Updated with new Draft List and ADP info - 8/28
This is the first of a multi-part series.
I started penning this article in 2002 to put my pre-draft thoughts to paper. Like most things in life, I find I do my best when I plan to succeed. This article is my attempt at that. I work hard at doing projections every year. At Footballguys, we also put together the most comprehensive Average Draft Position Lists. So the information about value is certainly readily available. The trick to having a perfect draft though is to anticipate those "pockets of value" and build your team so that you get the lion's share of these guys.
There is no one way to have a perfect draft. In fact, the biggest criticism I often get is that I am willing to wait on a quarterback and/or tight end in a lot of drafts. Many drafters show me teams where they grab a guy like Patrick Mahomes II, DeShaun Watson, or Andrew Luck early and then knock the rest of the draft out of the park. That's definitely possible. And against weak competition, it can be the preferred game plan.
This article assumes fairly educated drafters. You need to decide whether your league is full of sharks, guppies, or a combination of both. Count the number of Footballguys subscriptions and/or Dominator apps and compare that to the number of guys crossing off players from their magazine cheat sheet to get a feel for this if you really are unsure. I state this here because against softer competition the shark move is to grab the quality quarterbacks and tight ends too. You should do this because it's nearly assured you will also get many great players to slide to you at running back and wide receiver. Against great competition, reaching for a player at the wrong time can quickly dismantle your draft and leave you missing the key "pockets of value" that can help your chances at winning.
Before we can have the "Perfect Draft", let's define our measure of success. After the draft, your team should have these qualities:
- Against multiple projection sets, your team always grades out as one of the best teams. And to make your life easy here, just run your roster through our Rate My Team application.
- You secured a great number of players that will outperform their draft position.
- You have quality depth (in the right places) to allow for post-draft trades.
- The majority of owners recognize that you have a team that should easily reach the playoffs.
- Your late-round picks have the potential to be game-changing players
These aren't absolutes, but I list them here so we know what we are trying to build.
Let's start with the two basic principles of Value-Based Drafting (VBD). I will expound on them as we go through this.
- All Players Have Value - Don't love anyone. Don't hate anyone. Get players that will significantly outperform their draft position and you will build a winning team.
- Understand What the Average Guy Thinks - You may believe someone will be the 10th best WR, but if everybody else does not then you should wait to maximize value.
If you don't follow these principles, you will not have a perfect draft. If you believe rookie wide receivers are always bad or drafting anyone over 30 is too big of an injury risk, then you will not have the perfect draft. Throw away the biases. Let value guide your draft. Let others succumb to prejudices and generalities. You are here to win your league. And you do that by getting value with every pick.
How do we define value? Value-Based Drafting (VBD) has shown us that we can compare unlike positions for comparative value. The cornerstone of VBD starts with solid projections. And these projections can be manipulated to form Top 300+ lists. For this article, I will be using the Top 300 (PPR) list I created for the website. I have highlighted favorable differences in green to indicate players that may be bargains on draft day.
Let's have the perfect draft.
The goal is to get you the best possible team and to make sure you don't overpay for players that can still be had a few rounds later. What I look for are players that I project significantly better than where they are being drafted. The positional analysis tracks to my projections.
This article assumes a 12-team league using scoring that starts 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 defense, and 1 kicker. Fantasy points are calculated as follows:
- Passing touchdowns = 4 points
- Interceptions = -1 points
- Rushing/receiving touchdowns = 6 points
- Receptions = 1 point
- Passing yardage = 0.05 pts per yard (1 pt per 20 yards)
- Rushing/receiving yardage = 0.10 pts per yard (1 pt per 10 yards)
The Top 60 Players
Because ADP is a crucial barometer on when players will get drafted, I believe it's important to merge the Footballguys Top 300 with ADP to create a single Top 60 draft list. This list appears here for PPR leagues
- For players that have a value lower than ADP, use the average of the two numbers.
- For players that have a value higher than ADP, use the value number.
Example: Player A has a value of 13 and an ADP of 21. His drafting value would be 17. (13 + 21)/2. Conversely, if Player has a value of 21 and an ADP of 13, his drafting value would be 21.
Doing this for the Top 300 list yields these Top 60 players (ranked from 1st to 60).
*** Note this is a generic PPR list. You can get a tailored list by entering your scoring criteria into the VBD or Draft Dominator applications:
- Pick 1.01 - RB1 Saquon Barkley, NYG/11 (ADP = 1)
- Pick 1.02 - RB2 Christian McCaffrey, CAR/7 (ADP = 2)
- Pick 1.03 - RB3 Alvin Kamara, NO/9 (ADP = 3)
- Pick 1.04 - RB4 David Johnson, ARI/12 (ADP = 6)
- Pick 1.05 - WR1 DeAndre Hopkins, HOU/10 (ADP = 5)
- Pick 1.06 - RB5 Le'Veon Bell, NYJ/4 (ADP = 7)
- Pick 1.07 - WR2 Davante Adams, GB/11 (ADP = 8)
- Pick 1.08 - WR3 Julio Jones, ATL/9 (ADP = 9)
- Pick 1.09 - RB6 Ezekiel Elliott, DAL/8 (ADP = 4)
- Pick 1.10 - WR4 Odell Beckham Jr Jr, CLE/7 (ADP = 12)
- Pick 1.11 - TE1 Travis Kelce, KC/12 (ADP = 13)
- Pick 1.12 - WR5 Michael Thomas, NO/9 (ADP = 10)
- Pick 2.01 - WR6 Tyreek Hill, KC/12 (ADP = 14)
- Pick 2.02 - RB7 Joe Mixon, CIN/9 (ADP = 17)
- Pick 2.03 - WR7 JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT/7 (ADP = 16)
- Pick 2.04 - RB8 Nick Chubb, CLE/7 (ADP = 18)
- Pick 2.05 - RB9 Dalvin Cook, MIN/12 (ADP = 19)
- Pick 2.06 - RB10 James Conner, PIT/7 (ADP = 11)
- Pick 2.07 - RB11 Todd Gurley, LAR/9 (ADP = 15)
- Pick 2.08 - WR8 Mike Evans, TB/7 (ADP = 21)
- Pick 2.09 - WR9 Adam Thielen, MIN/12 (ADP = 24)
- Pick 2.10 - WR10 Keenan Allen , LAC/12 (ADP = 25)
- Pick 2.11 - RB12 Damien Williams, KC/12 (ADP = 30)
- Pick 2.12 - WR11 Antonio Brown, OAK/6 (ADP = 22)
- Pick 3.01 - TE2 Zach Ertz, PHI/10 (ADP = 26)
- Pick 3.02 - TE3 George Kittle, SF/4 (ADP = 33)
- Pick 3.03 - RB13 Kerryon Johnson, DET/5 (ADP = 23)
- Pick 3.04 - QB1 Patrick Mahomes II II, KC/12 (ADP = 20)
- Pick 3.05 - RB14 Aaron Jones, GB/11 (ADP = 35)
- Pick 3.06 - WR12 Stefon Diggs, MIN/12 (ADP = 34)
- Pick 3.07 - WR13 Amari Cooper, DAL/8 (ADP = 32)
- Pick 3.08 - RB15 Leonard Fournette, JAX/10 (ADP = 28)
- Pick 3.09 - RB16 Devonta Freeman, ATL/9 (ADP = 31)
- Pick 3.10 - WR14 Julian Edelman, NE/10 (ADP = 38)
- Pick 3.11 - RB17 Marlon Mack, IND/6 (ADP = 37)
- Pick 3.12 - RB18 Josh Jacobs, OAK/6 (ADP = 36)
- Pick 4.01 - RB19 Chris Carson, SEA/11 (ADP = 42)
- Pick 4.02 - WR15 T.Y. Hilton, IND/6 (ADP = 29)
- Pick 4.03 - WR16 Kenny Golladay, DET/5 (ADP = 45)
- Pick 4.04 - WR17 Brandin Cooks, LAR/9 (ADP = 39)
- Pick 4.05 - RB20 Derrick Henry, TEN/11 (ADP = 40)
- Pick 4.06 - WR18 Tyler Lockett, SEA/11 (ADP = 49)
- Pick 4.07 - WR19 Robert Woods, LAR/9 (ADP = 41)
- Pick 4.08 - RB21 Phillip Lindsay, DEN/10 (ADP = 50)
- Pick 4.09 - WR20 Chris Godwin, TB/7 (ADP = 48)
- Pick 4.10 - RB22 Sony Michel, NE/10 (ADP = 46)
- Pick 4.11 - WR21 Tyler Boyd, CIN/9 (ADP = 57)
- Pick 4.12 - WR22 Calvin Ridley, ATL/9 (ADP = 54)
- Pick 5.01 - RB23 Melvin Gordon III III, LAC/12 (ADP = 27)
