Draft Strategy has become one of the biggest dividing lines between Fantasy Football analysts (So-Called Experts) now that everyone is working with basically the same information.
Whether it is always drafting RB/RB in the first two rounds, or going the opposite route with the Zero-RB Theory, each strategy can be used effectively to construct a championship caliber roster.
The problem is avoiding the dreaded first-round bust: no draft strategy seems to be full-proof with accomplishing this goal, so which strategy had the highest (average) success rate?
I will go over the main strategies, the average success rate at avoiding a bust and whether or not I would use this route next season.
For the bust rate, I am using the players selected in the top-18 in Average Draft Position at that position for the first round and top-30 for the second round. You have to go outside the actual “Round 1” for the players possibly selected since you would probably have to reach on a guy to stick to a strategy.
Draft Strategy Review
For a Round 1 pick, I will use “bust” as being outside of the top-12 in total points and Round 2 picks will be judged against the top-24 at their spot.
I will also be using 0.5 Points Per Reception, since every league I am in involves some sort of PPR but I know there are still standard players out there.
RB-RB : The Fundamentally Flawed Traditionalist
Possible Round 1 Selections: Leveon Bell, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Anderson, Matt Forte, Jeremy Hill, DeMarco Murray
Possible Round 2 Selections: Matt Forte, Jeremy Hill, DeMarco Murray, Justin Forsett, LeSean McCoy, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore
Round 1 Bust Rate: 82%
Round 2 Bust Rate: 14%
Not only did the majority of the first round running backs fail to reach RB2 status, three out of the top five selected players did not even finish in the top-48 at the position!
The Round 2 bust rate is a little misleading to me as well; if I am drafting a player in the second round, then he better finish in the top-12 at his position. Only two out of those seven candidates (28%) actually accomplished that goal.
I mean DeMarco Murray technically was not a bust finishing as the 17th highest scorer at the position, but I can promise you that no one was happy starting him. For perspective: at .5PPR scoring, only 17 backs cracked the 160-point barrier. Of those seventeen, TEN were drafted after Round 2.
Future Prospects: What running back do you have full confidence in next season to not be a bust? The soon-to-be 31-year old Adrian Peterson? The coming off of major knee injuries Le’Veon Bell or Jamaal Charles? The small sample size of Devonta Freeman or even smaller sample of David Johnson? The combination of small sample size and recent major knee reconstruction associated with Todd Gurley? The erratic nature of Doug Martin’s seasonal production?
Only TWO players have finished in the top-14 in scoring at running back the past two seasons: Matt Forte and Lamar Miller. Both will be free agents this offseason with no clear future for either. I will most definitely pass on this draft strategy.
WR-WR : The Safe Route
Possible Round 1 Selections: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green
Possible Round 2 Selections: A.J. Green, Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks, T.Y. Hilton, Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffery, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Emmanuel Sanders
Round 1 Bust Rate: 12%
Round 2 Bust Rate: 11%
Of the fifteen possible selections with this strategy, only two were truly busts: Dez Bryant and Alshon Jeffery. In both instances, it took not only serious injuries to the player, but also to their quarterback to drop them.
Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins and Emmanuel Sanders all had one or the other happen and still maintained a solid, productive season.
Four of the top five scorers at the position and five of the top seven, were in this pool of selections. Every non-bust in the Round 1 group finished as a WR1. By using this strategy, you had a 22% chance to end up with TWO WR1’s and a nearly 80% chance to end up with a WR1/WR2 combo.
Future Prospects : This is by FAR the safest strategy for the first two rounds. Yes, I know, I’m sure some of you drafted Dez and Alshon Jeffery and want to punch me right now, however if you went that route than there is a good chance you went full Zero-RB and probably ended up with better running backs than if you took Le’Veon Bell and Justin Forsett.
Either way, this is the best strategy going into next season as well. Twelve players were in the top-24 the past two seasons in scoring with three guys being in the top-8 both years.
Between Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Allen Robinson, Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Jarvis Landry, there are just too many top options with guaranteed targets for me to pass up on and take a volatile running back.
RB/WR and WR/RB : The Combination Theories
RB/WR Bust Rates
Round 1: 82%
Round 2 : 11%
WR/RB Bust Rates
Round 1 : 12%
Round 2 : 14%
As we already went over, taking a running back in the first round was basically suicide this Fantasy season, so I will not delve too far into the RB/WR strategy.
