Fantasy Football Mailbag: Friday 8/12/16

With how much draft strategy has changed, do we now need to target wide receivers exclusively in the first few rounds of fantasy football drafts?

Fantasy football research never stops, and offseason news can really complicate things, especially when coaches talk up second- and third-string players. That's why we're starting up a fantasy football mailbag.

Have a question about a certain player, team, draft strategy, or anything football? Shoot us a question on Twitter or send an email to, and we can talk anything fantasy football related -- even daily fantasy football.

Don't forget to check out our initial NFL projections and our fully customizable fantasy football draft kit to jumpstart your fantasy football season.

Now, let's answer some questions.

Email submission from Zack Howard:

I traded my third and fourth round picks for my friend's first and eleventh. He has the fifth pick and I have the tenth in a ten team, half ppr, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 RB/WR/te roster. Should I play it safe by going Gurley, AP, or D Johnson at pick 5 while going two WR like AJ, Dez, or Brandon Marshal at the turn? Or is it crazy to go Hopkins, AJ and Dez with those essentially three first round picks? If I go three WR, my RBs in the end of the fifth and beginning sixth will probably look like Ryan Mathews, Demarco, J Stew, Dion Lewis, etc.

In a vacuum, David Johnson is completely fine as the fifth overall pick in 10-team, half-PPR leagues. However, when you toss in the caveat of not having a third- or fourth-round pick, going heavy at wide receiver seems to be the way to go.

The reasoning here is that there is a precipitous dropoff at wide receiver once you get past the first few rounds. Looking at 10-team leagues on Fantasy Football Calculator, once you get into the fifth round, your top choices at receiver are Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jordan Matthews. None of them are terrible, but their safety in the number of targets they'll see is well behind that of the first- and second-round receivers. This is a pretty drastic deviation from what we saw in previous seasons, and it should be taken into account with every decision we make.

As Zack alluded to, there is a decent amount of value at running back around those fifth and sixth rounds. Matt Jones will likely be on the board, and he is worth his current draft cost in the fifth. Then you get to guys such as Jonathan Stewart, Ameer Abdullah, Jeremy Hill, and others beyond that, and you can see why it's a good year to wait at running back. They all have their warts, but there are reasons to like each and every one.

The landscape at wide receiver is radically different than what we've seen before. Because of that, we need to adjust the way we're drafting, and Zack recognized that in asking the question. Grab them puppies early before they're all off the board.

You know the way to my heart by talking up the offensive line. You absolutely should be considering this for fantasy, especially when it comes to in-season injuries.

As we'll discuss later with strength of schedule, it's hard to predict in advance how well a unit will perform prior to the season. This makes banking on offensive line rankings a dangerous game as things will change steadily from one year to the next. This doesn't preclude it from being a worthwhile exercise, though, so it's smart to read through such rankings when they are available.

There are some players, though, who can thrive even in awful situations. Nobody has ever accused the Seattle Seahawks of having an elite front, and yet Russell Wilson has thrived each of his four seasons in the league. This is why it's important to track in-season fluctuations to see when a player's performance may change.

The easiest example here is Melvin Gordon during his rookie season. He had turned 44 rushes into 190 yards (4.32 yards per carry) the first three games, inspiring a bit of hype prior to his matchup at home with the Cleveland Browns' putrid rush defense.

The brown stuff hit the fan real quick.

The team entered the weekend with four of their offensive line starters on the injury report, and the left tackle, left guard, and center all ended up being inactive. They dealt with injuries the remainder of the season, and Gordon's yard-per-carry average fell to 3.22 over the final 11 games. Those splits aren't a coincidence.

This is why it's important to track offensive line health throughout the course of a season. If we see things going south, we can potentially dump a guy via a trade before his stock plummets, or we can at least keep him from tarnishing things in the starting lineup. You're spot on here.

When it comes to schedules, things aren't quite as easy and obvious. As mentioned above, teams change pretty radically from one season to the next, making it difficult to diagnose what easy and hard schedules look like. There are some instances in which it's a smart thing to consider, though.

If you're considering streaming any position (quarterback, defense, kicker, etc), it's best to take a peek at each team's early schedule to see who may be in a great spot the first few weeks. We may not know definitively where the value will lie, but this is a general strategy for in-season streaming, and we'd be silly to simply ignore it in the preseason.

Thankfully, numberFire premium subscribers will have a pretty easy time doing this. Our draft kit has defensive matchup charts for each player over the course of the season that show when they will have favorable and unfavorable matchups. So, if you need a guy to fill in for Tom Brady while he rides the pine, you can see that Joe Flacco's first four weeks are pretty saucy without doing much digging. It's a sweet tool, and it's just one of many for those of you who dive into premium memberships.

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