- Pick 5.02 - TE4 Evan Engram, NYG/11 (ADP = 55)
- Pick 5.03 - WR23 Cooper Kupp, LAR/9 (ADP = 51)
- Pick 5.04 - RB24 James White, NE/10 (ADP = 52)
- Pick 5.05 - WR24 A.J. Green , CIN/9 (ADP = 58)
- Pick 5.06 - RB25 Austin Ekeler, LAC/12 (ADP = 74)
- Pick 5.07 - QB2 Deshaun Watson, HOU/10 (ADP = 44)
- Pick 5.08 - RB26 Tevin Coleman, SF/4 (ADP = 65)
- Pick 5.09 - RB27 Mark Ingram II II, BAL/8 (ADP = 43)
- Pick 5.10 - WR25 D.J. Moore, CAR/7 (ADP = 60)
- Pick 5.11 - TE5 Hunter Henry, LAC/12 (ADP = 67)
- Pick 5.12 - WR26 Robby Anderson, NYJ/4 (ADP = 73)
Note: There are just quarterbacks that appear on this list, but I am going to tell you a simple truth. Your team will end up a lot better if you wait until after this list is exhausted before choosing a quarterback. The reason for this is because there is value at quarterback once everyone in the league drafts one. In years where there were just a handful of difference-makers, you could make an argument that you need an elite one. This year the quarterback pool is as deep as ever. Trust me here. Don't draft an early quarterback.
Building Your Core - Your First 5 Picks
You are looking to grab the best player available until this list is exhausted. But use some common sense while you do this. For example, you can't draft running backs every round and have the Perfect Draft since you are limited in the number you can start each week.
I would pay little to no attention to bye weeks during this phase. You have plenty of time to adjust after these Top 60 players are gone.
I would limit myself to just one tight end from this list unless the extra tight end is drafted in the eighth round or later (trade value alone makes the selection worthwhile).
After the Top 60 - Assessment Phase
The transition from the Top 60 to rounding out your team based on need is a critical one. Your analysis here can instantly turn a good draft into a great one. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your weaknesses:
- How many backs did you secure? The average owner should have 2.25 running backs. Do you have two or more including one in the first round? Is this a position of strength for your team?
- Did you draft a quarterback or tight end (the average owner should have 0.17 quarterbacks and 0.42 tight ends) yet? If so, consider yourself done at this position until much later in the draft. If you have not drafted these positions yet, do not panic. Good ones will be available later.
- Assess your bye week situation. If three or more of your first five players are off on the same bye week, I will usually sacrifice that week so that I can be strong in every other week. If that is not the case, then I look to patch the holes with complementary players that could have big weeks during these rough spots. Teams lining up against Oakland, Cincinnati, NY Giants, Tampa Bay, Miami, and San Francisco should all yield good results during these weeks.
