• Commish Report: The Draft Plan Part 1- QB/RB




    Fantasy draft season is officially back, and with it comes the year 2 premier of The Commish Report. For those unfamiliar, The Commish Report is a weekly article that will appear in-season to mainly focus on fantasy football related topics. Throughout the season, I’ll be putting together rankings lists, strategy advice, and other features to help you with your fantasy football team. Whether you are an experienced fantasy player, or are testing the waters of fantasy football for the first time, as you read through this “draft preview” article, I hope you will consider joining your Football Pros brethren in participating in the “Perfect Challenge” game on nfl.com. Whether you are a forum ninja, are brand new to Football Pros, or anyone in between, we’d love for you to join our group. The information to join is listed below.

    Link- http://perfectchallenge.fantasy.nfl.com/group/1505
    Group- FootballPros (all one word)
    Password- collinsworth

    The Commish’s Rankings

    Before I get into a position-by-position analysis, there are a few things everyone should consider when participating in, or starting up a fantasy football league.

    League Hosting website- Most of the top mainstream websites, from ESPN to Yahoo to CBS to the NFL’s website offer a fantasy football contest for its users. Their public leagues offer a relatively basic scoring system, while most also offer private leagues that allow for more customization. For more intense leagues, the most popular site that allows for the most customization is the commissioner service that is run through the cbssports website. The site I use, which allows for extra features including an Overtime player, is rtsports.com. That site offers every customizable feature imaginable.

    Understand your league rules- Roster size, starting requirements, league size, and scoring rules are all important factors to consider when drafting a team, as each plays a role as to whom you should draft in what round. Points are typically awarded to offensive players for yardage, TDs, and in some leagues, receptions. Some leagues also offer bonuses for big plays, or for passing certain yardage barriers (300-QB, 100-RB/WR/TE). Kickers earn points for XP and FG, with bonuses for length of FG. Defenses can earn points for TOs, sacks, yards/points allowed, and Special Teams’ TDs. Prior to your draft, make sure you’re aware of all of these issues going into the draft.

    Be Prepared- I create my own cheatsheet (which is available to all of you on this very site). If you don’t like mine, fine. Find one you do like, or create your own. Along with the cheatsheet, I recommend printing off an updated depth chart just prior to your draft. And lastly, take a quick peek at the wire. The last thing you want is to find out that your 4th round pick is scheduled for an MRI on his knee.

    Set a game plan: Understand the fine line between being cautious, and being a hero- Keep this in mind, and you’ll hear this from me again. Fantasy football is all about the balance between cost certainty and potential gains. Early in your draft, the goal is not necessarily to find the player who will score the most points. It’s about finding the best player, with the most upside, who is also the least likely to kill your roster at some point. If drafting with the top pick, there's no need to be a hero. Even if you don't think Adrian Peterson will finish as the #1 player in fantasy (and I don't), he's still worth the #1 pick because there's no player more likely to return 1st round value, even if he doesn't finish #1 overall. Using another example- in a point-per-reception league, Andre Johnson was the #3 WR last year. Roddy White was #8. Johnson is dynamic, White is steady. Johnson has had multiple seasons where he’s missed multiple games to injury. White is a model of consistency regarding both production and health. When faced with that choice at the end of round 2, which are you more comfortable selecting? There is no certainty when it comes to fantasy football. But the most important advice I can give is to make sure your first 4/5 picks have a high enough floor that they won’t destroy your team even if they don’t quite live up to your expectations. Then in later rounds, shift your focus from cost certainty to potential gain. Don’t just dip your toe into the water with this plan, go all-in. In an ideal world, you want safety from at least 1QB, 2RBs, and 2 of your receivers (WR/TE). After that, gamble on upside, and hope that one or two pop. If they do, you’ve just put yourself in a great position to win a championship.

    Draft next year's top draft picks this year- This final strategy is simple. It is your goal to find the players who will be most coveted in next year's draft. Drafting players based solely on last year's performance is rarely a good idea. And yet, if you look at most rankings systems, the #1 factor in those rankings is a player's performance in the previous season. This is just a reminder to always look ahead when drafting your team.


    QB-

    Last year, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady were all considered 1st round picks. Subsequently, in most leagues, they also finished as the top 3 performers. Routinely, QBs score more points than any other position, and as we’ve heard time and again, the NFL is a passing league. So it makes sense that prioritizing an elite option at QB is a smart move. To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso, “not so fast, my friend”. There are a few reasons that I hope will illustrate why it’s prudent to wait and draft a QB this year.

