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

Oct 11, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) reacts after being called for a penalty resulting in a touchdown being called back during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-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 redraft 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.

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.


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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.

EARLY ROUNDS (1 – 3)

Grabbing one of the Tier 1 tight ends is a priority in the first two rounds. Their points versus their position peers creates a unique opportunity to roster league-winning upside without taking on the uncertainty often required for upside at other positions.

First-round tight ends based on ADP: Travis Kelce
Second-round tight ends based on ADP: Darren Waller
Third-round tight ends based on ADP: George Kittle

Optimal strategy: Draft one anchor running back from the top three tiers and pair them with a top-tier tight end or a top-eight receiver. Depending on draft position, it may be best to flip the order and go wide receiver or tight end and then hit running back.

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