We’re going to try something a little new over here at the Dr’s Office, with a once-a-week mock draft and review. Each week we’ll draft from a different position in the draft and take a look at each major draft strategy to give you an idea of what to expect on draft day.
Last season, we fully embraced the idea that ZeroRB could be a viable draft strategy for the current fantasy landscape, especially given how many leagues have converted to half point and full point PPR formats.
We still think a full ZeroRB strategy is a risky proposition, especially in standard leagues, so really do your research before committing to it. We find that the current trend of workhorse backs returning to the early first round, ZeroRB really shines with a pick later in the draft. We randomized our draft position and received the 6th overall pick out of 10. Here’s how things went.
1.06 – Davante Adams, WR – GB
I was hoping DeAndre Hopkins would fall to me at six, but I’m not lamenting starting my draft with one of the most consistent receivers over the last few years. With Antonio Brown off to Oakland, Adams offers both the highest floor and highest ceiling of any receiver not named Hopkins. He’s a safe bet for 150 targets, 100 or so receptions, and his usual 10+ TD receptions.
2.05 – Mike Evans, WR – TB
Antonio Brown was available here, but I’m not convinced he’ll have the same consistency with Carr and Gruden leading the offense in Oakland. Instead, I went with the safer pick of Mike Evans. I’m actually surprised that Evans isn’t getting enough credit for being one of the top options at the position. His 2018 was his best year yet despite the flux at the QB position. With Winston under center from day 1 and less double teams thanks to emerging talent elsewhere on the offense, his floor is far safer than the other options surrounding him, which is one of my concerns when drafting for a ZeroRB roster. I don’t like to have too many down weeks from my studs, and the Adams/Evans combo is a lethal one.
3.06 – Adam Thielen, WR – MIN
I could take George Kittle here and pair my top 3 WR with a top 3 TE, but I’m going to stick to my guns and take the guy who fits my ZeroRB draft strategy the best. While boom or bust candidates like A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, and Amari Cooper may sit on most expert rankings ahead of Thielen, it’s the Minnesota product that really offers through the roof value in the third round. His first half last year was one of the best stretches for any receiver in the league, and even when things started to go sideways on the Vikings, Thielen managed to stay productive. As a WR3, I’m stocked to have him.
4.05 – Andrew Luck, QB – IND
It’s around this time that I begin plotting out my RB selections, and knowing that I have a three receiver group that should be well ahead of the competition, I’m willing to wait on TE and grab a player who could very well finish as the top QB in the league this year. Mahomes is the clear number one at this point, but unlike the situation in KC, Indianapolis has given a now-healthy Luck even more weapons to work with. With my plan to select a RB in round 6, I’d rather get a sure thing QB here than select another wide out and hope a top 5 QB I liked was available in round 5.
5.06 – Tyler Boyd, WR – CIN
This one is a bit off the board, but with the ZeroRB strategy, you need to make sure you’re taking the guys you want, and not just the guys at the top of the current ADP or rankings. With my commitment to the strategy, I’ll be selecting a handful of backs over the next few rounds, and I really like Boyd to repeat last years breakout season. With A.J. Green on the field, he was electric, and with this particular mock taking place in a PPR universe, his value is even greater considering the volume I expect him to see. As a fourth WR, you can’t do much better than a player who’s floor is padded thanks to his target share.
6.05 – Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
There were a few names I was hoping would drop to me, namely Kerryon Johnson, but alas he and Sony Michel went in the few picks leading up to mine in the sixth round. Still, I’m okay with beginning my RB hunt with a guy who, at one point, was as buzzy a prospect as we’d seen in some time. The former Heisman trophy winner was electric down the stretch, and it seemed at the time that the offense was being handed over to him in a more workhorse role. His skill set certainly supports the idea that in 2019 he’s going to be more of a bell cow, and I’m intrigued by his upside. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of shares of Henry in the coming season.
7.06 – Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI
Knowing the league format is always important, and grabbing a guy like Cohen as your RB2 is a dangerous proposition unless you’re in a full point PPR league. Given that Jordan Howard was sent packing and Devin Singletary doesn’t really profile as a pass catching back, the third downs safely belong to Cohen. Only Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel had a larger share of targets last season, and by a short margin at that. Cohen is a lock for 90 or so targets, and the prospect of additional work on the ground makes him an interesting ZeroRB target who could really return on that investment.
