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Biggest Takeaway From A Loaded Experts League Draft – WR Is Not Deep

Every year the Apex Experts League provides a window into the thought processes of the top minds in the business. If you want to see your favorites – Evan Silva, Rich Hribar, Denny Carter, JJ Zachariason, Mike Clay, Graham Barfield, Pat Daugherty, Matt Harmon, Sigmund Bloom, Matt Kelley – all in one place, if you want to get their insights into player selection and roster construction in a prize money league that will be played out . . . you can. I’ve detailed every pick and provided commentary on round trends and my selections in Apex Experts – Live Results.

Apex is the brainchild of Mike Braude, an occasional contributor to RotoViz, and for my money, one of the best minds in the business. Last season, Mike and Denny were again among the semifinalists, with Denny bringing home the title. The top-three finishers a year ago were extremely WR-heavy, and that fits with some of the other stealth trends from 2019.

While 2016 was an exception, the success Apex drafters have annually had with WR-heavy lineups informed a few of the crazy results from the 2019 draft.

  • Round 4: WRs selected – 9, RBs selected – 2
  • Round 5: WRs selected – 8, RBs selected – 4
  • Round 6: Zero RBs selected
  • Conclusion of Round 6: Total WRs – 40, Total RBs – 23
  • 8.06 – 9.03: Ten consecutive picks without an RB

These numbers may seem extreme if you’re not familiar with some of the research on RB and WR trends. Christian McCaffrey was easily the top value in fantasy last year, but RBs also destroyed plenty of squads. Runners in Rounds 3 and 4 have been the kiss of death, and I recently profiled the 7 Roster Killers of 2018, helping you avoid those same characteristics in 2019 backs.

That still may not convince you, but this image from Blair Andrews’ Win the Flex tool might.1

RB/WR Points By ADP 2017-2018

After the first several selections, the average RB pick has historically delivered fewer points to owners. This was true throughout the Zero RB peak years from 2010 to 2015, but it’s also been true during the rise of uber-back. To take advantage of these trends, I recommend the 1-Elite-RB approach through the first five picks of 2019 drafts and Zero RB with later draft slots. This was also the approach recommended by our writers in a recent Round Table.

WR Is Deep This Year

When fantasy owners debate the merits of RB-heavy versus Balanced versus WR-heavy, you’ll often hear the argument, “WR is deep this year. I’d rather load up at RB and then build my WR corps through the middle rounds.” As we’ve demonstrated using the Roster Construction Explorer in the Best Ball Workshop, this does not work in best ball. But will it work in redraft? Should it?2

If we stipulate that we want our Flex position to score as many points as possible, we can see from the graph above that we want to fill it with a WR. This makes the format close to a 2-RB, 4-WR league. In order to provide some redundancy in the face of injuries and byes, I try to exit the higher-leverage rounds with 50% more players at a position than I’ll need starters. This means drafting a 3-RB, 6-WR team through the first half of the draft, what you might consider a Starting Lineup Plus.

Because RB value is most competitive with WR value in the range of picks 80 to 140, it makes sense for your Zero RB push to take place in this area of the draft. Not surprisingly, this is also where the RB league-winners come from.

WR Is Only Deep If Owners Are Over-Drafting RBs

This brings us back to Apex. If we follow the evidence, it’s clear that RBs are overvalued. A normal drafter may respond to this with 1-Elite-RB/Zero RB or by deciding to pay the market prices regardless, in order to more evenly balance the positional strength of the Starting Lineup Plus. I have a strong preference for the former, but the latter provides extra safety and may allow for a faster start. However, the market approach can be risky.

This is what we saw in Apex.

Four owners started with a 1-RB or 0-RB construction through six rounds. Three additional owners started with a 2-RB construction. As a result, these were the values in Rounds 7 and 8.

Round 7

7.01 Rich Hribar – Marquez Valdes-Scantling
7.02 Graham Barfield – David Montgomery
7.03 Evan Silva – Miles Sanders
7.04 Patrick Daugherty – Sterling Shepard
7.05 Matt Kelley – Courtland Sutton
7.06 Sigmund Bloom – Darrell Henderson
7.07 Matt Harmon – Tarik Cohen
7.08 JJ Zachariason – Tevin Coleman
7.09 Shawn Siegele – Sony Michel
7.10 Denny Carter – Phillip Lindsay
7.11 Mike Braude – Kenyan Drake
7.12 Mike Clay – Emmanuel Sanders

