Scho knows football, but can he do the kind of scouting needed for a competitive fantasy football league? Can he spot who is undervalued? Who is overvalued? Read on and learn how our own Mark Schofield did in the draft in his first foray into big league fantasy football in his RummyMFL100 experience.
Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker. – Mike McDermott, Rounders
Best ball fantasy formats, made popular by the website myfantasyleague.com, are all the rage these days. Draft-only leagues are great for people – like me – who often find themselves wondering why they’re losing each week, and it’s because they forgot to reset their lineups once the bye weeks hit. Recently, I decided to test myself, and I hopped into the #RummyMFL100, set up by @RumfordJohnny. If you aren’t following Rummy on Twitter, you’re simply doing Twitter wrong. He’s a great guy who is always interacting with people about all things fantasy, and is one of the best there is at sharing the work other people put together. I thought I’d share my experience in this tough and challenging draft with people who are new to these formats, and are thinking about entering their first MFL10 … or MFL100.
For the uninitiated, best ball leagues center on the draft. Users draft their roster, and outside of a few initial waiver wire claims at the beginning of the season, that’s all the work. League software simply picks your best lineup for each week based on the results, so there is no worrying about bye weeks, injuries, etc. One of the best platforms out there is myfantasyleague.com, shortened to MFL. In the majority of leagues, players chip in $10 to enter (MFL10s) but they allow for some higher stakes, such as the #RummyMFL100.
As the draft drew near, I knew things were going to be tough. I mean, when Rotoworld’s Evan Silva is holding picks 1.12 and 2.01, you know things might get dicey. To add to the level of difficulty, the draft kicked off at 1 p.m. EDT on July 6, which is a good time for most, but I was smack dab in the middle of a week-long family road trip to the Chicago area. So as the minutes ticked down to the start of the draft, I was trying to set up my auto-draft while standing in the middle of the slightly-organized chaos of the Chicago-area Legoland. Yeah, my son was dangling from the stern of an oversized Lego pirate ship and my daughter was trying not to drown in a Lego-sized river, but man, I needed to set up those picks immediately. At least, that’s what I told my wife. Sure, you have eight hours to make each selection, but I didn’t want to be that guy and slow things down right out of the gate.
Before diving into these picks, a few words on my general draft philosophy. Generally, I have a few rules based on the scoring format. First, I’m a big proponent on best player available, especially in best ball formats like MFL10s. This helps me with my second rule: zig when others zag. This makes sense I think, doubly so when you’re up against competition like this. I try to avoid panicking over positional runs, but as we shall see, I often ignore my own rules. Finally, I love scheme-based selections. That’s probably because so much of my work at Inside the Pylon is based on scheme analysis, but when I can marry a player’s scheme fit to a fantasy pick, I walk away somewhat more confident.
Now, let’s dive in.
Selection 1.07: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas
“What, a rookie RB at 1.07? And Elliott over Todd Gurley? I’m gonna stop reading right here.”
Hear me out. I understand why some would question this move. Here’s how the board fell with the first six picks:
I could easily have gone Gurley here, and banked on the fact that Jeff Fisher is gonna do Jeff Fisher things, and hand the ball off eight million times next season. A safe play. But fortune favors the bold in leagues like this, so I wanted to do something with a bit more upside. And I think the scheme issues at play support my call. First, consider that the Los Angeles Rams are likely starting a rookie quarterback in Jared Goff. That likely means a lot of eight-man boxes from opposing defenses, daring the rookie to throw. Second, I cannot recall a better marriage of a rookie’s talents to a team’s needs and scheme than Elliott being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. A team with perhaps the best offensive line in the game, and an aging QB with injury problems. Dallas is gonna run a ton, and with that offensive line I could probably gain 800 yards, so the top RB in this class is gonna feast. Plus, when the Cowboys need to throw they don’t need to take Elliott off the field, as he is a good receiver out of the backfield and handles pass protection responsibilities very well. In short, he’s an every down back running behind a great OL. I’ll take my chances.
So I’m feeling good at this point, and now I know I’ll need to address wide receiver with the next pick or two. But this is a deep class, so what could go wrong?
Selection 2.06 Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo
Remember that thing I said about not panicking? Well, I panicked. In the hour or so leading up to this pick I had my eyes on a few different options, those being Allen Robinson (who was a longshot to get back to me I know), Keenan Allen, Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, and Mike Evans. Given how much I’ve written about Cooper, and the study I’ve done of Jameis Winston down in Tampa Bay, I really wanted one of those two guys. Well, here’s how the board shaked out after my Elliott pick:
I panicked. Alshon Jeffery was staring me in the face too, but, having been burned by him in the past, I stayed away and drafted a guy who is just starting to run again. So, some lessons: One, do not let emotion get the best of you. These drafts are slow drafts for a reason. I know the trend is to try and get through these as fast as possible, but take some time (perhaps more than eight minutes as you’re driving to yet another Portillo’s for lunch) and breathe. Two, trust your own process. I wanted to go WR here, but given the run, I could have gone in a different direction, doubled up on RB or something, and still made a solid pick. But … I panicked.
