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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Optimal approach for picking WRs in 2022

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) gains yards after the catch against the New York Giants during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on your league size, rules and scoring format, there are several roster construction strategies that can lead to a successful fantasy football draft.

Today, we will examine the 2022 fantasy football wide receiver landscape, along with when — and why — we should draft certain players at specific points in the draft.

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STRATEGY OVERVIEW

I have placed highly in major season-long re-draft tournaments using them all: zero RB, anchor RB, hyper-fragile, taking an early quarterback, waiting on a quarterback, taking a premature tight end, waiting on tight end… the list goes on and on.

Every season is different, and every draft is a dynamic, living organism. The sooner we trap ourselves into one strategy, the quicker we expose ourselves when other drafters have the same idea and foil our plans.

This article is about creating flexibility by identifying market inefficiencies — think of it as solving a puzzle backward. We can formulate an adaptable if-then strategy by understanding which positions provide value based on average draft position (ADP).

Whether you start RB-RB, RB-WR or WR-WR, you will know who your targets are round-by-round, so you know when to wait for value and when to get aggressive.

Notes: 

  • Based on 12-team PPR using Fantasy Pros average ADP (ESPN, RTSports, Fantrax and Sleeper)
  • Starting lineup = 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, 1FLEX (RB, WR, TE)
  • Early position = picks 1-4; Middle position = picks 5-8; Late position = picks 9-12.
  • Adjust accordingly for eight and 10-team formats.

WIDE RECEIVER ADP OVERVIEW

  • The first two rounds are strong as usual, and there are enough quality options to start WR-WR-WR, but running backs get tricky beginning in the fourth round.
  • Rounds 3 and 4 have values and some great talent profiles, but many have quarterback or offensive environment questions; grabbing at least one WR in the first two rounds is a strong play unless value dictates otherwise.
  • Round 5 is receiver rich and offers good WR2 and great WR3 options; many of these options are similar to options in the two rounds before at a discount.
  • Round 6 offers a group of receivers with paths to fantasy points and upside, but most have questions, making it an excellent time to consider grabbing an elite quarterback.
  • Rounds 7 to 11 offer incredible value on four players that go one to two rounds sooner in high-stakes drafts.
  • In Rounds 12 and beyond, we can still target receivers, but things dip quickly, and there are upside backs we could be targeting.

EARLY ROUNDS (1-2)

First-round ADP receivers: Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs

Second-round ADP receivers: Deebo Samuel, CeeDee Lamb, Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans

Optimal Strategy: Draft one anchor running back and pair them with an elite wide receiver or tight end Mark Andrews.

Backup Strategies: Start RB/RB if you can pair Swift, Jones or Barkley with one of the top three options from Round 1 OR start WR/WR and reserve a Round 3 or 4 pick for RB.

Early position:

Kupp and Jefferson are the top two receivers off the board, and they should be in consideration after Jonathan Taylor and Christian McCaffrey are drafted. 

You can make an argument for the Tier 1A receivers here due to the fragility of running backs. However, the elite backs still carry the most upside. Since 2011, 61% of the top-three finishers in PPR have been running backs.

Of course, starting lineup requirements matter. If you play in a league without a flex position and must start three wide receivers and only two running backs, it makes a WR start more viable due to supply and demand.

In high-stake leagues like the FFPC, Evans goes in the middle of the second round but has a late Round 2 ADP in home leagues. Including the playoffs, he averaged an eye-popping 23.6 points over four games without Chris Godwin in 2021. Godwin won’t likely play until October or November.

Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones and Javonte Williams are all centerpiece options at the running back position, and there is a good chance one of them will be available at the end of Round 2.

Some realistic starts from an early position:

  • RB-WR: McCaffrey/Evans
  • RB-RB: McCaffrey/Barkley
  • WR-RB: Kupp/Jones
  • RB-TE: Taylor/Andrews
  • WR-WR: Jefferson/Evans
  • WR-TE: Jefferson/Andrews
Middle position:

Jefferson and Austin Ekeler are smash starts from the middle position in the first round. If Taylor, McCaffrey, Kupp, Ekeler and Jefferson are gone, the pivot is to Diggs, Chase or Dalvin Cook.

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