Drafting From: The Middle

2020 Edition

Draft Position Specific Strategy for:

The Middle

Picks 6 & 7

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 a few years ago, 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 third 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:

“The Turn”

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.

“The Whiplash”

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.

“The Quarterpost”

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.

“The Middle”

Positions 6-7

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.

The Middle

General Thoughts

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 away 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: Jujitsu is about being adaptable and using the force of your opponent’s attacks against them. 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.

Planning

As your picks approach, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Who are the best players that are falling to me? Does one stand out?
  2. Can he make sense for your team as it is so far?
  3. Who am I “giving up” when I pick? Is there anyone who will be gone by your next pick that you want more?

Early Draft Walk Through

The “Perfect” Picks are called such because they are who I believe are the best options available there according to PPR Average Draft Position. It’s not meant as what you have to take, but just to give you a heads up as we walk through what to expect in the early rounds of your draft. This helps you prepare for likely dilemmas and decisions you will need to make. The “Make Up Your Mind” highlights this as the biggest issue you’ll need to resolve at this section of your draft. Meanwhile, the “Acceptable Reaches” are picks I would say not to be afraid of reaching for according to ADP if you like them.

Drafting from the #6 & #7

First Round

“Perfect” Picks: Derrick Henry,
Make Up Your Mind: Michael Thomas

The top “Big Four” running backs are likely gone, but if a Zeke or Kamara fall to you, your pick is really easy. Otherwise you’ll have to decide between Davlin Cook or Derrick Henry that fall to you or are you will take the plunge on Michael Thomas. My caution is that taking a wide receiver here means you will be very pressured to take a running back in the second round, regardless of other value players that fall to you. As we continue to the later rounds, you’ll see what I mean.

Second Round

“Perfect” Picks: Austin Ekeler, Deandre Hopkins
Make Up Your Mind: Leonard Fournette

I’d count myself lucky to pair one of those 1st round RBs with Ekeler, but I understand that’s not for everyone. But if lesser volume and high efficiency and lots of extra points in PPR isn’t your thing, then maybe Leonard Fournette is your thing? There’s been a lot of hate for Uncle Lenny lately but I don’t get it. Doesn’t get much better than one of these two as your RB or as your consolation RB1 if you went with Michael Thomas.

If you aren’t going to go running back in the 2nd then you will need to have your top 5-6 receivers clear in your mind as it is unlikely more are taken before you. If you consider the typical point difference between the WR2 and the WR5 is less than 20 points (using past 3 year average) you have to really be confident that Michael Thomas will repeat a big WR1 year to take him in the first round.

Third Round

“Perfect” Picks:  Todd Gurley, Allen Robinson
Make Up Your Mind:
Jonathan Taylor

The great thing about going RB in the 1st and 2nd is that you can grab a RB3 in the 3rd round that has league winning upside but you don’t have to rely on them to start in your lineup’s two RB slots.

If you went with one RB and one WR then one of these RBs can still be a great RB2 on your team and are certainly better options than you’ll have in the 4th. Be careful leaving the 3rd with only 1 RB.

Fourth Round

If you decide to go the route of 1RB through 3 rounds I suggest not reaching for a RB in the 4th, 5th or 6th. You are better off grabbing values at WR at this point in the draft. Bell or David Johnson may be your best options if you feel you must take RB.

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.

Fifth Round

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.

I’ll also add that taking a TE in this range is probably a bad choice. The difference between average points for the TE1 and TE6 is almost 90 PPR. However, the difference between TE7 and TE12 is less than 30. You are paying a premium for not very much with a single digit round pick. Also, the middle class TEs are notoriously unpredictable. Go after your breakouts later and hope one hits.

The best RBs in this range may be the rookies, Akers and Swift particularly. It’s hard to take them as your RB2 though, so look back and reconsider waiting on RB.

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 Singularity’s Top250 List (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.

Joshua Bigbee Written by:

This is my site.

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