Fantasy Football Mailbag: Thursday 8/18/16

Lamar Miller is transitioning to a new team in 2016, which could open up additional volume for him. Is he worthy of his fantasy football cost?

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.

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Now, let's answer some questions.

It's easy to understand why you wouldn't want to give up Cam Newton. He scorched the Earth last year, and he's one of the most exciting fantasy assets in the league. But this one has to go to Lamar Miller.

Miller finished 2015 ranked fifth in the league in PPR points among running backs, and that was while recording fewer than 10 carries in six separate games. There's upward mobility in his volume with the Houston Texans, his first-round average draft position (ADP) is absolutely justifiable. When you make him even cheaper than Newton, it becomes a no-brainer.

This preference of running backs and wide receivers is also a broader strategy for keeper leagues. Because you need so many quality options at those two positions -- as opposed to potentially just one quarterback or tight end -- we should be more inclined to keep them than their single counterparts. If there's a major discrepancy in draft-pick cost or ADP value, then that'll tip the scales, but I'll generally be looking to keep as many running backs and receivers as possible.

Because of the way that ADPs have shaken out this year, this is actually a super fun strategy, and it helps you avoid the worst dead spots at the two most vital positions.

Even after last year's running back apocalypse, there are still a good number of top-tier options at running back for this year. If you can get one of the top 10 or 11 options, you'll be pretty set at the position going forward. Beyond that, the dropoff is grotesque.

Once you get past Eddie Lacy as the 11th-ranked running back off the board, almost every other option has some sort of concerns around playing time, injuries, or game script. Basically, you want to try to avoid drafting running backs in this tier, and that gap just happens to align with a spot where we want to be targeting wideouts.

If running back's dead spot is in the middle of the third round, wide receiver gets there around the sixth round. If you were to get one of those top 10 running backs and then pound wide receiver before transitioning back to running back, you'd be able to skirt around the two worst dead zones in the draft without handcuffing yourself at either position. In short, yes, Austin, this is a strategy that has abundant viability, especially this year.

From a talent perspective, it may never be too early to get a guy as great as Jamaal Charles. numberFire's Jason Schandl wrote back in June that Charles is the top running back for fantasy, a sentiment that ESPN's Leo Howell largely echoed last month. Those are two smart dudes, and their optimism came before some recent good news in Charles' favor.

Add in that, and you could make the argument that Charles is once again one of the best backs in fantasy and worthy of a first-round pick. Luckily, you don't have to take him there.

Let's say you're picking 10th in a 12-team PPR league. You could take Charles there if you wanted. However, there's an 80.32% chance that Charles is available when you pick at 15 overall. You can get one of those top-tier, first-round wideouts in addition to Charles. That's a pretty sweet thought, and I'd be inclined to do that.

You're okay to draft Charles as early as the first round because he's simply that good. But waiting until the second to maximize his value is likely the right plan at the moment.

This could be a spot to go into some anecdote-based reason for avoiding defenses until the end of your draft, but that seems a bit unsatisfactory. Instead, let's use numberFire's draft kit to get an algorithm to identify the optimal strategy.

We can get a glimpse at this by using our in-house stat called FireFactor. This considers both the individual asset's projection and its value over replacement, giving you an idea of when it would be a worthwhile pick relative to other positions.

When we plug in a generic set of scoring rules for a 12-team, half-PPR league, the Denver Broncos' defense and special teams has a FireFactor of 5.39. This mark is just below that of Mohamed Sanu, who currently has an 11th-round ADP in PPR leagues. Basically, FireFactor doesn't believe you should draft a defense prior to the 11th round, and that's roughly in line with the anecdotal thinking.

At both defense and kicker, there's always a desire to have that locked-in option that you can count on each and every week. However, the value you get for a top option relative to a streaming or late-round asset shows that it's best to hold off and go for a lower-cost route.

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