Fantasy Football Intelligence: Tiers, Thresholds and Targets – The Draft Board

Two weeks of exhibitions are in the books. While fantasy leagues shouldn’t draft until after the third exhibition game or later to minimize injuries to key draft picks and to gain as much information as possible on holdouts and rosters before drafting, I’m hearing from people whose drafts are this week. This blog will offer a sample draft board and strategy for a standard draft but bear in mind that we are all learning more every day and the board published here may not be the same one recommended for drafts after Labor Day.

If you haven’t read them already, I recommend reviewing Fantasy Football Intelligence Draft Preparation parts one and two for full explanations of our terminology as well as background on our strategy. Once you have done that, print out the Fantasy Football Intelligence Draft Board. This board is based on a 12 team league playing with standard scoring (no points per reception – a PPR league will require a different board). I recommend you have your own board based on the rules of your league; if you have one, you can work with it utilizing the same principles we will discuss today. If you happen to play in a 12 team league with standard scoring you can use our board.

You will note that the board breaks out each position (QB, RB, WR, TE, K, D). Within each position, the players are broken into tiers. The tiers are different sizes and each represents a perceived drop off in player value due to upside, downside or injury risk. (For example, Elliott is in the 2nd tier of RBs with McCaffrey because he is currently holding out. If he were in camp, he would be in the top tier, virtually indistinguishable from Barkley or Kamara in terms of value.) Within each tier, there is not a lot of difference between the players and this is where you can exercise your own preferences or opinions. The tiers help you get as much value as possible from each pick; let’s say you are in the middle rounds of the draft and you are considering a WR. The first six tiers of WR are gone, but the whole 7th tier, consisting of eight WRs is available. Unless you are on an end of the draft and you are concerned about all of them getting picked before you get another choice, depending on what else is available, you may get more value from taking a RB, TE or QB from a tier that has only a couple of players left in it. This is what is meant by the phrase, “letting the draft come to you.” You want to be in position to maximize value with every pick.

This brings us to thresholds. The thresholds are a big picture way to look at the draft ensuring that your team will be as balanced and strong as possible. If you make it through the draft meeting all of the thresholds, barring injury, you will have a formidable team. Depending on where you end up in the draft order and how good your opponents are, you may have to make compromises. If you do, it does not mean the season is lost, it just means that you might have some weaknesses to shore up through waivers or trades. Nobody goes through a championship season without making roster moves. Based on this draft board (and if your draft is not for a couple weeks, please stay with us for updates), here are the Fantasy Football Intelligence thresholds:

QB: Starter should be no lower than tier 5. If starter is tier 4 or below, get a backup from tier 6.

There is a lot of talent at QB and the longer you have the courage to wait, the better the rest of your team will be. We are comfortable with two QBs from tiers 5 and 6 and evaluating the position week-to-week for the first 4-6 weeks of the season.

RB: Two starters no lower than tier 6. If your first starter is below tier 4, get your third RB no lower than tier 6.

Scarcity is a driving factor for RBs. A 12 team league will draft at least 36 of them and by the end of the year there will have only been 20-25 that put up useful fantasy stats. They also take more pounding than WRs or QBs so they get hurt more. You want three that you feel good about.

WR: Get WR1 no lower than tier 3 if possible.Get WR2 no lower than tier 6 and WR3 by tier 8.

This may not be possible. If you have the first or second pick, the top 3 tiers may be gone before the draft gets back to you for your second pick. If so, target two receivers no lower than tier 6. Note: if the top three tiers are gone before your 2nd pick, do not reach into round two for a tier 4 WR. Get your RB2 if you have a choice in tier 5 or better. Then get a tier 4 WR in the 3rd. When your 4th pick arrives, you will be no worse than tier 7 and maybe better.

TE: Get your TE from tier 1 or 2. Tier 1 can be drafted once RB tier 4 and WR tier 2 are gone. Draft a tier 2 TE once someone else starts the tier or by round 6 if you are toward either end of the draft order.

K: Not a priority. If you are going to stream or platoon your defense (which is recommended) you can draft a tier 1 K before a defense in round 10, otherwise just grab a tier 2 or 3 late and be willing to change during the season if necessary.

D: Managers not using the Fantasy Football Intelligence system will draft defenses before we will. I ranked the top 12 overall defenses for this draft board, but we will devote some future space to discussing platoons such as New England/Dallas that offer compatible schedules against weaker opponents.

“Targets” are players that we believe may be undervalued by conventional fantasy wisdom and thus will provide you value on draft night. The value is already reflected in their position on the draft board – it does not mean you should reach for them over players ranked higher. It does mean that they probably do not appear as high on your competitors’ draft lists.

QB – Wentz, Brady, Garoppolo, Darnold

RB – Bell, Freeman, K. Johnson, Mack, D. Montgomery

WR – Godwin, Moore, Ridley, R. Anderson, A. Green (as a WR3 or 4), Sanders, Pettis

TE – Henry, Waller

K – Butker (#2 on our board)

D – Patriots, Eagles, Cowboys (FFI focuses more on schedule than others in defensive evaluation)

(Note the presence of Jets and 49ers – this is reflective of our belief that both of these teams will double their win totals and thus the performance of the players will be meaningfully improved.)

Next time we will talk about keeping it simple at the draft.

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