15-Team Draft Plan

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15-Team Draft Plan

If you’ve read my 2020 Draft Plan, you probably have a good feel for my approach and the players I like this year, so my main goal with this article is to experiment with my general draft plan in a large league and run some drafts using ADP as my guide to determine who is available for all my picks. Once I’m done, I hope to form some specific strategies for those in large leagues.

But before I get into the drafting, here’s a quick overview of my plan at each skill position if I’m drafting in a 14 or 16-team league:

  • Quarterback - Don’t take one until at least the seventh round (80-95 overall) with ideal targets such as Josh Allen, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan. Or, target Daniel Jones around 110-125 overall. If I’m still looking for a QB, target Baker Mayfield, Cam Newton, Jared Goff, Joe Burrow, Cam Newton, or Ryan Tannehill around 120-145 overall. Target Jimmy Garopollo, Gardner Minshew, and Derek Carr as cheap QB2s 160-190 overall.

  • Running Back - Target young, versatile, durable, and preferably ascending talents whose best football is in front of them. Add as many as three of them the first 4-5 rounds if the players are appealing, like rookies Jonathan Taylor and Cam Akers. In Rounds 5-7, target attractive complimentary guys like Kareem Hunt, Tarik Cohen, and James White if you’re still looking for a strong RB3. Later in the draft, look to add dirt cheap veterans with a real chance like Boston Scott, Duke Johnson, and Nyheim Hines. And, of course, handcuff your choice RBs, consider some premium handcuffs as stash-and-hope options like Chase Edmonds, even if you don’t have his team’s starter; and then target any upside RBs late like Damien Harris, Anthony McFarland, and Joshua Kelley.

Note: I’m not addressing the Washington RBs Adrian Peterson and Antonio Gibson until more time has passed and their ADPs stabilize.

  • Wide Receivers - In the first two rounds, I’m only taking a WR if he’s clearly the best player available, which is another way of saying I’m only taking a WR if I don’t like the RBs available to me the first two rounds. After that, target the appealing Tier 2 guys like Adam Thielen, Calvin Ridley, Robert Woods, and D.J. Chark. Then, look to add any breakout types like Marquise Brown and Diontae Johnson. In the middle rounds, target any sneaky values among the veterans, like Jarvis Landry and Will Fuller, and any young breakout types like Darius Slayton. Around 100 picks in, focus on young upside guys, like rookies Henry Ruggs and Jalen Reagor. In the final 5-6 rounds, target any sneaky veteran values like Breshad Perriman, Golden Tate, and DeSean Jackson, as well as young upside options like Michael Pittman, N’Keal Harry, and Steven Sims.

  • Tight Ends - Plan on holding off on the position to get the best value and to ensure you’re locked in to 2-3 quality RBs after the first 3-4 rounds. Look for values like Hayden Hurst and Tyler Higbee in the 80-100 range, or Jared Cook around 115 overall. If I’m still looking for my TE1 or want a desirable TE2 with big upside, focus on young breakout types like Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, and later on Chris Herndon and Jace Sternberger.

Since I’d rather not do this exercise for 14-team leagues only to get requests for a 16-team version, I split the difference and proceeded with a 15-team draft plan, which should address and appease those in both 14 and 16-team leagues. As usual, I’m using very fresh ADP from the NFFC, which is mostly savvy, high-stakes players, so it’s a tough test.

Let’s see what I come up with drafting from five different spots with early, middle, and late rounds accounted for. And once I’m done, I’ll not only offer some strategies and tips, I’ll bust out my list of the best “14-team Specials,” which are players who you may not love in a 10 or 12-team league, but they’re really handy in 14-team or larger leagues.

Team A: Draft position #2

Let’s start off from the #2 position for our first 15-team draft. And of course, we have no choice but to go with this guy, and we’re happy about it:

Saquon Barkley

Using the seriously tight NFFC ADP from the first 10 days of August, the players available include RBs I’m not in on, like James Conner and Leonard Fournette, and some WRs I like but don’t love. Looking ahead to Rounds 3, there’s a WR I do love, so I in Round 2 I have to get this RB I love:

Jonathan Taylor

(Melvin Gordon was gone, per the ADP. Taylor is a risky pick this early, but I can offset some risk by getting Marlon Mack later. It will cost me a fairly high pick in this draft, but I think it’s worth it given the steep investment for Taylor).

