John Paulsen's 2016 Draft Day Strategery
Updated on 8/30. Updated/new text indicated in red.
We’re in the dog days of August, which means the heaviest part of draft season is fast approaching. In years past, I would provide an overview of my draft approach in this Strategery piece, and then go through round-by-round draft strategy from different parts of the 1st round in separate installments. This year, I’m going to try to combine the articles and keep everything updated right up until the final draft weekend (Labor Day).
Last year, I had something of an epiphany when it came to formulating my overall draft strategy. At the two onesie positions – quarterback and tight end, where owners typically only have to start one – I felt great about Carson Palmer in the 13th round and Delanie Walker in the 10th/11th. (I also advocated for the #AngryTomStrategy, which revolved around drafting Tom Brady in the 10th/11th round and taking Palmer later as his backup. This worked out even better than expected since Brady’s suspended was lifted and he played a full season.)
Knowing my primary targets at quarterback and tight end, I was able to draft my running backs and receivers around those positions, finding my favorite targets and fallback options in each round at RB and WR. Like anything in fantasy, some of those picks worked out … and some didn’t.
So this year, I’ll go position-by-position, starting with quarterback and tight end, and then outlining some of my favorite round-by-round targets at running back and wide receiver.
Note: I'm assuming a 12-team league, so owners drafting in 10-team leagues, may be able to wait a round or two on these targets.
See 19 Quarterback Sleepers & Values for more detail on the position.
The quarterback position has been getting deeper and deeper in recent years and 2016 is no exception. There are plenty of options in the #8-#20 range for those owners comfortable waiting on the position. I’ll outline several standouts below.
Months ago, when I first examined the position looking for value, one player stuck out like a sore, red, swollen thumb: His name was Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor missed a couple of games in 2015 which has depressed his season-long numbers. (This is a good thing.) The main concern is that the Bills haven't fully committed to him as their franchise quarterback, though there has been recent talk of a “bridge” contract, which shows some commitment by the franchise. From a production standpoint, there's a lot to like. Taylor only threw for an average of 217 yards per game, but had a 20-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio and his yards per attempt (7.99) ranked fifth in the league. However, what really makes Taylor a fantasy producer is his ability in the running game. On average, he rushed 7.4 times per game for 41 yards and 0.29 rush TD.
Taylor’s 19.2 fantasy points per game were #7 at his position, yet he’s the 18th quarterback off the board in our multi-site ADP. He’s going earliest (in the early 11th) at ESPN, probably because their official site rankings have him ranked #12 at his position.
My only concern with Taylor is the health of Sammy Watkins, who is dealing with a foot injury but seems to be trending the right way. In his short career, Watkins has not proven to be very durable, and Taylor needs his No. 1 receiver on the field if he’s going to produce at the same rate as he did last year.
If Taylor is not your cup of tea, there are two proven options going in the 8th/9th range: Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. (Remember Carson Palmer? He sometimes slips into this range as well, and is a fine pick again this year even though he's having a rough preseason.) Earlier in the offseason, I issued a Sleeper Alert for Manning, so I’ll focus more on Rivers here. Suffice it to say – Manning has performed as a solid fantasy QB1 when Odell Beckham is on the field, so he has a good chance to outperform his QB10 ADP.
As for Rivers, Mr. Bolo Tie was the #2 QB through the first eight weeks before losing Keenan Allen to a season-ending injury. Without Allen, and with a beat-up offensive line, Rivers posted #22 QB numbers over the final eight weeks of the season. The team lost Ladarius Green and Malcom Floyd, but Allen is healthy again, Antonio Gates is back for another year, and (via free agency) the team added Travis Benjamin. In 2013, Rivers had one of his best seasons under then-OC (and now returning-OC) Ken Whisenhunt, completing a career-high 69.9% of his passes while tossing 32 touchdowns, the second-most of his career. His YPA (8.2) that year was the fourth-best of his career and his best since 2010. Simply stated: I’d be perfectly happy with Rivers as my starter.
Finally, I’m once again an advocate for the #AngryTomStrategy in 2016, but this time there’s a zero chance that he plays in the first four weeks of the season. Curiously, his ADP in MFL10s (currently hovering around pick 94) has held steady since the news broke that he decided to accept his suspension, so if he’s still around in the 8th or 9th round, the strategy is a perfectly viable way to approach the position. Brady is ranked very low in our projections since I’m assuming 12 games played. If we take his per game average and extrapolate it to a full 16-game season, he’d be ranked alongside Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.
Brady’s possible pairings include Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Marcus Mariota, Matt Ryan, Brock Osweiler and Dak Prescott, who all have a favorable start to the season if preseason passing SOS is to be believed. Taylor doesn’t have a great opening schedule, but I’m a believer in Tyrod, so he’s a solid pairing as well.
Russell Wilson Tangent: He's the one early-round QB that I’ve drafted a few times this year, since he’s the most likely to slip into the middle rounds. I think he has a good chance to finish as the #1 QB. After his Week 9 bye, Wilson averaged 279 passing yards and 3.1 touchdowns over the final eight games. That’s a 4,400-yard/50-TD pace, which is why I have him ranked with the likes of Newton and Rodgers. The Seahawks have indicated that the offensive style they played after the bye will carry over to 2016, so I feel really good about his prospects.
If you miss out on all of these passers, there are any number of decent starters that can be used in a committee or in a streaming capacity. The quarterback projections are pretty bunched in the #8-#22 range so keep an eye on the rankings as your draft approaches.
- Tyrod Taylor (11th-16th)
- Tom Brady (8th or later)
- Eli Manning (9th-10th)
- Philip Rivers (9th-11th)
- Russell Wilson (7th)
Continue reading for John's round-by-round targets at Tight End, Running Back and Wide Receiver. At the end, there's a table that gives a general outline of the players John is targeting in each round - a must have during your draft!