Drafting The Perfect Team
Have you ever met a fantasy owner who didn’t think they drafted the best team in their league once their draft was over? Everything supposedly fell into place perfectly for them, they drafted all the players they wanted, they have the right ratio of proven players to upside players, they didn’t draft any bust candidates, and of course, they have the best team on paper. Basically, they just had themselves “the perfect draft.”
While we’ve all fallen into that trap at some point during our fantasy football careers (some of us more than others), the cold reality is that only one team wins every league, so it’s impossible that all 12 (10, 14 whatever) owners drafted the perfect team. Thinking you walked out of your draft with the perfect team is basically akin to being the parent who thinks their baby is more beautiful than everyone else’s or who thinks their son is bound to play in the World Cup based on his 10-and-under soccer skills: it’s all in your head.
Can “the perfect team” be drafted? It’s very possible that such a thing is like dry land in the movie Waterworld (a myth), but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. And while we’ll never know who drafted the fabled “perfect team” in our leagues until early January of 2014, the fact of the matter is that an owner with a plan has a much better chance of achieving fantasy nirvana than an owner who goes into their draft flying by the seat of their pants.
To that end, I’d like to borrow the next five or ten minutes of your life to outline my plan on how to draft what I would consider to “the perfect team” as of August 17. I’m assuming a 12-team, 15-man (start: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, Flex, TE, D/ST, K) points-per-reception league in my analysis below (so there will be nuance if your league has different settings), but you’re all smart people so just make sure you account for those differences in your head.
What I’ve done below is go round-by-round using current average draft positions and outlined my strategy for drafting “the perfect team” in each round. Since we’ll all have very different draft positions, I’ve written this agnostically in terms of a draft spot, so again, use your noodle to adjust what I’m saying below to the draft spot you end up drawing. Here goes nothing…
We’ve been through this before. You’re drafting a running back in round one and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There is more than one way to skin a cat (and you can certainly win by going quarterback or wide receiver in Round 1), but I strongly believe you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not taking a running back in the first round. It’s a shallow position, and nailing down a top running back will be of utter importance in the first round. The good news here is that anyone not named Adrian Peterson has as good a chance to finish as the second overall running back as about 10 other guys, so you should be happy with whichever running back you end up with in this round – regardless of your draft position.
Outcome: You should be happy to own anyone from Adrian Peterson to C.J. Spiller to Trent Richardson to LeSean McCoy to Marshawn Lynch (and anyone in between). We’ve got our building block.
This gets a little trickier since there is a very valid argument to taking a wide receiver here depending on your draft spot, but I’m still looking for a running back in this round. If you get stuck choosing between a running back you don’t like and an elite wide receiver (like Dez Bryant or A.J. Green), I have no problem with taking a wide receiver, but again, I want my RB2 in this round. If Steven Jackson or Matt Forte falls to you in this round, you should be psyched. If not, there are plenty of good RB2 options in this round, and I’ve found myself taking Darren Sproles here a LOT. Two things I’m not doing are taking Jimmy Graham or an elite quarterback here. They’re the best options at their positions, but it’s just not worth taking either position this early in my opinion – there’s plenty of depth for us later.
Outcome: Best-case, you now own Steven Jackson or Matt Forte as your RB2, but I’d also be more than happy drafting a PPR-stud like Darren Sproles.
Rounds 3 and 4
Now that we’ve got our RB1 and RB2, it’s time to focus on WR1 and RB3. A lot of what you do in these two rounds depends on your draft spot (which is why I’ve lumped both together), but there are plenty of good wide receivers and running backs to keep stockpiling here. And again, two things I’m not doing in these rounds are taking a quarterback or tight end yet. If Reggie Bush is still available to you in the third round, I’m snagging him as my RB3 in the hopes that he catches those 70-80 passes that all of us PPR people are drooling over. If Bush is gone, you have plenty of good second-tier wide receiving options available for you to take as your WR1 like Andre Johnson, Victor Cruz, Larry Fitzgerald, Randall Cobb, and Roddy White. This is also the time when I’m looking for a high-upside RB3 to go with my WR1 and you have no shortage of options: Lamar Miller, David Wilson, LeVeon Bell, and maybe even DeMarco Murray or Frank Gore if they drop this far.
Outcome: There are two ways to attack these rounds: 1) hope a RB3 like Bush, Gore, Murray falls to you in the third round and then supplement him with a high-volume WR1 in the fourth round like Danny Amendola, Marques Colston, Wes Welker, or Dwayne Bowe, or 2) take a second-tier receiver like Andre Johnson, Randall Cobb or Roddy White in the third round and then take a flier on one of the younger guys like Miller, Wilson or Bell in the fourth round.
Rounds 5 and 6
Now that we’ve got three running back spots and one wide receiver spot filled, it’s time to keep focusing on wide receivers and building running back depth. If you’re at a point where eight or nine quarterbacks have been taken so far, you’ll want to start looking at a quarterback, but I’d still keep focusing on RB/WR depth if only five or six quarterbacks are gone. Going by current ADP results, you’ve got some great WR2 options left for you in the fifth round like Pierre Garçon, Torrey Smith, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown, and maybe even Hakeem Nicks if you’re feeling lucky. The sixth round could go one of two ways for me depending on who falls: draft a third receiver as a fall-back to your WR2 or draft a fourth running back to keep building depth. If you have a running back like Chris Ivory or Ahmad Bradshaw still on the board, I’d pounce. If you’re left stuck someone like Rashard Mendenhall or Daryl Richardson left as the best remaining running back, I’d look for a WR3 in the form of someone like Steve Smith, Eric Decker, or DeSean Jackson.
Outcome: Unless you got forced into taking a quarterback due to dwindling depth, you just filled your all of your starting running back, wide receiver, and flex spots – and even started building your bench depth. It may sound weird to build bench depth before you have a starting quarterback, but you’ll be happy to did the first time you have to deal with an injury or bye week.
Rounds 7 and 8
Most ADP results have a QB7-QB12 mix of Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III (the last four of whom are currently being taken in the seventh and eighth rounds right now). I’d be happy taking any of those six guys as my QB1, and there are conveniently 12 teams in your league, so I’d wait until there are only two or three of them left before you grab a quarterback. If you get past those names, you’re looking at Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger as your QB1, and that’s not a spot I want to be in. Along with drafting your QB1 in these two rounds, you should still be looking at building your RB/WR depth (you can never have too many). According to most ADP charts, you should have some excellent RB/WR options available to you here and those would include guys such as Cecil Shorts, James Jones, Ronnie Hillman, Stevie Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Williams, Greg Jennings and Mark Ingram.
Outcome: To go with along with RB1, RB2, RB3, WR1, WR2, (and either RB4 or WR3), you’ve now selected your QB1 and an RB4 or WR3 (whatever you didn’t take in the last round). Your roster is really rounding into shape now and you’ve also accomplished the extremely tough task of building great depth to guard against injuries, bye weeks, and underperformance.
You’ll notice that I still haven’t mentioned selecting your TE1, and there’s a good reason for that. There are three (maybe four or five – depending on Rob Gronkowki’s health and what you think Vernon Davis) elite tight ends this year. Those options - Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez - all go too early for my liking. After that, I could literally argue about 15 other tight ends that have a good chance to finish as a Top 10 tight end. As such, I’m more than happy to let someone else try to figure out which of those 15 guys will emerge during these rounds and draft my tight end in Round 13.
So all that said, Rounds 9-12 should be dedicated to building more running back and wide receiver depth. As I said above, you can never have too many running backs and wide receivers (even if it’s just for trade bait), and you’ll have a myriad of options available to you here like Kenny Britt, Josh Gordon, Pierre Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Jonathan Stewart, Lance Moore, Golden Tate, Chris Givens, Shonn Greene, Jonathan Franklin, Justin Blackmon, Denarius Moore, Cordarrelle Patterson, Michael Floyd, Zac Stacy and on and on. (side note: I’m pretty intrigued by what Michael Vick might be able to do in Chip Kelly’s offense this year so you might find me grabbing him in the 12th round of a few leagues).
Outcome: You’ve got your entire starting roster set entering this round (except for tight end) and you’ve now completely stocked-up the rest of your bench with high-upside running backs and wide receivers.
Time to grab your TE1. As I said, I’d argue that guys who are being selected at TE13, TE14, and TE15 have just as good a chance to finish as a Top 10 tight end as guys who are being selected at TE6, TE7, and TE8, so why reach earlier? At this point in your draft, you should still have tight end options left like Colby Fleener, Tyler Eifert, Brandon Pettigrew, Jermichael Finley, Antonio Gates, Fred Davis, and maybe even Jared Cook and Jordan Cameron. I like any of those guys just as much as I like Brandon Myers, Martellus Bennett, Owen Daniels, and Kyle Rudolph (all of whom are being selected a few rounds higher) so it makes perfect sense to me to wait on the value that you’ll be able to scoop up at the end of your draft.
Outcome: Hopefully, you’ve emerged with a popular sleeper like Jared Cook or Jordan Cameron as your TE1, but there are plenty of good options like Fred Davis and Jermichael Finley, who I’d be more than happy having as my TE1.
Round 14 and 15
If you even think about drafting a defense or a kicker before the last two rounds, you deserve to lose your league. It’s almost impossible to figure out who the top defenses are going to be each year, and it’s even more impossible(?) to figure out who the top kickers are going to be. Even if you could, there are plenty of streaming options available on the waiver wire each week that will come really close to the point total you’ll get from the perceived “elite” defenses and kickers. Just trust me on this one: wait until the end of your draft for defense and kicker.
Outcome: If your league lets you come out of your draft without having to fill your defense or kicker spot, I’d just select two more high-upside running backs and/or wide receivers as training camps shake out, and then just drop them before the first game of the season for the best kicker and defense on the waiver wire. I’ll be completely honest (and maybe cocky) in saying that I don’t care who I have at kicker or defense on my roster at the end of my draft because there’s a 99.9 percent chance they won’t be my kicker or defense by Week 3.
So there you have it… the strategy to selecting “the perfect team”. By round, here’s a quick look at what I’d do position-wise (and this obviously depends on how your draft falls):
Round 1: Running Back
Round 2: Running Back
Round 3: Wide Receiver
Round 4: Running Back
Round 5: Wide Receiver
Round 6: Running Back
Round 7: Wide Receiver
Round 8: Quarterback
Round 9: Running Back/Wide Receiver (just make sure you balance the numbers)
Round 10: Running Back/Wide Receiver (just make sure you balance the numbers)
Round 11: Running Back/Wide Receiver (just make sure you balance the numbers)
Round 12: Running Back/Wide Receiver (just make sure you balance the numbers)
Round 13: Tight End
Round 14: Defense
Round 15: Kicker
What would that look like player-wise if I slot in some of the guys I talked about above? This obviously depends on your draft slot, but here’s a pie-in-sky roster (for me, at least):
Round 1: (RB1) Any first-round running back (let’s just say C.J. Spiller/LeSean McCoy)
Round 2: (RB2) Steven Jackson/Darren Sproles
Round 3: (WR1) Andre Johnson/Randall Cobb
Round 4: (RB3)DeMarco Murray/Lamar Miller
Round 5: (WR2) Pierre Garçon/Jordy Nelson/Antonio Brown
Round 6: (RB4) Chris Ivory/Ahmad Bradshaw
Round 7: (WR3) James Jones/Mike Williams/Stevie Johnson
Round 8: (QB1) Tony Romo/Russell Wilson/Andrew Luck/Matthew Stafford
Round 9: (WR4) Josh Gordon/Kenny Britt/ DeAndre Hopkins/Golden Tate
Round 10: (RB5) Pierre Thomas/Jonathan Stewart
Round 11: (WR5) Justin Blackmon/Michael Floyd
Round 12: (RB6) Zac Stacy/Shonn Greene
Round 13: (TE1) Jared Cook/Jordan Cameron
Round 14: (D/ST) Any defense
Round 15: (K) Any kicker
“Perfect Team Draft Principles”
- Stock up on running backs and wide receivers
- Wait on until the middle-to-late rounds to draft a quarterback
- Wait until the 13th round to grab a tight end
- Wait until the last two rounds to grab a kicker and defense
- Be flexible depending on how your draft falls. Having too rigid of a plan is a good way to pass up great value.
So what do you think? Did I draft “the perfect team”? Does my strategy stink? I know it’s not going to be anything in between, so let me know which extreme I’m on in the comments section below!