Fantasy Football Strategy: Roster Construction-Based Rankings WR Edition

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During a fantasy football draft, the second position to get drafted after Running Backs is the Wide Receivers. In the Introduction to Roster Construction-Based Rankings, I broke ground on a process of using your league’s starting lineup as a way to break apart from traditional linear rankings for a better visual of how your roster construction is going to play out, and how your league mates drafting patterns will impact that process. If you have not yet read it, I would highly suggest you do so before continuing. I then began the positional breakdowns with the RB Edition of the Roster Construction-based Rankings. After reading the introduction article, I would highly recommend you read the RB Edition article before this one, as much of the breakdown is similar and this WR Edition is going to reference topics from the RB Edition, without re-telling the same steps.

Also, remember this article is being written just after the 2019 NFL Rookie Draft; the names and rankings are simply for examples and by no means represent actual rankings to follow in your 2019 drafts. The focus is on the process, not the ranks. For up-to-date ranks, check out the Footballers’ current 2019 WR rankings.

As highlighted in the RB breakdown, the traditional vertical, linear listing of players is easy-to-understand, yet difficult to breakdown into the nuanced variations between each player. This presentation suggests that there is an equality to each step down in the rankings; a five-spot variance between WR10 and WR15 is perceived to be the same as the five-spot variance between WR20 and WR25. However, we all know that is not the case. There are players who are so close that we are splitting hairs based on age, weight, eye color, etc. On the opposite side, there are also larger gaps where one player is clearly and consistently always ahead of the next group of players. Below is an example of how the WR position could be broken-down in a Roster Construction-based ranking process.

DeAndre Hopkins Adam Thielen Chris Godwin DeSean Jackson Josh Doctson Deebo Samuel
Julio Jones Robert Woods Calvin Ridley Anthony Miller Devin Funchess Marquise Brown
Davante Adams AJ Green Alshon Jeffery Albert Wilson Jamison Crowder Danny Amendola
JuJu Smith-Schuster Amari Cooper D.J. Moore Corey Davis Emmanuel Sanders Ted Ginn
Odell Beckham Stefon Diggs Dante Pettis Larry Fitzgerald Quincy Enunwa Cole Beasley
Michael Thomas Brandin Cooks Sterling Shepard Christian Kirk John Brown Tre'Quan Smith
T.Y. Hilton Cooper Kupp Geronimo Allison Keke Coutee Robert Foster Chris Conley
Julian Edelman Tyler Boyd Marvin Jones Curtis Samuel A.J. Brown Paul Richardson
Keenan Allen Kenny Golladay Will Fuller Mohamed Sanu Donte Moncrief Zay Jones
Mike Evans Sammy Watkins Mecole Hardman Kenny Stills Marquez Valdes-Scantling Nelson Agholor
Antonio Brown Tyler Lockett Dede Westbrook Marqise Lee Antonio Callaway
Mike Williams Allen Robinson Tyrell Williams Randall Cobb
Robby Anderson Courtland Sutton Michael Gallup Adam Humphries
Golden Tate Daesean Hamilton Marquise Goodwin
Jarvis Landry N'Keal Harry Parris Campbell
D.K. Metcalf

This process focuses on eschewing the traditional 12 player groupings (WR1 = WR1-12, WR2 = WR13-24, WR3 = WR25-36) in favor of listing which players you would feel comfortable filling a specific roster position on your team. In the examples above, WR1 refers to the first WR starting position, WR2 to the second required position. For all the examples presented, I will use a sample league with a third required WR and a Flex position. In most leagues with a 3+Flex format, you will likely want to roster at least 5, likely 6, and perhaps 7 WRs.

Historical WR Scoring Impact on Draft Strategies

Over the past few years, fantasy players have recognized a slight decrease in point scoring at the top end of the WR ranks, and an increased scoring across a broader range of WRs “in the middle tiers.” Using the chart below, the PPG scoring between the WR1 and WR15 is approximately 10 points per game. From WR15 to WR40, the point per game variance is approximately just 5 points per game. The chart below shows WR season-long point per game averages for the 2005-2018 seasons.

There are two common draft strategies that point to this WR data as the reason for their strategies’ success. Both strategies are named after the running back position: RB-Heavy and ZeroRB. Followers of both strategies will point to the middle-ranked WR “flatline” as the reason for their draft plan. An RB-Heavy drafter will say, “I want to load up on top end RBs because the difference between WR15 and WR40 is minimal.” And they are correct.

Conversely, a ZeroRB drafter will say “I can achieve a positional scoring advantage by having more WRs that can finish in the top-15 and can use the fragility of the RB position to find late-round and waiver wire talent to fill my RB positions.” Both drafters are correct, and both strategies have great value if deployed correctly in the right draft scenario. A common phrase in draft strategy discussions is to “zig when others zag,” or as the Fantasy Footballers often say on the podcast, “stay water.” What this means is that you simply must pivot to the appropriate roster construction draft plan based on the flow of the draft. If much of your league is drafting RB-Heavy, there is likely significant value to be had by moving toward a more ZeroRB (early WR) strategy, or conversely, a draft full of ZeroRB drafters will provide value to the RB-Heavy strategy.

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Applying these two strategies to the roster construction-based ranking process is simple. The charts below will present a sample of the what the WR draft strategies will look like to an RB-Heavy and ZeroRB drafter. In the RB-Heavy strategy, the owner is looking to fill their RB positions first and are often willing to roster a much lower ranked WR in their WR1 and WR2 slots. This willingness to pass on early round WRs produces a much longer list of WRs that this owner is willing to draft. Conversely, you’ll see the ZeroRB drafter has a much shorter list of WRs that they are comfortable with in the WR1 and WR2 positions. Because this owner is likely focused on top-end WRs in the early rounds, they will have shorter lists of WRs for each roster position, and higher ranked WRs falling into their WR3 and Flex positions.  Also, the ZeroRB drafter will often prefer a WR filling in their Flex position over an RB.

For more WR draft strategies, make sure you read Ryan Weisse’s 5 Ways to Draft WRs. Stay tuned for future editions of this series that will bring in the other positions.

DeAndre Hopkins Cooper Kupp DeSean Jackson Mohamed Sanu John Brown Cole Beasley
Julio Jones Tyler Boyd Anthony Miller Kenny Stills Robert Foster Tre'Quan Smith
Davante Adams Kenny Golladay Albert Wilson Marqise Lee A.J. Brown Chris Conley
JuJu Smith-Schuster Sammy Watkins Corey Davis Tyrell Williams Donte Moncrief Paul Richardson
Odell Beckham Tyler Lockett Larry Fitzgerald Michael Gallup Marquez Valdes-Scantling Zay Jones
Michael Thomas Mike Williams Christian Kirk Daesean Hamilton Deebo Samuel Nelson Agholor
T.Y. Hilton Robby Anderson Keke Coutee N'Keal Harry Marquise Brown Antonio Callaway
Julian Edelman Chris Godwin Curtis Samuel D.K. Metcalf Danny Amendola Randall Cobb
Keenan Allen Calvin Ridley Josh Doctson Ted Ginn Adam Humphries
Mike Evans Alshon Jeffery Devin Funchess Marquise Goodwin
Antonio Brown D.J. Moore Jamison Crowder Parris Campbell
Adam Thielen Dante Pettis Emmanuel Sanders
Robert Woods Sterling Shepard Quincy Enunwa
AJ Green Geronimo Allison
Amari Cooper Marvin Jones
Stefon Diggs Will Fuller
Brandin Cooks Mecole Hardman
Dede Westbrook
Allen Robinson
Courtland Sutton
Golden Tate
Jarvis Landry
DeAndre Hopkins Odell Beckham Adam Thielen Cooper Kupp Chris Godwin DeSean Jackson
Julio Jones Michael Thomas Robert Woods Tyler Boyd Calvin Ridley Anthony Miller
Davante Adams T.Y. Hilton AJ Green Kenny Golladay Alshon Jeffery Albert Wilson
JuJu Smith-Schuster Julian Edelman Amari Cooper Sammy Watkins D.J. Moore Corey Davis
Keenan Allen Stefon Diggs Tyler Lockett Dante Pettis Larry Fitzgerald
Mike Evans Brandin Cooks Mike Williams Sterling Shepard Christian Kirk
Antonio Brown Robby Anderson Geronimo Allison Keke Coutee
Marvin Jones Curtis Samuel
Will Fuller Mohamed Sanu
Mecole Hardman Kenny Stills
Dede Westbrook Marqise Lee
Allen Robinson Tyrell Williams
Courtland Sutton Michael Gallup
Golden Tate Daesean Hamilton
Jarvis Landry N'Keal Harry
D.K. Metcalf

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