Drafting A Big-Play Fantasy Team

by Mitchell Blatt
2023 Dynasty Football Week 6 Buy Low-Sell High

I have entered all kinds of leagues this season. Some have traditional rules. Some have crazy rules. One of my leagues is a QB-only league with three starters. Another league rewards points for negative performances. I love drafting, and I like trying new things, so I gave my best shot at Drafting A Big-Play Fantasy Team.

I will focus on a more conventional but still fun format for this article: big play formats. Deep in the scoring settings in Sleeper, fantasy football commissioners can design a system that awards bonus points for deep touchdowns, long field goals, and multi-sack performances.

Drafting A Big-Play Fantasy Team

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The Big Play Bonus League is a 16-team league that starts a single QB, two RBs, three WRs, one TE, two flexes, a kicker, two defensive linemen, two linebackers, and two defensive backs.

The scoring system is extremely tilted in favor of big plays. I decreased the value of yardage and increased the value of bonuses to +5 for 40-yard passes and catches, +10 for 40-yard rushes, and a +5 and +10 additional bonus for 40- and 50-yard passing and receiving touchdowns (in addition to the six points). The bonuses stack on top of each other for huge totals.

The league starts a kicker, too, only because long-range game-winning field goals are so exciting. Ordinary field goals are valued at three points each, but 40-yarders are ten points, and 50-yarders score 15.

IDP scoring heavily values sacks (+12 and 0.2 per yard lost), interceptions (+16 and 0.2 per yard on the return), blocked kicks (+10), forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries (+6 and 0.2 per yard), and it devalues tackles (+0.5). But players who make ten or more tackles in a game get a +6 bonus, so there is still a place for Foyesade Oluokun.

The league also awards big games in addition to big plays. Bonuses for 100-yard games and 300-yard passing games start at +5 and go up to +12 for 400-yard passing games.

The Strategy and Targets

I looked at the leaders in big plays of 40+ yards to get ideas of who to target. Amongst the leading rushers were Travis Etienne, Derrick Henry, and Justin Fields, with four each. Falcons RB Tyler Allgeier had three, and incoming rookie Bijan Robinson is much more talented, so I made a note to target Bijan.

For wide receivers, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams caught seven passes over 40 yards, and Justin Jefferson, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Evans, Terry McLaurin, and Stefon Diggs each caught six.

For quarterbacks, the top couple of 2022 leaders were approximately equal. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen were one and two in scoring when applying Big Play Bonus rules to last season's stats. Joe Burrow leapfrogged Jalen Hurts for QB3.

The biggest difference with QBs in a big play league is that Tua Tagovailoa jumps. In the scoring rules here, Tua ranked as the QB6 last season, compared to the QB15 rank he had in ordinary leagues. Having two of the fastest wide receivers with six or more 40-yard catches really helps.

As for IDP, I was targeting pass rushers who make a lot of sacks and defensive backs with good hands. I didn't eschew off-ball linebackers who can make ten tackles almost every game, thus earning their bonuses.

The Draft

I was drafting from the 1.13 of the 16 teams. The draft had a third-round reversal, meaning the teams that drafted late in the first round also drafted early in both the second and the third rounds. (In larger leagues, the difference between picking first and last is exacerbated.)

I went into the draft with some target players in mind, but I did not have a preplanned strategy relating to positions. I drafted a team led by superhero running backs based on how the first couple of rounds played out, and that informed the rest of my draft.

Round 1: Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

When Falcons coach Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans for two years, Derrick Henry led the league in rushing yards each year (a feat he hasn't repeated since). Is Robinson as good as Henry? Maybe not, but he's much closer to Henry than Tyler Allgeier.

Round 2: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Speaking of Henry, he's still good without Arthur Smith. Everyone is waiting for him to fall off, but he's still a full year away from thirty, and he gained 1,538 yards last season on 349 carries. He uses his stiff arm to turn ten-yard gains into gains of twenty or more.

Henry's yards-per-carry figure declined from 2020, but in Smith's offense that year, it was an inflated 5.4. He only averaged 4.9 yards per carry the year before Smith joined the Titans, so the drop from 4.9 to 4.4 last season isn't as big as people think.

Round 3: Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys

I want to put a running back in my flex spot, and I got one of the most dynamic ones. Pollard has averaged over 5.0 yards per carry in three of his four NFL seasons and averages 5.1 in his career. Ezekiel Elliot's presence limited his volume, but now he doesn't have that problem (knock on wood). And he's a speedy guy who makes big plays, too; he ran for three rushes of over 40 yards and caught two passes he took for over 40 yards.

Round 4: Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Although Oluokun doesn't make many sacks or forced fumbles, he does make double-digit tackles in half or more of his games. In 2022, he made hit the benchmark in nine games, and in 2021, when he played for the Falcons, he did so 12 times. Last year, he ranked as the LB15 in the Big Play Bonus scoring format.

In retrospect, I think I jumped and picked Oluokun too early. Micah Parsons had gone in the early third round, and Nick Bosa, T.J. Watt (whom I would have preferred), and Myles Garret went in the early fourth, so I thought I needed to take a star linebacker. Oluokun is still likely to finish as an LB1, but there were a lot of people ahead of him I missed--including Alex Highsmith, Roquan Smith, Hassan Reddick, and two other linebackers I ended up drafting later.

