Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Going in-depth on the FSGA experts draft
Ben Gretch walks you through his strategy and results for a recent 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.
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.
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.
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:
|7.8||Ronald Jones II||TAM||RB|
Full draft results
|1||1.1||Christian McCaffrey||CAR||RB||Yahoo! Sports|
|3||1.3||Ezekiel Elliott||DAL||RB||DFS Karma|
|4||1.4||Alvin Kamara||NOR||RB||Sports Info Solutions|
|5||1.5||Melvin Gordon||LAC||RB||DreamCo Design|
|6||1.6||Le'Veon Bell||NYJ||RB||Badder Beats|
|7||1.7||David Johnson||ARI||RB||Vela Wood|
|8||1.8||DeAndre Hopkins||HOU||WR||CBS Sports|
|10||1.1||Michael Thomas||NOR||WR||Gracenote Sports|
|11||1.11||James Conner||PIT||RB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|14||1.14||Odell Beckham Jr.||CLE||WR||FANjections|
|18||2.4||Dalvin Cook||MIN||RB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|19||2.5||Antonio Brown||OAK||WR||Gracenote Sports|
|21||2.7||Damien Williams||KAN||RB||CBS Sports|
|22||2.8||Nick Chubb||CLE||RB||Vela Wood|
|23||2.9||Devonta Freeman||ATL||RB||Badder Beats|
|24||2.1||Mike Evans||TAM||WR||DreamCo Design|
|25||2.11||T Y Hilton||IND||WR||Sports Info Solutions|
|26||2.12||Zach Ertz||PHI||TE||DFS Karma|
|28||2.14||George Kittle||SFO||TE||Yahoo! Sports|
|29||3.1||Adam Thielen||MIN||WR||Yahoo! Sports|
|31||3.3||A.J. Green||CIN||WR||DFS Karma|
|32||3.4||Leonard Fournette||JAC||RB||Sports Info Solutions|
|33||3.5||Aaron Jones||GNB||RB||DreamCo Design|
|34||3.6||Patrick Mahomes||KAN||QB||Badder Beats|
|35||3.7||Stefon Diggs||MIN||WR||Vela Wood|
|36||3.8||Brandin Cooks||LAR||WR||CBS Sports|
|38||3.1||Marlon Mack||IND||RB||Gracenote Sports|
|39||3.11||Kerryon Johnson||DET||RB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|46||4.4||Julian Edelman||NWE||WR||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|47||4.5||Sammy Watkins||KAN||WR||Gracenote Sports|
|49||4.7||Robert Woods||LAR||WR||CBS Sports|
|50||4.8||Chris Godwin||TAM||WR||Vela Wood|
|51||4.9||Will Fuller||HOU||WR||Badder Beats|
|52||4.1||Mark Ingram||BAL||RB||DreamCo Design|
|53||4.11||Miles Sanders||PHI||RB||Sports Info Solutions|
|54||4.12||Tyler Lockett||SEA||WR||DFS Karma|
|56||4.14||Calvin Ridley||ATL||WR||Yahoo! Sports|
|57||5.1||Mike Williams||LAC||WR||Yahoo! Sports|
|59||5.3||Robby Anderson||NYJ||WR||DFS Karma|
|60||5.4||Chris Carson||SEA||RB||Sports Info Solutions|
|61||5.5||Corey Davis||TEN||WR||DreamCo Design|
|62||5.6||Allen Robinson||CHI||WR||Badder Beats|
|63||5.7||James White||NWE||RB||Vela Wood|
|64||5.8||Evan Engram||NYG||TE||CBS Sports|
|66||5.1||Tevin Coleman||SFO||RB||Gracenote Sports|