Next, I’m looking at a WR here, and it’s between Odell Beckham and Mike Evans. Tough call in that we have Evans ranked higher, but I do love the Browns offense this year; and if OBJ is to have one more big season in his career, it’ll likely be this year. OBJ is a bit of a head case, but Evans is also working with a new QB, albeit the GOAT. But I have to lean toward playing things aggressively, so I will go:

Odell Beckham

In round four, while it’s aggressive, I’m playing to win with another rookie RB I like. These two rookie backs are risky, yes, but many veteran RBs are as well, and I always find there’s a buying opportunity with most rookie RBs, and I can’t pass on that opportunity and his upside. If my two rookie RB picks in the first four rounds hit, my team should be devastating:

Cam Akers

(I probably won’t pay up for Darrell Henderson as a handcuff, but I will look to get Malcolm Brown very late to give me some protection).

And if you’ve been reading our stuff on the site and my own stuff, you know I’m taking this guy next:

Marquise Brown

Damn, this is a Gurrific start.

It’s right around now -- aroud 90-100 picks into a draft -- where the board is filled mostly with players I’m not that interested in, in part because I actually like some players at their positions going 1-2 rounds later more than the bigger names going off the board earlier. And since I’m set at RB and off to a good start at WR, I’ll get my QB:

Josh Allen

In the seventh, it’s already time to protect that second round investment for Taylor. I don’t love it, but I also don’t love most of the players still on the board here, so I will suck it up and take:

Marlon Mack

I’m mostly all about young, ascending players, and I see two who stand out at positions that I need to address, so I’ll get them. First, it’s:

Jalen Reagor

(Note: I just missed out on Henry Ruggs, who I would take over Reagor 10 times out of 10, and you will probably have a crack at him here in your league).

And now a young TE I like:

Noah Fant

At this point, I might as well continue to stay aggressive with younger, upside type players, so let’s get another rookie WR I love:

Michael Pittman

And just in case Fant fails to deliver, a backup plan at TE in another young, upside guy:

Chris Herndon

That’s 11 rounds in a 15-teamer, or 165 players overall, which should give you a good feel for my plan in action.

Here’s the drafted team stacked together:

  1. Saquon Barkley
  2. Jonathan Taylor
  3. Odell Beckham
  4. Cam Akers
  5. Marquise Brown
  6. Josh Allen
  7. Marlon Mack
  8. Jalen Reagor
  9. Noah Fant
  10. Michael Pittman
  11. Chris Herndon
Starting lineup:

QB: Josh Allen

RB: Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor

WR: Odell Beckham, Marquise Brown, Michael Pittman

TE: Noah Fant

Flex: Cam Akers

Quick take: This is a very good starting lineup if Taylor hits, but my depth at RB isn’t great. The good news is I can try out a dirt-cheap Barkley handcuff or take Malcolm Brown late for Akers, which is likely what I’d do. But this team is balanced and bursting with upside.

Team B: Draft position #5

Let’s start off from the #5 spot this time and we’ll see if the flow of the draft from 5 is any better or worse.

It’s already a tough call for my first pick because I like Dalvin Cook here, yet I’ll want to then get Alexander Mattison. In a 15-team draft, I’ll probably have to spend a seventh-round pick on him. I’m certainly not taking Michael Thomas, who, by the way, will definitely see less volume this year with a new #2 WR added.

