Disclaimer: I was torn whether to even write this considering I still have 3 more drafts coming up. So if any members of said leagues are reading this, then disregard the following and draft only kickers.
With Fantasy Football season around the corner it’s time to start thinking about your ever important draft strategy. As an avid Fantasy Football player and member of 4 different league (one of which I’m the commissioner, and yes we made a league trophy), I’m here to make sure you don’t make any major draft day mistakes.
There is really no perfect formula to win your fantasy football league. The most important thing to consider is the value of what a position should bring to the overall weekly score. Then utilize your draft position to select players that maximize your chances of reaching that goal.
At each position, there are running backs that fall along the same tier, meaning that you should expect similar production from someone in that group. The following is a breakdown of how each position should be perceived heading into your drafts.
Don’t overvalue the QB position
- While I understand the allure to own Rodgers or Luck, nothing is going to tick off a seasoned veteran more than taking a QB any earlier than the mid-2nd round
- Tier 2 QBs: There is an argument to be made for taking Russell Wilson in the 3rd round, but I wouldn’t take any other QBs before the 3rd or 4th round, yes I’m including Peyton in that statement
- Tier 3: Brees, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Romo
- Tier 4: Newton, Tannehill, Eli, Stafford, Rivers
- Tier 5: Kaepernick, Flacco, Bridgewater, Winston, Bradford
I consider Tom Brady a 2nd tier QB after last year's showing, but with his suspension he’s gonna be a steal in the 7th round, just be prepared to draft another QB soon after to compensate for the first four weeks.
The first 6 picks of the draft should be running back
- In every draft, no matter what. There is just so much value in having one of the six workhorse RBs (Peterson, Lacy, Charles, Lynch, Forte, and Bell)
- In my opinion, Bell is the best back out of that group, but with his suspension it’s tough to take him any higher than 4th overall. On paper, there isn’t much difference between the remaining RBs
- Good running backs are hard to come by, it’s important to stock up early. But don’t over-reach if there are better players on the board from the 3rd round on
- Tier 2 Running backs: Forsett, Gore, Murray, Hill, Anderson
- Tier 3 Running backs: Morris, Miller, Gordon, Murray, Ingram
- Tier 4: Gurley, Martin, Hyde, Randal, Bell, Ellington, Yeldon
- Tier 5: This is where things get tricky because all the clear cut number 1s are gone. You’re going to have to take some chances with guys that split carries with another player. Players with upside in this category would be Spiller, Abdullah, Jennings, Cowell, Stewart, and Ivory
WRs are a dime a dozen
- Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant are the only wide receivers that should be considered for the first round. But only after the “workhorse” RBs are taken
- Due to the drop off between running backs, WRs will go fast from rounds 2-5
- 2nd tier wide receivers: Beckham, Green, Cobb, Demaryius, Jeffery, Julio, Evans, and Calvin Johnson
- 3rd Tier Receivers: Hilton, Hopkins, Sanders, Cooks, Mathews
- Tier 4 Receivers: Johnson, Allen, Cooper, Marshall, Jackson
It’s really a crapshoot once you get past this stage in the draft which should be around round 6-8. From this point when I’m selecting WRs, I tend to consider what offense the team runs, who the QB is, who the RB is (if there is one of the blue chip RBs in the backfield, odds are opposing defenses will load the box more often, which frees up room in the secondary), even which WR is lined up on the other side of the field.
- If you’re drafting at the end of the first round, why not take Gronkowski!?! He’s only been the most impactful fantasy football player over the past few seasons
- Jimmy Graham is the obvious next TE off the board since being traded to Seattle, expect him to get a lot of red zone looks
- Tier 2 Tight Ends: Bennett, Olsen, Kelce, Cameron
- Tier 3 Tight Ends: Witten, Walker, Allen, Thomas, Ertz
After these 11 TEs you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that you can depend on over the course of a whole season. If you can’t secure a top tier TE then target the next level guys in rounds 5-8.
There are going to be people that reach for Seattle’s Legion of Boom, but don’t be that person. You are better off waiting until rounds 10-12 for a defense like Carolina, Arizona or New England. By holding off on your defense, it allows you to add depth to your bench with more RB/WR.
This position shouldn’t be worried about till either the last or 2nd to last round. You can’t really go wrong with any of the top 15. But when I select kickers I tend to look for offenses that can move the ball but have trouble scoring in the red zone.
Don’t worry if you draft a kicker that doesn’t score a lot, there’s usually a free agent that you can plug in and keep moving along.
Things to Remember
Once you draft all of your offensive players do not fill your entire roster yet. Stockpiling RB/WRs early is a good way to acquire assets to be later used as trade bait.
