The Man vs. Machine series uses the Draft Dashboard to help you prepare for your league by mocking out of every draft slot, but the Dashboard is a powerful tool that also gives you an informational advantage on your opponents during a draft.
Apex Experts and the Genius of Mike Braude
I’m obviously partial to Apex co-owner Mike Braude as a RotoViz contributor and one of the best player-pickers in the industry, but even with that obvious bias I can say that the Apex format is one of the best bargains for your money. Apex offers money leagues that include everyone’s favorite feature – player trades. It also uses weekly double-headers – against an opponent and against the average – to add both fairness and excitement to your weekly tilt.
This January, I broke down the results of the 2017 league and Braude’s 151-148 win over Evan Silva in the finals. We now move into the 2018 version with a cast of experts that probably includes 10 of my top 15 guys in the whole business. In other words, it should be a lot of fun.
I had the No. 9 pick, and since I have seven players in my first tier, I’ll likely get a shot at one of them.1 Even in a worst case scenario, I’m picking between the most athletic WR in the NFL (Julio Jones) and possibly the most athletic RB (Saquon Barkley).
As the draft begins, I enter the picks in the Dashboard. When we arrive at my selection, it offers a look at the best available and provides ADP and positional tier information.2
Dave Caban and I selected DeAndre Hopkins at No. 5 overall in our half-PPR mock for RotoViz Radio, so this was an easy pick several selections later in a full PPR.
Round 1 Results
With Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, and Jones going earlier than ADP – and Ezekiel Elliott and Barkley going slightly later – this start reflected the skill of the owners. No big surprises here.
The second stanza began with Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt coming off the board. They were quickly joined by Michael Thomas, the lone receiver for whom I had an early-second round grade.
It may not change my pick since I’m out of position to get any of my remaining favorites coming back in Round 3, but I can workshop the possible upcoming picks to get a feel for how the remainder of the round will play out.
By hitting the Workshop button, I can change the picks, but the scenario here makes a lot of sense. Dalvin Cook, Davante Adams, Christian McCaffrey, and Rob Gronkowski are the players I’m considering.
Round 2 Results
In the end, Gronk’s similar point-scoring profile at a much lower-scoring position carries the day.3 Adams and McCaffrey fell a little further than I expected, while Braude replicated my Buy Stefon Diggs At Any Cost philosophy from the MFL10 of Death. Devonta Freeman is a personal favorite, but he also fits the profile of backs who historically disappoint relative to ADP.4
If you’re going to attack RB early, you want to grab your guys in the first two rounds. By 3.09, the RB value has dissipated. All of the Tier 2 runners are gone, and the Dashboard provides us with a look at the best options from Tier 3.
After selecting LeSean McCoy in this range during the Scott Fish Bowl, I don’t want another dose of extreme workload mixed with potential legal trouble, especially in a format that is far less favorable to RBs. The remaining candidates are a hodgepodge of rookies and committee backs. I like several of these options but at much cheaper prices. The Tier 3 value is more robust at WR.
Doug Baldwin’s inability to practice removes him from consideration and leaves me with a brutal choice between personal favorites Jarvis Landry and Amari Cooper. ADP suggests I have a better shot at Landry coming back around, but can I risk last year’s WR4 lasting through six more expert picks?
Just today I revised my tiers and moved Landry into Tier 2. Very little separates him from Keenan Allen, and the Cleveland depth chart is suddenly wide open with Corey Coleman traded and Josh Gordon away from camp. Already building rapport with Tyrod Taylor,5 Landry is a yearly candidate to challenge the single-season receptions record.
It’s almost impossible to believe I’m passing on Cooper at 3.09, and the Podfather quickly grabbed him with the next pick.
Round 3 Results
Three teams have yet to select a RB. I share the same 2-WR, 1-TE roster with Hermsmeyer.
- Jerick McKinnon profiles as a supercharged version of Carlos Hyde if he can hold off Matt Breida, but Joe Mixon and Jordan Howard will need to carve out high-value touches from elite passing-down backs to score the points necessary at this price.
- Larry Fitzgerald and Adam Thielen rank No. 9 and No. 10 respectively in Caban’s Sim Score projections. With identical numbers at the low, median, and high levels, you might prefer Thielen’s upgrade at QB, but Fitzgerald faces some of the weakest target competition in the league.
On my board, there’s a big tier break after the Cooper selection. The Dashboard helps to visualize the situation from a positional perspective.
According to our tiers, the immediate scarcity is greatest at WR where only three Tier 3 players remain. Placed in the context of more WR spots left to be filled and almost all of the Flex positions – a WR-leaning position in full PPR – there’s a strong argument to prioritize WR even if you’re not starting with a Zero RB default.
In leagues with 90-second timers instead of eight hours to pick, this might be the kind of choice where quickly perusing the Dashboard’s panic picks is helpful.
I chose the second-year WR who finished as WR12 on a PPG basis last year, outscoring players like A.J. Green and Mike Evans in the process. While JuJu Smith-Schuster’s breakaway percentage6 and TD rates7 aren’t sustainable, they help illustrate a talent level that was more worthy of a top-10 pick than the two WRs who earned that honor last year.
Round 4 Results
This round offers a vivid reminder that, outside of quarterback, no positions are deep in fantasy. Matt Harmon makes a nice grab of the final TE in Tier 1 while the rest of us battle over secondary players.
- Derrius Guice is a rookie RB playing alongside one of the NFL’s best receiving backs.
- Jay Ajayi may find himself in a three-way committee with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles.
- Brandin Cooks and Marvin Jones could realistically finish third on their own teams in target volume.8
- Two Chiefs receivers have already been selected (Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce), leaving Sammy Watkins to potentially fight for scraps after failing to create volume in a weaker receiving corps a year ago.
This isn’t to criticize the picks. They are the right picks, and I’m disappointed a player like Watkins – a guy with immense upside despite the red flags – won’t be available later. But this collapse in clear starting value must be considered when you sit down to plot roster construction.
The Dashboard still has plenty of features we haven’t explored, and the Apex Experts league continues to roll along. Part 2 will cover Rounds 5 through 8 when they’ve finished. Until then, jump onto the forum thread discussing the draft and let me know your favorite picks, least favorite picks, and how you would proceed from here.
- Ezekiel Elliott isn’t in my first tier but almost always goes early enough to push another player down. Julio Jones is just outside my first tier, but Air Yards legend Josh Hermsmeyer traded Hopkins for Jones in our division of Kitchen Cinco, foreshadowing his selection here. If Josh likes Julio this much based on his excellent air yards projections, that’s reason enough to boost him in your rankings. (back)
- When you set up the Dashboard, you can grab ADP from a variety of different sources. (back)
- Chris Hogan and Rex Burkhead are going to go much earlier than they would have a couple of weeks ago due to teammate injuries and suspensions. That rise is justified, but the easiest way to play New England’s depth chart issues, both from a value perspective and from a “draft stars” perspective is to select Gronk in the same range you would have considered him anyway. (back)
- Reading this article by Charles Kleinheksel will likely change the way you draft RBs. (back)
- The “rapport” reports are encouraging but also a tiny bit humorous. Landry is going to have rapport with any QB because he’s always open. (back)
- He gained 20-plus yards on 12 occasions. (back)
- Smith-Schuster scored once every 12 targets (back)
- Realistic but unlikely, although Cooks has never been the target vacuum that would lead to discounting Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Jones faces a serious threat from Kenny Golladay. (back)