Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: filling the vacant third-down back role in New England. Selecting Christian McCaffrey No. 1 overall. Cover candidates for 2023. Hitting the sweet spot on auction prices. And more.
Recently, I heard Scott Pianowski on the podcast summarize a drafting tip as, look for the player who will be on the cover of next year's magazine. Give us 1 or 2 players at each position who has the potential to be on next year's magazine cover.
Rich Micheli (Washington, DC)
Receivers with any chance of being on the cover of next year’s magazine: Chase, Jefferson, Adams, Kupp. I can’t see if happening for anyone else. (Adams and Kupp, by the way, are in the back halves of their careers; if you want to set the ball a little higher, than just Chase and Jefferson.) At running back, Najee, Taylor, Javonte, Swift, Barkley, McCaffrey. Quarterbacks tend to be undervalued in a lot of formats, but there are handful of those guys who are really driving the league right now, with Mahomes, Herbert, Burrow and Allen leading the way. While he wasn't chosen, we mocked up a Herbert cover for this year’s magazine.
With James White's retirement, who do you see taking over the 3rd down role amongst the New England backs? Does this further elevate Stevenson's value? Damien Harris will be a free agent next season, Stevenson's already used more in the passing game, and there have been some camp reports that the Patriots want Stevenson to be more of a committee back than just a back-up.
Drew Paterson (Ferndale, WA)
There are a lot of different options for that third-down back role. Supposedly, Stevenson has gotten some of those reps in practices, but he’s different than backs who’ve previously handled that role – a lot bigger than guys like White, Vereen, Woodhead and Faulk. (Though not much bigger than Brandon Bolden, who was that guy for most of last year.) The local broadcasters doing the Patriots-Giants game speculated that they believe Ty Montgomery will be the new White. I looked into Montgomery’s production as a pass catcher earlier today, and it wasn’t anything special – not as good as you would think, given that he’s played wide receiver some in the past. Montgomery’s best play came in Green Bay, but that’s never been a big third-down back offense. Montgomery is listed as a wide receiver on the roster, but he’s been practicing also at running back. They drafted Pierre Strong, who could fill this role in the future, but that would be a big ask for a fourth-round rookie – probably more likely to be a redshirt year for him. J.J. Taylor has made that team the last two years, but he’s awfully small (5-6, 185). In general, I see Damien Harris (who probably won’t catch many passes) as the starting tailback, Stevenson as a change-of-pace and backup tailback, and probably Montgomery in the White role.
Why is Christian McCaffrey climbing to the top of ADP draft boards and being considered as PPR pick 1.01 with Jonathan Taylor? That was not the case in the experts poll earlier in the year. Does Baker Mayfield being on the team help his outlook?
Paul Deutsch (Sioux Falls, SD)
I was in a draft where McCaffrey went first overall. The thinking is that if he stays healthy, he could be the difference maker who lifts teams to championships. He’s had a lot of injury issues, but he’s healthy now and is only 26 years old. It’s a swing-for-the-fences pick. Not one that I’m going to make.
Why is Najee Harris a consensus top 5 RB? I understand he will get carries and catch balls but with a subpar QB he will be keyed on. I’m having trouble pushing him above people like Cook, Mixon and even Fournette.
Eric Feingold (Garden City, NY)
Cook Mixon and Fournette are all entering their sixth seasons. They’re older guys (at least as far as running backs go). Typically at this position, the best seasons tend to come early. Think second, third and fourth year, and that’s the period of his career that Harris is entering right now.
Been using the custom auction values feature on the site. It’s pretty good with one exception: it way overvalues QBs. Justin Herbert listed at $39 goes for about $15 for example. Is there a way I can tweak the setup so it will lower QB while only having a minor effect on other positions?
Gregory Wells (Lake Forest Park, WA)
There are some leagues where guys just don’t want to spend on quarterbacks, figuring they can find a good one cheap late in the draft – Trey Lance, Matt Ryan or whomever. Andy was in a league last week where no quarterbacks were selected in the first four rounds – 48 players went before Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. I think that’s crazy, and we can re-visit that in October. When you get these quarterbacks who are going to put up close to 40 touchdowns, I think they’re worth something. The idea of taking somebody like David Montgomery or Michael Thomas before any of the quarterbacks, it’s insane.