    1. Depth- Simply put, relative to other positions in fantasy football, and based on the fact that most leagues only start one QB, the position is incredibly deep. Obviously, the more teams in your league, the less depth at the position, and thus the greater importance on grabbing a top option, but in most cases, trust the depth, and don’t panic if QBs are flying off the board. For example, in standard leagues last year, the difference between #1 (Brees) and #10 (Stafford) was 4.5 points per week. To compare, most leagues start 2 RBs. Using a 10 team league, the difference between the #1 RB (Peterson) and the #20 RB (Ahmad Bradshaw) was 8.6 PPG, nearly twice the difference as at QB. Add the fact that the top 10 doesn’t include Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, who were both easily within the top 10 over the 2nd half of the season. Considering most of the QBs are young and improving, and add in bounce-back candidates such as Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, and the QB position is exceptionally deep this year.

    2. Consistency- When discussing a player’s fantasy performance, most reference their yearly total. However, that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. Last year, Aaron Rodgers finished just behind Drew Brees as the #2 ranked QB. However, a closer look at the numbers tells a different story. Rodgers actually finished outside the top 10 at QB on 7 different occasions last year, including 5 finishes outside the top 15. Following his week 10 bye, during the playoff push, Rodgers finished outside the top 10 from week 11-14, and finished outside the top 15 from week 12-14. To compare, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning combined to finish outside the weekly top 15 a total of 4 times all season. Other QBs to finish inside the top 15 more often than Rodgers were Matt Ryan (4), RGIII (4), Tony Romo(4), Cam Newton (4), and Matt Stafford (4). Andrew Luck finished even with Rodgers in number of games outside the top 15.

    3. Schedule- It has been proven statistically over the years that you can take advantage of good matchups, and that it is smart to avoid bad matchups. But the interesting thing is, research shows that good matchups benefit the mid-tier more than they benefit the upper-tier, just like tough matchups hurt the mid-tier much more than they hurt the upper-tier. Using that information to your advantage, a wise use of a platoon system at QB between 2 marginal starters can produce similar results to an elite-level QB. In fact, this can actually work with below marginal QBs. And remember, the goal is not to always pick the better player, it’s to use matchups to help you pick the better player most of the time. For example, last year, if a team had paired Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, and simply played the matchups, those 2 QBs would have out-performed #1 QB Drew Brees in 6 of the 13 regular season games (playoffs typically start week 14). Moreover, Palmer and Flacco would have only been blown out by more than 10 points on 2 occasions. So in 11 out of 13 weeks, a Palmer/Flacco tandem (late round/undrafted) would have either beaten Brees (1st round), or put up a respectable showing. And that’s without even thinking about the rest of your lineup, which should be much stronger considering you didn’t need to waste a top pick on a QB to earn elite-level results. The QB platoon strategy is not for the faint of heart, but if executed properly, is a viable way to build a top-level fantasy team.

    4. Scoring- One more factor to keep in mind is scoring. In many leagues, QBs are awarded 4 points per TD and 1 point per 20/25 yards passing. These leagues greatly benefit running QBs, who are earning 6 points for rushing TDs, and 1 point for every 10 yards rushing. So a QB that runs for 500 yards and 6 TDs is earning the equivalent of an additional 1000/1250 passing yards and 9 passing TDs to his total. At the same time, in leagues that award 6 points for all TDs, the value of the running QB is slightly diminished, although the yards gained on the ground can still provide a bit of an added boost.

    Nutshell- Considering the depth and consistency of the QB position, combined with a general understanding of the schedule, it is not necessary to be overly proactive when it comes to drafting a QB. If Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees fall into your lap in round 3, by all means, take them. Same with Peyton Manning/Cam Newton in round 4, or Tom Brady/Matt Ryan in round 6. But if you don’t end up with a top option at QB, there’s no need to panic. Continue to build the rest of your roster, be happy to grab Tony Romo in round 9 and Eli Manning in round 11, and play the matchups or the hot hand. Yes, if you’re in a deep league, being more proactive is a good idea. But even then, in a 16 teamer, someone has to end up with the 16th best QB. If that’s you, don’t worry. Just look at the matchups, find 2 or 3 compatible QBs, and trust the schedule.

    Love (outperform expectation/draft slot)- Newton, Brady, Kaepernick, Griffin, E. Manning, Roethlisberger, Smith, Palmer, Vick, Schaub, Tannehill, Manuel

    Hate (underperform expectation/draft slot)- Rodgers, Wilson, Stafford, Flacco, Bradford


    RB-

    As a general rule of thumb, RBs are the bell-cows of your fantasy team. Most leagues allow for you to start 2 or more RBs, and with only 32 starting gigs to go around, the pickings can get slim quicker at RB than any other position. Many teams across the NFL have become more reliant on two-back systems, which has certainly added more depth to the talent pool. At the same time, it’s made grabbing one of the true workhorse backs even more important at the top of your draft.

