Draft Strategy: Punting QB in a 2QB Draft
Like any other game, the key to improving your success at fantasy football is a draft strategy. For many, the late-round quarterback strategy is employed to minimize forgone opportunity in the early rounds at higher leverage positions. Some prefer zero-running back, potentially minimizing injury risk in the first few rounds. Others prefer zero-wide receiver, maximizing the chance at a game-changing running back. Regardless of what strategy you prefer, one thing holds true: no single strategy works for every league type.
The ability to craft a unique strategy to set your team up for success in each league is a crucial skill to develop. Leagues can vary widely from the number of teams, starting lineup requirements, scoring settings, and other key aspects, so fantasy players need to be agile and develop strategies quickly and effectively. Here, I’ll walk you through how I developed a strategy for a recent draft of mine with a format I’ve never played before. While you might not play in this specific type of league discussed, the steps outlined here are key to forming any strategy.
This league was a rotisserie (no, not the chicken) style, which is very uncommon in the fantasy football world. It’s much more common in fantasy basketball and fantasy baseball. Essentially, scoring in this league is split into categories, and your team’s rank within that category determines the number of points you get at the end of the year. Below is the draft result, and let’s dig into how/why I got the team that I did at the end of the draft.
Step 1: Understand League Format
The very first step to developing a strategy for any given league is to understand the league structure/format. As mentioned, this was a rotisserie-style league that had the following categories for scoring:
- Passing Touchdowns (TD)
- Passing Yards (Yds)
- Receiving Touchdowns (TD)
- Receiving Yards (Yds)
- Rushing Touchdowns (TD)
- Rushing Yards (Yds)
- Turnovers (TO)
- Passing Yards per Attempt (Yds/A)
- Average Yards Per Reception (Y/Rc)
- Average Yards Per Rush (Y/Ru)
It was also an all-play style league, meaning there is no bench. Every player on the roster counts towards the overall success of your team each week. The lineup requirements are as follows.
- Quarterback (QB) – Start 2
- Running Back (RB) – Start 4
- Wide Receiver (WR) – Start 4
- Tight End (TE) – Start 2
- QB/RB/WR/TE (FLX) – Start 6
This league, with 13 teams, has a lot of positional requirements but also a lot of flexibility. While mandating starting two quarterbacks, one also must start four running backs and wide receivers as well as two tight ends each week. The categories for scoring are fairly balanced. Four categories can be attributed mostly to quarterbacks. Comparatively, the other six categories focus mainly on the other necessary positions. With an understanding of the league format, we can build some potential strategies.
Step 2: Initial Strategy Design
The key to any successful draft is to be flexible. Without knowing what pick you have before the start of the draft, it’s prudent to think of multiple strategies you could employ throughout the draft. In this format, the first thing that stuck out to me was it pays to focus on a few areas of scoring. Finishing middle of the pack in every category did not seem like a recipe for success.
With that, I knew I would have to sacrifice production in a few areas in order to gain production elsewhere. The first two positions that stuck out as possibly expendable were running back and quarterback. For running backs, there are three main categories that involve rushing. For quarterbacks, there are four. However, running backs can also influence the receiving stats in a big way. Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffery, and Alvin Kamara would be invaluable assets to boosting both rushing and receiving categories for my team.
For quarterbacks, what’s particularly interesting is that while you have to start two, you can theoretically start-up to 8 through the flex spots. Taking four or more quarterbacks would essentially guarantee victory in the passing yards and passing touchdowns categories. However, volume at quarterback might hurt turnovers and is largely irrelevant to yards per completion. So, overloading at quarterback has its downsides, whereas overloading at running back doesn’t have such an obvious weakness.
Going into this draft, my plan, if I received a top-four selection, was to focus on the skill position players. However, if I received a later first-round selection, I planned to focus on getting three top tier quarterbacks to maximize my odds at winning those few categories.
Step 3: Planning Around Your Draft Slot
Draft strategy is incredibly different when selecting at the turns compared to in the middle. When at the turn, it’s impossible to react to positional runs happening between your picks. In particular, for a 2QB league, miss-timing the run on quarterbacks can put you at a huge disadvantage. In this 13-team league, it’s a possibility that 10 or 11 quarterbacks might be taken between picks if at the turn. Meanwhile, when in the middle pick slots of the draft, it’s easier to let the draft come to you and adjust on the fly.
In this draft, when I found out I had the first selection, I knew my strategy from the get-go: forego the quarterback position. I knew I would be unable to react to the inevitable quarterback runs in this draft and it would force me into suboptimal decisions based on positional need. Thus, I chose to focus on besting my opponents in the other main categories.
