Welcome back to another year of season long fantasy football action. Let me be clear on one thing. I’m not Mathew Berry & I’m not trying to suck my own cock. This post is all about giving you the formula to win your season long fantasy leagues and make season long fantasy football great again. In the notes posted below, you will see everything you need to dominate your draft and nothing that you don’t. I’m pointing out over and under valued players, showing you my top sleepers and highlighting my favorites across the entire draft. One of the things I’ve observed over the years is that knowing who to avoid in the draft can be almost as important as knowing who to take. Those of you that followed my fantasy draft outline last season avoided the Gurley/Dez/Adrian Peterson landmines in the first round of that draft. We also identified Leveon Bell, Doug Baldwin, and Delanie Walker as top sleepers last year. I expect more of the same this year so let’s jump right in.
BASIC FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGY – VALUE BASED DRAFTING
I approach season long fantasy football in a similar fashion to how I approach daily fantasy football. It’s all about identifying value. In daily fantasy football, we find value based on the player salaries set by the various DFS sites. Season long leagues are trickier but generally, we look for value as a function of ADP or average draft position. To get an edge on the competition, we need to find the players that the “crowd” is wrong about both to the upside and to the downside. In addition, we need to understand player tiers and which positions to target with our draft picks and when.
To illustrate the point of value based drafting I’m going to use an example from the actual NFL draft which pertains to my beloved NY Jets. Most hardcore NFL fans are familiar with the montage of Jets draft day miscues that ESPN loves to run every year when the Jets are on the clock. The most poignant is a clip of Mel Kiper blatantly screaming that the Jets simply don’t understand how the draft works after they took a 3rd round projected Mark Gastineau in the 1st round of the draft. It’s not that Gastineau didn’t turn out to be a great player. He did. The issue was where they took him. The point Mel Kiper was trying to make is that it doesn’t matter if the pick works out. The mistake was taking the player too early. The assumption was that Gastineau would have still been available in the second round and possibly the third round of that draft so the opportunity cost of drafting a player that far above their projected spot is not just about how the player turned out but rather on who you could have taken in that spot. This brings us to the value based drafting approach. We use current ADP (average draft position) data to determine a player’s current value. Think of it like their Draftkings or Fanduel salary for the slate. My goal is to point out where players are being over or undervalued relative to their current ADP. This, in essence, is our season long fantasy edge. In daily fantasy football, the key to success is picking and choosing the spots to go against the “wisdom of the crowd”. Season long drafting is no different. There are situations where it makes sense to reach for a player ahead of their current ADP and other situations where we are better off waiting or simply passing on particular players.
If you go into your fantasy draft without preparation you are probably not going to do very well. Even my draft notes aren’t enough to save you if you are completely unprepared. One of the cool things I discovered this season is a handy app called DRAFT. It’s basically a new take on DFS in that they do everything via a snake draft style format. That site has in season one-week contests just like all the other DFS sites. Those are cool because it is as “shark free” of a format as I’ve seen for a DFS product. This season they launched their “Best Ball” concept which is really awesome. In the past, I’ve spent hours and hours on Yahoo and other free season long host sites running mock drafts. Inevitably there are a few people that don’t give a shit and ruin the meaningless mocks by taking kickers in the 1st round and doing otherwise stupid things. It’s also somewhat boring to do large numbers of mock drafts which are of no real consequence. The DRAFT app puts a new twist on mock drafting with their “Best Ball” concept. Best ball is a form of season long fantasy football where you draft a complete team via snake draft and then you don’t do anything. The format automatically grabs the top scorers from your team based on the positions available (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE). There are no waivers and there is no roster management. You simply draft it and forget it. They have 10 and 12 team best ball leagues with entry fees as low as $3. They pay out the top two or three teams in each of these leagues and trust me when I tell you that the competition is soft. I like the fact that they have slow (8 hours between picks) and fast (30 seconds between picks) draft options available. As a bonus, the app pings you whenever it’s your turn to draft. The strategy for best ball drafts is to try and build a team that is as resilient to injury. That means thinking about contingencies at every spot. I like to grab RB’s that are easily and clearly cuff-able. Have enough players at each position to withstand a couple of injuries. Best Ball is generally a game of attrition. By midway through the season, a good number of the teams will be stuck with no scores from positions where they got riddled with injuries.
**Bonus – We are going to put together a week 1 DFS Army Freeroll with DFS Army swag prizes. DRAFT has agreed to throw in an additional $2 in cash for every DFS Army member that registers a new depositing account there via the link above! Lets get 500 people in there and a $1000 DFS Army week one FREEROLL going!
Initial Observations and Basic Rules of Thumb
Let’s start with the settings. For the purposes of this column and my notes, I always assume in my ADP list and notes that league settings being used are as follows:
12 Team League 1 point or 1/2 point PPR with at minimum the following positions: QB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB, TE
This season is interesting in the shift back to stud RB’s at the top of the draft. Last season, taking WR’s high was all the rage. The pendulum has swung back in the opposite direction for good reason. There just aren’t that many 3 down workhorse backs in the league at this moment so getting one of the very few available ones is a priority. Even in full PPR leagues, I’m targeting the big 3 RB’s (David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, and Zeke Elliott) in the first three picks of the draft.
There is a weird drop off in talent midway through the second round which extends all the way through to the beginning of the fourth round. I’m calling that area if the draft the “Shit Storm”. It features a plethora of players that disappointed last season but are maintaining highish draft positions due to their big names or the hopes people have for a bounce-back season. This is where you find players like DeAndre Hopkins, Alshon Jeffrey, Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Christian McCaffery and Isiah Crowell. In short, they all have big question marks. For anyone that has the ability to influence their draft position, I’m recommending either trying to get one of the top three spots in the first round or one of the bottom three spots. People with a bottom three slot will avoid the shitstorm completely and come out smelling like roses. The top three drafters will enter the heart of the shitstorm in the round 2-3 turn but it’s worth it because Bell, Zeke and DJ are awesome. One trick for navigating the shit storm area of the draft is to consider reaching for a stud TE a little early.
Another observation is the plethora of high upside sleepers particularly at the WR position this season. The 7th through 10th round of the draft is littered with high upside WR sleepers. Names like John Brown, Eric Decker, Cameron Meredith and Tyrelle Williams among others.
Don’t be a sucker – let someone else waste early draft picks on the QB position. Wait until all of your starting skill positions are filled and you have one or two bench players before taking a QB. The position is so deep, it’s almost like Defense or Kicker at this point.
The best way to prepare for your draft is to grab the DRAFT app, run out a bunch of best ball slow drafts, use the notes below and let them play out. After a few mocks, you start to get a feel for how your teams look when you go RB or WR heavy early. There is no better way to prep for your actual season long draft!
Finally, remember that these players are listed in order of their Average ADP in 12 team PPR and 1/2 Point PPR Drafts. The goal is to use this sheet to navigate the draft. Just because a player is in red and listed as overvalued does not mean you can’t draft them if they fall below the listed ADP.
**Note – The ADP’s on this sheet are from the first week of August. I will be jumping back on to the sheet itself to modify the notes and picks as new information comes out, injuries happen and playing time for some of the lesser certain players become more apparent. I will not be able to modify the ADP data regularly however but I will make changes for major news events.
THE GEEK’S COMPLETE 2017 FANTASY DRAFT CHEAT SHEET & NOTES