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Photo: Mark Runyon | Football Schedule

Photo: Mark Runyon | Football Schedule

A couple nights ago I was using the most awesome fantasy tool on the internet, RotoViz’s Snake Draft Planner, in order to prepare for the redraft league I’ve been doing for not quite a decade with my high school friends.

Since it started years ago we’ve carried on lots of weird quirky rules longer than we should’ve (such as the system of keeping players, which I won’t get into), and it’s a 10-team league, but all of the guys in it play in multiple leagues, they’ve all been playing for years, we talk a lot of shit to each other during the draft and throughout the season—and the same f-ing guy has won the league for the last 3 years. It’s painful. Last year, in the two-week matchup to see who would be the first broseph with 3 league championships (I won 2 of the 3 first seasons), I lost by the exact margin of Lawrence Tynes’ s sucky Week 15-16 point total (2 pts) and Matt Prater’s (21 pts)—and Tynes had been the best kicker in the league up to that time. Whatever.

In short, it’s a full-out war. I’m not looking to win. I’m looking to dominate. I wanna make this dojo mine. I wanna walk into the draft saying, “I’m gonna rip the eyes out of year head and piss in your dead skull,” and walk out saying, “Zed’s dead, baby, Zed’s dead.”

With that in mind, I decided I would employ these RotoViz approved techniques in my draft, and so I played with the app with these points in mind:

1) I was going to draft my QB(s) late. That meant I was going to ascribe to Frank DuPont’s current thinking on QBs. I was going to consider James Goldstein’s QBBC strategy and build my strategy around 1 or 2 of 14 QBs. I had decided that the late-round QB strategy just keeps looking better and better, and I felt that I knew which QBs to avoid to make the strategy work, which QBs would be traps, and which QBs provide a high margin of safety.Specifically, I had decided that Andy Dalton was a great sleeper, that Sam Bradford could throw a lot of TDs, that Jay Cutler could have a big year, that Matt Schaub is a top-10 NFL QB, that Ben Roethlisburger is a stealth star, that Norv and Chud could make Brandon Weeden a usable QB, and that the hydra strategy is not insane, primarily because Geno Smith’s real name is “Drewson Lucking”—and he’s going to beat out Mark Sanchez eventually. And I had used RotoViz’s QB Similarity App and QB Cheat Sheet. I was informed. Yes, I was going to draft a QB late. That was the first decision. I wasn’t going to draft a QB any earlier than Round 10.

2) I was going to draft my TE(s) late. I know that Gronk and Graham are awesome and Gonzo and Witten are safe, but I felt that the depth of the position meant that I should look for a sleeper or two to select near the end of the draft. Jordan Cameron and Rob Housler would be players to consider. Or maybe Ed Dickson? The athletic Julius Thomas? The last man standing, Ladarius Green? And, maybe if they slipped far enough, the opportune Vernon Davis, the still-young Jermichael Finley, or maybe even the old-but-still-alive Antonio Gates? More realistically, I would probably try to target young guys like Zach Sudfeld or Joe Fauria, particularly Sudfeld, who’s become a favorite RotoViz sleeper. And I had availed myself of RotoViz’s TE Similarity App. With all the depth at the position, I decided I would wait. QB and TE would be the last positions I would fill.

3) I was going to draft WRs in the middle rounds, since valuable guys like Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston can be drafted after Round 2. The middle rounds are where you can draft “The Stevie Johnson All-Stars,” such as Dwayne Bowe, Pierre Garcon, and Torrey Smith. The future slot machine Steve Smith goes in that range. Cecil Shorts is a bargain in the middle rounds. Opportunity knocks for Antonio Brown in the middle rounds. Golden Tate is available late. Denarius Moore could be available in the middle rounds, as could perennial sleeper Lance Moore. And drafting WRs in the middle rounds would enable me to draft guys like second-year speedsters Chris Givens and T.Y. Hilton, which would be great, since I really like HiltonI like him a lot. And maybe if my league mates were crazy I could draft someone like Andre Johnson. Maybe I’d still be able to acquire a few of the top 40 WRs. In the middle and late rounds I’d be able to draft young athletic WRs like Michael Floyd and Rueben Randle—and even Stephen Hill, if I wanted—and I’d also know which WRs to avoid, like Kendall Wright. And I had explored RotoViz’s wealth of WR apps: The WR Similarity App, WR Cheat Sheet, QB/WR Efficiency App, WR NFL Stat Filter, WR Career Graphs, and (of course) the ADP Arbitrage App. As you can see, a large part of RotoViz’s value proposition is the attention we pay to undervalued mid-round WRs whose production (just less than that of the early-round studs) is available at a steep discount. I decided that, if I could, I would exploit this market inefficiency by drafting as many of the valuable mid-round WRs as possible—a decision that led me pretty directly to the next point.

