Perfect 2024 fantasy football draft strategy, round by round: Picks 1-3

2WA0XY8 Landover, United States. 31st Dec, 2023. December 31 2023: San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Commanders in Landover, MD. Reggie Hildred/CSM/Sipa USA (Credit Image: © Reggie Hildred/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

Josh Allen is the top option in Round 2: Anyone picking a quarterback at the end of Round 2 last season was happy with their selection, and the same should be true this season.

Multiple chances to pick San Francisco 49ers early: Christian McCaffrey is the consensus 1.01 while Brandon Aiyuk is the best third-round option.

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Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

The perfect draft series combines current ADPs from expert and casual drafts to see who should be available at each pick and make the best picks given that information. This draft is designed for 12-team PPR leagues for anyone picking first, second or third.

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, July 2

Round 1, Picks 1-3: Draft Christian McCaffrey or a wide receiver

Anyone with the top overall pick should take McCaffrey with little hesitation. He scored over 100 more PPR points than any other running back last season and has the perfect combination of talent, opportunity and situation. Anyone missing out needs to pivot to a wide receiver. No quarterback or tight end is worth a first-round pick this year, and every other running back is more than a gamble.

For the rest of the article, we’ll assume a wide receiver is picked here, but anyone who was lucky enough to add McCaffrey should pivot to wide receiver in Round 4.

Top Target: CeeDee Lamb

Lamb noticeably improved each season and now, he’s at the top of the position. He finished last season as the top wide receiver and has less competition for targets this season after Tony Pollard and Michael Gallup‘s departure. The only notable addition is sixth-round receiver Ryan Flournoy, which will have no impact on Lamb’s target share.

In contrast, Justin Jefferson has a new quarterback, Ja’Marr Chase’s quarterback is coming back from injury, and Tyreek Hill is 30 years old, adding a little risk to each of the other top wide receiver options.

Possible Targets: Christian McCaffrey, Tyreek Hill

Round 2, Picks 22-24: Draft a quarterback

A quarterback is the ideal pick at the end of Round 2 for the second straight season. These perfect draft articles were constantly mentioning Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts at the end of Round 2 last season, and they ended up finishing first and second in fantasy points at the position. Both quarterbacks have changed this offseason, but their talent and rushing production still leave them squarely at the top.

In contrast, Jaylen Waddle, Chris Olave and DeVonta Smith were the other options to end Round 2 last season. All three were worthy of being fantasy starters, but none finished in the top 15 as their draft status implied. This year the other options are a top tight end, or other running backs and wide receivers who are likely fantasy starters but more of a gamble.

Top Target: Josh Allen

Allen has finished as a top-two fantasy quarterback in each of the last four seasons. He’s the third-highest-graded passer and has the third-most rushing attempts in that time. He is the only quarterback who is elite at both passing, elite at rushing and runs a lot. There is an obvious risk with the Stefon Diggs loss but the Bills general recharge means they will need to depend more heavily on Allen, which should allow his fantasy production to remain high.

Possible Targets: Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes

Round 3, Picks 25-27: Draft a wide receiver

Wide receiver is the safest option to start Round 3. The top quarterbacks and tight ends are likely gone, and any running back available at this point is either in a committee or not in an ideal situation for fantasy production.

There should be several wide receivers with proven track records going off the board in Round 3. All six wide receivers suggested here finished among the top-21 wide receivers last season. Four of the six finished top 20 the year before, except Deebo Samuel Sr. due to injury and Nico Collins before his breakout last season.

Top Target: Brandon Aiyuk

Aiyuk has been a very talented receiver held back by the 49ers' run-first offense and quarterback situation. This past season Aiyuk was unleashed with Brock Purdy. His average depth of target and deep target rate shot up, allowing him to finish at WR12 despite how often the 49ers run with the ball.

Trade rumors have run rampant around Aiyuk given his desire for a new contract and the 49ers' cap situation in 2025 and beyond. A change in team would likely result in less accurate passes thrown Aiyuk’s way but also a large increase in pass routes per game, allowing him to accumulate more stats.

Possible Targets: Mike Evans, D.K. Metcalf, Michael Pittman Jr., Deebo Samuel Sr., Nico Collins

Round 4, Picks 46-48: Draft a running back

This is the last opportunity to draft a clear-cut starting running back. This tier of running backs is valuable if everything goes according to plan but a lot can go wrong. All six backs available at this point have averaged at least 14.5 PPR points per game over a significant stretch of time during the last two seasons, but most of the teams these running backs played for have invested a significant draft pick on another running back. Enough has been invested in these six that they are unlikely to completely disappear even if they loses playing time.

