In late June at the Fantasy Sports & Game Association's annual conference, Chris Towers and I took part in a 14-team, 16-round PPR draft against other industry representatives. This is an actual league with stakes, not a mock, so everyone was dialed in.
The league starts three wide receivers plus a flex, and includes kickers and defenses. With 10 starting spots, it's relatively shallow for a 14-teamer with just six bench slots. You can view the results at the bottom of this story.h5">
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Chris and I drew the eighth pick, which can be a tricky spot to pick from in 2019. At the top of the first round, you're locking in an elite back. At the back end, because the top tier of wide receivers is roughly six deep, you're likely to grab at least one top-end option at that position.
But when you're in the middle of the draft this year, you have options. You can certainly go running back, you can go wide receiver, and you can even consider Travis Kelce.
One way to approach that decision is to do some planning. Any type of draft strategy should be format-specific, so let's discuss how Chris and I mapped out this draft before getting into our actual selections.
Our draft plan
The two biggest changes in this format compared to a typical PPR league are 14 teams and thin benches. The bench issue makes carrying a backup at not just kicker and defense but also quarterback and tight end a questionable proposition. Those spots are better reserved for running back and wide receiver depth considering you can start a combined six of them.
Drafting in a 14-team league means a thinner draft pool in each round, forcing your starting lineup to have some likely weaknesses.
This led Chris and I to plan on being shallow at running back early. We didn't necessarily plan to go full Zero RB, but we knew going in that by the later single-digit rounds, we'd likely only have one or two backs. This strategy has its pros and cons, but in this setting we liked the ability to capitalize on how many running backs go early in drafts by loading up at wide receiver, with a focus on starting a wide receiver in the flex most weeks. It also allowed us to consider a tight end early, which would make it easier to not worry about rostering two at the position.
We also knew that of all the positions, the one where we could get a solid starter latest is quarterback. By planning to wait on quarterback and build out our starting lineup at WR, TE and flex first, we were essentially striving to limit the holes in our starting lineup. Along with this, we strategically targeted late-round running backs who have the potential to land in high-value workloads if things break right, something that is hard to find at other positions in the latter part of the draft.
Let's get to the picks.
1.08 DeAndre Hopkins
The draft started with seven straight running backs, leaving us the consensus No. 1 wide receiver at Pick 8. We considered Kelce here, but it's hard to argue with a player who has led his position in PPR scoring each of the past two seasons.
2.07 Damien Williams
By this point, 12 running backs had gone off the board, as had seven wide receivers, encompassing our top tier. At tight end, only Kelce had gone. We briefly discussed Mike Evans, but our main choice was whether to take Zach Ertz or George Kittle.
Instead, we opted to grab a running back that, while polarizing, has clear top-five upside if he's Andy Reid's lead back in one of football's best offenses for 16 games. Knowing we were going to be thin at running back in the early rounds, this bet on Williams at least buys us some time early in the season for our late-round shotgun approach to pay dividends.
If Williams is the player we clearly hope he will be, we'll only need to hit on one breakout player for our RB2 slot, rather than a full Zero RB approach that would have left two (bigger) question marks in our starting lineup.
3.08 Brandin Cooks
4.07 Robert Woods
After Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green went off the board early in Round 3, we had our sights set on Stefon Diggs. He went the pick before us in the third round, leaving us a difficult choice between Cooks, Woods and Kenny Golladay in something of a transition tier in our rankings.
Golladay is a player I believe in, but his offense may hold him back this year. We went with Cooks over Woods because he has a little lengthier track record, was nearly as good last year despite it being his first season with a new team and he had also a better postseason.