4) I was going to go RB/RB and probably RB/RB/RB. After all, since I wanted to fill QB and TE in the late rounds and WRs in the middle rounds, I pretty much had to get my RBs with my first few picks. Knowing that my first-round keeper would be either the optimal Ray Rice or the beastly Alfred Morris (I must keep one and only one player), I decided that RB/RB might enable me to take someone like Chris Johnson in Round 2 (I have the 9th pick of the round). Or maybe I’d be able to get Steven Jackson in Round 2, or maybe Reggie Bush, either of whom could be the 2013 fantasy MVP. And if I went RB/RB/RB I’d be able to acquire someone like Chris Ivory in Round 3 (I have the 2nd pick of that round). Having never gone RB/RB/RB before, I nevertheless realized that the RB3 strategy is viable this year and the preferred option across a variety of formats. I was certain that going RB/RB/RB would allow me to roster 3 of the top 20 RBs. Maybe I’d have to take one of the top RBs ranked 21-50, someone like David Wilson, the most important man in the world. At least I had FD’s most recent thoughts on current RBs to guide me. Based on what I’d seen on RotoViz’s RB Similarity App, RB Cheat Sheet, and RB Sim Score Lab, I knew that I wanted lots of early-round RBs and not many of the mid- and late-round RBs. As a result, I knew I’d probably be going RB/RB/RB.

5) And finally I was going to target a few select players, if they’d fit into the strategies outlined above.

Now, here are the specifications:

  • 18 rounds (but we use a kicker and D/ST), so really just 16 rounds.
  • We start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB/WR/TE, 1 D/ST, 1 K.
  • 1 pt/25 PaYds, 6 pts/PaTd, no PPR, no bonuses.
  • 10 teams, slightly improved draft position through trades, but think of me as holding the 2nd overall pick for the purposes of snake position.

OK, I played with the app for hours, and after blacklisting lots of players and pre-selecting others, I realized this—I liked the way my team looked if I did the craziest thing I’ve heard of: Going RB/RB/RB/RB/RB.

Lots of possibilities exist, but in going RB5 I got a team that looked like this:

Picking from the 2 spot in a 10 team league:

Optimized Team

Round Overall Conf. Based ADP Player POS Proj. Pts
1 2 6 Ray Rice RB 224.6
2 19 22 Frank Gore RB 183.23
3 22 24 DeMarco Murray RB 186.43
4 39 46 Christopher Ivory RB 156.61
5 42 58 Daryl Richardson RB 118.3
6 59 63 James Jones WR 140.18
7 62 74 Cecil Shorts WR 141.21
8 79 81 Steve Johnson WR 135.91
9 82 86 Mike Williams WR 133.83
10 99 99 Chris Givens WR 106.25
11 102 109 Michael Floyd WR 115.93
12 119 119 Kenbrell Thompkins WR 53.15
13 122 139 Sam Bradford QB 234.04
14 139 150 E.J. Manuel QB 174.81
15 142 200 Ladarius Green TE 15.11
16 159 200 Zach Sudfeld TE 38.58

Note that Alfred Morris could be substituted in for Ray Rice, and WRs like Sidney Rice, Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle, Brandon LaFell, and Greg Little are all available if you prefer them to some of the listed WRs or if you want to draft only 1 QB or TE. Also note that other QBs are available late in the draft. If you prefer Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, or even Philip Rivers, Brandon Weeden, or Geno Smith, you can draft them instead of Bradford and/or Manuel. Of if you prefer other TEs, Martellus Bennett, Brandon Pettigrew, and Fred Davis are also available late.