However, there might be something to the WR/RB route, with a 76% chance to not draft a bust while getting a top option at two different positions.
Furthermore, with two of the possible running backs finishing as RB1’s, you have a slightly better chance (25%) of getting a WR1/RB1 than by going the WR/WR route and finishing with two top options.
Future Prospects : I would say the downside of this strategy against the WR/WR strategy is regression. This was a historically bad year for the top of the running back group and it will likely not be as bad. Will it be so much better that the RB/RB strategy will be viable? Not quite.
However, I think it will improve enough to lower the production level of the second group of backs making this strategy slightly less successful. Either way, should the right values line up, I can definitely see myself taking this route next season.
Zero-RB Theory : The Next Trend
Possible RB Selections (Round 5 through 9) : Doug Martin, Chris Ivory, Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Stewart, C.J. Spiller, Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead, Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, Ryan Mathews, Rashad Jennings, Alfred Blue, Darren McFadden, Devonta Freeman
Success Rate (Top-24 at position) : 63%
Four of these players finished in the top-7 in scoring and five finished as RB1’s. Even further, 13 of these 16 backs finished as a RB3 or higher and only C.J. Spiller was lower than a RB4.
So if you were to combine this strategy with the WR/WR strategy, there is a decent chance you end up with two WR1’s and a RB1. That does not even include who you picked up in Round 3 and Round 4.
The key when evaluating this strategy is that you are not just taking one of these guys; preferably you are drafting 4-5 of them and hoping that the volume will provide value. That way if you don’t hit on Doug Martin, Todd Gurley or Devonta Freeman, you can still play matchups with Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Danny Woodhead and Darren McFadden.
Future Prospects: Strong, to quite strong. I employed this strategy in almost every one of my leagues (to an extent, I may take a back in Round 3 or so if the value is there since I am all about Value-Based Drafting) and I ended up in seven championships out of ten leagues. (Along with two third place finishes, and one league where I led the league in scoring but got horrible schedule luck)
As I have said before, you cannot win a championship in the first round, but you can definitely lose one. Or at least, the chance at a title. The numbers do not lie; this is the safest way to draft in the first two rounds. It is not just this year, but in years past as well.
You win your league by drafting solidly in the first few rounds while adding depth in the middle/late rounds. The lottery tickets are then picked up off waivers: Tim Hightower, David Johnson, Doug Baldwin, etc.
You also need to always have the overall value a player provides as the forefront characteristic in mind. If you are staunchly sticking to this theory, but Adrian Peterson is sitting there in Round 2 are you really going to pass on him?
Early Quarterback : You Better Be Right
Possible Selections: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck
Bust Rate: 100% – If you are taking a quarterback in the first couple of rounds, he better finish in the top-6 at his position, I would even go as far as to say a top-2 guy.
Both of the quarterbacks that were selected anywhere close to the first couple of rounds finished outside of the top six at the position, Rodgers at seventh and Luck at 27th.
While it may have seemed like Luck or Rodgers were going to provide value because they would outpace the rest of the quarterback field by so much (See Gronkowski, Rob), they did not live up to the expectations.
I did not go this route on any teams, but I was not 100% against it in the pre-season. I do think this will end up as an outlier for these two guys (Luck getting hurt, Rodgers losing Nelson and most of his offensive line) but it does show that they are still not guarantees.
Future Prospects : I could see taking one of these two in the second round if the price is right next season. Some might point to Cam Newton or Russell Wilson to add to the group, but I will not put such a high value asset as a first or second round pick on a quarterback who relies on running the ball.
I know there are thousands of other strategies but the majority of the others are too intricate to give overall analysis on. You would need to break it down pick by pick as well as league size and scoring.
I even tried taking Gronk in the Round 1 of a couple of leagues and ended up with a runner-up and Championship. Both times it basically turned into a Zero-RB draft and getting lucky with Gurley or Freeman.
The main takeaway is that you must be flexible with any strategy. Every one of these strategies was employed toward teams that finished first as well as finished last. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side along with a hawk-eye view of the waiver wire.
- Early Look Ahead to the 2019 Fantasy Football Season - December 31, 2018
- Week 14 DFS Strategy: Deciphering the New Starting Running Landscape - December 9, 2018
- Week 13 DFS Strategy : The Quest For 170 Points And A Win - December 1, 2018