Let me start by saying there is no one way to draft successfully. If you come into a draft with a dogmatic plan of what positions you will draft in specific rounds you will almost certainly be passing up on good value at other positions. The more players that you draft that outperform their draft capital (basically their ADP) the better chance you have at winning the ‘ship. This may seem obvious, but I think too often people feel like they need to have a positionally balanced roster in the early rounds and miss amazing values on other players because they’re only looking at one position. The most important thing is to be flexible and not to feel like you can’t draft a player because you need to balance your roster.
I am not against having a even distribution of RB’s and WR’s in the early rounds, or taking a TE or QB if the value is there. There are a lot of benefits to drafting this way providing you don’t reach on players to make it happen. A balanced draft in the early rounds gives you reliable starters at every position and gives you flexibility going into the later rounds of the draft. But it’s not the only way to draft a championship team, and if you are rigid about having balance it is more likely to hurt than help your team.
There are also benefits to drafting RB or WR heavy in the early rounds and you shouldn’t be afraid to go that way if that’s where the value is. Let’s assume you start the draft WR/WR/RB/WR/TE (the argument is the same if it were RB/RB/WR/RB/QB). Based on pre-season evaluations you’re likely at a weekly disadvantage at RB. But, you also are probably starting 2 WR1’s and flexing a WR2 which gives you a big enough weekly advantage at those 3 positions to mitigate the disadvantage of having to use a committee approach for your RB2 spot. And if you hit on a late round RB or two your team is starting to look like a juggernaut.
When you start with a heavy foundation at either RB or WR it allows you to allocate less roster spots to that position because you have a robust core you can rely on throughout the season. This allows you to allocate more roster spots on the position that you’re weaker at making it easier to build a functional committee to start the season and giving you 1-2 roster spots to churn on a weekly basis on prospective waiver pickups at that position. Additionally, with 3-4 studs at your stronger position the odds are low you'll find players, whether late in the draft or on waivers, that you’d start over them. Going back to the previous example if you take 3 WRs in the first 4 rounds and 1-2 later in the draft you will have such a strong WR core that you only need to play the waiver wire for RBs. This greatly increases your chances of hitting on a waiver wire gem that will make an impact on your starting roster. Since you have such a huge advantage at WR you only need relative parity between you and you opponent at RB to have a dominant team (or vice versa).
I know it is a little nerve-racking going into the season without the sexy starting line-up, but anyone who has played a few years of fantasy knows how quickly things shift once the season gets going. As an example here are some players that went undrafted (2016 ADP outside the top 150) in redraft leagues that ended up being top-24 at their position over the last 8 weeks of the season:
Running Backs: Jordan Howard, Rob Kelley, Mike Gillislee, Tim Hightower, and Ty Montgomery
Wide Receivers: Tyrell Williams, Richard Matthews, Tyreek Hill, Taylor Gabriel, J.J. Nelson, Marquis Lee, and Dontrelle Inman
These are just some of the undrafted players, but there were plenty of of late round players that served as reliable starters as well.
In the next week I will outline the benefits of going RB and WR heavy respectively, including which players I’d be targeting in later rounds to balance floor and ceiling and which guys I am keeping my eye on for early waiver wire adds if they flash. Similar to the Balanced Approach, this isn't the only way to draft, and value on draft day should dictate your strategy more than anything else. I hope this and the subsequent articles in this series will lay out a guide for how you can win you league by drafting for value over positional need in the early rounds.
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