Okay, so if you are unfamiliar with Scott Fish Bowl or not up to date on what is going down this year, let me bring you up to speed. It is one mega-league consisting of sixty 12-team leagues... so 720 total teams. Most of them are owned by industry experts, pundits, and writers but there are is a healthy number of selected fans in there too. You can win your league and you can also win the whole thing out of 720. It's kind of crazy.
For scoring, the big change is points for first downs instead of PPR. And bonus points to tight ends. The biggest thing strategically is that it is best ball scoring so the computer will assign your best lineup after the games are played each week and you'll get your maximum score.
For rosters, there are 22 players but no trades and no waivers. So with a fixed roster and best ball scoring, the (held in July) draft is everything.
Each week your top 11 players will score for you. No kickers or defenses. Your top 11 must include one quarterback, one tight end, two running backs, and three wide receivers. That's seven. The last four are flexes. One of those flex spots can be filled with any position, including quarterback ("superflex"). The other three can be any non-quarterback.
My pick in the Rafiki league ("The Brain... has returned." Anyone?) was number eleven. That meant no David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, or Ezekiel Elliot. No Gronk (bonuses to TE's). No Aaron Rodgers since superflex makes quarterbacks so valuable... Pretty much every team will want to start two every week because QB's score the most points. (Even a bad QB will outscore a great RB most of the time.) Anyway, #11 also meant no Shady, Devonta, Melvin, Brady, or Antonio Brown. I'll get back to what I decided, but first...
Let's talk strategy!
QB: I want three of the top 18 quarterbacks. I see Joe Flacco at 18 and he had a million pass attempts last year and they added Jeremy Maclin... after Flacco I just don't trust any of those dudes. If I get three of the top 18 and they all have different bye weeks I'll always have two studs starting at QB and superflex. Plus, you know, injury insurance. This is a massive advantage which is why I listed it first. Lots of guys took two QB's early and a couple of guys, mysteriously, only took two total. Only one other drafter (in Rafiki) had the same strategy here - Derek Yoder from Fantasy Pros (shoutout... give him a follow
TE: I'll talk about this second since the bonus points made this position buzzworthy. I think it was a little too much hype, though. I'm not sure bonus points on first downs will make those TE's in the #13-#24 range that much more valuable (if at all) than WR's in the #37-#48 range or RB's in the #25-#36 range. Incidentally, if you're wondering about those number ranges I'm using them because those are the top 12 'flex-ranked' at each position... With one TE, two RB's, and three WR's as mandatory starts, your top flexes will be in this range. It also shows you how scarce top options at RB and WR will be. Those mandatory starters need attention, as does the one TE here. My strategy is to get a dependable top 10 guy who looks like a reliable safety outlet for 1st downs for a young QB... and then wait until late to scoop some upside guys. I've got a few late picks in mind who give reason for optimism.
WR: I want two studs and then to fill in that third spot and probably one or two flexes with some high quality tertiary options. I was surprised to see so many great WR's fell in the draft so regularly. More on who I picked in a minute. Even with two every week starters I felt like I still wanted to invest in three or four fill-in guys who provided really good upside. Remember, one of these guys must start alongside my two every-weekers and I'm also counting on one or two as flexes. I've got three regular flexes to fill. With my RB strategy (more in a moment) I expect to get one to pop each week and then start two WR's... or maybe a backup TE has a nice week instead. Options.
RB: Okay, well, see... this is sorta where things get a little dicey. With the top six RB's off of the board I felt like I'd be reaching a bit at #11 and #14 if I went with the venerable RB-RB strategy (still my preference in most redraft leagues). I'd be taking Jay Ajayi and Todd Gurley. Or maybe Isaiah Crowell. Point is, I like those guys but I don't love them as my team's foundation. Also, I started thinking... Running backs get injured a lot. Backups are cheap. Also, many teams have a 1st and 2nd down back getting a bulk of the carries and then a 3rd down back catching passes for 1st downs... which means bonus points in SFB7. Also, a lot of those backup RB's are also the regular 3rd down option. Hmm... Maybe I could grab a whole bunch of these guys and let best ball scoring take it from there. I only need two to start each week. Usually those mid-round WR's will outscore mid-round RB's anyway... and with the way WR's are devalued here I should be able to get some I can count on.
Kicker: Haha... just kidding. We don't need no stinkin' kickers.
