Fantasy Football: Draft Strategy Rounds 1-4
Well hopefully you are here after reading my last piece Prepping for the Prep, but even if not welcome and get ready to discuss some round by round Fantasy Football draft strategy. Now that you have a game-plan and some tools to use during your draft we can try and devise a strategy for each round and how it should vary depending where you are picking in the draft.
This year more than ever the tide may be changing from your staple “First two rounds take running backs” strategy. There are some newer strategies taking hold like the “Zero Running Back”, the more classic “Late Round Quarterback” or the “Go against the flow” style of drafting.
I won’t really stand behind any of these strategies one-hundred percent, but will likely go with a more hybrid strategy this season. There are serious advantages to all of the above methods, so why not try and use them all? Last year I was all in on the Running Back-Running Back draft and it did not go as planned. There were more top 30 picks at that position who finished well below their average draft position at the end of the season then most seasons. Doug Martin, David Wilson, C.J. Spiller, Trent Richardson……The list goes on. What I am saying is I think I learned my lesson, and unless I am getting proven talent like the big four backs (I will get in to that) or value at running back, I am looking elsewhere in the first two rounds.
Be sure to utilize mine (Staff Rankings-davidgonos.com) and so many other experts in the industries rankings on fantasypros.com . I also primarily utilized their ADP for this article, and majority of my own draft prep.
Picks One Through Four
Go Running Back
This will likely be the easiest section of them all. Because, when it comes to the top four there are only four guys I would consider, (possibly one other player on the edge, but he falls into the picks five through nine range). These picks should be te universal top 4 running backs. I would not complain if I had any of them, so choose who you like the most. You can’t go wrong.
For my example draft we will have pick 2 in the twelve team league: I would select LeSean McCoy (based on ADP). I have McCoy ranked number one overall this season so if he goes first I will jump on the Jamaal Charles train.
These running backs are consistent, proven and although injury risk is real for any of them you simply can’t pass on talent or reliability based on injury concern. After these four running backs, however there are red flags for just about every one, which leads me to the next wave of picks.
Picks Five Through Nine
Snag a WR or Jimmy Graham
This is where the draft gets risky and difficult (I know, already). In the past drafting in the middle of the round was kind of nice, you didn’t have significant runs between picks, and you could likely get one of your top three choices for each round (if you use my draft day cheat sheet you should always have three options).
This year I am going wide receiver all the way with these picks. If I end up with pick 8 or 9, I will be strongly considering Jimmy Graham. His numbers may not be as fantastic as 2013, but you know he is elite, and there is no other tight end who even comes close to him. That alone gives you an advantage every week.
This year the receiver crop is thick with talent, but like running back it has the elite group that is above and beyond the best. In these draft spots I am trusting any of these receivers over a largely unproven, or risky running back. Could Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball or Marshawn Lynch put up fantastic numbers? Absolutely! They could also underperform and you could be kicking yourself for taking them instead of the rock solid Demaryius Thomas or Calvin Johnson. It is a passing league now and receivers are becoming the new running back in many ways. Get your elite guy now.
For my sample draft we will have pick 7 and I would select Demaryius Thomas.
The Turn and Round 2:
Picks Ten Through Fifteen
Make these two count!
These picks are becoming the most desired in 2014 drafts. You can snag two top 10 potential players right away and the ability to draft twice without the risk of getting sniped is a nice bonus. If you somehow botch both of these picks, or even one of them it could mean the season. Don’t want to sound grim, but those are just the facts. No pressure though!
Depending who is available I would likely go with a WR/RB combo here, unless a talent like Graham slips to you then you should pull the trigger, and take best available on your turn between receiver or back. I just can’t completely buy in to the zero running back strategy with this draft pick range, unless you have at least one or two tier one level players (middle of the draft most likely), or you draft in a league who takes quarterbacks early. Then give it a whirl.
For my sample draft we will be picking with pick 11 and I would select Dez Bryant and A.J. Green at pick 14 (unless Demarco Murray is still available I would pass on Green). If you go with no running backs you could have a lethal receiving duo of Bryant and A.J. Green. YOWZA! Imagine having two top five potential, and top 10 guaranteed (with a full season) production at one position, rather than a question mark every week?
Backs like Montee Ball, may still be out there, but I simply don’t trust him yet. If you do, and don’t want to risk a second/third tier running back go for it, it isn’t about specific positions all of the time. Sometimes, you just want certain players and that is just fine.
