Fantasy Football Draft Strategy
Draft season is upon us! To kick off the happiest time of the year, I wanted to share my process for approaching a 12 team half-point PPR draft from the 6th spot. I prefer half-point scoring because it’s a nice balance between standard (boring) scoring and PPR, where I think too much credit is given for catching a pass.
The first I do is grab some Fantasy Football Rankings. However, man cannot draft by rankings alone. I also take ADP into account. I like to merge my rankings with ADP to create my optimal draft list. For example, I have Mark Andrews 21st overall. His ADP is at 32. By merging these together, I get a true sense where I should be drafting him. This method takes away my biases and ensures I don’t draft a player too highly. This also works for players I have ranked below their ADP.
For the sake of ease, we’ll assume this is a traditional league that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, and has 6 bench spots. We’ll leave kickers and defense out since those are reserved for the last two rounds of any draft.
When it comes to drafting, I’m still a bit old-school. I generally wait on QB and TE and load up on RB/WR in the early rounds. Everyone would love to have Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Travis Kelce on their squad, but for me, the opportunity cost is too high. I still think it’s possible to stream QB and TE and win your league, although I rarely choose that option. I prefer to target those positions in the mid-rounds, after I have RB and WR shored up.
In the early rounds, I’m focused on loading up my team at RB and WR with two players at each position. However, I am open to adding a QB and TE if certain players fall to me.
Targets: Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Bijan Robinson
In the middle of the first round, I’ve been targeting Ja’Marr Chase, who is my third in my rankings among WRs, behind Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp. If Chase is gone, I’m looking at Tyreek Hill or Bijan Robinson, who should be a bell cow for the Falcons.
There’s a decent chance Travis Kelce is available at the 6th pick, but I’ve done enough mocks to know I don’t like my team build when I select a TE in the first two rounds.
Targets: Derrick Henry, Jaylen Waddle, Amon-Ra St. Brown
I like balance. That part of my OCD personality carries over into drafting. If I chose a WR in Round 1, then I’m going with a RB in Round 2 and vice-versa. There are exceptions, of course, but they’re rare. If I’m able to get Chase in the first round and Hill is still there in the second, I’d take him. Overall rankings are important in the early rounds, so I’m not going to sacrifice value just to get balance, no matter how much my OCD kicks in.
If I’m looking at RB in Round 2 and Henry is gone, I’m looking for Tony Pollard or Josh Jacobs. Otherwise, I’ll probably go with another WR.
Targets: Jalen Hurts, Mark Andrews, DK Metcalf, Najee Harris
I know I said I usually wait on QB and TE, but Andrews and Hurts are the exceptions. I would take either one in the third round. By now, you have two stud players, ideally at RB and WR, so you can afford to use a low-risk, high-reward pick on those guys.
If Andrews and Hurts are gone, I’m going with the best RB or WR available, which is usually Metcalf and Harris. I’ll also consider Tee Higgins and Devonta Smith at WR, as well.
Targets: Joe Mixon, Calvin Ridley, J.K. Dobbins, Terry McLaurin
This pick comes back to balance. If I’ve drafted two RBs, I’m looking at WR here and if I’ve drafted two WRs, then I’m picking a RB. I would love to get Mixon here, but his ADP is rising, so it could be a long shot, at this point. However, Dobbins has a lot of upside and is a great value in the fourth round.
I’m willing to take the risk with Ridley. Even with almost two years out of the league, he still has WR1 upside in the Jags offense. He gets a big upgrade at QB over his former teammate, Matt Ryan, who was fading fast in 2021. I think his floor is safe enough to justify the pick even if he doesn’t outperform my expectations for him this year.
Targets: George Kittle, Justin Fields, Christian Watson, Alexander Mattison
If you didn’t draft Mark Andrews or Just Fields in the third round, now is a good time to look at QB and TE. I know a lot of people are down on him because his production decreased last season, but I like George Kittle this year. In the nine games Brock Purdy started last year, Kittle had 34 catches for 479 yards and seven touchdowns. His efficiency stats were insanely good and he has stayed mostly healthy the last two seasons.
Justin Fields has league-winning upside and is one of my favorite targets in the draft. He was first among QBs in fantasy points per dropback last season while facing the league’s toughest schedule. I expect Fields to take a big leap forward this year and could see him finishing at the overall QB1.
Alexander Mattison is another favorite target of mine because of his upside. He has top 12 potential at his position.
