Each Fantasy Football season is going to be different, and you need to understand the “Fantasy Football landscape” for each season in order to win. In 2017, this is a year with shallow depth at the running back positions. Clear-cut starters are few and far between.
For quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends, it’s the opposite. There are almost too many talented players still available in the later part of drafts. From quarterbacks who could make a third-year jump to tight ends ready to step into a prominent role, there’s a ton of potential studs you could land in Round 10 or later.
Today, I wanted to help readers of the So-Called Fantasy Experts navigate the 2017 five Fantasy Football landscape with our standard league draft tips. While this advice could be used in most formats, I wrote it with standard leagues in mind.
5 Vital Standard League Draft Tips
Fantasy Football Tip No. 1: Focus on Workhorse Backs
David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott are unanimous studs heading into the 2017 Fantasy Football season. But after those three, it gets dicey with the other running backs you can draft in Round 1.
LeSean McCoy had a dominant season in 2016, rushing for 1,267 yards and scoring a total of 14 touchdowns. But he is a 29-year old back, and he hasn’t played in a 16-game season since 2014. I’m also worried that McCoy may be overused or not used enough.
McCoy may be overused because this offense is lacking playmakers. Outside of Sammy Watkins (who needs to stay healthy), McCoy is the focal point of the offense. He may be forced with 25 or 30 touches per game, which means he could wear down quickly. But if the offense really struggles and is playing from behind, the Buffalo Bills may need to abandon the run.
Melvin Gordon went from an eighth-round pick in most leagues last year to a first-round pick in 2017. He rushed for 10 touchdowns in 2016, the seventh most in the NFL. However, he only averaged 3.9 rushing yards per carry, and he failed to rush for 1,000 yards. He also has yet to play in a 16-game season in his short career.
Now, Devonta Freeman is seemingly one of the safer backs you can add to your team near the end of Round 1 in a standard league. He’s rushed for at least 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and he’s scored 11 rushing touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.
However, Freeman is less valuable in standard leagues than PPR leagues. Last year, he finished sixth in scoring at his position in PPR formats. For standard leagues, he finished eighth. If you’re drafting a running back in Round 1, you’re expecting him to finish in the Top 5.
I have raised some doubts about drafting these backs. But the thing is, you probably should still draft them. If I passed on them and drafted receivers in Rounds 1-2, I would have to draft backs like Spencer Ware in Round 3 and Carlos Hyde in Round 4 as my starters. If Ware and Hyde are the best backs on my team by Round 5, I’m in big trouble.
For my drafts, I’ve been trying to pick backs in Round 1 and Round 2 that should handle the bulk of the work in the backfield. I’m still concerned about Gordon, but he is the clear starter. Even if he doesn’t improve his yards per carry average, he should still have enough carries and goal-line touches to be my RB1 to start the year.
And if I’m drafting near the end of Round 1, I’m looking to add Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, or Leonard Fournette in Round 2. Yes, all of these backs are risky, but I’m focusing on workload. I prefer Jay Ajayi out of the three, but Howard and Fournette are in positions to be consistent Fantasy contributors to my teams. It’s up to them what they do with their opportunities, but the opportunities will be there.
Once I have my two starting running backs locked up, I can then focus on receivers. There’s a lot of depth at the position this year, and I would add Demaryius Thomas in Round 3, Davante Adams in Round 4, and Golden Tate in Round 5 as my three starters.
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After that, I would add Ameer Abdullah or Tevin Coleman in Round 6, Frank Gore in Round 7, Jonathan Stewart or Jamaal Charles in Round 8, Terrance West or Thomas Rawls in Round 9, and Joe Williams, Jonathan Williams, Jacquizz Rodgers, or Alvin Kamara in Round 10 or later.
If one or both of your running back picks are busts, hopefully one of the running backs mentioned above can fill in and will be a consistent Fantasy starter. If the backs you draft in Rounds 1-2 turn out to be studs, you have some great depth and options for the flex spot on your bench at running back.
Of course, everything depends on where you draft. If you have the fourth pick and Odell Beckham Jr. or Julio Jones is still on the board, you aren’t going to draft Gordon. But even with an early-round pick or a mid-round pick, you can still focus on drafting backs who could be workhorses near the end of Round 2.
Todd Gurely is being drafted near the end of Round 2, and you can reach for Joe Mixon at that spot or try and wait for him in Round 3.
The point is, you need to add backs who have the potential for big workloads early and build depth later. There’s plenty of depth at wide receiver, so you can wait to add one. But if you wait to draft your running backs this year, you could end up with Mike Gillislee and Paul Perkins as your starters.
That’s not a position I want to be in.
Fantasy Football Tip No. 2: Wait on a Quarterback
This might sting if you already drafted him, but the best time to have drafted Matt Ryan was in 2016. Fantasy players were so mad at him because of his 2015 performance that he wasn’t even being drafted in some leagues last year.
As we all know, he went on to finish the season with the second-most Fantasy points at the quarterback position.
He could still finish in the Top 5 this season, but his fifth-round price tag is way too high for me. Before drafting a player, I always look at how likely it is they will exceed their production from the previous year, how likely it is their production will decline, or how likely it is their production will just stay the same.
Since Ryan posted the best numbers of his career in multiple categories last year, it’s extremely unlikely he would have a better performance in 2017. His numbers could stay the same, but I’d be more willing to bet that we see a slight or moderate decline in his production.
