Using Our Draft Kit to Win Your ESPN Fantasy Football League
Fantasy football isn't about picking the best players you can.
That's a big part of it, but there's a reason you shouldn't draft Aaron Rodgers first overall even if he might be the best player in football. Game theory comes into play, and a big part of that is draft strategy.
There's a movement toward drafting wide receivers rather than running backs early in drafts, and fantasy quarterbacks are available in spades late in your drafts and on the waiver wire. You probably have heard about all of this.
One overlooked part of fantasy football theory is nailing the draft not necessarily from a game theory perspective but in a practical way. This isn't about the viability of waiting for running backs in your draft or targeting two elite tight ends. This is about learning how your site of choice will dictate your fantasy football draft.
You might be in love with getting DeVante Parker in the seventh round of your mock drafts, but what if he's a fifth-rounder on your site? You need to know these things, and that's why we'll make sure you know how to nail your ESPN draft this season.
What do we find?
1. The ESPN draft app is the same for standard leagues and PPR leagues. Rankings don't change if you enter a PPR draft. Pay attention.
2. A lot of wide receivers are overvalued. ESPN's default leagues require 1 quarterback and tight end, 2 receivers, 2 running backs, and 1 flex (receiver, tight end, or running back). In standard-scoring setups, receivers aren't as valuable as the draft app makes them seem. In PPR setups, there are still some overvalued receivers in the top 100 of their rankings.
3. There are plenty of quarterback values to be had. There are some overvalued passers, for sure, but some fantasy passers we have inside the top 14 are barely on the ESPN radar. Also of note: ESPN's default settings reward four points for a passing touchdown but take away a full two points for an interception.
4. The ESPN draft application loves rookies. A lot of rookies are on the board quite high, and we don't see the same impact this year as the app suggests. Try to avoid the hype and target some of the values we'll pinpoint below.
Overvalued ESPN Players According to Our Projections
It's still early in August, and some of these numbers are going to shift, but these are some of the most overvalued players at tight end and quarterback (the solo positions) inside ESPN's top 100, per our projections.
|Player||Position||ESPN Draft App||numberFire Rank||Difference|
It'd be easier to discuss the tight ends who aren't overvalued, honestly. So we'll wait to get to them in a bit.
The ranking discrepancies between receivers and running backs is pretty significant in the draft app, and of the 36 running backs inside ESPN's top 100, we see only 4 as overvalued, and none by more than seven spots.
A big reason for that is because the overvalued list features some big pricing mismatches at receiver. Here are the guys inside ESPN's top 100 with a difference in standard ranking at least 24 spots or more (two full rounds).
|Player||ESPN Draft App||nF Standard||Std Diff||nF PPR||PPR Diff|
Golden Tate is a slight value in PPR drafts given his placement in the ESPN app, but dang, receivers are going to go off the board early in your ESPN leagues if your mates adhere somewhat to the rankings.
Receivers are fun, but don't get carried away just because of your draft app's rankings.
Undervalued ESPN Players According to Our Projections
Let's get right back to that tight end situation.
Of the first 10 tight ends listed in the draft app, we see only one (Gary Barnidge, who is 89th in standard leagues in our projections and 109th in the draft app) as a value. In PPR setups, Coby Fleener (89th per our rankings and 93rd in the app), Barnidge (99th, 109th), and Zach Ertz (103rd, 110th), are values.
But the biggest values of all are old-timers Antonio Gates (93rd in standard and 90th in PPR; 136th on ESPN's draft app) and Jason Witten (117th, 104th; 175th). We also rank Jimmy Graham 105th in standard leagues and 102nd in PPR, significantly higher than he's found in the app (140th).
Waiting on tight ends can offer some serious value. The same is true for quarterbacks.
We've seen that Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Blake Bortles, and Russell Wilson are overvalued in the app -- as is Derek Carr (134th in the app but 220th by our rankings). Just draft these undervalued passers instead.
|Player||ESPN Draft App||nF||Diff||nF PPR||PPR Diff|
To be clear, don't draft Teddy Bridgewater.
Nobody is that into Matt Ryan anymore, as he's never fully lived up to his fantasy football potential, but he's listed outside the top 220 in ESPN's draft app, and he's not that bad. We have him penciled in to finish as the 13th-best fantasy passer, and so long as you're willing to scroll for a few minutes during your draft, you'll get a great value pick.
As you've ascertained by now, a lot of running backs are undervalued if you're playing in an ESPN default league with two running backs (and a potential third as a flex).
In this setup, 24 receivers and running backs inside ESPN's top 100 are undervalued by at least eight spots, per our projections, but only two are receivers.
|Ryan Mathews||57||18||39||DeSean Jackson||72||56||16|
|Latavius Murray||56||19||37||Chris Ivory||95||80||15|
|Matt Jones||63||30||33||LeSean McCoy||27||14||13|
|Frank Gore||73||43||30||Jonathan Stewart||32||21||11|
|Danny Woodhead||67||38||29||Matt Forte||40||29||11|
|DeMarco Murray||59||31||28||Jeremy Hill||55||44||11|
|Giovani Bernard||76||52||24||Carlos Hyde||33||23||10|
|Melvin Gordon||64||41||23||Eddie Lacy||22||13||9|
|Ameer Abdullah||77||54||23||Dion Lewis||41||32||9|
|Jamaal Charles||25||3||22||T.J. Yeldon||75||66||9|
|Jeremy Langford||58||37||21||C.J. Anderson||34||26||8|
|Justin Forsett||94||77||17||Vincent Jackson||98||90||8|
You don't have to love all of the players here, but the overall principle is that a lot of running backs can be had later than they probably should.
Matt Ryan has to qualify, but Kamar Aiken is listed 128th overall. He's 114th in our standard ranks and 110th in PPR. Charles Clay is 208th overall but is 144th in our PPR ranks. Dwayne Allen is 187th in the ESPN but is 152nd in our PPR ranks.
There's a smattering of players low in the ESPN app, but the best way to dominate your ESPN draft -- other than downloading our brand new draft kit app -- is to soak up the running back value while other are overvaluing mid-round receivers, quarterbacks, and tight ends.