Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Going in-depth on the FSGA experts draft

In late June at the Fantasy Sports & Game Association's annual conference, Chris Towers and I took part in a 14-team, 16-round PPR draft against other industry representatives. This is an actual league with stakes, not a mock, so everyone was dialed in. 

The league starts three wide receivers plus a flex, and includes kickers and defenses. With 10 starting spots, it's relatively shallow for a 14-teamer with just six bench slots. You can view the results at the bottom of this story.

Chris and I drew the eighth pick, which can be a tricky spot to pick from in 2019. At the top of the first round, you're locking in an elite back. At the back end, because the top tier of wide receivers is roughly six deep, you're likely to grab at least one top-end option at that position. 

But when you're in the middle of the draft this year, you have options. You can certainly go running back, you can go wide receiver, and you can even consider Travis Kelce.
 
One way to approach that decision is to do some planning. Any type of draft strategy should be format-specific, so let's discuss how Chris and I mapped out this draft before getting into our actual selections.

Our draft plan

The two biggest changes in this format compared to a typical PPR league are 14 teams and thin benches. The bench issue makes carrying a backup at not just kicker and defense but also quarterback and tight end a questionable proposition. Those spots are better reserved for running back and wide receiver depth considering you can start a combined six of them. 

Drafting in a 14-team league means a thinner draft pool in each round, forcing your starting lineup to have some likely weaknesses.
 
This led Chris and I to plan on being shallow at running back early. We didn't necessarily plan to go full Zero RB, but we knew going in that by the later single-digit rounds, we'd likely only have one or two backs. This strategy has its pros and cons, but in this setting we liked the ability to capitalize on how many running backs go early in drafts by loading up at wide receiver, with a focus on starting a wide receiver in the flex most weeks. It also allowed us to consider a tight end early, which would make it easier to not worry about rostering two at the position. 

We also knew that of all the positions, the one where we could get a solid starter latest is quarterback. By planning to wait on quarterback and build out our starting lineup at WR, TE and flex first, we were essentially striving to limit the holes in our starting lineup. Along with this, we strategically targeted late-round running backs who have the potential to land in high-value workloads if things break right, something that is hard to find at other positions in the latter part of the draft. 

Let's get to the picks.

1.08 DeAndre Hopkins

The draft started with seven straight running backs, leaving us the consensus No. 1 wide receiver at Pick 8. We considered Kelce here, but it's hard to argue with a player who has led his position in PPR scoring each of the past two seasons. 

2.07 Damien Williams

By this point, 12 running backs had gone off the board, as had seven wide receivers, encompassing our top tier. At tight end, only Kelce had gone. We briefly discussed Mike Evans, but our main choice was whether to take Zach Ertz or George Kittle

Instead, we opted to grab a running back that, while polarizing, has clear top-five upside if he's Andy Reid's lead back in one of football's best offenses for 16 games. Knowing we were going to be thin at running back in the early rounds, this bet on Williams at least buys us some time early in the season for our late-round shotgun approach to pay dividends.

If Williams is the player we clearly hope he will be, we'll only need to hit on one breakout player for our RB2 slot, rather than a full Zero RB approach that would have left two (bigger) question marks in our starting lineup.

3.08 Brandin Cooks
4.07 Robert Woods

After Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green went off the board early in Round 3, we had our sights set on Stefon Diggs. He went the pick before us in the third round, leaving us a difficult choice between Cooks, Woods and Kenny Golladay in something of a transition tier in our rankings.

Golladay is a player I believe in, but his offense may hold him back this year. We went with Cooks over Woods because he has a little lengthier track record, was nearly as good last year despite it being his first season with a new team and he had also a better postseason.

But when Woods fell back to us, it was decision time. Grabbing two receiving options who are competing for targets is often a sub-optimal decision, but not for all NFL teams. These two play in an upper echelon offense that has traditionally viewed substitutions as unnecessary.

Outside of blowout wins in Weeks 7, 16 and 17, plus Week 5 when Cooks left with an injury, these two wide receivers each played at least 92% of their team's snaps in every game. They averaged over 30 PPR points per game combined, but notably never had fewer than 18.3 in any of 19 games, giving them a strong floor since at least one of them will generally be productive. 

And the idea Cooper Kupp's injury boosted their production is a misconception; they played full snaps either way, so when Kupp was out of the lineup and the passing game productivity took a dip overall, they were actually less productive without him. In eight games with Kupp in the lineup, Woods and Cooks combined to average 34.8 PPR points, compared to 28.6 in the 11 games Kupp missed.