Since I have Cook and another RB very close in my rankings, and since this other RBs’ handcuff is way cheaper, I’ll roll the dice and pass on Cook for:

Joe Mixon

Tough call next, since I like Allen Robinson this year and he’s available. However, I like another WR as much if not more because he’s cheaper, and he’s available with my next pick. And when in doubt early in a draft between RB and WR, I’m usually going RB, so:

Melvin Gordon

And now in the third round, that WR I love because he’s a good bet for 150 targets if he plays all 16 games:

Adam Thielen

Next, I can’t pass on another rookie RB I am high on this year, especially since I already feel like I need more juice and upside:

Cam Akers

Next up, I do need a WR badly, and I have several options, like Diontae Johnson, AJ Green, Will Fuller, and Jarvis Landry. Johnson is the sexiest choice, most likely, followed by the injury-prone Fuller, but Green could certainly be plenty sexy. Of course, I do already have Mixon and don’t love having two Bengals. I could use some upside, but I could also use some stability, so I’ll go with a guy who’s been underrated by fantasy owners (including me) the last two seasons:

Jarvis Landry

I really don’t love the options on the board for me in the sixth round, and I don’t want to take Josh Allen every time. So here I will get my TE:

Hayden Hurst

I could certainly go QB here and get Daniel Jones, but I don’t like getting my QB1 when I still need a starting RB/WR/Flex spot filled, so I will go bargain-basement shopping at QB later and will now grab my WR3 in:

Darius Slayton

Tough call here, as I should get my QB1 soon, but I’m more inclined to wait on QB in a larger league, so I’ll go with a rookie WR I’m feeling this year in:

Henry Ruggs

I’ve been holding off on adding my RB4 in part because I know I can get Gio Bernard to protect my Mixon investment later, but I will go RB here for a back who should be very handy in a large (PPR) league:

Boston Scott

Now in the 10th round, I absolutely have to get my QB, and I’ll get one with upside but also downside in:

Cam Newton

Tough call here as there are a couple of appealing picks at WR and RB available here, but I don’t badly need another player from either position, so I’ll grab another TE with upside just in case Hurst winds up being fool’s gold this year:

Chris Herndon

I’ll wrap here, but note, since I can’t totally count on Cam, I gotta get a QB2 with a chance with my next pick, and it would be Gardner Minshew. 1-2 rounds later, I’ll get Gio Bernard.

Here’s the drafted team stacked together:

  1. Joe Mixon
  2. Melvin Gordon
  3. Adam Thielen
  4. Cam Akers
  5. Jarvis Landry
  6. Hayden Hurst
  7. Darius Slayton
  8. Henry Ruggs
  9. Boston Scott
  10. Cam Newton
  11. Chris Herndon
Starting lineup:

QB: Cam Newton

RB: Joe Mixon, Melvin Gordon

WR: Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry, Darius Slayton

TE: Hayden Hurst

Flex: Cam Akers

Quick take: This team may have better options at TE and Flex, but it also has more downside than Team A, since the two Cams are no lock, and neither is Hurst, who is on a new team. It looks like I might be better addressing QB before TE.

Team C: Draft position #8

Starting from the 8 hole, I’d consider Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is available per the very fresh ADP, but I have to take this young back over him:

Miles Sanders

Very tough call for my next pick, and the two best options are Lamar Jackson and George Kittle, two positions I want to wait on. I could go back to my guy Jonathan Taylor, but it’s a bit of an overpay and I’d like to also get Marlon Mack, which is a pain. Let’s try addressing WR more aggressively and see how that works out with:

Allen Robinson

And then another underrated, undisputed #1 WR, since he’s the best player available:

Adam Thielen

I obviously need to hit RB hard now, and I will, starting with:

Kareem Hunt

(Cam Akers has more upside, but also more downside. Still viable, though).

Next, Tarik Cohen would be a bit of an overpay, but I’d seriously consider him in this situation. However, there’s a boring RB I’m actually warming up to who will be available for me in the next round, so I’ll take a shot with him after adding a sexy WR3 in the fifth round in:

Diontae Johnson

And next, that boring with a huge role RB in the sixth:

Jordan Howard

I’ve held off long enough at QB, I think, so I’ll go with an upside choice as my QB1 in:

Daniel Jones

I’m still a little thin at RB, so I will secure my RB1 handcuff, and a guy who I can use in a pinch with Miles Sanders:

Boston Scott

I have held off long enough on TE, and I want an ascending guy with upside, and there are several to choose from. I’ll go with this guy again, since this team could use a little more juice:

Noah Fant

I need a WR4, and while he’s hardly reliable, the guy can seriously produce in this offense if healthy, so I’ll take a shot:

DeSean Jackson

And one more time, let’s pair Fant up with another young, breakout candidate at TE, just in case Fant underwhelms:

Chris Herndon

Here’s the drafted team stacked together:

  1. Miles Sanders
  2. Allen Robinson
  3. Adam Thielen
  4. Kareem Hunt
  5. Diontae Johnson
  6. Jordan Howard
  7. Daniel Jones
  8. Boston Scott
  9. Noah Fant
  10. DeSean Jackson
  11. Chris Herndon
Starting lineup:

QB: Daniel Jones

RB: Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt

WR: Allen Robinson, Adam Thielen, Diontae Johnson

TE: Noah Fant

Flex: Jordan Howard

Quick take: This team is only okay, but keep in mind I’m using very fresh ADP data from the savvy players over at the NFFC, so you can probably do a little better. But I’d feel good going to battle with this start, since the team has no serious weaknesses and some serious upside.

Team D: Draft position #11

Let’s see if these teams are much different drafting later in Round 1.

Picking in this spot, as I look ahead at the ADP, it’s clear I need to go WR in round two, since the talent at RB drops off considerably. And that said, rather than go with Aaron Jones, higher in our rankings, I’ll go with another option. Jones is due for TD regression, and his long-term future and even his short-term role this year is a little shaky. So I’ll be aggressive with a guy who’s a little boom-or-bust, but he boomed the second half of 2019:

Kenyan Drake

In Round 2, as I said, all the desirable RBs are gone, so I have no choice but to go WR. That’s obviously fine, especially since I still love this player:

Chris Godwin

Tough call here, since I don’t like the best RBs on the board now in Round 3, guys like David Johnson, David Montgomery, and Devin Singletary. So I’m kind of forced to go WR here, and I will go with:

Robert Woods

Now I’m forced to go RB, which I’m fine with. It’s between Cam Akers and Kareem Hunt again. Taking Akers would be ballsy and would give me great upside, but also more downside compared to taking another back. I’ll take the other back, since he also has some upside:

Kareem Hunt

It’s a little bit of an overpay, but I gotta load up on RBs, and in case you haven’t noticed, I love this guy this year, so I’ll take him:

Tarik Cohen

I could take Josh Allen again here, or Carson Wentz, but it feels like this team needs some more juice, so I’m going to take a TE who actually might be a little volatile, but who, overall, since presents major upside in my opinion:

Tyler Higbee

In the seventh, I looked around at the players going off the board the next 10 picks or so, and I didn’t see much I liked, so I will get my QB here, especially since this guy does have nice upside:

Daniel Jones

And now I feel good because this guy is available and he stands out to me, even though he’s a rookie WR:

Henry Ruggs

Unfortunately, I absolutely have to get Drake’s backup, since he’s been a little shaky with two coaching staffs kind of giving up on him (granted, one of them was Adam Gase’s):

Chase Edmonds

I do have only three WRs right now, so I could use a fourth. I could go with Michael Pittman again, but this veteran is ready to rock and roll right now, so all he needs is to be healthy. He won’t likely play all 16 games, but if I get 12 out of him, it’ll be a win:

DeSean Jackson

And, yet again, in case my young TE1 falls flat, a backup plan with upside:

Chris Herndon

Here’s the drafted team stacked together:

  1. Kenyan Drake
  2. Chris Godwin
  3. Robert Woods
  4. Kareem Hunt
  5. Tarik Cohen
  6. Tyler Higbee
  7. Daniel Jones
  8. Henry Ruggs
  9. Chase Edmunds
  10. DeSean Jackson
  11. Chris Herndon
Starting lineup:

QB: Daniel Jones

RB: Kenyan Drake, Kareem Hunt

WR: Chris Godwin, Robert Woods, Henry Ruggs

TE: Tyler Higbee

Flex: Tarik Cohen

Quick take: This team is similar to the one above, from the #9 holes, but I definitely like it more. Again, nice balance with no real weaknesses, and plenty of upside. The best way to accomplish this is to wait on QB and TE, clearly.