Putting it all together: Okay, #11 rolls around and I go Julio Jones. Even without Kyle Shanahan calling the offense I still see a guy in his prime with a great quarterback. And I'm not scared of Austin Hooper or Taylor Gabriel snagging too many of his first downs. People seem to be scared of his most recent foot surgery... but it was to remove a bunion. I don't worry about that. Looking at ADP, this was a bit of a reach... so we'll see... but Odell Beckham, Jr. at #14 was a steal. So, I get the #2 and #3 WR's in the whole league. Since I decided to go away from stud RB's and instead take my two WR's (and top two QB's... stay tuned) this was as great outcome. I did think about Drew Brees at #11 and I had hoped for Ajayi at #14... but I'm pretty happy with it. Ya gotta start three WR's each week so this is an exceptional foundation. I expect to go with four or five most of the time.
And yeah, I went QB-QB with the next two. Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers. I am not a Cousins fan but his production has been really good two years in a row and I really like the additions of Perine and Pryor. Rivers... well, who can argue? His track record is exceptional and his weapons are incredible. I also wonder what playing in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium will do for on-field communication, if anything. Can't be a negative. His draft value is suppressed for some reason, but I continue to like him.
I had to address RB at #5.11 and I went with Carlos Hyde. Controversial pick, that. I don't love it myself and hoped to grab Joe Williams later but missed out. At #6.02 I got at TE that fit my strategy perfectly in Delanie Walker. I don't love Walker at age 32, but he fits what I'm doing just right. Good value on both of these guys, too.
At this point I still feel naked at RB, I need my fill-in WR's to go with the big two, and I've got to invest in QB3 real soon. And it's 20 picks until I go again. Tick tock.
Guys I considered start flying off the board... Christian McCaffrey, Paul Perkins, Eric Ebron (already?), Mark Ingram, Doug Martin, Dalvin Cook, Sammy Watkins, C.J. Anderson, Pryor, Spencer Ware... it's a bloodbath.
Pick #11 has one advantage though... you can watch #12's roster and pick your #11 pick accordingly and take an educated risk on who will still be there for the even round #2 pick. So, I got my QB3 here in Flacco. Some might say it's a reach but my strategy was to lock down a top 18 QB as my QB3 and I knew I had to invest. On the comeback I get Ameer Abdullah at #8.02. Ugh. RB is a wasteland... maybe the other teams will stop drafting them?
Hey, maybe! Only three RB's go off in the next 20 picks. Including Derrick Henry and Bilal Powell... I might have drafted them. We also lost out on David Njoku who I was hoping to get later. So, at #9.11 I got Samaje Perine which I see as excellent value for an RB3.
At this point I still need a whole bunch of RB's... but I feel great at QB and at TE plus I've got my ultra-stud WR1 and WR2. Another RB is a good idea but I'm going to start 4-5 WR's most weeks... and they can't slip forever... and I really like Stefon Diggs... and he's great value... and the next best RB is Danny Woodhead or Matt Forte... so, okay... Diggs at #10.02.
Not a whole lot of damage in the next 20 picks... We lose out on Garcon and Kareem Hunt, but overall it's not too bad. With #11.11 and #12.02 I grab Duke Johnson and C.J. Prosise who fit my 3rd down running back + backup starter strategy pretty well. Okay, well, Duke for sure. People hate the Browns but that o-line is amazing. And they'll be facing a ton of 3rd-and-7 type of situations. With Prosise, he does have two guys in front of him but he did pretty well as a rookie and he'll be the 3rd down guy most of the time. Good value here I think... especially at RB4 and RB5. I'm starting to build a stable of guys who could pop any given Sunday. I'm thinking I'll start three each week (well, between the minimum of two and probable max of four). I'm thinking that the flexes will usually be one RB and two WR's with room for upside RB's and TE's.
Okay, 20 more picks... waiting... waiting... John Brown, Joe Williams, Quincy Enunwa... not too bad. Though it does show how thin the talent pool is getting. I seriously considered Brown over Prosise but figured there were a lot of WR's in this tier and Prosise has some upside any given week.
I looked at the #12 roster (Alec Snyder from Fantasy Jocks - @FantasyJocks) and saw that he didn't have any TE's yet. I feel pretty solid with Walker, but I remember from my research in writing the Buffalo Bills preview for the RotoWire magazine that Charles Clay really turned it on late last year and the Bills are very thin at the 'pass-catcher' positions. Look at his game logs... In weeks 15 and 16 combined he had 15 receptions for 157 yards and three scores. Both of those weeks would have made it into my flex spot, so at #13.11 he provides good TE insurance and potential for flex-worthy weeks. I may have sniped Alec here, too... since he went with back-to-back TE's with the next two picks. At #14.02 I took Kenny Britt. He's big, fast, is a #1 WR, and went over 1,000 yards last year in an arguably worse situation. At #14.02? Yes, please. So, I've got my WR4 (finally) and one who sets a pretty solid floor as a probable starter. In the 14th round. Not bad! People really hate the Browns, but do you remember how good Pryor was last year?
