• Sat. May 27th, 2023

Polly’s Playoff Draft Thoughts

Polly's Playoff Draft Thoughts

By Steve Uetz and Zach Owen

Polly’s Playoff is a charity fantasy football tournament that was setup for the purposes of raising money for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Polly’s Playoff was created from the very personal experience of one of the most friendly and reputable voices in the fantasy football community, Shane Barrett. 

It’s a 12-team, redraft, Superflex (SF) league with 3 WRs and 3 normal Flexes (RB/WR/TE). It features a 20-round snake draft with a slow timer. There is a unique scoring system included which is commonly referred to as tiered PPR. A catch of 0-4 yards is 0.5 points, 5-9 yards is 0.75 points, 10-19 yards is 1.0 point, 20-29 yards is 1.25 points, 30-39 yards is 1.50 points, and a 40+ yard catch is 1.75 points! Finally trading was allowed during this draft. 

Now with that out of the way, let’s look at our two drafts and how they shook out. Steve drafted at the 7 spot and Zach at the 3 which led to some very different teams. Both of Steve’s picks were in the middle of each draft round (7th in odd rounds and 6th in even rounds). Zach on the other hand had his two picks very near each other (3rd in odd rounds and 10th in even rounds) though trading gave him some more flexibility. Even if we had the same strategy going in, the difference in pick spots alone would lead to very different teams.

Steve’s Draft (7th spot)

Since this is a tournament that contains a Super-Flex spot, my immediate priority became QB. In a Super-Flex league, my primary objective is securing a top 6 QB. Sitting at #7 overall, I was starting to worry about that possibility. However, from the 1st pick to the 6th pick only 2 QBs were taken. At #7 overall, I selected QB Kyler Murray! I typically would have taken Dak Prescott as the 3rd QB overall, but this draft began around the time that Prescott was in the early stages of getting his shoulder examined with a looming MRI. I have Dak and Murray ranked back-to-back, so I hedged on what felt like the safer choice at that time. 

Using the slow draft element with using the news item of the day played a key part of how I navigated my draft, often to my advantage.  I got my elite QB in round 1; round 2 I was looking for the best overall player but had my sights set on a running back. At 2.6 I selected Jonathon Taylor as the 8th RB off of the board. Since the PPR element heavily favors pass catchers, I need to make WR a priority for round 3. I felt fortunate to land Calvin Ridley at 3.7, as the 7th WR off the board. 

At this point, I’m feeling good with a stud QB, RB, and WR; now I want to aim for the best possible value that the draft leaves for me. I still have a priority on QB since it is a Super-Flex draft as well as RB because of the scarcity of the position. In round 4 at 4.6, I selected RB David Montgomery who became extra interesting to me as I learned of teammate Tarik Cohen beginning the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. David Montgomery would be my last RB selected until the 11th round; more on that later. 

From the time of my 4th round pick to my 5th round pick, we learned that the Ravens’ 1st round WR Rashod Bateman was going to have surgery to core injury he sustained in training camp. This felt like the perfect opportunity to draft Ravens’ TE Mark Andrews as the 6th TE off of the board! I followed that selection with back-to-back WRs in Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr!

In round 8, I selected Tua Tagovailoa to be my QB2 as the 22 QB off the board! At this point my primary starters (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE) and Super-Flex spots have been filled. I kept my eyes to the best available players to fill my flex spots. With my next two consecutive picks I took two players who I believe can make the most of the tiered PPR scoring setting with bonuses for big plays. At 9.7 I selected TE Noah Fant and at 10.6 I selected WR Mike Williams. Mike Williams becomes my WR4 and Noah Fant becomes my TE2 which was a real luxury pick as my TE7 in my personal rankings. I found myself on the wrong side of a WR run which immediately made Noah Fant even more appealing in that moment. Mike Williams makes for a strong WR4 in a league that favors big yardage plays!

The next 6 rounds I wanted to prioritize the RB and QB positions so I could load up before positional cliffs approached. I selected RB in rounds 11 and 12, QB in 13, RB again in 14 and 15, and then QB again in round 16. The players selected were RB Gus Edwards, RB Tony Pollard, QB Cam Newton, RB Chuba Hubbard, RB J.D. McKissic, and QB Teddy Bridgewater. 