In choosing to “punt” quarterbacks, I knew I would lose two categories immediately. However, I also knew I had a good chance of outright winning the turnover category. The wildcard category was yards per completion. I knew, however, that while my league mates were competing for quarterback production, I would gain a big leg up in the other categories with the value that falls.
Step 4: Take Players with a Purpose
This is the execution part of strategy. It’s one thing to formulate a specific strategy before a draft starts, but the execution doesn’t simply come down to “take a running back in round three”. The key to successful strategy execution, like in any industry, is to ensure that everything you do is cohesive and has a purpose. With that, I’ll describe some key drafts pick I made and why I selected each one.
1.01: Saquon Barkey
Barkley is the best do-it-all running back in the league. He will contribute well to all the production-related categories in this league. A top tier rushing and receiving threat, Barkley was the obvious choice at 1.01 in this format.
2.13: Dalvin Cook
Five quarterbacks went between my first and second picks, so some top tier talent fell to the end of the second round. Cook is a high upside player with a similar skillset to Saquon Barkley. Over his first two seasons, he has received 3.4 receptions per game, which would be a pace of about 55 receptions in 16 games. Cook adds efficiency as a runner, potentially huge volume in 2019, and passing game usage to make him a great selection at 2.13.
3.01: Mike Evans
At this point, I had two running backs with high projected receiving usage, and I didn’t want that to go to waste. Getting a top-tier wide receiver in Mike Evans was key to this strategy working successfully. Evans brings potentially league-leading receiving yards upside combined with a career 15.5 yards per reception. His value can be seen in multiple categories, and thus was an easy pick as one of my four mandatory receivers.
6.13: Hunter Henry
This was a pivotal pick in the draft. With 16 quarterbacks off the board through six rounds, including three right before this selection, value across the board continued to fall. Had I wanted a quarterback here, I would have been in a tough spot with the run that just happened. Luckily, Hunter Henry provided a big edge to a position where I had to start two. While other members of the league were trying to compete for quarterbacks, I was able to grab Henry to add touchdown upside to my team.
13.01: Tre’Quan Smith AND 16.13: Mecole Hardman
These two picks focus on one core aspect: yards per reception. Having taken Mike Evans previously, these two picks synergize well with the team I had in place. They contribute in a specific way to the success of my team. While I could have selected players like Adam Humphries or Jamison Crowder instead, Smith and Hardman improve an aspect of my team I was focusing on. Thinking back to the initial league formatting aspect, it pays to be the best in particular areas. These two picks had purpose and synergy, which is key for successful strategy implementation.
14.13: Mohamed Sanu
Sometimes, a strategy has a key cog that makes the whole thing work. Here, it was Mohamed Sanu. That’s an odd thought, right? Why would a 14th round wide receiver be the key to success? Sanu potentially raises my team from last to first in one key area: yards per completion. How is this the case? Check out Sanu’s career passing stats from Pro Football Reference.
In four of Sanu’s seven career seasons, he has had at least 25 yards per completion. This is, of course, a statistic that cannot be relied upon, but there’s a good chance Sanu has the opportunity for another big passing play in 2019. If he hits on a big completion, which he’s shown to be able to do in the past, my team’s ranking for yards per completion skyrockets to the top. While a risky play, Sanu has a legitimate chance at being a league winner for this team. This is only the case for my team. Sanu fits perfectly into this strategy.
17.01: Taysom Hill AND 18.12: Easton Stick
With my final two picks, I was forced to select two quarterbacks. Now, I could have selected two quarterbacks who are essentially guaranteed to not play in 2019. However, in line with my strategy, I wanted players who could produce high yards per completion and potentially contribute to other categories. Thus, I selected Taysom Hill as my QB1. Hill will play sparingly for the Saints again in 2019 but will be used primarily as a rusher. Similarly, Easton Stick was highly utilized in the running game in college, amassing over 400 attempts on the ground in college. He even ran for a highlight-reel touchdown already this preseason. Both these quarterbacks will help ever-so-slightly in specific categories of scoring. Instead of wasting the picks, I selected two quarterbacks who could help my team in other areas.
Step 5: Assess and Improve
After the draft is over, I always look back and see what went right and wrong. Was my strategy idea lackluster? Did I execute it well? Do my players have synergy? These are key questions to ask in order to evaluate each part of your draft. With any strategy, each part plays a role in its success. Great strategies, if poorly executed, can fail. Conversely, poor strategies, executed to perfection, can succeed. Before every draft, focus on these five steps to ensure you set your team up for success. Fantasy football, after all, is a game; formulating, executing, and reflecting on each strategy you implement will go a long way to improving your success in your fantasy football leagues.
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