Draft Strategies Experiment, Five Weeks in

Earlier this off-season I wondered which draft strategy was the greatest. Some advocate zero wide receivers to focus on running backs. Some advocate zero running backs to grab the best receivers. Some choose to focus on dominating positions like tight end and quarterback first. Others just want to take the best player available.

I drafted a team in four different leagues, each using one of these strategies. For control, they were identical 10-team, PPR leagues. My commitment has been to aggressively manage each squad during the season, as I would any team, to see where advantages lie.

Through the first five weeks of competition, here’s where each team sits.

Draft Strategy: Zero RB
Team Name: Soft Tissue Issues
Pick Number: One
Original Roster:
QB: Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford
RB: Danny Woodhead, Arian Foster, Theo Riddick, Charles Sims, CJ Prosise
WR: Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffrey, Mike Evans, Eric Decker, Donte Moncrief
TE: Delanie Walker, Will Tye
D/ST: Seahawks
K: Justin Tucker

Current Roster:
QB: Cam Newton, Carson Wentz
RB: Theo Riddick, James White, Spencer Ware
WR: Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Evans, Eric Decker, Donte Moncrief, Tyrell Williams
TE: Delanie Walker, Dennis Pitta
D/ST: Seahawks, Vikings
K: Justin Tucker
Record: 3-2

About: Running back has been a problem here. Danny Woodhead is on IR, Arian Foster has been hurt, and Charles Sims hasn’t been helpful. The flier on CJ Prosise was quickly abandoned as well, as I needed players who could play. Receiver hasn’t been great either, with Moncrief and Decker gone, so my depth is severely limited. And Cam Newton suffered a concussion, so a second quarterback has come in handy. Still, at 3-2 I’m in the thick of the playoff race. My pick up of Ware before game one has helped, but it’s slim pickings at RB.

Draft Strategy: Zero WR
Team Name: Hyde Yo Gurley
Pick Number: Two
Original Roster:
QB: Aaron Rodgers,  Kirk Cousins
RB: Todd Gurley, Thomas Rawls, Jamaal Charles, Carlos Hyde, CJ Prosise, Spencer Ware
WR: Donte Moncreif, Emmanuel Sanders, John Brown, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas
TE: Travis Kelce
D/ST: Panthers
K: Robert Aguayo

Current Roster:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan
RB: Todd Gurley, Carlos Hyde, Jamaal Charles, Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael
WR: Willie Snead, Donte Moncrief, Emmanuel Sanders, Tyrell Williams, Steve Smith, Sr.
TE: Travis Kelce, Dwayne Allen
D/ST: Panthers
K: Robert Aguayo
Record: 4-1

About: Here’s the thing, this team was all about drafting RBs high, and the 4-1 record makes you think that was a better plan. But that’s a bit deceptive. The Charles/Spencer Ware combo and the Michael/Rawls combo have been rough. Hyde has been my best running back, and he was a fourth choice afterthought when drafting. Gurley has also struggled. This team has won thanks to some incredible performances from wide receivers, like Snead and Sanders, who’ve put up huge numbers to bail out some weak RB performances. In fact, the past few weeks I’ve played three receivers and only two RBs. Still, at 4-1 the playoffs are coming into view.

Draft Strategy: Zero RB and Zero WR
Team Name: Gronk You Tour
Pick Number: Three
Original Roster:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson
RB: Duke Johnson, Jr., Ameer Abdullah, Charles Sims, Tevin Coleman
WR: Eric Decker, John Brown, Corey Coleman, Willie Snead, Will Fuller
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen
D/ST: Broncos
K: Matt Prater

Current Roster:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson
RB: James White, Duke Johnson, Jr., Charles Sims, Christine Michael
WR: Eric Decker, Willie Snead, Tyrelle Pryor, Quincy Enunwa, Will Fuller
TE: Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed, Rob Gronkowski
D/ST: Broncos
K: Matt Prater
Record: 3-2

About: Gronk owners know that having him on the team these past five weeks hasn’t been great. In fact, I haven’t played him once this season, including yesterday when I wasn’t sure how healthy he’d be. That will probably change, but what has kept this team afloat is some timely values at RB and WR, as well as steady play from Reed and Olsen. It was hard to imagine how this team would win — in fact I haven’t been favored by ESPN projections in any match this season — but somehow I’m getting it done. At 3-2, this team has a shot at the playoffs.

Draft Strategy: Best Player Available
Team Name: For Whom Bell Tolls
Pick Number: 10
Original Roster:
QB: Blake Bortles, Matthew Stafford
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Jeremy Hill, DeAngelo Williams, Duke Johnson, Jr., Giovanni Bernard, Charles Sims
WR: Alshon Jeffrey, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas, Allen Hurns
TE: Julius Thomas, Zach Miller
D/ST: Texans
K: Brandon McManus

Current Roster:
QB: Matthew Stafford, Blake Bortles
RB: Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Terrence West, Jeremy Hill, Spencer Ware
WR: Allen Robinson, Alshon Jeffrey, Demaryius Thomas, Jordan Matthews, Marvin Jones, Tyrelle Pryor
TE: Dennis Pitta
D/ST: Texans
K: Brandon McManus
Record: 2-2-1

About: This has been my most frustrating team. If you look at the roster, you see high value talent that has been healthy this season — aside from Hill’s injury yesterday. Yet my production has been all over the board. After a tie during week one, I’ve alternated losses and wins the next four weeks. At 2-2-1 I’m still in the thick of the playoff hunt, and I think this team has to keep going strong. After five weeks, it feels like time to abandon the Texans’ defense, which has been awful the past few weeks.

A lot is made about draft strategies and how it helps you win. Drafting is important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. With these four teams, despite radically different roster construction, I’ve been aggressively playing waivers and match ups. And, as a result, five weeks through the season all of them still have a shot at the playoffs. In-season moves matter as much — or more — than drafting, and that’s probably my biggest take away from this experiment so far.

Stay turned for another update in a couple weeks.


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