Analyzing a 2024 Salary Cap Mock Draft (July)

Jul 01, 2024
Analyzing a 2024 Salary Cap Mock Draft (July)

Across the broad spectrum of fantasy formats available in the modern day, few are harder to strategize and practice for than salary cap drafts. Every salary cap draft is different, their flow and outcome are heavily dictated by the managers in your league, and one or two moves can completely change the landscape of your roster in ways that other drafts simply cannot.

As such, when analyzing a particular salary cap mock draft, it’s rarely useful to identify specific takeaways or strategic angles with the goal of applying them carte blanche across the format. Instead, salary cap mocks are best used for a few specific purposes.

  1. Practice. While it may not “make perfect” in fantasy football, practice will “make better.”
  2. Comfort. The greatest danger in salary cap drafts is overreacting, panicking, or generally losing your cool. It’s a slippery slope that will lead to more mistakes. So being comfortable and familiar with the ups and downs of the format is crucial.
  3. Exposure. There are so many different iterations of salary cap drafts, so knowing all the possible avenues means you’re less likely to get backed into a corner on draft day.

With that context in mind, we’re going to dive into a 12-team salary cap mock draft, run at the end of June, to help provide you with some of that exposure and give you some “film” to study the inner workings of the format.

For settings, we went with a pretty typical roster setup, six bench spots, half-PPR scoring, and a $200 salary cap. You can scan the full draft results at the end of the article, and get the “film analysis” in between.

Click here for the final draft board.

Roster Construction

Studs & Scrubs

Two teams in the draft — Team 8 and Team 12 — went heavily “Studs & Scrubs” by each drafting three players at $40+ off the rip.

Studs & Scrubs Squads, Top 3 Picks
Team 8 Team 12
RB Bijan Robinson ($52) RB Christian McCaffrey ($66)
WR Tyreek Hill ($50) RB Breece Hall ($55)
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown ($41) WR Justin Jefferson ($40)

Team 8 snagged Hill, Robinson, and St. Brown in the first 11 nominations, leaving them with $57 for their remaining 13 roster spots, while Team 12 picked up McCaffrey, Hall, and Jefferson in the first nine nominations, leaving just $39 behind for the rest of their team. This looks even more extreme when compared to a more “balanced” squad like Team 1, who didn’t spend $30+ on a single player and had $120 still in the bank after landing their top three players.

This Studs & Scrubs strategy is perhaps one of the most exhilarating in all of fantasy football, as both Team 8 and Team 12 ended up with three players that go in the first eight picks of typical redraft leagues. By the current aggregate ADP on, Team 12 essentially started their draft with the first, fifth, and seventh overall picks. That’s absurd.

Of course, there is a tradeoff for this type of investment. Team 8 ended up with Jayden Daniels ($3) as their QB1, Keaton Mitchell ($3) as their RB2, and zero players on their bench drafted for more than $3. Team 12 managed to pick up Brock Purdy ($3) as their QB1, but will begin the season with Jayden Reed ($6), Xavier Worthy ($4), and Brian Thomas Jr. ($4) all in their starting lineup.

If you’re willing to deal with the uncertainty across the majority of your roster, this draft strategy can be a blast. And this is a perfect example of what mock drafts can offer: a hard look at the realities of your flex and bench spots with the Studs & Scrubs approach.

Balance, Balance, Balance

Three teams picked up at least eight players between $10 and $30, forming what could be considered the most “balanced” rosters in the draft. This included my own squad (Team 5), where all but one starter fell in this range (not counting K and DST).

