You probably recall the hype a year ago around Ezekiel Elliott as he entered his first NFL season. Elliott proceeded to have one of the best rookie RB seasons in NFL history. And I didn’t draft him in any of my leagues. Not once. And yet, I still managed to go the playoffs in 21 out of 22 leagues. Personally, I just can’t put much stock in a guy that literally never played a single down in the NFL, so I tend to downgrade rookies. However, I did routinely draft Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell who were both suspended for multiple games last season and the results speak for themselves. So what does this tell me?
First, the Fantasy Football Draft Matrix works. Big time. Games are not won in the first round. It’s the guys you pick up later in the draft that constitute 8/9th’s of your starting lineup (assuming 9 starters). So really, having a strong starting lineup from top to bottom is more important than drafting one stud and a bunch of underachievers.
Next, I was able to have success in my leagues even though I drafted suspended players. This is a chance you can take if you have right strategy to endure those first few games. Afterall, I drafted Tom Brady last year because there’s so much depth at quarterback that one could alway find a solid starter who can put up consistent points. Also, rafting a substitute for an RB1 like Bell and Elliott is actually easier than it sounds. Backup running backs get starting opportunities all the time in the NFL, and they often provide double digit fantasy points every week. This example is the very definition of the handcuff pick. This year, with Elliott out, Darren McFadden will start for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course there is a drop off from Elliott to McFadden, but didn’t McFadden rush for 1,000 yards two seasons ago? In a game where Elliott would have gotten you 15 fantasy points, McFadden might give you 12. I can live with that. But if you decide to take a chance on Elliott, try to wait until the second round, and be sure to draft your highest rated Running Back available in the first round. This way, you have a top ten 10 RB that you drafted in the first round while Ezekiel Elliott sits. You can wait to draft your second running until the sixth or seventh round where players like Mark Ingram and C.J. Anderson are available. And of course, drafting McFadden is a good handcuff strategy. Just be sure to pay attention to his average draft position and make the selection before someone in your leagues takes him.
If you can manage to go .500 while your star is out, you’ve weathered the storm, and you can begin your playoff run.