In this article, I’m going to give you some tips for how to handle the final rounds of your redraft leagues. Specifically, we’re going to be looking at how to handle choosing which running backs and wide receivers to take a flier on and how to handle the quarterback and tight end positions if you have not dealt with them earlier in the draft. Let’s start with the most basic tips for finishing the draft strong.
Kicker and Defense (D/ST)
I don’t play in leagues with kickers; however, if you do, make sure to take a kicker with your final selection. It is the least important and most volatile position and you will want to stream kickers based on the weather and the opponent.
When it comes to choosing a defense, the principles are similar. Defenses are a bit more predictable than kickers but even more matchup dependent. Oftentimes, a strong defense can make the difference in a weekly matchup but very rarely is a defense an every-week start.
The Bears finished as the #1 fantasy D/ST unit in 2018 averaging 11.9 points per game, 2.7 more points than the #2 defense. However, defenses are not predictable from year to year. Jacksonville was drafted in the eighth round of 2018 fantasy drafts and finished as the D/ST#16. You will want to target poor offenses with your D/ST plays throughout the season and not lock into a single defense in most cases.
Selecting a D/ST in the second to last round just before a kicker is the best way to handle the position.
Also, if you are drafting now, don’t bother drafting a kicker or D/ST at all. Hold an extra handcuff running back and pick up those positions right before week 1 when you need to start them.
Now that we’ve discussed kickers and defenses, let’s move on to the quarterback position. First of all, if you drafted using my preferred late-round QB strategy, you will be drafting your starting quarterback in these later rounds. If you already took a quarterback though, don’t draft a backup. If something happens to your starter, you can always just stream from the waiver wire. With that said, let’s talk about what kind of quarterbacks you are looking for in the later rounds.
When selecting a late-round quarterback, you should consider two main factors: early-season schedule and high-end upside, especially those quarterbacks who run the ball. Early-season schedule most refers to week 1, as the quarterback position can and should be streamed each week. The best intersection of these two factors is Dak Prescott. He starts the season at home against the Giants, a relatively easy matchup.
Prescott is currently being drafted as the QB18 despite finishing as a top-10 QB in each of the last three seasons so he does possess upside at a low cost. Types of players to avoid are typically veterans who lack upside such as Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, both of whom are going ahead of Prescott in drafts. It is key to remember that real-life and fantasy success is not always correlated and the quarterback position is the best example of that principle.
The tight end position is similar to the quarterback position, but not completely identical. Drafting an early or mid-round tight end is a far better strategy than at the quarterback position as there are only about 10 tight ends I would feel comfortable as my starter whereas there are about 20 quarterbacks.
Just like for quarterbacks, there is typically no need to draft a backup tight end and streaming from the waiver wire can be viable if your starter gets hurt.
The main factor for choosing late-round tight ends is upside, specifically upside for high target volume and touchdown production. Typically, the best options are either discounted veterans or players in high-powered offenses. As discussed in one of my previous articles, Jordan Reed is the best example of a discounted veteran as he is injury-prone. However, that is not a concern at tight end, as you can start Reed while he’s healthy and just drop him and pick up someone else once he gets hurt.
Other options include Austin Hooper and Jimmy Graham who are both part of high-powered offenses and therefore have high implied touchdown upside. The guys to avoid tend to be rookies. In my article on tight end avoids, I discussed why drafting a rookie tight end is a bad plan and how tight ends take a while to develop. Therefore, a rookie tight end such as T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant is a poor late-round option.
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Moving on to the running back position, the strategy for late-round options completely changes. First, it is important to note the league format, as full PPR leagues differ from all other formats in terms of late-round options. Third-down backs such as Duke Johnson, Nyheim Hines, Chris Thompson are only worth drafting in full PPR formats.
In full PPR leagues, they make nice late-round fliers as they can be a great fill-in option for a bye week or injury, especially in deeper leagues. However, in a half PPR league, they will not crack your starting lineup in most weeks and these types of players should be completely avoided in standard formats.
In all leagues, however, the most important criterion of a late-round running back is their ability to take over the starting role and their upside if they were to become the starter. Essentially, we are often discussing handcuffs at this stage of the draft, but choosing which players to select can be the difference in your fantasy success. I typically believe that finding some starting running backs late in drafts is the number one way to improve your odds of winning a fantasy title.
The ideal late-round running back is one in a strong offense that can take over the starting role without an injury to the incumbent starter. Carlos Hyde is an ideal candidate, as he plays in the high-powered Chiefs offense behind only Damien Williams, who has never handled more than 50 carries in any season and found little success in his first four seasons in the league before he went to the Chiefs in 2018. If Williams proves to be ineffective, the Chiefs could easily turn to Hyde as their starter and Hyde would be at least a high-end RB2 if not a low-end RB1 in that case.
In some cases, a late-round running back in a strong offense sits behind a player that is often injured or is holding out. Alexander Mattison is a nice example of the former situation, as he backs up Dalvin Cook in Minnesota. If anything were to happen to Cook, Mattison would step into Cook’s role directly and provide at least most of Cook’s production. Justin Jackson represents the latter case as he backs up Melvin Gordon for the Chargers. If Gordon does not appear by week 1, Jackson will step into Gordon’s early-down role and will find success in the Chargers offense.
Running backs to avoid in the later rounds tend to be those from ineffective or poor offenses that have limited upside no matter what happens to their backfield mates. A great example is Devin Singletary. There are currently three other players in the Bills’ backfield: LeSean McCoy, TJ Yeldon, and Frank Gore. Even if Singletary were named the starter, however, the Bills offense is going to perform poorly and Josh Allen will steal goal-line work from all of the running backs. Since his upside is limited, Singletary is a poor selection late in drafts. This same logic applies to all running backs in Buffalo.
Also, veteran running backs in similar situations who already failed to produce as high-end options despite heavy workloads are good players to avoid. Peyton Barber and Adrian Peterson are the best examples of this archetype. Barber finished as the RB27 and Peterson as the RB18 in half PPR scoring even though both players exceeded 200 carries in 2018. No other player in either backfield received more than 50 carries last season. Therefore, their opportunity was essentially maximized but they still were not high-end options. Looking at 2019, Barber could lose his starting job to Ronald Jones and the same is true for Peterson with Derrius Guice. Considering that even in their best-case scenarios, Barber and Peterson were not all that great, there is no reason to draft them in 2019.
Once again, the strategy for late-round receivers is completely different than the previous positions. Unlike running backs, receivers are not dependent on the other players at the position to earn themselves opportunity, so targeting receivers with injury-prone starters ahead of them is not a great strategy. Instead, the best targets tend to be wide receivers in high-powered offenses who have flashed talent but have not yet broken out or veterans who have received a quarterback upgrade. However, it is important to note that the first category does not include rookies.
Rookie receivers outside of rare exceptions do not tend to perform in fantasy and especially not from the start of the season. Calvin Ridley finished the highest of any rookie WR in 2018 but was only the WR20. Ridley scored 10 touchdowns on just 92 targets for an approximate 11% touchdown rate, far above the league average of 4.8%. Therefore, Ridley had an unusual rookie season atypical of most rookie receivers. No other rookie finished as a WR3 or better with D.J. Moore being the closest at WR38. While Moore was useful down the stretch, he had zero or one reception in all of his first three games. Most fantasy owners would have cut Moore by then and the same will happen with rookie WRs this season. Avoid them in drafts completely.
As for who to select late in drafts, players such as Devin Funchess and DeSean Jackson are great examples of veterans who have been fantasy relevant before and have moved to play with star quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz. With improved quarterback play comes greater touchdown upside for those players. Breakout players on strong offenses include James Washington, Tre’Quan Smith, and both Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison, although the latter two are starting to rise in ADP. None of those players have demonstrated consistent success but all of them have flashed at least minimally. At this stage of the draft, the quarterback’s upside and success of the offense as a whole is more important than the receiver’s talent, which is why I selected those players as later targets.
Thanks for reading this article! You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Justin. I’d love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out anytime!
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