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The Anatomy of a Roto Football Draft

Welcome back folks. This is Part Two of the “Fantrax Roto Football” series. I will be covering a 15-team Rotisserie Football League from pre-draft to championship. I will highlight the strategy and philosophy for drafting and running a team when faced with an uncommon format completely different than head-to-head. I get the feeling this will be your new favorite format. No kickers, no defense, no matchups, and no excuses. The best team will win. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read the introduction to the series at the link below:

The Slow Roto Football Draft Begins

The slow draft is well underway in the Fantrax Roto Football League and one thing is for certain, everyone’s plan is out the window. Fantasy experts from across the industry came into this draft with a plan not so different from their other leagues. However, once everyone took a deeper look at how the scoring would shape the winner of this league, things took an interesting turn. The categories in this league are:

  1. Completion %
  2. Passing Yards
  3. Passing TDs
  4. Receptions
  5. Receiving Yards
  6. Receiving TDs
  7. Rushing Attempts
  8. Rushing Yards
  9. Rushing TDs
  10. Turnovers

To the savvy fantasy player, these rules tend to favor one position: running back. WARNING: The draft you are about to witness is from an episode of The Twilight Zone…

A Look at Roto Running Backs

One player has the ability to contribute in six categories. One would think that they might go for a premium in this format. They did. A stunning 17 running backs were selected in the first two rounds of the draft. Yes, you read that correctly. Seventeen. It made sense too, just take a look at the difference between rushing attempt leaders and reception leaders from 2017:

  • The difference between the RB1 (L.Bell) and RB10 (M.Ingram) in rush attempts in 2017 was 89.
  • The difference between the WR1 (M.Thomas) and WR10 (G.Tate) in receptions was 27.

There is an obvious difference between the top tier of running backs and receivers, especially if you factor in that many of these backs are also tallying receptions. However, the difference is made even more clear if you take a look deeper down the rankings.

  • The difference between the RB10 (M.Ingram) and RB25 (T.Coleman) in rush attempts in 2017 was 69.
  • The difference between the WR10 (G.Tate) and WR25 (D.Baldwin) in receptions was 18.

Saying this changed the strategy for everyone involved would be a gross understatement. Players were changing their draft strategy in round one. Perhaps some went overboard with their analysis (Alex Collins went before Rob Gronkowski), but we will not know for sure until the season is over. This is not a drill folks, we are dealing with a different kind of league.

Quarterback Accuracy is Key

The format also changes up the value of the highest scoring position in fantasy football: quarterback. Sure, running quarterbacks are going to rack up rushing categories and therefore get a bump in value. However, Completion percentage being a category is a bit of a game changer. As a stand-alone category, it adds tremendous value to certain players while hanging a red flag over the top of popular choices.

  • The difference between the QB1 (D.Brees) and QB2 (A.Smith) in Completion % in 2017 was 3.5%.
  • The difference between the QB2 (A.Smith) and the QB10 (B.Rothleisberger) was 3.7%.
  • The difference between the QB10 (B.Rothelesbeirger) and QB15 (P.Rivers) was just 1.5%.

As you can see, it pays to invest in an accurate quarterback for roto football. They carry the ability to make you competitive in a category all by themselves. But what about complete quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson? Do they reign supreme regardless of the format?

Well, yes and no. Aaron Rodgers certainly will. He is among the most accurate quarterbacks in the history of football and often leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Not to mention he runs a bit as well. However, Russell Wilson is set to take a significant hit in roto. The Seahawks captain may have been the overall QB1 in typical head-to-head leagues, but his hybrid abilities will not be enough to save him in this format. His 95 rushing attempts and 586 rushing yards make it seem like you are taking candy from a baby. Prepare for a cold shower.

You’re doing all the prep, now make it pay off! Head on over to Fantrax to start or join a Fantasy Football league. At Fantrax you can draft a team 364 days a year… Sorry, we had to give the IT guy one day off.

Wilson allowed 11 interceptions while fumbling the ball 14 times (only three lost) in 2017. Wilson was just one fumble behind Jameis Winston for the league lead in fumbles. That is not what you want to see when a category is turnovers. Granted he only lost three of them, and he traditionally takes care of the ball of a bit better. For this reason, we will give him a pass. However, there are more red flags that eat into Wilson’s fantasy value in this format.

Each category in roto rewards the team in first place with the number of points equal to the number of teams in the league. For example, the team with the highest completion percentage would receive 15 points, while the last place team (15th place) would receive just one point. The reason for the refresher is because Russel Wilson (QB1) finished 21st in the NFL in completion percentage, and 12th in passing yards. All of a sudden those gains in rushing categories are losing their appeal. Now, this is not to say Russel Wilson is not valuable in roto, he is. He is just not the juggernaut you may be expecting to anchor your team.

