No Excuses. Draft Like a Champion!

If you decide to wait on quarterback and tight end this year, there could be a new, interesting way to draft.

Your mom just called. She said that you should wait on quarterback and tight end this year.

It seems this year - more than any other in recent memory - there is a consensus that the quarterback and tight end positions are so deep that you would be fine in waiting to be the last in your league to draft either. Unless you’re in a 14-plus team league, a two-passer league, or are prepared to spend a 2nd-round pick on Jimmy Graham, I would tend to agree with this prevailing sentiment.

The real value in differentiating your team from your league mates is therefore going to be how well you draft at the running back and wide receiver positions. Chances are, if you read “n” number of different articles about drafting strategies this offseason, you’re going to get “n” different opinions, all of which are likely to have their own level of merit given the author’s assumptions. Since I’m really rooting for you to win your league this year, allow me to sweep away some of the confusion and break things down empirically so that you can saunter into your draft with the confidence of Johnny Manziel at a UT frat party (albeit with a much better outcome of course).

For this exercise, my two assumptions are as follows:

1. You have decided to wait on a quarterback and tight end until at least the 7th round.

2. You are in a 12-team league (for purposes of matching ADP to round).

One final bit of information before we finally get to the meat and potatoes: whatever you do, do not be inflexible regarding your strategy on draft day. Plan for the likely scenarios, but if someone falls asleep at the wheel and leaves a ridiculous value on the board, deviate from your plan and seize the opportunity!

Now, without further ado, let’s find the optimized positional draft order for the first six rounds!

Crunching the Numbers

ADP RoundAverage RB Projected PointsAverage WR Projected Points

Where did these numbers come from, you ask? The ADP used is the aggregated average from, Fantasy Football Calculator, ESPN, CBS Sports, MockDraftCentral, and FantasyPros. The projected points listed are the average projected points for players at each position that are, on average, taken in each round. These projections are taken from the Remaining Year Projections here at numberFire.

Got it? Good! Let’s get down to business.

The first round goes to running back, which is no surprise. The top dogs at the position are highly sought after this year. What comes next, however, should be a huge surprise to anyone who has been running around screaming about how running back scarcity should dictate you getting them early and often. Rounds 2, 3, and 4 show a safer bet in taking a wide receiver! In other words, the optimized draft order for the first six rounds may be to go RB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB. So the running back scarcity actually means that there is a huge running back drop off after the first round, which doesn’t present value relative to receivers again until Round 5!

Be warned: when you go by these numbers when drafting, your team is probably going to look pretty icky just by the eye test (someone like Montee Ball as your RB2), but the numbers have spoken. That being said, use your common sense. We’re working with average projections and average draft positions. Your league may (and probably will) vary, so be prepared to adjust your strategy on the fly to take advantage of unexpected values.

In order to address your weakness at running back, the best strategy would then be to collect as many later round backs as you can. Go for upside and take a guess on backfields that are unclear but should eventually yield one bell cow starter (like the situation in St. Louis *cough* Daryl Richardson *cough*). Your team may be somewhat shaky at running back after your first-rounder, but the strength at wideout should more than make up for it in the long run.

But Wide Receiver is So Deep This Year!

Yeah, receiver feels really deep this year, which is why many experts are saying to wait and fill up your running back spots before attending to your wideout depth. In actuality, when you look at the numbers, you should be able to see that receiver feels really deep because there are so many quality wideouts into the 3rd and 4th rounds. While the backs drop off precipitously after Round 3, the drop off at wide receiver doesn’t happen until after the 4th. So while everyone is scrambling for running back scraps after the first, your best bet could be to zig when they are zagging and collect your three wide receivers that will be automatic starts for you each week.

The Flex Position

What may be most interesting about these data is the fact that it appears to be a year that you should be targeting a receiver for your flex position. By virtue of stockpiling these receivers before your second running back, that third wideout needs to be in your lineup. This will clearly be your flex position if your league’s starting lineup consists of one. On the other hand, if your league starts three receivers, then the flex should be your third back off the board in Round 6.

Confused? You shouldn’t be. Surprised? Yeah, me too.

To Summarize, Based on Current Projections and ADP:

1. The optimal order to draft your team for the first 6 rounds may honestly be RB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB.

2. If your league starts two runners, two receivers and one flex, target a wide receiver for your flex.

3. If your league starts two running backs, three receivers and one flex, target a running back for your flex.

4. Collect as many later-round upside running backs as you can with the hopes of hitting one.

5. Your running backs may initially look worse than you’d like, but take a deep breath and trust in the numbers. No excuses. Draft like a champion!