5.08 Evan Engram

I'm generally of the mind that the tight ends right behind Kelce, Ertz and Kittle are being overdrafted, pulled up a couple of rounds by the early ADPs of those at the top of the position. But in the mid-fifth of a 14-team league — 64th overall — and with three very good WRs on board already, it made a lot of sense to snag Engram, 2019's surest bet for strong target numbers at the position outside the big three. This also fit with our desire to forgo drafting a backup at the position.

6.07 Marvin Jones
7.08 Ronald Jones
8.07 Marqise Lee
9.08 Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Over the next several rounds, we knew we wanted to get depth at wide receiver, still content to target high-upside running backs later. Christian Kirk went off the board just before our sixth-round pick, and we were hesitant to nab Sterling Shepard after the investment in Engram, because the Giants' passing game is not the Rams'. We also strongly considered Darrell Henderson in the sixth, but ultimately passed due to the earlier double investment in the Rams. 

This is the one area of the draft where I have a regret. Ronald Jones is a solid seventh-round pick in a 14-teamer, and provided us a leading candidate for our RB2 spot, but Marvin Jones and Lee were picks driven by my projections (read: my fault, not Chris'). Both are uninspiring choices who should have solid target numbers in weaker passing offenses, making them safer, lower-upside options for our flex spot. 

The regret is not strategic — we built out a solid corps of backs, as you'll see below — but rather about this player archetype. We are so strong at our WR1-WR3 spots, it would have made more sense to target higher-upside options to build out our receiving corps. 

Valdes-Scantling does give us one such option as potentially the next Green Bay breakout in a long line throughout Aaron Rodgers' career, and the end result of our WR group is still very solid.

10.07 D'Onta Foreman
11.08 Matt Breida
12.07 Dak Prescott
13.08 Jalen Richard
14.07 Darwin Thompson
15.08 Dallas DST
16.07 Alexander Mattison

We took five running backs in our final seven picks, opting to eschew the kicker position altogether given the draft was more than two months before the season begins. We also landed Prescott as the 16th quarterback off the board as the last team to take one, even after two defenses had gone. His rushing ability gives him a solid floor-to-ceiling range, and a soft first three games against the Giants, Washington and Miami — which also played into our pick of the Cowboys DST — played into our plan to not carry a backup. 

What I like about this running back crew is we mostly targeted backs in good offenses, which allows us to maximize the potential payoff if they get opportunities. Foreman is now two years removed from his Achilles injury, and has the potential to unseat Lamar Miller. He's someone we'll watch closely in the preseason. Breida is an afterthought for most drafters, but is coming off a season where he totaled over 1,000 yards on a 5.3 YPC with plus passing game numbers. He frankly might just be better than a rehabbing Jerick McKinnon, and while Tevin Coleman is certainly a worthwhile consideration in drafts, Breida's price makes him my favorite Shanahan back to target this year. 

Richard is more of a safety pick; he's unlikely to find himself in a feature role, but should be a solid PPR contributor who we might be starting as soon as Week 1 if Ronald Jones has a poor preseason. When I take this shotgun approach with late-round running backs, I like to nab one player like Richard as a stabilizing presence, but not multiple because too many pass-catching specialists can limit the overall upside of the group. 

Darwin Thompson might be the better insurance policy to Damien Williams than Carlos Hyde given Hyde's sub-4.0 career yards per target. Thompson was an able receiver in college and Andy Reid's system calls for a more capable back in that area than Hyde may be. And Mattison is in a great position, without much competition for the RB2 role on a team that wants to run the ball, behind a potential workhorse who has picked up injuries in his first two seasons. 

Of course, none of these backs (save possibly Richard) are in positions where 2019 production is guaranteed, which is why they go so late in drafts. But by swerving into the uncertainty and drafting several of them, we've maximized our potential for at least one usable option. 

At the end of the day, here's what our roster looked like: 

1.8DeAndre HopkinsHOUWR
2.7Damien WilliamsKANRB
3.8Brandin CooksLARWR
4.7Robert WoodsLARWR
5.8Evan EngramNYGTE
6.7Marvin JonesDETWR
7.8Ronald Jones IITAMRB
8.7Marqise LeeJACWR
9.8Marquez Valdes-ScantlingGNBWR
10.7D'Onta ForemanHOURB
11.8Matt BreidaSFORB
12.7Dak  PrescottDALQB
13.8Jalen RichardOAKRB
14.7Darwin ThompsonKANRB
15.8Dallas CowboysDALDef/ST
16.7Alexander MattisonMINRB
Dominate your draft with our free Draft Strategy Guide, which gives you must-have sleepers, rookies, and quarterbacks. Plus see the top players at each position, complete with winning projections. Get your guide now!

