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Using the RotoViz Draft Optimizer to Plan Your ESPN Fantasy Draft

How many mock drafts have you participated in that have been ruined by people not staying the whole course, or worse still drafting in a manner not in keeping with the spirit of the activity? You know the sort of people, they draft kickers or Tim Tebow in round one. But what if I told you there was a way to formulate your draft strategy in just moments, without even needing to log into a mock draft room? Welcome to the world of the RotoViz Draft Optimizer.

The Optimizer is one of the great apps on offer at RotoViz, and is an incredibly useful tool for trying out potential draft day scenarios. Charles Kleinheksel explains how the app works in this article, written prior to last season, and this should be read first to get a general introduction to what kind of information can be unlocked. Go on and read it, I’ll wait.

Oh good, you’re back. Well before I forget, Charles also wrote a piece recently on how to use the optimizer to help you win at MFL10s. Go read that too. So that you’ve seen the bare bones of the app, I’ll use it to show how it can be used to plan for certain strategies and draft spots, based on ESPN and Yahoo settings.

WIDE RECEIVER HEAVY WITH YAHOO

The first example we will look concerns going wide receiver heavy. With it being pretty much a given that the top three players taken in most fantasy drafts will be some combination of Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, I’m going to look at what my roster will look like if I’m picking at spot four in a 12 team league, adopting a wide receiver priority strategy. With Yahoo leagues, we are starting one QB, two RBs, three WRs and a single tight end, so like Charles I am going to look to draft double the starters of every position, except QB. I don’t want to take my QB too early, so I will set the app to only target a signal caller in round five or later. I’m also not interested in any RBs until round three at least, and we will be playing standard scoring, and not PPR.

Picking from the 4 spot in a 12 team league:

From the Draft Optimizer

Round Overall Conf. Based ADP Player POS Proj. Pts
1.00 4.00 8.00 Bryant, Dez DAL WR WR 202.27
2.00 21.00 21.00 Marshall, Brandon NYJ WR WR 187.21
3.00 28.00 36.00 Anderson, C.J. DEN RB RB 187.90
4.00 45.00 45.00 Decker, Eric NYJ WR WR 151.79
5.00 52.00 56.00 Ajayi, Jay MIA RB RB 162.17
6.00 69.00 69.00 Jackson, DeSean WAS WR WR 151.00
7.00 76.00 76.00 Smith, Torrey SFO WR WR 163.70
8.00 93.00 95.00 Jennings, Rashad NYG RB RB 139.64
9.00 100.00 105.00 Gates, Antonio SDC TE TE 110.99
10.00 117.00 128.00 Blount, LeGarrette NEP RB RB 118.76
11.00 124.00 136.00 Taylor, Tyrod BUF QB QB 286.42
12.00 141.00 152.00 Williams, Terrance DAL WR WR 99.62
13.00 148.00 157.00 McDonald, Vance SFO TE TE 96.90

Not a bad first effort. Given the signing of Arian Foster, I’m not sure I’m crazy about the Jay Ajayi pick. I’m also far from enthusiastic about not one, but TWO wide receiver stacks (Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams), but Williams in round 13 is not a bad dart throw. I could use the app’s blacklist feature to replace one or both of those stacks, if I wanted to. Getting Tyrod Taylor in round 11 sits very well with me. Brian Malone wrote recently about how the RotoViz Projection Bros were a lot higher on Tyrod than the general public, and seeing him available this late would be a welcome sight.

But what if the league is NOT standard scoring, and actually awards points per reception? Using the same scoring settings, but changing to one point per catch, the team looks quite a bit different.

Picking from the 4 spot in a 12 team league:
Round Overall Conf. Based ADP Player POS Proj. Pts
1.00 4.00 5.00 Green, A.J. CIN WR WR 294.12
2.00 21.00 21.00 Marshall, Brandon NYJ WR WR 281.37
3.00 28.00 29.00 Tate, Golden DET WR WR 257.99
4.00 45.00 45.00 Decker, Eric NYJ WR WR 229.09
5.00 52.00 52.00 Bernard, Giovani CIN RB RB 199.49
6.00 69.00 69.00 Jackson, DeSean WAS WR WR 215.45
7.00 76.00 76.00 Smith, Torrey SFO WR WR 239.08
8.00 93.00 95.00 Jennings, Rashad NYG RB RB 166.13
9.00 100.00 102.00 Prosise, C.J. SEA RB RB 149.43
10.00 117.00 124.00 Vereen, Shane NYG RB RB 150.71
11.00 124.00 127.00 Witten, Jason DAL TE TE 165.25
12.00 141.00 148.00 Tannehill, Ryan MIA QB QB 274.32
13.00 148.00 157.00 McDonald, Vance SFO TE TE 155.62

Having a player that Matt Wispe believes could lead the NFL in targets, and whom Evan Silva of Rotoworld believes could pace the NFC in receptions, in Golden Tate as my third wide receiver makes losing out on C.J. Anderson a bit easier to bear. A.J. Green is projected by the RotoViz scribes to be something of a target monster, so I’ve no qualms taking the Bengals wideout at four. Rashad Jennings is the closest thing to a workhorse back on this roster, and Josh Hermsmeyer certainly thinks he can help you out in 2016Giovani Bernard, C.J. Prosise and Shane Vereen are all likely to see their fair share of targets in the passing game. I wrote recently about how an increase in plays could give Ryan Tannehill value, so I’m personally happy to take him in the 12th.