8.05 – James White, RB – NE
This is the point in the draft where many running back decisions come down to opportunity vs. upside. Guys like Chris Carson and Lamar Miller were solid, middle of the road backs last season, but both have young talent pushing them for touches. Likewise, guys like Derrius Guice and Jerick McKinnon saw promising seasons go down in the pre-season and are no guarantee to win back the starting gig with new backs in both systems. Getting White here was a bit of a cop out, as I’m not committing to any of those scenarios. Much like Cohen, White is entrenched as the pass catching back in New England, and with 90-100 target potential, especially in the face of Rob Gronkowski’s departure, and he’s a viable third option and flex starter during the season.
9.06 – David Njoku, TE – CLE
While Hunter Henry was still on the board, I’m not convinced that he’ll ever be more than a mid-tier fantasy producer. Instead, I went with the freak athlete on an ascending team in Cleveland’s Njoku. I don’t believe Odell Beckham’s arrival spells disaster for Njoku’s outlook either, as his roll as one of Baker Mayfields middle of the field safety blanket remains in tact. In fact, I expect him to see an even larger share of red zone targets this year than last year, as his 10 targets were half of Landry’s but converted to the most Red Zone TDs on the team.
10.05 – Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
It was a terrible injury that felled McKinnon last pre-season, but he’s expected to be back healthy, and has already been suggested by coach Kyle Shanahan as the teams RB1 out of the gates. That could certainly change as the season approaches, but given the contract he signed, it’s likely that the team wants to see what McKinnon can do for them before moving on to Brieda or Coleman as the lead back. However, I don’t expect him to handle a ton of passing downs with, so his ceiling is relatively low for a guy who should be a starter on his team. Any earlier in the draft, and I’d be ignoring him as an option, but in the tenth I’ll take the chance, and keep the leash short.
11.06 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA
I was critical of Penny last year, but it wasn’t because he’s lacking talent. What Penny had to overcome was a lack of conditioning and a stranglehold on the starting gig by the milquetoast Chris Carson. Down the stretch, however, we saw how his talent may trump Carson’s incumbency, as he showed flashes of brilliance late in the year. This is purely an upside pick, and with as many pass catching backs, I felt comfortable taking Penny here over my other target of Nyheim Hines.
12.05 – Michael Gallup, WR – DAL
Given his pedigree, it makes sense that Amari Cooper is the big name being targeted in that Dallas passing game, but I’d caution that overlooking Gallup could be a mistake. After all, Cooper did most of his damage over a three week stretch, putting up 47% of his yardage and 71% of his TD production during that time. That leaves the door open for Gallup, who saw his targets increase after the bye, and his production improve with the arrival of Cooper as well. He’ll need to improve his catch rate, but I feel a good amount of that stems from Prescott airing it out to Gallup. There’s definitely a chance he busts, but in the 12th round, he has excellent upside for a flier pick.
13.06 – Ronald Jones, RB – TB
At this point in the draft, my strategy is to take the guy I think has the best chance to overcome whatever cons have him being drafted so late. The buzz surrounding Rojo last preseason was pure hyperbole, after all it was argued he was the next Jamaal Charles. This year, he’s a bit of an afterthought despite a major change with the coaching staff, and Bruce Arians arriving to help fix the mess that was last years Buccaneers. With his propensity to use his RB’s in the passing game, and Peyton Barbers tenuous hold on the starting job as it is, Ronald Jones could see himself on the field far more this season, and his pedigree is enticing at this point in the draft.
14.05 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN
While I’m fairly convinced that Njoku will be productive in Cleveland, it doesn’t hurt to add a consistent weapon to your bench. Walker is an injury waiting to happen, but in the event that Njoku goes down or becomes ineffective, Walker is a very solid option to replace the production I expect from Njoku. I could have taken a swing here at Trey Burton as well, but he profiles much along the lines of Njoku, and I’m not willing to put too many eggs in the upside basket when it comes to my tight ends.
