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The Master Plan for 2014 Fantasy Drafts

Aug 25, 2014

FootballGuysSigmund Bloom unveils his strategy for nailing your draft this season.

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“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s easy to beat most folks.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant, football coach, University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

 

Striking a balance between having a plan built by good research to navigate your draft and seeing how your draft is unfolding through the lens of necessary alterations on the fly to that plan is difficult task. If you improvise or go “best player available” every round, you could leave weaknesses that are hard to overcome if you don’t draft and manage in a style to mitigate your unforeseen shortcoming. If you stick with your plan through hell or high water, you can miss great values or other ways to exploit the tendencies of your leaguemates.

 

I want to emphasize this: EVERY PLAN WORKS IF YOU PICK THE RIGHT PLAYERS.

 
FantasyPros Draft Wizard

You can gain some edges over your opponents by timing your picks by position to coincide with the areas of the draft most likely to yield the best ROI at the position, but this will gain you maybe a 5-10% edge on your competition at the very most. You win your league by building in upside capable of giving you massive advantages at a few positions while not conceding much to the competition at other positions. You must take a handful of players who can greatly exceed their draft value, which includes taking on the risk that make those players available later than their ceiling suggests they should be.

 

You can’t win your league by swinging for singles and doubles in your entire draft.

 

Often I hear “You can’t win your league in the first round, but you can lose it”. Bullpucky. I and many others have won leagues after shanking first rounds and other early picks. Matt Waldman lays out the case for the importance of the rest of fantasy football that doesn’t involve the draft in his typical immersive way, and every one of your should read it right now. What this means is that your draft should build in some confidence in your abilities to address weaknesses in-season. You can’t have everything in your draft. Isolate a few spots you are comfortable with operating at from a weakness and understand what your strategy will be during the season to deal with that. Streaming QBs or TEs. RB2BC. And play it safe in the 1st/2nd if you want, but know that taking risky players there does not doom your season if they fail.

 

So, be thinking ceiling for most, if not all, of your draft. Know that you are going to “punt” a position or two and devise a strategy to optimize your chances of getting away with. But most of all, take players you can believe in. Don’t talk yourself out of players you like because you already filled the position’s starting requirements or need to fill another starting position that just saw a run take place. Don’t take players that don’t give you the warm fuzzies. The heart of this endeavor is still player/team evaluation, even if it is also the most difficult part.

 

So I just made a big speech to tell you that draft plans only give you incremental edges, but they won’t win your league for you. Now here’s my draft plan. Enjoy.

 

Note: My PPR Top 200 and MFL10 Guide are good companion pieces that will help a lot of this make more sense.

 

QB1

Your approach to QB this year should be simple. You basically have triggers that tell you a QB with elite upside has fallen too fall, but otherwise take your favorite of the nice group between QB7 and QB16. If I am going to stick my neck out for any QB this year, it’s Nick Foles, because that is a bet on Chip Kelly and a team with a great offensive line, running game, and diverse set of weapons. I don’t have a clear favorite in the group after Foles, but Ryan, Brady, Wilson, and Cutler all instill confidence as picks after QB8 or so. Even Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger feel like “safe” low QB1s this year who should encourage you to keep taking RB/WR/TE when only 10-11 QBs are off of the board and not fear a backup QB run before your next pick.

 

TRIGGERS

Late 2nd Round – Peyton Manning

4th Round – Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers

7th Round – Nick Foles

 

Obviously, every draft is going to be different. My round triggers are based on expert league experience, but in a lot of your leagues, those triggers look absurd. Know that I think Wilson, Cutler, Rivers, and Roethlisberger are all QB1s and they are going 10th or later, so you can wait until 12+ QBs are drafted to take yours, whenever that happens to go down in your league.

 

BACKUP QB

I get taking two of the top 16 and trying to time matchups, but you better have at least 20 roster spots. Carson Palmer and maybe Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles present low QB1 upside outside of the top 16. Otherwise, I am using the waiver wire as my backup QB. Unless every team carries two quarterbacks and some carry three, you should be fine covering your bye with a free agent in your league. QB injury incidence is going down, so I don’t really plan for my QB getting hurt.

