When it comes to fantasy football draft strategy, it is very advantageous to know your draft position before your draft so you can do a more specific brand of homework in your preparation. To make things simple, this article will be based on a 12-team league, but the same logic can certainly be used for an 8- or 10-team league.
What’s the best slot to draft from in fantasy football drafts?
As a rule of thumb, if all things are equal, I prefer to pick in the middle of the round. My logic for that is this – if it’s late in the draft and I am torn between several players, there is a reasonable chance that the player I don’t pull the trigger on falls another round to my spot once again in the middle of the round.
When picking at the ends, of course, you will end up with two players, but the player that you just missed on is highly unlikely to make it back to you. As for picking on the ends, it is much more advantageous to pick second or third, or 10th or 11th in a 12-team league rather than first overall or the 12th spot.
Why? After the first handful of rounds, you can see what your opponents have already added to their roster. If you are picking 10th and are ready to draft your quarterback, but both the 11th and 12th team have already drafted one, you might as well wait until after the turn to address your need. You get the drift.
Fantasy Football draft strategy when picking first overall
There are many instances, though, when there is just one player that stands far above all the rest, and having the first pick in a fantasy draft is a significant advantage. This year, that player would be Christian McCaffrey, and while he is tremendous, he isn’t so far above Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, and Alvin Kamara to want to pick first overall right now.
Many will want a shot at those top four running backs and will strive to select in the top four. That makes some sense as there is a gap after those four, but when studying the average draft position and participating in numerous mock drafts, the very late second round and early third is a bit of no man’s land right now.
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The reasoning for that is that there are what I see as 14 foundational running backs, far and away the scarcest position in fantasy football. I want two of those 14 as the foundation of my team. That is what is most important to me this year. If you have the fourth pick and take Kamara in a 12-team league, there is an excellent chance that you are without a second foundational back.
Of those 14, McCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott, and Kamara lead the group. Then we have Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry. Rounding out those 14 in alphabetical order are Nick Chubb, Kenyan Drake, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon, and Miles Sanders.
Of course, one of these might slide to you at the end of the second round, but above all else this year, I want to ensure that I get two of these 14.
Is the ninth or 10th spot the ideal slot to pick from in your fantasy football draft?
That is why, ideally, my fantasy football draft strategy includes picking ninth or 10th in the first round in a 12-team league. Michael Thomas is extremely likely to go before all 14 running backs are selected. Heck, several wide receivers might get picked during that time and possibly two quarterbacks and even two tight ends.
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But again, I want to be sure that no matter what, my first two selections are two of these 14 foundational running backs. If there is a run, I don’t want to be left out. However, there is more to it than just wanting two strong weekly starters at the scarcest position, although that is a great place to start.
This year, after having two running backs rostered, the bottom half of the third round and first half of the fourth is just littered with wide receivers that I adore.
Selecting from the ninth slot – who might you land?
If you are picking in the nine slot, that means you will then pick 33rd overall while you have two top running backs already in your possession. Judging by Flea Flicker’s ADP, that leaves you AJ Brown (who is currently going 34th overall), Cooper Kupp, Adam Thielen, Allen Robinson, DJ Moore, Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton, Tyler Lockett, Keenan Allen, DK Metcalf, Devonte Parker, Robert Woods, Stefon Diggs, DJ Chark, Terry McLaurin (in descending order of their current ADP) often left to choose from.
While personally, from that list, I am not quite as fond of Kupp, Allen, Parker, Woods, and Diggs as the others, anyone from that group would gladly fill the role as my top two wide receivers for my fantasy football team. I want two of these listed wide receivers to couple with my already selected pair of running backs.
Building a foundation in your fantasy draft
So, it’s quite simple – my fantasy football draft strategy consists of building a spectacular mansion of a house. To do that, a great foundation must be where it starts. This will be two of my favorite 14 running backs and then two very solid high-upside wide receivers. That is one heck of a foundation.
But let’s take it a step further. After making those first four picks with such a strong foundation to build on, basically every selection I make the rest of my draft is going to be all about upside. I am going to take significant risks.
I will take rookie running backs that were drafted on the second day of the NFL Draft. I am going to take super athletic young tight ends that have yet to break out. I am going to take quarterbacks that could hit big. I am going to take injury-prone players. I will be highly aggressive with pretty much only a player’s ceiling in mind with little care if I miss here and there. I’m swinging for the fences and will knock a few out of the park.
That is all possible by being able to execute my fantasy football draft strategy laid out above. And picking ninth or 10th in the first round makes it all the easier.
Matt Williamson is a Senior NFL Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @WilliamsonNFL.