What is up everybody? It’s EverywhereBlair, coming to you from the UP region — no not the Pixar movie, that area near the talon of Michigan — where I’m currently surrounded by a thousand acres of forest and eagles. I’m taking advantage of a rainy morning to bring you — yes you! — a recap of my DataForce Charity League best ball draft, which will help illustrate draft tactics that will be useful for all of you as we enter the main fantasy football draft season. 

Meet me after the jump and I’ll show you Konami Code I used to help my draft strategy against a draft room filled with touts and, well, me.

The Instruction Guide

The Konami Code was the famous ‘up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start” key sequence that you could enter before a Konami-produced game to give you an edge. You mainly know it from the NES game Contra, which is one of the most difficult video games ever made. The Konami Code — as rumor has it — was a way for developers to give themselves more lives in the game, and thus have an edge in a game that was ridiculously hard. 

Enough about 30-year-old Nintendo games! Why is the recap of the DataForce charity league important? Because that draft room is basically the Tout Wars of fantasy football. The draft features Sean Koerner of The Action Network, Justin Boone of The Score, John Paulsen of 4for4 Football, Rob Waziak of The Fantasy Footballers, Pat Fitzmaurice of The Football Girl (and the top ranker on FantasyPros for like 2 years straight), and I’m kinda droning on here. In short, lil’ ol’ me was invited to play against guys with full-time jobs in fantasy football who have Twitter follower ranges combining over a half-million followers. AND! I won this league last year — take a look at my 2020 recap in How to Win an Industry Fantasy Football League. For my 2020 win, I earned a generous contribution from DataForce to the Alzheimer’s Association; for 2021, I’ve promised to match any charity contribution I earn, meaning I could generate upwards of $1,000 for Alzheimer’s research. How’s that for skin in the game? 

Choose Your Edge

In my above article about winning an industry league, I argue all fantasy football players need a draft strategy, and that they should choose their “edge” to winning. For the Contra developers, their “edge” was the Konami Code. For the DataForce draft, I decided I would use several of the strategies I enumerated in my 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Guide. Here are the strategies I used for the DataForce draft: 

  • Stacking: Stacking is a strategy that puts a quarterback together with their receivers or tight ends. You’ll notice I have an unreasonably large Buffalo Bills stack. 
  • Diversification: I’ve been in many drafts so far this year, and it’s unwise to draft the same players across multiple drafts. To this point, I had drafted zero Bills across my drafts, so I doubled down on my strategies by diversifying into a stack I had yet to draft. 
  • Injuries: I understood that not all of my players would be “peaking” at the same time, and I purposefully drafted some players that needed some healing time before their prime moments would come. 

The Team

OK! Let’s get to the team itself. A quick recap of the rules: a 14-team PPR draft-and-hold best ball league, with kickers and DEF. 1 QB/2RB/3WR/1FLEX/1K/1DEF best ball scoring. I drafted from the 5 spot, sandwiched in-between John Paulsen and Rob Waziak. Here’s the complete draft board for your viewing pleasure, and I’ll list my team below with commentary; 

Draft Pick Player Draft Pick Player
1.05 Alvin Kamara 13.05 Sam Darnold
2.10 A.J. Brown 14.10 Austin Hooper
3.05 Michael Thomas 15.05 Tarik Cohen
4.10 Josh Allen 16.10 Keelan Cole
5.05 Raheem Mostert 17.05 Buffalo Bills DEF
6.10 Curtis Samuel 18.10 Mason Crosby
7.05 James Conner 19.05 Seattle Seahawks
8.10 Robert Tonyan 20.10 Chris Boswell
9.05 Emmanuel Sanders 21.05 Hunter Renfrow
10.10 Devin Singletary 22.10 Jimmy Graham
11.05 Cole Beasley 23.05 Le’Veon Bell
12.10 Ryan Fitzpatrick 24.10 Anthony Miller

Rounds 1-5

In my opinion, rounds 1-5 are your most important rounds in drafting; they’re also really hard to control because you have the opportunity to “go” in so many different directions in the draft. Do you start with a Robust RB build? Do you abandon RB? Do you take a top QB or TE? Do you pick “value” or “reach”? It’s all up to the drafter, and here, I chose what many would call a “Hero RB” build, although to me its a “balanced” draft that represents 2RB/2WR/1QB in the first five rounds. Let’s take a closer look at some of the choices:

Alvin Kamara

  • Kamara’s one of the most explosive backs in the league and he’ll likely outperform his snap count projections this year under a new offense. He’s my top RB for best ball leagues and I was happy to start building around him. 

A.J. Brown

  • I couldn’t believe my luck when Brown fell to pick 24 in a deep industry league; mostly, it stemmed from 16 RBs off the board, and Pat Thorman’s aggressive pick of Calvin Ridley as WR3. DeAndre Hopkins almost arrived at my draft slot, which would have changed my strategy towards a Kyler Murray/Hopkins pair in round 3. As it was, I was gifted A.J. Brown, who is my #3 WR for 2021. I had visions of a pair with Ryan Tannehill, but that would change by round 4. 

Michael Thomas

  • A PPR league, and Michael Thomas goes in the third round? Yes, please! Konami Code activated! I needed some help from my Razzball colleagues to help me over my mental block here. I personally prefer RB-heavy builds, and I dislike “Hero RB” builds. However, the next best RBs on the board were the likes of Mike Davis, Chase Edmonds, and Kareem Hunt. Two of those guys are in timeshares, and Mike Davis had paltry stats as the lead back in Carolina in 2020. After discussing with the Razzbois, I calmed down and realized it was better to take my WR8 and have a build that I was less-familiar with, than to take RB20 who was in a timeshare. Thomas has question marks of course — who will the Saints QB be, and is Thomas healed after an injury-plagued 2020 campaign — but I’m confident enough in his upside (which is 140+ targets) to take him in the third round. 

