How to Moneyball Your 2018 Fantasy Football Team

I’m not a big baseball fan, but I enjoyed the Moneyball film when I saw it in 2011.

When I was in a used book store in North Carolina about a month ago, I saw the hardcover for $5.

I bought it and finished it in three days.

If you don’t know, the premise is that you can find players who are overlooked who can get you to where you need to be.

You might not find a player who produces like Antonio Brown in Round 8, but you could find one who has the ability to finish as a top-five receiver. You may not find the next Todd Gurley in Round 9, but you could find a starting running back who provides consistent production each week for your flex spot.

I found a group of wide receivers and running backs I like who are all being overlooked for two main reasons.

The first is they could have had a poor 2017 campaign.

The second is there is a lot of competition at their position. They may not be the favorite to start.

Those fears could be warranted.

But if these players exceed expectations, you could have a well-built team that helps you fight for a 2018 Fantasy Football championship.

Let’s start with Round 7 for the players I like in building a “Moneyball” team.

Round 7 Players to Draft

Not knowing your draft position or how your draft unfolds, I can’t tell you whether it would be better to draft a receiver or a running back at this spot.

But I do like two players being added in this round.

The first is running back Kerryon Johnson.

He was selected in Round 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played his college ball at Auburn, and he rushed for 1,320 yards in 2017. He also scored 17 rushing touchdowns and recorded a yard per carry (YPC) average of 5.0.

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He was serviceable as a receiver, posting a 23-188-2 stat line last year.

Even though the backfield in Detroit is crowded with LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and Ameer Abdullah in the mix, the Lions traded up to draft Johnson for a reason.

Abdullah hasn’t worked out like the Lions had hoped, so they patched together a plan with Blount serving as a workhorse goal-line back, and Riddick as a pass-catching specialist.

But if Johnson can fill both roles, he’s going to get more playing time.

The Lions finished 32nd in rushing yards per game last season, so they are desperate to have a playmaker out on the field.

Again, it’s going to be up to the 20-year old rookie to prove he deserves the work, but the opportunity is there for him to make an immediate impact.

At receiver, I like Corey Davis at this spot.

Davis was a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was only able to appear in 11 games for the Tennessee Titans.

He flashed his potential a few times last year, hauling in six passes for 69 yards in Week 1. He also caught six passes for 91 yards in Week 16.

Now, the biggest reason I think Davis is undervalued is this offense is lacking a top-tier receiver for Marcus Mariota.

Rishard Matthews, a receiver who never caught more than 43 passes before 2015, posted a 65-945-9 stat line with Tennessee in 2016.

Davis can fill that role, especially since Matthews is a free agent in 2019. They know what they have in him, but they need to see what they really have in their first-round pick from 2017.

If Matthews is mostly phased out and Mariota stays healthy, I would expect a floor of 850 yards and five touchdowns for Davis. I would place a bet on his ceiling at 1,150 yards and eight touchdowns.

A.J. Green finished 10th in scoring in PPR leagues last year with 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns, but you had to draft him in Round 1.

You could potentially get the same type of production from a seventh-round pick.

Round 8 Players to Draft

DeVante Parker has dealt with injuries and inconsistent quarterback play since entering the league in 2015.

When he was a rookie, Ryan Tannehill’s pass completion percentage took a dive from 67% in 2014, to 62% in 2015.

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Tannehill looked better in 2016, but he only appeared in 13 games.

Then in 2017, he missed the entire season.

For Parker, he’s never appeared in a 16-game season.

Could this be the year everything comes together?

It’s still hard to buy into the Miami offense, but Parker could be a steal if everything goes right for the Dolphins.

He and Tannehill need to stay healthy, but we have an idea of the type of big Fantasy performances he can have.

In 2015, he averaged 19 yards per catch (YPC). That means in PPR leagues, he was averaging almost three points each time he touched the ball.

He averaged 4.3 catches per game in 2017, so if he can bring back that 19 YPC average, you’d be looking at around 12 points per game just from Parker catching the ball.

That doesn’t include touchdowns.

Round 9 Players to Draft

I’m going to try and make sure Allen Hurns is on as many of my teams as possible.

It makes no sense that the top receiver on a team is being drafted in Round 9.

