Fantasy football draft strategies: WR-heavy

      July 16, 2014 @ 10:24:53 PDT

I rarely talk about fantasy sports teams that I draft, because much like vacation photos and stories about how cute your children are, no one's interest is at your level. However, when a lesson can be learned, it is my duty to share the experience.

Monday, July 14, I participated in the July mock draft as usual, and the strategy I decided to employ was something totally foreign to me. It's a standard league format (12 teams, 16 rounds) with point-per-reception scoring. The only real twist to this league is you can start two flex players (RB-WR-TE). I held the fifth pick.

I wanted to see how long I could avoid running backs and still build a strong team. While that isn't an unusual strategy for many owners, particularly in today's pass-friendly NFL, it is notable because of the dearth of midrange No. 1 running backs.

Sitting at No. 5, I was guaranteed one of the strong RB1 players. Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte, respectively, came off the board, which left me with Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy. Instead, I opted to go with Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, followed by Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson after a mini run at the position in between picks. Round 3 brought Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson to my roster, and the fourth pick I made was Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker. Four picks, four receivers, all within the top-15 players of my PPR rankings.

RB Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
A long, long wait

I entered the fifth round finally considering a running back, looking at San Diego's Ryan Mathews. He went three picks before me. I focused my attention to Tennessee Titans rookie rusher Bishop Sankey, but I couldn't quite pull the trigger. I felt several lingering backs had as much worth to my roster. The biggest bang for my buck came in the form of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, whom I've ranked No. 2 this year. By selecting Luck, I missed out on drafting Sankey, New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas and Colts running back Trent Richardson -- all acceptable losses.

Round 6 brought me back to wide receiver, when I snagged the Houston Texans' DeAndre Hopkins. He is one of my favorite midround targets this year, although I would have chosen differently if I couldn't start two flex players.

My first running back came in Round 7; the New England Patriots' Stevan Ridley joined my team. He should be good for double-digit touchdowns in what I see as a revival after last year's forgettable campaign.

I planned on going with a running back in the eighth round, but Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was too tempting to pass by. I love his athleticism and the likelihood of a greatly increased role with DeSean Jackson out of the picture.

Since I now had the tight end position sewn up, I could return my focus on finding high-upside and PPR-worthy running backs. My roster added San Diego's Danny Woodhead (76 receptions last year), Oakland Raiders veteran Darren McFadden as a 10th-round value pick, and St. Louis Rams rookie Tre Mason in the 11th stanza. I expect Mason to steal carries -- if not outright take the starting job -- from the plodding Zac Stacy.

Rounding out my roster

  • Baltimore Ravens WR Steve Smith (Round 12): Good value this late in the draft. He has looked every bit the part, and an angry, spiteful Steve Smith is a productive Steve Smith.
  • Chicago Bears RB Ka'Deem Carey (Round 13): I am very skeptical about Forte's season-long durability after such a large workload in 2013. Carey could even have a modest PPR role on third downs if Forte doesn't fall to injury. Pure upside.
  • Bears DT/ST (Round 14): I wanted St. Louis, but they went several picks before me, so Chicago was the next best choice. They're defense is improved and healthier. That schedule is tasty, too.
  • Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (Round 15): I expect New England to be creative and use LaFell as a hybrid pass catcher, which should enhance his otherwise paltry value to the point of a weekly flex consideration.
  • Colts PK Adam Vinatieri (Round 16): He appears to have one dominant year left in the old leg. If not, he's a 16th-round kicker and will be replaced with ease.

My takeaway

I'd be quite happy with this lineup, especially since the waiver wire could shape the team in a positive direction. I wasn't terribly conscious of bye weeks, leaving myself with seven players on holiday in Week 10 and four others off the week before. Frankly, I would not be worried if this were a live league.

As long as you can stomach taking chances at running back, specifically knowing you will be gambling for depth, this can be a very profitable draft strategy. For you crossover fantasy baseball players out there, look at it as speculating on saves late in your auction. Identify which running backs have the highest odds at finding the field through injury or performance. I'll keep tabs on this roster in a best-ball scoring format.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @Cory_Bonini

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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