Mailbag: Pumping up Brandon Aiyuk, pumping the brakes on Calvin Ridley, auction strategy and more


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Ah, yes, we are right in the thick of fantasy football draft season! So let’s get right to it! Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. If I didn’t answer yours in the article, drop it in the comments, and I’ll answer as many as possible.

Which receiver currently being drafted outside of the Top 24 has the best chance of finishing as a WR1? — Jack K.

Brandon Aiyuk is one of my favorite mid-round targets this season. He posted career highs in targets (114), receptions (78), receiving yards (1,015), and receiving touchdowns (8) in 2022 despite the tumultuous quarterback situation. If the 49ers can find some consistency at quarterback with BCB, a Top 12 season is within reach for the 49ers true WR1.

The Calvin Ridley hype train is rolling in Jacksonville… just like Allen Robinson last year. And have any players returned to elite form after an extended absence from football? I’m having Le’Veon Bell on the Jets flashbacks. Buy or sell Ridley? — Michael L.

It’s time to pump the breaks on Calvin Ridley. He hasn’t played in an NFL game since October of 2021. He comes to a team where chemistry has already been developed between QB Trevor Lawrence and the pass catchers (Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Zay Jones) returning from last year. While the talent is there for Ridley to be a force, he’s getting drafted ahead of guys like Drake London, Terry McLaurin, and DeAndre Hopkins. Drafting Ridley with a Top 50 pick is buying all the risk, a move I’m not willing to make. Sell at his current ADP.

What are your thoughts on Christian Watson in Year 2? … I’m concerned about the inconsistency he showed toward the end of last year as well as the unknown from Jordan Love. Are there any other mid-tier receivers you’re planting your flag on as a WR2/3? — Ben G.

I share your concern for Watson, and I fear he’s this year’s Gabe Davis. The four-game stretch where he balled out has people drooling at the potential for a breakout season, but there is cause for concern. The obvious top issue is the Packers going from future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers to an unknown in Jordan Love. Watson wasn’t exactly consistent either, logging only three games over 50 receiving yards. Will there be enough targets to go around? The Packers took wide receiver Jayden Reed and pass-catching tight end Luke Musgrave in the draft’s second round, return fellow second-year vet Romeo Doubs and have two capable pass-catching running backs in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. There is too much uncertainty for me to draft him as a WR2 when he finished as WR40 last season.

Outside of Brandon Aiyuk, I’m also planting my flag on Jahan Dotson and Jordan Addison. Both are being drafted about three rounds after Watson and have just as much upside. Dotson finished as a WR2 in five of 12 games with poor QB play and can win all over the field. Addison steps right into an offense that had the third-most pass attempts in 2022, lost their WR2, and he gets to line up across from some guy named Justin Jefferson. Give me all three at their ADP over Watson.

Do you see any scenario where Christian Watson ends up as a Top 12 WR? — Cory L.

I don’t. I gave my concerns for Watson in my answer to the previous question, but just for the sake of argument, I looked at the Top 20 wide receivers in ADP, and I could pick out maybe three I see him realistically finishing ahead of if all things go right. I see Watson, at best, as an inconsistent mid-teens finisher with some boom weeks but more busts than it’s worth. The best-case scenario is a high-end WR2.

What is the best back-tested strategy for auction drafts? — Michael D.

I’ll stop short of saying it’s the best back-tested strategy, but I’ve been playing in auction leagues for over 15 years, so I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Some of this is format, scoring, and roster settings dependent. But there are themes that I’ve had success with across multiple auction formats.

First off, don’t be afraid to be aggressive, especially early. Spend the extra few bucks to get the studs (a Top 3 quarterback, Travis Kelce, Justin Jefferson, etc.). Saving $3 to get Damien Harris at the end of the draft won’t win you a league, but having one of those guys will. Managers get gun-shy early and don’t want to spend. Don’t get stuck paying up for middle of the road players because you wouldn’t go a couple of extra dollars on a difference maker.

If you have a position locked up, nominate that position to get people to spend. Have your starting wide receivers? Throw the best one out there and let your friends burn that budget.

Don’t go all stars and scrubs. While getting a stud or two is essential, don’t spend up for Bijan Robinson and Josh Allen to the point you’re stuck starting Puka Nacua and Donovan Peoples-Jones as your top wide receivers. Like hitting on a mid-round breakout, you want to hit on a mid-value breakout. Take some shots on guys like Jahan Dotson, Drake London, Jerry Jeudy, etc. who won’t kill your team if they don’t hit. But if they do hit, those are the types of moves that push you over the top.

I fill my bench with $1 players. You’ll wind up dropping most of them anyway — don’t spend resources on players who will be waiver wire fodder when you can get those middle auction steals.

(Note: I LOVE talking auction strategy. Hit me up on Twitter @GMenJay and I’d be happy to go more in depth.)

How do I convince my wife that after five years of playing FF that I’m getting close to winning our league and I’m not just throwing away $100 every year? — Fletch F.

First, buy her flowers and take her to her favorite restaurant for a romantic dinner. Then, remind her that the more time you spend on fantasy football is more time for her to binge-watch “1000-Lb. Sisters” on TLC (or whatever her favorite guilty pleasure show is). When you do win (you will), be sure to spend some of the winnings on her. That’s the key.

It seems like quarterbacks are being drafted higher this year than usual. For 1QB leagues, how early are you going for a QB? By what round are you thinking you have to come out with a QB? — Chris K.

Is there a chance Jalen Hurts is QB1 this season and does it make sense drafting him in the second round? — Robert F.

To wrap things up, I figured I’d hit a two-for-one special — two questions, one answer. Yes, Hurts 100% could finish as the QB1 this season. He was QB1 on a PPG basis in 2022, and with a Philadelphia defense that lost some significant pieces, he could be forced to throw even more this year. I don’t like taking a quarterback early in a single QB league. If you’re going to, it has to be a difference maker like Hurts, Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, and to get those guys, you’re looking at the second or third round. There is way too much value at the quarterback position late in drafts to pass up guys like Tony Pollard, Garrett Wilson, Tee Higgins, and several other position players. I like to wait until the later rounds and draft two quarterbacks, pairing a high-upside play like Anthony Richardson or Daniel Jones with a consistent option like Geno Smith or Kirk Cousins. I did this exact strategy in a recent 1QB mock draft that I’ll be writing an article about here on The Athletic. Keep an eye out for it sometime over the next week and see how it worked out.

That’s it for this go-round. Like I said, you can drop questions in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (or X, I guess?) @GMenJay, and I’m happy to answer any questions there as well. See you on another time. (last line is a movie quote, purposely incorrect grammar, haha).

(Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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