By Kit Vidulich
When I started playing dynasty a few years ago, the first dynasty draft strategy I read about and the one I ascribed to was draft WRs early. The logic made some sense and still has appeal since receivers’ careers and primes are much longer than running backs. So loading up early on young WRs will give your team a larger window to build up championship-caliber pieces around those WRs that can occupy those starting spots for 5-7 years. This is still a viable strategy if you are willing to punt on the first season or two, which is a fine way to build a dynasty team if you have the patience.
In this article, I want to delve into why that might not be necessary for creating sustained success and why waiting on a receiver creates a path for a stronger roster coming out of a startup draft. By comparing the production of players at different position ranges, and the ADP data of recent Superflex startups, I hope to convince you that waiting until round 6 to start grabbing WRs is the optimal way to build your team in a startup draft.
Before I dive into my reasoning and some stats to support that, let me get some boring caveats out of the way:
- The ADP data reflects 2021 draft prospects or uses placeholders to represent 2021 picks that can be drafted. If you are doing a vets-only draft, it’s reasonable to move that back to ‘before round 5’ or maybe ‘mid-round 5’.
- This also reflects rosters with 3 WR slots, Superflex, and at least one additional flex. If you happen to have 4 WR starting requirements or don’t have a flex for some reason, this is probably not applicable. If you only have 2 WR slots required, I don’t even think this is a hot take.
- This isn’t an absolutely hard and fast rule, more of a thought exercise to examine why it’s generally okay to wait on WRs and what that allows you to do at other positions. All drafts are different, so if the players I am showing are available based on ADP aren’t there, or Devante Adams is available in the 5th, definitely pivot and grab the value!
There are more starting wide receivers than any of the other fantasy positions!
There are usually at least 2 WRs who are on the field for most plays, compared to 1 quarterback, 1 running back, and 1 tight end per team at a time. I mean, technically, there are often more tight ends on the field, but Tyler Kroft isn’t helping your squad. This is widely understood, but what this means for fantasy roster construction isn’t always extrapolated to its logical conclusions. The scarcity of the non-WR positions you need leads to more viable options at the wide receiver position in startups.
What this means for fantasy purposes is the difference between the top 24 players at other positions have a much larger advantage than top 24 WRs have over the 24-36 WRs, and also that top-end players at RB and TE offer a bigger advantage over opponents that top-end WRs. Below is scoring data from 2016-2020 from which we can draw some conclusions about how positions score compared to each other, and here is a link to the larger data set (link).
Some key observations:
– The top RB has outscored the top WR by an average of 5 points over the last 5 seasons. This holds as a general trend; the RB position is much more top-heavy than WR, and WR is the least top-heavy position.
– To illustrate this further, RB1s (1-12) outscore WR1s by over a point and a half, but WR2s outscore RB2s.
– In fact, WR4s (37-48 in scoring) outscore RB3s (25-36).
– WRs provide value further down their ranking, with WR36 averaging 50% of the points the WR1 scores, whereas it only takes going down to RB16 to get half of the points of the average RB1.
All this data illustrates the larger point that the wide receiver position has many more viable fantasy scoring options than other positions. This means that waiting for 15 RBs to come off the board is virtually the same as waiting for 35 WRs to be picked.
Current ADPs support the strategy
All of this is reflected in the startup ADP data. Even when taking a great young WR early on, this will inevitably lead you to take a relatively less valuable quarterback, running back or Tight End, when a good WR is likely still available. Below are the players available at RB, QB, TE, and WR in rounds 6, 7 & 8*:
o Trey Lance (Pick 61, QB20)
o Matt Ryan (Pick 65, QB21)
o Derek Carr (Pick 66, QB22)
o Daniel Jones (Pick 69, QB23)
o David Montgomery (Pick 63, RB22)
o Javonte Williams (Pick 70, RB23)
o Keenan Allen (Pick 63, WR18)
o Brandon Aiyuk (Pick 64, WR19)
o Amari Cooper ( Pick 67, WR20)
o JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pick 68, WR21)
o Diontae Johnson (Pick 71, WR22)
o Chase Claypool (Pick 72, WR23)
Tight Ends: N/A
o Carson Wentz (Pick 73, QB24)
o Tom Brady (Pick 74, QB25)
o Jared Goff (Pick 76, QB26)
o Kareem Hunt (Pick 81, RB24)
o DJ Chark (Pick 77, WR24)
o Kenny Golladay (Pick 78, WR25)
o Courtland Sutton (Pick 79, WR26)
o Devonta Smith (Pick 80, WR27)
o Jerry Jeudy (Pick 82, WR28)
o Robert Woods (Pick 83, WR29)
o Jaylen Waddle (Pick 84, WR30)
o Mark Andrews (Pick 75, TE4)
o Mac Jones (Pick 93, QB27)
o Jameis Winston (Pick 95, QB28)
o Chris Carson (Pick 85, RB25)
o AJ Dillon (Pick 94, RB26)
o Rashod Bateman (Pick 88, WR31)
o Laviska Shenault (Pick 89, WR32)
o Odell Beckham (Pick 90, WR33)
o Julio Jones (Pick 92, WR34)
o Rondale Moore (Pick 96, WR35)
o Kyle Pitts (Pick 86, TE5)
o TJ Hockenson (Pick 87, TE6)
o Noah Fant (Pick 91, TE7)
Top Remaining after round 8:
o Sam Darnold
o Ben Roethlisberger
o Drew Lock
o Leonard Fournette
o Kenneth Gainwell
o Damien Harris
o Tyler Boyd
o Cooper Kupp
o Deebo Samuel
o Michael Pittman
o Will Fuller
o Tyler Lockett
o Dallas Goedert
o Hunter Henry
o Mike Gesicki
QBs vs. WRs
Players like Trey Lance, Carson Wentz, and Mac Jones offer solid or better upside at a crucial Superflex position. Still, none represent stability at the position and this is most important. Ask managers of Jared Goff, Wentz himself, or Ryan Fitzpatrick/Tua. Not knowing whether you have a QB for an SF spot is not fun. Scarcity almost necessitates you prioritize QBs over receivers. Going into the season with someone like Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, or Diontae Johnson gives you a reasonable chance at WR1 production and building out a stable dynasty team, whereas the QBs seem to point toward a rebuild in the near future.
RBs vs. WRs
This is the comparison that seals the deal for the strategy laid out. Yes, running backs have shorter careers, but you usually need to be above average at this position to win. RBs in these rounds are either those with serious question marks or certified talents but with age concerns for this position. No matter how much you like Chris Carson (and I very much do), expecting him to have more than 1-2 more seasons of solid production is a stretch. The WRs, on the other hand, all offer huge upside or multiple years of steady production. Keenan Allen, Golladay, Amari Cooper, Cooper Kupp, Julio Jones, Tyler Lockett, ODB, and Robert Woods have all produced WR1 seasons. Even Julio will probably be fantasy-relevant as long as someone like Carson. Add to that upside guys like Laviska, Will Fuller, Deebo, Bateman, Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Sutton, Waddle, and Jeudy, and you can build a WR core that is at least league average with the upside for better in these later rounds. Punting on the early WRs will prevent you from having to force yourself to pick Chris Carson over Chase Claypool, a deal none of us would want to make in an established dynasty league.
TEs vs. WRs
The tight ends still available in this range are definitely still good and perhaps comparable in value to some of the wide receivers available in these rounds. The main difference is that at this point, you’ve already missed out on the top 3 tight ends, who are the only ones who have proven to provide a consistent advantage over your opponents. I generally advocate for trying to get one of those elite options when possible. Using the same ADP data as from above, I would much rather have Darren Waller and Tyler Lockett than Allen Robinson and a Mike Gesicki range tight end.
I hope these exercises have demonstrated why forcing yourself to wait on wide receiver in a startup is ultimately a great way to build a roster and the best way to start with a team that has a great shot competing right away.
Ride or Dynasty