|67||5.11||Alshon Jeffery||PHI||WR||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|74||6.4||Golden Tate||NYG||WR||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|75||6.5||Rashaad Penny||SEA||RB||Gracenote Sports|
|77||6.7||Marvin Jones||DET||WR||CBS Sports|
|78||6.8||Larry Fitzgerald||ARI||WR||Vela Wood|
|79||6.9||Jared Cook||NOR||TE||Badder Beats|
|80||6.1||Courtland Sutton||DEN||WR||DreamCo Design|
|81||6.11||Andrew Luck||IND||QB||Sports Info Solutions|
|82||6.12||Darrell Henderson||LAR||RB||DFS Karma|
|84||6.14||Deshaun Watson||HOU||QB||Yahoo! Sports|
|85||7.1||Royce Freeman||DEN||RB||Yahoo! Sports|
|87||7.3||Sterling Shepard||NYG||WR||DFS Karma|
|88||7.4||N'Keal Harry||NWE||WR||Sports Info Solutions|
|89||7.5||Eric Ebron||IND||TE||DreamCo Design|
|90||7.6||LeSean McCoy||BUF||RB||Badder Beats|
|91||7.7||Aaron Rodgers||GNB||QB||Vela Wood|
|92||7.8||Ronald Jones II||TAM||RB||CBS Sports|
|94||7.1||Dede Westbrook||JAC||WR||Gracenote Sports|
|95||7.11||David Njoku||CLE||TE||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|102||8.4||Jared Goff||LAR||QB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|103||8.5||Ben Roethlisberger||PIT||QB||Gracenote Sports|
|105||8.7||Marqise Lee||JAC||WR||CBS Sports|
|106||8.8||Austin Hooper||ATL||TE||Vela Wood|
|107||8.9||D.K. Metcalf||SEA||WR||Badder Beats|
|108||8.1||Geronimo Allison||GNB||WR||DreamCo Design|
|109||8.11||Kyler Murray||ARI||QB||Sports Info Solutions|
|110||8.12||Austin Ekeler||LAC||RB||DFS Karma|
|112||8.14||Jerick McKinnon||SFO||RB||Yahoo! Sports|
|113||9.1||Dion Lewis||TEN||RB||Yahoo! Sports|
|115||9.3||Peyton Barber||TAM||RB||DFS Karma|
|116||9.4||Devin Funchess||IND||WR||Sports Info Solutions|
|117||9.5||Cam Newton||CAR||QB||DreamCo Design|
|118||9.6||James Washington||PIT||WR||Badder Beats|
|119||9.7||Duke Johnson||CLE||RB||Vela Wood|
|120||9.8||Marquez Valdes-Scantling||GNB||WR||CBS Sports|
|122||9.1||Christopher Herndon IV||NYJ||TE||Gracenote Sports|
|123||9.11||Nyheim Hines||IND||RB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|130||10.4||Tyrell Williams||OAK||WR||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|131||10.5||Dallas Goedert||PHI||TE||Gracenote Sports|
|133||10.7||D'Onta Foreman||HOU||RB||CBS Sports|
|134||10.8||Demaryius Thomas||NWE||WR||Vela Wood|
|135||10.9||Chicago Bears||CHI||Def/ST||Badder Beats|
|136||10.1||Drew Brees||NOR||QB||DreamCo Design|
|137||10.11||Kenny Stills||MIA||WR||Sports Info Solutions|
|138||10.12||Robert Foster||BUF||WR||DFS Karma|
|140||10.14||Anthony Miller||CHI||WR||Yahoo! Sports|
|141||11.1||Michael Gallup||DAL||WR||Yahoo! Sports|
|143||11.3||Parris Campbell||IND||WR||DFS Karma|
|144||11.4||Jordan Reed||WAS||TE||Sports Info Solutions|
|145||11.5||Kareem Hunt||CLE||RB||DreamCo Design|
|146||11.6||Jamison Crowder||NYJ||WR||Badder Beats|
|147||11.7||Delanie Walker||TEN||TE||Vela Wood|
|148||11.8||Matt Breida||SFO||RB||CBS Sports|
|150||11.1||Theo Riddick||DET||RB||Gracenote Sports|