As an example, Let's say you landed this team after five rounds (from the ninth position):
- 9. WR Julio Jones, ATL/9
- 16. RB Joe Mixon, CIN/9
- 33. RB Aaron Jones, GB/11
- 40. RB Chris Carson, SEA/11
- 57. WR Tyler Boyd, CIN/9
The quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: You have not selected a quarterback or tight end. You have three players with a week 9 bye. You have two players with a week 11 bye.
Unless significant value presents itself, my plan for the next few rounds would be:
- Look for players, not on a week 9 or 11 bye
- Grab another quality wide receiver
- Fill out roster need at tight end
- Fill out roster need at quarterback
Note the departure from looking for value at all cost here. The wide receiver position may represent value at your next pick, but this selected player is not a roster need. It is generally better to fill out your key roster spots instead of amassing a lot of value that you may not be able to use. So use your head. Are you able to select a running back, tight end, or a quarterback that represents at least fair value (ADP and value numbers are in line with the selection)?
Let's look at another example. This one from the second position:
- 2. RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR/7
- 23. WR Mike Evans, TB/7
- 26. RB Damien Williams, KC/12
- 47. RB Sony Michel, NE/10
- 50. WR Tyler Lockett, SEA/11
The quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: You have no quarterbacks and no tight ends. Two of your top players have a week 7 bye.
Unless significant value presents itself, my plan for the next few rounds would be:
- Look for players, not on a week 7 bye
- Grab a wide receiver
- Fill out roster need at quarterback
- Fill out roster need at tight end
Moving to Fill Positional Needs
If you followed this plan up to here, you should not have selected a quarterback within the Top 60 picks.
The league has morphed into a passing exhibition on most weeks. Twenty quarterbacks finished the year with 3,600+ combined passing and rushing yards. Let that sink in. For every drafter taking a quarterback early, someone waiting still got a player who finished with 3,600 combined yards much later in the draft.
There have never been more quality quarterbacks playing each week than what is available this season. So for every drafter that pulls the trigger to get a Patrick Mahomes II, Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, or Aaron Rodgers early, some drafter (read YOU if you are wise) will grab someone like Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, Lamar Jackson, or Kirk Cousins as many as six to seven rounds later. I am telling you that there is not enough difference to make getting the elite guys worthy of a draft strategy this season.
Waiting is for Winners...draft the 12th quarterback...or later.
From my own projections, here are my top fantasy quarterbacks for this year:
- Patrick Mahomes II II, KC (393 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Deshaun Watson, HOU (365 fantasy points in 15.5 games)
- Aaron Rodgers, GB (342 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Baker Mayfield, CLE (339 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Matt Ryan, ATL (339 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Carson Wentz, PHI (333 fantasy points in 15.7 games)
- Lamar Jackson, BAL (326 fantasy points in 15.2 games)
- Russell Wilson, SEA (330 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Cam Newton, CAR (325 fantasy points in 15.3 games)
- Drew Brees, NO (325 fantasy points in 15.5 games)
- Jared Goff, LAR (328 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Kyler Murray, ARI (321 fantasy points in 15.3 games)
- Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (320 fantasy points in 15.2 games)
- Jameis Winston, TB (312 fantasy points in 15 games)
- Josh Allen, BUF (317 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Kirk Cousins, MIN (315 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Dak Prescott, DAL (314 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Mitchell Trubisky, CHI (313 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Tom Brady, NE (298 fantasy points in 15.3 games)
- Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (295 fantasy points in 15.4 games)
- Philip Rivers, LAC (295 fantasy points in 15.7 games)
- Derek Carr, OAK (291 fantasy points in 15.5 games)
- Matthew Stafford, DET (289 fantasy points in 15.5 games)
- Jacoby Brissett, IND (275 fantasy points in 14 games)
- Sam Darnold, NYJ (286 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Andy Dalton, CIN (277 fantasy points in 15.7 games)
- Marcus Mariota, TEN (258 fantasy points in 14.4 games)
- Nick Foles, JAX (267 fantasy points in 15.8 games)
- Eli Manning, NYG (227 fantasy points in 12 games)
- Joe Flacco, DEN (249 fantasy points in 15.2 games)
Now consider the people that took any of the top 10 names based on ADP. Are they looking to add a quality backup? Would you if you drafted Patrick Mahomes II, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Baker Mayfield, or Matt Ryan? This dynamic defines the solution. Once 11 people have drafted their QB1, a lull happens before they get a suitable backup. This lull defines the sweet spot where you want to be selecting your QB1. Who is it? It depends on your draft, but this sweet spot generally happens a round after Baker Mayfield AND Matt Ryan get selected. I am nearly always pulling the trigger if Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson or Cam Newton is still available. All of these players represent massive value at a discounted price. Each player would have had that quality-starter tag before the league became the passing exhibition it is today.
But David...what if someone snipes all these other guys from me? This is the beauty of waiting. You aren't penalized by this at all; There are still plenty of solid quarterback options that could easily threaten the top 12. Guys like Drew Brees, Kyler Murray, Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Mitchell Trubisky, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Philip Rivers are still projected to score 300+ fantasy points at the position.
In most leagues, elite running backs are golden. Their value lies in their ability to both run and catch. The reason they are golden is that there are simply not enough of them to go around. More and more teams are using a committee approach to the running back position...pulling the starter both on obvious passing downs and sometimes in goal-line situations. It has made the workhorse backs (that do all three roles) even more valuable. It has also created a bigger pool of next tier backs that don't do it all. If you followed the Top 60 plan from above, you likely have a decent stable of backs on your roster to build the rest of your team around.
But two or three quality backs don't make a powerhouse fantasy roster...Having depth at running back does.
Here are the other running backs that I would target for value (outside of the top 60 picks):
- Duke Johnson Jr Jr, HOU/10 (Value = 47, ADP = 108) in the 6th round or later
- Peyton Barber, TB/7 (Value = 74, ADP = 111) in the 8th round or later
- Chris Thompson, WAS/10 (Value = 106, ADP = 169) in the 12th round or later
- Justin Jackson , LAC/12 (Value = 125, ADP = 161) in the 13th round or later
- Ito Smith, ATL/9 (Value = 127, ADP = 167) in the 13th round or later
- Jalen Richard, OAK/6 (Value = 112, ADP = 193) in the 14th round or later
- Giovani Bernard, CIN/9 (Value = 117, ADP = 191) in the 14th round or later
- C.J. Anderson, DET/5 (Value = 134, ADP = 190) in the 15th round or later
- Mike Davis, CHI/6 (Value = 158, ADP = 200) in the 16th round or later
- Ty Montgomery, NYJ/4 (Value = 183, ADP = 265) in the 20th round or later
- Rex Burkhead, NE/10 (Value = 202, ADP = 254) in the 20th round or later
- Damarea Crockett , HOU/10 (Value = 213, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- Alfred Blue, JAX/10 (Value = 218, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- Frank Gore, BUF/6 (Value = 223, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- Dontrell Hilliard , CLE/7 (Value = 229, ADP = 265) in the 22nd round or later
The biggest key to having a great wide receiver corps is following the Top 60 plan above and then swooping in and stealing the players that slide unnecessarily in a draft. Here are some guys that should represent excellent value this year (outside of the Top 60):
- Robby Anderson, NYJ/4 (Value = 52, ADP = 73) in the 6th round or later
- Dede Westbrook, JAX/10 (Value = 75, ADP = 96) in the 8th round or later
- Golden Tate , NYG/11 (Value = 95, ADP = 139) in the 11th round or later
- Michael Gallup, DAL/8 (Value = 100, ADP = 151) in the 11th round or later
- Tyrell Williams, OAK/6 (Value = 105, ADP = 140) in the 11th round or later
- Mohamed Sanu, ATL/9 (Value = 132, ADP = 179) in the 14th round or later
- Kenny Stills, MIA/5 (Value = 147, ADP = 189) in the 15th round or later
- Tre'Quan Smith, NO/9 (Value = 168, ADP = 199) in the 16th round or later
- Zay Jones, BUF/6 (Value = 152, ADP = 221) in the 17th round or later
- Randall Cobb, DAL/8 (Value = 174, ADP = 243) in the 18th round or later
- Quincy Enunwa, NYJ/4 (Value = 156, ADP = 265) in the 19th round or later
- Paul Richardson Jr Jr, WAS/10 (Value = 170, ADP = 265) in the 19th round or later
- Cole Beasley, BUF/6 (Value = 180, ADP = 244) in the 19th round or later
- A.J. Brown, TEN/11 (Value = 185, ADP = 245) in the 19th round or later
- Ted Ginn Jr Jr, NO/9 (Value = 199, ADP = 236) in the 19th round or later
- D.J. Chark Jr Jr, JAX/10 (Value = 184, ADP = 265) in the 20th round or later
- Danny Amendola, DET/5 (Value = 191, ADP = 265) in the 20th round or later
- KeeSean Johnson, ARI/12 (Value = 203, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- Taylor Gabriel, CHI/6 (Value = 204, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- John Ross, CIN/9 (Value = 219, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- Trey Quinn, WAS/10 (Value = 228, ADP = 265) in the 22nd round or later
- Nelson Agholor, PHI/10 (Value = 233, ADP = 265) in the 22nd round or later
- Travis Benjamin, LAC/12 (Value = 234, ADP = 265) in the 22nd round or later
Some other wide receivers will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the bargain list above. In recap, grab approximately three receivers by Round 6 and then wait for the value to emerge because it always does.
Because so many more teams are utilizing the tight end position, there are almost always bargains at this position late in a draft. In fact, once the top seven or eight names come off the board, there is minimal pressure on the tight end position the rest of the draft (in leagues that start just one tight end).
This presents a dilemma of sorts in drafts. One can grab an elite (top-5 or -6) tight end or wait until the later rounds and grab some upside guys that could crack the Top 10 at the position.
I generally prefer a decent tight end, but I think the wise drafting approach is to not reach for one if they go sooner than normal.
Here are the tight ends that I am targeting outside of the Top 60 players:
- Hunter Henry, LAC/12 (Value = 56, ADP = 67) in the 6th round or later
- Vance McDonald, PIT/7 (Value = 64, ADP = 92) in the 8th round or later
- Austin Hooper, ATL/9 (Value = 83, ADP = 106) in the 9th round or later
- Kyle Rudolph, MIN/12 (Value = 108, ADP = 141) in the 11th round or later
- Dallas Goedert, PHI/10 (Value = 153, ADP = 186) in the 15th round or later
- Chris Herndon , NYJ/4 (Value = 181, ADP = 222) in the 18th round or later
- Gerald Everett, LAR/9 (Value = 215, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
- Geoff Swaim, JAX/10 (Value = 225, ADP = 265) in the 21st round or later
In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate kicker in the last two rounds of your draft. In leagues that draft this position real late (most leagues), look towards the second to last round to grab the one kicker you will roster. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait until their last pick to take their kickers and end up missing the good kickers by a few picks. Most likely that sleeper wide receiver you want in the second to last round will still be there for you in the last round. In waiver-wire friendly leagues (most), don't be afraid to draft just one kicker and add others as necessary during the season to cover the bye weeks and/or exploit matchups.