END OF THE FIRST ROUND WITH ESPN

The biggest difference between the Yahoo scoring and that of ESPN is the exclusion of the third wide receiver and the inclusion of a flex (RB/WR) spot…from where you can start your third wide receiver, probably. Using these settings on the Draft Optimizer, I want to see what type of team I can expect to compile picking last in the first round in a 10-team league. With the really elite wide receivers likely to be gone, I am a lot more open to including running backs in my team, so I’ve changed my settings to reflect this.

Picking from the 10 spot in a 10 team league:

From the Draft Optimizer

Round Overall Conf. Based ADP Player POS Proj. Pts
1.00 10.00 12.00 Miller, Lamar HOU RB RB 218.22
2.00 11.00 17.00 Charles, Jamaal KCC RB RB 215.83
3.00 30.00 32.00 Maclin, Jeremy KCC WR WR 161.59
4.00 31.00 36.00 Anderson, C.J. DEN RB RB 187.90
5.00 50.00 62.00 Wilson, Russell SEA QB QB 328.77
6.00 51.00 69.00 Jackson, DeSean WAS WR WR 151.00
7.00 70.00 70.00 Stewart, Jonathan CAR RB RB 157.71
8.00 71.00 76.00 Smith, Torrey SFO WR WR 163.70
9.00 90.00 90.00 Diggs, Stefon MIN WR WR 128.83
10.00 91.00 95.00 Jennings, Rashad NYG RB RB 139.64
11.00 110.00 127.00 Witten, Jason DAL TE TE 96.28
12.00 111.00 140.00 Matthews, Rishard TEN WR WR 103.27
13.00 130.00 157.00 McDonald, Vance SFO TE TE 96.90

In the olden days of 2013, a player like Jamaal Charles would have been an early first round pick, even with his injury history. Nick Giffen is a believer in Charles this year, and believes he’ll help people win best ball leagues. His projections look like he could certainly be worthy of a second round slot. Mr Kleinheksel wrote earlier this year about why Lamar Miller could finish as the RB1 this season, so pairing him with Charles at the turn feels good. Jeremy Maclin is one of only four wide receivers in 17 seasons to top 1000 yards receiving under Andy Reid (as revealed in the Chiefs Preview Podcast), and is projected to finish as WR20 in our projections. All three of my teams so far, across two different formats and different draft spots, have featured Torrey SmithAnthony Amico wrote back in January that he thought Smith a dynasty buy low candidate, and a lot of chatter regarding his lack of real competition for targets with the 49ers, plus Chip Kelly’s track record of elevating a featured wide receiver to fantasy relevance, makes his 8th round selection appeal to me.

But what if your ESPN commissioner decides he wants to play PPR? Would this team look much different? Yes, yes it would. Back to the Draft Optimizer.

Picking from the 10 spot in a 10 team league:
Round Overall Conf. Based ADP Player POS Proj. Pts
1.00 10.00 14.00 Nelson, Jordy GBP WR WR 285.18
2.00 11.00 21.00 Marshall, Brandon NYJ WR WR 281.37
3.00 30.00 32.00 Maclin, Jeremy KCC WR WR 250.95
4.00 31.00 36.00 Forte, Matt NYJ RB RB 232.25
5.00 50.00 52.00 Bernard, Giovani CIN RB RB 199.49
6.00 51.00 69.00 Jackson, DeSean WAS WR WR 215.45
7.00 70.00 70.00 Fleener, Coby NOS TE TE 196.17
8.00 71.00 76.00 Smith, Torrey SFO WR WR 239.08
9.00 90.00 90.00 Diggs, Stefon MIN WR WR 197.20
10.00 91.00 95.00 Jennings, Rashad NYG RB RB 166.13
11.00 110.00 127.00 Witten, Jason DAL TE TE 165.25
12.00 111.00 136.00 Taylor, Tyrod BUF QB QB 286.42
13.00 130.00 140.00 Matthews, Rishard TEN WR WR 160.14

How would I be able to thank the Optimizer if this was my lineup? I love this team. Jordy Nelson’s return should make the Green Bay Packers offense more like its old self, and to get him at the end of the first round is not a gamble. Marshall is still in his “good team mate” phase with the Jets, so pairing him with Nelson gives my team two legitimate WR1 candidates. Getting Matt Forte at 31, then Bernard 19 picks later would be sooooo good. That man Kleinheksel told us in March that Forte will be a top ten RB in 2016, while Justin Winn believed back in June that Gio offers fabulous value as a fifth round selection. We see Tyrod Taylor once again in the 12th round, a man whose value we’ve already spoken of, and of the four teams I have selected this would be the one that would have me push back my chair, switch off my computer and think “It’s my year.”

CONCLUSION

The Draft Optimizer App, as well as being great fun to use, is an invaluable time saving tool that you should take full advantage of, regardless of your scoring settings and draft position. I cannot believe I’ve made it through 35 and a half years without it. It simply makes draft prep an absolute breeze. Of the many great apps on offer at RotoViz, I have to say this is one I would draft in the first round…and I don’t need the Draft Optimizer to help me with that.

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