15.06 – DeaSean Hamilton, WR – DEN
I was a DeaSean owner last year, and I really liked how he played for a Denver team that struggled to throw the football all season. While Joe Flacco isn’t a major improvement for the Broncos, he’s an improvement nonetheless, and the second year receiver stands to gain a lot from his arrival. Given that Emmanuel Sanders is still recovering from an achilles injury, Hamilton figures to be used pretty heavily at times in the Bronco’s offense, and if the flashes he showed last year are any indication, there’s few names at this point in the draft with WR2 upside like Hamilton possesses.
16.05 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL
As a backup QB, there’s not many options in this portion of the draft that has the kind of upside that Prescott has. With an elite O-line, a run game that keeps him protected, and an expanded cast at the receiver position, Prescott’s late season success is very easily transferable to the 2019 season. If Luck misses time, I’m comfortable rolling Prescott out there in his stead.
17.06 – Greg Zuerlien, K – LAR
I won’t get too into it, but when I’m drafting my Kicker and D/ST last, I tend to take the most “sure thing” contributor between the top options at both. In the event that I can get the top kicker, I’m more than comfortable taking a stab at a D/ST and streaming in the likely event that the selection isn’t elite.
18.05 – New Orleans Saints D/ST
They’ll do in a pinch, but I’m planning on streaming a defense anyways, so this is a throw away pick at best.
- QB: Andrew Luck, Dak Prescott
- RB: Derrick Henry, Tarik Cohen, James White, Jerick McKinnon, Rashaad Penny, Ronald Jones
- WR: Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, Tyler Boyd, Michael Gallup, DeaSean Hamilton
- TE: David Njoku, Delanie Walker
- K: Greg Zurlein
- D/ST: New Orleans Saints
The strength of this team obviously resides at the wide receiver position. Having a potential top 25 guy as my WR4 means I can mitigate any effects that may arise from waiting as long as I did on backs. If I only have to start two of my backs most weeks, I’m in a much better position to succeed given the PPR format I drafted for.
Of course, you can take this strategy and adopt a slightly different variation. I know some folks wait even later in the draft, stockpiling pass catchers for trade and depth purposes, and I’ve seen some ZeroRB strategies that can be best described as hybrid strategies.
For example, I could have skipped the Tyler Boyd pick, and taken a back in the 5th round and landed either Philip Lindsay or Kerryon Johnson, players who went in the few picks following the selection of Boyd. There’s no real rule that says if you’re starting with a ZeroRB focus you can’t go off script to grab a player you really love.
As I’ve said in the past, this isn’t a strategy for folks uncomfortable with the deeper options at the back position. Being flexible and malleable week to week depending on matchups can be instrumental to success. It will require a great commitment to keeping tabs on your team and on the free agent pool, but the success of ZeroRB rosters can be through the roof if done properly.
While you may see the word “beginner” in the title and deem this beneath you, but the truth is that we should always be learning; honing our skills and getting better at the game. The PPR format has exploded in years past, and like any non-standard scoring format, it presents fantasy drafters an extra wrinkle in their quest for greatness.
Of course, it’s important to understand the fundamentals. If you’re a point per reception veteran, skip this section; we’ll see you down below when we highlight some PPR strategies for the 2018 season. For those of you who aren’t familiar, buckle up and we’ll take you on a crash course.
PPR leagues differ from standard leagues in one very easy to understand facet; they award points to any player who records a reception. Whether it’s one full point, or a half a point, a player who has a higher volume of receptions becomes far more valuable than his standard league counter parts.
The first thing one should do is adjust your rankings. If you’re using a fantasy football magazine, or printing them off the internet, make sure you’re using PPR rankings. We always suggest doing the research and ranking your own players, but if you neither have the time nor the desire, ensure you’re not using rankings that don’t address your format.
A great example would be Duke Johnson as he’s primarily an after thought in standard, non-PPR leagues; and for a good reason. His highest single season rushing attempts total was 104 in his rookie year. Last year his 83 carries was good for 55th in the NFL, which we shouldn’t have to tell you isn’t enough volume to warrant much excitement.
