Fantasy Football Draft Strategy and Rankings for Standard Scoring
There are many different kinds of scoring settings in Fantasy Football. I’m not going to get into which setting is the best (PPR), but chances are if you’ve been faking football for awhile, you’ve played with the standard scoring settings. Standard scoring is set as the default option for most Fantasy Football leagues and standard scoring draft strategy usually involves stockpiling running backs early. Fantasy Football is all about volume and opportunity, but it’s also about touchdowns, especially in standard leagues. Looking at red zone rushing attempts, targets and passing has never been more important. My rankings can be found below.
If PPR is more your style head on over to Chris’ insights on PPR Draft Strategy.
Things change on a yearly basis it seems, but my draft strategy has always stayed the same in standard leagues; get as many running backs as possible with the first few picks. I like to build depth at the position before drafting the rest of my starters (third and fourth RB before QB/TE/WR3). RB’s have the best chances of racking up yards while scoring touchdowns. Don’t reach. Take value that falls your way and don’t target over-hyped sleepers, plan for inevitable busts.
Heading into your 2018 Fantasy Football draft, there’s a good chance six of the first six or eight picks in standard formats will be running backs. There may be as many as eight backs drafted in the first 12 picks and 15-16 in the first two rounds of a 12-team league. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, 14 of the top 20 picks in terms of standard ADP are running backs. Draft strategy boils down to a game of supply and demand. The wide receiver pool is much deeper than the running back pool.
How Standard Scoring Differs from PPR
First of all, it’s very important to know your league settings. Standard scoring settings reward running backs and wide receivers six points for every touchdown they record, whether on the ground or through the air. RBs and WRs earn one point for every 10 yards gained. Meanwhile, quarterbacks typically receive four points per score and one point for every 25 yards passing.
Standard leagues put a higher emphasis on touchdowns more than PPR leagues. Touchdowns are unpredictable from year to year, which makes standard leagues a bit harder to manage. Finding success in PPR leagues isn’t as challenging as it is in standard formats because it’s easier to predict targets, receptions and receiving yards. A slot wideout can win you a week despite little work in the end zone. They make rack up eight catches for 60 yards which works out to 14 points in a PPR league, but only six in a standard league.
I wrote more about PPR Draft Strategy here.
Standard Scoring Draft Strategy: Quarterbacks
The quarterback position generally produces the most Fantasy points year in and year out. They are also the easiest position to replace on the waiver wire when in a pinch. Over the last five NFL seasons, an average of four QBs that weren’t even drafted in Fantasy leagues finished inside the Top 10 at the position. Meaning, an owner picked that player up at some point throughout the season and they finished the year as a QB1. It’s part of the reason you are seeing more and more people wait until the later rounds to draft a QB. If you draft a quarterback in the first few rounds, you’re missing out on potential points from other positions that will be difficult to make up.
You shouldn’t ignore the position altogether, but have a draft strategy in place heading into your draft. You want to look for a QB who will be involved in a pass-happy offense, has a good offensive line, and a solid corps of weapons to throw the ball to. Look for high scoring teams, and if they have a bad defense it usually just means more chucking. I’m all for targeting one late in your draft (rounds 10-14), but if you see an elite or top five QB available in the seventh or eighth round, you pull the trigger. At that point, it’s OK to start the QB run. There’s nothing wrong with taking what the draft room gives you. That’s called value.
Philip Rivers has finished as a QB1 in seven of the last 10 seasons and every year he’s drafted between rounds 10-14 as the 10th-14th QB taken off the board. Sometimes, he’s not even drafted at all. He’s one of many values at the position. If you see your league going QB-heavy early in the draft, you know you can afford to wait it out even longer (unless you’re in a 2-QB league). Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to outperform his second-round draft cost, whereas Carson Wentz had a breakout season in 2017 and was arguably the best late-round investment until he suffered an injury.
Philip Rivers showed he has still got it with his performances towards the end of the 2017 season. pic.twitter.com/igoivQINdk
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 1, 2018
You can only start one QB in standard formats, but I get the strategy of carrying two QBs as injuries at the position seem to be at an all-time high. They can be used as trade bait or you can play the matchups from week-to-week. With that said, if you have an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson or Cam Newton, you don’t need a second QB. Those guys are matchup proof. If you managed to pick up a waiver wire gem like in year’s past with Deshaun Watson or Carson Wentz, it may not be a bad idea to flip the bigger name for a juicier return. Plan your bye weeks accordingly by looking at the schedule for the best possible streaming option. You can also have success streaming QBs throughout the season, but it’s not the best strategy to take.
If you’re playing in a super-flex league that allows you to play two quarterbacks, your strategy will completely change where you need to get one right away. As many as 12 QBs could go in the first three rounds of your draft. I’d suggest landing two quarterbacks with your first five-to-six picks. You don’t want to be stuck with only two, while others have three or four. If you’re playing in a six-point passing league (not standard), you may see a QB go in the first round, but in a four-point passing setting there’s no way you should spend your first couple picks on a quarterback.
Whether you want to join a league or start your own, Fantrax is the place to be. Fantrax works with virtually any league configuration you can dream up, and you can draft a team 364 days a year.
Standard Scoring Draft Strategy: Running Backs
In standard scoring formats, running backs should fly off the board in the first round. More so than in PPR leagues. It’s very important to get yourself a Top-10 back which means selecting one with your first two picks. You better have at least three running backs by the time the seventh round comes. You could even have four if there is a RB/WR flex spot that allows you to put a third back in your starting lineup. Ultimately, you should leave your draft with five running backs, depending on your roster limit. They are the most valuable, the hardest to replace and the NFL has become more of a passing league, which has resulted in more backfields by committee.