Full draft results

OVERALLPICKPLAYERNFLPOSTEAM
11.1Christian McCaffreyCARRBYahoo! Sports
21.2Saquon BarkleyNYGRBFullTimeFantasy
31.3Ezekiel  ElliottDALRBDFS Karma
41.4Alvin KamaraNORRBSports Info Solutions
51.5Melvin GordonLACRBDreamCo Design
61.6Le'Veon BellNYJRBBadder Beats
71.7David JohnsonARIRBVela Wood
81.8DeAndre HopkinsHOUWRCBS Sports
91.9Joe MixonCINRBPrizePicks
101.1Michael  ThomasNORWRGracenote Sports
111.11James ConnerPITRBFantasy Football Sherpa
121.12Julio JonesATLWRFantrax
131.13Davante AdamsGNBWRFantasyData
141.14Odell Beckham Jr.CLEWRFANjections
152.1Todd GurleyLARRBFANjections
162.2Travis KelceKANTEFantasyData
172.3JuJu Smith-SchusterPITWRFantrax
182.4Dalvin CookMINRBFantasy Football Sherpa
192.5Antonio BrownOAKWRGracenote Sports
202.6Phillip LindsayDENRBPrizePicks
212.7Damien WilliamsKANRBCBS Sports
222.8Nick ChubbCLERBVela Wood
232.9Devonta FreemanATLRBBadder Beats
242.1Mike EvansTAMWRDreamCo Design
252.11T Y HiltonINDWRSports Info Solutions
262.12Zach ErtzPHITEDFS Karma
272.13Keenan AllenLACWRFullTimeFantasy
282.14George KittleSFOTEYahoo! Sports
293.1Adam ThielenMINWRYahoo! Sports
303.2Amari CooperDALWRFullTimeFantasy
313.3A.J. GreenCINWRDFS Karma
323.4Leonard FournetteJACRBSports Info Solutions
333.5Aaron JonesGNBRBDreamCo Design
343.6Patrick MahomesKANQBBadder Beats
353.7Stefon DiggsMINWRVela Wood
363.8Brandin CooksLARWRCBS Sports
373.9Kenny GolladayDETWRPrizePicks
383.1Marlon MackINDRBGracenote Sports
393.11Kerryon JohnsonDETRBFantasy Football Sherpa
403.12Josh JacobsOAKRBFantrax
413.13Tyler  BoydCINWRFantasyData
423.14Derrick  HenryTENRBFANjections
434.1Sony MichelNWERBFANjections
444.2Kenyan  DrakeMIARBFantasyData
454.3David MontgomeryCHIRBFantrax
464.4Julian EdelmanNWEWRFantasy Football Sherpa
474.5Sammy WatkinsKANWRGracenote Sports
484.6Cooper KuppLARWRPrizePicks
494.7Robert WoodsLARWRCBS Sports
504.8Chris GodwinTAMWRVela Wood
514.9Will  FullerHOUWRBadder Beats
524.1Mark IngramBALRBDreamCo Design
534.11Miles SandersPHIRBSports Info Solutions
544.12Tyler LockettSEAWRDFS Karma
554.13D.J. MooreCARWRFullTimeFantasy
564.14Calvin RidleyATLWRYahoo! Sports
575.1Mike WilliamsLACWRYahoo! Sports
585.2O.J. HowardTAMTEFullTimeFantasy
595.3Robby AndersonNYJWRDFS Karma
605.4Chris CarsonSEARBSports Info Solutions
615.5Corey DavisTENWRDreamCo Design
625.6Allen RobinsonCHIWRBadder Beats
635.7James WhiteNWERBVela Wood
645.8Evan EngramNYGTECBS Sports
655.9Jarvis LandryCLEWRPrizePicks
665.1Tevin ColemanSFORBGracenote Sports
675.11Alshon JefferyPHIWRFantasy Football Sherpa
685.12Tarik CohenCHIRBFantrax
695.13Derrius GuiceWASRBFantasyData
705.14Hunter HenryLACTEFANjections
716.1Tyreek HillKANWRFANjections
726.2Jordan  HowardPHIRBFantasyData
736.3Christian KirkARIWRFantrax
746.4Golden TateNYGWRFantasy Football Sherpa
756.5Rashaad PennySEARBGracenote Sports
766.6Lamar MillerHOURBPrizePicks
776.7Marvin JonesDETWRCBS Sports
786.8Larry FitzgeraldARIWRVela Wood
