What Happens When You Draft Your Team In Reverse?

Aug 11, 2014 6:00 AM EST

When you prepare for your draft you’re almost always going to target certain players and certain positions beforehand. You’ll enter knowing that you want to snag Jimmy Graham in the first round, but how does that pick alter your strategy in later rounds? How will it effect the running backs or wide receivers that ultimately land on your roster? A smart drafter always sees how one pick effects all of the others and plans four, five, and six rounds ahead. I plan to build on that by applying a similar approach but using this year’s players and their ADP.

With that in mind we’re going to see what happens when we draft our players in reverse, when we see what happens later before we see what happens first. I’m going to start in the eighth round and work my way back to the first and see the type of team I wind up with. Why the first eight rounds? Because most standard leagues start eight position players (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, RB/WR) and ideally you should worry about them before you worry about your bench.

I took the most recent ADP data from MyFantasyLeague and broke players down by round. For each round I’ve listed the next five players at each position that will theoretically be drafted based on ADP. As you’ll see some players hang around for more than one round, that’s because - for example - five tight ends aren’t getting selected in the first round.

For the most part the specific players I select for the roster doesn’t matter, it’s generally the tier of player available in that specific round that matters the most. Let’s start with the eighth so you can see what I mean.

Round 8

QB

Kaepernick, Colin SFO

Brady, Tom NEP

Wilson, Russell SEA

Romo, Tony DAL

Cutler, Jay CHI

RB

Bell, Joique DET

Jennings, Rashad NYG

Gore, Frank SFO

Ridley, Stevan NEP

Michael, Christine SEA

WR

Wallace, Mike MIA

Evans, Mike TBB

Hopkins, DeAndre HOU

Williams, Terrance DAL

Sanders, Emmanuel DEN

TE

Witten, Jason DAL

Pitta, Dennis BAL

Rudolph, Kyle MIN

Olsen, Greg CAR

Green, Ladarius SDC

When we look at the players available in the eighth round it’s immediately clear that we’re out of elite options at every position, except quarterback. Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson will all generally be taken in the eighth round, while Tony Romo will last until the ninth and Jay Cutler until the tenth. With that in mind you could technically wait until the ninth round or even later and wind up with a competent starting quarterback. This is common knowledge, but to wait even later takes an especially strong stomach and for the purposes of this article we’re going to take our QB now. Let’s say we pick Tom Brady, it doesn’t really matter any of Kaepernick, Brady, Wilson or even Romo are perfectly legitimate picks at this point in your draft. On to the seventh.

QB -Tom Brady

Round 7

QB

Ryan, Matt ATL

Kaepernick, Colin SFO

Brady, Tom NEP

Wilson, Russell SEA

Romo, Tony DAL

RB

Sankey, Bishop TEN

Tate, Ben CLE

Gerhart, Toby JAC

Rice, Ray BAL

Johnson, Chris NYJ

WR

Edelman, Julian NEP

Decker, Eric NYJ

Maclin, Jeremy PHI

Wallace, Mike MIA

Evans, Mike TBB

TE

Reed, Jordan WAS

Witten, Jason DAL

Pitta, Dennis BAL

Rudolph, Kyle MIN

Olsen, Greg CAR

Here’s our first chance to take a look at players that carry over from round to round. With the exception of the RB position, we have holdovers at each of QB, WR, and TE. We’ve added Matt Ryan to the quarterback tier but we’ve already decided to take our QB in the eighth so we can ignore that.

We have all new running backs, but again, none of them are particularly exciting. They all have the potential to be serious contributors this season, but they all come with huge risk as well. Jordan Reed has been added to the tight end tier and is a serious contender for big numbers this season but we’re going to address our tight end a little later on.

That leaves the wideouts, they’re going to be your third wide receiver so nobody is expecting to get 100/1,500/10 from them. Julian Edelman, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Maclin all have upside though that can’t be ignored. Edelman had a career year last season and nobody is expecting those numbers to translate to 2014, but that’s just fine he’ll still have plenty of value in the Patriots offense. Eric Decker is in a new, scary, situation but he’s still the clearcut number one in New York and there’s something to be said for that. Finally, Jeremy Maclin is in a phenomenal spot, it’s not fair to expect him to be an exact replica of DeSean Jackson from a season ago - especially not with the addition of Darren Sproles - but a career year is more than likely from him this season. He’s an excellent value pick in the seventh round and for that reason we’ll take him as our WR3.

QB - Tom Brady, WR - Jeremy Maclin

Round 6

QB

Foles, Nick PHI

Newton, Cam CAR

Griffin III, Robert WAS

Ryan, Matt ATL

Kaepernick, Colin SFO

RB

Mathews, Ryan SDC

Richardson, Trent IND

Sankey, Bishop TEN

Tate, Ben CLE

Gerhart, Toby JAC

WR

Welker, Wes DEN

Watkins, Sammy BUF

White, Roddy ATL

Smith, Torrey BAL

Wright, Kendall TEN

TE

Davis, Vernon SFO

Reed, Jordan WAS

Witten, Jason DAL

Pitta, Dennis BAL

Rudolph, Kyle MIN

In the sixth we’ve added two new running backs, again, they’re not too exciting, I’m beginning to spot a trend here. Vernon Davis is added to the tight end crop but we’re going to pass.

Again we’re going to go with a wide receiver here. We have an entirely new set of wideouts to choose from and I’d happily take four of the five of them as my WR2, sorry Sammy Watkins. You have your pick here based on your personal preference. Wes Welker and Roddy White are older and more reliable. Both missed time last season due to injury, but Roddy had never had injury issues previously and I don’t expect him to have any this year.

Wes is certainly more of a risk due to his concussion history, but his position in the best offense in football immediately puts him in the low-end of the WR1 conversation.

Kendall Wright and Torrey Smith are younger and dripping with potential. Kendall is going to be a PPR machine again. He won’t score a ton of touchdowns but 90-plus catches is a real possibility again. Finally, Torrey Smith hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far in my opinion but he was the only guy in Baltimore last season with Dennis Pitta missing most of the season due to injury, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt heading into this season.

Even so, we’re going to go with Roddy White as our WR2 due to the fact that he could very well finish the season as a WR1 in the Falcons offense.

QB - Tom Brady, WR - Roddy White, WR - Jeremy Maclin

Round 5

QB

Foles, Nick PHI

Newton, Cam CAR

Griffin III, Robert WAS

Ryan, Matt ATL

Kaepernick, Colin SFO

RB

Bush, Reggie DET

Vereen, Shane NEP

Mathews, Ryan SDC

Richardson, Trent IND

Sankey, Bishop TEN

WR

Johnson, Andre HOU

Floyd, Michael ARI

Fitzgerald, Larry ARI

Jackson, Vincent TBB

Jackson, DeSean WAS

TE

Cameron, Jordan CLE

Davis, Vernon SFO

Reed, Jordan WAS

Witten, Jason DAL

Pitta, Dennis BAL

So far we’ve filled our quarterback slot and two of our three wide receiver slots. This round we could really go one of two ways. We could stick with what we’ve been doing and scoop up wide receivers or we could grab our first running back. In this case we’re going to take our first back.

Looking at who’s available now we see that Reggie Bush and Shane Vereen are the top available options. Both are going to be PPR monsters and should have plenty of chances with the ball in space. If they can stay healthy both will be RB2s this season.

Neither is truly featured in their offense, but both are ticketed for big roles. Given Bill Belichick’s propensity for benching his RBs every time they fumble, we’re going to pick Reggie Bush this time around. And while we're at it, let's make ourselves a little depth chart . 

QB                          Tom Brady

RB

RB

WR

WR                         Roddy White

WR                         Jeremy Maclin

TE

RB/WR                  Reggie Bush

Round 4

QB

Luck, Andrew IND

Stafford, Matthew DET

Foles, Nick PHI

Newton, Cam CAR

Griffin III, Robert WAS

RB

Spiller, C.J. BUF

Morris, Alfred WAS

Ellington, Andre ARI

Bush, Reggie DET

Vereen, Shane NEP

WR

Garcon, Pierre WAS

Patterson, Cordarrelle MIN

Cruz, Victor NYG

Harvin, Percy SEA

Crabtree, Michael SFO

TE

Cameron, Jordan CLE

Davis, Vernon SFO

Reed, Jordan WAS

Witten, Jason DAL

Pitta, Dennis BAL

The fourth and fifth round swing is easily the most difficult to decide between of all of these rounds. In either one we can get a solid RB or WR to help our team. What it ultimately came down to was the fact that I’d be just as comfortable with Bush or Vereen as I would be C.J. Spiller, Alfred Morris, or Andre Ellington.

Spiller is not and never will be a feature back as long as he’s on the Buffalo Bills.

Alfred Morris brings nothing to the table in PPR leagues, but even if your league doesn’t count receptions it’s still going to count receiving yards and he’ll have almost none. Andre Ellington is intriguing but we’ve never seen him with a starter’s workload and running backs are not something you want to gamble much on.

With that said we look at the tight ends, Jordan Cameron is on the list now but as we already saw he’s still on the list next round and we still didn’t select him. We’re saving tight end for later.

We’re finishing our wide receiver corps this round and we could go one of five ways. Again, four of the five are legitimate picks. Cordarrelle Patterson might be great, but that doesn’t matter if the Vikings don’t get him the ball so we’re going to avoid him.

Victor Cruz is a playmaker and the Giants new offense will be very wide receiver friendly. Percy Harvin, like Cordarrelle is electric with the ball in his hands, but will he stay on the field? Michael Crabtree is going to be the go-to-guy in San Francisco’s passing game this season and should be up excellent numbers even in a run-first offense. Finally, Pierre Garcon was a PPR monster and should be again this year. Some people might be nervous that the addition of DeSean Jackson will hurt his numbers but I’m more inclined to say that the added receiving threat will only make it easier for Garcon as some of the pressure is taken off. A healthy Robert Griffin III doesn’t hurt either. We’ll go with Garcon here to round out our wide receivers.

QB                         Tom Brady

RB

RB

WR                         Pierre Garcon

WR                         Roddy White

WR                         Jeremy Maclin

TE

RB/WR                  Reggie Bush


We don’t have Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant but we have three very good receivers with high upside potential.

Round 3

QB

Manning, Peyton DEN

Brees, Drew NOS

Luck, Andrew IND

Stafford, Matthew DET

Foles, Nick PHI

RB

Lynch, Marshawn SEA

Martin, Doug TBB

Foster, Arian HOU

Stacy, Zac STL

Spiller, C.J. BUF

WR

Nelson, Jordy GBP

Allen, Keenan SDC

Garcon, Pierre WAS

Patterson, Cordarrelle MIN

Cruz, Victor NYG

TE

Gronkowski, Rob NEP

Thomas, Julius DEN

Cameron, Jordan CLE

Davis, Vernon SFO

Reed, Jordan WAS

In the third round we’re starting to see truly elite names on our board. Peyton Manning or Drew Brees would be nice, but is it worth giving up a top running back? No. The fact is that in most leagues having one of Manning, Brees, or Aaron Rodgers simply doesn’t give you enough of a positional advantage to justify the selection.

We’re not going for a running back here though either. This tier of running backs is certainly talented but we’re going to hold off still.

Instead we’re finally going to take our tight end. For most of you Rob Gronkowski is the number two tight end on your board, for me he’s the top tight (to see why click here). In fantasy football you always need to seek out positional advantages, having Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham gives you the ultimate positional advantage because nobody else is even close to their level. This one’s a no brainer.

QB                         Tom Brady

RB

RB

WR                        Pierre Garcon

WR                        Roddy White

WR                        Jeremy Maclin

TE                          Rob Gronkowski

RB/WR                  Reggie Bush

Round 2

QB

Rodgers, Aaron GBP

Manning, Peyton DEN

Brees, Drew NOS

Luck, Andrew IND

Stafford, Matthew DET

RB

Bell, Le'Veon PIT

Bernard, Giovani CIN

Murray, DeMarco DAL

Ball, Montee DEN

Lynch, Marshawn SEA

WR

Jones, Julio ATL

Marshall, Brandon CHI

Jeffery, Alshon CHI

Brown, Antonio PIT

Cobb, Randall GBP

TE

Gronkowski, Rob NEP

Thomas, Julius DEN

Cameron, Jordan CLE

Davis, Vernon SFO

Reed, Jordan WAS

And finally the long wait (not so long wait?) is finally over. We’re going after a running back. It’d be nice to have Julio Jones or Brandon Marshall but is that a luxury we can really afford? Not really.

In the second we can grab a solid running back who’s more than likely going to finish in the Top 10 at his position. For running backs the difference between the tenth running back and the twentieth is monumental, the difference between the tenth wideout and the twentieth? Not nearly as much.

Le’Veon Bell enters his sophomore season after a solid rookie campaign and should see a hefty workload as the feature back in Pittsburgh. Giovani Bernard is going to be everything that we wish C.J. Spiller would be this season because the Bengals are actually going to get him the ball as many times as he can handle. DeMarco Murray - like his teammate Tony Romo – is one of the most underrated players at his position and is poised for another big year. Montee Ball, ahh Montee Ball. It’s hard not fall in love with Ball after seeing what an inferior back did in Denver last season. For the sake of the article we’ll choose DeMarco Murray in this round, but any of the four would be great RB2s on your roster.

QB                         Tom Brady

RB

RB                         DeMarco Murray

WR                        Pierre Garcon

WR                        Roddy White

WR                        Jeremy Maclin

TE                         Rob Gronkowski

RB/WR                 Reggie Bush

Round 1

QB

Rodgers, Aaron GBP

Manning, Peyton DEN

Brees, Drew NOS

Luck, Andrew IND

Stafford, Matthew DET

RB

McCoy, LeSean PHI

Charles, Jamaal KCC

Peterson, Adrian MIN

Forte, Matt CHI

Lacy, Eddie GBP

WR

Johnson, Calvin DET

Thomas, Demaryius DEN

Green, A.J. CIN

Bryant, Dez DAL

Jones, Julio ATL

TE

Graham, Jimmy NOS

Gronkowski, Rob NEP

Thomas, Julius DEN

Cameron, Jordan CLE

Davis, Vernon SFO

Last, but not least, we look at our first round selection. We’ve filled all of the other spots on our starting roster so we’re obviously going to go with a running back here. But let’s consider what could have been.

Aaron Rodgers is great but he’s not a first round pick in a standard league, so he’s out and so are the rest of the quarterbacks.

Calvin Johnson is every bit of the best wide receiver in the league, but as I said earlier, the gap between the first ten wideouts and the next ten is not nearly as large as the gap between the tenth and twentieth running back.

Jimmy Graham is great, but why waste a first round pick on a tight end when you can use a third on someone who’s just as good, if not better?

So which running back are we going to go with? They’re all bona fide bellcows and it’s really anyone’s guess who will finish as the number one running back in football this season. In your actual draft you won’t have your pick of the five unless you have the number one overall pick. But that’s okay, because any of them will do just fine. We’ll round out our roster by adding Matt Forte (and assume we didn’t pick first overall).

QB                         Tom Brady

RB                         Matt Forte

RB                         DeMarco Murray

WR                        Pierre Garcon

WR                        Roddy White

WR                        Jeremy Maclin

TE                          Rob Gronkowski

RB/WR                  Reggie Bush

We ended up with a pretty ridiculous team. Waiting for our quarterback worked out great, we have a very talented group of running backs and our wide receivers are all going to put up good numbers. The key to this strategy was realizing that you’re not going to have one of the Top Five wide receivers and being okay with it. In order to execute that effectively you have to choose a group that you feel all have the potential to put up WR2 numbers to compensate and the guys that we chose do. Finally we have a huge advantage at tight end every week.

Moving on from the team that I wish I’d actually drafted let’s get back to the point. You don’t need to love who I chose to approach your draft with this mindset. The best way to use this strategy is by putting your players into tiers, which is basically what we did by breaking them down by their ADP. That way you’re able to target a group of players rather than tether yourself to one player. Then, look ahead whenever you’re making your current selection and be sure that you’re comfortable with what you have to give up in a later round to make that choice. The best example is with wide receivers. As I’ve mentioned several times already, choosing Calvin might seem great now but how’s it going to feel when you’re stuck picking a much lower caliber talent at running back later on? The same could be said the other way around, if I take Jamaal Charles in the first how am I going to fare at wide receiver later on? I won’t get Calvin Johnson but I’d much rather have a solid, but not spectacular group of wide receivers than running backs.

The next logical step is to beef up your wide receivers in the next few rounds. If we keep going through the rounds you’ll see that it’s much easier to make up for weaker wide receivers than running backs. You could even go so far as waiting longer on your QB and taking a fourth wide receiver in the ninth. That gets dicey though as your dealing less with tiers and more with individual players, you never want to wait too long and miss out entirely.

Play around with the actual selections and make this strategy fit your personal preferences. The players don’t matter here, the strategy does.