It’s nearly impossible to do any damage in your league without a Top 10 back and if you have two of them, you separate yourself from the rest of your leaguemates. Workload and volume have a strong correlation to Fantasy points. Look for a running back who has a weekly role, especially in the red zone.
Touchdowns is the name of the game in standard leagues, so if you have yourself a back who will get first and second down reps, to go along with goal-line work, you’ll better yourself in the long run. If the back can catch as well, it’s just icing on the cake as the receiving yards all add up. Look for running backs on teams that consistently run the football. Not a third-down-only back who acts as a safety outlet for their QB, or only seems to touch the field when their team is down in a game. Avoid backs that don’t have a realistic path to 240 plus rushing attempts.
It’s why most three-down backs will go within the first 15 picks in a standard draft. The demand is high and the supply is low which is why you draft depth pieces before looking at other positions. The wide receiver pool is deeper and there are plenty of potential No. 1 wideouts to select in the third round of your draft.
Handcuffing is not a must, but if you leave a draft with Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson, it’s not a bad idea to select their backup with your last couple picks, especially if they play on a run-heavy team. Some of the players above have a history of missing games, plus you most likely just spent a high pick on a high volume guy. Protect your investment and make sure the backup would be the clear-cut replacement should something happen.
Excluding quarterbacks, six of the top seven Fantasy scorers in 2017 were running backs. 12 of the top 15 scorers were RBs and seven of them hit the 200-point mark. Four of the top five touchdown leaders in 2016 were running backs as well.
Standard Scoring Draft Strategy: Wide Receivers
Wide Receivers still fly off the board in the first round of standard league drafts, just not as many as in PPR formats. The WR position is the deepest position in Fantasy Football, but one that usually requires the most starters from a week-to-week basis. It’s important to grab at least one running back with your first two picks, especially if you are picking at the end or turn. If you take two WRs, there’s a good chance you’ll be chasing RBs for the rest of the draft and season. I have no problem taking what the draft gives you and it is tempting to draft an elite WR duo with your first two picks, but it hurts the overall outlook of your team.
Many wideouts average similar yardage totals, so touchdowns become a major deciding factor in which players end up highest on the year-end rankings list. Touchdowns fluctuate a lot in the short term, but there are things to consider: red zone targets and receptions. You want to target players who have a history of scoring touchdowns, and if that’s the case, they are usually a big part of that team’s red zone packages. Playing for a QB who throws the ball a lot, and throws it often in the red zone is key.
Not only do you want to target wideouts who are heavily utilized in the red zone, you want to look for wideouts who are deep threats on their team. Slot guys are valuable in PPR formats, but not so much in standard leagues. Eight catches for 44 yards doesn’t mean all that much in a standard league, but three catches for 75 is interesting. Deep threats who can break the bank with one big throw are extremely valuable, but they are also very boom or bust and more suited for daily fantasy sports contests.
Standard Scoring Draft Strategy: Tight Ends
By round five you should have a well-balanced attack consisting of running backs and wideouts. Now is the time to take a peek at the TE and QB columns, while probably still leaning running back with your next pick. Drafting Rob Gronkowski impacts the rest of your starters, especially with his injury history. I typically like to target a tight end in the middle rounds (8-12) of my draft, and will even go as far as the 13th or 14th if I feel they are all the same, which they really are after the second tier of tight ends.
Just like when selecting a wide receiver, emphasize touchdown upside by looking at red zone targets. Most tight ends accumulate their yardage on short throws throughout the middle of the field. Pass dominant offenses with a track record of high red-zone passing attempts is something to consider. Also look at tight ends that have a high average of receiving yards per game. Tight ends typically are all over the red-zone target leader board at the end of the season.
For more great Fantasy Football analysis, check out Full 60 Fantasy Football with Joe Pisapia, Scott Bogman, and The Welsh.
Standard Scoring Draft Strategy: Kickers & DST
The strategy here is simple: save your last two picks for your kicker and DST. I cringe when I see someone select a defense in rounds 8-12. You’re better off drafting a depth piece. You can even stream both positions all year.
It’s nice to have a kicker who plays indoors on a high octane offense, but you can just pick the best kicker available with your last pick. Try and get yourself a Top-10 defense that can get pressure on the QB to create turnovers. Playmakers on special teams can go a long way too. Streaming the position against poor offenses has worked wonders for many in the industry.
While it’s not needed to carry more than one kicker, you can carry two DST’s at times throughout the season. It’s never a bad idea to look ahead at the matchups, whether it’s planning a bye week or looking as far as the playoff schedule. Should you be so fortunate. Instead of trying to beat your opponents to the waiver wire for a defense in a great spot, grab them the week before if you can afford to do so.
Standard Scoring Draft Strategy: Final Tips
It’s important to prepare for inevitable injuries and bye-week fill-inss. You should do this by filling out your bench with serviceable players. Look for upside. Maybe it’s a rookie running back who could find himself in a much bigger role by the time the Fantasy Football playoffs begin.
A lot can change from the start of the season to Fantasy Football playoff time (week 14-16), but matchups in those weeks are not something you should ignore. You shouldn’t base your selection on which player has the easiest matchup during playoff time, but it’s something you should be aware of. It could be the deciding factor when selecting between two QBs or two RBs who project to have similar seasons. Staying clear of a wideout because he has a tough playoff schedule is OK to do, but you have to get to week 14 as well. Buying low and selling high throughout the season is what it’s all about.