Yes, I know injuries have derailed his successful 2015 campaign, where he posted a 64-1,031-10 stat line.

Yes, I also know Dak Prescott is a mobile quarterback who finished 16th in passing attempts last season.

But Prescott still has to throw the ball to someone.

Even though he didn’t seem to have a rapport with Dez Bryant, Prescott still helped Bryant record 838 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions last season.

And keep in mind that Prescott’s safety blanket, Jason Witten, is gone this year.

Now, I am still worried about Prescott limiting his production. There were eight games last season where the 24-year old quarterback threw for 183 or fewer yards.

But this could be an opportunity to fill your flex spot (s) with a player you draft in Round 9.

In this round, I also like D’Onta Foreman.

Foreman is a big back (235 pounds) who was drafted in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.

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And even though he isn’t known for his pass-catching abilities, I would still rather draft him over having to pick Lamar Miller in Round 4.

When he played in Miami, the Dolphins always seemed to hold him back.

A lot of people questioned if he was too fragile, and we may have found out the answer in 2017.

In 2015 in Miami, Miller only recorded 194 carries. However, he was able to play in a 16-game season and finished with a 4.5 YPC average.

With 268 carries in 2016, Miller was only able to appear in 14 games and recorded a 4.0 YPC average.

That dipped to 3.7 in 2017 on 238 carries.

Foreman is still dealing with a ruptured Achilles, and he may not be able to play in Week 1.

But because you can draft him so late, it’s not like you are planning on locking him in as a starter. He’s an insurance policy if Miller gets hurt or underperforms.

The Texans’ backfield is lacking depth, so Foreman is a frontrunner at handling the majority of work if Miller goes down.

Even if he doesn’t, he could steal the job away from Miller.

For Rounds 10-14, most of the players I like are running backs.

Players to Draft Rounds 10-14

In Round 10, you can draft Ty Montgomery. He only appeared in eight games last year, but he did score a total of four touchdowns. With Jordy Nelson gone, Aaron Rodgers may latch on to him as one of his new favorite targets.

Because of his skill set, he could be a player who finishes with 1,000-total yards in 2018.

In Round 11, I would consider targeting Jamison Crowder or Doug Martin.

Crowder was dealing with lingering hamstring issues in 2017, but he still didn’t have that bad of a year with a 66-789-3 stat line.

He reportedly has chemistry with his new quarterback, Alex Smith, and he could be in for a big year.

Marshawn Lynch is one of my favorite players, but I’d still consider drafting Martin in 2018.

He only appeared in 20 games in the last two seasons, but when he played in a 16-game season in 2015, he rushed for 1,402 yards.

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Lynch and Martin might start off the year in a committee, but one of them could emerge as the starter.

You could draft Lynch in Round 5 and hope he wins, or you could save yourself some picks and grab Martin in Round 11.

In Round 12, take a look at Nyheim Hines, the rookie running back for the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts still don’t have their rushing attack figured out, which gives a player like Hines the chance to earn a significant role.

He’s very athletic, as he was used in the rushing attack, as a receiver, and on special teams in college. The rookie has reportedly lined up at multiple positions at minicamp, which is a good sign that the Colts plan to get him involved in the offense this year.

In Round 13, two players I’m watching are Kenneth Dixon and Giovani Bernard.

Alex Collins is being drafted in Round 4, but that’s risky, considering the Baltimore Ravens could use a committee approach.

Before missing last year with a torn meniscus, Dixon rushed for 382 yards in 12 games in 2016. He also caught 30 passes for 162 yards.

It’s hard to tell what kind of role Bernard will have with Joe Mixon’s workload expected to expand.

But he still totaled 847 yards last season, and if Mixon gets hurt or falters, Bernard is the primary backup.

Finally, in Round 14, I’m targeting Peyton Barber.

Rookie Ronald Jones is expected to start, but like most backs in committees, I don’t want to spend a pick before Round 6 to find out if he does.

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I’d rather draft Barber in Round 14, who has said his goal is to rush for 1,000 yards this year.

It might not happen, but I’m glad he set a target instead of just saying that he wants to “be better.”

Barber is also the biggest back on the team, and he did lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in red-zone touches in 2017.

We know that he at least should have a role in the red zone in 2018.

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