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Drafting League-Winners In Rounds 1-8


The term "league winner" is one that is too often thrown around in fantasy football. Often it is used without even being defined. To me, a league winner can be one of two things: a player that is highly drafted but is still so much better than the rest of the field. Think of Christian McCaffrey from 2019. He was a consensus top-three pick in drafts, but he still outscored all other backs by over 150 fantasy points.

A league winner can also be a late-round draft pick or waiver wire pickup that goes on to become one of the best at their positions. Lamar Jackson was certainly a league-winner last season. But you can put Austin Ekeler, DeVante Parker, D.J. Chark, Courtland Sutton, Mark Andrews and Darren Waller in that same group. These players may not finish atop their position, but anytime you find a top-15 player at their position and do so for cheap, those players certainly help determine who will win your league.

You can create your own definition for a league-winner if you want, but at the end of the day, we are all looking for the same thing. A player that can outlive his expected value so drastically, it changes the dynamic of your team and league. Finding these players make good teams great and make great teams into powerhouses. You can see why finding these players are so important. That is why I am on the hunt for the player with the highest league-winning upside in every single round. I will be using FFPC ADP to do so.

 

Round 1

Alvin Kamara (RB, NO)

The first round is littered with high-end talent, which makes it tough to pick a league winner. We expect all of these players to be among the very best in the league, which means they would truly have to stand out above the pack to be a league winner. Christian McCaffrey was able to do it last season. He and Saquon Barkley are the consensus top-two picks off the board and felt too easy. Both are capable of lapping the field, but everyone knows that already.

Going deeper than the top two, the obvious candidate for me is Kamara. He has racked up 81 catches in each of the last three seasons – the only other RB to do so in that span is CMC. Plus, if you look at Kamara’s season from last year the only glaring difference is the touchdowns. He rushed for 56.9 yards per game, just two less than his career-high in 2018. His 95 scrimmage yards per game were a career-low, but they were only off his career-high by 11.

The biggest fall off efficiency-wise was in the passing game, as his 5.49 yards per target was a career-low. But, those concerns are mitigated by the fact that he was playing through multiple injuries. He missed Weeks 7 and 8 due to a knee and ankle injury and said he played at 75 percent through three injuries. He wasn’t the same after injuries and after scoring 32 touchdowns in his first two seasons combined, he scored just six. I am expecting big touchdown regression to hit him this season.

Kamara was a universal top-three pick last year and you can get him at a slight discount this season. I am all about taking him at pick three or later this season.

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 2

Kenyan Drake (RB, ARI)

I am really excited about Drake this season, but to be fair, I would have been excited about whoever was the Cardinals starting RB this season. Last season, Cardinals RBs averaged 0.75 fantasy points per touch, which was the second-most in the NFL behind only the Panthers (CMC). Cardinal backs also averaged 1.66 fantasy points per target, the ninth-best in the NFL.

Additionally, I know it was three different backs that did it, but each was an RB1 when given the starting gig. David Johnson was a bust last season, but in Weeks 1-6, before getting injured, he was averaging 20.22 fantasy PPG. He was the RB5 in that span. Chase Edmonds started Week 7 and scored 35 fantasy points, before getting injured in Week 8. Then it was Drake’s time and he was the RB4 in Weeks 9-17, while averaging 19.9 fantasy PPG. It didn’t matter who was the starter, Kliff Kingsbury showed to have a system that is fantasy-friendly for RBs.

Kingsbury showed last season that he likes to have a clear lead back. The Cards' top back played over 60 percent of the snaps every week and most weeks were above the 70 and even 80 percent threshold. Add in that the Cards now have DeAndre Hopkins and run four-wide receiver sets more than anyone. All that means is it will be harder to stack the box against Drake and the Cards. His upside as a member of this offense is matched by few and he should be going in the first round, so gobble up that second-round value!

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 3

Allen Robinson II (WR, CHI)

Allen Robinson is easily my favorite wide receiver value this season. Robinson finished last season as the WR8 in PPR leagues. He finished third in targets among wide receivers and I think he is a safe bet to finish among the top receivers in the league again this season. He also has next to no competition for targets with the Bears as he has Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen and not a whole lot else to worry about.

Robinson last season averaged 15.1 slot routes per game, which is big because Mitchell Trubisky was in the top-five in percent of throws to the slot. Nick Foles was second in 2018 in the league. Additionally, Foles may very well be the best QB Robinson has ever played with. I mean, let that sink in.

Also, per Matt Harmon of Reception Perception, no WR had more success against man coverage than Robinson last season. He has the talent, the volume and a QB upgrade to not only be a top-10 WR again this season, but to be a top-five WR or higher. In fact, he is my WR5 this season.

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 4

Calvin Ridley (WR, ATL)

This was a hard round to decide between, but Ridley has a ceiling that is matched by few. Heading into 2019 there were plenty of mouths to feed between Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman out the backfield. But, Sanu was shipped to the Pats and replaced by Russell Gage.

Austin Hooper is gone and now replaced by Hayden Hurst. Freeman is cut and replaced by Gurley. We do not know for sure, but I think those departures are a net positive for Ridley. Here are the target and air yard share from Weeks 1-7, while the Falcons offense was fully intact.

Player Target Share Air Yard Share
Julio Jones 21% 33%
Calvin Ridley 15% 24%
Austin Hooper 19% 16%
Mohamed Sanu 14% 12%
Devonta Freeman 11% 1%

Here are the target and air yard share from Weeks 8 on:

Player Target Share Air Yard Share
Julio Jones 28% 41%
Calvin Ridley 19% 31%
Austin Hooper 16% 13%
Russell Gage 17% 14%
Devonta Freeman 12% 2%

This is not a perfect study, as Jones, Hooper and Freeman were banged up at times throughout the stretch from Week 8 on. But, as you see, the player with the biggest jump in air yard share was Ridley. He had the second-largest target share. I feel confident saying we know Ridley has the talent to take the next step forward in the NFL. The only concern I have had in previous years is his target share, due to the many mouths to feed. But this season, I think we can see him further build on that.

Will Hurst take over Hooper’s target share? Will Gurley take over Freeman’s? And will Gage take over Sanu’s? I am expecting one of those three (Hurst), but I think all three occurring is unlikely. I believe Ridley will see a career-high target and air yard share this season. A larger workload is the final piece of this puzzle, as he has the talent, QB and system to let him flourish. It’s becoming more popular, but Calvin Ridley is going to be this season’s version of Chris Godwin.

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 5

Tyler Lockett (WR, SEA)

I was banging the table for Tyler Lockett last year and here I am a year later doing the same thing. I do not think people realize just how great Lockett is as both a receiver and a fantasy weapon. Last year through the first nine weeks of the season, Lockett was the WR3. He was averaging 18.99 fantasy PPG. He showcased his ceiling by topping 30 fantasy points twice, including a 40-burger in those first nine games. His lowest total was 9.1 fantasy points, showing he has such a safe floor.

He was then injured during Week 10 and hospitalized. He did not miss any game action, but he was clearly not the same. From Weeks 11-17 he averaged just 9.73 fantasy PPG. He does have to compete with his teammate DK Metcalf for targets now, who I also considered as a potential league-winner, but Lockett and Russell Wilson have a rapport like no other. I truly believe they are the most efficient combo in the NFL.

Last year, Wilson had a passer rating of 124.7 when targeting Lockett (112.4 for Metcalf). In 2018, Wilson had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting Lockett. All the rumors that the Seahawks might let Wilson throw the ball more doesn’t hurt either. I mean, they have the second-best passing QB in the NFL and run the ball like its 1985! More passes just mean a larger chance both Lockett and Metcalf can breakout!

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 6

Kareem Hunt (RB, CLE)

 This was the easiest round for me to select a potential league winner. Hunt has so much league winning upside it’s ridiculous. Last season he only played the final eight games for the Browns, but was hugely involved. Hunt averaged 12.68 fantasy PPG compared to Chubb’s 12.98. Hunt saw 44 targets in eight games, while Chubb saw 49 in 16 games.

These two backs are going to take away from one another when both are active. There is room for both to be fine fantasy assets, as the Browns brought in Kevin Stefanski and improved their unit upfront indicating that they want to be a run-heavy offense. But you can expect Hunt to be the third-down back, used in two-minute drills and maybe even used as the WR3 at times.

If either of these two were to go down, they have top-five RB upside. You need to pay close to full price for that upside with Chubb, but with Hunt, he is merely a sixth-round pick. At this point in the draft, you’d be hard-pressed to find another RB with more upside.

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 7

Marquise Brown  (WR, BAL)

Marquise Brown was never healthy in 2019. He had screws put into his foot that forced him to miss the NFL combine and much of the preseason. He was limited at practice throughout the season. The timeline to remove the screws lined up with the start of the NFL season. So rather than missing most of his rookie year, he tried to play through it.

Brown said he had no burst and that he couldn’t even plant off his big toe. He said by the end of the year his foot was mangled and as we have seen before, when an athlete tries to play through an injury, they often times put added pressure on other parts of their bodies, and it leads to more injuries. With the screws out, Brown says he has that old speed and burst back which is a really scary thought.

We saw NFL corners struggle to keep up with him last season. In Week 1, he ran just eight routes but finished with 147 yards and two touchdowns. Add in the fact that the Ravens have the league’s best rushing attack, which will require stacked boxes to attempt to slow down Lamar Jackson and co on the ground. They also have Mark Andrews who will demand a lot of the defense's attention.

Why does all this matter? Because with defenders forced to focus on the others, Brown is likely to see a ton of one-on-one coverage. That is a really scary thought. Plus, I expect a healthy, second-year Brown to be used in a lot of creative ways by the Ravens. His big-play upside is matched by few and he has legit league wining upside as long as he can avoid injuries this season.

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Round 8

Will Fuller V (WR, HOU)

In the past, I was off of Will Fuller because at best he was the second target, playing behind an absolute target vacuum in DeAndre Hopkins and struggled to stay on the field. Well this season, that volume hoover will be in the Arizona desert, meaning that Fuller at worst will be the number two target, likely competing with Brandin Cooks (Randall Cobb is also in the picture).

You do not need to worry about the injury history, because despite likely having a much larger workload, Fuller is still going later than he should because of the injury concerns. If not for those injury concerns I would expect Fuller to go in round five or six. But the upside is matched by few, if any, especially when you consider that he likely is going to see more targets than he ever has before.

In his 11 career games with eight-or-more targets he has averaged 21.34 fantasy PPG on 97.3 receiving yards per game. He averaged 156 air yards per game in those weeks. Fuller is a player that you will want in your lineup every week he is healthy. And, hear me out for a second, what if maybe, just maybe, he can stay healthy. League. Winner.

Other league winning candidates in this round:

 

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @MichaelFFlorio!

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Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More