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Breakouts, Values, and Busts – The Key Middle Rounds of the Apex Experts Draft

The top experts in the field gathered for the annual Apex Experts draft last week. The early rounds featured a number of surprises, picks that thwarted and exposed ADP. We now move into the middle rounds where fantasy titles are won.

Round 5

As I contemplate my pick at 5.09, the Draft Dashboard allows me to anticipate my leaguemates’ picks and monitor their progress. The Team Position Breakdown table provides a handy consolidation of roster composition.

R5 Team Pos Breakdown

Not surprisingly, I’m the only drafter without an RB. In part because of my philosophy and in part because I’m one of four teams that has yet to pick in Round 5, I’m also one of only three teams with fewer than two RBs. The Dashboard, loaded with my personal preferences, suggests remedying that situation at this point.

R5 Weighted Preferences

Tevin Coleman, Royce Freeman, and Kerryon Johnson offer three strong possibilities. Between this selection and 6.04, I’d like to grab two of the three. With Johnson the most likely to make it through the intervening six-pick gauntlet, this pick comes down to Coleman and Freeman. The former I’ve referred to as the best value in fantasy, the latter looks like a Le’Veon Bell clone.

Coleman is a solid value even if Devonta Freeman stays healthy. At RB24, we get a player who has finished above that level for two consecutive seasons with a largely healthy Freeman.1 Coleman’s upside in the case of a Freeman injury has been a free throw-in all summer. Although we want exposure to wide-outcome players, I opted against Royce Freeman’s uncertainty this early with a comparable, established player available.2

Round 5 Results

R5 results

As we saw with Round 4, the fifth stanza continues to be tricky. In no particular order, we have . . .

  • Two rookies who are currently second string. (Rashaad Penny, Royce Freeman)
  • A five-year veteran with 151 career rushing attempts. (Rex Burkhead)
  • A player who missed 2017 and is suspended for the first four games of 2018. (Julian Edelman)
  • A player who is missing camp. (Josh Gordon)
  • A second-year WR with one of the least efficient rookie seasons ever. (Corey Davis)

All of these guys make sense where they’re going, which only serves to reiterate the necessity for tactics that emphasize roster construction.

Round 6

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re already to this point. A look at the current player tiers before my pick at 6.04 illustrates this clearly.

R6 Detailed Tier

With every player in the top tiers gone at the two most important fantasy positions, we have to get creative. Kerryon Johnson is still available, so I take the plunge. For more on the selection, check out my explanation in the Apex Experts thread.

Round 6 Results

R6 results

While the selections in Rounds 4 and 5 illustrate the weakness in 2018 drafts, it gets exciting again in Round 6.

  • I went back-to-back at RB in part because I have numerous WR favorites who often make it Round 7, but Marquise Goodwin, Will Fuller, and Robby Anderson were quickly snapped up.
  • Dion Lewis and Tarik Cohen have enough receiving upside to outscore the lead members in their committees, but this is a great value for Derrick Henry as well.
  • Sigmund Bloom stashes his second consecutive player in Mark Ingram. Even if he gets buried early, the weekly double-headers provide the ability to come back in a hurry. We’ve seen teams rip off long winning streaks to qualify for the playoffs over the last several years.

Round 7

After selecting RBs in Rounds 5 and 6, the Dashboard doesn’t want me to go back to the well.

R7 Personal Preferences

With the flex position to fill and the need to build superior depth at a start-3 rather than a start-2 position, it’s strongly recommending a pass-catcher. To test whether I want to go this direction, I can experiment and see how the next 10 picks will play out.

R7 Possible Scenarios

Devin Funchess, Sterling Shepard, and Nelson Agholor are all intriguing possibilities with solid Sim Scores, but volume should be an issue for each of them.3 Looking at the best available players at the position, we see those options mixed in with questionable No. 1s like Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and Kelvin Benjamin.

R7 RB Available

By contrast, the RBs offer more pizzazz.