Each league has that one newcomer who drafts everyone on his favorite team, or the guy who forgets about the draft until after he’s 5 drinks deep and reaches in every round. These variables are to be expected, it’s important to have your own game plan and stay the course. There is nothing more frustrating than a logical owner drafting against illogical opponents.
Is Dak Prescott a Player to Avoid in Fantasy Football in 2018?
For the Dallas Cowboys, the plan is to stick with Dak Prescott to hopefully turn him into a successful long-term franchise quarterback. Going into his third year in the league, this could be a season that defines his future on America's Team.
However, after the entire team struggled in 2017 while trying to overcome several key absences (including Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith), Prescott's level of play has been questioned by plenty around the league. Fans, analysts and writers everywhere aren't as sure as they were in 2016 about the quarterback's future.
And now, according to NFL.com, Fantasy Football players should beware of drafting Dak Prescott once their "friendly" (we all know they're anything but friendly) seasons begin.
Earlier this week, NFL.com Fantasy Editor Marcas Grant published an article telling us ten players to avoid for the 2018 Fantasy Football season. Perhaps it may come as a surprise to some that Dak Prescott is in there among names like Ty Montgomery and Jack Doyle. You can read his full article here.
To be honest, I see his point here.
It's more than fair to say that it's not going to be an easy year for Dak. He's got to prove a lot in a year that could have a juicy extension at the end of it. After going through a sort of an expected sophomore slump, Prescott's third year in the NFL should be his best one yet.
There's a big but, though. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are long gone, leaving Dak Prescott with a promising yet unproven set of pass catchers.
Will a dominant running game led by five great offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott be enough to help Dak and the rest of the offense? Probably. but how much will Prescott be able to accomplish?
Through a painful 9-7 season in which the Cowboys never seemed to be able to find a steady pace, #4's stats took a hit. Here are his numbers from his two years in the pros:
- 2016: 311 completions, 67.8% completion percentage, 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs.
- 2017: 308 completions, 62.9% completion percentage, 3,324 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs.
- He also ran for six touchdowns in each of his two seasons.
Per FantasyData.com, his fantasy points dropped from 286.88 in 2016 to 260.66 in 2017.
Despite his numbers dropping, Dak certainly took huge strides as a passer. From taking command of the offense as a captain to making throws he wouldn't make as a rookie, Prescott was able to demonstrate improvements during a rough sophomore slump.
Even with Dez gone, the receivers the front office brought in throughout the offseason are expected to be Dak-friendly. If the receiving corps actually make his strengths shine, the Cowboys' offense will take a huge step in 2018.
Maybe, as Jason Witten mentioned on Adam Schefter's Podcast, Dez is as good as anyone going up for the football. But that's not what will make Dak shine. This revamped WR room might be just what he needs, though.
At the end of the day, even though I truly believe he'll have a good career in the NFL and that he's the future of the Dallas Cowboys, I doubt he should be marked as an early target in the Fantasy Football world.
As of right now, from a Fantasy Football perspective, I would barely rank him as a Top 15 quarterback for many reasons.
First of all, the Cowboys' game will revolve around Ezekiel Elliott. Secondly, it doesn't matter how much faith we put into these pass catchers, they haven't proved anything yet.
Dak is not a bad player at all. But taking Prescott in the middle or even late rounds of a Fantasy Draft might be the safest way to go right now.
Lastly, I leave you with some "Fantasy Nuggets" from fellow Inside The Star writer and Fantasy Football Guru John Williams:
- Dak failed to score 10 standard format fantasy points only four times last season. He scored 15+ points nine times and 20+ six times in 2017.
- In 2017 - even with a down second half - he finished as the 13th best QB in points per game and as the tenth best in total QB scoring.
- In 2016, he was in the top 10 in both categories mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- His ability to run and score touchdowns on the ground easily make him one of the best 12 QB options for fantasy football.
Fantasy Football Implications of Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension
Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended by the NFL for 6 games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy. This will leave a void in the backfield for the Dallas Cowboys and on many fantasy football rosters around the world. As it is with the real league, it's a next man up philosophy in the world of fantasy football as well.
At the moment, that next man up is Darren McFadden.
Just two years ago, with Dallas still clinging to playoff hopes in the wake of Tony Romo's injury, McFadden rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He finished fifth in the NFL that season despite not seeing more than 10 carries a game until week six. From week 6 until the end of the season, McFadden had 7 games with more than 90 yards rushing.
McFadden's touchdown total from that season leaves a lot to be desired, but let's not forget the quarterbacking chaos that went on that season. Between Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore, defenses weren't worried about being beat in the passing game.
Frankly, it's a miracle that McFadden rushed for 1,000 yards.
Over 11 games from weeks 6-17, McFadden averaged 21.45 touches per game and 108.27 total yards per game. At that pace, stretched over a 16 game season, McFadden would have totaled 1,732 yards, which would have led all running backs in total yards that season.