Instead, I’m trying to find the 2016 Ryan for 2017. I want quarterbacks I can draft later who could provide a great return on my investment, and the reason is simple: You miss out on owning solid receivers, tight ends, and backs the earlier you draft quarterbacks.
I know Aaron Rodgers will be one of the best quarterbacks in 2017, and your team does gain an edge by having the best player at any position. But at the quarterback position, the difference in production is not as drastic as you may think.
For example, Rodgers averaged 23.1 Fantasy points from Weeks 1-16. Dak Prescott, the sixth-highest scoring quarterback in 2016, averaged 19 Fantasy points per game. That’s just a difference of 4.1 points per game.
According to FantasyFooballCalculator.com, Rodgers has an ADP of 2.11. You can draft Prescott in Round 10.
The quarterbacks I would wait on this year who could finish in the Top 5 are Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Dak Prescott. I would back them up with quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton, and Blake Bortles.
Fantasy Football Tip No. 3: Target Handcuffs
You want to own handcuffs (backup players) for your early picks. If you draft McCoy, add Jonathan Williams to your team. If you draft Marshawn Lynch, make a spot for DeAndre Washington on your roster.
However, you don’t just have to focus on the handcuffs your team needs…
If a player in your league drafts Adrian Peterson, draft Alvin Kamara. If your opponent drafts Christian McCaffrey, add Jonathan Stewart to your team. If you’re opponent drafts Doug Martin, add Jacquizz Rodgers.
You are positioning yourself to be right if your opponent is wrong, and these picks are much cheaper then owning the assumed starters or high-profile players.
I bet there are Fantasy players who owned Bell in 2015 who are still kicking themselves for not owning DeAngelo Williams. After going down with an injury, Williams took over and finished as the sixth-highest scoring back in PPR leagues that year.
For situations like Martin and his three-game suspension, Rodgers is worth drafting even for non-Martin owners. We know Rodgers will get at least three starts, and in two games last year, he recorded 26 or more carries.
Now, if Martin struggles upon his return and Rodgers has performed well in his absence, Rodgers could become the starter. But even if that doesn’t happen, Rodgers can still potentially provide you with three strong Fantasy performances.
If your playoffs start in Week 13, that means Rodgers could potentially be one of the highest-scoring backs on your team for 25% of the regular season (Weeks 1-12). Understanding the short-term impact handcuffs can provide and how they could earn larger roles gives you the edge to win your league.
Fantasy Football Tip No. 4: Watch Out For Position Runs
We’ve all been there when someone drafts the defense for the Seattle Seahawks in Round 12 and it starts a run on defenses, or five quarterbacks are drafted in a row after it seems like no one is drafting quarterbacks.
This is tough to deal with. On the one hand, you can find some potential values by being contrarian and going against the grain when a position run starts. If five quarterbacks are being drafted in a row, that means you could potentially find some deals at the receiver, tight end, or running back position.
Unfortunately, if you don’t join the frenzy, your roster may end up weaker because you waited too long. How do you know what to do?
Compete in as many mock drafts as possible. Mock drafts won’t play out exactly like your real draft, but you’ll be much more prepared and have a better understanding of what to expect. You’ll start to notice trends, and you’ll have a better idea of when a run on a position could occur.
Also, look at as much ADP data as possible across multiple sites. I like using FantasyFootballCalculator.com because I’ve found it generally matches up with how the general Fantasy Football population is drafting, but it’s still good to review as much ADP data as possible.
Fantasy Football Tip No. 5: Don’t Get Cute
It’s okay if you want to add a deep sleeper like Chad Williams or Kenny Golladay. But don’t load your team up with sleepers in a standard draft.
Instead, focus on adding players who can make an impact. For example, many Fantasy players didn’t even pay attention to Kenny Britt in their drafts in 2016 because he was on a sluggish offense. Still, he was able to finish 19th in scoring from Weeks 1-16 in standard leagues, and you could have added him to your team in the last round of your draft.
You need these type of players to fill in for bye weeks, and you need that kind of depth in case one of your starters get hurt.
So instead of wasting a pick on Josh Gordon this year, add Zay Jones, Robert Woods, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, or Kenny Stills in the later rounds of your draft. All of these players have roles (some larger than others) to start the 2017 Fantasy Football season.
You see, you don’t want to be in a position where you end up relying on Gordon to start. What if you draft Sammy Watkins in Round 3 and Keenan Allen in Round 4 and they each got hurt or underperform? Even if just one of them gets injured or doesn’t live up to expectations, you still need one receiver as a suitable replacement.
If Watkins gets hurt in Week 3, I know I’d be worried if my only options to replace him were Gordon and Williams.
Again, it’s okay to add one or two sleepers. But if you do, just make sure you have the depth to cover yourself if something goes wrong.
Hopefully there’s a nugget or two of wisdom in there you can take with you on draft day. Best of luck in your 2017 Fantasy Football leagues!
|2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit|
|Positional Rankings | Sleepers | Busts | Player Analysis | Strategy | Preseason Analysis | Mock Drafts | Tools|
If you are looking for a place to conduct a mock draft or need assistance with drafting in general, check out the Fantasy Pros Draft Wizard. This is a terrific tool that will help you dominate your league, along with So-Called Fantasy Experts, of course.
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