There are so many things that come out this time of the year from fantasy analysts. What we sometimes fail to remember is that there are also casual players that don’t understand things. It happens. I have been there. I knew about football, but it took me a while to really understand how to budget my DFS money to certain players and positions.
Most of the following topics I would assume you have either heard people say before or had the thought yourself. Some of my opinions will be contrary to what you heard or think, but I believe it is always good to see both sides of the coin.
1. Zero RB is the way to go!
This has become a controversial fantasy topic over the past couple years.
You can Google it to get a more in-depth breakdown of the strategy, but the basic idea of it is load up on your predictable and less volatile positions in the early rounds and scoop up running backs on the cheap later.
The strategy is suited for PPR leagues where guys like Darren Sproles and Theo Riddick are startable options. You can make do with the 70 total yards and five catches. In standard leagues, relying on that on a weekly basis isn’t a recipe for success.
The hope is that once injuries hit you have the right running backs on your roster, or they are on the waiver wire and you benefit from not having the injured starter
On a weekly basis, running back touches are pretty predictable, while season long running backs are hard to predict. Receivers, on the other hand, can have such a high volatility on targets, and catches, on a weekly basis. For the most part, at the end of the year you got what you expected – barring injury.
So where do I fall on the zero RB landscape?
I think it can work. I have done it before, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. I don’t go into a draft trying to employ it, but if it happens, it happens.
You need to scoop running backs off the wire throughout the season, so this wont work if you aren’t all over the waiver wire. There is a high probability that once bye weeks hit you will be left considering a Chris Thompson like back.
If you are someone who attacks the waiver wire well, putting a top flight quarterback and top receivers with a newly minted starting running back can create a juggernaut.
One thing that is a benefit to the zero RB people this year are early season suspensions, giving guys like Darren McFadden and Jacquizz Rodgers early season starting jobs that you can get after you have attacked the other positions for five to six rounds.
It also helps that low upside, projected, touchdown scorers like Jeremy Hill, Johnathan Stewart, and Latavius Murray among others are virtually free as everyone goes head over heels for the new rookies in those backfields.
This season I tend to like my teams more when I go into the year spending four of my first six picks on running backs in leagues that start two running back and receiver with a flex.
Yes, the running back position is volatile with injuries, but in a flex league, if you have four, two can get hurt and you still have (hopefully) two left to produce. The basic idea is I like to have at least one more current starting caliber RB than I am allowed to start.
So, in a 10 team league that starts two running backs and no flex I want three of the top 20, 10 team with two running backs and a flex I want four of the top 25. It means you are “wasting” a high value pick on a bench player, but of all the positions to do it, running back is the place to go.
This isn’t possible in every league; I get it. If running backs fly off the board fast and early, zig while they are zagging.
2. Quarterbacks score the most so I need a good one!
Yes, Aaron Rodgers is going to be the highest scoring fantasy player this season. But the difference between Rodgers, who is currently going as the 23rd player off the board, and someone like Matthew Stafford, who is currently going at the end of the 10th round, isn’t bad when you consider the other options.
What makes your team better, Aaron Rodgers (pick 23) and Theo Riddick (123), or T.Y. Hilton (24) and Matthew Stafford (122)?
I am on board with the late round quarterback ideal for the most part. I don’t think you have to wait until your third to last pick to grab a quarterback, taking someone like Carson Palmer or Carson Wentz. But waiting until rounds 10-12 and come out with a Stafford or Dalton, Tyrod? That is something I will be doing in just about every one of my leagues.
Just to be clear here, that doesn’t mean avoid quarterbacks like the plague. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take Rodgers. He has value, obviously, but I can’t do it when comparing his value to the other second and third round options available knowing I can get a viable backup so late.
My strategy changes slightly for two quarterback leagues. I am still not likely to jump in early and take a Rodgers or Brady in the first round. However, I can see myself diving in a few rounds earlier. I would want two quarterbacks from my 10-18 range.
In every two QB or superflex league I have been in, quarterbacks tend to fly off the board early. Let the Jordy Nelson, DeMarco Murray’s, etc.., fall to like the third round while people go quarterback crazy. You will be so far ahead in the positions that are hard to replace. Just make sure your third quarterback isn’t someone like Brock Osweiler.
One final late round quarterback thought. I hear and see questions like “in a 16 team league – when should I draft a quarterback?” In 16 team and deeper leagues the quarterback pool gets thinner. Instead of likely 15 quarterbacks drafted in a 10 or 12 teamer you will see probably 20-22 because now 16 need to be started. Use your best judgement in these circumstances. Don’t reach, but do not wait too long either.
The thing that boggles my mind is when people fail to notice something else – like the fact you have to start two more running backs and receivers per team. In a 12 teamer, 12 QBs and 24 RB and WR are started. In a 16 teamer that’s 16 QBs and 32 RB and WR started. This makes me want to value quarterbacks even less, not more. It all comes down to the size of your league and how many you start at each position.
Basically everything I said here can also be said for the tight end position; probably even more so.
3. But six point passing TDs!
Another quarterback related topic. My feeling is most leagues have four points per passing touchdowns. I could be wrong, but that seems to be the standard basic league across the major sites.