796.9Jared CookNORTEBadder Beats
806.1Courtland SuttonDENWRDreamCo Design
816.11Andrew LuckINDQBSports Info Solutions
826.12Darrell HendersonLARRBDFS Karma
836.13Latavius MurrayNORRBFullTimeFantasy
846.14Deshaun WatsonHOUQBYahoo! Sports
857.1Royce FreemanDENRBYahoo! Sports
867.2Dante PettisSFOWRFullTimeFantasy
877.3Sterling  ShepardNYGWRDFS Karma
887.4N'Keal HarryNWEWRSports Info Solutions
897.5Eric EbronINDTEDreamCo Design
907.6LeSean McCoyBUFRBBadder Beats
917.7Aaron RodgersGNBQBVela Wood
927.8Ronald Jones IITAMRBCBS Sports
937.9Baker MayfieldCLEQBPrizePicks
947.1Dede WestbrookJACWRGracenote Sports
957.11David NjokuCLETEFantasy Football Sherpa
967.12Matt RyanATLQBFantrax
977.13Keke CouteeHOUWRFantasyData
987.14Russell WilsonSEAQBFANjections
998.1Curtis SamuelCARWRFANjections
1008.2Carson WentzPHIQBFantasyData
1018.3Emmanuel SandersDENWRFantrax
1028.4Jared  GoffLARQBFantasy Football Sherpa
1038.5Ben RoethlisbergerPITQBGracenote Sports
1048.6Vance McDonaldPITTEPrizePicks
1058.7Marqise LeeJACWRCBS Sports
1068.8Austin  HooperATLTEVela Wood
1078.9D.K. MetcalfSEAWRBadder Beats
1088.1Geronimo AllisonGNBWRDreamCo Design
1098.11Kyler MurrayARIQBSports Info Solutions
1108.12Austin EkelerLACRBDFS Karma
1118.13Damien HarrisNWERBFullTimeFantasy
1128.14Jerick McKinnonSFORBYahoo! Sports
1139.1Dion LewisTENRBYahoo! Sports
1149.2Jaylen SamuelsPITRBFullTimeFantasy
1159.3Peyton BarberTAMRBDFS Karma
1169.4Devin FunchessINDWRSports Info Solutions
1179.5Cam NewtonCARQBDreamCo Design
1189.6James WashingtonPITWRBadder Beats
1199.7Duke JohnsonCLERBVela Wood
1209.8Marquez Valdes-ScantlingGNBWRCBS Sports
1219.9Zay JonesBUFWRPrizePicks
1229.1Christopher Herndon IVNYJTEGracenote Sports
1239.11Nyheim HinesINDRBFantasy Football Sherpa
1249.12Adrian PetersonWASRBFantrax
1259.13DeSean JacksonPHIWRFantasyData
1269.14Ito SmithATLRBFANjections
12710.1Mecole HardmanKANWRFANjections
12810.2Carlos HydeKANRBFantasyData
12910.3T.J. HockensonDETTEFantrax
13010.4Tyrell WilliamsOAKWRFantasy Football Sherpa
13110.5Dallas GoedertPHITEGracenote Sports
13210.6DeVante ParkerMIAWRPrizePicks
13310.7D'Onta ForemanHOURBCBS Sports
13410.8Demaryius ThomasNWEWRVela Wood
13510.9Chicago BearsCHIDef/STBadder Beats
13610.1Drew BreesNORQBDreamCo Design
13710.11Kenny StillsMIAWRSports Info Solutions
13810.12Robert FosterBUFWRDFS Karma
13910.13DaeSean HamiltonDENWRFullTimeFantasy
14010.14Anthony MillerCHIWRYahoo! Sports
14111.1Michael GallupDALWRYahoo! Sports
14211.2Jameis WinstonTAMQBFullTimeFantasy
14311.3Parris CampbellINDWRDFS Karma
14411.4Jordan ReedWASTESports Info Solutions
14511.5Kareem HuntCLERBDreamCo Design
14611.6Jamison CrowderNYJWRBadder Beats
14711.7Delanie WalkerTENTEVela Wood
14811.8Matt BreidaSFORBCBS Sports
14911.9T.J. Yeldon BUFRBPrizePicks
15011.1Theo RiddickDETRBGracenote Sports
15111.11Tre'Quan SmithNORWRFantasy Football Sherpa
15211.12C.J. AndersonDETRBFantrax
15311.13Marquise GoodwinSFOWRFantasyData
15411.14Deebo SamuelSFOWRFANjections
15512.1Kalen BallageMIARBFANjections
15612.2Chris ThompsonWASRBFantasyData
15712.3Adam HumphriesTENWRFantrax
15812.4Mike DavisCHIRBFantasy Football Sherpa
15912.5Jimmy GaroppoloSFOQBGracenote Sports
16012.6Los Angeles RamsLARDef/STPrizePicks
16112.7Dak  PrescottDALQBCBS Sports
16212.8Donte MoncriefPITWRVela Wood
16312.9Andy IsabellaARIWRBadder Beats
16412.1Baltimore RavensBALDef/STDreamCo Design
16512.11Jacksonville JaguarsJACDef/STSports Info Solutions
16612.12Philip RiversLACQBDFS Karma
16712.13Marquise BrownBALWRFullTimeFantasy
16812.14Trey BurtonCHITEYahoo! Sports
16913.1John BrownBUFWRYahoo! Sports
17013.2Justice HillBALRBFullTimeFantasy
17113.3Josh GordonNWEWRDFS Karma
17213.4Greg OlsenCARTESports Info Solutions
17313.5Justin TuckerBALKDreamCo Design
17413.6Devin SingletaryBUFRBBadder Beats
17513.7Kyle RudolphMINTEVela Wood
17613.8Jalen RichardOAKRBCBS Sports
17713.9Tom BradyNWEQBPrizePicks
17813.1Los Angeles ChargersLACDef/STGracenote Sports
17913.11Lamar JacksonBALQBFantasy Football Sherpa
18013.12Justin JacksonLACRBFantrax
18113.13Greg ZuerleinLARKFantasyData
18213.14Noah FantDENTEFANjections
18314.1Jake KumerowGNBWRFANjections
18414.2Quincy EnunwaNYJWRFantasyData
18514.3Houston TexansHOUDef/STFantrax
18614.4Mike GesickiMIATEFantasy Football Sherpa
18714.5JJ Arcega-WhitesidePHIWRGracenote Sports
18814.6Jack DoyleINDTEPrizePicks
18914.7Darwin ThompsonKANRBCBS Sports
19014.8Minnesota VikingsMINDef/STVela Wood
19114.9Jason MyersSEAKBadder Beats
19214.1Jimmy GrahamGNBTEDreamCo Design
19314.11Trey QuinnWASWRSports Info Solutions
19414.12Wil LutzNORKDFS Karma
19514.13Ryquell ArmsteadJACRBFullTimeFantasy
19614.14Harrison ButkerKANKYahoo! Sports
19715.1Cleveland BrownsCLEDef/STYahoo! Sports
19815.2Stephen GostkowskiNWEKFullTimeFantasy
19915.3Denver BroncosDENDef/STDFS Karma
20015.4Albert WilsonMIAWRSports Info Solutions
20115.5Nelson AgholorPHIWRDreamCo Design
20215.6Mitch TrubiskyCHIQBBadder Beats
20315.7Kirk CousinsMINQBVela Wood
20415.8Dallas CowboysDALDef/STCBS Sports
20515.9Ka'imi FairbairnHOUKPrizePicks
20615.1Giorgio TavecchioATLKGracenote Sports
20715.11Philadelphia EaglesPHIDef/STFantasy Football Sherpa
20815.12Tyler EifertCINTEFantrax
20915.13Cameron BrateTAMTEFantasyData
21015.14New Orleans SaintsNORDef/STFANjections
21116.1Dan BaileyMINKFANjections
21216.2Seattle SeahawksSEADef/STFantasyData
21316.3Mason CrosbyGNBKFantrax
21416.4Jake ElliottPHIKFantasy Football Sherpa
21516.5Jamaal WilliamsGNBRBGracenote Sports
21616.6Benny Snell Jr.PITRBPrizePicks
21716.7Alexander MattisonMINRBCBS Sports
21816.8Brett MaherDALKVela Wood
21916.9Jeff HeuermanDENTEBadder Beats
22016.1New England PatriotsNWEDef/STDreamCo Design
22116.11Robbie GouldSFOKSports Info Solutions
22216.12Josh AllenBUFQBDFS Karma
22316.13Buffalo BillsBUFDef/STFullTimeFantasy
22416.14Malcolm BrownLARRBYahoo! Sports

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