R7 RB Available 2

Owners will have personal preferences in this range, but these runners illustrate why I prefer the depth at RB to the depth at WR in 2018. Even after his knee cleanup, Sony Michel could still run away with the position in New England. Chris Thompson was RB11 last year in PPG and now has to battle a skeleton crew for touches.4 Marshawn Lynch and Isaiah Crowell are starters.

The Browns runners fall in all drafts due to the three-way committee, but Carlos Hyde finished as the RB8 a season ago and shares a depth chart with an exciting rookie in Nick Chubb.5 You have to assume a very precise and balanced touch split for one of these ball carriers not to have league-winning value at some point in the season.

In the end, I opted for none of them, instead selecting Jamaal Williams, the current starter for one of the best offenses in the NFL. Williams scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games last season, is beloved by the Green Bay coaching staff, and provides clear early-season value with his compatriot suspended. While I prefer Aaron Jones from a pure talent perspective, those first two games offer Williams a chance to put a stranglehold on the job.6

Round 7 Results

R7 results

  • This is the round of the TE. From the bounceback7 (Jimmy Graham) to the post-hype (Jordan Reed) to the breakout (Evan Engram) to Delanie “I just win fantasy leagues” Walker.
  • Aaron Rodgers is the first QB off the board at 7.02. I’m sure there’s a league out there where he’s lasted later, but this is still a stunning development only a few years after a QB (Andrew Luck) was getting support as the No. 1 overall pick in dynasty.
  • Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are excellent values compared to Brandin Cooks. The latter has never been a volume hog, while Woods and Kupp continue to generate rave reviews in camp.

Round 8

R8 Percentage of Starters

At the 8.04, owners have already covered the entire RB and Flex positions. The WR starters are almost accounted for. A few stragglers continue to punt TE, but only Rodgers is off the board at QB. Although I continue to like the RBs available, two considerations push me in another direction. 1) My top RB target will likely be available in the ninth round.8 2) By also running the draft in reverse, I know a late-round QB selection will eventually cost me a player I like later.

That means one thing: It’s time to take advantage of the crazy QB values.

R8 QBs

Tier 1 QBs Tom Brady and Russell Wilson are the easy choices, and I’d add Drew Brees with his upgraded weapons, but I prefer to pair the upside monster of Deshaun Watson with my WR1 in DeAndre Hopkins.

Round 8 Results

R8 resultsThe Mikes get tremendous pass-catching values with the WR20 (Devin Funchess) and WR21 (Nelson Agholor) from a year ago finally coming off the board as the 42nd and 46th receivers respectively. Both players benefited from favorable TD rates and both face increased target competition in 2018,9 but that could be missing the forest for the trees after they made Year 3 jumps.

Would you have gone a different direction in Rounds 5-8? Have a best or worst selection? Jump on the forum thread discussing the Apex draft.

  1. Coleman has also been largely healthy, which is always a caveat when mentioning that someone is being drafted below his recent, healthy results.  (back)
  2. The rookie is embroiled in his own committee and hasn’t demonstrated the NFL receiving ability we can count on from Coleman, but the former Ducks star could vanquish Devontae Booker early on, a contingency we wouldn’t expect from Coleman.  (back)
  3. Shepard and Agholor are clear secondary targets in their offenses, and this will likely be the case for Funchess as well. Ben Battle makes the case for selecting D.J. Moore even before Corey Davis.  (back)
  4. The Derrius Guice injury happened after our draft.  (back)
  5. Duke Johnson finished last season as RB11 and went earlier in the round.  (back)
  6. The Packers plan to use a New Orleans Saints-style committee. And while they probably lack an Alvin Kamara-level talent, it wouldn’t be surprising if all of their backs are superior to Ingram. This pie should be big enough to split.  (back)
  7. From the entire Seahawks experience.  (back)
  8. He was.  (back)
  9. This is certainly true for Funchess, potentially less true for Agholor with Alshon Jeffery’s health in question. However, Mike Wallace will be a bigger threat than Torrey Smith.  (back)

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