Drafting from: the Middle

 Draft Position Specific Strategy

Picks 6-7

Tis the season for draft prep 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 heard much that was specifically about how one’s overall strategy or decision making process may change simply because of your draft position.

So I decided to do it myself. 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 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 Drafting 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 Drafting 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 raising 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?

Drafting from the #6 & #7

First Round

You’re not getting one of the top 4 RB’s, don’t even dream about it. The real question is who is in your next overall tier? For myself it is Alvin Kamara, Antonio Brown, Saquon Barkely and Deandre Hopkins, in that order. They are very close, but the drop from the WR to RB values in then 2nd round is greater than in this tier so that tips the scale to taking an RB in the 1st for me.

Second Round

This is a spot that you can really just take whatever the best option falls to you, particularly if you took a RB 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 WR in the 3rd if you go two RBs first. You can even get two great WR2s around your 2/3 turn. But if you don’t have a RB 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.

It’s doubtful that receivers like Adams and Keenan Allen make it back to you, but AJ Green has been falling this far with Mike Evans and TY Hilton likely available too.

The running backs are going off quickly this year but if Christian McCaffrey falls to your pick I know I wouldn’t be able to pass him up. Otherwise, it’s options like Freeman, Mixon, Howard, and Mckinnon.

Third Round

Sometimes Kelce falls this far for some reason. It’s not likely and don’t plan on it, but, as I say, know what you’d do if he does.

If you went RB heavy in the first two rounds then you are in luck, there is quite a nice grouping of receivers here that are all on the edge of being WR1s. Mike Evans, Hilton and Diggs probably didn’t fall, but one of Thielen, Fitzgerald, Baldwin, Tyreek or Amari Cooper are all likely here. Know who your favorite in these tiers is.

If you want to take a RB here there’s a chance Mckinnon has fallen with his calf strain news, and McCoy is falling as well with his legal questions. Both could end up being great values, but of course come with risk. Collins, Henry, Royce Freeman and later ADP backs are a bit of a reach here, but up to you and they and much of the next tier probably won’t make it back. So if you need a RB you may want to take your favorite one left regardless, because there’s a bit of a gap until the next grouping.

Fourth round

There’s a chance Lamar Miller fell to you if you wanted a RB, but people are starting to realize Foreman will be on PUP and Miller is a steal. Otherwise I hope you are good at RB because it’s pretty bare here. Ingram may be an option, so do your thinking on him now, not while you’re on the clock. Otherwise you are going to have to reach into the 5th round ADP backs for Burkhead, Dion Lewis and Kerryon. 

There are more great WR2 options here. There’s so many that you may wish you’d taken 2-3 RBs already. Just saying. Demaryius has stability and upside with a competent QB, Juju is a great value by my projections at this point, especially if Antonio Brown has nagging injuries, and Golden Tate, Allen Robinson, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks are no slouches either. Tate could easily be the best of them all.

Zach Ertz is usually gone by now, but if not he’s the safest TE3 option and there’s a big gap again until the next TEs I’d be willing to take. I have been conservative on Ertz this year, but all these injuries to receivers may end up justifying a higher pick for him than I was willing before.

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.

Fifth Round

This is the perfect spot to do a little cleanup. Hopefully your team is 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.

Most of the desirable RBs will be gone. If you are lucky, Tevin Coleman, Isaiah Crowell, Marshawn Lynch or Tarik Cohen may make it back to you. Chris Carson is climbing the ADP boards as we speak so he may be a name to consider in one of these tiers.

The WR value just keeps coming in these rounds: Marvin Jones, Sammy Watkins, Corey Davis, and Michael Crabtree are my favorites, but if you want Edelman as your 3rd WR here I wouldn’t blame 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.

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