Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Which Position Should You Draft First in Fantasy?

Fantasy football draft strategy is fluid, but that doesn't mean you can't enter your draft with a general plan when it comes to your first-round selection.

Any good fantasy football draft strategy comes with optionality and fluidity. Prepare as much as you want, but it only takes one surprise pick or unique strategy to impact the rest of the draft — and that’s inevitable.

While the ability to react to the draft room is critical (scouting your opposing managers can be just as important as your ability to project the players on the field), the first round is usually reasonably chalky and, thus, is one you can dive deep into.

Why Your First-Round Fantasy Football Draft Pick Is So Important

You’ll often hear that “you can’t win a draft in the first round, but you can lose it,” and I agree with that sentiment. Due to the draft capital you are tying up in your first pick, it’s nearly impossible to get a great return on your investment. But crashing and burning is very much a possibility.

That much is obvious, but how your first decision of the draft impacts the rest of your night is a little less intuitive.

Let’s say you feel that you have a great read on the Cincinnati Bengals’ backfield. You think you have it all figured out and are excited about your potential to pick up a bell-cow back at a discount, given the lack of depth chart clarity entering the season.

Great. Hot take initiated.

But the build of your team and the overall success of what you put together isn’t going to hinge on this decision. Based on where those RBs are being drafted, you will already have the foundation laid. Your plan to add depth to your backfield in the mid-to-late stages of your draft is valuable in the scope of that round, but that’s not the case when we’re talking first-round selections.

There’s the assumption that your first-round pick is rock solid. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be picking him, right?

Every pick from this point forward will be made with the expectation that your first player will produce up to the level in which you are expecting. If you went with a star receiver in Round 1 to lock into a starting slot, the WR position is less valuable now than it was at the beginning of the draft. The same theory holds for the RB position.

Long story short, your first-round pick is the television in your living room. It impacts everything…the direction of furniture, the flow of traffic, the lighting. Everything.

You build from the TV out. You need to feel good about where you put it before you can move on to the rest of the decorating process.

What Position Should You Draft First?

Now we’re talking about the brand of TV. This is where the nuance and personal preference come into play. The size of your league, the roster/scoring setup, your opponents … it all matters and should be factored into this equation.

The first step of this process is knowing your league settings. Standard ESPN leagues only require you to start two receivers, while other sites have three starting WR slots. In two-receiver formats, running backs naturally see an increase in value as they account for a higher percentage of your weekly points than in a three-WR format.

The same general thought process needs to happen when evaluating your scoring type. In full-point PPR, receivers and versatile running backs see a bump.

Looking to get involved in the growth of Superflex leagues (where a second QB can be used in a Flex spot)? Then everything changes, and quarterbacks rocket up the draft board.

From a macro standpoint, my top-tier list of wide receivers is larger than my list of Tier 1 running backs, so I’m tempted to open with an RB and hope that I can land one of those WRs I label as elite with my second selection.

From a micro standpoint, you’re chasing a blend of quality and quantity. Christian McCaffrey, CeeDee Lamb, Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, and Amon-Ra St. Brown are my top five players when it comes to chasing volume. They play for strong offenses and are penciled into elite roles every week. Your specific preference will dictate the direction you go, but none of them are bad picks in the first half of Round 1.

In the second half of the first round, there’s a little more strategy involved. At this position in a snake draft, you can try to project the players who will be left on the board for your second pick. At this point in the proceedings, I have Tier 1 running backs still lingering around, while the receivers available (for me) aren’t drastically different from those who will be available when your second-round pick comes up.

Practice.

That’s how you get a feel for what you are comfortable doing. Get your reps in. Change things up during your mocks. Force yourself to be uncomfortable and see how the team turns out.

I would make sure to focus on practicing in situations that mirror the one you’re preparing for (number of teams, scoring system, etc.) to ensure that you’re getting a good feel for not just how you value specific players, but how the industry does as a whole.

KEEP READING: Superflex Dynasty Rookie Mock Draft

It’s good to have a fantasy football draft strategy, especially for the first few rounds, but having a single plan is setting yourself up for failure. Let the board come to you and count on your pre-draft work to guide you.

Tier up your rankings and have a draft plan for whatever position you pick first. There’s no such thing as being overprepared, and we’re here to help you every step of the way!

As we look ahead to the 2024 fantasy football season, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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