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. Today, I’m going to deploy the Dashboard for a mock draft experiment. Can we put together an entire team of players from explosive offenses without having to reach?
For this exercise, we’re going to use ESPN ADP as a small thank you for all of the kind words about our content from Matthew Berry. After I specify a 1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Flex format and enter the cast of characters from Deadwood as the team owners, we’re off to the races.
I’m on the clock with the 1.08 as Al Swearengen. No huge surprises occurred in the first seven picks, although Joanie Stubbs is gambling on a return from Melvin Gordon. The board currently looks like this.
If we buy into the Cleveland hype, all five wide receivers come from explosive offenses. The same can’t be said for David Johnson, especially after their performance in pre-Week 2. Davante Adams comes in below JuJu Smith-Schuster in our projections and my personal rankings, but Smith-Schuster is more likely to come back around.
Moreover, Adams is the prototypical selection for a team where we’re loading up on high-floor/high-ceiling players from the NFL’s most explosive offenses. Aaron Rodgers is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in history and has elevated far lesser talents to fantasy relevance. We can see this ability to create efficiency for both the stars and the peripheral players using the AYA tool.
The Pick: Davante Adams
Michael Thomas and Julio Jones come off the board between my two picks, but Smith-Schuster remains available. The Steelers breakout star has been easily the most efficient player on a team that led the league in targets and expected fantasy points (reEP) to the WR position last year.
With Antonio Brown vacating 168 targets, it’s easy to see why Dave Caban has Smith-Schuster as the No. 1 WR in our projections.
The Pick: JuJu Smith-Schuster
As the draft comes back around to Al, the rest of Tier 1 has been eliminated with the exception of George Kittle. In many cases, this would be an easy choice, but today we’re trying to eliminate our exposure to bad offenses. The 49ers struggled in 2018, and just getting their QB back may not fix all that ails them. Jimmy Garoppolo tossed interceptions on five consecutive pass plays during one stretch in camp this week.
This is a tricky call between Damien Williams and Brandin Cooks. Ben Gretch and I debated Williams on a recent episode of RotoViz Overtime. He certainly fits the mold of the explosive offense, but he’s a Land Mine RB sitting in the RB Dead Zone. Meanwhile, Cooks is one of my foundation players for 2019, and he’s playing for the team that ranked No. 4 in points to the WR position.
The Pick: Brandin Cooks
Damien Williams doesn’t quite make it back around, forcing us to look elsewhere. Selecting Aaron Jones will give us our second Packer, but Jones is one of only two third-round RBs with a “draftable” designation on my August board. To land him early in the fourth is a bargain.
The Pick: Aaron Jones
We gambled that O.J. Howard would come back around, providing some exposure to the high-powered Tampa Bay passing attack, but he went one pick ahead of us to Calamity Jane.
Our fifth-round choices come down to a pair of intriguing breakouts.
In ESPN ADP, Calvin Ridley is going before D.J. Moore, and after missing on Julio Jones earlier, he provides exposure to the electric and dome-driven Atlanta offense. After a breakout rookie season, Ridley’s comps are impressive.
That just scratches the surface for the player I have as my No. 1 WR target for 2019.
The Pick: Calvin Ridley
Having opted for a WR in Round 5, we have to watch as a flurry of RB options come off the board. David Montgomery, Sony Michel, Chris Carson, and Tevin Coleman are all gone. This moves our attention to the TE position where we want to attack before the elite options dry up. Eric Ebron is undervalued if Andrew Luck returns by Week 1 and Tyler Loechner argues persuasively for David Njoku. Neither is a no-brainer at Jared Cook’s level.
Cook finished well back of the Big 3 last season, but his points, yards, and efficiency (reFPOE) were all impressive. He now moves to a much better offense with a gaping target chasm behind Michael Thomas. We weren’t able to land Alvin Kamara or Thomas early, so Cook gives us a piece of the Saints offense as potentially Jimmy Graham 2.0.
The Pick: Jared Cook
Will Fuller provides an opportunity for a mild digression from the theme. In this case, the Houston passing offense hasn’t been explosive, except when Fuller is available. His rapport with Deshaun Watson makes even Hopkins’ prowess look tame by comparison.
The Pick: Will Fuller
The only options remaining in Tier 3 are QBs and TEs, so we’ll jump down and take a look at Tier 4 RB options.
Developmental dynasty guru Jordan Hoover liked Darrell Henderson as the No. 1 RB in the class before the NFL draft.
In 2018, Henderson again displayed an elite level of efficiency finishing with a massive 214-1,909-23 rushing line, again averaging 8.9 yards per carry. He’s one of just 10 players this century to average at least 8.5 YPC on 130 or more carries in a season and the only one to do it twice. As the only RB since 2000 averaging over 8 YPC with 400 or more carries, there’s no doubt about Henderson’s explosiveness and efficiency as a runner.
A ludicrously explosive college runner on a team that was top-five in rush volume, rush efficiency, and PPR scoring with strong numbers in the receiving game as well? That’s everything we want in this draft.
The Pick: Darrell Henderson
In this particular instance we’ve gotten lucky. Cy Tolliver doesn’t realize that Jerick McKinnon is back on the shelf.2 This helps push down Austin Ekeler, who is the best value on the board by ADP and a player who perfectly fits our theme.
We only have to look back to our notes from the previous round to see the value of the Chargers backfield. They ranked third in points to the RB position and were among the two most efficient teams on both the rush (74.1 ruFPOE) and pass (51 reFPOE). But even if their efficiency declines from these crazy levels without Gordon, they ranked fourth in receiving volume (203 reEP).
Ekeler is quite a bit more athletic than Henderson and may be the most explosive space back in the league.
How Explosive Is He? The 5-foot-9, 195-pound third-year back from Division II Western State opened eyes at Colorado’s 2017 pro day with a 40-inch vertical and 6.85 three-cone to go with a 4.43 forty.
If anything, he’s even more explosive on the field. During his rookie season of 2017, he was one of only eight backs to finish with more than 30 fantasy points over expectation. He backed that up with even better efficiency in his second season, adding 38 FPOE to his career total and again averaging more than 5.0 yards per carry. A dual threat back with elite hybrid ability, he was one of only nine backs with double-digit FPOE as both a runner and receiver.
It gets better. Ryan Collinsworth argues that Ekeler is the perfect fit for the Chargers’ expected game scripts. If Gordon sits, Ekeler becomes a dead ringer for a top-five pick.
Ekeler and Alvin Kamara are literally the same player, but in different backfield situations. Just look at each player’s career Opps% splits, heat-mapped based on our entire running back sample:
The Pick: Austin Ekeler
In most situations, we would select one of the two clear RB values remaining or grab another WR to provide the 3-RB, 6-WR, 1-TE foundation that is ideal for these starting requirements. But the All-Deadwood Mock is more like a typical non-industry draft in that the QBs have flown off the board. In fact, the four best remaining values by ESPN ADP are also signal-callers.
We’re going to select a QB to finish up this draft and fill out our starting lineup. We’re not going to take any of those four QBs, however. Instead, we’ll grab an up-and-comer with top-five upside in 2019.
Last year the Chicago Bears were one of 11 teams to score 400 or more points. They added to that offense during the offseason, loading up on pass-catching RBs like Montgomery and super-sleeper Kerrith Whyte.
During his second season with Sean McVay, Jared Goff experienced a secondary breakout and added 3.2 more PPG to his totals. Mitchell Trubisky already outscored Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, and Tom Brady on a per game basis in 2018. A secondary breakout in his follow-up campaign with Matt Nagy would push him into the elite.
The Pick: Mitchell Trubisky
The Final Analysis
There’s no worse feeling in fantasy football than watching your players in Week 1 and realizing you drafted a handful from teams who simply won’t move the ball or score many points that season. Targeting players from the most explosive teams isn’t foolproof, but it helps us minimize our risk while creating exposure to multiple types of upside.3
In pursuing a strategy like this, we want to be careful about prices. Targeting players from explosive teams is a fairly intuitive and ubiquitous approach, and many of the players involved will be coming off of good seasons. Using the Draft Dashboard and performing multiple mocks allows us to emphasize value-drafting instead of reaching for specific targets. Many of the players in this draft will not be available at these exact draft slots in your reality draft. The idea of the Dashboard is to prepare yourself to grab the players who drop in your specific draft, while still having a rough framework for the types of players we want to select.
How Does the Team Look?
These are good values, and I’d be very happy going into Week 1 with this type of WR-heavy squad. As discussed in that section, the Trubisky pick is the only one I definitely wouldn’t make in a real draft, but going through that analysis emphasizes the value he might have as selection in Round 14 to 18. We’ll look more at how that intel can inform our drafts when we do a Backwards Draft later in the week.
Image Credit: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Davante Adams.
- The Dashboard allows you to update ADP whenever you open the tool. This draft uses ADP from an exercise I put together Friday afternoon. (back)
- I’ve seen this happen in drafts with friends and even in high stakes. Make sure you check the news before your draft starts and investigate anyone you might have on your board. Occasionally, players are falling for a reason. (back)
- Extreme efficiency seasons, exposure to greater-than-expected volume on an explosive team in the case of teammate injury, amplified breakouts for young players. (back)