Doing It Differently: The Upside Down Draft
It is the most anticipated and exciting time for any fantasy footballer, the draft. We spend countless hours scouring stats, depth charts, rankings, injury reports, doing mock drafts and monitoring team beat writer social media goings on in hopes of putting our draft boards together. For years, most have followed the standard running back early and often formula, going running back-running back with the first 2 picks. However, just as the NFL is a constantly evolving entity and teams are looking for advantages via different approaches (
Know Your Role:
Draft position is important. Two things to weigh heavily when building your board: 1) your own draft position and 2) the average draft position of each player to garner an idea of where those players will be drafted. While there are no sure things in fantasy football, consensus (and history) dictates Arian Foster, Lesean McCoy and Ray Rice are as close to sure things as an owner can get in 2012. Not flash in the pans, years of elite performance, young, versatile and the focal points of their respective offenses; owners drafting in the top 3 should not hesitate. The upside down strategy is not recommended for those in the top 3, at least not as recommended.
The Fallacy of the RB-RB Strategy:
There is no arguing the importance of having productive running backs on your roster. Two who produce at a high clip will almost always lead to a deep playoff run (in standard league settings: QB-2RBs-3WRs-TE). However, like the league itself, the shelf life of RBs is viciously short and the turnover shockingly high. In the past 2 seasons, of the top 12 scorers at the end of season in 2010, only 6 returned to the top 12 in 2011. Only 1 returned to the top 12 the past 3 seasons. Some would argue turnover is not just a RB issue, but a league issue. However, blindly tossing RBs against the wall with early picks and hoping your 2 stick is a dangerous leap of faith. Too many owners (because of fear of deviation from the norm or league-mates' snickers) have dug themselves in, leaving the progressive owner a nice lot to choose from at WR, TE and/or QB. The league is moving on from 1 RB centric offenses, it is time for the fantasy footballer to do so as well.
Be calm. It is draft day, RBs are flying off the board and your first instinct is to get yours too; just be calm. Remember of the top 12 scorers last season at running back, half will be replaced by the very guys you are waiting to pick. Fantasy footballers are always looking for value and waiting on running backs will more often than not provide tremendous value. An upside down drafter (targeting everything but running backs early) should look to get a top 6 QB (worst case), 3 top 15 WRs and a top 6 TE. The time for RBs will come, but owners should not begin looking until round 5. However, it is worth noting at this point (given the ultimate goal of value based drafting) that if a 1st round graded RB slips to the 3rd, by all means take him. Ultimately, owners are striving for value with each pick, thus no strategy should trump that. No strategy is devoid of risk and upside down drafting is certainly not removed from that, but owners are looking to maximize each pick while minimizing risk. Ideally, owners receive low RB1 production from a RB2 (based on draft position) and low RB2 production from a collection of RB3s and even the occasional RB4. While upside downers should be prepared for mediocrity at the RB position, they should also be welcome to the idea that it is a very real possibility they strike an Arian Foster type in the middle rounds. Having an advantage at 3 of 4 relevant positions versus nearly every team in the league provides an owner with flexibility to monitor the waiver scene (or perhaps entertain trade offers from RB heavy teams to better the running back position on their own team if the RB situation proves to be dire). Again, just like every other strategy, risk exists; focusing on value regardless of position helps to minimize the risks and affords the oft minority upside downer a larger value pool from which to fish from.
Using ADP (average draft position) as a guide and drafting from the 8 position in a standard (QB, 2RB, 3 WR, 1 TE) 12-team league, I mocked what an upside downer can expect his/her team to look like.
1.08: Larry Fitzgerald (WR 2)
2.05: Tom Brady (QB 3)
3.08: Brandon Marshall (WR 15)
4.05: Steve Smith (WR 13)
5.08: Fred Jackson (RB 17)
6.05: Antonio Gates (TE 6)
7.08: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB 22)
8.05: Peyton Hillis (RB 39)
9.08: Ronnie Hillman (RB NA)
10.05: Ryan Williams (RB 45)
11.08: Lance Moore (WR 46)
12.05: Toby Gerhart (RB 40)
13.08: Randy Moss (WR 60)
As expected, I was able to secure a top 3 QB, 3 WRs in the top 15 and a top 6 TE. While I do not love my RB2 in Green-Ellis, I do like his situation in