Does it seem like I am picking on Wilson? Sorry. I merely picked him out as the reigning QB1 to prove a point. Let’s pick on a few more players. Preseason darling (and hybrid quarterback) Cam Newton carried an NFC leading 16 interceptions last season. He also finished 28th in the NFL in completion percentage, ouch. Newton’s 14th place finish in passing yards would also have been good enough to get you two of the possible 15 category points. Other notable quarterbacks to finish outside of the top-15 in completion percentage last season were: Marcus Mariota (small sample size), Jared Goff, and Carson Wentz.

The First Round

The draft opened up as expected, the top four running backs are the chalk of fantasy drafts this season and this draft was no different. I had the number one overall pick and decided to go with the consensus top fantasy player: Todd Gurley. I considered Ezekiel Elliot, who fell to two, due to the “rush attempts” category. However, I decided to go with the overall value that Gurley can provide over multiple categories. RotoBaller’s Pierre Camus was more than happy to scoop Elliot up at 1.02.

The first deviation from the norm came when Kyle Richarson and Joe Pisapia took Saquon Barkley and Melvin Gordon for the fifth and sixth picks. This was the beginning of the running back trend that would carry throughout the draft. Jen Smith put an end to a possible early avalanche of backs by selecting Antonio Brown at seven. Paddi Cooper of Fake Teams was weary of drafting Leonard Fournette, but felt compelled to in this format.

“Fournette was the highest rated player on the board, but he makes me very nervous after a rookie season that was that good, but not particularly great. I’m banking on a high-volume workload in 2018. I just wish the guy could catch the ball.”

-Paddi Cooper

Overall the first round went as one would expect, with the only surprise omission being Julio Jones, who went 17th overall after players like Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas. Not that I would argue with taking Keenan Allen, who could lead the league in receptions if healthy. Things started to get a bit weird in round two though.

Round Two


This is where the wheels start to come off the traditional cart. Running backs Alex Collins and Rashaad Penny saw a huge jump in their traditional ADP in this roto format that favors the position. Jen Smith decided to grab Collins (and then Sony Michel in round three) due to needing a back with a “clear path to touches” after starting her draft off with Antonio Brown.

“…the most surprising draft development for me has to be the number of running backs taken in the first three rounds…..I didn’t anticipate the run at running back early because of all the talk of overall “balance” of a roster in these scoring leagues. So I rolled with it and then went with higher floor players the following three rounds.”

– Jen Smith

Pierre Camus jumped up and took perennial MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers before the turn, not a bad plan considering the Roto Football format. He locked up a solid quarterback for the completion percentage category while not having to worry much about interceptions. This led to my selections at the 2-3 turn. I knew leading up to my picks that I did not want to reach for a running back, with Derrius Guice being next up on the board. The plan was to take Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Rodgers, and I watch them go right before me…….

Well, obviously my plan was destroyed right before my eyes in consecutive snipes, a nightmare scenario in this roto league format. So what was the move now? I already decided that reaching for a running back was not what I wanted to do, having already drafted Todd Gurley. I could grab a quarterback, but I am not sold on a guy like Russell Wilson in this format. It is also too early to take a guy like Drew Brees. But then it hit me, and it was time to think outside of the box. I selected Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz back-to-back.

The elite tight ends will absorb a solid amount of receptions and touchdowns at a position destined to be very thin in a 15-team format. Time to play some roto chess and take a gamble. The plan would be to take Kelce and Ertz at a point in the draft where I would not be sacrificing value but then have the option to flip one later to a team that perhaps missed out at the tight end position. If I can pick up additional value later, maybe I will trade both. We will see. The bottom line here is: I do not reach and neither should you if you don’t have to. Draft the best player.

The Third Round

The end of the third round has come and gone, and Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Royce Freeman and Isaiah Crowell are off the board. Wow. The draft to this point can be summed up by the chat roll from the draft room:


“What is going on?!”

-Ghoji Blackburn

“How are we going to survive this draft?

Are there still running backs available?”

“No, Nate, there are no RBs available.”

-Nate Hamilton and Jen Smith


The aggressive reaching for running backs is a strategy that we will have to see play out throughout the season, but either way, it left some fantastic value to fall into the laps of a few experts like Paddi Cooper. “Stefon Diggs went nine picks after teammate Adam Thielen and I am predicting a bigger and healthier season for Diggs as he enters a contract year.”

The real surprise of the round was TheFFGhost and his selection of Isaiah Crowell. The running back heavy draft has officially reached a boiling point with players like T.Y. Hilton and Russel Wilson still on the board. Yet, that is the beauty of trying a new format. Things change, sometimes dramatically. All I can say is, we are just getting started and there is plenty of Roto Football draft left. Next week we will dig into the rest of the draft (which is still going on at the time this article is published), and have a full recap. Who do you think has had the best draft so far?

Find tons more fantasy goodness, including sleepers, busts, rankings, draft strategy, and more in Fantrax’s 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!

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