I just went two more rounds without adding to my group of RB's though.... which isn't great. I thought the pick of Clay was justified and Britt as my WR4 in the 14th is fantastic. If I'm going to count on my WR depth I can't wait forever... but what havoc will happen at RB over the next 20 picks? Jonathan Williams, Thomas Rawls, Marlon Mack... some good ones went down. I wanted Mack.
I settled for DeAndre Washington at #15.11. He fits my strategy pretty well, especially if he can out-snap Jalen Richard this year. Oakland has an amazing o-line so this is a nice get for RB6. He could pop a flex-worthy week at any time. At #16.02 I get Zay Jones. Okay, so back to that thin Buffalo receiving corps... Jones is just a rookie but he led the NCAA in receptions last year and he's really just battling injury-prone Sammy Watkins for targets. And, say what you want about Tyrod Taylor, but he's at least competent and he's behind a solid o-line. I'm willing to bet he looks Jones' way quite often this year. Not a bad WR5, especially in the 16th round.
My next two picks were risk/reward plays in Giovanni Bernard and Allen Hurns. Gio has to get healthy but he has obvious upside. Hurns needs to bounce back from a down year but he was really good in 2015. Upside. The big thing here is that I can see either one of them getting a flex start for me at some point. I would actually prefer to see Gio start the season on the PUP, come back fully healthy, and perform like Gio in the second half.
At #19.11 and #20.02 I took TE3 and TE4, both with some upside. Jermaine Gresham and Vance McDonald. And, really, with all of the emphasis on TE's I'm pretty surprised to see them still around this late. Both got sizable contracts in the off-season (especially Gresham) and both have undeniable talent. Gresham, like Clay, was really good down the stretch last year and is still reasonably young. The Cards don't like throwing to the TE, but they changed course a bit late last year, paid big to keep him around, and it is possible that Carson Palmer will regularly look to him at the 1st down marker. It is rumored that McDonald might not make the final 53, but with his contract I don't buy it. In real-life football, he's actually one of Brian Hoyer's best options. Certainly he is a big target for first downs, even if they will be scarce for the Niners.
With my last two picks I wanted RB's that have some sort of story that could put them in a position to get touches. Orleans Darkwa is behind Paul Perkins plus rookie Wayne Gallman, but he's been running with the 1's in OTA's. The coach has had nice things to say. So, I think he's worth a flier in round 21. Andre Ellington in round 22 is interesting too... He's largely failed as an RB so far in his career and they tried moving him to WR, but they ended that experiment and Ellington is still listed at #2 on the depth chart behind David Johnson. Does he get the #1 job in the event of an injury? Will he see action on 3rd downs? It's a good gamble in the final round. The bottom line with these late-late-round guys is that I can see a situation where they have a flex-worthy week for me.
Post-mortem: Okay, the RB's are scary... but I did what I had to do. I couldn't grab a super-stud so I took nine guys who all have a chance to pop at any time. My favorites are Perine and Duke Johnson... though I did start with a couple of interesting picks in Hyde and Abdullah. This is unquestionably my Achilles heel, but I did grab nine guys so maybe in a best ball format the bulk of options will make up for the lack of quality on top. I only require two per week. I'm set at quarterback, including bye weeks and the occasional down week by any of the three. Cousins is a top fantasy QB, but if (when) he has one of those 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT types of games the computer will just best-ball-plug-in both Rivers and Flacco at QB and superflex. This is a huge advantage. At WR I'll start Julio and ODB every week and then one of Diggs, Britt, Jones, or Hurns. Should be okay. At TE I'm set with Walker but in case of a down week I get Clay or Gresham who both showed signs of studliness last season. For my three non-super-flexes it's likely to be some combination of Britt, Jones, Perine, and Duke Johnson with the occasional pop from Prosise, Washington, Hurns, Clay, or Gresham. I have a bulk of guys with defensible narratives that show a path to flex-worthiness. I avoided handcuffs and guys with difficult paths to playing time, especially rookies or big injury risks (with the exception of a super late gamble on Gio). I feel like this is a flexible lineup that can weather injury storms and has enough upside depth to keep me chugging along through 16 weeks.
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