Round 8

8.01 Mike Clay – Derrius Guice
8.02 Mike Braude – Lamar Miller
8.03 Denny Carter – Austin Ekeler
8.04 Shawn Siegele – Rashaad Penny
8.05 JJ Zachariason – Latavius Murray
8.06 Matt Harmon – John Brown
8.07 Sigmund Bloom – DeSean Jackson
8.08 Matt Kelley – David Njoku
8.09 Patrick Daugherty – Kyler Murray
8.10 Evan Silva – Donte Moncrief
8.11 Graham Barfield – Geronimo Allison
8.12 Rich Hribar – Jared Cook

Individual readers may have WR sleepers they like in this area and see some RBs they have on their Do Not Draft lists, but it’s hard not to like the rookie and second-year options at RB. These are exactly the types of RBs we’d expect to outperform even their normal ADPs. By contrast, at WR we’re already into the flat area.

The Apex draft turns conventional wisdom on its head. When you’re in tighter drafts, you run at least some risk of encountering this type of market. If you don’t draft your WRs in the first six rounds, you won’t have the firepower to compete at a position that requires more starters.

To finish, I’m going to provide the RB/WR draft results for Apex, the ADP for BestBall10s,3 our redraft rankings, and the suggested order from Blair’s tool.4 Our redraft rankings are more tilted toward WR than ADP and than most rankings. The evidence supports that emphasis. I believe this is another small way in which RotoViz provides you an advantage, but we also want to make sure you have all of the information to make these decisions for yourself and to go against our advice if you find a compelling counterargument.

