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Re-Entering the Fantasy Landscape: Draft Strategies

| September 2nd, 2021


There are thousands of fantasy football draft analysts out there and you can consume their content in any form you want. They got draft kits for sales. They have daily podcasts. They all write the same columns: Sleepers! Bold Predictions! Round-by-Round Value Selections! The Fantasy Industrial Complex has grown large enough to make Dwight Eisenhower blush.

My first draft in 18 years is tonight. My league is, let’s just say, unique. There are twelve teams and you are forced to draft the following:

  • Two QBs (Start 1)
  • Three RBs (Start 2)
  • Three WRs (Start 2)
  • Two TEs (Start 1)
  • Two Kickers (Start 1)
  • Two Defenses (Start 1)

You must draft exactly in these slots. No stockpiling at positions. This is a half PPR league but with no flex, the league actually skews more towards the quarterback and tight end than almost any other league out there. So here are some draft strategies I’ve developed over my several weeks of research, focused specifically on this league. Maybe they’ll help you if you’re drafting over the next six days. Maybe they won’t.

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#1 Make a Board, Stay True Early

Rounds one and two of a fantasy draft feel the same to me as rounds one and two of the actual draft. You’re looking for the guys who will carry your team for the duration of the season. For me, that means the following:

  • Even if this draft has an early run on QBs, I’m not going there. Do I think Josh Allen is going to have a monstrous season? I do. I think the Bills are going to throw the ball in 2021 as much as any team in NFL history. But the value doesn’t present itself for me until round three, where I can put Allen on a roster with a frontline back and wideout.
  • Do I like Darren Waller and George Kittle? Yes. But do I think the gap between those two and, say, Mark Andrews or TJ Hockenson will be wide this season? I do not.
  • I can argue for taking Travis Kelce as early as fourth or fifth overall. Other than Kelce, it is best available running back/wide receiver with these two picks.
    • I think Austin Ekeler is going to be Kamara in Joe Lombardi’s offense.
    • Joe Mixon seems like the most undervalued guy in the analysis I’ve read; he’s got that backfield all to himself.
    • DK Metcalf has been available at the backend of most second rounds. If he’s your second pick, you’ve had a brilliant start.
  • Dalvin Cook isn’t on my draft board. Maybe he’ll stay healthy but history says he won’t. I’m not taking shots on the chronically-injured until the mid rounds, where the value emerges.

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Three Mocks and a Strange, Recurring Theme

| February 18th, 2021


Sometimes as a silly hobby, specifically in years where the Bears might draft an early quarterback, I find myself scouring mocks in February to see which way the wind is blowing. Yesterday, I looked at three such mocks.

Daniel Jeremiah at NFL.com had the Bears taking a wide receiver at number 20.

Kadarius Tony, WR, Florida

The Bears are going to need more offensive playmakers whether pending free agent Allen Robinson is re-signed or not.

Chris Trapasso at CBS had the Bears taking an offensive lineman at 20.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

Vera-Tucker is a valuable prospect because we’ve seen two high-caliber seasons from him at different positions (guard then tackle).

John Clayton at the Washington Post (apparently) had the Bears also taking a receiver at 20.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

The Bears might have to place the franchise tag on wide receiver Allen Robinson to keep him for another season, but regardless, getting another receiver will be important. He has great ability and good size at 6-2, 210.

But something stood out in both the Jeremiah and Clayton mocks. In both, New Orleans selected Mac Jones (QB, Alabama) eight picks later as the their apparently to Drew Brees.

It would be one thing to have the Bears passing on quarterback if these evaluators did not see a player worthy of selection at this stage of the draft. But if they both think Jones is good enough to be a first-round pick, and good enough for offensive guru Sean Payton, why on earth would they have the Bears passing on him?

Let me just state what should be an obvious fact. If the Bears have a first-round (or early second-round) grade on a quarterback and that quarterback is available when they’re on the clock at 20, they MUST take him. You can have all the good receivers and offensive linemen in the world but until this franchise solves the quarterback position, the rest of it doesn’t matter.

Take as many swings as necessary until you make contact.

That starts with this first round pick.

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ATM: Bears Need Speed

| February 26th, 2020

[Editor’s Note: Andrew and Data have taken on the same subject this week by pure coincidence. Today, Andrew looks at this problem facing the Bears from 30,000 feet. Tomorrow, Data dives deep.]


With the release of Taylor Gabriel last week, the Chicago Bears need to be searching for speed at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

The only true receiver on this roster (Cordarrelle Patterson is not a true receiver) who ran the 40 faster than 4.5 seconds is Anthony Miller. His times ranged from the mid-4.4s to low-4.5s at his pro day. Otherwise, the team has Allen Robinson, who ran a 4.6, Javon Wims in the low-to-mid 4.5s and Riley Ridley at close to a 4.6. The successful versions of the offense the Bears are trying to run have always had speed as a crucial component. The Bears don’t have it.

When the Kansas City Chiefs thought they might be without Tyreek Hill (4.29) for at least a part of 2020, they invested a high pick in Mecole Hardman (4.33). Recognizing a general lack of speed, the Philadelphia Eagles traded for DeSean Jackson last year and saw their offense struggle when he was injured.

When the Eagles won the Super Bowl two years ago, they had Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery: three guys who ran sub-4.5 40 times. The Bears have none.

Speed isn’t everything when it comes to receivers, but it certainly has proven to be an important part of Matt Nagy’s offense. It isn’t just about stretching the field and hitting deep passes, the Bears averaged 0.45 more yards per running play when Gabriel was on the field last year.

The 2020 NFL draft is generally thought to be a good place to find whatever kind of receiver a team needs. Some speedsters to keep in mind are Penn St.’s KJ Hamler and Jalen Reagor of TCU, although more names could surface after they blaze the track later this week.

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As Free Agency and the Draft Approach, a Full Breakdown of the Current Roster

| March 6th, 2019

As NFL teams leave the Combine in Indianapolis, the NFL offseason is about to ramp up. A brief timeline of what’s happening in the next two months:

  • Now: teams manage their current roster, finishing up cutting and re-signing their own players to make sure they’re under the salary cap before…
  • March 13: free agency begins. Teams must stay under the cap at this point, and they can officially sign players from other teams who are not under contract.
  • April 25-27: NFL draft.

Since we are just a few weeks away from the six-week period that features the main roster improvement time of the offseason, it’s a good time to take stock of where the Bears are at.

Current Roster

Let’s start by looking at players they already have under contract. A rough depth chart for that is shown below; players who have not played meaningfully in the NFL are not included. I should also note that I included the Bears’ 4 exclusive rights free agents, because those players are all but under contract unless the Bears decide not to sign them (equivalent to cutting a player currently under contract).


 


Areas to Improve

Now let’s take a closer look at that roster to see what areas need to be cleaned up, ranked roughly from most-to-least pressing.

  • Nickel cornerback. Sherrick McManis filled in admirably after Bryce Callahan got hurt last year, but he’s a 31 year old career special teamer for a reason. I’d feel much better about this position group, both in terms of starters and depth, if a new starter at nickel was signed and McManis slots in to a backup role next to Kevin Toliver.

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Across The Middle: Be Prepared To Be Surprised (With an Emphasis on Denzel Ward)

| April 11th, 2018

In 2016, outside linebacker was considered a strength for the Bears after Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Pernell McPhee combined for 20.5 sacks. Ryan Pace drafted Leonard Floyd in the first round.

In 2017, the Bears overpaid Mike Glennon and raved about his upside (“fired up”). They signed Mark Sanchez as a competent backup. Ryan Pace drafted Mitch Trubisky.

Those moves weren’t about value dropping to them. They weren’t about “best player available”. In both instances, Pace traded up for the player and surprised many by drafting what wasn’t considered a need.

The lesson is clear. How the Bears identify their needs is not necessarily how the media and fans identify them. And it isn’t just the first round.

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The Most Important Question Facing the Bears: When Does Trubisky Play?

| April 28th, 2017

The future of the Chicago Bears is now Mitch Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina. That’s it. They will continue developing a top defense and beefing up their rushing attack but the organization’s future is 6’3″ and has a last name made for the Windy City (although he should probably change it to Trubiski).

Now the question…when does he play? And all coverage of the 2017 Chicago Bears will center around that question.

The offseason program will be about Trubisky’s grasp of the system. Bourbonnais will be about Trubisky’s leadership and execution. Preseason games will only get exciting once Trubisky enters. And the regular season will either be a year-long learning curve for the Tarheel or a week-by-week will they won’t/won’t they for the John Fox and the coaching staff.

The 2004 Giants did it right. With Kurt Warner on their roster and a newly-drafted Eli Manning, they gave Warner a shot to win games. After half the season they knew that wasn’t going to happen and they handed the keys of their franchise to Manning. He struggled mightily in his rookie campaign, going 1-6. He wouldn’t have a losing record for the next seasons.

The Bears have chosen their franchise quarterback. The rebuild doesn’t truly begin until he sees the field.

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Recent Draft History Dictates Bears Approach at QB

| November 15th, 2016

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The following is a special piece from the artist known as Data.

 

Ever since Ryan Pace took over the Bears in the 2015 offseason, rumors have been swirling around Jay Cutler. First, Pace was desperate to move on from him and draft Marcus Mariota, but then that didn’t work out, Cutler stuck around for 2015 and had a very good year, and all of a sudden the Bears were building around Jay Cutler. Then a rough start to the 2016 season that saw more turnovers than touchdowns before an injury knocked him out for a month happened, Cutler was replaced by Brian Hoyer, and head coach John Fox seemed to indicate Hoyer might be Chicago’s starter going forward. But the Bears kept losing, Hoyer got hurt, and rumors swirled simultaneously that Fox was done with Cutler and Pace might be done with Fox. Then Cutler came back and played a tremendous game in an upset of Minnesota, and all of a sudden he’s the quarterback we need, but not the one we deserve.

All that in a season and a half. It’s been a whirlwind ride, and nobody has any idea what’s going to happen in the last half season that could change the narrative around Cutler in either direction. Here’s one thing that seems abundantly clear: Cutler is 33 years old and has a long injury history, so whether or not he’s with the Bears in 2017, they need to start looking to the future of the game’s most important position.

But there are a lot of different opinions as to how the Bears should do that. Some think they should cut (or more realistically trade) Cutler and draft the next QB with their 1st pick. Others think they should keep Cutler around but spend a draft pick on a QB to groom behind him.

In order to help figure out which approach gives you better odds of success, I looked at the draft history of recent NFL drafts to see what the odds are of landing a solid starting quarterback in various parts of the draft. It’s too early to pass much judgment on 2016, as only 2 out of 15 quarterbacks drafted saw the field. So instead I looked at the 2011-15 drafts, giving us a 5-year sample size.

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