Round 5: Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders

Does "Scary" refer to McLaurin's abilities or to the Commanders' quarterback situation? He has had to suffer through poor quarterback play every season of his career, but that doesn't stop him from going over 1,000 yards and catching a handful of deep bombs. Washington QB Sam Howell actually threw more "big-time throws" in college than any other prospect in his draft class, and he connected with McLaurin for one in his only start in the season's final week.

Round 6: Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Williams is known as a boom-bust, which can be exciting in a big play league. He was still a WR3 in ordinary leagues last season, but if he can return to his 2021 form, he'll be an amazing value. In 2021, he had four 100-yard games (and sometimes followed those up with 11-yard games) and caught a league-leading nine passes for over 40 yards.

Round 7: Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

No one drafted a single quarterback in the fifth or sixth rounds, and I wanted to get my pick of the best QB in the tier before anyone else. I chose Cousins (after considering Jared Goff) because of his high volume, connection with playmaker Justin Jefferson, and the addition of rookie Jordan Addison. My pick initiated the QB run, as Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, and Goff all went consecutively, starting two picks later.

Round 8: Frankie Luvu, LB, Carolina Panthers

A couple of rounds later, I picked one of the LBs who outscored Oluokun last season. Luvu had a quiet start to his career, playing mostly on special teams for three seasons on the New York Jets. But then, in his second season in Carolina, he started and got to wear the green dot on his helmet as the defensive play caller. In that season, he made 111 combined tackles, 7.0 sacks, a pick-six, and a forced fumble.

Round 9: Chris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs

Jones tied a career-high last season with 15.5 sacks, and he has made nine sacks in two of the previous three seasons. He ranks fourth behind Aaron Donald for most sacks since 2018. He is 29 years old and is currently away from training camp as he is trying to get paid a premium. Defensive linemen often improve their pass rush technique and continue to have productive careers past age 30.

Round 10: Rashid Shaheed, WR, New Orleans Saints

This undrafted free agent, who was one of the best kick returners during his time at Weber State, caught 20 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown in five games as a starter to end the Saints' season. That's on pace for 1,102 yards in a season.

He has amazing speed and versatility for a big-play league; he ran for a 44-yard touchdown on his first-ever NFL touch in Week 6, then he caught one pass for 53 yards and a touchdown the next week.

I am also high on Shaheed as a breakout candidate in standard leagues. He is currently the Saints' WR3, behind oft-injured Michael Thomas, and he doesn't face much of a threat from Tre'Quan Smith or A.T. Perry behind him.

Round 11: Jalin Hyatt, WR, New York Giants

One of the most exciting big-play threats during his college career, Hyatt averaged 18.9 yards per reception at Tennessee last season.

Round 12: Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

Wagner can hit the ten-tackle threshold, bringing more big play ability than many off-ball linebackers. He set a career-high, with six sacks, in Los Angeles last season. The Seahawks might not send him rushing the passer as often as the Rams did, but he also makes interceptions and plays on fumbles here and there.

Round 13: Za'Darius Smith, DL/LB, Cleveland Browns

In his new role rushing on the opposite side of Myles Garrett, Smith should get some shots at unprotected quarterbacks. As LB/DL, I have flexibility with where to start Smith.

Round 14: Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers

He looked good in limited time last season and has a big play wide receiver in Christian Watson to throw to.

Round 15: Taysom Hill, TE, New Orleans Saints

If there ever was a late-round tight end for a league that values big plays, it's this guy.

Round 16: Jared Allen, DL, Washington Commanders

The three-hundred-pound interior pass rusher provides depth and flexibility.

Round 17: Josh Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

I need to take more swings at wide receivers. Palmer can step in in the event of an injury to my starter, Mike Williams.

Round 18: Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions

Jones begins the season as the Lions' WR2 during Jameson Williams' six-week suspension.

Round 19: Emmanuel Forbes, DB, Washington Commanders

Forbes set all kinds of records for interceptions returned for touchdowns in college. I like Forbes in ordinary IDP leagues. I love him in big play leagues.

Round 20: Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

He's a handcuff for Bijan Robinson, and he could have independent value as a pass catcher; the Falcons say they will use him lined up wide more.

Round 21: Chosen "Robbie" Anderson, WR, Miami Dolphins

He's a fast wide receiver playing for an explosive offense.

Round 22: Marcus Williams, DB, Baltimore Ravens

In just ten games last season, he made four interceptions.

Round 23: Marcus Jones, DB, New England Patriots

Having scored touchdowns as a punt returner, a wide receiver, and a defensive back, Jones is like the Taysom Hill of corners. This season he might see more snaps in coverage.

Round 24: Eddie Jackson, DB, Chicago Bears

Jackson had a career resurrecting year with four interceptions in 12 games last year. But earlier in his career, he also had a few multi-interception years, including making six picks in 2018.

Round 25: Jordan Mason, RB, San Francisco 49ers

He figures to be the Niners' No. 1 backup running back, which means he will have a role if Elijah Mitchell gets injured (again). Last season, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry and pulled off a 55-yard run.

I would later cut Jordan Mason to make room for my kicker, who is the Giants' Graham Gano. Gano has kicked five or more 50-yard kicks in each of his past three seasons.


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