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Tales From the Turn - Managing Snake Drafts With a Late Pick

I did a few mocks recently in preparation for a long-running league I won last season. 10 teams, ESPN standard scoring; nothing fancy just a group of buddies who started it to find more reasons to watch football together. The casual nature of the league has extended itself to the draft prep process, especially since I do fewer and fewer simple snake drafts and even fewer leagues with “normal” scoring. It’s a nice opportunity to revisit the basic game that I fell in love with back in college.

It struck me while finishing a mock that position-specific articles aren’t something I see frequently, and the dreaded wraparound presents unique challenges in a fantasy draft. There were a couple of fascinating trends I noticed and it would seem like some of our beloved Rotoballer readers might be having some trouble planning for such a precarious position. I thought I might share how my strategy adjusted over the course of multiple mocks, which players I ended up picking consistently, and where I found I needed to reach for players I liked and where I could sit back and wait for the draft to fall to me.

Without further ado, enjoy my random musings acquired over about a dozen mocks, using standard scoring for 10 and 12-team leagues. I picked either ninth or last in 10-teamers, and between 10-12 with 12-teams. You and I may agree or disagree on player evaluation, so feel free to swap out a guy I like for one you like, especially if their ADP is similar. If my entirely anecdotal observations are useful to you during your draft season, be sure to raise a beer in my honor. Happy drafting!

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Snake Strategy from the Turn

Round 1

  • It’s tough watching all of the best runners get snatched up knowing you’re probably choosing between WR3 and RB9. It’s a massive bummer passing up DeAndre Hopkins to pick Kareem Hunt just because it’s not PPR. I tinkered with going one-and-one with WR and RB, two WR, and two RB. This might not surprise you, but two-WR is not the way to go.

Receiver is crazy deep this year. While picking Hopkins and ODB feels awesome, you realize how big of a problem you have when you have to reach a round early to get Alex Collins, Derrick Henry, or Chris Carson. If you’re picking low in round one, you’re also picking low in round three. This means you’re likely missing on mid-second and third-round picks like Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, and Jordan Howard. You might be super pumped about Royce Freeman, but it’s not ideal to slot him as RB1. There just aren’t enough starting runners in good fantasy situations to go Zero RB.

  • Despite all of the concern above about how few runners there are, I did find myself snatching a wideout in the first around 80% of the time. Usually, it was DeAndre Hopkins, who I was plenty happy to gobble up at that spot. Beckham Jr. is often available as well, and was the second option. If both are gone, usually it meant a better option was available.
  • It was surprising how frequently a really good runner fell to me. The guy that I started to hope for to fall was Saquon Barkley, who got to me about 20% of the time. To me, this is a huge coup, as I’m a huge fan of the Giants’ rookie and think he’s in for a monster season.
  • When I did go RB/RB, I typically reached down for Melvin Gordon. I love the Chargers workhorse and think he’s in for a huge season regardless of the format. He’s my RB4, believe it or not, after Bell, Gurley, and Barkley.

Round 2

  • Here’s where RB/RB most often broke down for me. I had a hard time passing up Hopkins, ODB, Keenan Allen or Michael Thomas for Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey. For those crying that according to ADP Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt should be available, the fact is that in 75% of the drafts I partook in they were not. Players are passing on Julio Jones, ODB, and Hopkins to get Hunt, Fournette, or, in my case, Melvin Gordon. So, I’m left with reaching further down my board or taking a true no. 1 WR. I experimented with the former, but the latter option is far more appealing as the roster takes shape.
  • TL;DR Don’t get cute, take the best player.
  • When I did go RB/RB, my most common pairing was Gordon and Kareem Hunt. Second most was Gordon and Fournette. I think the value of those guys as early second rounders is very good, and I think there’s a fair gap between them and Dalvin Cook. I just don’t like the Minnesota O-line’s chances of opening the kinds of holes he’ll need to justify that draft position.
  • Julio was available at 11 and 12 a whole lot. It seems like the concern over his ability to score touchdowns might be reaching critical mass. I’ve seen him go as late as 16th overall as guys scramble to get starting RBs.