Drafts, Rankings, and ADP Comparison – RB/WR

Rank/PickApexRV RankingsFanball ADPWin the Flex
1BarkleyChristian McCaffreySaquon BarkleySaquon Barkley
2KamaraSaquon BarkleyChristian McCaffreyDeAndre Hopkins
3McCaffreyAlvin KamaraAlvin KamaraDavante Adams
4ElliottDeAndre HopkinsEzekiel ElliottChristian McCaffrey
5HopkinsEzekiel ElliottDavid JohnsonMichael Thomas
6JohnsonJuJu Smith-SchusterDeAndre HopkinsEzekiel Elliott
7AdamsDavid JohnsonDavante AdamsJulio Jones
8ThomasMichael ThomasLe'Veon BellOdell Beckham
9JonesDavante AdamsMichael ThomasAlvin Kamara
10BeckhamOdell BeckhamJulio JonesJuJu Smith-Schuster
11BellJulio JonesOdell BeckhamDavid Johnson
12HillLe'Veon BellJames ConnerAntonio Brown
13Smith-SchusterMike EvansJuJu Smith-SchusterMike Evans
14EvansMelvin GordonTodd GurleyLe'Veon Bell
15BrownJames ConnerJoe MixonKeenan Allen
16AllenTodd GurleyTyreek HillT.Y. Hilton
17MixonJoe MixonMelvin GordonMelvin Gordon
18GordonAntonio BrownDalvin CookAdam Thielen
19HiltonTyreek HillAntonio BrownJames Conner
20CooperDalvin CookNick ChubbAmari Cooper
21ConnerStefon DiggsMike EvansTyreek Hill
22CookDamien WilliamsDamien WilliamsJoe Mixon
23D. WilliamsKeenan AllenKeenan AllenA.J. Green
24ChubbAmari CooperAdam ThielenTodd Gurley
25JohnsonT.Y. HiltonT.Y. HiltonStefon Diggs
26DiggsAdam ThielenAmari CooperJulian Edelman
27GurleyBrandin CooksLeonard FournetteDalvin Cook
28FreemanNick ChubbAaron JonesBrandin Cooks
29EdelmanKerryon JohnsonKerryon JohnsonNick Chubb
30CooksMarlon MackMarlon MackRobert Woods
31ThielenAaron JonesStefon DiggsKenny Golladay
32JonesKenny GolladayDevonta FreemanDamien Williams
33FournetteJulian EdelmanDerrick HenryChris Godwin
34JacobsRobert WoodsJulian EdelmanLeonard Fournette
35WoodsD.J. MooreBrandin CooksD.J. Moore
36GolladayDevonta FreemanJosh JacobsTyler Lockett
37GodwinLeonard FournetteA.J. GreenAaron Jones
38LockettCalvin RidleyRobert WoodsCooper Kupp
39RobinsonTyler LockettKenny GolladayMarlon Mack
40MooreJosh JacobsChris GodwinCalvin Ridley
41IngramTyler BoydMark IngramAllen Robinson
42BoydJarvis LandryD.J. MooreDerrick Henry
43KuppDerrick HenryTyler LockettMike Williams
44RidleyCooper KuppPhillip LindsayTyler Boyd
45JefferyChris GodwinJames WhiteDevonta Freeman
46WilliamsPhillip LindsaySony MichelJarvis Landry
47MackMike WilliamsCooper KuppKerryon Johnson
48PettisSony MichelChris CarsonAlshon Jeffery
49KirkChristian KirkTarik CohenSammy Watkins
50WatkinsAllen RobinsonTyler BoydJosh Jacobs
51D. HenryTarik CohenDavid MontgomeryRobby Anderson
52CarsonRobby AndersonCalvin RidleyMark Ingram
53AndersonAlshon JefferyKenyan DrakeDante Pettis
54GreenJames WhiteAllen RobinsonChristian Kirk
55LandryWill FullerMike WilliamsPhillip Lindsay
56WhiteCorey DavisJarvis LandryCorey Davis
57FullerTevin ColemanAlshon JefferySony Michel
58FitzgeraldDerrius GuiceTevin ColemanWill Fuller
59DavisSammy WatkinsDerrius GuiceCourtland Sutton
60SamuelChris CarsonRobby AndersonKenyan Drake
61CouteeRashaad PennyLamar MillerMarvin Jones
62WatsonA.J. GreenSammy WatkinsJames White
63JonesKenyan DrakeDante PettisLarry Fitzgerald
64WestbrookRoyce FreemanChristian KirkTarik Cohen
65Valdes-ScantlingCourtland SuttonCorey DavisSterling Shepard
66MontgomeryDarrell HendersonWill FullerKeke Coutee
67SandersN'Keal HarryRashaad PennyDavid Montgomery
68ShepardLatavius MurrayLatavius MurrayCurtis Samuel
69SuttonDavid MontgomeryDarrell HendersonChris Carson
70HendersonAustin EkelerAustin EkelerDede Westbrook
71CohenLarry FitzgeraldJordan HowardTevin Coleman
72ColemanRonald JonesRoyce FreemanGolden Tate
73MichelMiles SandersMarvin JonesLamar Miller
74LindsayMark IngramMiles SandersJames Washington
75DrakeKeke CouteeCourtland SuttonDerrius Guice
76SandersDante PettisLarry FitzgeraldDeSean Jackson
77GuiceCurtis SamuelCurtis SamuelRashaad Penny
78MillerLamar MillerDede WestbrookMarquez Valdes-Scantling
79EkelerSterling ShepardSterling ShepardEmmanuel Sanders
80PennyDede WestbrookKeke CouteeGeronimo Allison
81MurrayNyheim HinesDeSean JacksonN'Keal Harry
82BrownMarvin JonesGolden TateDevin Funchess
83JacksonMatt BreidaNyheim HinesAnthony Miller
84MoncriefJerick McKinnonJerick McKinnonD.K. Metcalf
85AllisonJordan HowardDamien HarrisDarrell Henderson
86WilliamsAnthony MillerMarquez Valdes-ScantlingLatavius Murray
87GordonJames WashingtonJaylen SamuelsDamien Harris
88JonesAndy IsabellaGeronimo AllisonLeSean McCoy
89FreemanDamien HarrisJames WashingtonRoyce Freeman
90MillerDevin FunchessAnthony MillerRonald Jones
91StillsIto SmithRonald JonesIto Smith
92FunchessGolden TateEmmanuel SandersNyheim Hines
93HarryLeSean McCoyLeSean McCoyKareem Hunt
94LewisTre'Quan SmithD.K. MetcalfJordan Howard
95WashingtonDuke JohnsonDion LewisJaylen Samuels
96MetcalfD.K. MetcalfDevin FunchessJerick McKinnon
97HydeDion LewisD'Onta ForemanMiles Sanders
98HillJamison CrowderKareem HuntAustin Ekeler
99HowardMichael GallupN'Keal HarryD'Onta Foreman
100GoodwinJustice HillMatt BreidaDion Lewis
Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Michael Thomas.

  1. The tool itself is still in final testing, but the link is live for the adventurous.  (back)
  2. These are format-specific questions. There’s a big difference between a 2-RB, 2-WR standard league and a 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-Flex PPR format like Apex. This is one of two ubiquitous formats in competitive leagues.  (back)
  3. I’m using Fanball ADP because it’s a similar 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-Flex format. Best ball drafts are sometimes viewed as more RB-heavy, but they should not be.  (back)
  4. The Win the Flex app gives you projections for the players based on their positional ADPs. If Christian McCaffrey were to jump Saquon Barkley, for example, their projections would swap. For this exercise, I set the tool to rank based on value over replacement using the Apex settings.  (back)

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