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Perfect 2023 fantasy football draft strategy, round by round - Picks 1-3 2.0

2NM906P PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates a touchdown in the first half during the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on November 21, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

  • Taking a running back first helps long-term: Adding a running back first can still allow a team to take several talented wide receivers down the stretch while taking advantage of value at quarterback and tight end. 
  • Don’t be afraid of a second-round quarterback: If Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts or Patrick Mahomes slides to the end of the second, pick him up before the third round.
  • Pile up on wide receivers later: While wide receiver will be the clear weak point for a team following this strategy, the depth at wide receiver will help make up for it. 
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Estimated reading time: 15 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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12-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-6 | Picks 7-9 | Picks 10-12
10-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-7 | Picks 8-10

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, August 15

Round 1, Picks 1-3: Draft a running back or wide receiver

An argument could be made for a wide receiver such as Justin Jefferson, but it is harder to find the depth at running back than it is at wide receiver when great options will be available at quarterback and tight end in early picks. Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler have clearly been the top-two fantasy running backs in recent seasons thanks to both their rushing and receiving abilities. Injuries are always a risk, and the production of a player picked here will not be replicated by any player in any way, but it simply comes down to the build of a team starting with running back ends up being better than starting with Jefferson based on how drafts are currently playing out.

However, if you have the third pick and McCaffrey and Ekeler go Nos. 1 and 2, then picking Jefferson makes the most sense.

Top Target: Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey was nearly unstoppable last season after getting traded to the 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 since 2020, which ranks seventh and second, respectively, out of 79 running backs with at least 25 games in that span.
  • The 49ers retained the majority of their offensive line this offseason, outside of losing right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The unproven Colton McKivitz is expected to take his place. McKivitz has played 145 offensive snaps over the past 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 touchdown or more lead 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, Justin Jefferson

Round 2, Picks 22-24: Draft a running back or Jalen Hurts

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