Draft Strategy: Receiving Constants
Fantasy drafts are like snowflakes, in that no two are exactly alike. It is the height of futility for drafters to attempt to plot out exactly who they will pick, and in which round they will make those selections. While this fact of fantasy life makes it difficult to incorporate specifics into a drafting plan, there exist a handful of constants we can count upon.
We know to wait on quarterbacks. We recognize that running backs are scarce and typically dry up quickly. We pledge to never draft a kicker until the last round, lest we risk relentless ridicule.
Even more instructive, we know that the middle rounds will be populated by steady receivers. It is these wideouts that allow us to build an actionable draft strategy, and base it on the type of reliable assumptions that are a rarity on draft day.
It is no state secret that the receiver position is relatively deep, and talented options can be picked after the top running backs thin out. What is interesting to note, however, is that a subset of reputable wideouts are not only being chosen in the same rounds, but within the same general area within those rounds. They are fantasy football’s constants, and we can use them to our advantage.
One of the main concerns that drafters have about selecting running backs in the first three rounds is that they will be disadvantaged due to a lack of a top pass catcher. While a roster may appear more impressive with Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green perched atop its receivers list, it does not necessarily stand a better chance of beating the team with less sexy pass catchers and a deeper stable of elite rushers. For instance, the points gap between Randall Cobb (ADP = 26) and Antonio Brown (ADP = 60) will likely be smaller than the difference between Reggie Bush (ADP = 25) and Ryan Mathews (ADP = 61) – not to mention the resale value disparity between rushers and receivers.
All average draft position data (ADP) is courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com.
When putting the theory into practice, it is comforting to know that delaying the selection of wideouts until later rounds brings with it a handful of solid receivers who will enable their owners to essentially “hold serve” each week when it comes to wideouts, while their superior running backs win the matchups. Without further adieu, here are 2013’s Wide Receiving Constants:
Torrey Smith – Mid Fifth Round (ADPs: post 7/15 drafts = 52; 8/1 – 53; 8/15 = 53)
Smith’s 44 regular season deep targets may have tied for the second most in 2012, behind only Calvin Johnson, but he will be relied upon for much more than bomb catching in 2013. With Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta out of the picture and not adequately replaced, their 204 combined targets from last year are free for redistribution.
As our Bryan Fontaine detailed for RotoViz, Smith has not had the chance to excel on the intermediate routes upon which Boldin and Pitta feasted. That will change in their absence, and if you had the pleasure of seeing Smith accelerate through Atlanta’s defense recently, it should be clear that getting the ball into Smith’s hands on shorter routes still brings with it potential for huge plays. He has WR1 upside and is a stationary target for drafters.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman