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Draft Strategy

We previously covered how to handle your draft strategy for each position. This article will look at an over arching theme of how to conduct your draft strategy in its entirety, putting those positional themes to use. We will focus on a 10-12 team PPR league as this has become the standard format for playing fantasy football. Combine it with the Round by Round Targets to get a clearer picture of your draft.

The biggest thing to point out, right at the beginning, is that fantasy is supposed to be fun. If you have money on the line, yes it is wonderful to win, but at the core it is about having fun and interacting with people. Along those lines, you should like your team. Just because I am lower on Miles Sanders and Deandre Hopkins than most doesn’t mean you should avoid those players. If you are an Eagles fan and you want Sanders, or you have been playing fantasy for awhile and remember when Hopkins put up 30 points so that you could win your matchup, then go get those guys, it is your team. You’ll have to diverge from my rankings but get people you can root for. If you are a diehard Giants fan and you are picking at the three spot, and Saquon goes right in front of you, I am okay with you passing on Elliott because he is a Cowboy and you don’t want to root for a Cowboy. I wouldn’t, but my team just won the Super Bowl and I didn’t need to hate on other franchises stud players :p Keep it fun and by following some of the advice here and looking at my rankings you can set yourself up to win while having the most fun possible.

The first three rounds

The first three rounds will shape your strategy for the rest of the draft. Don’t go in with a set plan, but see what happens in front of you. With these picks I am not as worried about filling certain positions, but about acquiring the right talent. Working out your top 10-12 players before your draft will help you to avoid taking someone you aren’t comfortable with in the first round. See my round by round analysis for my top 12 and the order that I would take players in the first round.

Ideally we are leaving this part of the draft with at least one running back and one wide receiver. If you have an early second round pick then you are in the range that I am targeting Kelce(TE1)/Kittle(TE2). I am fine taking Mahomes(QB1)/Lamar(QB2) anywhere in the third round if they last that far, which they almost never do. Other than those four players I am focusing on getting as many of my tier one or two RB’s or WR’s as possible in the first three rounds.

Filling out the rest of your RB/WR/FLEX starters

The next four to five rounds we are going to fill out our starting positions and get high-upside players to fill our flex positions and bench. Ideally we want two RB’s and two WR’s by the end of round five, but if you are finding value in other places than jump on it. For instance if you were able to get Kelce/Kittle after the turn or one of the QB’s fell into the third round, then you may need to adjust a little.

Most of our picks through round 9 are going to be at RB/WR, so if you get four to five of one position early, then smash the other through round 9. I will say if you wind up with four WR’s through five rounds, then you probably don’t want to take an early TE or QB. Focus on getting some of the solid RB’s available in the round 5 to 9 range and target the late round options at QB/TE. If you are RB heavy through five rounds, then it opens you up to take the other positions earlier thanks to the depth at WR. Rounds 4-9 is the money spot for grabbing receivers with high ceilings (see my round by round target column). There is a very noticeable drop-off after this and a nice “dead zone” in the draft that becomes ideal for taking our favorite QB/TE targets while the rest of the league fills in their remaining starters and bench.

One of my favorite drafts that I have done so far saw my team with 3 RB’s, 5 WR’s and a TE through nine rounds. I started RB/TE/WR and then alternated RB/WR through the end of the ninth round. Another draft started with 3 RB’s, then took 4 WR’s in a row before grabbing two more RB’s to close out the first nine rounds. Draft where the value is, but know when to shift off one position to make sure you don’t have holes at other positions. If your league is one where it is easy to make trades, then it can be okay to be more “stacked” at one position and trade for others, but that is hard to plan on at the draft.

Finishing Strong

From Round Ten forward there is virtually no such thing as a bad pick. We should have all of our starting RB’s and WR’s and one or two on the bench at each position at this point in the draft. If you took a QB or TE before this, then I am not taking a back-up until right before our kicker and defense in the final three rounds of the draft.

It becomes very tempting to “fill our roster” at this point in the draft and get the top defense (if it hasn’t gone already) and kicker, but those picks do not pay off. If you don’t want to stream at the defense position (which I will be putting out my favorite streaming targets each week for both kicker and defense, as well as quarterback), then I am fine taking a defense with one of your final three picks, but not sooner.

Just because you may not have a QB/TE at this point doesn’t mean you need to take them immediately here. If there is value at the RB/WR position, then keep targeting those players. You can never have too much depth, especially in the age of COVID. I have identified plenty of targets that are usually available through round eleven.

At this point we want to go after our “sleepers”. Go get them in whatever order you please. My favorite late round targets are in my Sunny-Side Up column, but also my round by round targets column. Assume everyone is going to be targeting the same people as you and don’t try to follow ADP from this point forward. If you want a guy and like his upside, then go get that player.

Don’t be afraid to grab a player falling down the board either. We don’t only need to target sleepers here, if there is someone falling down the board who projects highly, gobble up the value and be thankful to get another guy who normally goes in the top ten rounds.

If you waited this long to grab a TE/QB (which is my recommendation), then you may want to grab two TE’s. I am still usually only going to grab one QB because 10-12 team leagues are shallow, but I won’t fault you for taking two stabs at a breakout candidate. My QB rankings are ripe with late round targets in the order I would take them, but a few that I am usually targeting this late are Cam Newton, Big Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Burrow and Teddy Bridgewater.

Your last three picks should be your final sleeper, your defense and kicker. You can use a bit of game theory with most fantasy players and start targeting some of the higher ranked defenses/kickers a round sooner than everyone else and then take your final sleeper with your last pick. If almost everyone else is taking kickers/defenses in the final two rounds then your sleeper will still be there.

That’s it. That’s the strategy. Consult my round by round targets if you are wondering where I am targeting players and where value is, but that is how I am targeting my drafts. Loading up on RB/WR early and often and throwing as many darts at those positions as possible. They are the most valuable and hardest to replace.

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