After three weeks of the NFL season it’s probably a good time to take a look back at your fantasy drafts to see how you fared. One thing that always amazes us is how much of an impact little things that happen during the draft can have on an entire season – and how much little, subtle lineup adjustments can make a difference throughout the year.
Today’s theme: Spend at least five minutes checking the waiver wire every day!
But, getting back to our drafts for a minute. Part of our overall draft strategy was to try to wait as long as possible to draft Todd Gurley – usually that meant trying to get him in the second round unless we had one of the top three or four picks in the second. Even if his production dropped this year, he was as good as a three-down threat last year before as we had seen in quite some time before getting injured. Even though his value had fallen, in our minds we thought Gurley would still get the ball on almost every first and second down and on the goal line. Not so fast!
Gurley seemed to come off the board right before we picked almost every time, so we ended up with zero shares of him – and that’s a good thing at this point even though it was extremely frustrating in the heat of the moment.
Chris Carson is another guy we targeted later than what we felt his true value was. Coming off a strong late-season showing last year and knowing how much Pete Carroll prefers to run the ball, we liked his potential and were banking on the fact that the usual uncertainty in Carroll’s backfield would keep other teams from taking him when he probably deserved to be selected.
Wrong. He went earlier than we wanted to take him in every league, so we got zero shares. That turns out to be a win for us. Too many preseason reports tabbed the Seahawks as a grind-it-out team and stated that Carson was going to be the man. Oh well, many thanks to the other “experts.”
An example of a player we targeted in every draft as someone we would take earlier than others might once we were satisfied that we were set with two starting WRs along with two potential Flex/WR2s is Golden Tate.
The reason: we like No. 1- caliber WRs and RBs even on weak teams because of the potential volume of targets and touches. Bringing a guy with his upside into a lineup five weeks into a season can be the type of move that wins a championship. The move looks even better now with Daniel Jones taking over in New York.
Tate is on three of our teams – one that is 5-1 (we play against an opponent and the average league score each week) with solid receivers such as Mike Evans, Larry Fitzgerald, TY Hilton, Terry McLaurin (more on him later) and Nelson Agholor. That’s a good group, but Tate upgrades us by a pretty good margin when he returns and either gives us great depth or allows us to trade to improve another position.
He’s also on a good team that is 3-3 and has under-performed the last two weeks. That team is really deep at WR, but has two RB1s who haven’t been great in James Connor and Leonard Fournette. So a receiver can be moved for a better RB that will make the team a title contender. Tate also is on a 1-2 team that has been hanging in there without Tyreek Hill, Big Ben and Damien Williams. With some of the missing pieces coming back and Tate’s suspension ending, if that team can tread water for a few weeks it should become a real threat down the stretch.
Mark Ingram was another no-brainer for us, and we got him on three teams. He had always put up RB1/2 numbers with the Saints in a secondary role, but we thought most people wouldn’t see him as an RB1 between his past usage and the uncertainty surrounding the Ravens’ offense. That meant he likely would be available until the third round in most drafts when we saw him as worthy of a mid-to-high second-round pick. Many times in mock drafts he lasted well into the 40s, so unless we had a very late second-round pick we grabbed in the third round. What people overlooked was that Ingram is by far the most talented Baltimore back and that the Ravens RBs went nuts statistically after Lamar Jackson took over last season.
It is always our strategy to get high-volume RB1s before we go for second-tier WRs (even taking Hill in his projected spot ended up killing us), so in most cases we had no problem taking Ingram before some of those guys and much higher than he was projected. We got him on three teams that are a combined 12-3.
Along the same lines, we jumped on James Conner and Leonard Fournette a little earlier than maybe many others would have just because of sheer volume. Both get the ball a ton, so even on days that they aren’t at their best – which has been pretty much every week this season – their floor is still probably 11 or 12 points for the most part. If you have 10 players averaging 11 or 12 you’re going to be in the mix most weeks, but add in a few big outings with those high-floor players and now you’re in the win column. That seems to happen more often than not. We have both players on two teams that are a combined 9-3, and Fournette is on three teams that are a combined 14-4.
One final example is Terry McLaurin. He was available very late in almost every draft because Jay Gruden kept him in bubble wrap all preseason. Word out of D.C. was that he was going to be the No. 1 guy. Again, even on bad teams No. 1 guys get targets and touches. Taking him with the last pick in a few drafts was no risk, and top WRs on weaker teams become very valuable bye-week guys – and possibly have even greater value if their offense performs well or plays from behind all the time and gets garbage-time yards. McLaurin has not disappointed thus far, becoming the first NFL rookie ever to record at least five receptions and a touchdown in each of his first three games. He should start cracking some of our starting lineups this week with his matchup vs. the Giants and even more often as bye weeks begin popping up.
We drafted McLaurin in two leagues, and those teams are 11-1 so far without him even being in the lineup. That means we should be able to survive the tough bye weeks and have the depth to make a trade if another position falters. We also picked McLaurin up off of waivers in another league.
That brings us to the little moves during the season that can be difference-makers. With Big Ben going down in Week 2 and Kirk Cousins under-performing to date, we grabbed Case Keenum off of waivers after two solid weeks for one of our 1-2 teams. Trust us when we say that you should take five minutes every day to scan the waiver wire.
We did that later in the week and found that someone had given up on Baker Mayfield. We needed a QB with upside despite Mayfield’s slow start and grabbed him late on Friday afternoon.
Then, on Sunday night, we checked again and found McLaurin available. The only player we could move at that point was Keenum, who had a Monday night game and was still eligible to be dropped. We dropped him and added McLaurin to our team that is without Tyreek Hill for several more weeks. And to top it off we were able to snag Gardner Minishew to make sure we weren’t stuck with one only one inconsistent QB on the roster.
Sometimes the challenge of keeping an injury-depleted team afloat until everyone is healthy for a late-season run can be more fun that kicking everyone’s butts all season. As we’ve mentioned before, we rarely make tight ends a priority in drafts, so we were able to snag an under-performing, but high-potential player in O.J. Howard off of waivers for that team as well in exchange for an injured Jordan Reed.
Other important moves we have made so far included adding John Ross after Week 1 to an already strong receiving corps on our 6-0 team and grabbing Daniel Jones as a backup QB in case Cousins never comes around on our 5-1 team. I
In trying to improve our 3-3 team we snagged Jacboy Brissett to back up Deshaun Watson, grabbed Frank Gore the minute he was named Buffalo’s starter and picked up LeSean McCoy off the scrap heat when he was cut. We also picked up Gore on our 1-2 team in a deep 20-team league when he was named the starter, which became huge when Saquon Barkley went down with his ankle injury. Big Ben was the starter on that team, and in a deep 20-team league his injury left us with Joe Flacco as a starter, so we made an early play on Teddy Bridgewater to make sure we at least had a couple of options at QB.
Again, check the waiver wire every day – not only for players who can help you that week, but for guys who can make an impact down the road. Don’t be afraid to drop a player who has value to your team – but maybe not so much to others – to get someone you really want. Then, as soon as you get a chance try to get your original player back in place of an injured player or a player who is no longer useful to you.
So far, between our drafts and in-season adjustments we’re off to a good start with our money-league teams sitting at a combined 16-8. With the moves we have to date, we believe that all five of our teams will be threats to make the playoffs and challenge for championships.
And once you get in, anything can happen!