I prioritized Gus Edwards since he has weekly FLEX appeal as a part of the impressive Baltimore running game! This selection became a kind of lottery ticket with the unfortunate news of starting Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins being injured for the season in the final pre-season game. Tony Pollard and Chuba Hubbard were priorities for as I consider them as two of the most valuable handcuffs in the game. WFT RB McKissic has a unique pass-catching role which gives some FLEX appeal with the tiered PPR scoring format! 

I was ecstatic to draft Cam Newton as my QB3 since he has the unique fantasy upside with his rushing ability. QB Teddy Bridgewater also became a kind of lottery ticket as he was named the starter in Denver a couple days after I made the selection. Bridgewater was immediately sent to the trade block after the draft was completed! 

For the final 4 rounds I aimed for as much upside as possible. In the 17th round I selected Saints WR Tre’Quan Smith who has an opportunity for early season success as star WR Michael Thomas will have an extended absence due to an ankle surgery. I went back to TE in round 18 with Hayden Hurst. There is reason to believe that rookie TE Kyle Pitts will be used as a wide receiver; if this is true then Hurst will be on the field a lot as a TE in an offense that has potential to lead the league in passing attempts! 

In the 19th and 20th rounds, I went back to the RB well aiming for lottery tickets. I completed my draft selecting RB Devontae Booker and Qadree Ollison. Stud RB Saquon Barkley may have a slow start to the season which could pave the way for opportunities for Booker. The choice to select Ollison became clear with the news of rookie Javian Hawkins being cut from the team. The news broke during the final round of the draft with only one pick to go before I was up. I fortunately avoided the snipe pick and ended my draft with an intriguing dart throw in Ollison.

I ended up with 4 QBs, 8 RBs, 5 WRs, and 3 TEs on my squad, a squad I ended up being very pleased with. It is always fun to win and be competitive, but for the purposes of this tournament the focus is on something much larger than winning. It was extremely fun to participate but was truly an immense honor to help a fellow fantasy football analyst raise money for a noteworthy cause!

Zach’s Draft (3rd spot)

Overall I think my draft went alright. It was my first time trying Zero-RB though that wasn’t the plan going in. The draft just happened to fall that way and I figured no better time to try than during a charity league.

I started at 1.03. Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook went first so that made my first pick pretty easy. In a SF league it’s important to have solid QBs so with the consensus #1 QB overall still on the board, I was able to roster Patrick Mahomes for the first time since I started playing Fantasy. Off to a pretty good start but now I get to watch 17 players get added before getting back to me.

7 QBs, 11 RBs, Travis Kelce, and 2 WRs were off the board by 2.10. I didn't love any of the RBs at that spot which started my decline into a Zero-RB strategy. I picked Stefon Diggs at 2.10 then Darren Waller at 3.03. Grabbing Waller here put me in a strong position since there is a definite drop-off after the big-3 TEs. I really liked my picks at this point but I was committed to Zero-RB which, as I mentioned, is new to me. Again, I didn’t have any plans to go this way and generally prefer getting strong RBs to start. Since I took Mahomes first and 13 RBs were off the board by my second pick, I was kind of stuck but I went for it.

I had one more opportunity to pivot my Zero-RB strategy if David Montgomery fell to me at 4.10. I’m a big fan of his but unfortunately he went at 4.09. So I dug in and went with Mike Evans and Amari Cooper with my 4.10 and 5.03. At 6.10 there were plenty of good WRs left so I traded back to the 7.05 and picked up an extra 10th round pick and grabbed Thielen at the 7.03. 

Now with Mahomes leading my roster, I was willing to gamble with my other QBs. I want guys that have a high ceiling, even if they have low floors (or might not even start the whole season). So at 7.05 I addressed the QB spot again with Justin Fields who is my favorite of the rookie QBs. Once he starts, I expect him to put up a ton of points. He might not start until mid-season, but I was planning on grabbing a stop gap later. I was aiming for guys like Derek Carr that aren’t exciting but will put up points until I can start Fields. You’ll see that didn’t happen but that was the plan at least.

