Draft Position Specific Strategy
Once again, draft season has arrived and everyone is giving their draft strategy tips and sorting their player rankings and adjusting their tiers. Throughout it all, we always hear mention of “well if I was taking him at the end of the 2nd…” and other such vague references to how your draft position may affect a decision. Hearing many of these, it occurred to me I hadn’t seen much that was specifically about how one’s overall strategy or decision making process may change simply because of your draft position.
So I’ve done it myself: I present the second annual edition of the “Drafting From” draft prep series. These are not written to tell you who to draft or how to draft, though there are comments and suggestions throughout. However, the emphasis is on ensuring you are prepared in your approach for the likely eventualities of your draft. Each spot in the draft does come with it’s own challenges and benefits, being aware of them is the key to taking advantage while avoiding mistakes.
I’ve divided up a snake draft into four sections. I’m labeling these for a 12 team draft, but if you have more or less simply squeeze or stretch it a bit accordingly:
Positions 1 and 12
The Turn is either end of the draft where you will have back to back picks. It’s a long way back and careful planning, foresight and opposition research is needed.
Positions 2-3 and 10-11
Whiplash spots are difficult because you know you will have another pick coming up soon, but the Turn or the other Whiplash are going to have two picks before you. You have to watch for snipers, but can also turn it to your advantage. In a 10 team, the Whiplash simply shrinks to the 2 and 9.
Positions 4-5 and 8-9
With your picks coming up either one quarter or three quarters through each round, you don’t have to wait too long till your next pick. In a 10 team, the Quarterpost is the 3-4 and 7-8.
A lot of great value, never a long wait, and yet the hardest swing between either setting the tone, or chasing the pack. In a 10 team, the Middle is 5-6.
Now, of course, in the early rounds it does matter which end of the round you are on and each section will address that, but once you get around a few turns it doesn’t make much difference.
Drafting from the middle two positions requires patience. Using tiers is generally a good idea, but as you get closer to the Turns it matters less. But here in the Middle it is vital. You may have the fewest picks between your longest wait than anyone, but you also have the most picks between your shorter two. That means you don’t get to double up like the Turn or Whiplash, and you’re not there to snatch up what slips by them like the Quarterpost. It’s slow and steady for you. You don’t get to make luxury picks. Every pick needs to count, needs to be a good value. Using your tiers will help you keep your head and take the best value. If you get lost and lose your focus, you may take a player who, even if you like, will leave you feeling like you are playing catch up to the rest of the league the rest of the draft. Never play catch up. Take the high ground little by little with value picks and don’t give it up.
Be flexible. You don’t get to lay out a plan like the Turn and take your players or position no matter what. Well you could, but you’d be giving up your advantage. Don’t get greedy, take the values that fall to you. You need to be ready to build any kind of team. Maximize your roster with what presents itself instead of trying to force your team into a mold that will only constrain it.
Playing Your Opponents
There’s not much for games to play or strategy to use when you are in the Middle. Your job is simply to make your opponents pay the consequences for their bad decisions. You don’t need to guess who the Turn or Whiplash are taking based on their team, because it’s too many picks out for that. You don’t need to change your picks according to them. You just need to focus on your list of players, and take the value as it comes. Unlike the Turn, the Quarterpost and Middle are the positions that say “I had a great draft, I just let it come to me.”
Practice Draft Jujitsu. Now, I’m no expert in Jujitsu and I’ll probably be told how wrong I am, but I’ve heard it described by those that do as such: That a Jujitsu fight is a bit like a dance where every move has a countermove and the fighters just progress through the counters until one messes up or doesn’t know the counter. So Draft Jujitsu is knowing what moves to make in response to the draft, to the other owners, and to be able to take advantage when they don’t know and make the wrong move. When teams start taking QBs too early, you don’t. When they start taking receivers in the 2nd to pair with their RB1 and dropping what should be early round RBs to your 2.6 or 2.7, you take them. When teams are undervaluing tight end in a TE premium or two TE league, make them pay. Know what you are going to do in any given situation.
Perspective on Your Picks
As I said, there’s a fine line between letting the draft come to you, and you finding yourself chasing everyone else. You still want to be taking the players you want. The idea is to get players that you wanted that should already be gone, not to just clean up everyone’s leftovers. If it’s not a player you would normally want, don’t take them just because he’s fallen below his ADP.
While the Turn and even the Whiplash can focus on the 20% of the players they like and focus on them, the Quarterpost and Middle should keep a wider pool of players in mind. Instead of overvaluing the ones you like, fade the 20% that you don’t. Now you can happily take the value that falls without being picky, but knowing which ones you aren’t interested in, even if they “fall” to you. Again, be flexible.
As your picks approach, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Who are the best players that are falling to me? Does one stand out?
