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Know Thy Enemy

By Steve Schwarz | 8/13/20

Actually, a more accurate title for this piece is probably, “Know what wins in your league.” Do you play in the same league year after year? Does it seem like the same guys finish near the top every year?

Perhaps there is a reason for this, besides dumb luck.

Even more important, perhaps we can analyze what has gone on in the past, learn from it and get in on the fun. Be one of the guys who is always competitive. Win every once in a while. Or even begin to dominate the league.

I have done this analysis for the annual FFToday Staff Draft. Hopefully, what I’ve learned will translate to your league.

Over the past four seasons, one owner, Doug Orth, has won two times (2019, 2017) and probably should have won a third ring. He went 12-1 during the regular season in 2016, but my 7-6 team got hot at the right moment and upset its way to the title.

Do you want to be like Doug?

Go “Old School.”

Both times he won the championship, he started the draft selecting running back-running back. Even when he didn’t start RB, RB in 2016 and had the best regular season record, he filled out his starting backfield by Round 4 going WR, WR, RB and RB.

In the charts below are the winner’s draft day rosters from the past six seasons. Five of six times the winning team took a running back in the first round. Three of the six teams, selected running backs in the first and second rounds. Only once did an owner wait past the fourth round to complete their starting backfield. The “zero running back strategy” be damned.

  2019 - Doug Orth
Pick Pos Player
1.03 RB Alvin Kamara, NO
2.10 RB Todd Gurley, LAR
3.03 WR Chris Godwin, TB
4.10 RB Chris Carson, SEA
5.03 WR Tyler Boyd, CIN
6.10 WR Allen Robinson, CHI
7.03 TE Jared Cook, NO
8.10 QB Carson Wentz, PHI
9.03 WR Anthony Miller, CHI
10.10 RB Ronald Jones, TB
11.03 QB Lamar Jackson, BAL
12.10 TE Austin Hooper, ATL
13.03 RB Peyton Barber, TB
14.10 TE Darren Waller, OAK
15.03 WR Miles Boykin, BAL
16.10 DEF Denver Broncos, DEN
17.03 WR Trey Quinn, WAS
18.10 WR Jalen Hurd, SF
  2018 - Colby Cavaliere
Pick Pos Player
1.01 RB Todd Gurley, LAR
2.12 WR T.Y. Hilton, IND
3.01 WR Stefon Diggs, MIN
4.12 RB Derrick Henry, TEN
5.01 WR Jamison Crowder, WAS
6.12 RB Tevin Coleman, ATL
7.01 WR Julian Edelman, NE
8.12 WR DeVante Parker, MIA
9.01 TE Kyle Rudolph, MIN
10.12 RB Matt Breida, SF
11.01 QB Matthew Stafford, DET
12.12 RB Nyheim Hines, IND
13.01 WR Anthony Miller, CHI
14.12 RB Austin Ekeler, LAC
15.01 RB Javorius Allen, BAL
16.12 K Mason Crosby, GB
17.01 DEF New Orleans Saints, NO
18.12 TE A. Seferian-Jenkins, JAC

  2017 - Doug Orth
Pick Pos Player
1.09 RB Devonta Freeman, ATL
2.04 RB Todd Gurley, LAR
3.09 WR Allen Robinson, JAC
4.04 QB Tom Brady, NE
5.09 WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
6.04 TE Jimmy Graham, SEA
7.09 WR Martavis Bryant, PIT
8.04 WR Jeremy Maclin, BAL
9.09 RB Frank Gore, IND
10.04 TE Hunter Henry, LAC
11.09 RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR
12.04 RB Darren Sproles, PHI
13.09 WR Sterling Shepard, NYG
14.04 DEF New England Patriots
15.09 WR Kevin White, CHI
16.04 RB Alfred Morris, DAL
17.09 WR Cooper Kupp, LAR
18.04 K Wil Lutz, NO
  2016 - Steve Schwarz
Pick Pos Player
1.07 RB Todd Gurley, LA
2.06 WR Brandin Cooks, NO
3.07 WR Jeremy Maclin, KC
4.06 QB Drew Brees, NO
5.07 WR Allen Hurns, JAC
6.06 WR Michael Crabtree, OAK
7.07 RB Ameer Abdullah, DET
8.06 QB Tom Brady, NE
9.07 RB Devontae Booker, DEN
10.06 WR Devin Funchess, CAR
11.07 DEF Denver Broncos, DEN
12.06 RB LeGarrette Blount, NE
13.07 K S. Gostkowski, NE
14.06 TE Clive Walford, OAK
15.07 WR Davante Adams, GB
16.06 DEF Cincinnati Bengals, CIN
17.07 WR Brandon LaFell, CIN
18.06 RB W. Smallwood, PHI

