Adam Levitan

Draft Analysis

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Abusing the Default Rankings

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I’d make a lot of changes if I were in charge of the fantasy world. Kickers would be gone, defensive/special teams scoring would be dampened and half-PPR would be standard. But the biggest change I’d make is eliminating default rankings from the online draft applets.

If the players were simply listed in alphabetical order, owners would actually have to bring the thunder to their draft. Instead, unprepared – or even prepared – owners use these default rankings as a crutch. That means they may be afraid to pull the trigger on X guy in the second round because they are listed as a fifth-rounder in the applet. Or maybe they take Y guy early just because his name is on top of those default rankings. And if there are auto drafters, being aware of who is on top of the pile is crucial.

Don’t be one of those owners I described above. We’ve given you rankings, projections, mock drafts and tiers in the Draft Guide. Evan Silva has been constantly updating his top-150 and broke down an industry draft. I’ve told you who I’m targeting as sleepers in the later rounds and who I’m handcuffing. Pat Daugherty has walked you through some questionable ADPs and brought the team together for informative roundtables. Most importantly, our often imitated but never duplicated player news blurbs continue to give you the most valuable information in the fantasy atmosphere.

Now that our drafts are almost here, taking advantage of owners that rely on default rankings is a crucial part of strategy. Here is what to keep an eye on as you draft on each of the major sites:

*These rankings were found within draft applets as of Sunday, August 10.


Players listed higher overall than expected:
13. Arian Foster
17. Giovani Bernard
19. Andre Ellington
25. Alfred Morris
28. Toby Gerhart
29. C.J. Spiller
37. Rashad Jennings
39. Bishop Sankey
44. Cordarrelle Patterson
54. Cam Newton
58. Matt Ryan
59. Lamar Miller

Strategy: Yahoo drafters need to be aware that the default ranks are skewed toward running back and sharper fantasy players. Seven of the top-12 listed are RBs, four are WRs, one is TE and none are QBs. … A counterattack to these RB-heavy rankings is executing a “zero-RB” strategy. We’ll see people reach for the likes of Giovani Bernard, Andre Ellington and Toby Gerhart especially. … I’m not on board with a true zero-RB strategy, but I’m completely fine starting Jimmy Graham/Jordy Nelson or Demaryius Thomas/Brandon Marshall. Stay true to your board in the early rounds, let the unprepared owners make their picks based off the default ranks. … To be clear, I was very disappointed to see Bernard, Ellington and Gerhart so high in Yahoo’s applet. We’re definitely not going to steal them, and will likely have to overpay if we want them. I’ll be sticking to my board … Guys I hope my opponents buy into off these ranks include Alfred Morris, Rashad Jennings and Bishop Sankey. … If you thought you had a nice sleeper in Cordarrelle Patterson, think again. In fact, we could make a very good argument he’s overvalued at this point. ... I can see the argument for a Lamar Miller bounceback as he’s out of the debacle that was Mike Sherman’s offense. But this applet ranking is outrageous for a player who has an awful offensive line and hasn’t shown he can run physically enough in the NFL. … My three favorite mid/late-round quarterbacks are Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo. Given Ryan’s rank here, I’ll likely be forced to target one of the latter two.


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Players listed lower overall than expected:

22. Julio Jones
24. Jordy Nelson
42. Andre Johnson
50. Rob Gronkowski
80. Ben Tate
98. Dennis Pitta
99. Jordan Reed
107. Bernard Pierce
124. Kelvin Benjamin
131. Hakeem Nicks

Strategy: I’d be thrilled with Julio Jones or Jordy Nelson as my second-round pick, so in turn I’m thrilled with these default ranks. Don’t be scared to take one of them at 13 or 15 or 17 overall just because of where they’re listed. … I suspect Andre Johnson’s ranking here has been stagnant since his mini-holdout was resolved. Pounce. … There are certainly some polarizing opinions out there on Rob Gronkowski. I will not be taking him in Round 1, 2 or 3, but I would take the plunge at 50 overall. Of course, there are enough people out there willing to bet on Gronk’s health that he won’t get to 50. … I want shares of the Browns run game because of the Kyle Shanahan scheme, a nasty offensive line and a (likely) running quarterback in Johnny Manziel. I’d rather take Ben Tate at 80 than Terrance West at 85. … If we miss out on the top tight ends on Yahoo, we can wait. Dennis Pitta, Jordan Reed and Zach Ertz (see below) are all suppressed. … We talked about Bernard Pierce in the Bounce-Back Roundtable, and word has since broke that he’s been outplaying Ray Rice at camp. Rice’s default rank is 83, 23 spots ahead of Pierce. … I was sad to see Hakeem Nicks so low. I was hoping some unsuspecting owner would buy into his name and bite way earlier.

Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, tiers, exclusive columns and tons more, check out our Draft Guide! It's available as an iPhone app too. Also, be sure you're following Rotoworld Football and Adam Levitan on Twitter for all the latest news from camp.

Where the buzz guys are ranked:

10. Montee Ball
85. Terrance West
89. Brandin Cooks
96. Rueben Randle
101. Zach Ertz
104. Jeremy Hill
109. Devonta Freeman
115. Andre Williams
116. Justin Hunter
117. Markus Wheaton
168. Lance Dunbar
174. Kenny Britt

Strategy: Brandin Cooks has been one of the biggest stars of camp/preseason – if you really want him, I’d go a round or two earlier than this 89 spot. … Many of the other buzz guys are buried a little bit, which is good. There’s so much goodness to be had in Rounds 10-13 this year, don’t even think about using that pick on a defense or god forbid a kicker. If we can get Jeremy Hill, Andre Williams, Markus Wheaton and Kenny Britt as upside bench fliers, we’re going to be way ahead of our opponents. … PPR owners need to get on Lance Dunbar as a specialty back for Scott Linehan. We should be able to sneak him through uninformed opponents given this 168 ranking.

Who to scroll down for:

132. Danny Amendola
135. Ladarius Green
141. Josh Gordon
159. Johnny Manziel
160. Ahmad Bradshaw
226. James Starks
1774. Mark Ingram
1777. Andre Holmes
1823. Malcom Floyd
1831. Ronnie Hillman
1880. Travis Kelce
1959. Knile Davis
2103. Donte Moncrief
2385. Benny Cunningham

Strategy: Sometimes, we forget about players simply because we don’t seem them anywhere near the top of the applet. I like to use the queue to make sure I get these guys in there. … Ladarius Green is certainly a buzz guy, but I put him in this section because he’s a “known” sleeper. Scroll down early and snag him if you want him. … We should have word on Josh Gordon’s suspension appeal this week or next. If drafting in the dark, I’d start to take a look in Round 10 or 11. … Given how Trent Richardson looked in the preseason opener, Ahmad Bradshaw should be creeping onto radars. … I like Khiry Robinson, but there’s no reason his applet rank (149) or ADP should be so far ahead of Mark Ingram’s. Ingram is ahead on the depth chart and showed signs late last year that he’s turning a corner. … More Favorite Fliers are here, and one I didn’t mention in that column: Travis Kelce. Do yourself a favor and watch both of Kelce’s catches from the first preseason game. … Benny Cunningham is ahead of Tre Mason for backup duties in St. Louis right now.

Editor's Note: Keep reading to page 2 for a look at the ESPN and CBS applets.

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Adam Levitan is in his seventh season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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