In PPR leagues however, his 74 receptions was the 26th highest total in the NFL, and 4th highest among running backs. When you consider that he finished as the 11th highest scoring running back despite his average draft position of 97th overall in PPR leagues last year (data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.com) then it’s painfully clear that recognizing these pass catching backs can be fantasy gold in the right format.
Of course, that’s not to discount how it affects the wide receiver position either. Most of the elite players (regardless of position) are elite in either format. Volume and opportunity trump much of what you can dredge up in an argument, but in those middle rounds there’s plenty of players who have higher floors thanks to a larger share of targets.
Last year, Jarvis Landry was being ranking as the WR27 and was selected with the 78th pick on average. The value there was undeniable, especially considering that his 260 PPR points finished for 5th most at the WR position and 12th overall among skill position players. While his situation may require re-evaluation of his opportunity, the example rings true nonetheless. These players, who many discount because they build their rankings based off of the wrong data, are the targets that will help you win your league.
Players to Target
As always, we’ll use the ADP data compiled over at Fantasy Football Calculator to make our analysis. Finding these PPR gems isn’t as easy as it seems, though. Simply targeting player A because he led the position in receptions last year doesn’t ensure success this year. There is far more subtly when highlighting players to target in the middle and late rounds.
In the early rounds, you’ll ignore PPR vs. Standard debates; Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon are still elite fantasy commodities even if they don’t catch the ball a ton. It’s in the middle rounds we can start the shopping list.
- Kareem Hunt (ADP 11): Unlike the Gordon/Howard example, Hunt has legitimate regression concerns after a monster rookie season. With Spencer Ware returning and pass catching specialist Charcandarick West still on the roster, there’s going to be fewer opportunities for the game breaker. While he’ll still be valuable, I don’t expect him to factor into the passing game as much this season, damaging his ability to be the top 10 player he’s being projected as.
- Derrick Henry (ADP 36): While Henry has never been the most adept pass catcher, the signing of Dion Lewis pretty much relegates him to a 1st and 2nd down role. Without the benefit of the passing game, Henry’s 200 carries won’t do much to support a RB2 finish, and with his talent, drafters are still betting that he’ll break out. While Lewis certainly is an injury risk, he’s also good enough between the tackles to keep Henry from being elite.
- Jay Ajayi (ADP 45): I really like Ajayi’s talent, but I don’t like his situation in Philly. With Darren Sproles returning, and Corey Clement still on the roster, the idea that he’ll continue to the be the bell cow is a bit misleading. He will likely lead the team in rushes, but his involvement in the passing game will be minimal barring any major injuries.
- Kenyan Drake (ADP 47): There is a lot of buzz after Drake finished 2017 strong, but Frank Gore should eat into his carries, and rookie Kalen Ballage is a far superior pass catching back who should eat targets up early an often. While he’s a safe bet for him to finish at the top of the committee for rushes, like Ajayi, he’ll figure into the scoring far less than his ADP provides for.
- Duke Johnson (ADP 97): Mentioned above, Johnson still figures to make an impact in the passing game, but with Carlos Hyde also a capable pass catcher (88 targets last year were only 5 fewer than Johnson), there’s reason to be concerned that the volume could dip. His ADP is beginning to represent this, but don’t swing early on Johnson and expect 70+ catches again.
- Dion Lewis (ADP 61): I’m not predicting him to completely overtake Henry in the rushing game, but his floor his immensely high. In the 7th round, he’s the kind of back that can secure you 50 receptions and 1,000 total yards without impacting the incumbent start too much. His ceiling is far better than that, creating a wonderful target to return heavily on his investment.
- Chris Thompson (ADP 81): Not to discount the effect that Derrius Guice will have on the Washington Backfield, but Thompson was on pace for 1,200 total yards, 60+ receptions, and 9 TDs last year before missing the final 6 games due to a broken leg. Even given a reasonable amount of regression, he figures to be one of the most valuable 3rd down backs in fantasy.
- Ty Montgomery (ADP 111): He’s not going to impress anyone on the ground, but the converted wide receiver has the pass catching ability to provide plenty of value; especially in the 12th round. Prior to his injury, Montgomery was targeted heavily in the passing game, averaging nearly 8 targets and 6 receptions a game. Expect a return to the third down role for the sure handed Montgomery, and reap the rewards this late in the draft.