At the same time, I think there’s some balancing required between what you think a player is worth (as if you were picking all 12 teams) and where you think they’ll go (given the behaviors of the other owners). If you’re confident that nobody in your league will spend $20 on a quarterback, I would probably change the spending parameters in the “scoring profile” area at the website. Make sure you have the correct number of quarterbacks being purchased, of course. And then there’s the key “how many will go for more than $1 in the auction?” question. Perhaps it’s currently set up for 30 quarterbacks to be purchased, with 20 going for more than $1. If you want to decrease the value of guys like Herbert, change it to 30 being purchased, but only 15 going for more than $1. Or even lower by shifting to only 10 being worth more than $1. If you want to increase the values of quarterbacks, lower the bar to 25 of the 30 being worth more than $1. All the while, keep in mind that Herbert is actually worth $39, so while the new price is only $20, that’s a player you’ll probably want to be buying at something close to that new adjusted price. As you change the parameters, the prices of all other players will also change, with the overall amount of money being in line with what all teams are spending.
This exact issue has plagued me for years in the sample auction we run in the magazine. My quarterback values in that league are always higher than the other 11 teams, creating some issues with the prices at the other positions. But at the same time, the others have been wildly inconsistent with their quarterback prices. While they’re not willing to spend enough (in my opinion) on the good quarterbacks, they usually are way too willing to overspend on the lesser quarterbacks. From the most recent auction: Tua ($10), Wilson ($4), Winston ($5), Mills ($5), Goff ($4) and Wentz ($4). Those are all guys (in my opinion) who should have gone for about the league minimum. If we’re operating under the assumption that those guys are worth those prices, then all of the top-end quarterbacks should have been worth a lot more. The numbers don’t mesh.
I'm in a 2 QB ppr league where you can keep up to 4. I have Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers as my QBs and Mixon, CMC, Javonte Williams, and Cam Akers as my RBs, Adams at WR. I keep Wilson, Rodgers, CMC, and Adams correct?
Nicholas Heuton (Carroll, IA)
Mixon is also in the discussion. Maybe you want to avoid taking on the injury risk with McCaffrey. Or maybe you just want to lock down a pair of running backs, allowing you to focus on wide receivers with your early picks. As an exercise, might be useful to plug in some numbers. Assume you want to have a WR-RB combo with your last keeper and first draft pick. If you were to protect Adams and draft James Conner, that would be worth 501 points (according to my projections). If you were to keep Mixon and follow him with Keenan Allen, I’ve got that combo at 512. Typically on those kind of things, I check the stat projections to make sure the numbers in general jell (not a huge difference between 501 and 512 projected points) then make the selection off general feel. Would come down to whether you in general want to have player A, B or C on your team.
I’m in a 12-team league that starts 3WR and 2RB. I’m trying to figure out if I got the auction settings correct in the custom rankings. I’ve got the settings at 60 WRs selected and 48 worth more than $1. I’ve got RBs set at 54 selected with 42 worth more than $1. When I look at the previous few years worth of draft history the auction values for rbs are consistent with where the rbs get drafted but in examining the WR values the FI projections are much lower than where the players are drafted. Do I need to change the settings or am I just finding a pattern in the league?
Adam Bjork (Waunakee, WI)
When I’m setting my own baselines, I like to look at the rankings. You go down the list until you find the player you are sure is a $1 guy – the best player you definitely don’t want to pay more than minimum for. Keep in mind that you’ll be making a bunch of player moves during the season, so there’s a really good chance your last and next-to-last players at each position are going to be released. Considering the running backs, for example. After 35 have been picked, the next seven (PPR scoring) are Gordon, Edmonds, Hunt, McKissic, McKinnon and Ingram. Are you sure you want all of those guys to be worth more than $1? I would think perhaps some tightening – get those dollars up on the guys you actually care about. At wide receiver, you’ve got Burks, London, DeVonta, Jakobi, Smith-Schuster and Bourne worth more than $1. Again, perhaps some tightening. With only 60 wide receivers being picked, I would guess there might be a top-50 wide receiver who isn’t even selected. So probably move up those baselines some, with those dollars then being moved to the more coveted players. There is depth at wide receiver, so probably better to go with an all-for-one approach. Kupp, Chase and Jefferson are good players, but after those guys, I think the next wide receivers will be overpriced – guys like Adams, Tyreek and Deebo. I think the value will be better for the receivers who leave the auction ranking between 10th and 25th in salary.
How do you approach wide receivers in a 12-team league where you play 2RBs, 3WR/TE, and a flex? I have the 9th pick and want to take an elite WR (Diggs or maybe Chase), but RBs are more scarce in the later rounds.
Garrett Seymour (New Glarus, WI)
I’m not a big fan of picking late in the first round, with a good chance you get stuck selecting a player who’s more of a second round kind of guy. Probably three or four or five running backs are gone, the top 3 wide receivers are gone, and then you’re kind of stuck. If you’re taking Diggs or CeeDee Lamb, that’s more of a second-rounder. Quarterback and tight end, those are positions where it’s easier to find guys later. I would think you’ll want to pick a running back with one of your first two, making sure you don’t get stuck at that position. I was recently picking 11th in a PPR league, I opted to go with D’Andre Swift, hoping he can emerge as a Kamara-Cook type of producer.
