Players to Target in DRAFT Best-Ball Contests for 2019

Players to Target in DRAFT Best-Ball Contests for 2019

In my first DRAFT article, I took a look at what worked in best-ball drafts during the 2018 season.

Topics included:

  • Draft position and its impact
  • Roster construction and associated win rates
  • Winning strategy surrounding each position with players likely selected

The piece was aimed at providing a high-level overview of the trends and players that allowed fantasy managers to profit in 2018. But we’re now in the last few weeks of drafting for the 2019 season. Player situations may have changed, but our strategies don’t have to change with them. Using the win rates per round for each position, we’ll apply the same strategies from 2018 while using 2019 ADP. In doing so, we can narrow our list of players to target during the draft. Personal preference, preseason news, and injuries will shift some of these, but this exercise can be redone to adjust to the latest news and ensure an optimal approach is being used.

Quarterbacks

Strategy

  • 1 Early, 1 Late – Sacrifice opportunity cost for a Tier 1 quarterback at their ADP (7th round or earlier). Complement their elite production with a late-round option as a bye-week filler.
  • 2 Middle – Construct an optimal roster early and take two quarterbacks during the middle rounds (8-12).
  • 3 Middle to Late – Draft a quarterback with QB1 potential and complement with two streamer-quality options that can finish as mid to high QB2

2018 Win Rates

Early and mid-round investments into quarterbacks paid off in 2018. Quarterbacks with an ADP in rounds 5-8 carried a 7.3% above-average win rate. This flies in the face of the late-round quarterback draft strategy, but players like Deshaun Watson (11.1% win rate) and Drew Brees (11.1% win rate) can swing leagues. However, early-round quarterbacks only hit at a 42.8% rate leaving many drafters wishing they had gone another route.

That left the late-round dart throws and three-quarterback builds holding the bag with below average win rates. Despite their high prevalence (used in ~34% of drafts of the Top-8 builds) and win rate (ranked 1st, 4th, 7th, and 8th), they were buoyed by elite performances. Pat Mahomes alone accounted for nearly 24% of 3QB builds. His 21.3% win rate dragged most rosters to the top overstating the effectiveness of the strategy. Intuitively, this should make sense. Unless an injury occurs, projections and rankings provide a logical starting point with tiers setting the range of outcomes. These tools can be used as a general guide for drafting a critical component to your team.

 2019 Players to Target

Based on DRAFT ADP, early-round quarterbacks include:


Early-Round Quarterback Targets
Player ADP Rank
Patrick Mahomes 34 1
Deshaun Watson 59 2
Aaron Rodgers 70 3
Baker Mayfield 80 4
Matt Ryan 87 5

Mahomes is the true risk-reward option in 2019. His ADP requires another highlight-filled season, but the offense has all the tools to repeat what they accomplished in 2018. We look for traits to identify possible overvalued quarterbacks that can slim down the list. Rodgers, Mayfield, and Ryan are working with new coaching staffs, while Watson has the continuity along with the traits of a quarterback that can sustain top-tier production.

Mid to late round options are still promising in 2019:


Middle and Late-Round Quarterback Targets
Player ADP Rank
Russell Wilson 112 10
Lamar Jackson 117 17
Dak Prescott 120 15
Ben Roethlisberger 122 16
Mitch Trubisky 129 19
Philip Rivers 132 14

There’s a scenario where Seattle’s weakened defense forces Wilson to outpace his passing projections in 2019. However, Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson headline the value options in this area of the draft. Both guys currently come at low-risk costs and have both passing and rushing upside.

Running Back

Strategy

  • Early rounds (Rounds 1-3) – Acquire one to two primary running backs with guaranteed volume. Involvement in the passing game is always preferred.
  • Middle rounds – Minimal investment here as perceived volume/value can turn into a trap.
  • Late rounds – Identify players that benefit from shifts in volume (e.g. injury, trades).

2018 Win Rates

You can guess some of the names that fell into the dead zone after the second round. Alex Collins, Royce Freeman, and Rashaad Penny were all considered in this range using similar narratives. Perceived volume and rookie draft capital gradually elevated mid-tier talent to the early rounds making their draft cost untenable. It’s created a void in the middle rounds of 2019 with pass catchers offsetting the desire to drag a running back unnecessarily into the middle rounds.

Meanwhile, the late rounds produced profitable talent. It encapsulates the idea of best-ball drafts. We can’t predict injuries, trades/personnel changes, or players underperforming. A long view of the season must be taken to protect ourselves (from ourselves). In doing so, we can effectively ride the wave that is the NFL season.

2019 Players to Target

 The top tier has had a shakeup with holdout news, middle-round ADP is starting to shift with preseason buzz and late-round options require a walk down Narrative Street.


