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Perfect 2023 fantasy football draft strategy, round by round for 12-team leagues 4.0

2NHJ5TP INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 26: Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas II (25) during the NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts on December 26, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

  • Running backs can still be first-round picks: Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and Bijan Robinson are ahead of the running back pack, and their production should be unmatched.
  • Don’t be afraid of an early quarterback pick: The decline or retirement of several aging quarterbacks makes the great quarterbacks of today even more valuable.
  • Stock up on wide receivers: There are plenty of high-upside wide receiver options that can be found outside of the top 36 receivers.

Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

The perfect 2023 fantasy football draft series combines current average draft positions from expert and casual drafts to see which players should be available at each pick, and then we make the best picks given that information.

To try out a draft strategy for specific picks in different league sizes, check out our new mock draft simulator. For help in other formats, rankings or for more details about the players, check out the rest of my summer content below. 

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Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Monday, August 21

Round 1, Picks 1-12: Draft a running back or wide receiver

The strategy for the first round should be to get a Tier 1 running back. Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler have consistently been elite fantasy receivers thanks to both their rushing and receiving, and Bijan Robinson is the only other running back to have the same potential with volume and talent. Robinson is typically getting drafted in the later parts of the first round, so he should be the target in the middle of the draft.

Drafting an elite wide receiver to play it safe is also a perfectly fine option. Tight end Travis Kelce is also a mid-first-round pick, but the elite receivers and Kelce are going before Robinson, which is why they aren’t listed as options here.

Top Target: Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey was nearly unstoppable last season after getting traded to the San Francisco 49ers, averaging 23.0 PPR points per game once he became a starter in San Francisco.

  • He has averaged 9.8 rushing and 11.3 receiving PPR fantasy points per game, which ranked seventh and second respectively out of 79 running backs with at least 25 games since 2020.
  • The 49ers retained the majority of their offensive line outside of losing right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Unproven Colton McKivitz is expected to take his place. McKivitz has played 145 offensive snaps over the last two seasons.
  • McCaffrey is the definition of an every-down back, but the 49ers were OK with giving him rest whenever they were ahead late. His playing time dipped below 59% when San Francisco had a lead of a touchdown or more in the second half of games.
  • He is, by far, the safest bet to be an elite fantasy back this season while playing with the same coaching staff around him with similar backups.

Possible Targets: Austin Ekeler, Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, Davante Adams

Round 2, Picks 13-24: Draft a running back, quarterback or Davante Adams


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