When you are participating in multiple fantasy leagues and go through the draft process many times, naturally your opinions on how players are going to perform are going to show through on more than one of your rosters. No matter how hard you try to mix it up, a few times in each draft you’re going to find yourself in a situation where a player you really like seems to be the only obvious choice.
And you’re going to take that player.
So, is that bad thing? Not necessarily.
If you have done your homework and feel completely prepared for your drafts and confident in your player projections, there is no reason to go away from players you are sold on. In fact, if your breakdown of potential player performance turns out to be accurate, you might find yourself in the money multiple times.
But if not, then your general-manager skills and ability to make smart trades and timely waiver-wire acquisitions will have a large impact on the success of your fantasy season. Sometimes fixing a team that is broken can be more fun than drafting a juggernaut. Well, it can be if you end up being successful.
This year, I am in five fantasy leagues. Four of them are 12-team PPR and one is a 20-team deep non-PPR. These are all money leagues, when in past years I would participate in a few free leagues for practice and a few money leagues. My player shares look like this:
Kirk Cousins – 3
Matt Ryan – 2
Ben Roethlisberger – 2
Russell Wilson – 1
Deshaun Watson – 1
Joe Flacco – 1
Jacoby Brissett – 1
Cousins was not selected as a starter, but given the talent around him and his production the last four years, he is a great play as a backup and if he has a big season could wind up being a starter or a 1A.
Roethlsiberger seems to drop in expert projections every year, but always seems to put up numbers. You know he’s going to have good players around him, get good coaching and huge games a year. He’s a solid pick if you aren’t someone who jumps at the first superstar QB on the board – or one of the top three.
Watson was my anomaly pick. I had a top-tier RB and a top-tier WR and wanted to take a different strategy with one team, so I grabbed him as a passing/running threat with some great weapons on the outside.
Matt Ryan is traditionally an upgrade on a Cousins or a Roethlisberger, but you have to be careful and sit him against the bad matchups since he throws up two or three horrendous stinkers a year.
Wilson actually was taken as a back-up, but is a do-it-all QB with the ability to score through the air and with his legs. He’s another one that you have to use in the right matchup.
Brissett was a third QB, but also has the ability to score points every conceivable way and could be a big surprise and a steal in the last round.
Flacco is being counted out again, which is when he seems to be at his best. He has some a couple of good weapons, a decent running game and a great defense. Sound familiar Ravens fans?
The draft strategy at QB was pretty much the same except for the one team with Watson. Many times, if I wait until the 10th round or later to take my first QB, I’ll take a second one very quickly after that assuming that all my starting positions are full. I’m a big proponent of having a backup plan at all times, and I always want to make sure I have a viable option under center each week no matter what happens.
Mark Ingram – 3
Leonard Fournette – 3
James Conner – 2
Saquon Barkley – 2
Derrius Guice – 2
Frank Gore – 2
Chris Thompson – 2
Nyheim Hines – 2
Damien Williams – 1
Phillip Lindsay – 1
Marlon Mack – 1
LeSean McCoy – 1
Tony Pollard – 1
Ito Smith – 1
Gio Bernard – 1
For the first time in recent memory I got the first overall pick in two drafts. I thought about splitting the picks and taking different guys, but I love guys who are guaranteed high-volume touches. Barkley does it all and rarely will come out of the game.
Ingram should be the primary back in a run-heavy offense that saw running backs put up big points once Lamar Jackson took over last season. Fournette will get a ton of work as long as he stays healthy. These are guys who should almost always be in lineups. Ingram and Fournette also were guys who were available lot longer than they should have been in most drafts because of legitimate questions.
James Conner I took earlier than I might have liked both times, but he is going to be a workhorse and I like taking a true high-value, high-volume back in the first round. If you don’t get one of those guys, to me running back becomes a scramble all year. Damien Williams was an early second-round pick in an August draft, something I wouldn’t do now with the Chiefs’ signing of LeSean McCoy. But if he plays well, Williams will get plenty of reps. McCoy, likewise, was taken as an RB3 or flex player in a later draft once he had been signed by KC. If he emerges as a go-to guy on that high-powered offense, he could turn out to be a steal and a season-changer.
