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King Kelce is the Key to Fantasy Gold

A friend of mine in the industry (@Nick_BDGE) recently told me about a wild statistic where people who drafted 2 of the top 3 scoring TEs in TE premium scoring formats took home the chip over 1/3 of the times. BTW, if you not following my man Nick, you’re doing fantasy wrong! Anyway, what he said got me thinking…is the early TE approach feasible? I crunched some numbers and found that this may not have been too far off base. In the analysis below, I hope to show you a few things: 1) The importance of knowing your scoring format; 2) how to identify and gain a positional scoring advantage; 3) How to implement learnings from the above in your dynasty drafts. 

Before I share the findings, let me lay out my approach and key assumptions I made before using the 2018 data. I’m a #DataNerd but also know that numbers without context are meaningless. For example, should we be relying on David Johnson’s 2018 production in this analysis given he’s getting an entirely new offense, coach, and QB? Or relying on Gurley’s 2018 production as a forecast for what to expect this season? The answer to both is likely no. So, I did my best to adjust for anomalies such as these when conducting my analysis.

Mission: My goal here was to identify the point differential by skilled position group (RB, WR & TE) to see where an advantage could be gained. For the purposes of this analysis, I am just focusing on the top players who would typically show up in the first 4 rounds of your draft (assuming SF formats). You may not win the season there, but as we all know, you can certainly lose it should you stray too far from the trodden path.

Scoring: I compared the results based on the following scoring formats all of which assume SF as well in terms of drafting strategy (stop playing those single QB leagues…save yourself!). As the fantasy community continues to evolve, you’ll begin to see more of these types of scoring formats. TE premium and SF formats have risen drastically in popularity as of late. PPC is still not mainstream but I do see more instances of it happening here and there.

  1. Full PPR (PPR)
  2. Full PPR + 1.5 TE Premium
  3. PPR + 0.25 Points Per Carry (PPC)

Tiers: Typically, I’ve seen this type of analysis done by just breaking up players into positional finishes (i.e. WR1 vs WR2 vs WR3) but I wanted to try a new approach where I group players into tiers based on how they are currently drafted and valued. Granted these tiers are subjective and you may disagree, but at least it gives a baseline into understanding these numbers and extracting implications that you can implement come draft day. The key thing I want to get across here is the process. So even if you disagree with my tiers, you can always replicate my process using your tiers to make a decision. Anyway, here are the players I included in each tier by position:

A notable omission from the above is Todd Gurley. I didn’t want to use his 2018 data to skew the results given the whole knee issue and not knowing where he will end up. I also used my projection of what I think David Johnson can be in a workhorse role in the new offense. I adjusted Engram as well for a projection that is more in line with his rookie season in terms of targets (120) given he is, in my opinion, the best WR on that team. Many may not have noticed this given his injuries last year, but he drastically improved from his rookie season in terms of all the important efficiency metrics (TLDR: BUY ENGRAM). Cooper was also adjusted to remove games with the raiders. From week 9 (when he joined Dallas) onwards, he averaged 22.0 PPG which was highest amongst all WRs. Granted, that was in typical Cooper fashion by a couple of massive games along with some duds but impressive, nonetheless. Can only imagine what he’ll be able to accomplish this season after a full offseason to get acclimated to the offense and Dak (TLDR: BUY COOPER). Without further to do, here are the results:

The above chart shows the average fantasy points per game for the players in each tier and the drop off in FPPG as you fall between tiers. What does it tell us?

  1. Minimal advantage for Tier 1 WRs: The positional advantage gained there on a PPG basis as you fall in the tiers is almost negligible. I recognize that this model doesn’t fully take into account the longevity of WRs and injury risk of RBs but if you’re going for that win-now mentality (which is what I always try to do), prioritizing WRs is not necessarily the best way to get there. Especially in the current environment where you can get elite production from older guys (JJ, AB, etc.) after the 1st round and into the 3rd round in SF formats.
    1. Draft Implication 🡪 For TE premium put yourself in a position to get one of the Big 3 TEs or the Big 4 RBs.
  2. TEs vs RBs: Everyone says you need to get a workhorse RB to win. Is that the case? It doesn’t seem that way to me. The drop off in production from the big 3 TEs to the next tier is larger than RBs in every scoring format. I will say in regular PPR formats, the difference is much smaller (4.32 vs. 3.75) so I wouldn’t blame you for wanting the consistency of an RB over a TE. But that situation changes drastically for TE premium scoring. The drop off from Tier 1 to Tier 2 is 5.4 PPG for TEs vs 3.75 PPG for RBs (nearly triple the delta between the two for regular PPR scoring). However, the trend reverses itself for the drop off from Tier 2 to Tier 3 where RBs take the biggest hit at 5.48 vs 3.57 for TEs. 
    1. Draft Implication 🡪 Prioritize locking down 1, if not two of the Big 3 TEs with your first picks and then grab the second tier of RBs.
  3. TEs outside of Big Three don’t matter: Notice the difference in the drop off from Tier 2 to Tier 3 TEs between regular PPR and TE Premium scoring format is negligible (3.54 vs 3.34 PPG). So contrary to popular belief, TE Premium does not boost the value of all TEs. I’ve heard some of the top analysts in the field raise this point anecdotally but these numbers here back it up. 
    1. Draft Implication 🡪 If you miss on the Big 3, do not reach on the next tier. I see people reaching on guys like Howard/Henry/Engram because of TE Premium and it just isn’t worth it. Fill up on RBs/WRs if you miss out on the Big 3. If you don’t take anything else out of this, I want you to remember this point, DO NOT REACH OR OVERDRAFT NON-TIER-1 TEs #FadeThePublic!
  4. PPC is negligible: In leagues with PPC, I often see people reaching even more for those elite workhorse RBs assuming it gives them an even bigger positional advantage. The data above shows this simply isn’t the case, in fact, the point differential is smaller between Tier 1 and Tier 2 RBs. If you think about it, this makes intuitive sense as a lot of Tier 2 and Tier 3 RBs are there because they don’t offer the same receiving upside as the Big 4 (i.e. Chubb, Conner). But with PPC included, that gap narrows as many of them still get similar carries per game. 
    1. Draft Implication: Same as #2 above. Lock down the Elite TEs and target that second tier of RBs.  

So, I just spit a lot of numbers and opinions at you but what does this all mean? Settle down young blood, I’m getting to it. It means there may be a significant edge to be gained in TE Premium scoring format for those willing to take a little risk. Zig when others zag! History rewards the bold so don’t be the guy that does what everyone else is doing. Based on what I’ve shown above, executing the perfect early draft (1-4 rounds) in a SF/TE premium league may look like the following:

  1. Hopefully, you’re lucky enough to land a top 5 pick. Why the top 5? This pick ensures 1 of the most coveted RBs (Barkley, Zeke, CMC, Kamara) or the top dynasty QB in #Mahomies. In my experience, people are always willing to trade up to get one of these. If you get a top 5 pick, try and trade back / swap with someone to get 2 picks at the turn of the 1st / 2nd round. Trade would look something like the 1.03/2.10 for the 1.10/2.03. Very few people would be unwilling to do this trade. And you can probably also get them to toss in a 2020 2nd rounder in the process which would just be *licks fingers* *muah*. 
  2. Take #KingKelce with your late 1st round pick. Based on how my leagues have been going, Kelce is still going TOO DAMN LATE, often in the early 2nd which means you can take advantage of it! To give some perspective, in a TE Premium format, Kelce would have been tied for WR1 on an FPPG basis with 21.8 FPPG with Davante Adams. Only the post-Dallas Cooper would have scored on a higher FPPG basis at 22.2. P.S. BUY AMARI COOPER but that’s a discussion for another post.
  3. With your wrap pick in the 2nd, snag a second TE. I’m taking Kittle over Ertz ALL DAY given his age but wouldn’t blame you if you took Ertz for the all-in approach. In my eyes, getting Kittle now would be the equivalent of landing Kelce at the beginning of his elite production years.
  4. At the top of the 3rd where you should still have an early pick, snag one of the tier 2 RBs. In my experience, this is where you can grab someone like Chubb or Cook. I have Cook as my top RB after Mixon and the Tier 1 guys so that’s who I would go with. Finally, in the 4th is when you should start targeting Tier 3 WRs. Given the Hill news, likely won’t be getting him there anymore but Cooks is someone who I see falling there frequently. And then later in the draft, there will be a buffet of value WRs in the middling to late single-digit rounds. Some personal favorites of mine are Boyd, Kirk, C Samuel, Robby “Spaghetti” Anderson. 

Now I’m sure some of you are wondering, “Mike, what if I’m not a luckbox like you and can’t land a top 5 pick? Then does this strategy go out the window?”. HELL NAH! I simply outlined how I think a PERFECT draft would play out but as we all know, sometimes Lady Luck just isn’t DTF and here at the Fantasy Bat Cave, we are all about being fluid. Like the GOAT Bruce Lee always said, “Be water, my friend”. As a modification of the above, then try and pick from the 1.10-1.12 slots. Unfortunately, if you’re in a league with a bunch of sharks, Kelce might go before the 1.12 so it might be worth taking 1.10 to be safe. Here’s how that draft might go: Kick it off with #KingKelce with your 1st pick. Then in the 2nd round, you may be able to snag Mixon but feel out the draft! I can’t stress this enough #BeWater! Too often I see people going into a draft fixated on certain players without adapting. If people are jumping on RBs like fat kids on Twix, then pivot and take Mixon at the end of the 1st and hope Kelce falls to your early 2nd round pick. Worst-case scenario, you’ll still land Kittle which would still be fire. Then in the 3rd round, if there are still Tier 2 RBs available, don’t be afraid to snag another but if not, then take a Tier 2 WR. Diggs is my favorite but Allen is someone who I’ve been able to get at great value based on all the Mike Williams hype. I can’t believe how people have forgotten about the best route runner and former #1 WR in the league. Let’s not forget about the blatant disrespect by Madden. PUT SOME RESPECT TO MY MANS NAME PLEASE! Then in the 4th round, snag another WR in that 3rd Tier. Going with this approach, your opening roster could be something like Kelce, Mixon, Allen, and Hilton which I will take all day, every day, and twice on Sundays. 

I know there are other things that I didn’t cover here but the article is already turning out longer than the list of people urinated on by R. Kelly so I may just have to do a follow-up article that dives more into ADPs so be on the lookout for that. But for now, go out there live dangerously #NerdHerd! Fade being Goose to live a little as Maverick and you just might be surprised at how well your team turns out!

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