So far in this series I’ve been advocating targeting of draft picks later in the draft with an emphasis on acquiring assets similar to those going early in ADP, but where you’re getting a discount. For instance, Brian Hartline is roughly similar to Danny Amendola, but is going about 28 WR spots after Amendola. Eric Decker has a lot of the same challenges and upside as Jordy Nelson, but Decker is cheaper. Sam Bradford is about equal to Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford in quarterbacking ability (based on AYA) while Bradford is cheaper and has upgraded offensive weapons to throw to. Here is a round by round run down of the targets I’ve advocated so far:
To read the individual case for each guy, see the following posts: Marques Colston, Eric Decker, Mike Williams, Brian Hartline,Josh Gordon, Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram, the Three Headed QB Monster, and Greg Olsen.
I go through the middle rounds and end of the draft first because the top of the draft is often a crapshoot where you’ll be lucky if your selections outperform their draft spot by one or two spots. My approach to the top of the draft is akin to staring at a 16 in blackjack when the dealer has a 10 showing. You know you have to just take a hit, but there’s a difference between knowing the percentage play and being confident in the outcome.
We know the bottom of our team should be good on QBs, and TEs. We also know that we’ll have about 5 WRs to target and 2 RBs. So then the first three rounds become about filling out the rest of the roster and this is where individual league rules become important. You can draft those first three rounds depending on how many starters at each position you have and what the scoring format is. If your league is standard scoring, then I could see going RB/RB/RB to start. But if you’re in a PPR with 3WR starters and some flex spots, then you might go RB/WR/WR.
My general guidance on this part of the draft is to take guys that you can’t replace anywhere else in the draft. That’s why I lead with RBs typically. There are just a limited number of backs in the league with clear usage situations. That means they’re scarce. That’s also why I would only pull the trigger on one of the oversized #1 WRs in the first three rounds. Randall Cobb might be great this year, but if I’m taking a WR in that part of the draft, that WR going to look like Megatron, Dez, Julio or Demaryius. I want to use my first three picks on resources I can’t replace elsewhere.
Here are some of the guys being drafted in the first three rounds that I think could outperform their draft spots:
Alfred Morris – Was fourth among RBs in touches per game last year, and yet you can get him at the end of the first round.
David Wilson – Wilson averaged more than a fantasy point/touch over the last four weeks of 2012. I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about Wilson, but assuming he stays below RB15 or so in ADP, I think you’re getting the right price to take him. That’s conditional on Wilson looking like a lock to get 12 or more touches per game.
C.J. Spiller – Most of my projections have Spiller as either the 5th or 6th RB for 2013. If he’s being drafted with an ADP of RB9, I think that’s about as much of a discount as you’re going to get in the first round. It’s also worth noting that his upside is as high as top overall fantasy RB.
Rob Gronkowski (if healthy) – You won’t find me advocating for Gronk if it’s a situation where he has back surgery and indications point to a week 5 return (or any similar situation). But if Gronk is in training camp, then I think that getting him in the 2nd round makes sense as he really is in his own league when it comes to ability to score touchdowns. If there are questions about his health, then he’s just a straight gamble and I tend to shy away from those.
Dez Bryant – I didn’t think I would be going back to the well on Dez this year, but I still think he might be slightly undervalued. He just had a ridiculous ability to score fantasy points and the Cowboys finally seem to realize how difficult he is to cover. I think Dez has the best chance to outperform his draft spot among the top 10 WRs.
Darren McFadden – McFadden hasn’t looked good for about a year and a half, but he did average 21 touches per game in the games he played in last year. That’s a lot. Given that you can draft McFadden at around RB20 or so, I do think you’re getting a discount to his touch potential. If you’re nervous about McFadden’s ability to stay on the field, Shawn Siegele pointed out to me in an email conversation that you could draft McFadden and then handcuff him with Latavius Murray. I think that makes some sense.
I’m sure you can tell that in general I feel a lot less strongly about the guys at the top of the draft than I do the guys at the end of the draft. My sense is that the mispricings in the ADP market just aren’t very pronounced at the top of the draft where most guys are close to fairly valued. I’ll have some guys that I’m staying away from and some guys that are minor targets, but in general I would be happy with most of the running backs in the first two rounds, as well as almost any of the WRs that are of the oversized #1 WR variety. I’ll have more posts to explore those ideas, but hopefully in this series I’ve given you at least a few ideas for approaching your draft.