I then used my 8.10 and extra 10th to move up and grab James Robinson as my 1st RB at the 7.10. I originally thought I might regret that move but I was a Robinson believer and I was getting worried about doing a Zero-RB strategy. Unfortunately Travis Etienne is out for the season with an injury but that makes this pick look a lot better. Robinson was the RB7 last season but I’m not banking on him to get back there with a completely revamped offense. Still, the ceiling is there which is pretty nice for a round 7 pick. 

So the final result of the two trades were my 6.10 and 8.10 for 7.05 (Fields) and 7.10 (Robinson). Pretty standard trade to move back which was the goal. I still got one of the guys I wanted at the 7.05 but was able to move my 8th round pick up a full round to fill a need. My last trade of the draft was to move my 9.03 back to the 10.02 and pick up the 12.02. Again, we were in a situation where I liked a lot of players at 9.03 and figured I wouldn’t miss out on much by moving back. 

At 10.02 I picked Will Fuller who could be the WR1 for the Dolphins. He’s lost value because of injury and suspension concerns, but this is the rounds where you start taking dart throw picks. High ceiling, low floor is the game plan for most of the rest of my picks. At 10.06 I take Mike Williams who is another player that has dropped because of injury. He’s not going to be the WR1 for the Chargers but he should still be a solid player this year. I also believe he has a chance to break-out this year in what I expect to be a very good offense.

At 11.03 I took Jameis Winston as my QB3. I'm swinging for the fences here with Winston and Fields as my backup QBs but I like both of them. Winston has been named the starter for the Saints (long after I made this pick), which I did expect going into my drafts this off-season. Winston was a QB1 the last time he started and I believe he has gotten more consistent being able to learn under Drew Brees and Sean Payton. He has a ceiling of QB1 numbers again but even QB2 numbers would be a steal in the 11th round.

Now we're all rounding out our teams which means I'm finally grabbing the RBs I like from what's left. 12.02 Devin Singletary, 12.10 Nyheim Hines, and 13.03 JD McKissic. Hines and McKissic are standard Zero-RB targets for their high receiving usage. Singletary is an interesting RB but he’s looked good this off season and there have been some injury concerns with the other Bills RBs. I don’t expect him to put up star-RB numbers but he should do well as my RB2 as the 12th round pick. So I'm rolling with these 3 and Robinson as my RBs which isn't the best feeling but I'm stacked everywhere else I think. Despite being a Zero-RB team, I have four potential starters at this point which I can swap in and out depending on the match-ups. Some weeks I’ll choose wrong and some weeks I’ll choose right but that’s Fantasy.

My final picks are:

- Parris Campbell (Big fan for how cheap he is. Another super late round guy that could be the WR1 for the team.)

- Sterling Shepard (solid deep round WR/Flex)

- Zach Ertz (Finally grabbed my 2nd TE. I was fine punting this far with Waller already on my team and I generally don’t like starting multiple TEs. Ertz is going to be my bye week fill in but he is also a sleeper this year in my opinion.)

- Andy Dalton (good safety pick to make sure I have the CHI QB)

- Salvon Ahmed

- Dawson Knox

- Qadree Ollison

So as I’ve mentioned, I’m  not a huge fan of Zero-RB and I am not sure how well I'll do this year. I might have been able to do better with more experience with Zero-RB BUT, I don't regret my draft. I took what came to me which just so happened to be a Zero-RB strategy. If a RB I liked fell to me in the 2nd round (or Montgomery in the 4th) I would have definitely preferred to go that route. I also plan on eventually trading some of my depth for starting RBs if they pan out like I expect them to. In a perfect world, both Fields and Winston will score a ton of points so I can trade them straight-up for a mid to low end RB1 like Austin Ekeler or Aaron Jones but we’ll just have to see how the season goes.

Regardless, I don’t think I have a bad team and I’m glad I got the opportunity to try this. I’m always willing to learn things and now I feel better about doing it again in the future. Morale of the story: be flexible and be willing to try new strategies.