2019 FFPC Pros vs. Joes Draft: Fantasy Football Drafting With Sharks
This year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the 2019 FFPC (Fantasy Football Players Championship) Pros vs Joes draft. This really unique format offers a first place prize of a free entry into the 2020 FFPC Main Event! From the2019 FFPC website: “FFPC Pros vs. Joes has become a true showcase event and that will continue again this year. The FFPC will once again give away 6 entries into the 2020 FFPC Main Event to each Pros vs Joes division winner, each valued at $1,850 per team for a total value of over $11,000! The 2019 challenge will be limited to 6leagues, a total of 36 Joes and 36 Pros.” Getting invited into this prestigious competition was very exciting and I think that my draft went fairly well. It is a unique opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best high stakes fantasy football players and win entrance into the biggest prize in high stakes drafting.
The scoring and roster construction for the leagues is fairly interesting. The scoring is done via Best Ball (meaning no weekly management/trades/waivers/ect) and there are 28 roster spots. Starting rosters are 1 QB/2 RB/2 WR/1 TE/2 Flex/1 PK/1 DST. The scoring is PPR with a tight end premium, meaning tight ends get 1.5 points per reception. Going into the draft, my plan was to secure at least three tight ends, three defenses and to play it by ear with quarterback and kicker. Having multiple defenses in this format is a rather large edge as DST scoring is very subject to variance and running into a DST touchdown or a shut out can swing a week. I also believe this format (where the only that matters is first place) is very conducive to Zero-RB Drafting.
QB: Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota
RB: Marlon Mack, Darrell Henderson, Jaylen Samuels, Chase Edmonds, Justice Hill, Benny Snell, Alexander Mattison, Mike Weber
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Mike Williams, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Josh Gordon, Trey Quinn, Chris Conley
TE: Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Benjamin Watson, Blake Jarwin
PK: Harrison Butker, Zane Gonzalez
DST: Philadelphia Eagles DST, New York Jets DST, Carolina Panthers DST
2019 FFPC Pros Vs Joes Draft Thoughts:
Overall, I felt very good about how this draft went. I was able to get three quarterbacks with rushing upside which is the most important ingredient when selecting quarterbacks in best ball. Chances are, you are probably going to get a 15-point performance from whatever randomized quarterback group you draft in a best ball format but finding spiked weeks is the specialty of running quarterbacks. Kyler and Lamar might not finish the year as two of the five best quarterbacks in fantasy football (though our projections have Kyler as a decent favorite to get there) but the combination of two high-end running quarterbacks has the ability to be possibly the best QB duo outside of something like Patrick Mahomes/DeShaun Watson.
The wide receiver group is predictably where my team is the strongest relative to my peers in this draft. While other teams were hammering running backs or taking tight ends, I was hammering wide receiver. Our Ultimate Guide To Zero RB Drafting prescribes this strategy as very ideal for top-heavy leagues. Whereas other teams in this league look a little stronger on paper, my roster stands to benefit from injuries and attrition throughout the course of the season. Starting Juju Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham back to back to start a draft where all of the equity is to first is about as good as it gets. We have Odell projected for the best touchdown rate of any player with 100 or more targets and we have Smith-Schuster projected for the fifth-most targets in football. They are joined by long-time stud Brandin Cooks (who offers great spiked-week potential in the fantasy football playoffs), breakout candidate Mike Williams and Aaron Rodgers’ likely #2 wide receiver, Marquez-Valdez Scantling. If I had simply not taken another wide receiver after these five guys, I probably would have been happy with them as a unit. Getting five players that you like more than the market at a position always feels good.
With those five guys on my roster, taking risks became a little easier. I secured Josh Gordon, who really deserves a longer strategy piece, much later in the draft. With all of the value in this league tied to winning it, taking a player like Gordon with league-winning upside and a floor of zero points made more sense than a Danny Amendola/Albert Wilson style player who was unlikely to contribute any starting weeks with my whole roster healthy. The Patriots don’t have a great idea on Gordon’s status but if he returns this year at all, I’ll be glad to have him. In fantasy football leagues with extremely top-heavy payouts, one of my biggest suggestions to RX readers is to try and get Gordon on your team.
You’re wondering when I am going to get to my running back situation, I know you are. First off, I was not super pleased with Marlon Mack as my RB1. I wanted Josh Jacobs, who went off the board right before I took Mack. My full commitment to Zero-RB drafting waivered because I wasn’t prepared to take Lamar Miller or Latavius Murray as my first running back against these super-sharp league mates. Mack is a fine player and could be a value at his ADP but I don’t want to come off like I loved that pick. Jacobs would have been a better option. My strategy with the rest of the group should be obvious (and repeatable for readers playing in a similar format). Darrell Henderson, Jaylen Samuels, and Justice Hill have some stand-alone value with their corresponding starter healthy but offer RB1 upside when/if the starting RB in their offense gets hurt. I’ve already told you that Justice Hill is a league-winning fantasy football player but the same would go for Henderson/Edmonds/Mattison/Samuels if things break their way. The season is likely going to start in a rough way for me at the running back position because that is just the way Zero RB drafting goes. My team is going to look worse on paper than teams that did a balanced draft with even distributions between WR and RB but the historical math would show that those balanced rosters decay at a rapid rate across the course of the season and the Zero RB teams improve.
If there is one pick I could take from this lot and re-do, it would be my selection of Jaylen Samuels at 8.02. That just is not a good pick. Given the fact that this is tight end premium, Austin Hooper would have been the correct selection after I had taken Kyler Murray at 7.11. Hooper is an elite offense and fulfills a position of need. While I like having Samuels on my roster and think he will contribute scores that I need this year, Hooper would have objectively been the better selection. The tight end crew I do have is amongst the worst in this league but after missing out on Kelce/Ertz/Kittle, our projections do not place a huge value on the mid-tier tight ends relative to the guys I did get. Kyle Rudolph has had 81 and 82 targets each of the last two seasons and will probably get that again in 2019; he’s fine, but not good or exciting. The guy who could actually make a difference for me is Tyler Eifert. Eifert averages 8.3 yards per target for his career and scored 13 touchdowns in his last healthy season…which was in 2015. Ben Watson and Blake Jarwin are nothing but dart throws that I expect will, at minimum, actually be on the field for their NFL teams.
DST and PK are highly variant positions and probably won’t play into who wins or loses the league unless a good/great team loses a kicker and gets down to only have one (or zero). I took two kickers from offenses that I have projected to score a lot of points (Kansas City and Arizona) and opted for a fourth tight end over a third kicker, given how weak my core of tight ends was. DST and PK do add a little extra element of strategy but obviously, a mistake that people make is taking a “good” defense too early. Defensive fantasy points are extremely non-sticky year over year and all I wanted to accomplish was to have three defenses who could randomly provide good DST scores in a random distribution.
While this was not a #PerfectDraft, I do feel really well about how it turned out. Accessing ceiling at quarterback is pretty important in top-heavy best ball leagues and I was able to accomplish that while having a stable of stud, high-ceiling wide receivers. My running back situation could be defined as dicey but I like the situations that I am invested in as well as the math behind the Zero RB-Drafting strategy. Let us pray that Tyler Eifert stays healthy for my chances at taking down this 2019 FFPC Pros Vs Joes competition!
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