MFL Tending: Fixing Unbalanced Rosters
Pat Thorman examines MFL10 roster construction best practices.
MFL Tending: Fixing Unbalanced Rosters
No matter how aggressive your draft plan, navigating an MFL10 often forces you into a reactive stance. Especially if you are the value-hunting sort, picks are determined by who slides lower than they “should.” As the season draws near, MFL10s are increasingly populated by casual players (aka well-adjusted folks), and this generally results in less predictable selections.
Added ADP volatility helps high-volume MFL10’ers diversify their player portfolio, but it can also result in unbalanced rosters – both positionally and stylistically. While balancing a positionally lopsided team is fairly intuitive, constructing a stylistically synergistic roster requires awareness of the types of players already drafted, as well as who best complements them.
Let’s run through a few scenarios and solutions for righting a roster that looks lopsided after the single-digit rounds wrap up.
Wide Receiver Heavy
You zagged when everyone else was zigging, and gobbled up studly wideouts like you were Kelvin Benjamin at a Krispy Kreme. You even drafted an early quarterback and tight end. While a Zero RB strategy is not recommended in MFL10s, where waivers are not in play, here are a few options to help stop the backfield bleeding:
Danny Woodhead (Mid-10th Round)
I’ve been on the Woodhead train since it left the station, and over 20 percent of my teams have exposure to him – with an average ADP in the mid-to-late 12th round*. He’s still a nice value at the current cost. That said, tread lightly if his price keeps rising. He may not have exactly the same role that helped earn him the 12th-highest PPR point total in 2013.
During Mike McCoy’s “optimal game plan” stretch (scroll down), when San Diego was controlling the ball and winning games, Woodhead’s PPR production dropped from 15 to 10 points per game, and his targets fell by more than two per game (5.6 versus 3.5). His snaps didn’t drastically drop during that period, and he will clearly be involved on third downs as Melvin Gordon acclimates to the pro game. But if his ADP creeps into the single-digit rounds, keep in mind that you’re not buying a full-time player.
Roy Helu (ADP: mid-12th round)
While Latavius Murray’s potential is intriguing, Helu may offer more bang for the draft buck. Signed to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency, the still-young Helu (26) has averaged over 4 yards per carry during his career (4.4), and his 0.32 missed tackles per touch rate was tied for the highest among backs with at least 50 touches. Murray ranked 82nd on that list (0.07). With Oakland deploying more no-huddle, Helu’s ticketed third-down role should garner him at least 50 targets – with room for more if Murray falls flat.
Javorius Allen (ADP: mid-15th round)
This one has a hint of Zero RB, considering it needs a Justin Forsett injury or production decline. That’s not unthinkable for a smallish running back who turns 30 in October, no matter how much tread remains on his tires after just 797 career touches. He averaged 2.7 yards after contact per attempt through 12 weeks last year (seventh-best), and just 1.7 after that (41st out of 42 running backs). Marc Trestman rides a select few horses hard, and if Forsett falters, Allen and his good hands could be a league winner.
Lance Dunbar (ADP: late-17th round)
Grabbing a piece of the Cowboys fragile backfield is risky at this still-early stage. Dunbar’s price mitigates that risk, and his projected pass-catching role should persist no matter who gets carries on early downs. Prior to DeMarco Murray’s anomalous 500-touch season, Scott Linehan was known for split backfields and throwing to his running backs. We can be confident that it will be a timeshare to some degree, since they let their workhorse out of the barn after a bone-cleaning season for the ages.
Low-Ceiling Wide Receiver Heavy
There is nothing wrong with prioritizing a high floor at wideout – especially after stockpiling running backs in the opening rounds. However, if your receiving corps is thirsty for upside due to a few too many Jarvis Landrys and Jeremy Maclins, here are several suggestions:
Rueben Randle (ADP: mid-11th round)
Among 2014’s more volatile (and disappointing) fantasy wideouts, Randle ended on a high note with a pair of top-10 weeks – and maintained that positive momentum throughout OTAs. It was noteworthy even to Victor Cruz, whose long odds at a full recovery by Week 1 are a morbid positive for Randle’s outlook in New York’s fast-paced, high-volume offense.
Marvin Jones (ADP: early-13th round)
He tied for the seventh-most touchdowns (10) on the 54th-most targets (77) among wideouts in 2013, before missing all of last year. Jones also earned PFF’s seventh-best passing game grade (+12.3) at his position. The problem is he was targeted four or fewer times in half of his games. He won’t provide stability, but he does offer occasionally serious upside at a point in MFL10s where folks start drafting defenses.