Picks Sixteen Through Twenty
There are plenty of solid second tier running backs going in mock drafts and real drafts with these picks. Runners such as Le’Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris are hanging around in many drafts. You also may luck out and have top tier talent receivers like Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson or Julio Jones available, likely not for long however. This is where following your leaguemates drafts helps. If the owners picking before or after you are set on running back you know you can likely wait until Round 3 for your back, and take a Jordy or Julio (If they are around of course). So many solid and consistent players, it really comes down to who you want and there is nothing wrong with that.
For my sample draft(pick 18) I would select Brandon Marshall and hope that one of those second tier running backs falls to me in round three. I just trust Marshall more
The Turn and Round 3
Picks Twenty One Through Twenty-Eight
These picks may be some of the toughest ones to make. You know you will need to wait before your next pick, and there is plenty of talent available. The issue is there is plenty of bottom of the third and fourth round talent people may reach for. So in a way rounds three and four can be critical to your success,but there are also plenty of question marks. In my strategies I am playing the first four rounds “safe” and trying to get proven commodities with youth on their side. Again drafting a team is your project, and if you really like a player and he is ranked well below the top 28, so what? Take him, especially if he won’t be back in round 4.
So with our sample draft picks 23 and 26 I would select Jordy Nelson and Antonio Brown . These picks are solely based on ADP on fantasypros.com, but irregardless with Shady as my feature back I am looking at shoring up my receiver position with two of them with these picks. Plenty of value with targets like Alshon Jeffery, Keenan Allen, Pierre Garcon, Andre Johnson, and even Rob Gronkowski .are typically available in this slot.
Picks Twenty-Nine Through Thirty-Three
The same so goes for these picks as the previous grouping, however you only get one and the wait to pick again isn’t as lengthy. Plenty of second tier running backs still around, and this may be a good time to snag one if you went WR/WR in the first two rounds, I highly recommend it based on who’s available. If you went WR/RB or vice versa, or took Graham you have a little more flexibility here.
For my sample draft and pick 31 I will take a flyer on Andre Ellington. Relatively unproven, and his durability is a question mark, but looking at other options in this part of the draft isn’t much more reassuring C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews, Reggie Bush. I would almost lean Mathews here but like Arizona’s offense this season as being productive. You also will likely have some runners available in round four who could be more consistent and stable. Ellington has a nice high ceiling if he stays healthy.
The Turn and Round 4
Picks Thirty-Four Through Thirty-Nine
Round four is the good mix round. Depending on your league, and if they truly listen to the “Experts” of the industry then you may start seeing some quarterbacks go off the board in this round, or late round 3. I still wouldn’t advise this, but if you really want a Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck you may need to pull the trigger here with the long wait. I would wait and settle for a second tier QB if I were you. Plenty of depth, plenty of question marks with these picks, and in the fourth round in general.
For my sample draft with picks 35 and 38 I would select Ryan Mathews and Toby Gerhart. With these two picks I am not overjoyed at my running back tandem, but I am guaranteed production and touches if they both stay healthy. Gerhart will be the horse in Jacksonville. Mathews stayed healthy and put in a great season, that is enough for me to shrug off his injury prone tendencies. If you don’t trust perhaps a back like Rashad Jennings is more appealing
Picks Forty Through Forty-Five
Same as above, talent pool is still solid, and draft based on needs here. Quarterbacks and Tight Ends will start flying off the boards in round 5 typically, so I would stick with a RB/WR here, but if you want to zag, feel free to grab an Andrew Luck or better QB here.
For my sample draft with pick 42 I will select Rashad Jennings. I now have two very good receivers, and two question marks, but likely productive runners. Confident with this lineup so far.
Picks forty-Six Through Forty-Eight
I know it will be a long wait once again after these picks in the 4th and 5th rounds. I am going to look for a running back here and another young, high ceiling receiver in round five.
For my sample draft with pick 47 I would take Bishop Sankey. Not the most exciting running back, but he is assured of carries, and should contribute well enough alongside McCoy every week.
So through four rounds and my imaginary draft based on ADP the rosters would look like this:
Pick 2 Overall:
RB- LeSean McCoy
WR- Jordy Nelson
WR- Antonio Brown
RB- Bishop Sankey
Pick 7 Overall:
WR- Brandon Marshall
RB- Andre Ellington
RB- Rashad Jennings
Pick 11 Overall:
WR- Dez Bryant
WR- A.J. Green
RB- Ryan Mathews
RB- Toby Gerhart
I like all of these lineups through the first four rounds. It hopefully gives you an idea on how certain strategies could play out in your own drafts. No one can predict what will happen in every draft, but having a basic plan and knowing when to reach while getting players you want is part of the challenge and fun of the draft. Enjoy it!
I will be back with rounds five through 12 very soon. Thanks for reading, and of course if you need help or have questions feel free to reach out to me (after following of course) on twitter @fantsychillpony.