Fantasy Football 2017: Mock Draft Analysis and Selection Strategy

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 17: Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles plays against the Buffalo Bills in the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 17, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Bills 20-16. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

A mock draft in the fantasy football realm is going to look quite a bit different from one in the lead up to the NFL draft.  

GMs in the NFL typically prioritize quarterbacks and the occasional generational edge-rusher, or at least a guy who boasts the upside of one. Fantasy football drafts lean on production and usage, but not at quarterback. 

Like the NFL is a long way removed from taking running backs first overall, fantasy drafts have changed in dramatic fashion to coincide with the on-field evolution of the game. 

After a summer away, it is understandable if fantasy owners need to shake off the rust before heading into drafts. Below is a look at a sample mock for reference before diving into some strategy review, all based on Yahoo 12-team standard leagues. 


Mock Draft

1.01David Johnson
1.02Le'Veon Bell
1.03LeSean McCoy
1.04Antonio Brown
1.05Odell Beckham Jr.
1.06Julio Jones
1.07Jay Ajayi
1.08Melvin Gordon
1.09Mike Evans
1.10Jordan Howard
1.11A.J. Green
1.12Todd Gurley
2.01Devonta Freeman
2.02Jordy Nelson
2.03DeMarco Murray
2.04Aaron Rodgers
2.05Isaiah Crowell
2.06Rob Gronkowski
2.07Dez Bryant
2.08Marshawn Lynch
2.09Leonard Fournette
2.10Ezekiel Elliott
2.11Lamar Miller
2.12Michael Thomas
Author's opinion

The disparity between the way the NFL and fantasy football values quarterbacks is as wide as the Grand Canyon.  

Everything centers on the quarterback, arguably the most important position in sports—except in fantasy football. Having the peace of mind that Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady will perform well regardless of options around them is nice, but bulking up other positions means less reliance on the position each week.

Quarterback isn't just the easiest position to predict on a weekly basis. There are a mass of reliable producers each year, significant injuries are mostly a rarity and waiting until the eighth or ninth round, though extreme, can still produce a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck, who have average draft positions of 8.06 and 8.09 at Fantasy Football Calculator, respectively. 

It's easy to keep going with values: Dak Prescott (10.04), Matthew Stafford (10.08) and Carson Palmer (12.09) are all notables. Again, nothing completely wrong with getting a Rodgers early and coasting, but when 13 signal-callers flew past the 4,000-yard mark for passing a year ago, it is worth wondering if an early investment on the position in a 12-team league is worth it. 

After all, running back scarcity is a major problem in any league. The league itself isn't drafting the position at No. 1 anymore, but fantasy owners sure are with 300-touch hogs like Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson. The conundrum facing owners is obvious—more and more NFL teams are divvying up touches to backfield committees, something owners can't do. Meaning, the rare guys who hog all the touches have more value than anyone else. 

Bell and Johnson are always going to be a better option than say, Jay Ajayi, who carried the ball 260 times last year but only caught 27 passes. 

If quantity is the defining trait there, it also defines running back as a whole compared to wideout. Johnson and Bell don't have equals in that top positional tier, whereas the top tier of wideouts features Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and A.J. Green

Speaking of wideouts, the sheer quantity between the number an owner needs to start and how many see healthy usage these days almost makes it feel like throwing darts at a board blindfolded. After that top tier, it seems like anything can happen, so the best thing owners can do is look at target numbers and outline a range of results. 

Take a guy like Alshon Jeffery. While it's exciting he escaped the wideout purgatory known as Chicago, what are the chances he does any better on a new team with sophomore Carson Wentz under center? He's sitting on an ADP of 4.04, tied with Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, who last year scored six times as a receiver, three times as a rusher and three times as a returner. 

What seems more likely and the safer pick? The guy on a new team for the first time in his career, or the guy contributing in three different ways? 

Tight end isn't nearly as difficult to figure out. The obvious names like Rob Gronkowski will produce if healthy, though names shouldn't mean as much as they do elsewhere. 

Look at a small, but telling note about pairing tight ends with their real-life quarterbacks from ESPN.com's Matthew Berry: "In his first season with Sam Bradford, Kyle Rudolph caught 14 passes in the red zone. In the past five seasons, the only TEs with more such catches in a single season are Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed and Tony Gonzalez."

As seasoned owners can attest, any strategy works. And there are a ton of them, ranging from zero-running back to late-round quarterback to early quarterback and beyond. Most data suggests any approach will give an owner a shot at the playoffs, provided the picks pan out and owners do well on the waiver wire and via trades. 

Above all else, luck comes into play. Early-round runners won't usually disappoint outside of injury. The reliable quarterbacks are the same way. Wideouts with a safe range of results don't suddenly get demoted. 

Still, knowing these range of strategies and being able to adapt on the fly is a big part of success in a fantasy draft. A league championship isn't necessarily won during the draft, but it can certainly be lost. 


All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. 

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