“Balanced” Squads, Players Between $10-30
Team 1 Team 4 Team 5 (My Roster)
Drake London ($28) Brandon Aiyuk ($29) Garrett Wilson ($26)
Deebo Samuel ($27) Rhamondre Stevenson ($26) Aaron Jones ($24)
D.J. Moore ($25) Stefon Diggs ($26) Josh Allen ($20)
DK Metcalf ($21) Brian Robinson Jr. ($20) DeVonta Smith ($18)
Tee Higgins ($21) Jaylen Waddle ($19) Dalton Kincaid ($18)
Jalen Hurts ($19) Michael Pittman Jr. ($16) Amari Cooper ($16)
Evan Engram ($15) Zay Flowers ($15) Zamir White ($14)
Kyle Pitts ($12) Lamar Jackson ($12) Chris Godwin ($11)
Tank Dell ($12) George Pickens ($10)

Of these three managers, I was the only one to drop more than $30 for any player — I committed $37 to get Isiah Pacheco as my RB1. Meanwhile, Team 1 went zero-RB — Jerome Ford and Tyler Allgeier in the RB slots — in order to score Tee Higgins, Tank Dell, and Evan Engram on their bench … easily the deepest pass-catching corps in the draft. And Team 4 — likely a Ravens fan with Lamar Jackson, Zay Flowers, and the Baltimore DST — exercised even more balance by picking up weekly starters like Christian Kirk, Jordan Addison, and Ezekiel Elliott for their bench.

As with the Studs & Scrubs strategy, this approach can sometimes result in “un-snakeable” builds. My team has no first-round talent (Garrett Wilson is closest with a current ADP of 13th overall) but features eight players who are going in roughly the first five rounds.

Position Pirates

A couple of teams indexed very heavily into a single position, putting together some formidable cores while sacrificing elsewhere. Another wrinkle of salary cap drafts is that you can do this more intently, since you don’t have to rely on the “right guys” being on the board when the snake returns to you, but can pay what you want, for who you want, whenever you want.

Team 2 and Team 3 both spent more than $125 on the running back position, with Team 3 committing a draft-high $155 to RBs alone!

Team 2 & Team 3, Running Back Spending
Team 2 Team 3
Jahmyr Gibbs ($41) Travis Etienne Jr. ($42)
Derrick Henry ($38) De'Von Achane ($39)
D'Andre Swift ($22) Alvin Kamara ($27)
Javonte Williams ($17) Raheem Mostert ($25)
Kendre Miller ($4) Tyjae Spears ($10)
Ty Chandler ($4) Chase Brown ($5)
Roschon Johnson ($4)
Bucky Irving ($3)

Both managers also saved at quarterback — picking up Dak Prescott ($6) and Joe Burrow ($5) respectively — while paying top dollar for their tight ends in Travis Kelce ($27) and Sam LaPorta ($26). Of course, they’re also respectively sporting Calvin Ridley-DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks-Quentin Johnson in their starting WR slots.

Meanwhile, Team 7 went absolutely bonkers at wide receiver, spending $157 of their budget on the position, including $128 on three guys at the very top.

Team 7, Top Wide Receiver Spending
CeeDee Lamb ($57) Keenan Allen ($6)
Ja'Marr Chase ($40) Terry McLaurin ($6)
A.J. Brown ($31) Christian Watson ($5)
Diontae Johnson ($7) Courtland Sutton ($4)

Yes, you read that right, Team 7 has the WR1, WR3, and WR6 by current ADP. Something you could only achieve in a salary cap draft. The added cost? They’re starting Najee Harris and Tony Pollard at running back (with only Trey Benson as a backup), Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, and Cole Kmet at tight end. Still, fielding CeeDee, Chase, and AJB on a weekly basis is going to feel pretty feisty.

The “Classic” Build

If you’re wondering what happened with Teams 6, 9, 10, and 11, the former three all went for what I’d consider a “Classic Build,” while Team 11 went for a slight variation of the same construction.

Teams 6, 9, and 10 all spent:

These three rosters look much more like a typical snake draft build and might feel more comfortable to those dipping their toes in the salary cap waters for the first time.

Team 11 shifted the focus a bit by spending $16 on Patrick Mahomes, saving at WR ($29 combined on Cooper Kupp and Malik Nabers), and going with a riskier shotgun approach for their flex RB with Nick Chubb ($21), Jonathan Brooks ($17), Austin Ekeler ($7), and Gus Edwards ($4). It’s a more volatile version that will require some less expensive players to step up.

