Asking in our Discord for content ideas, I received this reply:
“Even though ADPs will adjust before most of us draft our managed leagues, some high-level thoughts on how we might approach a draft structurally this year, where the ADP values are, and how the overall board differs from last year at each skill position would be beneficial. Thanks for taking our input!”
As the user notes, it’s early in the draft season and ADPs will change, but I think it’s worth looking at how the overall draft landscape sits right now, especially from the home-league perspective. It’s easy to forget how different the best ball ADPs are from the typical managed leagues most of our subscribers play in, and this article is for the latter.
When looking at the draft landscape as a whole, here are the action items I’m considering at this point in the offseason:
- Who do I want to anchor my team in Round 1?
- How does the landscape differ from last year?
- How does the home-league landscape seem to differ from ongoing best-ball leagues?
- Is there a collection of values at a position or positions in the middle of the draft that may affect how I draft earlier?
- Who are the best late-round stashes for your typical home league set up with weekly free agency?
For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming most home leagues roughly fit this format:
- Full PPR
- 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 D/ST
- 6 Bench Spots
- Weekly Free Agency
That’s what our full-PPR rankings assume as well, which you can find here alongside the current FantasyPros PPR ADP, which I’ll use to try and parse through the expected draft landscape.
I want to anchor my team with a Top WR.
While it seems so obvious, I still believe the market undervalues how big of a difference there is between managed leagues and best-ball leagues, particularly at WR. In best-ball leagues, you have the ability to take advantage of deep rosters and weekly scoring variance at the WR position to make up for quality with quantity. This devalues WR early to an extent.
In managed leagues, the opposite scenario plays out. With WRs outscoring RBs on the whole (you want to start a WR in your FLEX most of the time) and taking up more base roster spots (3 to 2), you need to attack the position early. A collection of three high-variance WRs in best ball may not get trounced by Davante Adams as much as you expect. In managed leagues, when you have to decide which of those three WRs to start each week, you will assuredly get trounced by the weekly floor-ceiling combination of a Davante Adams type.
So, structurally, the best way to beat other teams at WR and the FLEX is to start with WR early. I think that’s especially true this season as RB seems a little bit flatter to me when we zoom out and compare the Round 1 RBs to the Round 2, sometimes even Round 3, RBs. Christian McCaffrey is the only RB I’m worried about blowing the rest of the position out of the water.
Meanwhile, the Tier 1 WRs of Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson are in such unique spots. Kupp has an elite combination of target share, catch rate, strong QB play, and red-zone role that makes it difficult for him to fall outside of the top five WRs barring injury. Meanwhile, Chase and Jefferson are absolute stud young WRs who have already managed to put elite production at the NFL level on their résumés and are in arguably improving situations, as both of their respective teams may see a rise in pass rate this year.
I’m also bullish on Davante Adams. It’s scary to see him away from Aaron Rodgers given their unique connection, but there aren’t many WRs as talented as Adams who have a track record of earning 30-plus percent target shares. I’d expect his efficiency and red-zone role to suffer without Rodgers. The target share may dip as well with more competition for targets, but much of this should be offset by an increase in team pass volume and an underrated Derek Carr (averaging 7.9 YPA, 68.7% completion rate last three seasons).
If I’m in the top half of a draft, I’m probably taking in this order:
- Kupp, Chase, or Jefferson
At the 2-3 turn, it makes sense to grab a running back. The Hero RB strategy is my favorite for many leagues, but particularly home leagues. You give yourself a chance to gamble on an elite RB1 season by taking an RB early, but still prioritize “winning the FLEX” and destroying your opponents with superior WR scoring while leaving RB2 open to benefit from a somewhat antifragile approach. This works in home leagues because WR ADPs are generally depressed relative to sharper leagues, allowing you to build out WR as a strength without having to pour as much early draft capital into the position.
Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, and Aaron Jones all have ADPs around the 2-3 turn right now and frankly don’t feel like a huge tier drop-off to me at RB from the non-CMC backs. It’s easy to pair them with more high-end WR production, such as Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, or Tee Higgins, or to lock in an advantage at TE with Mark Andrews.
If you fall to the 1-2 turn, I’m probably pairing an RB with one of:
- Travis Kelce
- Stefon Diggs
- CeeDee Lamb
In Rounds 3-4, it’d be great to nab a falling Evans, Allen, Higgins, or Andrews, but Darren Waller or Kyle Pitts at TE and A.J. Brown, D.J. Moore, and Jaylen Waddle at WR are all fine options.
Name recognition and role certainty are overvalued at RB.
PPR ADP from @FantasyPros is more representative of "home leagues".
Will have an article up later this week exploring that landscape, but you can quickly see how exploitable the familiar RB name ADP is compared to younger RBs and WRs as a whole. pic.twitter.com/KCfjThbMXl
— Michael Leone (@2Hats1Mike) June 27, 2022
What we’re seeing at RB in home leagues right now is name recognition, role certainty, and past production being overvalued. This is pretty clear on backs like Ezekiel Elliott, David Montgomery, Antonio Gibson, and Josh Jacobs, who are going much earlier via FantasyPros ADP than in most best-ball formats. Even some of the post “dead zone” RBs we like in best ball, Elijah Mitchell for example, are being drafted squarely in the dead zone in home leagues.
The flip side of this is some younger backs who have more high-end upside, particularly at the end of the season where it matters most, are undervalued. I’m a big fan of all of the following before their ADPs:
- Breece Hall — 50.4, RB24
- J.K. Dobbins — 47.0, RB21
- Tony Pollard — 82.2, RB32
- Kenneth Walker — 90.2, RB34
Hall and Dobbins are possible Hero RB candidates if you want to go solely WR/Elite TE out of the gate in the first three rounds, while Pollard and Walker are high-end RB2 options, with a nice combination of immediate usability to start the season and workhorse upside to end the season. They’re viable as your RB1 for drafters who are more comfortable with a Zero RB approach.
WR upside is flush in Rounds 5-8.
In past years, it’s been extremely important to pound WRs in Rounds 3-6, avoiding the RB dead zone and collecting WRs in an area of the draft where the floor-ceiling combinations are amazing. This year feels a little bit different to me. There are still some values to be had in this range, but the end of Round 3 to the beginning of Round 5 feels a little weaker at the WR position than in years past, at least in terms of quantity of options.
I don’t see a huge difference in upside between these WRs in the 40s/early 50s in terms of ADP:
- Diontae Johnson
- Terry McLaurin
- Michael Pittman
- DK Metcalf
- Amari Cooper
And this collection of WRs that are currently going much later:
- Mike Williams — 55.6
- JuJu Smith-Schuster — 83.8
- Marquise Brown — 61.8
- Jerry Jeudy — 67.4
- Amon-Ra St. Brown — 66.0
- Courtland Sutton — 66.6
- Gabriel Davis — 80.2
Younger WRs with big breakout potential also look vastly undervalued right now:
- Rashod Bateman — 89.8
- Drake London — 97.8
- Treylon Burks — 98.0
- Kadarius Toney — 114.4
The value on the latter two groups trumps the value on the first group. If we pair values from the second two groups with some WRs in Rounds 1-3, it allows us to pass on the meh WR values with Round 4/5 ADPs and get a bit greedy elsewhere in hopes of building a super team. That’s where waiting and taking advantage of Hall or Dobbins as your RB1 makes sense, or…
Reaching on an elite QB is fine (within reason).
Sometimes in sharper leagues, the best way to maximize your edge is to understand you’re not going to “win” every position. In home leagues, we can be a bit greedier, using ADP values to help us build a team that has the potential to be dominant at every position. However, doing so generally involves investing a top-six-round pick or so at QB or TE, as it’s more difficult to find truly elite seasons later in the draft.
This is a new development at QB, and the following Tweets sum up what we’re seeing well. Here’s Chris Towers from a couple of weeks ago:
From 2016 through 2019, QB drafted outside of the top-12 in positional ADP accounted for 53.4% of all top-six weekly finishes at the position.
In 2020 and 2021, that number was just 33%.
— Chris Towers Is In Baseball Season (@CTowersCBS) June 13, 2022
And TJ Hernandez from last offseason:
The problem is that QB scoring has typically been quite linear. In 2020, it wasn't.
If that stays the same, getting "fringe QB1 production" still keeps you well behind the field pic.twitter.com/iHD3IfmtXM
— TJ Hernandez (@TJHernandez) June 29, 2021
Last season, I surmised that “Late-Round QB is Back”. It did not age well, in large part because the rookie QBs didn’t perform well. I do think eventually we’ll see a return to late-round QB as the depth of high-end production increases with more teams getting aggressive throwing the ball and more dual-threat QBs entering the league.
But currently, I see this year’s QB landscape similar to the previous two seasons. The Top-10 QBs are likely to outshine the rest of the field in a predictable and meaningful way. I think the market overvalues QBs on the whole, but we have to draft within this market, which means finding the best spots to sacrifice some value in a vacuum in order to get access to one of these Top-10 QBs. Here are the QBs that I’m willing to take a little ahead of ADP, even if our ranks have it as a neutral/poor value in a vacuum:
- Lamar Jackson — 53.0
- Kyler Murray — 61.8
- Jalen Hurts — 71.8
- Trey Lance — 111.4
- Tom Brady — 89.4
I’d love to walk away from a home league draft with one of those options. If for some reason, you’re in a room that is too QB crazy, I’d double up on late-round QBs that provide rushing upside or are young and surrounded by weapons. We have Daniel Jones as an incredible value, and pairing him with either Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, or Zach Wilson makes a lot of sense.
Stash upside RBs late. Don’t worry about floor.
The beauty of going light at RB in a home-league draft is that it’s generally pretty easy to pick “startable” guys up off of waivers, particularly in full-PPR leagues where pass-catching backs like J.D. McKissic or James White can be picked up and counted on for an okay weekly floor at the position.
As a result, I like to prioritize upside on draft day, hoping to strike gold with an unexpected role change or benefiting from an injury to a starting RB in the time between when the draft is conducted and the start of the season.
We have an entire article looking at late-round RB targets by archetype that should be helpful with that.
Some of the best ETR values via FantasyPros ADP right now are:
- Rachaad White — 160.2, RB50
- Dameon Pierce — 142.2, RB47
- Kenneth Gainwell — 154.4, RB49
- Nyheim Hines — 132.2, RB43
Most of those options are clear values in our rankings and have the chance at both some base role plus contingent upside.
However, I’d also include backs our ranks don’t necessarily like as values in a vacuum simply because I only care about their upside. These include:
- Alexander Mattison — 121.1, RB42
- Isaiah Spiller — 134.6, RB45
- Tyrion Davis-Price — 194.7, RB60
- Matt Breida — 264.7, RB73
- D’Ernest Johnson — 232.0, RB69
- Chris Evans — 210.0, RB66
In general, you could probably make it out of the first 10 rounds of your draft with:
- 6 WRs
- 2-3 in the first three rounds
- Build depth and upside via values in roughly Rounds 5-8
- At least 1 elite onesie
- One of Kelce, Andrews, Pitts, Waller at TE and/or
- One of Lamar, Kyler, Hurts, Lance, Brady at QB
- 1-2 RBs, targeting:
- Hero RB at the top of the draft (the Round 2 turns)
- Undervalued youth — Breece, Dobbins, Pollard, Walker