A Strange But Smart Fantasy Football Draft Strategy in Salary Cap Leagues

Fantasy Football Salary Cap Leagues

The fastest way to lose money in salary cap leagues is often beyond our control. We spend close to $50 (or more) on our allotted $200 salary or whatever your allowance is for your league, then our star player, or one of our star players gets hurt either in that pesky third preseason game or early in the year.

This season:
It’s for all of you who spent money on J.K. Dobbins, who many felt would break out in 2021. Dobbins is now out for the 2021 NFL Season with a knee injury. Last season, it was Michael Thomas and Christian McCaffrey, among others.

Every year, star players go down and it can put us in an early hole. However, what if we looked beyond spending over a quarter of our allowance on star players and opted instead for cheaper players?

How I Found This Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 

My internet went down about 5 minutes before my fantasy draft and it forced me to watch as the other owners outbid each other for the best players. Two hours later, with the draft still in full force, my internet kicked back on and I was astounded at how much quality remained.

Sure, the big money players had already gone. But there were still plenty of decent names out there. I looked at the players rewarded to me via automation (both because no one else was interested in the nominees): Chase Claypool and Chase Edmonds.E

I can understand the little interest in Edmonds, considering the fact he’s never grown to more than an RB2 in real life. He’s now an RB1 in Arizona, but that can change in a heartbeat. Especially since he didn’t impress when thrust into the RB1 role for a game.

Edmonds can catch and run, which turns him into a true hybrid player and therefore, a threat to pick up yardage and score often. But snagging Claypool for $1 surprised me.

They nicknamed him Mapletron for a reason. I ended up filling the roster with quality players that the fantasy football magazines were high on.

In the end:
I landed guys like Derek Carr, Melvin Gordon, Tyler Boyd, Robert Tonyan, Ronald Jones, D.J. Chark, Curtis Samuel, Noah Fant, Jason Sanders, and the Steelers Defense. I also landed a quality backup quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Best yet, none of the above players cost over $2 in the allotted cap.

Plenty of Cap Space With This Fantasy Football Draft Strategy

I had about $175 left in cap space, by far the highest in the league. But this fantasy football draft strategy also gives me a lot of power. Looking at the fantasy football statistics of all the above players from 2020, each ended up as high-quality starters.

For example:
Derek Carr has been a fantasy football revelation over the past 2 seasons. And with the Raiders’ defense in a flux, that trend will continue into 2021. As for Tannehill, he has fully resurrected his career with the Titans and has also put up remarkable fantasy numbers.

Ronald Jones went from perennial bust to at worst, an RB2 in fantasy football. And Melvin Gordon’s 2020 outing showed that he too can rack up fantasy points. Ditto for Robert Tonyan, the Packers tight end that everyone forgets about.

Please Note:
D.J. Chark and Curtis Samuel are also decent pickups and make for good backups. Ditto for Noah Fant. I also snagged Michael Thomas for a dollar and Will Fuller, also for a dollar. At this time, Thomas is on the PUP list and Fuller is suspended.

But those picks were more or less me thinking ahead to later in the season.

Let’s Talk Strategy

Okay for one, you’re going to see your respective fantasy football outlet project you to finish something like 0-14 or 1-13. Don’t let the projections freak you out; they mean nothing more to fantasy football than preseason does to most players who will earn a spot on their respective rosters.

I remember:
I used to religiously follow the projections until I realized they mean nothing. Often, I’d let them dictate my starting lineup, and it led to disastrous results. While we live in the age of technology, algorithms and analytics will always have limitations. Sure, they can give that friend of yours that knows nothing about fantasy football and is only playing to fill in as the final team a vague idea of who to start and who to sit, but to you, they should mean nothing.

Anyone can have a bad game, and far too often we see players projected to score 20 to 25 fantasy points per game score fewer than 10, and nothing will frustrate you more. Regardless, never pay attention to projections. They mean nothing.

But when you use a rather unorthodox draft strategy as today’s post represents, it’s important to steer clear of all projections. They can and will warp your original strategy, which does not bode well for you.

Also, remember that under most circumstances, the past is in the past. Sure, it’s great to use past statistics to help build a draft strategy. But if you rely too much on a player’s past success, odds are greater that you will draft a bust.

Guys like Chase Edmonds and Claypool, my top two picks that were auto-selected, barely have success in the NFL. Sure, Claypool had a remarkable rookie season. But can he follow it up? Edmonds could have a breakout campaign, but he has spent 3 seasons barely a blip on the fantasy radar.

These players will often find themselves overlooked by other fantasy owners because they either saw no real fantasy football success (Edmonds), or they, at the time of the draft, were one-year outliers (Claypool).

But every NFL career only has so much tread on the tires.
Christian McCaffrey had 3 great seasons as arguably the league’s top fantasy football player. Then he got hurt and played in 3 games, and running backs age quickly.

Michael Thomas was the best receiver in fantasy football until 2020, when injuries and attitude problems cost him and fantasy owners alike.

Zach Ertz was a top tight end for years and he fell flat in 2020.

Sure, you will see plenty of examples that support the other argument. But the point is that we see breakout players in fantasy football each season, and those candidates, along with those who put up solid but unspectacular numbers, are at the end of the day, much better to go after. Let’s talk about why that is in the next section.

A Team Full of Breakout and Unspectacular Players

It’s so easy to blow a top draft pick in standard fantasy football. Add in the auction twist and you can really set yourself back because of salary cap limitations.

That said, you’re at a higher risk of wrecking your team because those of us who followed a “road not taken” strategy has something they don’t: Purchasing Power.

You may say that since I picked up plenty of solid talent there’s enough to build a solid team.

Not the case.
I passed on many nominees in building that team. Most of whom I wouldn’t look twice at because they’re on running back and receiver committees. Or didn’t look twice at. With so much money saved up, if any of the players I snagged for $1 and $2 had an interested buyer, I was outbidding them, hands down. And since I had more purchasing power, I could draft whomever I wanted at the supposed second and third tiers.

But here’s what I loved about my crew of solid but unspectacular and potential breakout players: They put up steady fantasy numbers.

The past is the past:
Anything can happen in 2021. But remember, solid, but not elite numbers indicate that these players more likely than not have more tread on their fantasy football tires. Take Tannehill, who scored fantasy points after he turned around and handed the ball to Derrick Henry. You can say the same for Carr, who always seems to have a solid committee of running backs opening things up for him.

Melvin Gordon has never been a featured back, even if he’s been an RB1 for most of his career. He’s always rotated in and out, and 2021 is the first season that he has the backfield to himself. Edmonds was an RB2 and flashed enough potential to be an RB1.

Teams must key on Juju Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, who combined for nearly 200 receptions. That leaves Claypool open, and he took advantage of the situation often in 2020. Robert Tonyan thus far is a one-year-wonder. But with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, he’s always a threat in the passing game. You get the gist of where I’m going with this.

These are often the candidates that even the “experts” don’t see coming. But given their situations and increasing roles, odds are you will at a price your team can afford.


This is a smart fantasy football draft strategy in salary cap leagues because it negates the risk of one or two major injuries crushing your team. It’s also smart because players you’re going after posted solid but unspectacular numbers, or are seeing their fantasy football status rise because of increasing roles.

Have you tried a strategy like this in the past?

If so, tell us in the comments. If not, if you tried anything unorthodox, we want to know about them. We cannot wait to read your fantasy sports betting strategies and hopefully we can add some further insight into them!

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Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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