Looking at the next tier of guys on that list, Marlon Mack will get a good number of touches when the Colts are ahead, but Hines will pick up a bunch when they trail – and he’s more versatile. Derrius Guice I took very late in an early draft and then much earlier in a later draft after Jay Gruden basically handed him the keys to the, ummmm, Volkswagen. Phillip Lindsay is a matchup guy. If you think Denver is going to be behind he’s a lock to play. Otherwise he’s a great flex against most teams. Watching the matchup is key with him.
Chris Thompson is going to be boom or bust. If he stays healthy and resumes his pre-injury role in Jay Gruden’s offense, he’s a great flex play and depth guy for tough bye weeks. If not, he was taken late enough that it won’t hurt my teams. Pollard was selected before Zeke signed and might only be a good play in Week 1 or if Zeke goes down with an injury. However, over time he may prove to be a flex option. He’s worth keeping around until Zeke rounds into form.
If Frank Gore maintains his spot on top of the Bills’ depth chart, he will be fine as a bye-week starter or occasional flex play and would be a steal in that role given how late he was drafted. Smith and Bernard are strictly depth players, who if something goes sideways on their teams, could be key contributors.
Golden Tate – 3
TY Hilton – 3
James Washington – 2
Emmanuel Sanders – 2
Breshad Perriman -2
Terry McLaurin - 2
Michael Thomas – 1
Tyreek Hill – 1
Adam Thielen – 1
Mike Evans – 1
Julian Edelman – 1
Alshon Jeffrey – 1
Tyler Boyd – 1
Calvin Ridley – 1
Sammmy Watkins -1
D.J. Moore – 1
Nelson Agholor – 1
Larry Fitzgerald – 1
Mohammed Sanu – 1
Tedd Ginn – 1
John Brown – 1
You’ll notice here that the guys I have multiple shares of are not stars or have some other flaw or maybe are in a bit of an unkwown situation. That’s because I prefer guaranteed touches and high volume early and try to get two running backs who fit that description right away in most drafts. In drafts that I can’t do that I end up with studs like Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill and Mike Evans. Those guys along, with Julian Edelman and Adam Thielen, are pretty much my must-play receivers every week. Consistent WR 1/2 types like Boyd, Fitzgerald, Sanders, Jeffrey and Hilton are great stress relievers and consistent plays. They only sit against really bad matchups.
The good news about this strategy for me is that it spreads the wealth, so as you can see, I’m not reliant on any one or two guys for most of my teams like I am at RB. Guys like Golden Tate, who will be rested and ready to go coming off his suspension in Week 5, can win you championships as later-season additions. He’s a solid WR2 who should be in the lineup most weeks and will give my teams a jolt when he returns. Once I was happy with my lineup and had a little depth, I made sure I got him on most of my teams, especially in drafts where he tumbled to the lower rounds.
Then you have the young, explosive WR1 talents who emerged last year and appear ready to assume bigger roles like Ridley and Moore. James Washington is more of an unknown, but by all accounts he can physically hang with anyone, and once he learns the nuances of the game could be a top-tier guy. And the Steelers have a history of grooming star receivers.
Targets, volume and a consistent role are important to me with wide receivers. So, if I can get consistent performers with consistent roles like Sanu, Ginn and Agholor in the later rounds to give me a solid floor for a WR3 or a flex during a bye week, I will grab them very late over an unknown.
The remaining guys are high-ceiling players like a John Brown or Sammy Watkins, who can play any given week and light it up if they have the right matchups. On a week when you have a lot of byes or when your receivers have really bad matchups, those deep threats with big upside can win you a game. And if you hear that a young speedster like Terry McLaurin might have a shot to be a No. 1 who can get down the field and may see a lot of targets, you grab him with the last pick and hope he moves into your lineup later in the season. Or maybe you grab a player with great size and freakish athletic ability who has bounced around and may have found a good home in a potentially high-octane offense run by a new head coach. Hello Breshad Perriman.
Those late round picks are basically no risk and can turn into game changers if they assume more consistent roles and start to get more targets. And if they don’t get on the field during the first month, you drop them and fill another hole off the waiver wire.
Eric Ebron – 2
Jared Cook – 1
Greg Olsen – 1
Kyle Rudolph – 1
Jordan Reed – 2
Vernon Davis – 1
Austin Hooper – 1
Tyler Eifert – 1
Tight ends are never a top priority. Beyond guys like Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle, why draft a guy whose upside is 138 points over guys who can get you 160 or 170 at other positions. I will draft a top-tier TE ONLY if he drops a little bit below his projected slot and I already have a true RB1 AND WR1. Otherwise, no dice. And there is such little difference between TE 4 and TE 10 in terms of production that I refuse to give up a chance to take a high-upside guy to start a league-wide run on tight ends during the middle rounds of a draft.
I will, however, look to steal guys a who had good years and dropped in the projections or guys who moved into offenses better suited for them and might still be projected too low. Or I may wait for a guy like Jordan Reed or Tyler Eifert, who has proven to be extremely difficult to cover when healthy, and end up taking two TEs in case that guy doesn’t pan out. Look at Eric Ebron last year. If you get one of those freakish players to stay on the field, you might end up with the type of player who can over perform and lead you to a title.
How to Handle Multiple-Share Players
In most cases, players you have a lot of shares of are going to be guys you really think are going to perform at a high level or guys that you just couldn’t refuse to take at the spot you took them. For the most part, these are guys who are going to play every week barring injury or if they have an absolutely horrendous matchup. See: Matt Ryan, Week 1.
So, looking at my shares, most of the time at QB Matt Ryan is going to be in the lineup, although he’s not a Tier 1 guy, so you still want to stay away from obviously bad matchups (see below). Same goes for Big Ben. Deshaun Watson starts every week until his performance causes you to think otherwise.
At RB, Barkley and Conner for now are every-week locks until proven otherwise. Based on expectations, so are Ingram and Fournette. Given his performance late last season and the productive offense he plays in, Damien Wiliams is an automatic start Week 1, but we have to see how the LeSean McCoy situation plays out. Marlon Mack is going to get volume and should be in the lineup unless you think the Colts will play from behind. Jay Gruden has raved about Guice, so he’s a starter Week 1, but that situation needs to be monitored and he should be avoided if the Skins figure to play from behind. Week 1 he’s going to get a fair shot to prove himself, so it’s okay to go with him even with the 10.5-point spread.
Must-play WRs for the first month are Thomas, Hill, Thielen, Evans and Edelman. The next tier of probable weekly starters are Sanders, Moore, Ridley, Jeffrey, Boyd, Watkins and Fitzgerald. But those guys are not absolute locks. If they have really bad early matchups it’s fine to stay away. Where you are going to win and lose games is in figuring out which of your depth players is likely to exceed his floor by the most points. Go with past consistency and guys with the biggest roles early and monitor the situation and matchups closely.
When it comes to tight ends, I’m playing the guy who gets the most snaps and targets unless I have one of the elite top three.
For Week 1, while you will always have your studs from the previous season who have to play, if the guys a notch below the Barkleys, Conners, Hills and Thomases have really bad matchups, don’t play them. Manage your team the right way no matter if it’s Week 1 or Week 17. With two shares of Matt Ryan and a very tough matchup for him against the Vikings, I would be crazy to start him for both teams.
Similarly, if the depth guys who step up and perform like No. 1 or No. 2 players are what win you games and you have several shares of a guy who has a high upside but could be boom or bust, it makes no sense to play him in every scenario. Maybe a guy like TY Hilton, with a new QB, starts on two of three teams and you give a guy like James Washington a shot on one of his two teams. Emmanuel Sanders might be a one-team play, while you have to take a wait-and-see approach for guys like McLaurin and Perriman.
Think of it this way, if Matt Ryan’s ceiling is 17 against a really difficult matchup, and Kirk Cousins has a floor of 15 but a ceiling of 30, take a flier on Cousins or another similar backup on at least one of your teams. Roethlisberger might be in a similar situation against the Patriots. Don’t be afraid to play a guy with a higher upside over players who might get completely shut down whether it’s Week 1 or the Championship game.
Those are the decisions that separate the gurus from the novices. They are the decisions that win games and championships.