Team E: Draft position #14

And finally, let’s try this from the end of Round 1. The difference between this team and the one above from the 11 spot, is there IS a good RB available in the second round, so while Tyreek Hill is tempting, I gotta start RB-RB. Let’s start with:

Aaron Jones

And then:

Josh Jacobs

We are in a similar spot in this round, with Kareem Hunt, Cam Akers, and also Mark Ingram as appealing RB options in the third and fourth rounds. First up, though, I will get a WR. We all love Robert Woods this year, but I’ve decided that I’m taking a Ram in Round 4, so I’ll opt for this guy, who I also like a lot:

D.J. Chark

And next, I can’t pass on this guy because I’m already in good shape at RB, so I can be patient with him and if he flops it won’t kill me:

Cam Akers

With RB in good shape, I can actually pass on Tarik Cohen in the fifth, so let’s get a solid WR2. I could go Will Fuller or Diontae Johnson for upside, but this team is packing a lot of punch potentially, so I’ll go with a steadier option:

Jarvis Landry

And now it’s a somewhat tough call in that I could go QB easily, but I usually like waiting a little more. But since this team is pretty loaded with upside, I’ll go with another steady option, who I like more this year than last, and I’ve been right on him three years in a row, and I’m feeling 4-for-4:

Matt Ryan

Next up, it seems the draft flow is telling me to slow my roll and lean on some safer options, so we’ll add this veteran TE who may be TD dependent, but who will undoubtedly play well in this great offense based on his finish last year:

Jared Cook

But now I need to snap right back into upside mode, since this guy is available:

Henry Ruggs

I’ll go back to WR because I haven’t had a chance to draft this guy, and I like him as a value:

Breshad Perriman

Now, I have to use a pick on a handcuff for Aaron Jones, so I’ll go with their 2020 second-round pick because, well, he was a second-round pick (and he’s also a damn good early-down prospect).

A.J. Dillon

And finally, since I am a little thin at RB, I’ll take a shot with this rookie about 165 picks into this one:

Joshua Kelley

(Note: The pickings are slim at TE, but I still have my guy Jace Sternberger to take a flyer on in a couple rounds).

This is how this team looks stacked together:

  1. Aaron Jones
  2. Josh Jacobs
  3. D.J. Chark
  4. Cam Akers
  5. Jarvis Landry
  6. Matt Ryan
  7. Jared Cook
  8. Henry Ruggs
  9. Breshad Perriman
  10. A.J. Dillon
  11. Joshua Kelley
Starting lineup:

QB: Matt Ryan

RB: Aaron Jones, Josh Jacobs

WR: D.J. Chark, Jarvis Landry, Henry Ruggs

TE: Jared Cook

Flex: Cam Akers

Quick take: My depth is shaky, but again: I’m mock drafting a 15-team league using very competitive ADP, so most can do better than this. That said, this is yet another balanced starting lineup that also packs a punch.

Here are these five teams together:

Conclusions:

  1. No surprise, but RBs are even more critical in a larger league, and for obvious reasons. If you go WR-heavy early in a large league, you’re taking even less advantage of the great depth at the position in a 14 or 16-team league. And if you think you can make up for it on the Waiver Wire, well, you would have been wrong last year. Other than Raheem Mostert, who was only good for half the season, the number of good WW RB pickups who were productive for more than half the season was actually 0.0. Maybe more RBs will get hurt this year, but it’s no guarantee.
  2. To the point on the RBs and the WR depth, if you come out of the fifth or even the sixth round with only two WRs, it’s fine, since the depth is so good and since there are scores of sneaky veteran values and young breakout types available later, plus a lot of good late, late dart throws.
  3. And also no surprise, your best chance to form the best starting lineup is to wait on QB and TE. Not that I even attempted to draft a QB early, but there is a fine line between waiting a decent number of rounds and waiting too long. The sweet spot for high-end QBs who are also affordable, even values compared to the top-5-6 guys, is Rounds 6-7. That said, it’s certainly possible to wait longer than Rounds 6-7 and still come out with a good option or at least two very good options, like Jared Goff and Cam Newton. As for TE, I just could not pull the trigger on one of the studs, since they are going off the board between some good RBs, and I like the depth this year. If you wait on QB until the 6-7 round, taking a TE 1-2 rounds later is fine if they stand out as the best player available.
  4. There are a number of players who stand out as being a little more appealing in a 14 or 16-team league, for a variety of reasons, mainly value. Here’s a quick look at some choice examples listed in order of ADP from 1-150:
  • Josh Jacobs (LVR) - Huge role, and you might get him in Round 2.