In general, I believe that, at least in 10-team leagues, RB5 is a viable strategy. It allows you to be as aggressive as balls in going for all the RBs you want in the first five rounds. After that, you spend the rest of the draft picking up all the value picks that your league mates don’t want, and you have five starting RBs. If one of them gets injured, fine. If you want to swing a trade later, you’re dealing from a position of strength. No forcing yourself to hope that this is the year Mark Ingram and Jonathan Stewart don’t suck. You simply draft the RBs that you want as soon as you can, and then you don’t worry about RB for the rest of the draft (unless you want to). Go RB5, and then draft everything else you need. At that point, you’re set at RB.

And I like the way that my other position groups turned out. I might be in the minority, but I think that James Jones will do a pretty good impersonation of a WR1 this year—he plays with the best QB in the league, he led the league in TDs last year, the Packers often use 3 WRs, and the other two starting WRs are currently battling injuries . . . am I missing something???  And even if you don’t like James Jones, you have to like the value depth of Cecil Jones, Steve Johnson, Mike Williams, Chris Givens, Michael Floyd, and Kenbrell Thompkins. To quote Randy Moss, that’s “straight cash, homey.”

And I like the late-round QBs available after the 12th  round: Out of Bradford, Manuel, Cutler, Rivers, Weeden, and the Smiths, at least one of those guys can satisfy you, right? And Ladarius and Sudfeld I love in the last rounds. But if you want to spring early for a TE (like Gonzo in Round 6), fine. Take a TE early, and then just substitute on the backend someone like LaFell or Little for James Jones. That works too.

What I like, though, about drafting all RBs, and then WRs, and then QBs and TEs, is that you allow yourself to take advantage of all the positional mistakes your league mates make. By banging RB early, you give yourself the chance of drafting in Round 6 a WR who should’ve been drafted in Rounds 4 or 5 (maybe Marques Colston, Eric Decker, or Danny Amendola). And then by pounding WRs in the middle rounds, you give yourself a chance of drafting a QB in Round 13 a guy who should’ve been drafted in Rounds 10-12 (maybe Andy Dalton or Ben Roethlisburger). And then by filling all of your other needs first you give yourself the chance of taking in the final rounds a TE who should’ve gone earlier—maybe Kyle Rudolph or Greg Olsen or Fred Davis: whoever it is, you may have the chance to grab him, if you want him.

So I think RB/RB/RB/RB/RB works in 10-team leagues—but can it work in 12-team leagues? Using the exact same specifications, but substituting instead a 12-team league and drafting from the 5 spot, I had these results:

Picking from the 5 spot in a 12 team league:

Optimized Team

Round Overall Conf. Based ADP Player POS Proj. Pts
1 5 6 Ray Rice RB 224.6
2 20 24 DeMarco Murray RB 186.43
3 29 32 David Wilson RB 178.99
4 44 46 Christopher Ivory RB 156.61
5 53 58 Daryl Richardson RB 118.3
6 68 74 Cecil Shorts WR 141.21
7 77 81 Steve Johnson WR 135.91
8 92 92 Lance Moore WR 129.25
9 101 109 Michael Floyd WR 115.93
10 116 119 Kenbrell Thompkins WR 53.15
11 125 139 Sam Bradford QB 234.04
12 140 143 Alex Smith QB 227.75
13 149 200 Greg Little WR 98.22
14 164 200 Rod Streater WR 94.55
15 173 200 Ladarius Green TE 15.11
16 188 200 Zach Sudfeld TE 38.58

I may be crazy, but I still think this looks pretty good. Certainly the WR position is tighter, but it’s always going to be tighter in a 12-team league. And if you wanted you could draft only one TE and instead get another WR like Mohamed Sanu, Brandon LaFell, Jarrett Boykin, or Aldrick Robinson. If you wanted to draft only 1 QB you could add another WR, someone like Brian Hartline or Malcom Floyd. And remember that other players are also available in these ranges. If you want Brandon Weeden instead of one of these QBs, go for it.

But even the roster above I believe is viable as it is. The RB group is utterly dominant for a 12-team league, the late-round QB strategy has secured 2 strong sleepers, 2 young high-upside TEs can be streamed, and a WR group of Cecil Shorts, Steve Johnson, Lance Moore, Michael Floyd, Kenbrell Thompkins, Greg Little, and Rod Streater is better than you think, since all of those guys have legitimate chances of being top-36 WRs in 2013. In other words, all of those guys have a chance of being startable players for your team. And if 3 or 4 of those guys submitted high-end WR2 seasons, that could be good enough when joined with your dominant RBs, stable QBs, and better-than-expected TEs.

Most importantly, I believe that this strategy gives you depth at both the RB and WR positions. If one of your RBs is injured, you are sufficiently covered by another RB who is a starting-caliber player. And if you want to trade later in the season then you can deal from a position of strength. And you also have underrated depth at WR, as all of these receivers have potential to start and are thus all tradable commodities.

I’m not saying that RB/RB/RB/RB/RB is definitely the way to go in 2013, but it’s an option you may want to consider, since RB5 forces you truly to test the boundaries of the late-round QB, late-round TE, and mid-round WR strategies, to see how far one can go in the name of value. Essentially, RB5 is the fantasy Rubicon. You are forced into seeking value at all the other positions for the rest of the draft, and if you have trouble sticking to RB/RB/RB and mid-round WR and late-round QB after you’ve decided that’s what you want to do, then maybe this is the option for, since it forces your drafting priorities for all the following rounds.

I don’t know yet in how many of my leagues I’ll use this strategy—but for the leagues I totally want to dominate RB5 is the technique I’ll use. Either I’ll win big time or my WRs, QBs, and TEs will render me as dead as Zed. Either way, I’m gonna walk out of the draft with everybody saying, “You got the touch, you got the power.” And in this league that’s almost as good as winning a championship.

Or maybe I’m just crazy.

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10 comments
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I'm a big fan of articles that break down draft strategy since you're ultimately going to be handcuffed by your position in a snake draft. I'm drafting in the 8 spot in a 12 team PPR league (not happy about it) and it doesn't seem like the spot to go RB-RB-RB. At #8 I can reasonably hope for TRich or Forte (staying away from Marshawn and AlMo based on ADP in PPR). However, according to the ADP calculator, it's likely that Dez, AJ or BMarsh will be available at #17 when I come up again. It seems irresponsible to pass on a top-4 WR for the RBs in that range (Bush, SJax, MJD) just for the sake of going RB-RB-RB. 

In round 3 I can probably get Wilson, but what if Colston is sitting there at #41 in round 4? Don't I have to take him there too? That still affords me the opportunity to go after Vereen, Ivory or DRich in round 5. My first 7 picks could be TRich, AJ Green, David Wilson, Colston, Vereen, Decker and Shorts. Doesn't that seem like a killer PPR lineup and the best possible outcome for picking from the #8 spot?

jonasdash
jonasdash

Picking 1st overall in an 8 man league

....   but look at these juicy roster and scoring settings:

QB, WR, WR, RB, RB, TE, WR/RB, WR/RB/TE, K, DEF + 7 Bench
4 point passing TD, .5 PPR, everything else is standard scoring.

I am going to pick Adrian Peterson first, then will probably pick RB RB at 2/3 and RB QB at 4/5.   Then float all the WR's in the mid rounds and grap my TE, and maybe a backup QB in the last 2 rounds before selecting DEF & Kicker. then finish the absolute last round up with any super sleeper that catches my eye.



Thoughts?

Adam Eraky
Adam Eraky

I'm picking at the turn his year in my 10 team league, and I hear you when it comes to strange rules. With Daryl Richardson available in the 5th or possibly the 6th round, would it be acceptable to do something like this: RB/RB at the turn, followed by WR/WR and the turn, followed by WR/RB (richardson)? Or is that gambling too much that he will be there at the end of the 5th/beginning of the 6th?

mefreedman
mefreedman

@Whiskey Tango Foxtrot WTF (awesome name by the way), thanks for reading and responding. I definitely hear what you're saying about RBx3 from the 8 spot in a 12-team PPR league. I think it depends on how much you like Bush (or S-Jax)/mid-round WR v. Marshall (or AJ Green)/mid-round RB. I prefer Bush or S-Jax, because I think that both of them will outperform their draft positions (especially in PPR leagues), and I also think that whatever mid-round WR I get will outperform draft position. Now, I do think that Dez/Marsh/AJ at #17 is a GREAT pick on its own (I love all of those guys!), but it means that you'll have to take an RB later, and I'm not sure on who that would be or if he will outperform his draft position. If you feel confident on the RB you can get later, then take a WR in R2. 

