My Guy: Building Your Draft Around a Late-Round Pick

I’ve been playing fantasy football for 17 seasons, and have done dozens of drafts each year for as long as I can remember. This is relevant only in that I’ve done a lot of drafting, and in that time there is a specific strategy I’ve come to employ that I find is my favorite.

One of the biggest things we seek from drafts is feeling confident in our teams afterward. Sometimes we seek out to lineup raters or tell friends about our drafts, even knowing they don’t care. It’s natural; as humans, we seek affirmation in the things we care about.

In fact, I’d argue — whether consciously or subconsciously — our goal in drafts is to squeeze in as many of “our guys” onto our rosters as possible. Our rosters will change plenty throughout the season because we really don’t know half as much as we might think right now, but that’s how we achieve the goal of entering the season with a roster we’re confident in.

Anyone who does any amount of personal research is going to develop opinions that deviate from ADP, perhaps vastly. I’d argue that’s a positive. We know ADP is inefficient. An issue is introduced, however, as we seek to maximize value from our draft picks. There is obviously no reason to draft a player you are confident has sixth round value in the actual sixth round if his ADP puts him somewhere in double digit rounds.

That said, I would argue you should do everything in your power to get that player on your roster. To do that, one strategy is to overdraft by a round or two.

Some would argue you should never lock in like this; that every player is draftable at the right price. That to overcommit to a call is to suck some of the projected value out of him. I don’t necessarily disagree, particularly if you are building a portfolio of similarly important drafts, such as through MFL10s.

But if you’re playing in a high-stakes league or have a specific draft or two that are significantly more important to your overall season, consider building your draft strategy around an expected commitment to a player later in the draft. Here’s an example from the Draft Optimizer, which is a perfect tool to use to implement this strategy.

First of all, the inputs I used.

Draft Optimizer Inputs

The first thing of note is the confidence interval. I’ve set the slider to 95 percent confidence, meaning the results generated give me selections where I’m almost certain to grab the guys I want. Secondly, since I’m a fan of both Zero RB and Late-Round QB philosophies, I put restrictions on how early to draft those positions. Part of this was because of the players I pre-selected. In that field are a number of players I’m significantly higher on in my projections than ADP. Here are the results.

Draft Optimizer Output

Among the players I’m high on, Shane Vereen, Chris Thompson, and Shaun Draughn are RBs I can get late in drafts. I’m comfortable starting each of these players in Week 1, as I expect each of their offenses to be pass-heavy this season and expect each to see strong receiving workloads from the start. In other words, while they may have less upside, I will be projecting them for similar expected PPR points in the early part of the season to the lead backs in their respective offenses — Rashad Jennings, Matt Jones, and Carlos Hyde — despite being able to draft them significantly later.

Delanie Walker and Antonio Gates are two tight ends I see as undervalued, and I’m currently projecting both to be top six at the position. Employing RotoDoc’s two TE1 strategy in redrafts and potentially leaving myself open to starting one in the Flex is a strategy I’m very open to this season. If I lock these two in a round or so before necessary, I’m putting together a really strong duo by my own personal rankings without paying up for someone like Rob Gronkowski or even Jordan Reed, which frees up my top picks to hammer WR.

Lastly, Stefon Diggs is a wide receiver we like a lot around here, and my projections argue I’d be comfortable taking him in about round three or four. Locking him into the sixth round gives me a very strong WR corps.

One note is because I used the 95th percentile confidence level, it’s very likely I could make stronger picks outside the names I pre-selected. For example, it’s likely I would wind up with a different set of top two receivers than Keenan Allen and Demaryius Thomas, though I’m fine with either of them.

Final Thoughts

While I smashed a number of different examples into one, this strategy really makes the most sense if you’re simply really confident in one or two players. If I’m confident locking in one of those late pass-catching backs1 as a potential Week 1 starter, maybe that means I’m more willing to draft a high-upside play like a Tevin Coleman as my first RB, even while planning not to start him in Week 1.

Similarly, locking in someone like Diggs in the sixth might allow me to consider drifting from being too WR heavy in the first five rounds. Or locking in Walker and/or Gates might give me license to ignore Gronk or Reed, even if they represent tremendous value.

In these ways, I’m building my draft strategy from later picks back to earlier ones, and in the end I’m able to build out a roster that I walk away from my draft feeling very confident in. It’s a simple strategy, but an easy one to overlook. The important aspect is being willing to reconsider your early-round selections based on your late-round targets.

And to be clear, that projected draft — save for perhaps some different late-round fliers — would be a draft I’d absolutely love.

Remember, ADP is inefficient, and if you do any amount of personal research, it makes perfect sense that you would have players you’re significantly higher on than the market. That’s an inefficiency you’ve identified. Don’t let ADP or a desire to extract the most value possible out of every pick keep you from exploiting it.

  1. It should be noted I’d likely take on more risk in waiting on Vereen, knowing I have Thompson and Draughn as backup plans if Vereen does go a little higher than anticipated; in other words, I might take Vereen a round later if his 65th or 75th percentile confidence selection slot allows for that.  (back)