Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Stop Worrying About the Fantasy Playoffs

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For what seems like our entire lives, we’ve been given pieces of sage advice that caution us against planning too far into the future. ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” and “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” are just a couple warnings telling us to consider things carefully before we reach an expected outcome. Yet, in fantasy football, we will continually draft or avoid a player because of what might happen in the final 3 to 4 weeks of the season.

Yes, the fantasy playoffs are very important…but they are significantly less important if you don’t actually make them.

The Flaws of Planning Your Draft Around the Playoffs

Over the last 3 seasons, there are more than a couple of examples of a player’s draft stock rising and falling due to their late-season schedule. More often than not, these things did not go the way we expected once those late-season games were actually played. Who would have thought that predicting December football in late August might not be that easy?

2016 – Saints vs Buccaneers
Coming into fantasy drafts 3 years ago, it seemed that everywhere you looked someone was talking about the excellent playoff matchups of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. They were 2 high powered offenses and both had terrible defenses that would play each other in both Week 14 and Week 16 of the 2016 season (typically the 1st Round of the playoffs and the Championship). This inflated the value of their players in many owners eyes. The results:

[lptw_table id=”160197″ style=”default”]

Disappointment, that was the result. The first game ended with 27 total points scored. While the Week 16 game was better, many fantasy owners were already knocked out of the playoffs due to the first game let down. All but Doug Martin had a solid 2016, but if you drafted them to plug and play in your championship, then you were likely let down.

2017 – Ezekiel Elliott
Zeke entered 2017 with red flag written all over him. He was to be suspended by the NFL for 6 games but was appealing, so nobody knew how long this process would play out. While this hardly affected his ADP, he was the 1.05, it did cause some fantasy players to avoid him altogether. What ended up happening was that Zeke played for 10 weeks and missed the rest of the season, including the fantasy playoffs. In those 10 weeks, Elliott was fantasy gold. During the time he played, he was the overall RB3 and finished the season as the RB10, despite missing those 6 games.

2018 – Alvin Kamara / Mark Ingram
While nobody was ever alluding to not drafting Super Kamario, there is was a voiced concern that once Ingram returned from his 4 game suspension, Kamara would not see the workload befitting an RB being drafted top 6 overall. After a very rocky Week 5 that saw Kamara only register 5 fantasy points, he would give owners 10+ fantasy points in every game for the rest of season. Kamara finished the season as the RB4 and was the overall RB1 over those 4 weeks without Ingram.

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The 2019 Mistake to Avoid: Passing on Nick Chubb

Recently, there has been a movement against drafting Nick Chubb because of the return of Kareem Hunt in Week 10. Many believe that it’s effectively “wasting a 2nd Round pick come playoff time” and that is flawed thinking at its finest. Much like Zeke, Chubb will have the backfield virtually all to himself for the first half of the season. This Browns offense seems primed to do big things in 2019 and Chubb is available in the late 2nd Round as the RB13 in most fantasy mock drafts. Not bad for a guy that finished as the RB16 last season despite not becoming the full-time starter until Week 7. Once handed the reins, from Week 7 through Week 16, Nick Chubb was the RB7 in 2018. He’s already shown what he can do in limited time, yet we’re being told not to draft due to that very same reason.

The difference coming into 2019 is that he is a known commodity. We know what he can do, we know how long he should have the backfield to himself, and we know we have time to plan around the return of Kareem Hunt. If you liken this situation to that of Alvin Kamara last year, you are going to have a guy with constant RB1 potential for most of the season and a timeshare once Hunt returns. Looking at the Market Share reports in the Ultimate Draft Kit shows that Chubb only received 55% of the Browns carries last year, yet accounted for 63% of their total rushing yards. Better yet is that Hunt doesn’t have to fail for Chubb to succeed, Ingram and Kamara both had solid fantasy seasons last year. On top of Kamara’s aforementioned success, Ingram was the RB30 in only 12 games and had 6 weeks of 10+ fantasy points.

A better comparison might be the Ezekiel Elliott situation. Even with Elliott missing the last 6 games entirely in 2017, which seems very unlikely for Chubb, 29% of his fantasy owners still made the playoffs according to ESPN. Nick Chubb finds himself in a vastly improved situation than he started with last year. He has the talent, he has the opportunity, and he should again be among the best fantasy RBs in 2019. Even if he is condemned to a timeshare after the first 9 games, that shouldn’t dissuade you from drafting him. We all only have about 13 games to make the playoffs in a fantasy season, having an advantage in the first 9 is a huge step toward chasing a #FootClanTitle.

We’ve been told time and again “You don’t win your league at the draft but you can lose it.” You need to be an active owner and you will likely have a team that looks very different come Week 14 than it did in Week 1. Your goal is to be the best week to week, and a guy like Nick Chubb is going to help you achieve that. Rob Wilson recently wrote an article helping fantasy owners navigate the dangerous waters of preseason hype, and just remember that it goes both ways. Don’t buy or sell a player based on what might happen later in the year. If you don’t draft guys that are going to perform well over the first 10 weeks, then the last 6 may not even matter for you.

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