Instead of targeting any particular kicker this year, I just like to keep these 12 names handy and start crossing them off the list. When six to eight are gone, jump in and get the top-rated guy left. Here are my Top 12 kickers:
- Greg Zuerlein, LAR/9
- Harrison Butker, KC/12
- Wil Lutz, NO/9
- Justin Tucker, BAL/8
- Stephen Gostkowski, NE/10
- Ka'imi Fairbairn, HOU/10
- Jason Myers, SEA/11
- Michael Badgley, LAC/12
- Jake Elliott, PHI/10
- Adam Vinatieri, IND/6
- Robbie Gould, SF/4
- Matt Prater, DET/5
Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken. I suggest you wait until 8-9 defenses get selected and then take the highest remaining one left. It's usually not necessary to take a second defense. Here are my Top 15 defenses:
- Chicago Bears
- Los Angeles Rams
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- New Orleans Saints
- Minnesota Vikings
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Baltimore Ravens
- Houston Texans
- Cleveland Browns
- Buffalo Bills
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Denver Broncos
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
Another winning strategy to deploy after the draft is simply to look two games ahead for defenses via the waiver process. Most fantasy rosters will have at most two defenses meaning that half of the defenses are likely available as free agent pickups each week. By looking two to three weeks ahead at who will be playing the Jets, Dolphins, Bengals, Giants, Jaguars, or Redskins you likely can find a cheap defense that should perform well against subpar offenses. Drop this defense after their quality game so that you can continue to pick up other defenses that will have good weeks. Because of this strategy, I advise you to draft just one defense and look to play matchups the rest of the way. Every year, two or three defenses are predicted to be terrible but end up playing great.
Putting It All Together
1. Draft for value until the top 60 players are exhausted. These are your core and will define how you approach the rest of the draft.
2. Look to select the 12-13th quarterback off the board a full round after the 11th quarterback is taken. Add another from the QB14-18 tier soon after taking your first quarterback.
3. Don't reach for a quality tight end early. If it comes to your team naturally, that's great. If the value does not present itself in the early rounds, grab a high upside player like Austin Hooper in the eighth/ninth round.
4. Add value at running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions in the middle rounds to protect bye weeks, add critical depth, and give yourself a chance to trade off talent to bolster your squad as the season progresses.
5. Use the final rounds to add your kicker, defense and to go after younger players in a swing-for-the-fences mentality. Our Deep Sleepers series list a lot of these types of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Most are dart throws and could need an injury to be relevant.
6. Unless your league has some exotic scoring that elevates defenses, it is best to wait until the last few rounds to grab your defense. Grabbing Cleveland or Pittsburgh (after eight or nine defenses have been taken) should yield a great return.
7. Wait until the second-to-last round to grab your kicker.
Remember, the key is not to just follow the Top 200 list but to see where it differs substantially from average drafts. This is how you get value with every pick. And value is how you build winning fantasy teams.
Let's go through an example from draft position #2:
- Pick 1.02 (2 overall): RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR/7
- Pick 2.11 (23 overall): WR Mike Evans, TB/7
- Pick 3.02 (26 overall): RB Damien Williams, KC/12
- Pick 4.11 (47 overall): RB Sony Michel, NE/10
- Pick 5.02 (50 overall): WR Tyler Locket, SEA/11
- Pick 6.11 (71 overall): RB Austin Ekeler, LAC/12
- Pick 7.02 (74 overall): WR Robby Anderson, NYJ/4
- Pick 8.11 (95 overall): RB Duke Johnson Jr, HOU/10
- Pick 9.02 (98 overall): TE Austin Hooper, ATL/9
- Pick 10.11 (119 overall): QB Lamar Jackson, BAL/8
- Pick 11.02 (122 overall): QB Kirk Cousins, MIN/12
- Pick 12.11 (143 overall): TE Kyle Rudolph, MIN/12
- Pick 13.02 (146 overall): WR Michael Gallup, DAL/8
- Pick 14.11 (167 overall): WR Mohamed Sanu, ATL/9
- Pick 15.02 (170 overall): RB Chris Thompson, WAS/10
- Pick 16.11 (191 overall): RB Giovani Bernard, CIN/9
- Pick 17.02 (194 overall): WR Zay Jones, BUF/6
- Pick 18.11 (215 overall): Pittsburgh Defense, PIT/7
- Pick 19.02 (218 overall): PK Jason Myers, SEA/11
- Pick 20.11 (239 overall): WR A.J. Brown, TEN/11