Balancing Your Draft – Floor vs. Ceiling

Year after year I see people make big mistakes leveraging their draft strategy. From my home league to high-stakes leagues, no matter if you’re going zero RB or robust RB, there are certain principles that should be followed.

We all hear about upside and how it wins championships, but without the context behind that idea it can be dangerous. Having those week-winning upside players is important. What is also just as important is the not-so-sexy floor plays that keep you alive in every matchup.

While looking through the list of players on draft day you can see that every single player has a certain situation applied to them. Some players are work horses who suffer on low-tier offenses. Others are high-efficiency players who never see the type of volume that raises them into the upper echelon.

It takes a mixture of floor and upside to win a fantasy championship.

When your team lacks upside you will never have the boom potential to win against the league-leading opponents. As opposed to lacking upside, when you don’t have a consistent floor your lineup becomes extremely volatile. There will be a small chance to either be the highest-scoring team of the week or the lowest. Weekly outcomes are rarely in between.

Volume will always correlate to the players floor as efficiency is indicative of their upside. That explains why the first two rounds of fantasy football drafts have the players that have both a high floor with high-upside potential.

Christian Mccaffrey is extremely efficient with each touch he receives and also receives a very high amount of them, which resulted in him being the number one overall fantasy football player in 2019.

As your draft goes on, player after player, you try to look for certain variables in each player. Thinking to yourself “this player can be good” is typically not a good process. Each and every player can be placed in the high upside/low floor or the opposite category. Each and every week you want to be comfortable enough with your high-floor players so that if your low-floor/high-upside players do not return value, your floor players can possible squeeze out a victory if the same happens to your opponent.

Balance is always needed when you approach a draft. Even when focusing on a certain strategy it is important to keep floor and upside as a focal point.

For example, if I was drafting with the robust RB strategy and drafted Alvin Kamara with my first pick, I would definitely look for a higher floor player with my next pick. Josh Jacobs could be a great RB2 with Kamara since his floor is based solely on his volume as a rusher. Kamara always has week-winning upside, but will punish you at least once throughout the year.

In 2018, Kamara finished as the RB4 in PPR leagues yet had multiple weeks finishing with less than 15 PPR points. He has the boom ability to single-handedly get you a win, yet without his floor he can also lose it for you if your lineup isn’t balanced enough.

When looking at receivers Tyreek Hill has that same affect.

There are certain stats that can be indicative of whether a player will have either a reliable floor or week-winning upside. A players’ opportunity and the amount of touches they can be projected for is the easiest way to establish their floor.

When looking at a player like Leonard Fournette, you know he will touch the ball at a high rate, but there are other variables that affect how highly he can be ranked purely off of his touch rate.

As opposed to Fournette, if we saw a player like Miles Sanders in Fournette’s role, he would easily fit into the top tier of running backs. The biggest problem we have with ranking Sanders is because we can’t necessarily establish a concrete floor for him. How efficient he is with any given opportunity is what makes his upside so valuable. There are so many question marks surrounding his touch count and opportunity that he is drafted almost purely on his possible upside and not the reliable production.

Opportunity = Floor

Efficiency = Ceiling

Here are a few more examples of high-floor or high-upside players that are going outside the first couple of rounds.

HIGH FLOOR

Jarvis Landry – He has never caught less than 80 balls in a season. You cannot bank on high yardage or touchdown totals but you know he will see enough receptions to stay helpful in your lineup as your WR3 or Flex option.

Le’Veon Bell – There were many question marks with Bell in his first year with the Jets, but now that he has cemented himself as the clear bell cow you know he will easily repeat over 200 carries and 70 plus targets. Weather or not those numbers will add up to valuable production is unknown but Bell is definitely a player that won’t kill your lineup and should be already a reliable RB3.

HIGH CEILING

A.J. Brown – This guy went bananas his rookie year and hit an average of over 20 yards per reception. Brown ended the season as the WR17 in PPR leagues with only 52 receptions. The number one overall WR is definitely in his range of outcomes but seems like a stretch considering the run-first offense he is in. He has the skills to do so but the surrounding situation and lack of volume make his floor very low. The sky is the limit and you would be in great shape if you have Brown as a WR2.

Jonathan Taylor – Taylor is one of the best college prospects since Saquon Barkley. His athletic profile is out-of-this-world good. Being drafted by Indianapolis is the best spot to be in for fantasy purposes. The upside of finishing as a top-12 RB is easily there but it all revolves around how he is used in that offense. Taylor definitely has one of the highest upsides this season but there are plenty of reasons to avoid the risk. It all depends on how your team is structured.

When all is said and done, no on really knows how certain players will perform this season. You just have to remember, having a team with a high floor can get you to the playoffs but your upside will win you the championship if it hits at the right time.

For more fantasy football coverage leading up to the 2020 season, check out the following podcast episodes:

QB1 Matchups
RB1 Matchups
RB2 Matchups

Patrick Doyle is a blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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