If you’re primary focus is just winning your league and not the overall contest stop reading now. There are higher percentage plays than what I’m about to suggest if that’s your only goal. On the other hand, if you’re in one of the more ‘lotto’ style events like the Football Guys Tourney or the NFFC Online Championship that has thousands of contestants, you’re going to need more than just your safe, cookie-cutter approach to roster construction if you intend to rise above 1,600 to 3,000 competitors. There are going to be too many people that lucked out and had the ‘perfect’ draft with values falling right into their lap.
You’re going to need to leverage your draft position. If you’re one of ‘the chosen’ and inherit a top 3 pick, your life is a bit easier but if you’re in the middle or the end you’ve got some difficult choices to make, and taking a mediocre/injury prone/committee running back is not what I suggest. Why take a RB with huge question marks in the 1st, 2nd when there are RB’s with similar question marks later?
It’s a very simple approach. Just try to win as many positions as possible. If you take Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, et al. you are going to lose at RB1. You’ve just spotted teams that take Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy a big lead in the first round and at RB. If Darren McFadden stays healthy and Chris Johnson bounces back you will be behind those teams as well. The way the ADP puzzle is shaping up this year, your highest upside for your roster construction lies in locking up as many non RB studs as possible in the early rounds and waiting on running backs unless a value slips. While everyone is chasing mediocre injury prone backs that share carries, just crush them at every other position. In the NFFC I love locking up a stud QB and TE early if you have a late draft position. People are letting the elite and potentially elite wide receivers slip a little later this year compared to last, so if you start out QB-TE-WR-WR AND you’ve done your homework and make wise selections, you are setup to completely dominate everyone at every position but running back. Then it just comes down to hitting two Home Runs with the tailbacks you draft. Easier said than done, but still extremely simple in theory. There are numerous serviceable backs with upside available late. If Arian Foster goes down Ben Tate could be a top five back. Ryan Williams just needs a brittle Beanie Wells to go down to be a very solid RB2. CJ Spiller, Peyton Hillis, David Wilson, Robert Turbin, Jacquizz Rodgers, and DeAngelo Williams are each just one injury away from fantasy gold. Some of them may even serve you well as a weak RB2 without an injury, which is fine if you are stacked everywhere else. Last year Reggie Bush, Marshawn Lynch, and Darren Sproles all returned huge profits as 6th to 8th round picks. This year the crop is more fertile than ever for these types of values to emerge.
In practical terms the candidates to fill these slots might be: QB – Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford. TE – Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski. WR – Roddy White, Victor Cruz, AJ Green, Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, etc.
You also have to be flexible and take what the draft gives you, so depending on the flow and who falls you could build your team thusly: QB-WR-TE WR, or QB-WR-WR-TE. Antonio Gates and Aaron Hernandez are fourth round selections that could easily end up at the most productive tight ends this year. People are flippantly dismissing Gates from the tier one conversation, but if you look to see what he did the last time Vincent Jackson was out of the picture, you might be surprised.
Don’t be rigid in the execution. If something unexpected happens, such as a Doug Martin or Fred Jackson falling into the fourth round, feel free to grab the RB value when it’s there. It probably means that others may be gobbling up some of the WR value. The goal is to build an edge at as many positions as possible and then load up on upside plays where you are weak. Don’t bypass value to secure perceived roster needs. Take the best player available and load up on upside players.
I don’t own Maurice Jones-Drew on a single NFFC or FFPC team. I have purposefully avoided him. As fate would have it, he actually reported to camp as I was writing this! He’ll more than likely be relatively ineffective or incur an injury early in the season because he’s not in football shape. Having said that, MJD has top 5 upside at the RB position. You don’t normally find that in the 4th round, but reports from the NFFC in Vegas had him slipping that far in some Main Event drafts. In the blink of an eye, the days of him slipping into the 4th round are over now that he has reported. I think he’s still a bust, but if he’s sitting there in the third round I may take a chance on him because I’m chasing the big carrot. You’re not going to win championships by drafting Willis McGahee, Michael Turner, or Ahmad Bradshaw in the fourth round. MJD can take you there. He could also send you to the cellar, it just depends on if you want to risk the strike out in order to swing for the fences.
Some random draft positions of players of interest at this weekend’s NFFC: Donald Brown 64th, Ryan Williams 70th, Steven Ridley 60th, Titus Young 63rd, Doug Martin 17th, Antonio Brown 36th, Eric Decker 40th. These players are skyrocketing up the draft board. One has to wonder at what point do some of these underrated players become so ‘underrated’ that they’re suddenly overrated by the market. This info has come straight from Greg Ambrosius during Sirius XM broadcasts.
The ideal draft position this year is 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3. I think locking up one of the big three then ‘punting’ RB2 in the early rounds will give you the best chance of success in Main Events. Unfortunately the FFPC does not offer 3RR and I’m stuck with drafting from 1.5 and 1.9. The NFFC offers a better shot at one of the top three because of their KDS preferences. Their third round reversal format has many drafters coveting the end of the first round to ensure an early third round pick. So your chances of landing LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, or Ray Rice as your cornerstone are high if you want one of them.