If you’ve been playing fantasy football for several decades
now, you know that picking towards the top was the most desirable
place to be as that’s where the most elite running backs
could be found.
But, we’re winding down this decade with widely variant strategies
on fantasy team composition and picking near the top of the order
isn’t always the best place to be. Below, let's examine picking
near the top, middle, and end of the first round and what that means
for you draft strategy moving forward.
Building a Team from 1.01 - 1.04
The “stud” running backs aren’t what they used
to be as coaches work so hard these days not to overuse elite
ball carriers. Still, if you’re picking 1.01-1.04 in a redraft
league this season, it’s hard to justify anything but a
RB selection as four players really stand out at the position,
both in PPR and non-PPR formats.
Assuming then that you select either Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott,
Alvin Kamara, or Christian McCaffrey, you’ve got your cornerstone
in place heading into rounds 2 and 3. Those two picks depend quite
a bit on how many starters you are allowed at each position. For
example, if you’re starting lineup requirements demand 1
QB, 1-2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE; getting a pair of WRs at the 2-3 turn
represents the best value given that the position is deep all
the way to WR12.
There will still be quality RBs at the 4-5 turn that can be scooped
up as the primary complement to your stud. An exception to this
would be leagues in which flex options allow for a third starting
running back. In that case, a RB with upside might be worth a look.
If you love either Zach
Ertz or George
Kittle at tight end, you could conceivably also look at filling
that position early, but down the road it will cost you depth at
the RB or WR position. So, taking all this into consideration, here’s
how a draft might shake out from the 1.01 – 1.04 positions:
I didn’t include a round 5 projection here as I think you begin
to look at best player available in all scenarios. The “Ideal” path
opens up all sorts of options for your 5th round pick, while the
“RB-Heavy” path likely forces you into a WR selection. The “TE”
path makes the selection of a second RB almost imperative in round
5 so you don’t get stuck with a undesirable pick as your RB2 (Derrius
Howard in a new situation). Remember, when you own a “sure thing”
barring injury, it’s best to be conservative moving forward the
next few selections. And, quarterback can definitely wait.
Building a Team from 1.05 - 1.08
Ah, the dreaded middle. The top tier RBs are gone and the guys
remaining at that position all have question marks. Will Melvin
Gordon hold out into the regular season? Will Le’Veon
Bell resemble his old self after sitting out a full year? How
will David Johnson
fare with a rookie QB? Is James
Conner talented enough to be taken with a top-8 pick?
Like anyone else, I can spit out predictions left and right on
these guys, but the fact of the matter is that no one knows who
will emerge the most productive from that batch of uncertainty.
What is known is that WRs DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, and
Julio Jones form the top tier at their position and making one
of them the foundation of your team might be better than trying
to choose between a host of mystery options at running back.
Pay attention to everything you can soak up about this group of
running backs, though, between now and your draft date. Ultimately,
if you don’t feel comfortable pulling the trigger on one,
wait a round and look again in round 2. Remember, RB is deep enough
this year to find quality starters all the way through round 5.
The other dilemma has to do with Travis
Hill’s return is good news for Kelce as he now won’t face double
teams all the time. Taking Kelce in round 2 means you’ll be taking
your first RB or WR no sooner than round 3. Is Kelce worth it?
In the latter scenario, taking your first WR at 3.07 could prove
costly as there is a significant expected drop in production from
receivers Adam Thielen/Amari Cooper/Keenan Allen to what resides
behind them. If all of those WRs have already been selected (chances
are they all will have been), you’ll be picking from WRs
that should be fourth round picks, not third. So, if you opt for
the RB gamble at 1.07, don’t grab Kelce with the follow-up
pick. You’ll lose too much at WR to make it worth it. However,
a grab of Hopkins then Kelce still allows for a solid RB choice
in the third round.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid of building your team from a
top tier WR upward if you are a “middle” drafter.
Building a Team from 1.09 - 1.12
The good news if you’re drafting late in the first round is that
you’re likely going to get the same value as what the “middle” draftees
get plus you’ll have higher quality options to pick from in the
second round. The higher risk RB1s are a better fit in these spots
and can be coupled with an elite WR after the turn. Or, you can
avoid the risk and go WR-WR as the RB value available at the round3/4
turn is so good this season.
If your league mates deem RB so vital that they allow DeAndre
Hopkins to drop all the way to late in round 1, he would be
no-brainer here and could then be coupled with a RB the caliber
of Joe Mixon
or a WR like Michael
Thomas. Either combination to begin a draft gives you two
premier options and allows for further flexibility down the road.
Again, because the chasm between the top-13 WRs and the next tier
is so steep, two RBs right off the bat from the late first round
seems like a poor option. Also, I think the TE question is irrelevant
here as it’s a bit too early for Kelce and Zack Ertz/George
Kittle will almost certainly be gone prior to 3.09. As such,
RB-WR, WR-RB, or WR-WR are the best fits. Exercising those options,
leaves you with a sketched out team of:
The one variable in these scenarios to consider, is that optimal
RB targets late in round 3 like Leonard
Jones, and Sony
Michel aren’t nearly as valuable in PPR formats. Taking PPR
into account, might make a heavily-targeted, high reception receiver
more valuable. Examples of that reality would be Diggs (noted
above) or a WR like Robert
Meanwhile, with Theo
Riddick no longer in Detroit, Kerryon
Johnson would be a terrific late third-round target in PPR
leagues. All in all, every scenario noted above represents a number
of high value picks, but be sure to adjust accordingly for the
PPR factor given all running backs are not created equal under
Where do I want to be?
Some leagues will allow for some maneuvering with respect to obtaining
draft position and if you have the option, this appears to be
a year to avoid the middle picks of 1.05 to 1.08. Taking on those
spots doesn’t allow for the high-floor, low-risk RB titans
that picks 1-4 afford. And, it means you’ve got to reach
for a player whose caliber will still remain on the board at the
end of the round. In short, you’ll be behind the 8-ball
for a while until your draft gives way to those who have actually
done their homework in the later rounds.
Again, whatever path you decide, almost no scenario exists that
calls for the selection of a QB until the fourth round at the
earliest. And, with depth abounding at that position, you can
actually wait much longer to choose a signal caller.
Strategizing for your upcoming redraft is one of the most enjoyable
parts of fantasy football. Here’s hoping I’ve given
you a jumping-off point into how draft position impacts your strategy.