OK, so I need to regroup. But in the back of my mind I’m thinking I need to try and grab another potential WR1-type player. So when the board swings back to me, I spot a guy fitting that mold, and I pounce.
Selection 3.07 Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina
I’ll admit, I felt pretty good about this pick. I was grabbing another young receiver with upside, a big body guy who will see some red-zone targets. Shortly thereafter I was doing what vacation dads do, lying in a hotel room bed, beer in one hand, TV on, and scrolling through Twitter. Then I see that Mr. Silva himself tweeted this out, discussing how the Carolina Panthers are gonna run “WR by committee:”
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) July 7, 2016
Information I could have used a few hours earlier. My checking account is glad I didn’t throw my phone through that hotel TV.
I don’t want to say I’m fully on tilt at this point, but Mike McDermott keeps staring at me from across the table with this sly grin.
Selection 4.06 Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
Perhaps I’ve pulled myself back from the brink:
Feel better that you just stole Reed in the mid 4th. Had him queued right behind Tate/Maclin at the turn. Great pick.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) July 7, 2016
I’m reminded of that Stuart Scott story about the time he played pickup hoops with Michael Jordan. Affirmation, baby.
So at this point I feel a bit better about things.
Having survived the first four rounds, I turn my eyes to the next picks, and there are two more receivers I want to add to the roster. Both are guys I think are solid WR2 options this season, and are solid schematic fits on their rosters. With the way the draft falls, I’m able to grab both.
Selection 5.07 Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle
Selection 6.06 Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
I know I’ll need to explain the Shepard pick, which is a bit of a reach. First, in a group like this, if you spot a guy you like, it’s a real risk to pass on them and hope they make it back to you. Second, I think Shepard is – next to Elliott – the rookie in the best position to contribute immediately. Rueben Randle has taken his targets a few hundred miles south down I-95 to Philadelphia, and question marks still surround the health of Victor Cruz. When you consider that Odell Beckham Jr. will see a lot of safety help rotated his way, Shepard should see a lot of targets this season. At least, I hope so.
Selection 7.07 Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina
Selection 8.06 Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati
Despite drafting Benjamin, I’m not naive. Carolina will still feature the run game and Stewart will get a lot of carries in that offense. As for Eifert, he’s also dealing with an injury but getting a TE1-type player to be my second tight end is pretty good value, so I’m happy with these picks.
But now, it’s time to address the quarterback position. In most leagues (save for perhaps the #SFB480, which I will address later) you push the envelope as long as you can before taking a quarterback. With some QBs starting to come off the board, it was time for me.
Selection 9.07 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
Selection 10.06 Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore
Selection 11.07 Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona
Grabbing Roethlisberger is a bit of the risk, as various articles illustrate that his on-the-field success has not fully transferred to the fantasy realm. One such article was penned by one of my competitors in this draft, Mike Tagliere. But at this point, I’m getting my hands on a QB some consider to be in the top five in fantasy formats in the 9th round, and the seventh QB in the draft:
So I’m OK with that. And after adding Dixon, who is in position to see some carries in Baltimore, I grab another quarterback in Palmer. Given how Bruce Arians loves to push the football vertically, I think I’m now in good shape at the QB spot.
Selection 12.06 Leonte Carroo, WR, Miami
Selection 13.07 Shane Vereen, RB, New York Giants
Selection 14.06 Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami
Selection 15.07 Mike Thomas, WR, Los Angeles
Selection 16.06 Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay
Selection 17.07 Devontae Booker, RB, Denver
Selection 18.06 Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland
Selection 19.07 Baltimore Ravens, DEF
I won’t bore you guys with the analysis of all of these picks, but at this point you’re just looking for guys who can contribute in some way. Carroo and Thomas are Matt Waldman favorites, and when Matt speaks, I listen. I was hoping to grab the Oakland Raiders defense and they were on the board for me at 18.06, but being a quarterback I rolled the dice on RG3. As I said earlier, you can’t run the risk of waiting on picks you want, because Mr. Tagliere grabbed the Raiders with the very next pick.
Finally, I ended my draft the only way I knew how:
Selection 20.06 Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia
Because of course.
So what did I learn? More than anything, you need to trust your own process. At various points in this draft I broke my own rules. I panicked, I didn’t take the time necessary to be sure of each pick, and I reached for players based on emotion more than anything. Think about it this way: Before every draft you spend hours upon hours doing your research, going through articles, reading up on different strategies, and even doing mock drafts. Apply that process to each pick you make, and don’t throw your pre-draft work out the window based on emotion, or fear.
Or, don’t be the sucker at the table. Because in a group like this, I sure was.
(Thanks to all the guys for letting me participate. And of course thanks to Rummy for setting this up. Give them all a follow on Twitter. You can see how the entire draft turned out here.