Draft Strategy The Balanced Approach

By Armando Marsal
Armando Marsal Over the years there is one question that I consistently get asked as fantasy drafts approach. That question is, “what is your draft strategy in your leagues?” Truth be told, I have always been one to focus on receivers in the early rounds, even before the zero running back approach became a thing and found much success in my leagues. That is my style and it has not changed, however, I do not go into drafts thinking that I must draft a wide receiver in the first round regardless of what lands to me. I actually go with an open mind and let the draft come to me. In fact, I was hoping for a first or second round pick in this year’s fantasy drafts because I really wanted my shares of Le’Veon Bell and/or David Johnson. With that said, I do not go with a specific strategy, my end goal is the same regardless of what league I am drafting for and that is to have a balanced roster when it is all said and done.

Even if I go heavy on receivers early in drafts, I like to have a good mix of high-upside receivers and steady/high-floor receivers. For instance, Julian Edelman is one of those receivers who has not finished as a top five receiver in any season, however, since 2013 he has finished top 20 in each season that he has played at least 14 games in as the chart below shows.


Edelman gets it done on a week-to-week basis and seldom has a poor performance. Combining receivers like him with someone like an Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks (maybe not this year because they are on the same team, but you get the point), etc. is something I like to do. You have the best of both worlds at this position and reduce the variance of your receivers on a weekly basis.

The same can be said about running backs. While I place a lot of emphasis on pass-catching running backs in my drafts, I also like to invest in north and south runners who see a high percentage of their team’s red zone carries. For example, Theo Riddick, Danny Woodhead, Duke Johnson, and Shane Vereen are all backs that I have interest in due to their involvement in the passing game on their teams. However, some of these backs are not in on as many of the offensive snaps as the others and depend much more on the game script for any given week. For instance, Duke Johnson played in 44.4 percent of the offensive snaps for the Browns last season which is fewer than half of the snaps, while his teammate Isaiah Crowell played in 55.2 percent of the snaps and dominated the red zone carries between the two with 66.7 percent of the Browns’ red zone carries. I like to pair up these pass catching backs with running backs such as LeGarrette Blount, Carlos Hyde, and Eddie Lacy, all running backs who received over 50 percent of their team’s red zone rushes last season. Once again, I am reducing the volatility at another important position of my roster.

Waiting on quarterbacks is also something I tend to do. It is not because I devalue the position, but because data shows that on a per week basis you are not losing a whole lot from QB1 to QB10. I went back five years, the 2012 season, and the average of fantasy points difference between the quarterback that finished with the most fantasy points that season and the quarterback that finished 10th was 6.5 fantasy points. This includes the 2013 season where Peyton Manning broke records and scored over 400 fantasy points, averaging over nine fantasy points per game more than Tony Romo who finished 10th in fantasy points amongst quarterbacks that season. Aside from that, all quarterbacks that finished first in fantasy points finished the season averaging less than seven fantasy points per game than the quarterback that finished in 10th. So instead of investing early in a quarterback, I rather load up on receivers and running backs first, balancing out those two positions who we must start anywhere from 2-4 of each in most leagues. I also take the same approach for tight ends, where I typically wait until the mid-to-late rounds to draft one, unless I come across a top tight end on my list in a round I feel comfortable with drafting him in.

Defenses and kickers are two positions I prefer not having in my leagues, but in those leagues that include them in the rosters, I just wait until the last two rounds. These are two positions that I feel fine streaming on a weekly basis, more so the defense. Kickers I try to select a kicker that kicks indoors or plays in a team that does not have to deal with snow. Defenses, I stream on a weekly basis as I do not feel that it is necessary investing any other round aside from one of the last two rounds in any of these positions.

Keep in mind, this article is intended for PPR scoring formats and if your league sets the scoring to make defenses, quarterbacks, kickers, or even tight ends more valuable, adjust your thinking accordingly. I am a strong believer in going well prepared into a draft, but I am also a believer in letting the draft come to you. At the end of the day, I want to increase the upside on my roster and limit the variance which is why I like to take the balanced approach.

Good luck to all in your drafts. If you have any questions or just want to chat football, you can find me on the twitter machine @Armando_Marsal.