While there is no “one size fits all” draft strategy for dynasty fantasy football, having the first overall pick places managers in the driver’s seat and can set the tone for the remainder of the draft. As leagues continue to be filled with more and more managers making the leap to dynasty, we go over a potential draft strategy for your team if selecting from the first draft slot.
Dynasty draft strategy: Picking from the first overall draft slot
For this draft, we will be using a 12-team league with PPR (point per reception) scoring and a 1QB format with two running backs, two receivers, a tight end, and two flex spots as the starting roster. Also, rookies will be included in the startup. Depending on your league settings, you might need to tweak your draft strategy to match your scoring format and roster requirements.
1.01) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
In my opinion, there are three clear leaders at their respective positions in dynasty. Jonathan Taylor is the RB1, Justin Herbert is the QB1, and Kyle Pitts is the TE1. At receiver, it is a coin flip between Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, but they are in a tier amongst themselves.
If you have the first pick in a dynasty draft, it is between Chase/Jefferson and Taylor, in my opinion. Both receivers project to be in the elite range for the next eight or more years. Taylor is unquestionably the top RB and has multiple seasons of incredible production. Last season alone, Taylor racked up 2,171 total yards from scrimmage with 20 TDs across 17 games.
Yet, in dynasty, especially with the first pick, I am looking for a cornerstone of my team for the next five-plus years. Taylor, while great now, could very well fizzle out by then, as is the nature of his position. But Chase can maintain his upside for a more extended period. After an 81-1,455-13 receiving line and WR5 finish in his rookie season, Chase has all the makings of a star in the NFL. Paired with Joe Burrow, this duo should light up the NFL. With the combination of youth and upside, Chase is a perfect way to start a dynasty draft.
2.12) Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
Back on the clock, and we have a decision to make. With back-to-back picks, we need to nail both as it takes forever to come back on the clock. Two QBs have already been selected (Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen), Pitts and Mark Andrews are off the board at TE, and the usual suspects at RB and WR are gone. However, at the back end of the second round, I am hoping to land one of AJ Brown, Deebo Samuel, or Stefon Diggs. All three receivers add more youth and insane levels of upside.
In this draft, Diggs managed to sneak past as selections of Andrews and Breece Hall likely allowed him to fall. This is a home-run pick. Since joining the Bills, Diggs has found nothing but success, averaging 18.6 PPR/game in his 33 active games from 2020 to 2021. Over that same time, he finished as a WR1 (top 12) in 27% of his game and inside the top 24 (WR2+) in 53%.
Playing in 17 games, Diggs still hauled in 103 of 163 targets for 1,225 yards and 10 TDs to finish as the WR7 in fantasy (10th in PPR/game at 16.8). Not too shabby for a “down” year. Diggs was No. 10 amongst WRs in team target share (27%) and was 12th in intended air yards (35.4%).
However, given the vertical nature of this offense, his 35.4% was still 1,841 air yards, the second-most in the NFL. Paired with Chase, this team has the best one-two punch of any dynasty roster. The only concern is I might miss out on some top-end running backs, but it is hard to fault this dynasty draft strategy too much.
3.01) Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
It’s the turn, and we are back on the clock. As in most dynasty drafts, running backs have flown off the board. In total, 12 have been selected, eight inside Round 1 alone. The running backs on the board still all have some level of risk. I could even go receiver as there is a ton that I love. But because there are not many in the upper tiers still on the board, I take Cam Akers as my RB1.
It’s incredible to think of the fall-off Akers has already undergone. He was at one point the RB6 in dynasty as recently as January when he made his comeback and is now in the RB13-16 range. Not only is he one of the youngest RBs in the NFL (22), but his volume is absurd. Without any real warmup games, the Rams threw Akrews into the fire, feeding him 16.8 carries per game along with 2.5 targets. This tracks with his usage as a rookie once he took over from Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr.
Akers looked unquestionably rough last year. But why is that a surprise? He pulled off what seemed impossible in his return from a torn Achilles, had no warmup games, and faced both the Buccaneers and 49ers (twice). I’ll let dynasty managers overreact to this and snatch up Akers anytime I can, regardless of the draft strategy I am using at the time.