Round 3

  • If I went RB/WR, which was most common, my prayer was that Jordon Howard would fall to me. He’s really the last in the bankable every-week starter category.
  • If Howard didn’t fall, which only happened about 35% of the time, I either went WR or grabbed one of the big three TEs in Kelce, Ertz, and Gronk (I rank them in that order, fwiw).
  • More often than not, there was a good value to be had at WR at this pick. My favorite get was Mike Evans, but that only happened twice.
  • I’ve come to the conclusion that getting your first running back in the first round is absolutely crucial. As great as Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins are, the difference between them and a third-round option like Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, or Adam Thielen is way smaller than any of the top 10 runners and those available after the 30th pick or so.
  • My most common pick here was Tyreek Hill. I love the KC burner, as it’s clear he has developed good chemistry with new QB Patrick Mahomes. If I go RB/RB, I’m perfectly fine rolling with Hill as my WR1, although that is not a common opinion in the industry.

Round 4/5

  • There is an incredible amount of WR depth in 2018. If you’re not convinced, just take a look at the names available in rounds 4 and 5. Seriously. Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Amari Cooper, Demaryius Thomas, Allen Robinson, Doug Baldwin, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Marvin Jones Jr. The list goes on and on.
  • Conversely, if you find yourself reaching for a running back here, you’ll likely find yourself disappointed. Most of the RBs available here are the leads of committees. Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Kenyan Drake, and Jay Ajayi are fine to own in a vacuum, but you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you have to pass on a legit, consistent target on a good offense.
  • Of the dozen plus mocks I’ve done, I took a runner in these rounds only once. For the record, it was Derrick Henry and he was my RB2. I didn’t feel good about it.
  • The only two runners I have as draftable in this range are Henry and Alex Collins, but I’m only interested in them at the end of the 5th
  • Jarvis Landry was a consistent pick with my 4th I love Landry this year and think he waaaaaaay overplays what he’s historically done in Miami. That was a situation where his offensive system let him down. This dude is talented enough to be a true no. 1.
  • A little “draft theory” here. When I’m getting into the mid-rounds, I’m looking for guys that I think have a chance to jump a tier. What I mean by that is I’ll pick a guy like Landry, ranked and drafted as a WR2, knowing that he has the talent or the opportunity or both to jump to a WR1 as the season progresses. Part of this is based on perceived value. Sticking with the example, if Landry goes gangbusters in the first few weeks, I know that the rest of the industry will change their perception of him in a hurry thanks to the new offensive system, quarterback, etc. Not only do I get the benefit of that production, I also get the advantage if I want to trade him to a competitor and can get the value of a higher draft slot in a deal.

Rounds 6-8

  • TE is pretty shallow this year in terms of consistent value. However, if I missed on one of the top trio of Kelce, Ertz, and Gronk, I’m still probably not getting one here. The reason is that I watched players reach big time just because the player was a TE. Graham, who has been brutally inconsistent over the last three years, is going above exciting players with defined roles like Alex Collins, Chris Hogan, Dion Lewis, Corey Davis, and Robert Woods. This is true despite Graham being projected to score far fewer points than those other options. I’d rather wait and grab a lower ranked TE with upside, such as Trey Burton or David Njoku, and let underappreciated talents fall in my lap. That’s how you build great depth at critical positions.
  • Similarly to TE, I generally passed on QBs here as well. This is more because there’s just so much depth this season. Is Kirk Cousins really two or three rounds worse than Russell Wilson? The projections say no, and I’d rather shore up my depth.
  • My favorite targets in these rounds were Alex Collins, Mark Ingram, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Emmanuel Sanders, Corey Davis, and if desperate at running back I’d reach for Chris Carson, who I think is remarkably undervalued this year.
  • If I did grab a TE, it was Evan Engram. But I never felt good about it. I realized I’d rather snag Kyle Rudolph, Trey Burton, or David Njoku. Remember you can always trade one of those ffr better WR or RB options you snare for a TE later.

