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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Optimal approach for picking RBs in 2021

Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of a NFC Divisional Round playoff game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple roster construction strategies can lead to a successful fantasy football draft depending on your league size, rules and scoring format. 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 an early tight end, waiting on tight end… the list goes on and on.

The critical thing to remember is every season is different, and every draft is a dynamic and living organism. The sooner you trap yourself into one strategy, the quicker you expose yourself when other drafters all have the same idea and foil your plans. Of course, jamming those strategies in national tournaments to create different player mixes across multiple entries can bear fruit, but that isn't the focus of this article.

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This article is about going back to the basics. It is about creating flexibility by maximizing market inefficiencies across all the positions and compiling that into a draft plan.

Think of it as solving a puzzle backward. First, we must determine the cornerstone players we have high confidence in at cheaper ADPs. Answering this question helps us consider how we approach earlier rounds. Then, once we have set these critical puzzle pieces in place, we can fit the rest of our draft strategy pieces into one picture.

Deploying this approach will keep you adaptable and always thinking multiple steps ahead. You will be playing chess, not checkers — knowing when to play it aggressively and when to hold back and allow your opponents to self-destruct while you patiently wait for value.

Note: Based on 12-team PPR using Fantasy Pros average ADP (ESPN, My Fantasy League and Fantrax). Adjust accordingly for eight and 10-team formats.


Oct 4, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28)runs during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Paul Brown Stadium. Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Running back depth is substantial in the first two rounds in 2021. The addition of Najee Harris and last year's rookie class of Jonathan TaylorAntonio Gibson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire help beef up the second-round options.

First-round backs based on ADPChristian McCaffreyDalvin CookAlvin KamaraDerrick HenryEzekiel ElliottSaquon BarkleyJonathan TaylorNick Chubb

Turn-pick tweeners: Aaron JonesAustin Ekeler

Second-round backs based on ADPNajee HarrisAntonio GibsonJoe MixonClyde Edwards-Helaire

Optimal Strategy: Draft one anchor running back and pair him with an elite tight end or receiver depending on draft position.

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