Valuation Evaluation

If all of the above was a review of where managers spent their salary cap, what about the values they assigned when they spent those dollars? Did the manager that dropped $121 on Christian McCaffrey and Breece Hall strike gold or sink their own ship? Is Tua really worth just 5% of what Josh Allen is worth in salary terms?

The first thing to note is that valuations can vary wildly from draft to draft, typically far more than in snake drafts (unless we’re talking about your family league in Houston where C.J. Stroud goes in the first round). While players will sometimes go a little earlier than ADP in run-of-the-mill snake drafts, that’s typically because one manager makes a move, leaving the rest of the league with no recourse or response. In salary cap drafts, if two managers really want the same guy, the resulting bidding war can break banks in the blink of an eye. And conversely, if you nominate a mid-round sleeper while the sharps in your league are distracted by a preseason touchdown replay, you might snag that player for $1 that should have cost five times that.

All that being said, we can identify some interesting “highlights” in this “film analysis” of a mock draft, that should help expose you to the types of values you’re likely to see.

Running it Up on Running Backs

A ton of the notable overpays in this mock draft were tied to running backs. After the elite three (CMC, Bijan Robinson, Breece Hall) were nominated and drafted, the next running back nominated was Travis Etienne Jr., who went for $42 … the same price as Jonathan Taylor later and $1 more than Jahmyr Gibbs, who’s going a whole round ahead of Etienne in snake draft ADP. A few nominations later, Saquon Barkley went for $55, the same price as Breece Hall, $3 more than Bijan Robinson, and just $2 less than CeeDee Lamb.

The running back bidding wars didn’t stop there either, as De'Von Achane and Josh Jacobs (each $39) both ended up costing significantly more than A.J. Brown ($31), Marvin Harrison Jr. ($29), and Sam LaPorta ($26), to name a few. At one point a few rounds in, Rhamondre Stevenson went for $26 … the same price as Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and LaPorta.

It’s possible this is one of the takeaways we might be able to apply more broadly to salary cap drafts this year. Running back feels very top-heavy and drops off very quickly. As a result, we might see some frantic spending sprees on the low-end RB1s and RB2s by managers afraid of missing out on the position entirely. That said, the more important lesson here is that when much of the draft zigs, you have an opportunity to zag for serious value.

For perspective, consider Team 3 and the $81 they spent on Etienne and Achane, leaving them with Brandin Cooks and Quentin Johnston as their starting WR duo. Had Team 3 instead gone with a discount duo like Joe Mixon ($34) and James Conner ($17) at RB, they could have theoretically paired those guys with Jaylen Waddle ($17) and Tank Dell ($12) with a dollar left over. Here’s a look at the actual squad and the hypothetical squad, with current aggregate ADPs included.

Team 3 Actual Roster vs Hypothetical Roster
Actual Roster Hypothetical Roster
RB Travis Etienne Jr. ($42 / 2.12) RB Joe Mixon ($34 / 4.07)
RB De'Von Achane ($39 / 3.03) RB James Conner ($17 / 7.05)
WR Brandin Cooks ($1 / 13.04) WR Jaylen Waddle ($17 / 3.08)
WR Quentin Johnston ($1 / 14.02) WR Tank Dell ($12 / 5.06)
Average ADP: 7.05 Average ADP: 4.04

While Etienne and Achane obviously offer upside that Mixon and Conner don’t, it’s tough to prefer the actual roster over the hypothetical one in this scenario.

Passing the Savings On to You

As a result of the RB inflation, several wide receivers and quarterbacks went for what could be considered significant discounts in this mock. Here’s a look at several of the value picks at those positions, with a head-to-head ADP comparison against a running back at the same price.

