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Mock Draft

2017 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Ideal Scenarios, Selections for 12-Team League

Fantasy Football
September 2, 2017

Fantasy football can seem quite a bit like teams trying to draft quarterbacks these days.

A casual observer can see the league has a serious quarterback problem. The college game’s trickle-down effect is apparent as offenses become streamlined and pro coaches have to adapt, but most of the problems seem like paralysis by overanalysis.

Fantasy owners can fall into the same trap. Call this the golden age of fantasy information. Owners have free access to droves of spreadsheets, data, advanced metrics and more, a seemingly endless information flow making the job of drafting a quality roster more difficult, not easier.

Let’s simplify the process below, keeping in mind the details come in via a Yahoo standard 12-team league.

             

Mock Draft

              

The first thing sure to jump off the page for owners is the lack of a quarterback.

But this isn’t the NFL—it is a game based on the NFL. About five quarterbacks will flirt with or surpass the 300-point mark each year, as they did a year ago. But owners can replicate the same production on a week-to-week basis by putting in the legwork at the easiest position to project.

Let’s look at a brief, somewhat weird example. Philip Rivers of the Los Angeles Chargers is a recognizable name. He put up a quality season a year ago by throwing for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, rightfully earning him an average draft position (ADP) of (9.07), per Fantasy Football Calculator.

But let’s take a look at another quarterback from a year ago who slotted in the top 10 for the second season in a row. He threw for 3,905 yards with 23 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, and by way of rushing for almost 400 yards and three scores, he ranked well above Rivers. ADP wise, though, he doesn’t make the same list, one plotting 15 rounds of numbers.

That quarterback’s name? Blake Bortles.

The point is owners can find production rather easily. And if following a no-quarterback strategy to begin with, owners become less reliant on the position for production because the skill players put up so many big numbers.

Those big numbers come from running backs and wideouts. The former is a feast-or-famine position these days. Nerdy Football’s Gary Davenport summed it up perfectly: “Owners would be wise to grab a ball-carrier with one of their first two picks, though. By the end of the third round, the remaining running backs look like the three-dollar towels at a Black Friday sale.”

Indeed, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are it when it comes to reliable workhorses who reach huge touch totals because of their skills on the ground and through the air. Traditional workhorse backs aren’t reliable thanks to health and how the league continues to split up carries among committees, something fantasy owners can’t replicate, placing an even bigger emphasis on versatile workhorses who can still make the opportunities-equal-production rule ring true.

Look at the ADP chart: Six of the first 12 picks are running backs. By the end of the first round, the last back off the board is Jay Ajayi, whereas the last wideout is Jordy Nelson. Notice the disparity?

At the start of the third round? Marshawn Lynch, Isaiah Crowell and Christian McCaffrey are the best backs available: a back who took a year off, a back for the Cleveland Browns and a rookie back. 

Conversely, the best wideouts available in the third round are notables like T.Y. Hilton, Terrelle Pryor and  DeAndre Hopkins.

That means high-quality wideouts outnumber running backs by a huge margin. It is simply where the game is at, and owners have to adjust. When more than 40 wideouts are getting 100 or more targets like they did last year, owners can afford to wait.

Chris Raybon of 4for4 put it best when describing the bottom-up approach’s increasing prevalence in fantasy football today (via Sports Illustrated):

Your largest middle-round value tier is WR12–WR30. On average, those wideouts go from rounds three through six. Let’s also say you don’t like the RB value at the turn in rounds three and four, and five and six. Since you know you can draft up to four receivers in those four spots, you decide to go RB-RB with your first two picks.

The ideal scenario for any owner in a 12-team league is getting running back out of the way early and focus on target hogs at wideout later. Many other factors come into play when looking at wideouts, but we are keeping it simple as opposed to overwhelming with endless numbers, remember?

Don’t forget about tight end, either. Get a Rob Gronkowski or a Tyler Eifert if you are willing to gamble on injury risks or otherwise sort by targets in the middle rounds and choose one, hopefully pairing a quarterback with his real-life tight end in the process. But it’s easily fantasy’s most unpredictable position, so like bye weeks, don’t fret over it too much.

Unlike NFL teams searching for a quarterback, fantasy boils down to a simple numbers game. Walking into a draft with the sheer basics like this down will put owners at an advantage, especially if the rest of the owners in a draft keep tripping over the endless droves of information while on the clock.

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. ADP courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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Fantasy Football 2017: 1st-Round Mock Draft, Team Names and Sleepers

Fantasy Football
August 31, 2017

Few things are more important than team names and sleepers in fantasy football.  

That’s maybe a bit of hyperbole considering the importance of initial drafts, the waiver wire and actually playing productive lineups on a weekly basis.  

But fantasy owners get the idea: It is almost impossible to win anything in fantasy without hitting on a few sleepers. And winning with a terrible team name might as well be losing. Losing with a great name at least softens the blow. 

Below, let’s put together a digestible guide for owners based on a 12-team league in Yahoo standard leagues, hitting on the important angles ahead of drafts.

             

Mock Draft

        

Team Names to Consider

Hot Lockett

A quality fantasy draft snack and a breakout fantasy player balled into one name?  

That’s a winner, folks.

This deals with Seattle Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett, of course, the 2015 third-round pick used as a returner in all facets, a rusher and a wideout. He’s climbing up the depth chart and has seven total receiving touchdowns over two years, perhaps a sign he’s ready to make the owner naming a team after him look like a genius. 

           

13 Reasons Ajayi

Popular show and a should-be-more-popular player?

Winner again.

Jay Ajayi broke onto the scene with the Miami Dolphins last year to the tune of 1,272 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on a 4.9 yard-per-carry average. He isn’t going to catch the ball often, but he’s a workhorse on a playoff hopeful sure to see touches.

          

Kizer Wide Shut

Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback, not to mention starting quarterback, DeShone Kizer is all the rage right now. 

It was only a matter of time before Kizer started popping up in team names. A name like this has plenty of opportunities for creative usage. Even better, the second-round pick seized a starting pro gig quickly and might have what it takes to lead a Cleveland turnaround. 

If that happens, this name is just the beginning. 

            

Make America Gronk Again

A phrase everyone knows infused with Rob Gronkowski is something everyone can get behind. 

For fantasy owners, getting Gronkowski on the field even more would be great. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011 and missed half of last year. Funnily enough, few tight ends have still scored as many fantasy points as him in that span. 

            

Sleepers to Know 

Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns

Remember the note about Kizer above?

Corey Coleman might be the biggest name to capitalize on the improved play under center after a dud of a rookie year. 

Owners didn’t put a lot of stock into Coleman as a rookie to begin with, both because of his status and locale. He had all of 413 yards and three touchdowns over just 10 games, though the flashes of a big-play wideout were there. 

To say Coleman and Kizer already have a strong connection would be an understatement: 

For those keeping track: Coleman has a better quarterback situation this year, is fully healthy and the Browns are missing names from a year ago like Terrell Pryor and Gary Barnidge

Coleman sitting on an average draft position (ADP) of 10.01 is something owners should look to exploit. 

          

Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

On paper, Detroit Lions rookie wideout Kenny Golladay doesn’t necessarily have a starting gig locked up. 

Then again, he hauled in two touchdowns in his preseason debut with the team and worked with the first team in training camp back in mid-August, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press

If Golladay can break through, he joins a spread-it-around attack orchestrated by Matthew Stafford, which essentially guarantees production. And with Golden Tate in the slot and Marvin Jones on the outside, unassuming defenses might let Golladay post big numbers right away. 

We’re not talking world-beating numbers here for a rookie, but we are saying Golladay can blow past his 12.06 ADP, a slotting close to other random names like Ted Ginn Jr. and Cooper Kupp.

            

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons 

In terms of household-name status, Tevin Coleman falls behind Devonta Freeman in the Atlanta Falcons backfield. 

Makes sense as Coleman mostly functions as a change of pace, though he’s one heck of a role player in that regard considering he totaled 11 touchdowns a year ago thanks to his versatility. 

The Falcons don’t figure to change much when it comes to the roles of the committee members, though where this gets interesting is based on ADP. 