- James White (ADP 165): The forgotten man in New England, White continues to fly under the radar despite securing 90 targets and 56 receptions last year in an over crowded backfield. With Sony Michel still a rookie, and Dion Lewis leaving for greener pastures, Tom Brady’s safety blanket is in line for another big year in terms of PPR production. At 165, I’ll take the chance that the 26 year old continues to produce in the passing game for one of the best QB’s of all time.
- Kalen Ballage (ADP 213): I’ll continue beating my drum for Ballage who enters the season firmly behind Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore on the depth chart. But the speedy big man possesses the kind of silky smooth mitts that coaches game plan around, and while Drake was effective down the stretch in 2017, the moves made in the off season scream of available opportunity for the guys they brought in. If he carves out a portions of first and second downs, Ballage could be a monster for basically a waiver wire stab.
- Adam Thielen (ADP 29): With an upgrade at QB, you’d think Thielen is in line for the same kind of statline that saw him win leagues in 2017, but think again. History shows that Cousin’s is a bit of a gunslinger, and while Thielen will probably continue to be a contributor, he’s primed for regression yet being drafted as though he’s regression proof.
- Golden Tate (ADP 48): You may look at the bottom line and suggest that he’s a PPR gold mine; after all he’s recorded 90 receptions for 4 straight years. I’d implore you to dig a little deeper. Aside from the emergence of Marvin Jones, it’s important to note that Tate was wildly inconsistent last year. In 6 games last year, Tate failed to record more than 4 receptions, and in four of those games he had less than 6 PPR point. That amounts to nearly 40% of the season that Tate is a bust player.
- Brandin Cooks (ADP 53): Don’t get me wrong, Cooks is a nice little player. The issue is that with the Rams being a run first team, there’s about 10% or more opportunity lost in targets (550 pass attempts in LA to 600 in New England). Cooks is a deep threat that won’t command the kind of target share that other elite PPR receivers will. With Robert Woods returning as the slot man, Cooks is in line for major regression, especially in the PPR format.
- Jarvis Landry (ADP 59): This isn’t a knock on Landry the player, but expecting the kind of volume that he had in Miami is to ignore the fact that he’s not the most talented receiver on his current team. With Josh Gordon figuring to command the highest percentage of targets, Landry’s expectations should be limited, even if his ADP suggests otherwise.
- Julian Edelman (ADP 69): It pains me to include the New England slot receiver, but the reasons for his inclusion here are fairly straight forward. On top of missing 25% of the season due to suspension, he’s 32 years old and coming off a major knee injury that cost him the entirety of last season. With real competition for the slot position, it’ll be very difficult for Edelman to be more than a spot start, and at his current price, there’s a ton of other guys I’d rather have.
- Cooper Kupp (ADP 94): I was wrong about Kupp last year, and while I think Cooks and Woods eat up a lot of targets, it’s important to note that Kupp quietly led the Rams in targets last year with 94. With a floor around 60 catches and 800 yards (tack on around 5 TDs), and you’re looking at fantastic value in the 10th round.
- Marquise Goodwin (ADP 104): Goodwin looked great in the five games that Garoppolo started, averaging nearly 9 targets a game. With Jimmy G as the every day starter, I expect Goodwin to continue to elevate his game, and a WR2 ceiling (65 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 4 TDs) is well within reach.
- Kenny Stills (ADP 148): Many expect Danny Amendola to fill the role vacated by Jarvis Landry, but I find myself coming back to Stills as the perfect candidate to inherit those targets. Already one of the Dolphins most targeted receivers, his familiarity with the system and quarter back Ryan Tannehill are great catalysts for an increase in production. Perennially Stills has inhabited the 80-100 target mark, so bumping him to 130-150 feels right, and puts him firmly in the break out column on draft day.
- Keelan Cole (ADP 174): I don’t typically get excited about guys with as small a sample size as Cole has, but the 25 year old out of Louisville was impressive when called upon late in the season, and seems to continue to be overlooked with Marqise Lee and Donte Moncreif sitting above him in the depth chart. Neither of those players has done anything over their careers to keep Cole from taking their jobs, and with a solid rapport developing between he and Bortles, he’s a breakout candidate you can have for pennies on the dollar.
