Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: The Late-Round Lottery Ticket
As you reach the end of your fantasy draft, the names on the draft board tend to get less and less appealing. You’ve already filled your starting lineup and most of your bench spots, who cares about these last three picks? Don’t make this mistake. The end of your draft can be just as exciting as the beginning if you know what you are looking for.
Let me start with some advice that I give often: If you can skip drafting a Kicker and/or DEF/ST, skip them. No exceptions. Best I can tell, ESPN is the only site that forces you to draft them (assuming your league is using them) so if you are playing on any other platform, do not draft them. At the end of your draft, you will end up with too many players and need to free up some space, this is the perfect position to try to trade two or three of your mid-round picks for a guy you got sniped on earlier the draft.
The reason you are trading your mid-round guys is two-fold:
1. They have bigger and better names, thus more trade appeal
2. You drafted lottery tickets with your late picks and you are gonna wait for them to turn into a winner
A late-round lottery ticket is a guy taken in the back of your draft that has the potential to do big things. These are players that did little to nothing the season before but their situation has changed to the point that they can far outplay their ADP. Here are the scenarios to look for and avoid when scratching that lottery ticket at your fantasy draft.
Players Taking Over a New Role
The most important thing about a late-round lottery ticket is that you need to know what you have early on in the season. If you have to wait 3-4 weeks before a guy proves his worth, you’re going to cut him before you even benefit. The easiest way to find this type of player is to look for a player stepping into a role that has already proven itself productive for fantasy football.
Sometimes this guy changed teams and finds himself in a better situation than the one he left. Other times, a player has worked his way up the depth chart and now takes over a role that his predecessor proved had fantasy value. You will know what you have right away with these players. The role is already proven, you just have to see if the player can step up.
Ben Cummins wrote a great piece as to why Russell Gage fits this category perfectly.
Examples: Justin Jackson, Boston Scott, Russell Gage, Breshad Perriman, Josh Reynolds, Blake Jarwin, Hayden Hurst
Players Returning From Injury
One of the hosts of The Fantasy Footballers Podcast, Jason Moore, has been having an internal debate on whether or not you should “buy the injury dip”, or draft a player that was hurt the previous year at a lower ADP, but this isn’t exactly that. Jason is cautioning against spending too much on a guy coming back from injury. When you get to the last three rounds of your fantasy draft, there is no overspending.
Players in this category have usually already shown flashes of fantasy value on the field, but an injury cut their last season short and now people are writing them off completely. Again, you will know what you have with these guys relatively quickly. If they start the season on the PUP or if they end up being eased back into action, they are an easy cut. But if they step right back into the role that they lost to injury, then you may end up with mid-round value with your last draft pick.
Don’t forget that Matthew Betz writes up great injury analysis for the Ultimate Draft Kit, use that info to get the leg up on your league-mates.
Examples: Preston Williams, DeSean Jackson, Anthony Miller, Chase Edmonds, Chris Thompson, TJ Hockenson
For the most part, rookies just take too long. Last year, guys like Marquise Brown and TJ Hockenson did their best to try to disprove this, but after they had a very strong Week 1, they pretty much fell off a cliff. Darius Slayton and Diontae Johnson were non-factors until Week 3, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, and A.J. Brown didn’t approach consistency until late in the year, and far more rookies bust during that first-year altogether. Running backs are much more consistent but those guys also tend to go earlier in a fantasy draft anyway and the ones you can get at the end tend to fall into the same inconsistent category as their WR counterparts. These guys take too long to develop, learn the system, and earn their spot. You will cut them before you reap any reward, they are not lottery tickets.