Fantasy draft things to know

Your event is coming up, here's some of what to expect

Mike Schopp
August 21, 2019 - 1:52 pm

Photo: Denny Medley - USA TODAY Sports

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Odds are that your fantasy draft is either this weekend or next. Mine is Thursday night. And I have two Sunday. And another one next Wednesday, and then one next Thursday. And one on the following Sunday. And then the Wednesday after that, and then the night after that.

The NFL season kicks off while that last draft will be finishing up -- good thing it does, or the following weekend would book up too.

I've done (I think) 12 drafts already. Please know, this is not bragging. Life isn't really about getting into as many fantasy football leagues as possible in a given year. It's simply that I enjoy them and the challenges within each league, and that I'm lucky enough to find time for them. I also value the many friendships I've made in the four years of playing in several leagues, both locally and within the national fantasy football community.

One thing about fantasy previews and projections is that they almost all look the same. Just about everyone has Saquon Barkley at the top, the same half-dozen to dozen players from there, and so on down the line. When you think about it, this is true within projections made for the real NFL Draft too. There's hardly any variance in these rankings, be they in real football or fantasy.

Because of that, I don't bother making my own rankings. What's the point, really? There are dozens of people already doing that either as a serious hobby or a profession, and they, of course, make their rankings available. I have opinions where I favor some guys over others, like anyone, but I don't feel the need to make my own list.

So projections are what I don't have for you here. Instead, I'll give you a few takeaways from drafts I've been in so that you can be better prepared for your own draft.

(With so many leagues a growing number of readers may use these tips against me in drafts. I don't mind!)

Fantasy players will take their chances on Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon. This probably will change as the days before the season get fewer without Elliott and Gordon in camp, assuming they stay away, but thus far in every league I've drafted someone's been there pretty early to take the chance on the two star running backs going back to work. In a draft I did last week, Elliott went fourth, which was the lowest he was ever going before announcing his holdout. I was prepared that day to take him fifth because I'd rather not start with a receiver that early in Round 1, and the next running backs for me (David Johnson, LeVeon Bell) I think deserve to go at least another couple of spots lower. Gordon went in Round 3 that day; if Gordon shows up at Chargers camp, he vaults into the end of the first round, probably. That's a big if.

A lot of fantasy players love their handcuffs. Even beyond the guys holding out, the top fantasy running backs' backups get drafted fairly high -- higher than I generally think they should. Some players need that comfort of Johnson's presumed backup, Chase Edmonds, or Bell's backups, Eli McGuire or Ty Montgomery.

My issue is, if those guys don't get hurt early, those backups are clutter on my roster that I'm dumping at the first waiver opportunity. Later on in the season, when your starting lineup is pretty firm, then I can cut decent starters for those backups because I'm not using those starters. They're on my bench. But if I'm drafting players I know won't contribute unless there's a big injury in front of them, I see that as wasting picks.

Patrick Mahomes is above and beyond. Mahomes is the first quarterback picked every time. He can slip to Round 4 at the lowest, but I've also seen him go much higher. In a Superflex league I'm in (two quarterbacks can start) Mahomes went 1.02. I'm playing in the Scott Fish Bowl (#SFB9), which is also a Superflex, and I took Mahomes at 1.06.

Most people expect regression from Mahomes, but modest regression could still yield league-leading totals, and who's to say that what he did in 2018 won't be his baseline? I'm not rushing to Mahomes but I would take him. Other than him, no quarterback interests me that much...

...EXCEPT Lamar Jackson.

Jackson is too good to pass up in the middle rounds. If he's to duplicate 2018, the rushing floor alone makes him viable. Just as Bills fans say this about Josh Allen, I see no reason to think Jackson's passing output won't improve in Year 2. I think he's possibly the best running quarterback the sport has ever seen, and (also like Allen) his team has every reason to pour all its energy into his success. Put another way, he's not coming out. Jackson is super cheap in most drafts and that works just fine for me.

You can have the big three tight ends. Travis Kelce is fabulous, and Zach Ertz and George Kittle might be too. But I don't like forgoing a running back or receiver so early as is necessary to draft one of these three tight ends. I'll wait it out and come up with another plan. I think Hunter Henry, Evan Engram and O.J. Howard are all fine for the price, so too Jared Cook. Austin Hooper and Vance McDonald give you reason to think optimistically, and on a lower tier so do Mark Andrews and Jack Doyle. Darren Waller, Jordan Thomas, even Ricky Seals-Jones can all make sense to me at the end of the draft.

My view on tight end is, I'll play the hand any way you want and make it work.

This year, we're doing a second year of the guillotine format, and this is my first go-round with individual defensive players (IDPs). I've got a sick 28-team blind-auction draft with each player on the board twice, and a free family league where we start only six players and roster only 10. Here's to variety.

I like getting fantasy questions and make an effort to respond to many of them. Ask away on Twitter (@Schopptalk) or schopp@wgr550.com.

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