Josh Allen vs Brian Robinson Cost Comparison
Player Salary Cap Price Aggregate ADP
QB Josh Allen $20 2.10
RB Brian Robinson $20 8.11
C.J. Stroud vs Jerome Ford Cost Comparison
Player Salary Cap Price Aggregate ADP
QB C.J. Stroud $5 4.11
RB Jerome Ford $5 8.11
A.J. Brown vs James Cook Cost Comparison
Player Salary Cap Price Aggregate ADP
WR A.J. Brown $31 1.09
RB James Cook $32 4.06
George Pickens vs Tyjae Spears Cost Comparison
Player Salary Cap Price Aggregate ADP
WR George Pickens $10 5.09
RB Tyjae Spears $10 9.05

In this mock, Team 9 picked up Kyler Murray, Mark Andrews, and MarShawn Lloyd for a total of $32 — the same price Team 10 paid for Joe Mixon. I’d bet 99 out of 100 fantasy managers are trading Mixon for that trio on draft day.

This is where recognition of the “market” in salary cap drafts matters so much. Nine nominations into the draft, when Breece Hall ($55) went for more than Tyreek Hill ($50) or Ja’Marr Chase ($40) had seconds earlier, it should have sounded an alarm. The managers who recognize those alarms and react usually end up with far more value-heavy rosters.

The Bottom Line

  • No one strategy or roster construction necessarily reigns supreme. One of the highlights of salary cap drafts is that you can build the team you want to build (within reason), and we saw the full range of approaches in this mock.
  • With the scarcity and tier drops at running back, we may see some price inflation at the position in 2024. That said, it’s more important to monitor the trends in your actual draft than to apply the runout of this mock across the board.
  • It pays big to identify where premiums are being posted and to avoid those traps. If there’s a flurry of overpays on a position in your draft, don’t feel compelled to follow the crowd out of fear. Instead, pivot to the resulting values elsewhere.