- Michael Gallup (ADP 212): I don’t expect Gallup to come out of the gate blazing, but with a mediocre group of receivers ahead of him, he’ll likely carve out a large share of the targets in Dallas. With much of the buzz surrounding him positive, I expect 100+ targets for the rookie, and a floor that most players in the 200’s don’t have.
If you hadn’t heard, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots is facing a four game suspension for testing positive for some kind of P.E.D. The details have not yet been released, but it’s a safe bet that the Patriots will be without their star slot receiver until week 5 of the season.
What does that mean in terms of fantasy?
There are two major factors when determining where to rank Edelman. First, is that he’s coming off a major knee injury. At 32 years old, and a year removed from meaningful football, Edelman is already behind the proverbial 8 ball. Second, he’ll be missing 25% of the fantasy schedule even if he DOES stay healthy for the year. My projections have him hovering around the WR50 mark, which would plant him in the 14th round.
But who is going to assume the production early on (and possibly ingratiate themselves to Brady)?
The least impact should be to the Patriots newest receiver, Jordan Matthews. While he may be the most talented receiver on the board in terms of athletic ability, he’s had very little time to work with his new QB, as Brady continues to avoid the Patriots practice facilities.
Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, should benefit only slightly, as he was likely in line for the lions share of targets anyhow even before the suspension. I expect that the Pats would rather involve other supporting cast rather than dump more on the oft-injured TE.
This leaves Chris Hogan as the receiver with the most to gain. We know Brady and Hogan have a bit of a rapport already, and with added expectation thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade, Hogan should slide in as the WR1 right out of the gates, and should see a more consistent usage in the passing game.
Of course, expect the running backs to see ample usage early on. Sony Michel, the Patriots first round draft pick, is a trendy name already but James White or Rex Burkhead should be more valuable considering where they are being drafted.
As always, keep an eye on the situation as things may change.
For those trying a PPR league for the first time, it’s important to remember that standard scoring rankings need to be adjusted when looking at certain positions. When you league awards a point (or some percentage of one) per reception, players you never thought to target become valuable tools in your quest to become champion.
Running Back Targets
Drafting a PPR running back can be a nerve racking thing; with the exception of a few standouts, pass-catching running backs have a more volatile NFL existence and predicting th usage is difficult. David Johnson (RB1) and Le’Veon Bell (RB2) led all backs with 120 and 94 targets respectively. Here’s the next 5:
- James White, NE (RB51) – 86 targets
- Bilal Powell, NYJ (RB29) – 75 targets
- Duke Johnson, CLE (RB44) – 74 targets
- Darren Sproles, PHI (RB55) – 71 targets
- T.J. Yeldon, JAC (RB74) – 68 targets
A veritable who’s who of middle to late round picks. All of those players finished with 50 or more receptions, and in a 1 point PPR league that’s the equivilant of 500 rushing or receiving yards. Don’t expect all 5 of these players to finish in the top 10 in targets this year though, as turnover in the NFL is expected. Here are five PPR targets for 2017.
- Theo Riddick, DET (RB37)
- Duke Johnson, CLE (RB44)
- Chris Thompson, WAS(RB61)
- Danny Woodhead, BAL (RB32)
- Wendall Smallwood, PHI (RB65)
All five of these players should approach 50-75 targets, providing ample PPR scoring from the later rounds.
Wide Receiver Targets
Things get a little more… muddled when you start looking at middle and late round PPR targets. The top 20 receivers on the board in all formats are likely to be targeted the most, which makes WR’s that much more valuable in general. But there’s always a steal to be had in the late rounds. Here’s five PPR targets for 2017.
- Jeremy Kerley, SF (WR80)
- Quincy Enunwa, NYJ (WR62)
- Willie Snead, NO (WR36)
- Cole Beasley, DAL (WR71)
- Marqise Lee, JAC (WR66)
Sure, the list is a veritable who’s who of undervalued slot receivers, but all are a safe bet to finish in the top 35 of WR targets, and should likely far outproduce their draft values. It’s safe to assume that none of these guys are likely to finish in the top 20 overall, but as leagues continue to value receptions, these are like extra rounds in the chamber.