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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


Fantasy Football


Alshon Jeffery

Le’Veon Bell

David Johnson RB

Fantasy Football 2017: Preseason Mock Draft Strategy, Rankings and Analysis

Fantasy Football
August 24, 2017

Fantasy football drafts represent the biggest hurdle between owners and a league championship. 

Owners have other options available to them when it comes to improving rosters. Trades remain a viable avenue and the waiver wire is a good way to dig up production, provided an owner plays his or her cards right and can land, say, a Jordan Howard like many did a year ago. 

But here is the catch: neither option’s door swings open wide without a solid draft. No owner will want to trade with a team lacking assets, and the waiver wire can patch a hole in a boat, not build the thing from scratch.

The draft is the foundation, so let’s provide some resources in the form of a mock draft and general rankings based on a 12-team standard Yahoo league. 


Mock Draft

For those new to the fantasy football landscape, a mock draft isn’t going to look anything like the real thing. 

In the real world, quarterbacks come off the board first as potential franchise players, though in hindsight, they’re incredibly difficult to project. In the fantasy landscape, they’re the easiest thing to project on a weekly basis, making it easier to wait until the middle rounds, where owners will still find a recognizable name. 

Quantity is a good way to decide between running back and wide receiver in the first round. David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are the top-tier scorers at running back because of their usage and ability on the ground and through the air. But they’re alone—for those two, owners can pick from top-tier wideouts like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Mike Evans and A.J. Green

There is nothing inherently wrong with taking a wideout over a running back in the first round. But look at Johnson, for example, who received 373 touches a year ago, and compare it to Jones, who over the course of 14 games received 129 targets. 

With so few backs receiving notable usage and reliably producing on a year-to-year basis (Howard and Ezekiel Elliott came out of nowhere last year while others faded), it is safe to grab one of the big names in the first or second round and stockpile wideouts later. Brave owners could also employ something called the zero running back strategy and ignore the position outright until the later rounds, where they then target versatile pass-catching backs projected to see usage. 

This flexibility is the beauty of fantasy football because almost any approach can work. A mock like the above outlines the basic value for each position, but it is far from a hard rule.


Player Rankings/Cheat Sheet

Based on the information above, it’s not hard to see why rankings fall the way they do. 

Let’s expand on the quarterback ideas mentioned. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers deserves the nod as the top quarterback a year removed from throwing for 4,428 yards and 40 touchdowns. It’s production worth ignoring a different position, though just how much is an eye-of-the-beholder ordeal. 

Passing on Rodgers to load up on skill positions is certainly viable. Let’s look at a few examples of how to counteract the perceived “loss” of skipping on an early round quarterback by pointing out numbers and average draft position (ADP) of some notables from a year ago: 

  • Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: 4,917 yards, 25 TD, 12 IND, 10.02 ADP
  • Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: 4,327 yards, 24 TD, 10 INT, 11.04 ADP 
  • Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: 3,949 total yards, 29 total TD, 4 INT, 12.06 ADP 

Owners can wait until the double-digit rounds and still find solid fantasy producers under center, which in 12-team leagues is a boon. Grabbing a couple guys later after loading up skill positions means an easy job of projecting which player should have the better day. 

Running backs, as readers can guess, is organized by projected touches and versatility. It remains king of fantasy football regardless of how the actual on-turf game continues to involve.

Look at a bit of history, via 4for4’s Chris Raybon (via Sports Illustrated): “They don’t get paid as much as they used to, but elite RBs are still money in the bank in standard fantasy leagues: the position has accounted for 21 of the top 25 fantasy seasons by non-QBs over the past five years.”

At wideout, the great divider other than targets is touchdowns. This is especially the case once the rankings filter through the target hogs. Rishard Matthews (ADP 11.08), who scored nine touchdowns a year ago, will be quite a bit more valuable than, say, Adam Thielen (ADP 11.04), who scored five. 

Tight end is Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert and then the rest. It’s the most matchup-based position of all, so sort the names by targets and look at schedules to come up with who to draft and when. Tight end feels a bit like playing the lottery outside the top two names, but the right gamble can provide the difference in a few matchups per season.

As mentioned, fantasy is an inexact science. Like the NFL itself, players fall off, others emerge, injuries happen and immeasurable variables from location to playing surface to schematics and beyond skew results. The best thing an owner can do, at least, is enter the fray of a live draft with a baseline of information.  


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


Aaron Rodgers

Fantasy Football

Matthew Stafford


Kirk Cousins