Early, Middle and Late-Round Running Back Options
Early & Middle-Round Options Late-Round Options
Player ADP Rank Player ADP Rank
Saquon Barkley 1 1 Miles Sanders 73 32
Christian McCaffrey 2 2 Latavius Murray 75 35
Alvin Kamara 3 3 Rashaad Penny 78 34
David Johnson 4 5 Derrius Guice 84 31
Ezekiel Elliott 5 4 Darrell Henderson 85 40
LeVeon Bell 8 6 Royce Freeman 90 37
James Conner 14 7 Jordan Howard 96 36
Todd Gurley 15 8 Darwin Thompson 182 61
Dalvin Cook 17 12 Chris Thompson 183 59
Nick Chubb 18 10 C.J. Anderson 185 56
Joe Mixon 19 9 Jamaal Williams 187 62
Damien Williams 21 13 Mike Davis 189 65

Darwin Thompson is already pressing the projected starters for playing time and is the cheapest piece on the Chiefs’ offense. The offensive situation is already in place and he’s the likely beneficiary to any shift in touches. Thought processes like this should be applied to roster construction when entering the final rounds of drafts.

Wide Receivers

Strategy

  • Invest early and invest often. Half-PPR may not prop up the position as much as full-point PPR, but projected receiver production outpaces running back production in the early rounds.
  • Target late-round options that benefit from volume shifts (e.g. injury, trade).

2018 Win Rates

Everyone was worried about which running backs to draft while wide receivers quietly stole the show. This tracks after looking at the win rates for running backs. Where one profits, the other falters. Only in the late rounds do both become profitable at the same time. This speaks to the previously discussed shifts in volume. Injuries and trades affect all positions making it equally likely that a late-round running back can produce along with a late-round wide receiver. The primary difference comes in the nuances at the positions.

Top receiving options have both the talent and the rapport with their quarterback to support their ADP. Drafting player archetypes comes down to personal preference and roster construction. Pairing Mike Evans with Larry Fitzgerald (as a basic example) gives a ceiling and a floor week to week. However, it also speaks to their unique skillsets that we buy into year after year. Mixing those talents in along with shares of younger talent with a path to targets emphasized the optimal strategy for the position.

2019 Players to Target

Seek good offenses with good players. The early-middle rounds are filled with players who have both, but we’re also looking for volume and upside. The Panthers receivers have been on display seemingly every day in practice causing a debate between the two and their 2019 value. Meanwhile, Valdes-Scantling was a part of the first-team offense yet again.


Wide Receiver Targets.
Early-Middle Round Options Late-Round Options
Player ADP Rank Player ADP Rank
Stefon Diggs 36 14 Josh Gordon* 171 63
Chris Godwin 40 19 Marquise Goodwin 178 65
D.J. Moore 53 26 Adam Humphries 181 66
Allen Robinson 62 29 Ted Ginn 202 71
Curtis Samuel 81 40 Rashard Higgins 215 79
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 83 46 Jalen Hurd 225 80

Rashard Higgins has taken over for Antonio Callaway as the third receiver while Callaway waits to start his four-game suspension. The deep threat has connected with Mayfield for long gains. Jalen Hurd’s preseason performance becomes a situation to monitor as the 49ers continue to mold their receiving corps ahead of 2019. He currently sits behind Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, and Deebo Samuel, but the Tennessee prospect should now be on everyone’s radar as a late-round target who can quickly takeover targets should an injury or volume shift occur.

*8/24 Update: Josh Gordon's reinstatement has now moved him fro ~WR65 to ~WR35. Most platforms have adjusted, but you may be able to dig through the player pool and grab him later than his current ADP.

Tight Ends

Strategy

  • 1 Early, 1 Late – Sacrifice opportunity cost for a Tier 1 tight end at their ADP (7th round or earlier). Complement their elite production with a late-round option as a bye-week filler.
  • 2 Middle – Construct an optimal roster early and take two tight ends during the middle rounds (8-12).
  • 3 Middle to Late – Draft a tight end with TE1 potential and complement with two streamer-quality options that can finish as mid to high TE2

2018 Win Rates

Take one early or just wait. Injuries to Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker along with an underperforming Jimmy Graham cratered the tight-end middle class in 2018. Late-round options once again became the savior, but inconsistent usage and reliance on touchdowns became a hallmark of the position. We’re seeing the beginnings of a new-age of tight ends with the influx of size-speed, but the 9.4% drop in targets across the position is concerning. However, with the league continuing to employ more passing concepts there’s a level of optimism to drafting tight ends in 2019.

2019 Players to Target


Tight End Options to Target in 2019
Player ADP Rank
O.J. Howard 49 5
Hunter Henry 63 6
Mark Andrews 106 16
Jordan Reed* 130 15
Chris Herndon 160 23
Noah Fant 177 22

The early-round options deviate from the 2018 trends since the players drafted there were affected by an injury. This skews the results in favor of waiting. However, both Henry and Howard are projected to have over 130 fantasy points in 2019. These are WR2 numbers at a position that has a clear and quick decline in talent.

Players with paths to significant target shares line the later rounds. Chris Herndon still has a four-game suspension but had the fourth-largest target share in 2018 and he missed two games. Noah Fant has been peppered with targets throughout the preseason with a path to volume with Joe Flacco at the helm. All three are ideal targets given their cost and potential target share within their offenses.

*8/26 Update: Reed has now suffered his 7th concussion, but is still on track to play in Week 1. Despite the talent, the risk of another concussion or retirement is now in play.

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