Long story short, Coleman sits with an ADP of 7.03, surrounded by unreliable names like Paul Perkins, Derrick Henry and Darren McFadden. Of those names, Coleman sits in the best offense and will see the most opportunities to score more touchdowns thanks to his versatile skill set. 

For owners willing to risk waiting a bit on running back or looking to overload, Coleman is a big sleeper to target.

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. ADP courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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Fantasy Football 2017: Mock Draft Analysis and Selection Strategy

Fantasy Football
August 30, 2017

A mock draft in the fantasy football realm is going to look quite a bit different from one in the lead up to the NFL draft.  

GMs in the NFL typically prioritize quarterbacks and the occasional generational edge-rusher, or at least a guy who boasts the upside of one. Fantasy football drafts lean on production and usage, but not at quarterback. 

Like the NFL is a long way removed from taking running backs first overall, fantasy drafts have changed in dramatic fashion to coincide with the on-field evolution of the game. 

After a summer away, it is understandable if fantasy owners need to shake off the rust before heading into drafts. Below is a look at a sample mock for reference before diving into some strategy review, all based on Yahoo 12-team standard leagues. 

           

Mock Draft

 

The disparity between the way the NFL and fantasy football values quarterbacks is as wide as the Grand Canyon.  

Everything centers on the quarterback, arguably the most important position in sports—except in fantasy football. Having the peace of mind that Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady will perform well regardless of options around them is nice, but bulking up other positions means less reliance on the position each week.

Quarterback isn’t just the easiest position to predict on a weekly basis. There are a mass of reliable producers each year, significant injuries are mostly a rarity and waiting until the eighth or ninth round, though extreme, can still produce a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck, who have average draft positions of 8.06 and 8.09 at Fantasy Football Calculator, respectively. 

It’s easy to keep going with values: Dak Prescott (10.04), Matthew Stafford (10.08) and Carson Palmer (12.09) are all notables. Again, nothing completely wrong with getting a Rodgers early and coasting, but when 13 signal-callers flew past the 4,000-yard mark for passing a year ago, it is worth wondering if an early investment on the position in a 12-team league is worth it. 

After all, running back scarcity is a major problem in any league. The league itself isn’t drafting the position at No. 1 anymore, but fantasy owners sure are with 300-touch hogs like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. The conundrum facing owners is obvious—more and more NFL teams are divvying up touches to backfield committees, something owners can’t do. Meaning, the rare guys who hog all the touches have more value than anyone else. 

Bell and Johnson are always going to be a better option than say, Jay Ajayi, who carried the ball 260 times last year but only caught 27 passes. 

If quantity is the defining trait there, it also defines running back as a whole compared to wideout. Johnson and Bell don’t have equals in that top positional tier, whereas the top tier of wideouts features Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and A.J. Green

Speaking of wideouts, the sheer quantity between the number an owner needs to start and how many see healthy usage these days almost makes it feel like throwing darts at a board blindfolded. After that top tier, it seems like anything can happen, so the best thing owners can do is look at target numbers and outline a range of results. 

Take a guy like Alshon Jeffery. While it’s exciting he escaped the wideout purgatory known as Chicago, what are the chances he does any better on a new team with sophomore Carson Wentz under center? He’s sitting on an ADP of 4.04, tied with Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, who last year scored six times as a receiver, three times as a rusher and three times as a returner. 

What seems more likely and the safer pick? The guy on a new team for the first time in his career, or the guy contributing in three different ways? 

Tight end isn’t nearly as difficult to figure out. The obvious names like Rob Gronkowski will produce if healthy, though names shouldn’t mean as much as they do elsewhere. 

Look at a small, but telling note about pairing tight ends with their real-life quarterbacks from ESPN.com’s Matthew Berry: “In his first season with Sam Bradford, Kyle Rudolph caught 14 passes in the red zone. In the past five seasons, the only TEs with more such catches in a single season are Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed and Tony Gonzalez.”

As seasoned owners can attest, any strategy works. And there are a ton of them, ranging from zero-running back to late-round quarterback to early quarterback and beyond. Most data suggests any approach will give an owner a shot at the playoffs, provided the picks pan out and owners do well on the waiver wire and via trades. 