He is an elite talent on a high-powered offense with minimal competition behind him. Starting a draft with Chase, Diggs, and Akers is about as good as it gets from the first overall position.
4.12) Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Once into the fourth round, we begin to see some shift in ADP. I love that personally, as at the end of the day, you need to get your guys. Build your team how you want. Unfortunately for me, this means several of my favorite receivers are off the board, including Drake London, DJ Moore, and Tee Higgins. I’d be running to draft them right here. They make any dynasty draft strategy better. Running backs also are dwindling. Gone since our last pick are Antonio Gibson, Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones, David Montgomery, Kenneth Walker, JK Dobbins, Leonard Fournette, and Ezekiel Elliott. All of them would be fantastic RB2s on this roster.
I take advantage of this and select one of my favorite RB2s of the year, Travis Etienne. After missing all of his rookie year due to a foot injury, Etienne is set to break out in 2022. He was also a player I mentioned in a recent podcast listing players to buy low on ahead of the season.
Etienne was one of the most explosive players in the country during his time at Clemson. He led the NCAA with 55 runs of 20+ yards during his four years (2017-2020). On those plays, Etienne scored 21 TDs and rushed for 2,053 yards (37.3 yards per rush). Etienne also had six receptions of 30 or more yards, giving him 61 explosive plays. Why is this important? Because the Jaguars had a combined 31 explosive players in their last two years combined (worst in the NFL).
By no means do I feel Etienne is a polished back. But when you score 78 touchdowns and averaged 125.8 scrimmage yards per game over your final three collegiate seasons, that tends to translate to the NFL. He is expected to take a significant role in the passing game and the lead role over James Robinson (Achilles). While this dynasty team has a ton of youth, the upside is just as high. A trend we see continue with our next pick.
5.01) Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts
2022 is the year of Michael Pittman Jr. I was in on his last year and even more so now with Matt Ryan in town. Pittman checks every single box we want. He was third in route participation behind only Cooper Kupp and Chase. Pittman was eighth in the NFL in target share last season (24%) and vaulted to 31% from Weeks 13 through 18 once he established himself as Indy’s top receiver. Pittman was one of just 11 wide receivers with at least 25% and 30% of their team’s respective targets and air yards.
There is also a lack of competition. Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, and Dezmon Patmon are fighting for the WR2-4 in the pecking order, but not with Pittman. He is already a 1,000-yard receiver (88-1,082-6 in 2021) and is in a better situation in 2022.
Pittman can win on any play. According to Matt Harmon’s “Reception Perception,” Pittman was in the 79th percentile against man, 88th against zone, and 96th against press coverage. Ryan is known for hyper-targeting his top receiver. He did it with Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. Pittman is the third-year “breakout” of 2022. I want as much exposure to him as I can get.
When I see his ADP closing in, my draft strategy in both dynasty and redraft is to make sure Pittman does not pass me by. When it was all said and done, I walked away with a team I love. It’s full of high upside youth but is also ready to win now — the best of both worlds.
Dynasty draft strategy from the first overall spot | Rounds 6-15
6.12) Mike Williams | WR, Los Angeles Chargers
7.01) James Cook | RB, Buffalo Bills
8.12) Trey Lance | QB, San Francisco 49ers
9.01) Allen Robinson | WR, Los Angeles Rams
10.12) Melvin Gordon | RB, Denver Broncos
11.01) Rhamondre Stevenson | RB, New England Patriots
12.12) Cole Kmet | TE, Chicago Bears
13.01) Calvin Ridley | WR, Atlanta Falcons
14.12) Kirk Cousins | QB, Minnesota Vikings
15.01) Evan Engram | TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected Week 1 roster
QB – Trey Lance
RB – Cam Akers
RB – Travis Etienne
WR – Ja’Marr Chase
WR – Stefon Diggs
TE – Cole Kmet
Flex – Michael Pittman Jr.
Flex – Mike Williams/Allen Robinson