Rounds 9-11

  • In my opinion, this is where you win your league. Finding value in these rounds is critical, and there is plenty of talent ripe for the picking. Remember what I mentioned earlier regarding finding players that can jump tiers. If you can find a WR4 that you think can jump to a WR3, you’re looking at a good value.
  • On that same note, limit the amount of home run swings you’re willing to take. Gaining value isn’t always about finding an elite option late. Sometimes it’s turning a single into a double. Tarik Cohen might be a moonshot if he hits, but his bust rate is a lot higher than Cooper Kupp or Chris Carson.
  • Speaking of Carson, the hype on backfield mate Rashaad Penny has cooled enough that they’re going within a few picks of each other. I tinkered with snagging both in drafts where my running back stable was light. I certainly don’t like Seattle’s O-line situation, but both of these guys are wildly talented and the value of these picks makes getting both back-to-back palatable. I think it’s an underrated strategy with a lot of upside.
  • If you don’t have a TE yet, Jordan Reed is a great option if he falls to you in the 9th or 10th. Otherwise, I was the last player to grab one and went with Trey Burton most often. He’s really talented and Mitch Trubisky figures to need a good safety valve, and Burton has the athleticism to own the seam route.
  • I reached a bit for a few options that I absolutely love. Kenny Golladay is maybe my favorite receiver available past round 10. That guy is a monster in the making, and apparently is already pushing Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. for significant playing time.
  • Some of the rookie runners that were going much earlier in drafts previously have dropped precipitously. Golladay’s fellow Lion Kerryon Johnson and Bucs’ second rounder Ronald Jones Jr. are my favorites, but ONLY if you aren’t expecting to play them during the first half of the season. These are guys still picking up their offenses with solid options in front of them, but they could both explode once they catch up.
  • You can get Adrian Peterson here. I mean… ok. If you want, sure.
  • Occasionally I grabbed a QB here. My preferences were, in this order, Jimmy Garappolo, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Patrick Mahomes. All of these picks were made in the 11th

Rounds 12-16

  • Obviously, you’re looking for guys getting playing time here, so I’ll just quickly highlight guys at different positions that I targeted.
  • Quick soapbox moment. My 14th round pick in almost every draft was Green Bay running back Aaron Jones, who is suspended for the first two games of the season. This is the most unbelievable fantasy oversight in my opinion. Jones is clearly the most talented runner on the Packer roster, the team is anxious to get him back in the game, and the only way he doesn’t immediately get the starter load back is if Jamaal Williams overperforms. And even if he does, it’ll likely only last as long as the hot start does. Jones is the better player, he’s an RB2 when he’s on the field, and he’s going in the 14th. If you’re desperate, grab him in the 13th.
  • Runners left: Aaron Jones, Peyton Barber, Theo Riddick, Corey Clement. If you’re desperate, I guess Doug Martin, Jordan Wilkins/Marlon Mack, Gio Bernard, and Nick Chubb can be options, but only in the 14th.
  • Receivers left: Nelson Agholor, Kenny Golladay, Michael Gallup, Paul Richardson, Allen Hurns, Mohamed Sanu, Josh Doctson, Calvin Ridley, Cameron Meredith, Rishard Matthews, and Mike Williams. Great depth at receiver in 2018.
  • Tight ends left: Tyler Eifert, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, George Kittle, Austin Hooper, Jared Cook, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. You should have had better options earlier though, and I wouldn’t recommend picking up a second TE in 10 or 12 team leagues.
  • Quarterbacks left: Alex Smith, Derek Carr, Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor. Unbelievable depth at QB, and my favorite option isn’t even a draft option! That would be Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston, who is suspended for the first three games of 2018. Without going into too much detail, I think he’s a top 8 QB from week four on, and will have a career year.
  • I wouldn't draft a backup QB personally. With the amount of depth available, I feel really good about being the last guy to take a passer. And even if every team in the league drafts two QBs, the list of startable players goes about 26 deep so there will still be a couple of options over and above the ones you already have. Just forget about the backup...
  • ...UNLESS a super upside guy like Patrick Mahomes falls. This depends on your own feelings, but I have picked up Mahomes as a backup a couple of times for the sole reason of keeping him away from my competition. Specifically Mahomes might blow up in week 1 against the Chargers, he'll be the top waiver add. Even if you don't need a passer, you can certainly deal the asset for something valuable. Anyway, I did it a couple of times, and wasn't mad about how it turned out.
  • Round 15 is reserved for defense, never earlier. The only time I went with a kicker first was if Justin Tucker was there, and that’s it.
  • Defenses I like: Chargers, Broncos, Saints, Titans, Panthers. I always ended up with one of these five.
  • It barely matters who your kicker is, but when in doubt, target the best overall offense. Harrison Butker was my most consistent pick, with Matt Prater and Jake Elliot following him. I don’t really care though, and neither should you.

OK! Take a breath, because you just absorbed a whole lot of anecdotal information. Hopefully this helps you in some way, and I wish you all the best of luck.

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