  2015 - Jason Mitchell
Pick Pos Player
1.11 WR Dem Thomas, DEN
2.02 WR Calvin Johnson, DET
3.11 RB Lamar Miller, MIA
4.02 RB Mark Ingram, NO
5.11 WR Allen Robinson, JAC
6.02 RB Giovani Bernard, CIN
7.11 RB Joique Bell, DET
8.02 WR Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
9.11 WR Brandon LaFell, NE
10.02 WR Eric Decker, NYJ
11.11 RB Bishop Sankey, TEN
12.02 QB Colin Kaepernick, SF
13.11 WR Brian Quick, STL
14.02 TE Josh Hill, NO
15.11 TE Jordan Reed, WAS
16.02 K S. Gostkowski, NE
17.11 WR D. Green-Beckham, TEN
18.02 WR Brandon Coleman, NO
  2014 - Antonio D'Arcangelis
Pick Pos Player
1.02 RB LeSean McCoy, PHI
2.11 RB DeMarco Murray, DAL
3.02 RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT
4.11 RB T.Y. Hilton, IND
5.02 WR DeSean Jackson, WAS
6.11 WR Mike Wallace, MIA
7.02 QB Tony Romo, DAL
8.11 WR Mike Evans, TB
9.02 WR Cecil Shorts, JAC
10.11 TE Charles Clay, MIA
11.02 DEF St. Louis Rams
12.11 RB Andre Williams, NYG
13.02 TE Tyler Eifert, CIN
14.11 QB Ryan Tannehill, MIA
15.02 RB Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL
16.11 QB Jake Locker, TEN
17.02 K Dan Bailey, DAL
18.11 TE A. Seferian-Jenkins, TB

Second, the average pick for the first quarterback drafted by the six past champions is pick No.83 Ė the end of the seventh round. That average goes down even further when you realize that Mr. Orth won last season with Lamar Jackson as his primary quarterback, not his top QB selection Carson Wentz, and Jackson was drafted at No. 124.

Another thing about when to pick your quarterback. The owner who grabbed the first quarterback off the board is still looking for his first ring. While they have produced a nice win percentage (.615), they havenít won a championship. And isnít that the ultimate goal? Therefore, those wanting to jump in early for exciting young quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes (ADP 18.8) or Lamar Jackson (21.0) Ö beware.

  QB Selection
Year First QB Picked Ov Winning Team QB Ov
2019 Patrick Mahomes 17 Carson Wentz 94
2018 Aaron Rodgers 34 Matthew Stafford 121
2017 Aaron Rodgers 26 Tom Brady 40
2016 Cam Newton 30 Drew Brees 42
2015 Andrew Luck 18 Colin Kaepernick 135
2014 Peyton Manning 12 Tony Romo 74

Third, an elite tight end isnít necessary to win your league. Sure, Travis Kelce or George Kittle is nice to see slotted in at the position, but the following were the first tight ends drafted by the six winning teams and their season-ending position rank based on FPts/G; 2019 - Jared Cook (10th), 2018 - Kyle Rudolph (12th), 2017 - Jimmy Graham (8th), 2016 - Clive Walford (41st), 2015 - Josh Hill (75th) and 2014 - Charles Clay (13th).

Even more interesting is that top-10 tight ends can be found on the waiver wire. Two times the winner claimed a top-10 tight end off waivers during the season. In 2016, I picked up Rudolph, who finished fourth. In 2014 the fantasy owner claimed Delanie Walker and he finished seventh.

In 2015, the winnerís second tight end was Jordan Reed, who was drafted near the end of the 15th round and actually won the position. Spending a lot of capital on a tight end is an unnecessary luxury.

  TE Selection
Year First TE Picked Ov Winning Team TE Ov
2019 Travis Kelce 10 Jared Cook 75
2018 Rob Gronkowski 26 Kyle Rudolph 97
2017 Rob Gronkowski 17 Jimmy Graham 64
2016 Rob Gronkowski 16 Clive Walford 162
2015 Rob Gronkowski 16 Josh Hill 158
2014 Jimmy Graham 7 Charles Clay 119

Finally, defense may win the Lombardi trophy, but not your fantasy league. The average round for the defense/ST is the 15th, including one team who simply didn’t draft one at all.

The bottom line in our fantasy league is spending all early capital on running backs and receivers seems to be the best plan. Resist any urge to get the top quarterback and select one in the middle or later rounds and don’t worry about tight ends or defenses. Hope this helps you.

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