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Man vs. Machine: Picking From Five and I’m Still Alive!

In this series, RotoViz writers will be using the Draft Dashboard, the flagship tool of the FFDRAFTPREP Package, to practice approaching 2018 fantasy drafts. Twelve authors will be participating and each will be mock-drafting from a different starting position, using the tool. The aim of this series is to outline the strategies employed by our writers, the information they are using to inform their decisions, and to obtain an understanding of how draft slot plays a role in the development of their strategy. At the end of each mock, the author will compare their team to those drafted by the computer and self-assess whether or not they “won” the draft.

Let’s get to it.


For consistency, the writers in this series will draft in 12-team PPR leagues, and the ADP source will be set to “Average PPR.” Starting lineups comprise 10 players: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 flex (any RB/WR/TE), 1 kicker and 1 defense, with a six-player bench. The computer teams are set to “Mixed,” which means some will emphasize balanced rosters, while others may heavily weight running backs or wide receivers.

I’m picking from spot number five, giving me a great opportunity to play the draft while accounting for positional runs.


While RotoViz writers generally tend to adhere to a Zero-RB draft strategy, I’ve consistently talked about (here and here) the need for fantasy owners to secure top notch RBs due to the position losing value year over year. As such, I decided to take a heavy RB approach, just to see how the draft shakes out. The approach would be a bit different than what others involved in this exercise would be trying and would provide a different perspective. I was certain I could find high-upside WRs in the middle to late part of the draft, and chose to grab a top tight end and quarterback before shifting my attention heavily towards the position, a strategy that appears likely to have paid off.


  • I adhered to the ADP list that the system was using, selecting Saquon Barkley as my first running back at pick 1.05, as opposed to Ezekiel Elliot, a player with an established pro resume and much fewer receiving options around him than Barkley. While I wanted to pursue a strategy unique to the exercise, I didn’t want to get too far “out there” and opted instead for using the best player available, according to the ADP list, at my chosen position each round.
  • Christian McCaffrey made for an excellent value play in the middle of the second round. The PPR upside here is substantial and he could easily finish as a top-10 RB in this format.
  • I really considered altering my strategy in the third round with elite receiving options T.Y. Hilton, Josh Gordon, Brandin Cooks, and Allen Robinson all staring me in the face. However, I held strong to the plan I set forth initially and drafted Derrius Guice to give me three bell-cow running backs and significantly weakening the ability of one or more teams to compete at the position throughout the season. This pick, of course, happened before Guice was injured.
  • I grabbed my top-end tight end in the fourth with the selection of Zach Ertz. While I have every faith in his ability, I might have opted for Evan Engram or Jimmy Graham at this spot if I hadn’t committed to drafting BPA by position according to ADP.
  • With Aaron Rodgers off the board a round before my fifth pick, I was very happy to nab Deshaun Watson to pick up the top-notch QB outlined in my strategy. Even if he regresses a bit, as many expect, the upside he has is undeniable and he will likely have a few games the will put my team over the top on any given week.
  • Over the next five picks I focused on the wide receiver position like a laser, picking up Marvin Jones in the sixth, Julian Edelman in the seventh, Robby Anderson in the eighth, Calvin Ridley in the ninth, and Kenny Golladay, to pair with Jones, in the tenth. I expect big things out of Anderson this season so I was ecstatic to get him in the eighth, and Edelman should provide some great firepower after week four. The pairing of Jones and Golladay screams upside, if mock-lineup-setter me can figure out who start each week.
  • The only other player I’d like to note was Antonio Callaway in the 13th round. While ADP said I should take Jordan Matthews, I am a total mark for Callaway this year and broke the rules I set out for myself. With over 150 players off the board at the point, I figured it was okay to treat myself.


As I mentioned in the Draft Notes section, I had an existential crisis crisis in the third round where I could have grabbed one of the remaining WR1s in the pool. Instead I chose to adhere to the strategy I developed before starting the draft and grabbed, what I believed to be, my third bell-cow running back. The universe, obviously, felt this was a bad decision and punished poor Derrius Guice as a result. Obviously, in hindsight, the pick was tailor-made for a top wide receiver. However, I was looking to devalue the position as a whole in this strategy and, if not for Guice’s truly unfortunate injury, I think this pick would have, at least, made sense by year’s end.


Since I had already decided what positions I wanted to take for each of the first ten rounds of the draft, most of the picks were very easy, given that I was resigned to using the system ADP. Though, perhaps the biggest smile I cracked came with the selection of Anderson in the eighth round. As long as he can keep things in control off the field, Anderson could easily establish himself as a true WR1 this season. Getting a potential WR1 in the eighth round? Sign me up!


Sticking to a game plan appeared to payoff initially. I had three unstoppable options at RB, a top QB and TE, as well as some very solid, if understated, options at WR. The values I was able to pick up at WR in the middle of the draft made this an incredibly potent, and dangerous team. While the injury to Guice was devastating, this team could recover with a nice waiver add or, in the case of this being a best ball league, the depth present might be just enough to carry it through after a tough start missing both Guice and Edelman.


I find it difficult to find a whole lot wrong with what the Browns team did in this simulation. They walked away with a top five player at QB (Rodgers), WR (Antonio Brown) and TE (Engram). The team also has a running backs corps that has the potential to put up above average points week in and week out comprised of Devonta Freeman, Jordan Howard, Peyton Barber and, potentially Royce Freeman. The Browns should also see some solid production out of D.J. Moore, Chris Hogan, and possibly Allen Hurns, making them a tough team to compete with all season long.


I’d highly recommend the Draft Dashboard to drafters that need some help in a pinch. It is highly customizable and will allow you the ability to construct your team as you see fit. There are some issues with injured or players cut from their teams holding ADPs that aren’t congruent with the situation they exist in at the time of the draft. However, that is a byproduct not of the product itself, but of the ADP source it utilizes, and of ADP at a fundamental level. In many instances that issue can be overcome by performing a simple Google search on the player to make sure everything checks out. In the end, I feel my team would have performed incredibly well if not for the Guice injury. I have no doubt it would have made it to the playoffs, and still might, if that bullet was dodged. The top computer teams, The Browns and The Bengals would be tough matchups without my third-round round pick, but bye weeks would play so much of a role in a potential league. Both teams, while having elite players at the top of their roster, lack the depth my team has. I’ll award myself the win, by the narrowest of margins.

Winner – Man



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