MFL Tending: Throwaway Picks and Tiny Edges
Pat Thorman examines late-round draft options and how to gain an edge in MFL10 leagues.
MFL Tending: Throwaway Picks and Tiny Edges
Searching for the tiniest of edges on the field has always been standard operating procedure. While nowadays fans are distracted by the sensationalized ethics of pumped-in decibels, pumped-out footballs, and cameras filming from sidelines instead of end zones, what’s often overlooked is how thorough teams are in seeking advantages that may never even materialize.
We do the same thing in fantasy football, and occasionally our obsessing makes the difference between a win and a loss in a given week. In MFL10s, where we have a 1-in-12 shot at success, and one bad week can be crushing; there are no playoffs or mulligans. While weekly lineups are automatically maximized, opportunities to accumulate points remain finite.
Abide The Bye
Taking a zero from one or more of those roster spots, not because of unfortunate injury luck or unprojectable coaching decisions, is inexcusable—and often unrecoverable. This is where bye weeks enter the equation, as they are fully knowable zero-point outputs. The degree to which they need to be accounted for is arguable, but to ignore them completely in a best-ball format is foolish.
The clearest illustration of this is at the quarterback and tight end positions. Assuming, like many do, that two players are enough, pairing two quarterbacks with the same bye weeks is careless. There are more than enough passers and (backup) tight ends available to avoid guaranteed goose eggs. The same thing applies to team defenses, no matter if you draft two or three (don’t draft just one).
Things get murkier when looking at running backs and wideouts. Bye weeks typically won’t affect point output dramatically, with drafters usually picking four to eight players at both positions. However, it’s still worth keeping an eye on which week your potential players have off. Even for high-volume MFL10ers, quickly checking byes before drafting isn’t prohibitively tedious.
It’s conceivable that an early-running back strategy could yield Marshawn Lynch in the first round, Arian Foster in the second round, and a temptation to draft Justin Forsett in the third or fourth round. Better to grab another runner than have your top three all sitting out Week 9, especially since a running back-heavy strategy in the early rounds won’t produce many reliable mid-to-late round options.
Several receiver combinations may leave your light for a week, such as Calvin Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Floyd, and/or Steve Smith in Week 9. Your Week 10 can be ruined if you’re packed with Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Keenan Allen, Torrey Smith, Andre Johnson, and/or Roddy White shares. Week 5, Week 8, and Week 11 also have wideout-ADP road maps lined with potential potholes.
However unlikely it is to stumble into these combinations, it’s worth spending 10 seconds to guard against it. Bye week differentiation obviously should not trump player evaluation, and it should primarily be used to break the closest of ties. But as the competition throughout fantasyland becomes savvier, from NFL knowledge to optimal roster construction, smaller edges and missteps take on more importance.
The final rounds of MFL10s are often filled with robotic drafting of team defenses. Filling a queue with bottom-half defenses amounts to barely-educated dart throwing, and the best we can expect is portfolio diversification (and avoiding teams with the same bye). At this early stage, effectively ordering the end-of-draft defenses is borderline futile, especially compared to forecasting which are the best.
If you tend to use your last two or three picks to select defenses, it might be worth starting the process a round or two earlier. You still won’t sniff the Seahawks defense, with its inflated ADP that hovers near the turn of the 12th and 13th rounds. But if you start drafting defenses in the 16th round, you’ll have exposure to the Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, Panthers, and Ravens, among others.
Even buying a couple shares of the Rams’ stacked defensive front in the 15th round is not too prohibitive. Positional players in the 180-200 ADP range are not markedly different than ones in the 220-240 range. In addition to increasing the diversity of your rosters—and doing it with more talented defenses—you can still take fliers on end-of-roster position players in the 19th and/or 20th rounds.
Having a group of players with late or undrafted ADPs enables you to diversify the end of your roster organically. If a handful of them happen to be picked before you can grab them, just wait until the next draft. Here are 10 of my favorite late round picks that are throwaways in name only. What they offer, in terms of safety or upside, can be tailored to what your roster lacks in that particular draft.
Kenny Britt (WR; Rams) – His new quarterback led in deep ball percentage both of the last two seasons, and Britt ranked sixth last year. He’s the No. 1 wideout until Brian Quick proves healthy.
Joseph Randle (RB; Cowboys) – There’s a non-zero chance that he sees significant carries. There’s a much greater chance that he’s better than Darren McFadden. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry last year.
Andrew Hawkins (WR; Browns) – Was the PPR No. 21 wide receiver during the 10 weeks he ran at least 25 routes. Despite more scattershot quarterbacking on the horizon, he will provide a reliable weekly floor for free.
Albert Wilson (WR; Chiefs) – There’s no guarantee he won’t get “Andy’d” and watch his coach start Jason Avant over him, but he averaged 6.3 targets from Week 14-16 and he should be a starter.
Travaris Cadet (RB; Patriots) – Yup, good luck forecasting Patriots backfield touches. But the underrated Cadet might assume the “Vereen Role,” and in best ball, you don’t have to call if it’s a “Vereen Week.”
Cole Beasley (WR; Cowboys) – Targeted more often than Dez Bryant over their last five games, including two in the playoffs. Earned a decent contract extension and should provide Hawkins-like stats.
Rob Housler (TE; Browns) – Cleveland isn’t the best case scenario for #TeamHousler, but the size/speed standout will see a major opportunity spike. His profile is rare for typical barrel-bottom scrapings.
Chris Matthews (WR; Seahawks) – What if Seattle doesn’t draft that big wideout everyone expects them to? What if the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl? In both cases, Matthews’ ADP is higher.
Benny Cunningham (RB; Rams) – Predicting what Jeff Fisher will do with his running backs can be maddening, but we do know Tre Mason will cede third downs to Cunningham, who might just be better in any case.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB; Jets) – Out of 48 passers, his passing grade ranked 11th, his quarterback rating ranked 11th, he was sixth in yards-per-attempt and had a 2.1-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Plus his weapons and beard are terrific.
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