Above all else, luck comes into play. Early-round runners won’t usually disappoint outside of injury. The reliable quarterbacks are the same way. Wideouts with a safe range of results don’t suddenly get demoted. 

Still, knowing these range of strategies and being able to adapt on the fly is a big part of success in a fantasy draft. A league championship isn’t necessarily won during the draft, but it can certainly be lost. 

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. 

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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Fantasy Football 2017: 1st-Round Mock Draft and Strategy for Later Rounds

Fantasy Football
August 28, 2017

The NFL preseason is winding down, which means it’s time for you to gear up for your fantasy football draft. 

Being fully prepared for your draft means a lot more than glancing at the latest fantasy football rankings and checking out the injury report. You need to make some decisions ahead of time and plan a strategy so that you don’t get caught frantically looking up information while you’re on the clock. 

To help prepare you for the draft, here’s a look at a first-round mock draft, followed by a few tips you should keep in mind to help you in the later rounds. Being prepared will make you more confident on draft day, and could be the first step towards taking home that championship trophy. 

             

First-Round Mock Draft

1. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

2. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

3. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

5. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

7. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

8. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

9. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans

10. Jordy Nelson, WR. Packers

11. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

12. Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins

             

First-Round Strategy

If you own the first or second pick, congratulations; your decision is easy. But after David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are off the board, the first round becomes a bit of a mess. 

The safer first-round options are the wide receivers. You know what you’re getting from a player such as Julio Jones or Mike Evans. However, wide receiver is also a deeper position. There will be safe selections available in the second and third round as well. 

At running back, however, the depth is severely lacking, which means risky players start coming off the board early.

Take LeSean McCoy for example. As the feature back in the Buffalo Bills offense, he is going to get plenty of touches and will definitely come off the board in the first round. But the Bills are in full rebuilding mode now and the talent around him is lacking. If opposing teams aren’t scared of Tyrod Taylor and the Bills’ depleted receiving corps, the 29-year-old McCoy could see a drop in production. 

So do you want to be the one to gamble on McCoy due to the running back scarcity? Or do you want to take the safer route with an Evans or Jones, and worry about running back when the price isn’t as steep?

Those are decisions you should make before the draft so that you aren’t agonizing over your selection as the clock is winding down. 

         

When to draft Ezekiel Elliott?

Another decision you should make before the draft is whether or not you want to be aggressive in targeting Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. 

Elliott is suspended for the first six games of the season, which means he’ll miss almost half of your fantasy football regular season. However, when he returns he’ll be fresh and motivated, and his presence on your roster could dramatically alter your outlook down the stretch. 

To determine whether or not to gamble on Elliott, find out how many teams make the playoffs in your league. 

If you play with a deep playoff pool, where at least half the league makes it to the postseason, it might be worth snagging Elliott early. You might miss out on the No. 1 seed, but with Elliott on your roster you’ll be a force once the playoffs roll around.

If you play in a league where only four out of 12 teams make the postseason, however, gambling on Elliott might be too risky. You’ll miss out on early-season production from a high draft pick and potentially dig yourself a hole you can’t climb out of down the stretch. 

             

Make yourself a do-not draft list

Everyone has different criteria for their do-not draft list. Some people like to avoid players with a long injury history. Others use more personal reasons, such as avoiding their rival team. What’s important most important, however, is that you make these decisions ahead of time so that you aren’t rushing mid-draft decisions and potentially hurting yourself by being inconsistent with your strategy. 

A good example of a decision to make before the draft is whether or not you’re going to draft New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk is a game-altering talent on the field and in your fantasy lineup, but only when he’s healthy. Over the past five seasons, he’s only played in 55 out of a possible 80 regular season games. 

If stays healthy you’ll get the No. 1 tight end a couple rounds later than he would go if not for the injury concerns. But there’s also a chance you’ll end up dropping him after another season-ending injury. 

There are good arguments for drafting and avoiding Gronk. But either way, you’ll feel more prepared and make more consistent decisions on draft day if you’ve already decided how to handle that potential dilemma ahead of time. 

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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Fantasy Football Picks 2017: 2-Round Mock Draft and Strategy Breakdown

Fantasy Football
August 26, 2017

For fantasy football owners, it doesn’t get more important than the initial draft.

It is crucial, then, for owners to approach the draft like a typical Sunday for their team—not everything will go according to plan. Like coaches themselves, opponents will have plans of their own and reshape how things turn out. 

But owners can still approach a draft with a baseline strategy. The waiver wire and trades function as safety nets if something goes wrong, but only to a certain extent. Understanding a foundational approach and having access to details like cheat sheets and mocks during a live draft puts owners at an advantage. 

Here is a look at one sampling of a baseline strategy owners can lean on, using scoring and information from Yahoo 12-team standard leagues. 

           

Mock Draft

                  

One can tell from the above running backs are the quarterbacks of fantasy football.  

That’s a tad confusing, so look at it this way—the NFL prioritizes quarterbacks almost over everything else in large part because of scarcity. Few potential franchise players come out each year, which explains guys like Blake Bortles coming off the board in the top 10. 

If the NFL has a quarterback problem, fantasy football has a running back problem. True workhorses are over and new-era workhorses—guys who see north of 300 touches thanks to a combination of air and ground work—are few and far between after David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. 

Loading up on running back over the first two rounds isn’t the only viable path to fantasy success. But as 4for4’s Chris Raybon (via Sports Illustrated) explained, running back early is about plotting a path of success through the rest of the draft: “But to really master fantasy drafting, you also need to take a bottom-up approach, where you let your early-round decisions be informed by what kind of value will be available in the middle and late rounds.”

Per the average draft position (ADP) charts, 12 backs come off the board over the first two rounds of 12-team drafts. The first three backs selected after the second round are Isaiah Crowell, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook.

Meaning, if owners neglect running back, the first options available are a Cleveland Browns running back and two rookies. 

Which isn’t to suggest an Ezekiel Elliott or Jordan Howard won’t happen again. But it is best to get at least one notable running back out of the way early, especially when the separation between the middle-of-the-pack receivers is so small. 

With the bigger emphasis on passing over the years, wideouts have emerged as the steadiest fantasy position of all. A whopping 25 wideouts hit the 1,000-yard mark a year ago and 15 scored eight or more touchdowns. 

Target hogs like an Antonio Brown or Mike Evans will always remain a priority and flirt with the 300-point mark, but we’re talking a position where Rishard Matthews reeled in nine touchdowns a year ago and sits with an 11.06 ADP going into drafts this year. 

Readers will notice this hasn’t addressed quarterbacks much. But the NFL’s most important position simply isn’t in fantasy football. The better owners do at skill positions over the first few rounds of a draft, the less important quarterback becomes. Given how easy it is to project a quarterback’s performance each week, streaming the position and picking the best matchup is a simple process—and one made even easier over the years thanks to the emergence of daily fantasy football.

Remember, 19 quarterbacks threw at least 20 touchdowns a year ago and 13 hit 25 or more. The bottom of the latter list was Kirk Cousins, who carries an ADP of 8.03. Cousins and a later option like say, Sam Bradford (14.06), doesn’t sound so bad when recalling Bradford threw 20 scores. 

Tight end is as simple as targets and usage after transcendent talents like Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Eifert. Both are injury risks, but owners can use a cheat code of sorts by prioritizing their drafted quarterback’s real-life tight ends in the late rounds. Even if a tight end only grabs one pass during a week, if that pass is a touchdown in the redzone, owners score double. 

Other points of emphasis range from don’t worry too much about bye weeks and prioritizing predictable players with high usage rates in the later rounds. The waiver wire exists for a reason and steady production off the bench can help weather the bye-week storms. 

Again, owners need to be ready for any and all angles as a draft unfolds. Runs on positions and other random occurrences can happen when 12 owners get together. A baseline understanding and flexibility to alter the approach within the confines of the understanding will put an owner ahead. 

Then all they have to do is make the right weekly lineup decisions, peruse the waiver wire well and outmaneuver others in trades. No pressure. 

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. Average draft position courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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