Final Draft Results
Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5 Team 6 Team 7 Team 8 Team 9 Team 10 Team 11 Team 12
QB Jalen Hurts ($19) QB Dak Prescott ($6) QB Joe Burrow ($5) QB Lamar Jackson ($12) QB Josh Allen ($20) QB C.J. Stroud ($5) QB Tua Tagovailoa ($1) QB Jayden Daniels ($3) QB Kyler Murray ($4) QB Anthony Richardson ($5) QB Patrick Mahomes II ($16) QB Brock Purdy ($3)
RB Jerome Ford ($5) RB Jahmyr Gibbs ($41) RB Travis Etienne Jr. ($42) RB Rhamondre Stevenson ($26) RB Isiah Pacheco ($37) RB Saquon Barkley ($55) RB Najee Harris ($15) RB Bijan Robinson ($52) RB Kyren Williams ($46) RB Jonathan Taylor ($42) RB Rachaad White ($35) RB Christian McCaffrey ($66)
RB Tyler Allgeier ($5) RB Derrick Henry ($38) RB De'Von Achane ($39) RB Jaylen Warren ($9) RB Aaron Jones ($24) RB James Cook ($32) RB Tony Pollard ($8) RB Keaton Mitchell ($3) RB Kenneth Walker III ($26) RB Joe Mixon ($34) RB Josh Jacobs ($39) RB Breece Hall ($55)
WR Drake London ($28) WR Calvin Ridley ($10) WR Brandin Cooks ($1) WR Brandon Aiyuk ($29) WR Garrett Wilson ($26) WR Chris Olave ($26) WR CeeDee Lamb ($57) WR Tyreek Hill ($50) WR Marvin Harrison Jr. ($29) WR Puka Nacua ($42) WR Cooper Kupp ($20) WR Justin Jefferson ($40)
WR Deebo Samuel Sr. ($27) WR DeAndre Hopkins ($8) WR Quentin Johnston ($1) WR Jaylen Waddle ($19) WR DeVonta Smith ($18) WR Mike Evans ($24) WR Ja'Marr Chase ($40) WR Amon-Ra St. Brown ($41) WR Nico Collins ($24) WR Hollywood Brown ($6) WR Malik Nabers ($9) WR Jayden Reed ($6)
TE Kyle Pitts ($12) TE Travis Kelce ($27) TE Sam LaPorta ($26) TE T.J. Hockenson ($5) TE Dalton Kincaid ($18) TE Jake Ferguson ($13) TE Cole Kmet ($4) TE Brock Bowers ($5) TE Mark Andrews ($24) TE George Kittle ($18) TE Trey McBride ($17) TE Pat Freiermuth ($4)
FLEX D.J. Moore ($25) FLEX D'Andre Swift ($22) FLEX Alvin Kamara ($27) FLEX Michael Pittman Jr. ($16) FLEX Amari Cooper ($16) FLEX James Conner ($17) FLEX A.J. Brown ($31) FLEX Davante Adams ($23) FLEX Zack Moss ($14) FLEX David Montgomery ($22) FLEX Austin Ekeler ($7) FLEX Xavier Worthy ($4)
FLEX DK Metcalf ($21) FLEX Javonte Williams ($17) FLEX Raheem Mostert ($25) FLEX Stefon Diggs ($26) FLEX George Pickens ($10) FLEX Rashee Rice ($6) FLEX Keenan Allen ($6) FLEX Tyler Lockett ($3) FLEX David Njoku ($13) FLEX Devin Singletary ($6) FLEX Nick Chubb ($21) FLEX Brian Thomas Jr. ($2)
DST Pittsburgh Steelers ($1) DST Kansas City Chiefs ($1) DST New York Jets ($2) DST Baltimore Ravens ($1) DST Cleveland Browns ($1) DST Dallas Cowboys ($2) DST Miami Dolphins ($1) DST Houston Texans ($1) DST Chicago Bears ($1) DST Buffalo Bills ($1) DST San Francisco 49ers ($1) DST New Orleans Saints ($1)
K Jake Moody ($1) K Jake Elliott ($1) K Greg Zuerlein ($1) K Jason Sanders ($1) K Justin Tucker ($1) K Harrison Butker ($1) K Ka'imi Fairbairn ($1) K Evan McPherson ($1) K Younghoe Koo ($1) K Cairo Santos ($1) K Brandon Aubrey ($1) K Tyler Bass ($1)
Tee Higgins ($21) Dallas Goedert ($10) Jordan Love ($3) Zay Flowers ($15) Zamir White ($14) Jaxon Smith-Njigba ($2) Terry McLaurin ($6) Trevor Lawrence ($2) Justin Herbert ($1) Mike Williams ($3) Jared Goff ($1) Matthew Stafford ($1)
Tank Dell ($12) Aaron Rodgers ($1) Tyjae Spears ($10) Christian Kirk ($8) Chris Godwin ($11) Dalton Schultz ($3) Diontae Johnson ($7) Ladd McConkey ($3) Jameson Williams ($1) Curtis Samuel ($1) Jonathon Brooks ($17) Chuba Hubbard ($4)
Evan Engram ($15) Romeo Doubs ($1) Kirk Cousins ($1) Jordan Addison ($6) Rashid Shaheed ($1) Antonio Gibson ($4) Christian Watson ($5) Keon Coleman ($2) Jakobi Meyers ($2) Rico Dowdle ($7) Gus Edwards ($4) Will Levis ($1)
Jerry Jeudy ($1) Kendre Miller ($4) Chase Brown ($5) Brian Robinson Jr. ($20) Joshua Palmer ($1) Khalil Shakir ($1) Courtland Sutton ($4) Jahan Dotson ($1) MarShawn Lloyd ($4) Adonai Mitchell ($1) Rome Odunze ($1) Khalil Herbert ($4)
J.K. Dobbins ($4) Ty Chandler ($4) Roschon Johnson ($4) Ezekiel Elliott ($4) Ricky Pearsall ($1) Jaleel McLaughlin ($4) Trey Benson ($7) Audric Estime ($1) Dameon Pierce ($1) Jaylen Wright ($3) Zach Charbonnet ($4) Ray Davis ($1)
Dontayvion Wicks ($1) Tyrone Tracy Jr. ($4) Bucky Irving ($3) Josh Downs ($1) Dylan Laube ($1) Kimani Vidal ($1) Gabe Davis ($1) Braelon Allen ($3) D'Onta Foreman ($5) Justin Fields ($1) Blake Corum ($4) Elijah Mitchell ($3)
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