    1. Depth- RB is deeper than usual this year, but it’s also a position that’s filled with a bunch of question marks. The best bets at RB include the inhuman Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, C.J.Spiller, Jamal Charles, Trent Richardson, LeShon McCoy, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, and Alfred Morris. Those 10 backs should likely be among the top 15-18 players drafted in most leagues. Notable in his absence from that list is Arian Foster. I’ve been concerned about Foster’s declining YPC as it is. But with a multitude of ailments, and questions as to when he’ll actually be able to make it on the field, I’m not willing to take a chance on him early in a draft. Following the top 10, I don’t see much difference between the next 15 or so backs available, so being patient once the top 10 are off the board is a virtue.

    2. Scoring- The most important factor to consider when drafting your RBs is scoring. Namely, is your league a PPR league (point per reception) or not? While TDs are always valuable to consider, they are especially valuable in a non-PPR league. But in a PPR league, while ideal, TDs take on less value. For example, let’s compare Marshawn Lynch and Matt Forte. Let’s say both backs end up with 1600 total yards. Lynch ends the year with 20 receptions and 12 TDs, while Forte ends the year with 60 receptions and 7 TDs. In a non-PPR league, based on the TD total, Lynch is roughly 30 points (or 2 points per week) better than Forte. However, in a PPR, Forte closes the gap, and due to his 40 reception advantage, outscores Lynch by 10 points. Add to that the fact that since Forte is active in the passing game, making him a more versatile player, he’s more likely to have consistent week-to-week production than Lynch. For that reason, in a PPR, I’d take Forte over Lynch, while the opposite is true in a league that does not award points for a reception.

    3. Opportunity/Upside- After the sure-things are off the board, I look at two more factors in filling out my RB roster. While they seem obvious, I look for a nice balance between opportunity and upside. Keep in mind that everyone has a value. You may not like Darren McFadden, and at his current going rate of being a #2 RB, I agree with you. But if McFadden is still there, and he would fill in as your FLEX player, or simply a 3rd RB, then I’d be all in. Same with DeMarco Murray. At that point, their cost potential would outweigh their cost uncertainty. At the same time, if McFadden is my #3, I’m going to make it a priority to grab at least 1 more RB who’s guaranteed a good number of touches. Guys like Daryl Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, or even upside plays like Giovanni Bernard, Mark Ingram, DeAngelo Williams, or Bryce Brown would make for excellent proactive choices as your team’s hedge bet.

    4. Consistency- The top options at RB are top options for a reason. They perform at a high level week in and week out. In a standard league, there were 11 RBs that started 12 or more games that scored fewer than 10 points on 5 occasions or less. They were...

    2- Foster, McCoy (12 games)
    3- Peterson
    4- Martin, Rice (15), Spiller, Morris, T. Richardson (15), Sproles (13)
    5- Lynch, Gore

    In a PPR league, the standard of consistency rises. There were 8 RBs that started 10 or more games that scored fewer than 10 points 3 times or less. They were...

    0- McCoy (12), Murray (10)
    1- Peterson, Foster, Rice (15)
    3- Martin, Lynch, Spiller, Sproles (13)

    Adrian Peterson also scored at least 15 points in a PPR in 12 out of his 16 games.

    Nutshell- I think it’s vital this year to get at least one of the first 10 options I mentioned at RB. After they are off the board, go ahead and take advantage of the depth by grabbing sure things at receiver, TE, or QB, and then load up on a few of the high upside guys at the position. For example, I’d be more than happy to pair CJ Spiller with 2 of Lamar Miller, David Wilson, DeMarco Murray, Eddie Lacy, or even safer picks like Stevan Ridley or Frank Gore. Then, to secure those picks, I want a #4 that will either provide security or upside, depending on what my roster needs more. If you can then add a 5th RB that’s likely to see some playing time, or is a high talent that’s only one snap away, even better.

    Love- Martin, Spiller, Charles, T. Richardson, McCoy, Forte, C. Johnson, R. Bush, L. Miller, Bradshaw, Bernard, Lacy, D. Richardson, D. Williams, B. Brown, Ingram, Powell

    Hate- Rice, Lynch, Foster, Murray, McFadden, Ball, Mendenhall, Ivory, Green-Ellis
    Loathe (although I’m sure he’s a nice guy)- Steven Jackson


    Part II

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      The second part of this article is not available on the front page, but has been posted. You can find all 2500 words of fantasy goodness here.