Just one short year ago, I offered my
strategy on how to gain a competitive advantage for the 2016
fantasy football season. If you followed my advice and went with
an RB-heavy approach, you were probably handsomely rewarded. At
the very least, you probably avoided disasters like Brandon
Robinson, and DeAndre
Hopkins. The reason that my call to go RB-heavy was so effective
was not because it was some innovative concept I had just come up
with Ė far from it. It was because of how anomalous 2015 was for
both wide receiver production and poor running back production.
There was a natural expectation that running backs would rebound
and boy did they ever.
That leads us into the reason weíre all here: what should we do
in 2017 to gain that competitive advantage in our drafts? First
things first: Itís a new year and as much as Iíd love to tell you
to go and grab two running backs with your first three picks, there
are too few at the position to feel confident in, making it simply
the wrong strategy to take. Perhaps we should not try
and bend the strategy. Instead, only try and realize the truthÖthere
is no strategy.
So what exactly does that mean? Using current
ADP, there are 12 running backs going in the first two rounds,
11 wide receivers and one Gronk. We have reached a point of equilibrium
in positional valuation between RBs and WRs. Yes, having an elite
running back will always be better than an elite wide receiver because
of position scarcity, but in terms of actual ability to produce
fantasy points: wide receivers are just as good as running backs.
With so much uncertainly don't force an
early pick based on a perceived need at any one position.
Despite the RB renaissance of 2016, the RB resurgence wasnít as
strong as you may think. There were actually more wide receivers
in the top 24 than running backs (15-9) in non-QB PPR scoring. The
perception is a bit skewed due to the cataclysmic failure of pre-season
top 12 wide receivers like DeAndre
Allen and Brandon
Marshall. Just like I advised everyone not to overreact to the
WR boom of 2015, you must refrain from overreacting to the WR failure
Last year, there was a decided advantage to be gained by foregoing
the best player available in the early rounds in order to take an
RB due to the huge point disparity between early- and late-round
RBs. The edge you would gain was worth it. Thatís not the
case this year. But itís also not the case that you should
take a WR over an RB if the RB is the best player on your board.
This yearís strategy is less about formula and more about
individual player analysis.
Letís take a look at Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, A.J. Green and Mike Evans. Last year, if you were picking towards the
end of Round 1, I wouldíve suggested you go with the RB (Gordon
or Freeman) no matter where you had those players ranked on your
board. This year, you should take the player youíre most comfortable
with regardless of position.
After Tier 1, it becomes far less defined. Obviously you can delineate
your tiers however you see fit, but for the purpose of this explanation,
here is my Tier 2: DeMarco
Nelson and Mike
Evans. If all of my Tier 1 players are gone, I am taking one
of these four. And while I still would argue the ďtie goes to the
running back,Ē itís not as clear cut as last year. If Evans is at
the top of this tier, then donít worry about passing on the running
back as once you get past the top two tiers, the level of uncertainty
regarding all players skyrockets.
As an example, currently third round running backs are Lamar
Crowell, and Dalvin
Cook. We have one of 2016ís biggest disappointments (which,
not to toot my own horn, I did warn you about), a 32 year-old
who hasnít played since 2015, a guy on the Browns, and a rookie
in a bad offense in a potential three-way timeshare whose ADP
has spiked as a result of two strong preseason games. Some question
marks to be sure.
But WR isnít much better. Wide receivers in Round 3 typically
Thomas, and Keenan
Allen. We have one of 2016ís biggest busts, a converted quarterback
on a new team, a 30 year-old that hasnít been elite since Peyton
Manning was around, and a guy who has played 9 games over the
past two seasons. I canít, in good conscience, tell you that one
position is objectively more valuable than another. Take the player
you think is best, regardless of position.
One more thing: The way youíre going
to be successful in your draft this year is by understanding the
uncertainty regarding player valuations and ADP. Once you get
into the middle stages of your draft, itís time to throw caution
to the wind and trust your own knowledge. Do not be afraid to
ďreachĒ for players. If someone is the top player on your board,
but you know his ADP is two rounds later, donít wait. Do not miss
out on your guy because your ADP source you told you it was too
early to pick him.
Hereís a pitfall Iíve succumbed to in mocks that
I wish to help you avoid. Many of the players I like after Round
5 all have ADPs of Round 8 or 9. If I donít take one of
the three or four players I covet in Round 6, what happens? We
get to Rounds 7 and 8 and all of a sudden, the top players on
my board have become the top players available and Iíve
now locked myself out of the ability to get them all simply because
I was afraid to ďreachĒ in Round 6. Instead, I took
a player I valued lower because the consensus valued him higher.
It doesnít make sense. Go ahead and take the players high
on your board without fear of ADP.
If youíre looking for a yellow brick road to victory this
year, youíre not going to find one. The key to this year
is to not go into your draft with a set strategy. You may end
up going RB-RB-RB. You may end up going Zero-RB. You may end up
taking a QB or TE early (or both). Your success will come from
creating value based on your own player evaluations, allowing
you to adapt to whatever the draft room presents.