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.
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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 personal draft strategy should start to take shape.
We continue this series on optimal draft strategy by looking at how to approach the last four picks in a 2021 fantasy football draft. We'll consider average draft position and the players we can expect to be available with those 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.
Optimal Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Pick:
No. 1 – No. 4 | No. 5 – No. 8
Round 1, Picks 9-12: Draft a Tier 3 RB
Possible Targets: Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb
The strategy here used to be to take a top-tier wide receiver in the first round and wait for a running back to start the second round, but a number of factors have led the strategy to flip. Davante Adams ADP continued to rise after Aaron Rodgers‘ return, making him no longer an option for this pick. Cam Akers season-ending injury made him no longer an option in the second round. Ezekiel Elliott has climbed the draft board as well, leading to some talented backs to fall.
The Chargers running back is the best option here as he should be a top-five fantasy running back. He’s played like a first-rounder the last two seasons he’s been healthy, and should get help from an improved offensive line and new coaching staff. Barkley is also a fine option after leading the league in fantasy points as a rookie, and following that up with the seventh-most fantasy points per game by a back in 2019. Injury concerns have driven down his ADP, but he’s on track to play Week 1.
Round 2, Picks 13-16: Draft a Tier 1 or Tier 2 WR
Possible Targets: Stefon Diggs, Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins
At least one top-10 running back will fall into the second round.
A team using this strategy can’t get Adams or Tyreek Hill, but having Diggs on the roster is just as good. The league leader in targets finished third in fantasy points, and there is plenty of reason to believe he can get there again.
The Bills could have the most pass-happy offense thai year after not doing much to address the running back position this offseason. In the one game the Bills used starters in the preseason, they only ran pass plays in the first quarter. Even if they were ahead in games, they remained one of the most pass-heavy teams rather than just running the ball to run out the clock.
Diggs ideally sees more end zone targets, which would lead to more touchdowns and fantasy points. He was targeted nine times in the end zone which tied him for 24th best among wide receivers. If he can maintain his target share and score more touchdowns, he has a chance to be the top fantasy wide receiver this season.