 

RB1

This is easy if you have a top four pick. You take one of the top four (Charles-McCoy-Peterson-Forte) running backs. If you don’t have a top four pick, you might be inclined to take Eddie Lacy/DeMarco Murray in the mid-late first, or Marshawn Lynch/Montee Ball/Arian Foster/Giovani Bernard in the second. Andre Ellington, C.J. Spiller, and Doug Martin are available in the third and they have RB1 upside. I do not recommend going without a running back in the first three rounds this year. I think counting on one running back be culled from the waiver wire/mid-late rounds is reasonable, but two is asking too much, especially with the number of people catching on to the “Zero RB/Upside Down/Do the Opposite” strategy. If you do go that route, veteran backs like Frank Gore, Ray Rice, Fred Jackson and Steven Jackson are decent RB1s because you know their roles are solid when they are on the field.

 

RB2

Ideally, you’re taking Ellington/Spiller/Martin in the third as an RB2, although I’m not against an RB-RB start. If you do get out of the third round with only one (or no) running back in tow, you might see an Alfred Morris (or Spiller) slip to the fourth. If you don’t get your RB2 by the fourth, you are better off waiting until the sixth for a value like Rice or Gore, or even going full RB2BC with Steven Jackson/Fred Jackson in the seventh (or later). You can plant some upside seeds later on and via the waiver wire while this proven group carries that RB2 spot (in Rice’s case, you have to wait until week 3).

 

RB BENCH/FLEX

Ideally, you have your RB1/RB2 in the first three rounds. I wouldn’t dissuade you from taking one of that underrated vet tier (Gore/Rice/the Jacksons) or even a Sproles/Woodhead. These guys will be useful to cover byes and plug in at flex as long as they are healthy. I get going with the upside plays of a Lamar Miller/Carlos Hyde/Christine Michael, but these backs are much more likely to languish on your bench that they are to hit the RB1 upside they have if everything breaks right. Rookie running backs, and Oakland/New Orleans backs tend to seem too expensive because of their limited upside without injuries helping them too.

 

You have to overpay for RBs in just about every draft, so I prefer to fill my bench later. Around the 12th or 13th, I will start to take some lottery ticket/upside types, including, but not limited to:

 

Lance Dunbar

Dexter McCluster

Jonathan Stewart

Jacquizz Rodgers

Roy Helu

Donald Brown

James Starks

C.J. Anderson

Chris Ivory

 

WR1

You can go with Calvin Johnson early in the mid-first, a Dez/Demaryius in the late first, a Marshall/Julio near the 1-2 turn, a Nelson/Jeffery in the mid second… these all work for me, but they aren’t the direction I’m taking for my WR1 in my drafts.

 

This year, fantasy drafts are blessed with the deepest set of potential fantasy WR1s we’ve ever seen. The trend towards more passing production is making this task akin to shooting fish in a barrel. I see names like Vincent Jackson, Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald on the board in the fourth round of my drafts. Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson are there in the fifth.

 

I would reserve your fourth round pick for your WR1 and feast on elite production at other positions in the first three rounds.

 

WR2

If you go with a receiver in the first two rounds, you can lock in the same type of advantage by dipping into the deep third tier of potential WR1s as your WR2 in the fourth or fifth round, although it might be at the expense of your RB2 depending on whether you take a QB or TE in the first three rounds. You can also slough WR2 to an extent because you have an edge at WR1, especially if you used your first rounder on a receiver. Taking a high floor veteran like Reggie Wayne to go with a Calvin/Dez/Demaryius can be more than adequate.

 

With my preference for waiting until the fourth to take my WR1, going receiver in the fifth for your WR2 is a slam dunk. In addition to Harvin and DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith and Michael Floyd are two other common names that make wide receiver the most attractive position to target in the fifth round.

 

WR3/FLEX

The reality is that wide receiver is going to deliver value that makes you feel good about your picks from the fourth round until pretty much the end of your draft. The sixth round can yield TY Hilton or Julian Edelman. Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, and Kendall Wright are there in the seventh, and I think any of them would be great value in the sixth. Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin can slide to the eight despite signs that they might be instant fantasy forces.