That lineup you mentioned is certainly a great lineup, but you have only 3 RBs -- what are you going to do after Round 7? You need RBs, but the best value after R7 is in WRs, and you're already set at that position, so you might risk picking against value late in the  draft. But if you think you can find good RBs late, then play to your strengths. I've found that I'm better at finding WRs late than I am at finding RBs, and so I normally adjust my strategy accordingly. But that's just me.

Also, I think your decisions early should be based on what you can tolerate. If you know that you'll kick yourself later for passing on a WR (but not RB) in R2 if that guy does well, then you have to make a decision that you can live with. I personally can live with watching early-round WRs do well if I pass on them, because I'm happy with the WRs I get late in drafts (last year that was Josh Gordon, TY Hilton, and Amendola). But I can't stand passing on an RB early and then watching him explode. That kills me. So I compensate for that in my drafting (when I can).

If you think you can't pass on a stud WR at #17, then you can't. I would have a hard time passing on them too, but I think I'll have an even harder time passing on S-Jax or Bush at that position. That's why I'd go RB-RB there. But that's just me.

Good luck with your draft! Let me know how it goes on twitter.

mefreedman
mefreedman

@jonasdash Hey Jonas, thanks for reading and responding! Based on these settings (4 pt TDs, 0.5 ppr, 8-man league, only 1 QB), my general advice would be NOT to take a QB at 4/5, for 2 reasons: 1) QBs aren't worth as much in your league b/c of the 4-pt TDs (and this scoring system means that "rushing QBs" like Newton, RG3, Wilson, Kaep, and Manuel are worth more in comparison to "passing QBs" than they normally are -- not worth more than them, just more than they normally are), and 2) With only 8-starting QBs (and no superflex) you can wait on QB for a LONG time. If you can live with someone like Andy Dalton (or worse) as your starting QB, then you can let your league mates take QBs while you soak up extra RBs and WRs. So my first bit of advice would be to wait as long as you are comfortable in selecting a QB.

If you like the RBx5 strategy in 10- or 12-team leagues, then you probably love it in an 8-team league, because you'll still have some stud WRs sitting there for you at 6/7. In an 8-team league I would seriously consider drafting RBs right away, unless you see a player you just love sitting on the board at 4/5. This approach would give you great starting depth at RB -- you could withstand injuries and bye weeks and you could trade from strength in the season -- and you could still grab lots of WRs later while not having to worry at all about the viability of any late-round RBs. Just my thoughts.

Let me know how the draft goes on twitter! Good luck!

mefreedman
mefreedman

@Adam Eraky Hey Adam, thanks for reading and responding! That's a gamble I would take if 1) you feel fairly confident (50%-ish) that D-Rich will be there at 5/6, 2) you feel a little uncertain about waiting much longer to take the first WRs, and 3) if you feel the risk of losing D-RIch is outweighed by the benefit of grabbing the WRs at 3/4, and 4) if you think that D-Rich going 3/4 is too early (I think it probably is).

I think in most leagues (especially a 10-team league), D-Rich should probably be available at 5/6. And 3/4 just feels too early for D-Rich. If you want him, I think you have to wait so that 1) you don't reach and 2) you allow him to drop to a valuable spot. If you take him at 3/4, a lot of his upside is already baked into the price. It's not an enviable place to take him.

So I think that going RB/RB at 1/2 is good and waiting for D-Rich at 5/6 makes sense. What you do with 3/4 is really just dependent (I think) on what personal strategies you like and what your league mates do. For instance, I tend to think of myself as a guy who weights for QBs -- but if Rodgers is there at 3/4, you'll probably at list think about him, right? At 3/4 that's hard for me to say what to do -- but if you went RB/RB/RB/RB and then went D-Rich/WR at 5/6 I think that could be a winning strategy, and D-Rich at 5/6 I believe is nice value. If he's not there, oh well, go WR/WR, and then plan on taking a late sleeper at RB if possible (the falling Le'Veon?).