So what does adding two points per touchdown do? In reality, not much.
Aaron Rodgers was the highest scoring quarterback on a points per game basis last year. In six point per passing touchdowns that meant 28.5 points and in four points it was 23.5. The 12th quarterback in both formats was Matthew Stafford. Stafford had 20.4 and 17.4. A difference of eight and six points per game.
Yes, quarterbacks will score more points, but again, ALL of them will score more points. A rising tide lifts all ships. Are there some quarterbacks that rely more on yards than touchdowns? Sure. But that shouldn’t change how you draft.
The only thing you might want to do is, in four point per passing touchdown league, guys like Cam, Tyrod, Dak, etc.., that get rushing touchdowns, maybe move them to the top of the tier you have them in.
I’ll stand by my earlier sentiments. Let people favor quarterbacks. Let them take them a round or two earlier.
4. PPR (points per reception)!
I will not deny that PPR leagues drastically change things. Every time your pass catcher hauls in a pass, that’s one point. But I tend to think PPR all-stars tend to get overvalued.
The only top-10 receiver in standard scoring leagues last season to not be in the top-10 in PPR was Brandin Cooks, who finished 11th.
But what about those pass catching running backs. The Theo Riddicks of the world have a lot more value in PPR leagues.
Below are the top 10 running backs for receptions from last season and their standard and PPR finishes.
Yea, every one of these guys gets a boost, but how much of a boost do the BEST pass catching backs get? Five of them go from being elite to just as elite, one goes from a low-end RB2 to a high-end RB2 and the rest go from no way I am starting them to borderline startable.
All PPR leagues do for me is make the desperation running back pool a little deeper. When you get hit by injuries and bye weeks and a desperation starter is needed, you now have a 8-10 point performer rather than a 4-5 point guy.
PPR all-star receivers will get a little more of a boost within the position. The best of the best will catch 100 plus passes while your deep threats might catch 70, yet the yards might be the same in the end. But shockingly, when doing the same thing for receivers as I just did for running backs, it is virtually the same thing.
The big “jumper” here is Larry Fitzgerald who had the most catches in the NFL, that helped move him up eight spots.
PPR all-stars like Edelman and Landry were almost just like small shuffling differences and not different positional values. Golden Tate, another PPR all-star, went from 23rd in standard to 17 in PPR. The differences just aren’t as much as everyone wants you to believe.
Overall draft strategy for me doesn’t change all that much, which I feel like is different than how most people approach this. For the fantasy baseball people, this is kind of like the difference between OBP and batting average leagues. Some players will be helped and some will be hurt, but overall the difference is minimal other than a couple outliers.
The only real difference is the flex position is basically just another wide receiver in a PPR. Depth at running back is still bad. There are some more viable RB3 types every week, but the elites are still leaps and bounds above those guys.
Like I mentioned with quarterbacks, a rising tide lifts all ships. I know the analogy isn’t 100% equal across the board. Some guys catch more passes than others; I know. I just wanted to state that before someone says something in the comments.
5. I need to grab my first or second round running backs handcuff a round or two earlier to make sure I lock up the backfield.
Quite simply, no you don’t.
Every time I see someone take DeMarco Murray and then take Derrick Henry in the 6-8 rounds I smile. Henry is good (we assume based on pedigree), but the only way that pick helps you at all is if one of your best players, the core of your team, gets injured.
Remember when Devontae Booker was a C.J. Anderson injury away from being a stud at this time last year? I do think Henry is the better player, but I am just trying to make a point. It is the mystery logic. Sure, you won $5000 on the game show, but there could have been be a car behind that curtain.
When you get to the running back handcuff area, I would be grabbing guys that might overtake the starting running back without an injury. Guys like Henry, Jonathan Williams, James Connor, etc.., have no chance of taking over unless there is an injury. Kareem Hunt, C.J. Prosise, and Jamaal Williams, on the other hand, don’t need an injury to get a workload this season.
If I am going to grab a handcuff I would almost prefer to grab someone else’s. You don’t get your insurance policy, but you get an extra lottery ticket.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to use those handcuff round picks on guys whose role is unknown heading into week one. Thomas Rawls and Rex Burkehead, for example, are going super late. Take them now instead of a random handcuff, and if after week one they are obviously second or third in line for work then they are your easy cut when the week one waiver wire comes out.
With everything said here, you should never go into a draft with a 100% “this is what I am doing” strategy. The best drafters will read the room and get value where it is. Never reach. That could have been number six here, but you will hear people say I will reach for ______, and while I answered the questions myself during our rankings Q&A, I don’t like the phrase. I know the idea behind it. Basically, who are you taking before the consensus is. I just don’t want people to misconstrued the basic concept.
Don’t reach for just anyone. Just because you need a running back, don’t take Marshawn Lynch over AJ Green just because some people went crazy on running backs. Or take Derek Carr because you’re pick 12 and everyone in the first round took a quarterback, and by some miracle you are staring at David Johnson, but you need a quarterback. Don’t overlook talent because you need a position filled.
Most of all don’t take anything too seriously. I have seen people get heated over this amazingly awesome and stupid game (some of the twitter rants are ridiculously funny). Enjoy it. Sit back, and relax (tilt) with ever snap in every game.