 

Keep pounding away at wide receiver in the 4th-8th rounds until you have a strong group four-deep.

 

WR BENCH

I’m not against having a fifth receiver in your first 8-9 picks in PPR leagues. The value is that good. Still, you can probably get by waiting until the 11th and use picks in the 9th-10th to address QB and TE.

 

Both the upside and high floor aisles are stocked well in the double digit rounds of drafts.

 

HIGH FLOOR

Anquan Boldin

Greg Jennings

Cecil Shorts

Danny Amendola

Hakeem Nicks

 

HIGH CEILING

Justin Hunter

Kenny Stills

Cody Latimer

Markus Wheaton

Aaron Dobson

 

Just reserve a pick in the 12th-14th for Latimer. (Update: Wes Welker‘s concussion could make this pick necessary in 10th-12th) He’s a potent talent an injury away from being a big part of the best passing offense in the league.

 

In addition, even after those target lists above are exhausted, some really solid bye/injury/emergency types with some upside are there in the 13th or later like:

 

Jarrett Boykin

Rod Streater

Andre Holmes

Marqise Lee

Doug Baldwin

Andrew Hawkins

Kenbrell Thompkins

Malcom Floyd

Davante Adams

 

TE

Believe it or not, tight end might be the key to your whole draft. At the very least, it is the position that is easiest to commit to a very early or very late draft plan, which gives you a smaller pool of positions to consider in the middle and even early rounds.

 

You either want one of the top four tight ends, or you want to go with a complementary duo later on. Any of these are solid:

 

Jimmy Graham in the first

Rob Gronkowski in the second

Julius Thomas in the third

Jordan Cameron in the fourth

 

If you can get them later, go on with your bad self.

 

After that, you’ll want to sit of the sidelines for a while. You can either take two (or even three) upside TEs and hope for the best, or you can grab a high floor vet to protect against your upside play flopping. You should be taking an upside play like Allen or Kelce even if you get one of the top four. An everyweek starting tight end has trade value in fantasy leagues.

 

UPSIDE PLAYS

Jordan Reed

Kyle Rudolph

Zach Ertz

Dwayne Allen

Travis Kelce

Ladarius Green

Tyler Eifert

 

HIGH FLOOR VETS

Heath Miller

Charles Clay

Delanie Walker

Antonio Gates

 

KICKER/DEFENSE

Last two rounds, unless you want to splurge on a falling Patriots D/ST after you take Latimer.

Stream defenses and start with the Jets at home against the Raiders or Steelers at home against the Browns.

Shaun Suisham, Nick Novak, Robbie Gould, and Matt Bryant are all good kickers to target in the next-to-last or last round.

 

Round
Area of First Round Pick
Early 1st
Mid 1st
Late 1st
1
Adrian Peterson
Jimmy Graham
Demarco Murray
2
Rob Gronkowski
Montee Ball
Marshawn Lynch
3
C.J. Spiller
Alfred Morris
Victor Cruz
4
Roddy White
Larry Fitzgerald
Jordan Cameron
5
DeSean Jackson
Michael Floyd
Torrey Smith
6
Emmanuel Sanders
Julian Edelman
T.Y. Hilton
7
Nick Foles
Reggie Wayne
Marques Colston
8
Kelvin Benjamin
Steven Jackson
Brandin Cooks
9
Fred Jackson
Matt Ryan
Darren Sproles
10
Kenny Stills
Justin Hunter
Jay Cutler
11
Lance Dunbar
Dwayne Allen
Anquan Boldin
12
Cody Latimer
Cody Latimer
Cody Latimer
13
Travis Kelce
Markus Wheaton
Jonathan Stewart
14
Carson Palmer
Doug Baldwin
Jarrett Boykin
15
Rod Streater
C.J. Anderson
Roy Helu
16
New England D
Donald Brown
Chris Ivory
17
James Starks
Marqise Lee
Andre Holmes
18
Dexter McCluster
Davante Adams
Kenbrell Thompkins
19
Andrew Hawkins
Pittsburgh D
NY Jets D
20
Robbie Gould
Shaun Suisham
Nick Novak


 
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