The Draft Dashboard is a powerful tool to prepare for drafts and to dominate the real thing. Now available in both web and excel versions, it gives you a wealth of information at your fingertips when you’re on the clock, and it’s also a flexible mock draft tool that allows you to work through a variety of scenarios and formats.
Last week, I used the Draft Dashboard to Build a Fantasy Roster Exclusively from NFL Teams With Explosive Offenses. The feedback was enthusiastic, so I wanted to try the exercise again, this time focusing on a slightly different idea. How do we draft a fantasy team that allows us to win big and lose small on our picks? As Ben Gretch mentioned during his appearance on RotoViz Overtime, this is the central idea behind Zero RB, behind contingency-based drafting, behind the Win the Flex tool.
As a result, this draft experiment also functions as a Zero RB Blueprint for 2019,1 even though the roster we select will not necessarily be pure Zero RB.
For this exercise, we’re again going to use ESPN ADP as a thank you for Matthew Berry’s enthusiasm about our content and tools. After I specify a 1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Flex format and enter the cast of characters from Archer as the team owners, we’re off to the races.
The Options: Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Julio Jones, Le’Veon Bell
Picking from the seven spot, our RB options are gone.
We selected Davante Adams when we were trying to create maximum exposure to opposing explosive offenses. But Adams is projected to score 35 fewer points than Smith-Schuster. In fact, the gap between our No. 1 and No. 2 WRs is more than the gap between Adams and the rest of the top-five.
Why do we have such a big gap? The Steelers ranked No. 1 in expected points to the receiver position in 2018, and 280 of that EP went to Antonio Brown.
Smith-Schuster was easily the most efficient of the Steelers receiver a year ago2 and has one of fantasy’s best schedules over the first month. If there’s a 350-point WR in 2019, it’s likely to be Smith-Schuster. We don’t want to run the risk of missing him by a pick or two.
The Pick: JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Options: Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, Mike Evans
All of the Tier 1 WRs are selected between our first- and second-round selections. All of the panic picks are RBs, and we can see that our weighted preferences are now equal between runners and receivers. Travis Kelce was selected at 2.05, and we might wager that a Tier 1 tight end will come back around in Round 3.
Over the last four seasons, Evans has averaged 1,304 yards and 7 TDs per season. He saw 22% of team targets go his way last season, and we have no reason to expect this target. There is a ton of room for his target share to increase. We have seen Evans receive 30% target share just two seasons ago.
For more reasons on why you should trust Evans this season, go read Kate Magdziuk’s most recent article — she has him as the WR1 in 2019.
These arguments are persuasive. Evans scored over 300 points in 2016 and he came back with a 1,500-yard season last year. He’s the prototypical TD-scoring receiver with two 12-TD campaigns before turning 24. Like most of the players from the NFC South, his easy schedule creates a very high floor.
The RBs in this range have high ceilings but low floors. We’ll take less risk for similar upside and a better overall construction.
The Pick: Mike Evans
The Options: George Kittle, Stefon Diggs
A few surprises occur before our next pick. Ray Gillette is emboldened by reports that Melvin Gordon may report for Week 1 and grabs him to stack with David Johnson. Pam Poovey isn’t worried about Amari Cooper’s mysterious ailment and gives herself a shot at the top finisher in all three positions with Saquon Barkley, Cooper, and Zach Ertz.
Leonard Fournette’s downside makes him a Land Mine RB, but Tyler Loechner uses the Range of Outcomes app to forecast massive upside for the post-hype candidate. Ryan Collinsworth favorite, Kerryon Johnson, makes it within one pick of our selection and would have been enticing for this type of roster.
Meanwhile, our TE gamble has paid off. Collinsworth also joins the chorus of Elite TE enthusiasts after analyzing the issue in his Passing Revolution series. Curtis and I took Kittle at 2.09 in our FFPC Main Event.
An early TE makes the rest of your draft much easier tactically, and the top TEs make excellent picks even in non-premium scoring. Kittle was such a force that a decline in production still leaves you with good scoring and a likely advantage in your starting lineup. If he’s able to maintain a solid percentage of his yardage and boost the TD numbers in what should be an improved 49ers offense, he becomes one of the top players in all of fantasy.
The Pick: George Kittle
The Options: Aaron Jones, D.J. Moore, Damien Williams, Calvin Ridley
This is where the Draft Dashboard can really help us. This is essentially a 4-WR starting format, and we want to continue to load up on them in the WR window. At the same time, we’ll keep our eyes open for any home run picks at RB. The Dashboard shows our weighted preferences moving strongly to the RB side, and it informs us that a Tier 2 RB is still left. This represents a potential strong buy, with only three Tier 3 RBs remaining behind him.
Damien Williams is the most difficult RB to evaluate in the entire fantasy landscape. In looking at the Seven Roster Killers of 2018, I mentioned that Williams is the only RB with both a target and an avoid label on my board. Ben and I discussed the Chiefs starter at length on Overtime, and he factored into the Main Event team from Davis Mattek’s time-traveling episode.3 Dynasty guru Patrick Kerrane is taking him as his only early RB option on high dollar squads.
Darwin Thompson’s skyrocketing ADP is also making Williams less expensive, but this backfield could produce two RB1s. Williams is a narrow-moat back when it comes to maintaining the type of workload RBs usually need to be selected early, but he’s also a rare exception. Even if Williams loses a Mark Ingram-ish share to Thompson, he can still be an easy top-10 back in this offense. If he holds onto the full role, he competes with Barkley and Christian McCaffrey for No. 1 overall. That’s the epitome of win big/lose small.
The Pick: Damien Williams
The Options: Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd
D.J. Moore goes off the board one spot ahead of our selection, making this a no-brainer pick of Ridley. The Atlanta sophomore checks every box for a massive secondary breakout, and his schedule provides another boost.
The Pick: Calvin Ridley
The Options: Jarvis Landry, Tyler Boyd, David Montgomery, Miles Sanders
Six of Boyd’s top-20 matches scored 15 or more points again the following season, providing strong numbers in both the high and median projections. Due to A.J. Green’s absence, he’s likely to receive a volume bounce early, and this corresponds to the softest part of his schedule.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of getting off to a good start. Boyd should help you string together the early-season Ws and then becomes the perfect sell-high candidate a month into the season.
The Pick: Tyler Boyd
The Options: Duke Johnson, Austin Ekeler, Tevin Coleman, Curtis Samuel, Will Fuller
It’s tempting to select an RB here. Coleman and Duke Johnson are both available. We know they’re coming off the board in Round 5 of the FFPC. But this is where understanding draft structure comes into play. A key tenet of Zero RB is that you need WRs beyond your flex in order to dominate the bye weeks and withstand injury. We want to buy those receivers in the most profitable area of the draft.
We missed D.J. Moore by one pick earlier, but that allows us a shot at his much-hyped teammate several rounds later. In addition to Samuel’s training camp buzz, there’s a good argument for breakout based purely on the evidence.
Samuel has the blazing speed we all find so tantalizing in Parris Campbell and Mecole Hardman. Of course, wide receiver is a skill position. Fuller was a much more productive college player than Samuel, and the computer pu20lls Campbell, Hardman, and Phillip Dorsett as the top matches due to similarly poor career market share numbers. The difference between their results and the fourth comp, superstar Odell Beckham, is glaring. Fortunately for Samuel, he has an explanation.
The Ohio State product was a hybrid RB/WR who accumulated more collegiate yards in the running game. During his junior season he gained 1,636 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 combined TDs. That gave him a 31% score in total adjusted yardage share. By contrast, Campbell only gained 15% of the total adjusted yards during his final season in the Buckeyes offense. Due to this dual threat ability, our top production/athleticism comps for Samuel coming out of college were Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb.
I delve into several other pro-Samuel arguments in that piece, and we ended up selecting him at 7.04 in our FFPC Main Event.
The Pick: Curtis Samuel
The Options: Royce Freeman, Darrell Henderson, Rashaad Penny
Taking our sixth WR cost us a shot at Coleman, Johnson, and Ekeler, but numerous options remain from the Zero RB candidates list. Freeman is my favorite for a win big/lose small roster.
Freeman’s resume and profile speak to a future first-round ceiling. Then we add in the second-year scoring jump and the win-big side of the equation becomes obvious.
In his Fantasy Football Multiverse series, Matt Jones looks at the lose small side. He runs through the scenarios in the Projection Machine and explains how Freeman could score over 200 points even with Phillip Lindsay staying healthy and earning most of the passing-down work. That’s exactly the floor we’re looking for.
The Pick: Royce Freeman
The Options: Matt Breida, Rashaad Penny, Courtland Sutton
This draft helps remind us why we don’t want to reach for RBs early. Penny and Breida are still on the board, and not because we’re anticipating a draft slide. The two best values by ESPN ADP are QBs. I selected Penny in both the Apex Experts and the FFPC Main Event, so let’s take Breida here. Colm Kelly and I discussed his placement on the Zero RB list and his high floor/high ceiling upside on this week’s RotoViz Overtime.
The Pick: Matt Breida
The Options: Darwin Thompson, Tony Pollard, Kyler Murray, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
It’s difficult to know where Thompson and Pollard will go this weekend, but if you’re in an ultra-competitive draft, you need to be prepared to reach for them early. The two rookies are key pieces of Ryan Collinsworth’s draft approach, as he details in his must-read RB Tiers article:
I often begin to take a strong look at Pollard or Thompson [in Round 8]. I’m much higher on those two rookies than most of the fantasy public, but each of them could provide supreme leverage this season. I’ve written multiple pieces on Pollard and I don’t think it’s crazy to target him here. Sure, if you believe you can wait to draft him or Thompson in the next round, go for it. If I’ve stuck to the playbook in the first seven rounds, this is the point at which I pivot towards upside. And few players offer as much draft leverage as either Pollard or Thompson does this season.
Grabbing an enticing rookie in this area of the draft is also a perfect fit with Blair Andrews’ newest RB intel from The Wrong Read, No. 58.
Over the last four years, rookie RBs enjoy above-average win rates from about pick 80 to pick 160, or from about Round 7 to Round 13.5 Although all RBs have above-average win rates in this range, rookie RBs easily outperform veteran RBs from about pick 110 to 160 — in other words, from Rounds 9 to 13.
If you’ve been reading Blair and Ryan this summer, you know their research will put you well on the path to drafting a win big/lose small roster. We’ll take their advice here.
The Pick: Tony Pollard
QB selections will come down to individual draft trends. In this league, we’re the only team to not yet roster a signal caller and all of the best values by ADP are QBs.
My recommendation? Go for the glory, especially if it doesn’t really cost you anything. Last season it was difficult to square Patrick Mahomes’ ADP with his upside. If he flamed out in Kansas City, you wouldn’t lose much – QBs are essentially free – but if he proved to be a relatively straightforward upgrade on Alex Smith, then he had league-winner potential.6 Mahomes was on my roster everywhere, and it provided a weekly advantage that covered up numerous flaws.
This year that player is Kyler Murray. Curtis and I drafted him in Round 12 of the FFPC Main Event after passing for several rounds. Dave Caban is also on board with this selection. He looks at why first-round rookie QBs are the most successful rookies for fantasy purposes.
For these rounds, I like to experiment by drafting backward. In Reverse Engineering a Monster, I use our tools to explore various scenarios and detail the way your late-round picks influence overall roster construction. I also look into more QB options.
For more thoughts on roster construction and priority player targets for the biggest weekend in fantasy drafting, check out my Updated Draft Board.
Good luck in your drafts everyone!
Image Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Mike Evans.
- As the Blueprint, I’ve tried to include as many links as possible so you can go into greater depth on the issues you find most interesting or most relevant to your draft construction. (back)
- 9.3 AYA when targeted (back)
- You’ll be able to listen to Davis after Week 1. You can also get Davis’ take on Williams in a must-listen episode of the Fantasy Football Report. (back)
- Montgomery would also be intriguing here, but I’m skeptical that he’ll fall this far very often. (back)
- Don’t pay too much attention to the left side of the graph. Only three rookie RBs in the last four years have ADPs inside the top 25 picks, and all of them have had win rates above 9%, led by Saquon Barkley’s 18.1% last season. (back)
- Considering the price of QBs, I drafted both Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in numerous leagues. (back)