In the 2014 fantasy football season, there are two main arguments circulating around the community when it comes to strategy.
The first debate is over when you should draft a quarterback. Those who are in belief of drafting a quarterback in the seventh round are as rigid in their viewpoints as those who say you should use a first or second-round pick on Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. You can use statistics to give credence to any point of view given, but I want to rely on first hand experience. My first strategy is going to revolve around when you should draft a quarterback. I will draft quarterbacks in the first or second round on three teams, the fourth, fifth or sixth round on three teams, and the 10th round and later on three other teams.
In one of my leagues last season, I drafted Ray Rice, Stevan Ridley and Maurice Jones-Drew as my first three-draft picks. Obviously my team struggled, and a finished the year with a six-win season. The running back position is very fickle, and it is hard to hit a stud who will perform as you are expecting to. Instead of placing so much importance of finding an elite running back early on, what if I zigged while other zagged? What if I focused on locking down elite wide receivers early on, and I draft running backs in the later rounds? Sean Berenbaum, of Gridiron Experts, has a great article which details the “Zero-Running Back Theory”. In it, Berenbaum states the following: ” The fallacy with loading up on elite RBs who pan out only 50% of the time is that those early round picks need to be used on guys who will pan out. Top-6 wide receivers drafted in the last five years have returned WR1 value (top-12 at the position) 22/30 times, a 73% success rate that is much higher than the 53% rate of running backs.”
Using this theory in two mock drafts, this is the team I drafted in my first mock draft through rounds one-five: Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Vincent Jackson, Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings. This is my team from the second mock draft through rounds one-five: Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, Victor Cruz and Nick Foles. Now, with drafting Graham as a second-round pick, some will argue that this is not a pure zero-rb strategy, and that drafting Graham in the middle of the second round is a value based draft pick. In my opinion, you can not be too rigid in any type of strategy you try to execute on. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. If Graham was not available as the fifth pick in the second round, I would have gone with another wide receiver. Since he was, however, I jumped all over him. For me at least, this strategy doesn’t mean drafting a wide receiver until a set round. It means that I am going to look for two starting wide receivers and a flex option by round five.
Berenbaum suggests that for your final roster, you should own an elite quarterback or wait until the end of your draft and stream one during the season, own a top-three tight end or wait until the end to draft one, three-four good receivers that you can count on to start each week and one-two anchor running backs who can support the running back position until some of your sleepers and upside backs pan out.
For one of my teams I own Ridley and Rashad Jennings as my starters, and Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill and Andre Brown on the bench. If Arian Foster finished as the 19th-highest scoring back this season, he would greatly disappoint his owners. If Andre Brown finished as the 19th-highest scoring back, however, I would be pleased with results. If Matt Forte finished as the 11th-highest scoring back and you drafted him as the fourth-overall pick, he would not have returned a strong value on his investment price. If I draft Lamar Miller in the eighth round and Jeremy Hill in the ninth and either one of them is a top-11 back, I would get a great return on my investment. This theory is also safer than drafting two running backs in a row, as wide receivers have much more stability. Vincent Jackson could have a terrible year, but I have Victor Cruz and Calvin Johnson to pick up the slack. It is also much more unlikely that all three of these receivers would have a poor fantasy season compared to running backs drafted in rounds one-three. If I draft Marshawn Lynch and Zac Stacy and Lynch has a terrible year, my third running back that I drafted probably will not replicate the success of how I thought Lynch could perform.
This theory is very interesting, and I plan to draft three teams under it to see what type of results it can produce.