marcus Mariota following among the next 4 picks.

Round 17: Packers D/ST

The Packers do well on turnovers, carry solid return men and open with a decent schedule: at Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, at San Francisco, St. Louis, San Diego.

Round 18: Terrance West, RB, Browns

We just mentioned this guy as another end-of-draft lottery ticket. West is much more of a scratch-off with lower payouts than those exciting, young WRs I picked earlier. But if I can steal any starter value out of an 18th-round RB, I'll be happy.

Round 19: Caleb Sturgis, K, Dolphins

Everyone needs a kicker. An ascending offense and warm weather doesn't hurt this one.

Round 20: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Free agent

Here's how picked-over the RBs are: Ray Rice went 2 rounds earlier. Josh Robinson and Jeremy Langford went at the 19-20 turn. Falcons Antone Smith and Terron Ward have both already been picked. Perhaps I should have opted for Jonas Gray here, but I'll look like a genius if any team signs Bradshaw over the next couple of weeks. And if he heads into the season without a team ... then I guess I'll be stuck dumping my 20th-rounder for a waiver option. I think Bradshaw presents the highest ceiling among the still-free RBs.

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