- Can he make sense for your team as it is so far?
- Who am I “giving up” when I pick? Is there anyone who will be gone by your next pick that you want more?
Drafting from the #6 & #7
“Perfect” Picks: Hopkins or Chubb
Make Up Your Mind: Ezekiel Elliott
This is a chaotic position in the first round right now. The longer Elliott holds out, the farther he will start to fall to the rest of the 1st round. As of this writing, he is still usually taken in the top 4, and usually with the 4th. However, I recently saw him fall to the 6th pick. So don’t assume you’ll be picking a receiver and not know the answer to the question “would you take Zeke instead?”
Assuming Zeke is gone you’ll likely have to choose between taking either the second receiver or the 6th running back off the board. If you are the 6th spot, you may have a shot at Hopkins or David Johnson. Worst case my pick at 7 would be Nick Chubb.
“Perfect” Picks: Dalvin Cook, Travis Kelce, Mike Evans
Make Up Your Mind: Todd Gurley, Travis Kelce.
This is a spot that you can really just take whatever the best option falls to you, particularly if you took a running back in the 1st. This is why I would advise not taking a receiver in the early 1st round because it severely limits your options in the 2nd and 3rd. You can survive taking a receiver in the 3rd if you go two running backs first. You can even get two great WR2s around your 2/3 turn. But if you don’t have a running back already you will be really pressured to take one with your 2nd even when some great WR1s are still there. Don’t put yourself in a corner.
You’ll be lucky to have a receiver like Tyreek, Evans or Juju fall to you here. That leaves values like Mike Evans. Keenan Allen, Antonio Brown, and Adam Thielen as top receiver options.
Running backs like Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, James Conner may fall to you here, but one to keep an eye out for is Todd Gurley. It’s completely up to your league’s feeling toward Gurley whether he falls to you, but I have seen him this late.
It’s possible Travis Kelce has slipped to you, especially at the 7th slot. As always, know how he could fit into your strategy and have a plan ready if you decide to take him.
“Perfect” Picks: George Kittle, Stefon Diggs
Make Up Your Mind: George Kittle, Amari Cooper
A whole tier of receivers and running backs will likely come off the board before this pick. If any of them fall (Kerryon Johnson, Leonard Fournette, Keenan Allen, Adam Thielen) you should probably just accept the gift that’s been given.
But more than likely you are looking at the choices of a tight end in Kittle or Ertz, a running back like Aaron Jones or Marlon Mack, or a receiver like T.Y. Hilton or Stefon Diggs. Amari Cooper is falling through this range, but remember his foot injury may keep him sidelined a few weeks. Make sure you are up to date and don’t take a lemon you thought was a bargain.
You’re in the middle of the gap between the first three tight ends and the next tier, as well as being a bit early for all but the very top quarterbacks. These next two rounds are just a mass of running backs and receivers with a lot of variation in position. Which makes it the perfect place in the draft to fill in any holes depending on your first three rounds. Being in the middle lets you grab the best available players.
Hopefully your first four are solid and you won’t be pressured to take a specific position here, leaving you free to take the best player. But if you do need to take a specific position, start to ignore ADP. Of course, you need to know projections and points, just to make sure you are in the right ballpark, but anything within 16 ADP picks is perfectly fine if its the right player for your team.
You may see QBs start to be taken this round. I’m not even going to be diplomatic about this: Just don’t draft a QB yet. You can think about it in the 8th.
Don’t start peaking at other people’s lineups quite yet. You can’t afford to make any predictions about what will come back to you.
The Rest of your Picks
Continue to take YOUR players that happen to fall through. Don’t try to play the ADP game in the Middle, too much happens before it comes back to you. From here on out you are better off drafting off a projection sheet and tiers than a ADP list. Luckily, we have that for you here at FusionFFB.com with our combined projections ranks, with QBs not included!
DO NOT PREDICT based on position composition of other teams. It may be the 11th round and everyone between you and your 12th already has a QB, but a great option like Andrew Luck has fallen to you. You will be tempted to say “oh well I can wait till then, they all have a QB, they won’t take him.” But you may be wrong, you don’t know their plans or values, you don’t know if they will decide to take their 2nd QB early. Imagine (or remember) how you feel when someone takes that player and now your plans are crushed. Accept the gifts that are given. In doing so, you will be the player crushing others’ plans and making them feel that way. You want to crush your league mate’s dreams with each and every pick. That’s the high ground. Take it.
As always, the best way to feel comfortable in your draft is to do a few mock drafts from your position. There are many great options, but my favorite ones I’ll suggest are the Sleeper app and Fantasy Football Calculator where you can easily join and pick your position.
Keep an eye out and check in for articles on all the other positions.