If you still have to draft, I would take a chance on McFadden around the 7th or 8th round in 10 or 12 team drafts.
As for Alfred Morris, he will get some touches as much as the Dallas Cowboys will look to run the ball. That being said the second half of 2016 showed who the coaches preferred as the backup.
The last time Morris ran for more than 1,000 yards was in 2014. In 2015, if you'll remember, he lost his job to Matt Jones who has since lost his job to UDFA Rob Kelley, who is starting but is being threatened by 2017 draft pick Samaje Perine.
When Morris played last year he was pretty ineffective averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry.
With McFadden's injury history, you can take a shot on Alfred Morris late in your fantasy drafts around the second to last or the last round.
How Should You Value Ezekiel Elliott in Upcoming Fantasy Drafts?
That's a difficult question to answer, because a lot will depend on your league settings. My simple answer is, if you can get any discount on Ezekiel Elliott from his average draft position of 3.0, then you're getting a good value for at least the second half of the season.
Just a week ago I wrote to not allow this absence to sway you too much. I stand by that.
Fantasy football is about getting as much value as you can with each draft pick. Elliott is a top 5 value in any setting, even if he has to sit out. I think you can comprise a roster good enough to get into the playoffs, then you'll want Elliott for a playoff run.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys, all you need to do is tread water while he's out. If you can make it through the suspension at or around .500, you will still be in good position to win your fantasy football league.
When Elliott comes back, he will be the starter.
Even if they make him earn it, it won't take long. He's just better than McFadden and Morris. If your league lets Elliott somehow slip outside of the first round, snatch him up and make sure you draft McFadden. You'll thank me for it later.
While many will look at this situation as a detriment to Dak Prescott and may feel deterred from drafting him as the 9th quarterback in your league, I actually see it the opposite. While Dak was very efficient in Dallas' run-first offense, he showed throughout the 2016 season that he could be leaned upon in a shootout or to bring the team back from a large deficit.
In fact, Dak might have played his best game of the season during the playoff loss to Green Bay when the team got down 21-3. Forced to pass, Prescott completed 63% of his passes for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in nearly leading the team back to victory.
With a full offseason in the Dallas offense and a really good compliment of receivers led by Dez Bryant, I fully anticipate Dak to have an excellent sophomore campaign.
Dallas may lean more on the pass during Elliott's absence, which will make Dak more valuable to me. Remember fantasy football is about acquiring stats and with Elliott out, Dak will have a great chance at putting up even bigger numbers. Especially if the run game is ineffective.
Fantasy Football: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Early, Don’t Be Swayed
Plenty of fantasy football drafts have come and gone, but many still remain as training camp is in full swing. The question has come up in the fantasy football Twitter community; what do you do with Ezekiel Elliott amidst rumors of a suspension? And the short answer is nothing.
Investigations into whether or not Ezekiel Elliott has violated any of the NFL's policies have persisted. Supposedly, those investigations have come to a close. The personal conduct policy, the domestic violence policy, and the substance abuse policy seem to all be in play as the league decides on the appropriate punishment for the Dallas Cowboys' star running back.
You could go the safe route and drop Ezekiel Elliott down your draft boards or you could take a chance at having one of the top scorers in fantasy football on your roster.
Say a suspension does come down. At worst, a drug suspension would be four games.
The domestic violence issue seems to be circumstantial evidence that even the Columbus Police and District Attorney declined to pursue. The NFL's personal conduct policy could apply, but that seems to be more of a threat than anything. So the question is, if Elliott is out for four games, does he lose his value somehow. I'd say no.
We don't have to go back very far to see a similar star running back with a similar suspension. In 2016, Le'Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games of the season and many people slid him down their draft boards. In some mocks, I saw him going outside of the first round.
Sure he missed the first three games of the season, but he finished as fantasy football's No. 3 running back and was there when you needed him most. Playoff time.
Bell only had three games where he failed to score less than 15 standard fantasy points during his 12 game season (didn't play in the season finale). The point being, anyone who drafted Le'Veon Bell in the first round or the top of the second was quite happy with the results.
If Ezekiel Elliott misses time, it will be at the beginning of the season, but like Bell, he will be around at the end of the season when you're trying to put away a championship win.
If you're drafting at the top of the first round, don't let Ezekiel Elliott's consistency and scoring ability get by you because of a threat of suspension. He'll be available to you when you need him most.
The first few weeks of the season are tough matchups for Elliott anyway.
Dallas will face the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams in the first four weeks--all teams with tough defenses. Though Elliott is a guaranteed starter for those four weeks, it's likely you're lowering expectations for him against some of the top run defenses in the NFL.
For me in 2017, the reward of having Ezekiel Elliott on my roster far outweighs the risk of any potential suspension. Draft Zeke and reap the benefits.
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