Good luck with the draft! Let me know on Twitter what you end up doing. I'll be excited to hear if D-Rich was available for you at 5/6.

jonasdash
jonasdash

Will do, solid point about waiting on a QB.   I am fairly confident that I can wait as late as 8th-10th round to grab someone I'm okay with (Luck/Romo are my bottom threshold)

I'll give you a a shout Monday night when the draft is done!

Adam Eraky
Adam Eraky

@mefreedman @Adam Eraky For sure, thanks for the timely reply (my draft is saturday afternoon). I actually won't be looking at Rodgers, for the simple fact that I play in a keeper league and kept Kaepernick without a loss of a pick. I also traded my first round pick, #10 overall, for someone elses keeper. That keeper happened to be Doug Martin. I feel I'm already ahead, and we haven't even drafted yet. The only reason for me not wanting to start out with RB/RB/RB, is I want to grab Torrey Smith and Jordy Nelson this year, and both sit at right around the same ADP as Richardson. So I either pass on one of the three (Smith, Nelson or Richardson) or I reach for one. I'm not a huge fan of reaching, as I agree with you, it saps the value of player. Do you think I should just pass on one of the two WRs (I really think D-Rich has got a shot at top 15 status this year, so I don't wanna pass on him) and grabbing a value like Stevie Johnson later and pair him with Josh Gordon? There are literally so many WRs I want to draft in the mid rounds its getting kind of silly at this point lol.

mefreedman
mefreedman

@jonasdash I get your point about bottom threshold QBs -- and if I'm not going late-round QB then Romo is normally the QB I would target as maybe the 10th-12th QB off the board. That way, I think he still provides lots of room for upside and his downside is limited (he's very unlikely to be worse than the 10th QB this year).

mefreedman
mefreedman

@Adam Eraky @mefreedman No problem. Knowing that you won't be tempted any QBs who fall in the draft is a big help. If you want, you can just take Bradford, Cutler, Manuel, whoever near the end of the draft if you want another QB -- but that's nice to have Kaep.

It sounds like you have too many guys you want at 5/6! I don't know if you think that any of those receivers are justifiable at 3/4, and I hear what you're saying about all the mid-round WRs. That in part is why I seriously considered RBx5 in the first place. Actually, I just randomly backed into it by eliminating all the low-round RBs and QBs from my board. I think you could get 2 of the 3 at 5/6 and you just have to let the other one go -- I wouldn't reach. I'm adverse to reaching unless I know that I will absolutely regret it later if the guy I passed on breaks out -- and I tend not to have that regret with WRs (for some reason), but I do with RBs. But I wouldn't reach here. Just accept that you may lose 1 of those guys. (And maybe someone will draft one of them and make the decision for you.

In general, because you have a lot of mid-round WRs you like, I would advocate playing into that strength. Plan on getting guys like St. Johnson, Gordon, Givens, TY, Cecil, Mike Williams, maybe Blackmon, Jeffery, Michael Floyd, Randle, Thompkins (whom I love), etc. starting at 5/6 (if D-Rich, Smith, and Nelson are all gone). Those WRs have a big shot of making your draft. Even Greg Little or Malcom Floyd near the end of the draft could be contributors at some point.

If you love mid- and late-round WRs, don't feel too burnt if you can't get a couple WRs you like early. If you target the right WRs later and build you're depth at the position you should do well enough during the season to get into the playoffs, and at that point you'll have a solid idea about which WRs in your lineup are routinely outperforming their draft position.

But that's just the way I'd play it. Maybe the best advice I could say is this: 1) Always go for what you perceive as the value play, but when you don't 2) make sure you grab the player you can't live without. If you lose with him, that's something you can live with. If you lose without him -- and he turns into a stud -- that's the worst feeling. If you're at least partially motivated by that "fear," then I think you can occasionally reach for a player to make sure you get "your guy." (And I know what I just said wasn't wise, but we all function emotionally at times, even if we don't want to. If you can manage your emotions during this process, that helps.) Otherwise, do your best not to reach.

Good luck!

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