Inhale Sports original article | By: Kyle Radimer
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The Best Fantasy Draft Strategy
There are many ways that fantasy football players will go about their drafts. Some plan to draft quarterbacks early, while others plan to take tight ends early. Some target or isolate running backs with minimal-RB or heavy-RB strategies. Others may just take the “best” player on the board, no matter the position.
I’m here to tell you that none of these are right, though the logic behind them isn’t necessarily lacking. There is no “best draft strategy”. If you are too invested in one strategy, you will be prone to reaching for players. This will diminish the value you get on draft day, and ruin your teams in the end.
Having an approach is good, but should not be the end-all. Each draft will shape up differently, so being able to adjust your strategy is essential. Almost any strategy can work in a draft, given the board shapes out right for it. Knowing about these strategies can be very beneficial as long as you don’t pick one now and have your heart set on it.
In this article I am going to go over basic fantasy football strategy. Things like where to take a quarterback or tight end, where to take injured or suspended players, and how to draft in the first two rounds will be covered. The key with basic strategy is getting the most value possible while putting together a coherent team and starting lineup. Don’t always just pick the “best player available” if you have a serious need at another position. It is also important to consider that running backs fall off much harder down the board than receivers do. You may want to emphasize locking up an early one. Keep value and team balance in mind while you draft, favoring value slightly higher.
Where To Take A Top Quarterback
Quarterback is a difficult position to put a set strategy on for me. While I see the value in the top QBs, the discrepancy from top QB1s to low QB1s is minimal when compared to other positions. It is because of this that quarterbacks have a lower value in drafts compared to other positions. However, getting an elite quarterback can provide your team with a higher weekly floor, as well as potential week winning performances.
Personally, I find myself coming away with the mid QB1 tier quarterbacks frequently in drafts. I often find good value there and feel confident enough in my team at that point to take one. However, if there is a fall in an elite quarterback, I would advise you to take it. That weekly security and upside will be worth it in the end if you’re getting good value.
The good news is, if you miss out on the elite or mid QB1 tiers, there are still solid options. I would be fine with Lance, Carr, Stafford, Rodgers, or Lawrence as my QB1 to start the year. Though not ideal, those guys shouldn’t lose you weeks. Plus, you can always pick up a surprise producer or trade for a better option later.
In short, the strategy is simply trying to find the best possible value with quarterbacks. Whether that be early on or later depends on your draft, but this isn’t a position to stress about. Take one you feel confident in at the point you feel confident in taking them.
Where To Take A Top Tight End
Tight ends have much greater discrepancies in production than quarterbacks do. The top two tight ends last year averaged 66% more FPPG than the 10-12 overall tight ends. For reference, the top three quarterbacks averaged just 19% more FPPG than the 10-12 overall quarterbacks. Granted, quarterbacks do score more points than tight ends, but the fall off in tight end tiers is dramatic.
This is why I advocate for not hesitating to take a tight end earlier than your peers in drafts. If you like an early round tight end, a slight reach is warranted. I have no issue with someone taking Kelce late in the first round, or Andrews in the second, or Pitts early in the third. The same goes for the middle tier tight ends. Don’t drastically reach, because you can find good options down the board. But if you like someone and can get them at good value or take a small reach, go for it. I feel much better having a top tight end and being secure in this position.
Where To Take Suspended/Injured Players
Valuing suspended and injured players better than your competition can give you a serious leg up in your league. Unclear suspensions and injuries make it difficult to put a price tag on players. In these instances, it is often better to err on the side of caution and leave these players be. Two of the biggest examples of this in recent history are Le’Veon Bell and Michael Thomas.
Bell held out for a contract extension in 2018. As the season got closer, it became a real possibility the holdout would bleed into the year. Bell was going as the second overall pick that year, and ended up not playing a snap all season. Thomas was less risky last year, going in the sixth round, but with a major health question mark. At the beginning of the year he was set to only miss about six games, but that extended. It dragged on all year, and Thomas too didn’t play a snap.
Injury and suspension that’s more concrete, however, is an entirely different story. Alvin Kamara has lost any value he could have had from a suspension since he likely won’t get one. DeAndre Hopkins, on the other hand, is valuable. When active, Hopkins is a WR1. He is set to miss just the first six games of the season. There are plenty of receivers capable of filling in as a WR2 while he’s out, so he’s well worth taking. Look for him in the seventh round, before anyone else will. Other players like James Robinson and Robert Tonyan are also useful. Both are off the PUP list, so they will be playing early in the year. Even if they miss a couple games, you can get them late enough that it shouldn’t matter. When they return, the value will show.
How To Play Rounds 1 & 2
Fantasy players go about these rounds in different ways. Some take two running backs or two receivers with their first two picks. Some go one and one. And some go for Travis Kelce.
In my opinion, it is a waste to come out of the first two rounds with two receivers. There is no need to grab two WR1s with the amount of wide receiver depth down the board. Getting one is usually a good option due to the high-end upside of the top receivers. Although, there also isn’t a huge reason to get even one receiver if the value isn’t there. You will be able to find two quality starters between rounds 3-6.
Getting at least one running back is a good idea. Elite running backs are scarce. You will likely need one of your first two picks to obtain one, so don’t miss the opportunity. The only exception I would have to not drafting a running back is if you get Kelce. You may be left with an elite wide receiver option and Kelce around the 1/2 turn. That is a good start to have, but I would then prioritize running back in rounds 3 through 5.
The best way to go about these rounds is to draft for value in round 1. If that value gets you a running back, great. Go for the best value again in the second. If that value gets you a receiver, prioritize running back in the second. Unless a top receiver falls to you again, reaching slightly for an RB1 will be worthwhile in the end.
Basic fantasy football draft strategy is rather simple. It is essential that you maximize value throughout the draft. Players may fall due to other members targeting a certain position or simply disliking the player. Heavily consider taking the value given over reaching for another position or player as well.
With regards to quarterbacks and tight ends, that comes down to personal preference. Personally, I wait until I find good value on a quarterback, but ensure I lock up a solid tight end. That works for me and tends to give my team the best security at those positions while maximizing value. Others may want a top QB or feel confident in late round tight end picks. The key here is to be confident in your picks. Any position can break a team, so you need to have quality options at both positions on your roster.
It is also important to consider what you are getting out of suspended and injured players. DeAndre Hopkins in particular is a great value this year. He can truly be a league winner due to the value you get from him upon his return. The others I mentioned can be great depth pieces as well. Taking a chance on them is worth it.
That should be enough to draft a strong team with good value. In my next article, I will be going over the more complex fantasy draft strategies. The Zero-RB strategy has been growing in popularity lately, as have others. These strategies are interesting to understand, and if applied correctly, can give you a league-winning lineup. If you’re interested, be on the lookout for that article in the coming days.
For more fantasy football articles and positional rankings, head to the “fantasy” category on our site here.