  • Jonathan Taylor (Ind) - Sure, Mack is a threat, but JT will be a #1 pick next year.

  • Melvin Gordon (Den) - Only non-rookie RB I like in Round 3 other than Taylor.

  • Adam Thielen (Min) - Unquestioned #1 receiver, solid offense.

  • Robert Woods (LAR) - Just sneaky this year in general.

  • D.J. Chark (Jax) - Proven, young, and major go-to guy.

  • Mark Ingram (Bal) - Some risk, but no reason for Bal to replace him; he’s good.

  • Kareem Hunt (Cle) - Little pricey, but also a large role and some upside.

  • Cam Akers (LAR) - Maybe a better value than Taylor, likely 2nd rounder in ‘21.

  • Marquise Brown (Bal) - WR1 upside at Round 5 or 6 cost.

  • Will Fuller (Hou) - At least league-winning upside.

  • Tarik Cohen (Chi) - Sneaky value, offense set to rebound.

  • Jordan Howard (Mia) - Viable if you don’t address RB early, large role.

  • Josh Allen (Buf) - Cheapest of the running QBs, and great supporting cast.

  • Hayden Hurst (Atl) - Potential steal in high-volume offense, see Hooper in ‘19.

  • Darius Slayton (NYG) - Young, ascending, and pretty cheap.

  • Daniel Jones (NYG) - Potential to shock with high production and cheap.

  • Jared Cook (NO) - TD dependent, but cheap and showed a lot last year.

  • Duke Johnson (Hou) - Big upside if DJ falls off a cliff.

  • Henry Ruggs (LVR) - Potential to produce in a good spot right away.

  • Jalen Reagor (PHi) - Rookie challenges baked into ADP, and dynamic.

  • Boston Scott (Phi) - Cheap catches 125+ picks in.

  • Jared Goff (LAR) - Ram offense set to rebound.

  • Noah Fant (Den) - Nice upside in year 2, and very affordable.

  • Breshad Perriman (TB) - Very underpriced and underrated player.

  • Golden Tate (NYG) - Sneaky value, you know he will ball out per usual.

  • Cam Newton (NE) - Easy chance to blow the doors off low ADP.

  • Michael Pittman (Ind) - Should be plug-and-play option, he’s good.

  • DeSean Jackson (Ph) - Will crush ADP if actually healthy.

And finally, here’s my list of players to target, AKA my 14-team specials, for larger leagues.

Note: These players are all sitting with ADPs of 150+ and are listed in order of their ADP.

QBs:

Jimmy Garoppolo, SF

Kirk Cousins, Min

Gardner Minshew, Jax

Sam Darnold, NYJ

Derek Carr, LVR

RBs:

A.J. Dillon, GB

Anthony McFarland, Pit

Joshua Kelley, LAC

Ryquell Armstead, Jax

DeAndre Washington, KC

Giovani Bernard, Cin

Jerrick McKinnon, SF

Malcolm Brown, LAR

Ito Smith, Atl

Gus Edwards, Bal

WRs:

Brandon Aiyuk, SF

N’Keal Harry, NE

Allen Lazard, GB

Curtis Samuel, Car

Parris Campbell, Ind

Randall Cobb, Hou

Dede Westbrook, Jax

Steven Sims, Was

Russell Gage, Atl

Jalen Hurd, SF

Bryan Edwards, LVR

Miles Boykin, Bal

Antonio Gandy-Golden, Was

Trent Taylor, SF

TEs:

Chris Herndon, NYJ

Eric Ebron, Ind

Irv Smith, Min

Jace Sternberger, GB

Dawson Knox, Buf

Devin Asiasi, NE

Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer John Hansen has been an industry leader and pioneer since 1995, when he launched Fantasy Guru. His content has been found over the years on ESPN.com, NFL.com, SiriusXM, DirecTV, Yahoo!, among others outlets. In 2015 he sold Fantasy Guru and in 2020 founded FantasyPoints.com.

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