This year we have increased starting WR to 3 and changed flex to superflex. I have set up distance scoring but need help getting rankings to reflect 3 WR and superflex. Called and was told to use auction set up to do that. You have 12-team superflex scoring but need what auction values would be for above in a 10-team league. Can you help?
Deric Treon (Orangevale, CA)
I don’t have boots on the ground in your league – don’t have access to all of the rules. But off the top of my head, I would guess that everybody will be carrying three quarterbacks, and maybe another 10 will be selected if the roster parameters allow it. So in the scoring profile, I would set up (again, without access to the necessary info) that about 36 quarterbacks will be picked, with perhaps 25 of them worth more than $1. (Even if you’re drafting rather than using an auction, you need to set those player baselines.) With running backs, maybe everyone’s picking about 6, making for perhaps 58 being chosen, with 38 worth more than $1. At tight end, let’s go 20 being picked with 11 being worth more than $1. And at wide receiver, perhaps 75 being selected, with 47 being worth more than $1. Probably close to 10 at both kicker and defense, with just a couple (if any) being worth more than $1 minimum. Plug in those values in the auction area of the scoring profile and see what the overall list looks like.
10 Team Standard Keeper league. Keep 3 for as long as you want. Trade offer. Trade Jefferson, Swift, Andrews. Get Taylor, DJ Moore, Pitts.
Barry St Peter (Westfield, MA)
I like the first package of guys. Jefferson looks like he’s going to be a top-5 wide receiver for a long time. Pitts might be No. 1 overall tight end, but I would rather have Andrews for this year.
I typically do drafts with an online draft simulator that I enter each pick in and it adjusts accordingly. I really don't like it as I can’t think and analyze when I have to deal with data entry. What draft set up do you recommend? Pen and Paper?
J Barber (Michigan)
I have also noticed the distraction of trying to document the picks. Especially with auctions, where in the past I have tried to document prices and purchasers for each player. Years ago, I tried to set up a spread sheet to automatically re-calculate prices for remaining players based on what’s been spent. It was a disaster. Over the years, I have determined that for me, simpler is better. There’s a company, Fandraft.com, that allows you to project overall draft results for everyone to see. I find that kind of technology to be liberating during a draft. Rather than scrambling around, asking about players you might have missed, you can just focus on selecting your team, with the overall lay of the land always available at a glance.
In a two-keeper league. My three keeper options are Henry, Swift and Javonte Williams. which two would you keep going forward and why?
Jeffrey Fountain (Canastota, NY)
Williams split time with Melvin Gordon last year. I’m not confident they’re going to move him into more of a full-time role.
Been using your product for years and have questions about using your various products. I am in a keeper league that allows you to keep two players from your roster for the next year. The kept player costs one round earlier than where you picked that player from the previous year’s draft. Would you recommend using your standard rankings or your dynasty rankings for a league that allows you to keep any two players for a max of 3 years?
Chris Clay (Santa Monica, CA)
Doesn’t hurt to look at both, but I would give more weight to 2022. It’s the most important season. And if you’re keeping only two players, it’s iffy to assume that players will still be keepers a year down the road. You hit on a pick, and that guy you were figuring would be a keeper is suddenly moved down to being your third or fourth guy.
I am in a 12 team, standard, with the 5th pick in the draft. I am considering Mixon and J Jefferson. At 20th pick I am looking at A Jones. Who would you consider at pick 5. I am not a Harris or Ekler fan this year.
Jim Venettis (Farmington, MI)
In general, I am more of a Jefferson fan. I think he’s more of a difference maker who’s on the rise.
10 team Auction League. Rotisserie scoring in separate categories . Pass/rush/rec yardage and pass/rush/rec TDs. We start double at every position. (2,4,4,2,2,2) 16 starters. We must draft 24 players with a $200 budget. Usually each team has only about 5 players going for minimum ($1). My question is who to keep. We can choose 2 max. Our keeper new values are based on an equation we use. So Carr $12, Taylor $38, Hines $6, Pittman $6, M.Williams $6. If this helps, my guess Taylor probably goes for $42-$48 if I don’t keep him. Your opinions would be appreciated. Thanks for reading and hopefully responding.
GARY SCHWINDENHAMMER (Peoria, IL)
The math in this league would get really complicated. It might take a full day to properly work through everything. With each player, you’re not looking at simply a point totals. You’re looking for how much impact he would generate in each of six different categories. I assume the six categories need to be weighted equally. Rushing touchdowns are just as important as passing touchdowns, even if there aren’t as many of them. I have no idea. But in general, Pittman and M.Williams look like they would be worth a lot more than 3 percent of a salary cap. And Taylor is really good – almost certainly the No. 1 back. Whether he’s worth $40, $60 or $80, I have no idea.