Josh Allen:

  • Surprise! I rarely take a “top” QB, but I had a clearer vision of my draft at this point. With RBs and receivers leaving the DataForce board like Vikings fans fleeing US Bank Stadium after yet another loss, I saw a huge value in QB. Sean Koerner had taken Patrick Mahomes as QB1 after the 3/4 turn — a fine choice — and I had to choose between my second RB — somebody like Myles Gaskin — or a top QB. Josh Allen is my QB1 this year, and he’s also very likely to blow past his yardage and TD projections. Acquiring an edge means choosing players who are likely to surpass their projections, and I was confident Allen would serve that role in my roster build. 

Raheem Mostert

  • Time to balance! Last year, I won this league with a Robust RB build, taking Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, and David Montgomery in the first 3 rounds. This year, I had Kamara in round 1, but needed an RB2 desperately. Mostert is my RB29 for 2021, but his yards-per-touch projection (6.1) ranks ahead of the RB20-29 tier. Mostert’s concern, of course, is that he gets injured a lot. However, the 49ers will run a ton in 2021, and Mostert is the 1A RB going into the year. I had hoped to pair Mostert with Trey Sermon, but Sermon’s ADP is hyper-inflated this year for such a busy 49ers backfield and lackluster RB profile for Sermon (a 3rd round pick…). 

Rounds 6-10

This is where I balance out my draft and start building my stacks. It’s tough to get excited about some of these players, but in a deep draft, they’ve got starting experience, roles, and upside compared to other players that are in timeshares. 

Curtis Samuel

  • I wrote a Curtis Samuel 2021 Fantasy Football Sleeper article. He’s one of those receivers (and occasionally a rusher) that can slot in anywhere. He rejoins coach Ron Rivera in Washington with noted short-passer Ryan Fitzpatrick, which could produce enormous PPR results when Samuel is in the slot. 

James Conner

  • Arizona is a run-heavy offense and Chase Edmonds is efficient, but Conner is the workhorse. Conner is also familiar with the passing game, so we could see a large uptick in usage. As the RB3 on my team, I was happy taking a chance on Conner. 

Robert Tonyan

  • I knew I asked y’all to take a fine tight end, but the market for TE in this draft was exceptionally expensive. Tonyan has upside to break his projections if Aaron Rodgers stays in Green Bay — and I think he will — and we’ll see Tonyan have a chance at being the de facto 2nd receiver option in GB. If Rodgers leaves, Jordan Love will likely need a short-yardage option, and Tonyan fits that model as well. 

Emmanuel Sanders / Devin Singletary / Cole Beasley

  • The Bills stack + Singletary. Sanders and Beasley are the 1B/1C receivers in Buffalo. Do I dislike Beasley as a human? Yeah. Do I think he stays in Buffalo this year? Yes. The contract and the playing situation are pretty amenable to him staying in Buffalo, and if he gets traded, it will likely be to another team needing a PPR slot option, which gives him a nice floor. I wanted to add Gabriel Davis but he was taken before I had a chance. Devin Singletary is a floor-based RB that provides snap-based productivity in the case that Mostert misses time.

Rest of Draft

I actually won the league last year with only 2 total points from my kicker position all year. Yeesh. Talk about luck. I could have secured my win margin by a much greater volume had I even one kicker with a starting spot. So, in 2021, I grabbed Mason Crosby — who has huge scoring upside in GB — and backed him up with Chris Boswell — another high upside K option. Each kicker has a large dead cap value for 2021, meaning they’re not likely to be cut except in irrational club moves. 

I grabbed Tarik Cohen and Le’Veon Bell late in the draft to give snap upside later in the year. Cohen still needs to rehab his knee, but he’ll return to a RB2 role in Chicago when he’s healthy, and has huge value in PPR formats. Le’Veon Bell is known for waiting for other players to get injured so he can swoop in and grab a contract, and I think that could happen as we get to the pre-season. Bell’s still under 30 and has a Carlos Hyde-style profile — a late-career player that could step in for a team and become a 1,000 yard rusher through pure snap counts. 

I finished the draft with Jimmy Graham and Anthony Miller, two receiving options on the Bears. The Bears will likely transition from Andy Dalton to Justin Fields, meaning their receiving corps will be in flux. Although I like Darnell Mooney, he’s basically the equal of Anthony Miller in terms of targets. If Dalton or Fields don’t like throwing to Mooney, we could see huge numbers from Graham or Miller. Again, these are observations that seek pathways for playing time, rather than relying on projections. To understand best where players are in the pecking order for targets, I recommend looking up each player profile in Razzball Football, where you can see player breakdowns and team breakdowns, which help you understand the pathways players have to reach “starter” status. I chose Anthony Miller over Jeff Wilson — a noted 49ers RB — because Wilson has a much more difficult pathway to usable snaps compared to Miller. Whereas Wilson will need 3 other RBs to fail in order to reach top snap status, Miller needs only one tenuous WR to struggle before he reaches a 15% or greater target share. 

Fantasy Takeaway

The Konami Code for fantasy football is to find your edge that gives you the most potential for upside points. In this draft, I stacked the Buffalo Bills — one of the top offenses in the league — while grabbing upside RBs who will likely play in the second half. I paired Curtis Samuel with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and I got Sam Darnold as a “play from behind, accumulate a ton of yards” third QB backup. I realized my mistakes from last year — going thin on QB, and failing to draft a usable kicker — and remedied them this year. I consulted my colleagues who I trust, and I kept my mind open to the possible pathways for playing time. By doing all of this, I enabled my own Konami Code that will hopefully bring me an edge against some of the toughest competition out there.

What do you think? Drop a note down in the comments and let me know!