Fantasy Football Draft Strategy - Drafting from the 1st Spot

Source: USA Today

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 2023 - Drafting from the 1st Spot in a 12-Team half-PPR League

Last week we tackled the 7th spot in a PPR mock draft.  This week, we will be moving all the way up to the first spot, one of the most exciting spots in Fantasy Football.  If you have not been mock drafting already, it’s time to get started.  ADP is and will continue to change as we go through training camps and preseason games, so don’t be married to certain players going in certain spots.  You may want to take a look at the half-PPR rankings page and start making your own rankings based on who you like going into the 2023 season, especially because the first few rounds are turning out very different than years past. 

I spent some time mock drafting in a 12-team half-PPR league, and I had the first overall spot.  The final results can be seen here.

Have Your Mind Made Up on Who you Want to Pick First

I had this strategy in previous years, and I do think it’s super important to at least have some basic idea of who you are going to go with.

You have the first spot, so you don’t have to worry at all about “your guy” being sniped, at least not yet. So now here is where you have to decide.  Do you go Running Back?  Wide Receiver?

First let’s dive a bit into why I think each position has it’s pros and cons.

First off, taking a Running Back first has been the norm for years now, but its starting to get harder and harder to choose elite backs these days.  NFL teams are turning to committees, letting star players walk after rookie deals, and refusing to pay them.  And that all comes from the wear and tear workhorse backs have shown recently.  Numerous injuries, constantly missing games, etc.  But all that being said, having a stud RB that can catch a ton of passes is an intriguing grab in half-PPR leagues.  Plus, we all know the RB depth is way shorter than WR.

So that brings me to taking a Wide Receiver first.  I could have grabbed Justin Jefferson, but I just don’t think I can take him over CMC or Ekeler.  The Wide Receivers tend to be a bit more predictable injury-wise, but the position is so deep that its’ often a better strategy to grab at least one star RB, and by my second pick there really wasn’t an option that didn’t have some big questions (Kenneth Walker, JK Dobbins, Dalvin Cook).  That’s why grabbing a Running Back with the first overall pick just makes too much sense.

As for CMC vs Ekeler, I went with Ekeler just due to the fact that he has been relatively healthy and a huge pass catcher.  CMC catches passes sure, but he also is injury-prone and is on a run-heavy SF team that loves rotating backs.

Don’t Worry About Reaching

22 picks.  That’s how long you have to wait when you are drafting from a 12 team turn spot.  That’s a lot of players coming off the board, including plenty you probably want.  That’s why this strategy is so important.  If you see a guy you like that may have an ADP showing they are drafted a few rounds later, you may still want to grab them with one of your two picks. 

Most likely they won’t make it back to you.

That said, keep it within two-ish rounds of “Reach”.  I wouldn’t be grabbing a 12th round ADP in the fourth, for instance.

Know What QB/TE You Want and Don’t Be Afraid to Reach

This kind of pairs with the last piece of advice I gave.  I think the best way to go about this is to pick the top two/three players you want at each position.  Then see where they are currently being drafted and plan accordingly.

For instance, I’ve been a bit higher on grabbing a Tight End early this year.  Obviously with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t get Kelce, so I figured I’d see where my number two guy Mark Andrews goes. He is currently going in the third round, so obviously I have to use my second or third pick, and sure enough he made it back to me.

As for Quarterback, I really want Trevor Lawrence this year.  His ADP is in the middle of the seventh round, so I figured he wouldn’t make it back to me in Round 8.  I made sure I grabbed him on the six/seven turn just for that reason.

Wide Receivers on Good Offenses and Running Backs Who Catch

I had this advice in my PPR article, but I think it still suffices here.  Half-PPR dulls the pass-catching importance a little, but good pass-catchers are still necessary in order to win your league.

That’s why when you have options between Wide Receivers on the Texans and Wide Receivers on the Eagles, you need to lean Eagles (even if it’s the #1 Texan WR vs #2 Eagle WR).  Now of course there will be players out there who perform well BECAUSE they are the only weapon on the offense, but that also leads to being completely shut down by any good defense…if that makes sense.  If you can get a Wide Receiver on a decent offense with a bad defense (Lions cough), that’s even better.

As for Running Backs, go with pass-catchers or Running Backs on good offenses (even if they are a 1b).  I like Rachaad White (pass-catching) and a guy like Jahmyr Gibbs (good offense?) for those reasons. 

Finish the Draft with Some Running Back Sleepers

With the ever-evolving NFL comes the urge to adapt by the Fantasy Football community.  We have less and less true workhorse backs these days, and NFL teams are turning to committees or at least having a good backup to spell the starter.

And with so many injuries to starting Running Backs every year, you often see teams winning fantasy leagues thanks to RB pickups they make throughout the season.  If you can beat them to the punch, you’ll have a great leg up on your competition.

Draft a few handcuffs or rookies or RBs who changed teams and are unsure of how the depth chart will shake out.  Worst case you drop them early in the season.  Best case they get thrust into a starting role early in the season and you have basically a free Running Back stud.

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