Top Target: Alvin Kamara

Kamara finished third in fantasy points per game this season despite averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry. He accomplished this by leading all running backs in receptions despite missing the first three games due to suspension. Kamara has a new offensive coordinator in Klint Kubiak who spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers and the year before with the Denver Broncos. Both teams ranked top-10 in receiving yards to running backs in those seasons.

Kamara could start losing playing time to Kendre Miller this season, but given Kamara’s salary and the New Orleans Saints cap situation, they clearly still have big plans for Kamara.

Possible Targets: Kenneth Walker III, Aaron Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, David Montgomery, James Conner

Round 5, Picks 49-51: Draft a tight end

The start of Round 5 is a sweet spot for adding a star tight end, which is why that position was ignored at the end of Round 2. The top tight ends available at this spot have either finished as top-six fantasy tight ends each of the last two seasons with the same quarterback and offensive play-caller or are a young tight end with a great opportunity to have a career year.

Top Target: Dalton Kincaid

Kincaid posted one of the best rookie seasons by a tight end of all time, including the fourth-most receptions, but Sam LaPorta’s success overshadowed it. Typically, tight ends improve in their second season, and there are a lot of vacated targets in Buffalo after Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis‘ departure. Given Kincaid’s quarterback and situation with the Bills, Kincaid should be a top-three fantasy tight end this season. The only thing holding him back is his unproven talent compared to other tight ends who are a lot more proven.

Possible Targets: George Kittle, Kyle Pitts, Evan Engram

Round 6, Picks 70-72: Draft a wide receiver

With a top-six quarterback and tight end secured, the next several picks will be some combination of running back and wide receiver. When you have a top-six quarterback or tight end, you’re not benching them because a backup has a better matchup. That means a backup is only necessary in case of injuries. This means you can draft more running backs and wide receivers and make lineup decisions based on matchups and who breaks out.

In this case, a wide receiver is best to pick because several proven players are in new situations this year. Ideally, the new situation allows them to outperform their ADP. If it doesn’t, then hopefully one of the several sleeper wide receivers picked later ends up breaking out.

Top Target: Hollywood Brown

Brown was a top-21 fantasy wide receiver in PPR points per game in 2021 and 2022, but his 2023 role changed after the Cardinals moved on from DeAndre Hopkins. That and the quarterback situation resulted in a lack of production in 2023, but he has an opportunity for a huge season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Brown is consistently near the top of our separation metrics, which could make him a perfect pairing for Patrick Mahomes. Considering how slowly the Chiefs have brought on rookie wide receivers in the past as well as Rashee Rice’s legal situation, Brown could be the top wide receiver for Mahomes this season.

Possible Targets: Diontae Johnson, Chris Godwin, DeAndre Hopkins, Rashee Rice, Calvin Ridley

Round 7, Picks 73-75: Draft a running back

The running backs, at this point of the draft, are favorites to start when healthy but are facing significant competition. While these running backs aren’t necessarily the most exciting names, only so many running backs are either starters or exciting backups with a chance to start. It would be good to pick two running backs in that range, but it’s possible there won’t be two worth picking at a value during Rounds 8 and 9.

Top Target: James Conner

Conner was quietly a very productive rusher in 2023, leading to his first 1,000-yard rushing season. He averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry in all-but-two games last season, and his worst game finished with 3.75 yards per carry. He ended last season with four top-five fantasy performances in his last five games. That’s because seven of his nine touchdowns came over the last five weeks once Kyler Murray was back and the offense was playing better. His lack of receiving production is an obvious concern, as is his injury history and Trey Benson‘s presence. The worst-case scenario is that he becomes a two-down backup, but there is also a scenario where he stays healthy, Benson was more of a pick for 2025 and beyond, and the Cardinals offense is playing well in which Conner could be a top-10 running back.

Possible Targets: Zamir White, Jonathon Brooks, D'Andre Swift, Tony Pollard, Jaylen Warren

Round 8, Picks 94-96: Draft a running back

As mentioned in Round 7, there are still a few running backs penciled in to be starters as well as other top backups. In any given week you’ll only need to start one of the two running backs picked in Rounds 7 and 8 so it’s OK if either is a matchup-dependent player.

Top Target: Javonte Williams

Williams was everyone’s favorite running back heading into the 2022 season. It wasn’t until Week 4 when he was finally unleashed and playing the every-down role people were hopeful for, but that role only lasted for a half as he tore his ACL and LCL. Williams returned for the 2023 season, but as Sean Payton recently acknowledged, it often takes two seasons before someone is back to full speed and strength.

The Broncos brought back Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine in addition to drafting Audric Estime, giving Williams plenty of competition. There are a wide range of outcomes for Williams, ranging from him re-gaining a feature role to him getting buried on the depth chart, and everywhere in between. 

