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Optimal 2021 fantasy football draft strategy for picks Nos. 1-4

Sep 20, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s impossible to have an exact fantasy football draft strategy without knowing which pick you have. But it's important to plan ahead since the route to a fantasy title looks different depending on where you pick. 

Editor's Note: PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Guide and 2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets are LIVE!

This is obvious in the first round: You're never going to land someone like Christian McCaffrey in the back half of the first. Players generally come off the board near their ADP, especially early in the draft. It's usually a bad thing to reach for a player early, but once the draft begins to play out, your own personal draft strategy should start to take shape. 

We begin this series on optimal draft strategy by looking at how to approach one of the first four picks in a 2021 fantasy football draft. We'll consider average draft position and which players we can expect to be available with later picks.

This exercise assumes a 12-team league with PPR scoring. We won't plan for any dramatic ADP fallers, but it's important to remain flexible and take advantage of opponents' mistakes when that does happen. 

Round 1, Picks 1-4: Draft a Tier 1 or Tier 2 RB

Possible Targets: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry

The decision is easy in the early first: Draft the best available running back. Ian Hartitz did a deep dive on whether McCaffrey should be the consensus RB1, and the conclusion is a resounding yes.

The three backs who follow CMC finished top-three in fantasy points in 2020. Each player had minor changes to their situation this offseason but nothing dramatic enough to move them down the rankings. Only a few running backs in the league will see the vast majority of their offense's snaps — adding one here is a huge advantage. This should be the easiest pick to make in the draft.

Round 2, Picks 20-24: Draft a Tier 2 TE

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