|151||11.11||Tre'Quan Smith||NOR||WR||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|158||12.4||Mike Davis||CHI||RB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|159||12.5||Jimmy Garoppolo||SFO||QB||Gracenote Sports|
|160||12.6||Los Angeles Rams||LAR||Def/ST||PrizePicks|
|161||12.7||Dak Prescott||DAL||QB||CBS Sports|
|162||12.8||Donte Moncrief||PIT||WR||Vela Wood|
|163||12.9||Andy Isabella||ARI||WR||Badder Beats|
|164||12.1||Baltimore Ravens||BAL||Def/ST||DreamCo Design|
|165||12.11||Jacksonville Jaguars||JAC||Def/ST||Sports Info Solutions|
|166||12.12||Philip Rivers||LAC||QB||DFS Karma|
|168||12.14||Trey Burton||CHI||TE||Yahoo! Sports|
|169||13.1||John Brown||BUF||WR||Yahoo! Sports|
|171||13.3||Josh Gordon||NWE||WR||DFS Karma|
|172||13.4||Greg Olsen||CAR||TE||Sports Info Solutions|
|173||13.5||Justin Tucker||BAL||K||DreamCo Design|
|174||13.6||Devin Singletary||BUF||RB||Badder Beats|
|175||13.7||Kyle Rudolph||MIN||TE||Vela Wood|
|176||13.8||Jalen Richard||OAK||RB||CBS Sports|
|178||13.1||Los Angeles Chargers||LAC||Def/ST||Gracenote Sports|
|179||13.11||Lamar Jackson||BAL||QB||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|186||14.4||Mike Gesicki||MIA||TE||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|187||14.5||JJ Arcega-Whiteside||PHI||WR||Gracenote Sports|
|189||14.7||Darwin Thompson||KAN||RB||CBS Sports|
|190||14.8||Minnesota Vikings||MIN||Def/ST||Vela Wood|
|191||14.9||Jason Myers||SEA||K||Badder Beats|
|192||14.1||Jimmy Graham||GNB||TE||DreamCo Design|
|193||14.11||Trey Quinn||WAS||WR||Sports Info Solutions|
|194||14.12||Wil Lutz||NOR||K||DFS Karma|
|196||14.14||Harrison Butker||KAN||K||Yahoo! Sports|
|197||15.1||Cleveland Browns||CLE||Def/ST||Yahoo! Sports|
|199||15.3||Denver Broncos||DEN||Def/ST||DFS Karma|
|200||15.4||Albert Wilson||MIA||WR||Sports Info Solutions|
|201||15.5||Nelson Agholor||PHI||WR||DreamCo Design|
|202||15.6||Mitch Trubisky||CHI||QB||Badder Beats|
|203||15.7||Kirk Cousins||MIN||QB||Vela Wood|
|204||15.8||Dallas Cowboys||DAL||Def/ST||CBS Sports|
|206||15.1||Giorgio Tavecchio||ATL||K||Gracenote Sports|
|207||15.11||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI||Def/ST||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|210||15.14||New Orleans Saints||NOR||Def/ST||FANjections|
|214||16.4||Jake Elliott||PHI||K||Fantasy Football Sherpa|
|215||16.5||Jamaal Williams||GNB||RB||Gracenote Sports|
|216||16.6||Benny Snell Jr.||PIT||RB||PrizePicks|
|217||16.7||Alexander Mattison||MIN||RB||CBS Sports|
|218||16.8||Brett Maher||DAL||K||Vela Wood|
|219||16.9||Jeff Heuerman||DEN||TE||Badder Beats|
|220||16.1||New England Patriots||NWE||Def/ST||DreamCo Design|
|221||16.11||Robbie Gould||SFO||K||Sports Info Solutions|
|222||16.12||Josh Allen||BUF||QB||DFS Karma|
|224||16.14||Malcolm Brown||LAR||RB||Yahoo! Sports|
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