Kenny Britt (ADP: early-16th round)
With the seventh-highest deep target percentage out of 75 qualifying wideouts (32.1), the talented Britt remains a field stretcher. Fortunately the Rams finally have a passer willing to throw downfield, as Nick Foles led the NFL in deep ball percentage in each of the last two seasons. It is also noteworthy that St. Louis handed the still-young Britt a decent two-year contract in March ($14 million with $4.3 guaranteed).
Malcolm Floyd (ADP: mid-16th round)
His ADP should continue to edge upward, with the news of Antonio Gates’ four-game suspension only helping. The time is now to add Philip Rivers’ favorite downfield target. Floyd had nine weeks with either 70-plus receiving yards and/or a touchdown in 15 games. He also logged nine games with at least six targets, and sported the third-highest aDOT (average depth of target) out of the top-60 PPR wideouts (18.3 yards).
Nick Toon (ADP: early-18th round)
Whatever you think of Drew Brees’ deep balls – his accuracy on them rebounded as his total attempts dipped last year – both the third receiver job and a truckload of targets are up for grabs. With Sean Payton’s recent comments that “his snaps will go way up,” we can assume the toolsy Toon’s ADP is sure to follow. You won’t find another available role with this much upside, in this good of an offense, this late in the draft.
Well, unless you want to throw a last-round dart at this guy.
…or maybe even this guy.
Volatile Wide Receiver Heavy
So your T.Y. Hilton, Martavis Bryant, Breshad Perriman receiver group has you understandably nervous about potential lean weeks? Luckily, this is easily remedied. Here are some options that will smooth over the rough patches, including a few 10th-rounders who tend to tumble further down the draft board:
Pierre Garcon (ADP: early-10th round)
It was just two seasons ago that Garcon was the PPR WR11 while leading the league in targets and receptions. While he won’t see over 150 targets again, he’ll get more than 100. Offseason fluffery should be mostly dismissed, but if he truly is lining up as the “Z” on Robert Griffin’s right side – in the righty passer’s field of vision, and where he’s generally received better PFF grades – Garcon may indeed be in for a rebound.
Kendall Wright (ADP: early-10th round)
Last season he ranked 32nd-“best” in catchable ball rate out of 55 receivers with at least 50 receptions (67.4 percent), one year after placing third out of 46 wideouts in the same metric (76.1 percent). His quarterbacks ranked 32nd, 33rd, and 35th in Accuracy Percentage. Even if Marcus Mariota isn’t yet “deadly accurate,” he’s a major upgrade in that department for a receiver who was the PPR WR20 in 2013 despite scoring just two touchdowns.
Marques Colston (ADP: mid-10th round)
He should soak up a sizable portion of targets that walked away during the offseason, and if nothing else, earn his price on volume alone. Of course, there really may not be much else to his game at this stage. Among all wideouts, Colston earned PFF’s 10th-best passing game grade in 2013 (+11.1), before choking up a -8.9 effort last year (98th-“best”). However, early reports are hopeful, he plays with a still-studly quarterback, and occasionally slides multiple rounds below ADP.
Dwayne Bowe (ADP: late-13th round)
It’s understandable if Bowe tracking Josh McCown passes (34th of 39 quarterbacks in Accuracy Percentage) doesn’t give you the warm-n-fuzzies. He had the 13th-highest drop rate out of the 59 wideouts with 75 targets (10.5 percent), despite seeing catchable balls at the 12th-highest rate (74.4). Yet, as the by-default receiving Alpha Dawg, he should get at least 100 targets – and will exceed this price if he fills even one of Josh Gordon’s shoes.
Cole Beasley (ADP: early-17th round)
At the risk of being mistaken for a Beasley groupie, I need to bring him up again. At the risk of falling into a cliché, he should have a Welker-esque effect on the Cowboys offense. Tony Romo has faith in him (as does Jerry Jones), and Beasley has shown “extension of the running game” ability – which could come in handy until their actual running game is sorted out. He out-targeted Dez Bryant over their last five games, including playoffs, and didn’t drop a single catchable ball last season.
*- ADP is courtesy of the RotoViz Best Ball App, and is configured for the last two weeks of MFL10 drafts. Be sure to keep track of how many shares of each player you have under the ‘Exposure’ tab.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman