News & Analysis

5 fantasy football draft strategy tips

Sep 6, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) under center against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football draft strategy doesn’t need to be complex. The goal on draft day is pretty simple: to out-draft your opponents and put together the best team possible. While there’s certainly a lot to think about in a fantasy draft, there are a few key things to keep in mind as we head into the heart of fantasy football draft season. Here are five tips to help you dominate your 2019 fantasy football drafts.

1. Keep it simple on draft day. A lot of folks show up to their drafts with binders of material or have multiple spread sheets and tabs open on their laptops. Simply put, this is information overload, and you really don’t need it all to make your picks. Sure, all of this info is important right now as you prep for your drafts, but more inputs on draft day can lead you to paralysis from over analysis.

Put the work in beforehand, but keep it as streamlined as possible on draft day. I highly recommend checking out my 2019 fantasy football draft board. On this single sheet, you have every piece of information you need to make the best decision possible on each one of your picks. You won’t need to flip through pages or go back and forth between apps in your laptop. That means you’re less likely to panic pick, and you’ll more time to focus on exploiting your opponents’ mistakes on draft day.

2. Don’t wait at running back. There’s a perception among some players that the position is deep this year, but trust me, it isn’t. You aren’t going to like your options after the first 40 running backs come off the board, and current ADP suggests that’s going to happen by the end of the seventh round in 12-team leagues. That means the position is dried up before you even reach the halfway point of your draft.

While the big-name wideouts are going to be tempting in the early phases of your draft, this isn’t the year for a zero-RB approach. Attack running back early and try to scoop at least one top-10 option in the first two rounds. From there, don’t let running backs fall past you. By the end of Round 5, aim to be sitting with three running backs, and ideally grab four by the end of the seventh round.

3. Prioritize tight end, but don’t go overboard. Travis Kelce is very good. The Chiefs tight end is coming off a historically good fantasy season. But in order to draft him you’re going to have to give up some combination of your left arm and your first-born child, as Kelce is a good bet to go in Round 1 of your leagues this season. While that certainly isn’t an outrageous price tag for him, it puts you into a potential conundrum from a roster construction standpoint. Likewise, you’re probably going to see Zach Ertz and George Kittle come off the board by the end of the second round.

There’s no denying the fantasy prowess of the Big 3 tight ends, but as Kittle showed us last year, deeper players are capable of making the leap into fantasy elite territory. Kittle was a breakout candidate, but his ADP ultimately settled out in the 11th round as the No. 12 tight end. In other words, you didn’t have to spend a premium pick on him. Likewise, Eric Ebron finished fourth in fantasy scoring at the position and was a 13th-round selection.

To be fair, waiting that long could prove to be volatile this year given the overall depth at the position. However, there’s a very interesting wheelhouse of value between the fifth and seventh rounds. In this phase of your drafts, you’re likely to see Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Jared Cook, Vance McDonald, and Ebron come off the board. Any one of these six players could finish as a top-three guy, but you won’t have to pay a top-three price for them.

4. Let the value fall to you at wide receiver. Unlike running back and tight end, wideout is deep this year. Better yet, because running backs go early and often, good wide receivers get pushed down the board. This is the reason why you don’t need to zig while everyone else is zagging toward running back. The equal and opposite reaction to this action is value falling all over the place. There’s a very good chance you’ll be able to score a top-12 fantasy wide receiver in the third round. That’s a WR1 at a solid discount.

Let’s say you do grab three running backs in the first five rounds. If you hit wide receiver in the third round, you can likely get a top-12 guy. You can then grab a top-24 guy in the fifth round with names like Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, D.J. Moore, and Tyler Boyd still on the board. And even if you draft a tight end in the sixth round, you’ll still likely have a shot at guys like Alshon Jeffery, Allen Robinson, Christian Kirk, or Dante Pettis as your third wide receiver. Better yet, unlike running back, which is picked clean by the end of Round 7, you’ll be able to pick intriguing upside options in the late rounds of your draft.

5. You can wait until the end of your draft to draft a quarterback. Seriously. Even in your home leagues where quarterbacks come off the board early, you can wait. You don’t need Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson to win your leagues this year, and the reason is relatively simple. The annual difference between the top fantasy quarterbacks and the best player you can get off waivers is much slimmer than what you’ll find at running back or wide receiver.

Don’t believe me? The difference between Matt Ryan at No. 2 and the likely replacement range of Derek Carr at No. 18 was 121.8 fantasy points. Let’s compare that to running back, where Christian McCaffrey at No. 2 was 265.8 fantasy points ahead of the likely replacement range of Wendell Smallwood at No. 42. That’s a sizeable gap, and it shows the relative values of the top options at each position.

Better yet, in today’s pass-happy NFL, there are legitimately 20 quarterbacks who are capable of putting up starter quality fantasy production. That means even if most of the teams in your league draft backups early, you’ll still be likely to land someone like Kirk Cousins in the end of your draft. For late-round targets at the position, be sure to check out my fantasy football blueprint.

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