Possible Targets: Devin Singletary, Brian Robinson Jr., Tyjae Spears, Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler

Round 9, Picks 97-99: Draft a wide receiver

Wide receiver is the best option here, but there is still an important decision to make. You can draft a proven veteran or one of the younger wide receivers in the league. Someone like Tyler Lockett or Courtland Sutton is very likely to beat their ADPs if they stay healthy and can be fantasy starters, but they are unlikely to finish among the top 24 without some touchdown luck. The younger wide receivers are less likely to beat their ADP, but they have a higher chance of being an elite wide receiver this season. The right decision likely depends on how risky the previous wide receivers picked have been.

Top Target: Tyler Lockett

Lockett had been a consistent fantasy asset with four straight 1,000-yard seasons with eight or more touchdowns, but he gained fewer yards and caught fewer touchdowns last season at the age of 31. His decline was only in his statistics as his PFF receiving grade was very consistent. He’s finished between 77-83 in each of the last six seasons. The Seahawks have a new offensive coordinator in Ryan Grubb. While everyone is excited for Jaxon Smith-Njigba, ideally Grubb will be able to take advantage of Lockett’s talent to keep him fantasy-relevant.

Possible Targets: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Courtland Sutton, Brian Thomas Jr., Keon Coleman, Mike Williams

Round 10, Picks 118-120: Draft a running back

The next four rounds are mostly about picking your guys. If your favorite sleeper quarterback or tight end is available, it’s OK to pick them, but I’d lean toward stocking up on even more running backs and wide receivers. I lean toward picking a running back and wide receiver at each of the next two pairs of picks, picking whichever players are at the top of the board.

Top Target: Ezekiel Elliott

The Cowboys running back depth chart consists of Elliott, Rico Dowdle, Royce Freeman and Deuce Vaughn. It’s unclear how snaps will get distributed among the running backs, but Elliott should at least see part of the rotation and serve as the goal line back. In 2022, Elliott had a then career-low 231 carries and averaged 3.8 yards per carry but managed 12 touchdowns, leading to the 22nd-most fantasy points. Similar numbers are certainly possible. Chances are he will see fewer carries, but there is also a chance his production bounces back after a year with less wear and tear on his body.

Possible Targets: Zach Charbonnet, Chase Brown, Jerome Ford, Chuba Hubbard, Rico Dowdle

Round 11, Picks 121-123: Draft a wide receiver

Top Target: Mike Williams

Williams finished last season with the 10th-most fantasy points per game at wide receiver, albeit on three games played. He caught 15 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in his last two games but then tore his ACL. His injury history is extensive, and he might not be ready to start the season. Williams signed with the New York Jets in free agency, and his new head coach Robert Saleh compared his timeline to Breece Hall’s last year. Williams might not be a fantasy starter in September or October, but if the Jets offense is playing well, Williams could be a steal over the second half of the season.

Possible Targets: Jakobi Meyers, Curtis Samuel, Brandin Cooks, Rashid Shaheed, Jerry Jeudy

Round 12, Picks 142-144: Draft a running back

Top Target: Chuba Hubbard

Hubbard was used in a variety of situations in his first two seasons, and his role increased significantly for the 2023 season, playing at least 64% of his team's offensive snaps in each of his last seven games. He finished at least RB28 or better in each of those games including two weeks as a top-12 running back.

The Panthers added Jonathon Brooks in the draft as the first running back selected, but he is coming off a torn ACL. A few weeks ago it was reported that Brooks still has a ways to go in his recovery and will likely be eased into training camp. Hubbard has a decent chance to be the starter at least early in the season, and the Panthers shouldn’t rush Brooks. Hubbard is a great gamble this late in the draft as someone capable of being a feature back.

Possible Targets: Rico Dowdle, Jaleel McLaughlin, J.K. Dobbins, Khalil Herbert, Bucky Irving

Round 13, Picks 145-147: Draft a wide receiver

Top Target: Brandin Cooks

It took a few weeks for Cooks to start producing in the Dallas Cowboys offense last season, but he scored the 24th-most fantasy points for a wide receiver from Week 6 until the end of the season. As mentioned with CeeDee Lamb, the offense has lost some of its receiving production and didn’t bring in much to replace them, which should put more emphasis on the other Cowboys receivers. A lot of Cooks’ fantasy production came from touchdowns which is bound to regress, but three of his best four games in terms of targets and receptions came in the last three weeks of the season including the playoffs. If Cooks can continue that momentum into the 2024 season, he will be one of the biggest steals of the draft.

Possible Targets: Gabe Davis, Adam Thielen, Darnell Mooney, Joshua Palmer, Ja'Lynn Polk

Round 14-18: Fill Depth 

Use any additional picks to pick a kicker and team defense if your league plays with them and forces you to draft them. If not, stock up on more running backs and wide receivers.


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