In these rounds, I’m looking to round out my starting lineup and add some depth to RB and WR.
Targets: Kyle Pitts, Tyler Lockett, D’Andre Swift
If you missed on TE earlier, Pitts is a great option in Round 6. We’ve seen his floor, so we know the worst case scenario. We haven’t seen his ceiling yet, but we know it’s there and it’s just a matter of time before he reaches it.
By now, it should be apparent I love drafting for upside and Swift fits that bill. He is known for his efficiency, but hasn’t had the opportunity share to be an elite back. If Swift get similar usage to what Miles Sanders had last season, he could have a big year behind the Eagles top-ranked offensive line.
As much as I love upside, it’s important to mix in some high-floor players, as well. Lockett is a perfect option to balance out your roster if you drafted a risky receiver like Calvin Ridley.
Targets: Marquise Brown, Mike Evans, Javonte Williams
There are a lot of nice WR options in the seventh round. Aside from Brown and Evans, I like Michael Pittman and Treylon Burks, as well.
Javonte Williams feels like a steal here, especially if he’s ready by week one. I have him ranked a full round higher than his ADP.
Targets: Jamaal Williams, Michael Thomas
Ideally, with this pick, you’ll have your starting lineup completed. If you still don’t have a QB or TE, don’t panic. There will be plenty of good options coming up.
In my mock drafts, I’ve been consistently getting one or both of Williams and Thomas. Williams had 17 rushing touchdowns last season and, while it’s unlikely he will repeat that, he can be a valuable piece of the Saints offense, especially if Alvin Kamara is hit with a suspension.
Keeping with the Saints, Derek Carr should breathe some life into the passing offense. While Chris Olave is the top dog now, there’s still plenty of targets for Thomas. If he stays healthy, he’s got a great chance to outperform his ADP by a wide margin.
Targets: Dak Prescott, Daniel Jones, David Njoku, Pat Freiermuth
This is the perfect round to target QB/TE if you didn’t draft one in the earlier rounds. Any one of these players would make a reliable starter for your team. Of these, I prefer Jones and Njoku.
You also have other fine QB options like Deshaun Waton, Geno Smith Tua Tagovailoa and Kirk Cousins. At TE, Dalton Shultz is another good option with TE1 upside.
As deep as QB and TE are, this is why I only target a few players at those positions before the ninth round. However, if you wait until after the 10th round, you’ll find those options disappearing quickly.
In the later rounds of the draft, the emphasis should be on finding value, sleepers, and potential breakout candidates. Look for players who have fallen in the draft but still have the potential to make a significant impact. These rounds are ideal for selecting your backup quarterback, tight end, and additional depth at running back and wide receiver. Don't underestimate the importance of these later picks, as they can often make a difference during the season.
- QB- Anthony Richardson (Round 11), Kyler Murray (Round 14)
- RB- Kareem Hunt (Round 11), Raheem Mostert (Round 12), Gus Edwards (Round 14)
- WR- Rondale Moore (Round 11), Zay Jones (Round 12), DJ Chark (Round 14)
- TE- Greg Dulcich (Round 12), Juwan Johnson (Round 13)
These rounds are for depth and upside. I particularly love Greg Dulcich in the 12th round. I would advise reaching a round for him if you’re thin at TE.
Keep an eye out for Anthony Richardson news. If he’s the starter week 1, he will have tremendous upside. He’s another player I would reach for if I wasn’t happy with my starting QB pick.
While it's essential to have a draft strategy in mind, it's equally important to remain flexible. Adapt to how the draft unfolds and be ready to adjust your strategy if necessary. If there's a sudden run on a particular position, be willing to pivot and take advantage of value at other positions. Being able to adapt and make quick decisions during the draft will help you build the most well-rounded team.
Stay updated with player news, preseason performances, and any changes in depth charts or roles. The more informed you are, the better equipped you'll be to make knowledgeable decisions during the draft. Pay attention to training camp reports and preseason games, as they can provide valuable insights into players' roles and potential breakout candidates. Additionally, keeping an eye on injury reports and understanding how they may impact player availability will be crucial throughout the season.
Remember that while having a well-thought-out draft strategy is essential, it's equally important to remain adaptable and make informed decisions as the draft progresses. Individual player rankings, your league's scoring settings, and personal preferences should also play a role in your draft decisions. Use this strategy as a guideline, but be willing to adjust based on the unique circumstances of your draft. Good luck!
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