Draft Position Specific Strategy
Picks 4-5 & 8-9
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’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.
The Quarterpost picks are THE picks to get the best value in my opinion. More difficult on the 8-9 end, but once you’re out of the early rounds it’s all the same.
Playing Your Opponents
There’s not much for games to play or strategy to use when you are the Quarterpost. Your job is simply to make your opponents pay the consequences for their bad decisions. You will more often than anyone be in a position to take the player that “should have been taken.” 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 go so crazy on RBs that Antonio Brown or Deandre Hopkins falls to your 9th pick, you take them. When someone takes two receivers behind you towards the Turn, you take the running back they dropped to you. 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
That 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.
As your picks approach, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I have any positional needs that may influence who I’ll take? What position?
- Who is my highest ranked player on the board at that position?
- Would I rather have that player, or the best available player of a different position?
Break it down for yourself. You don’t need 20 different scenarios and comparisons going through your head. Prioritize between players as your pick approaches and reduce the debate to 2-3 players max as you go on the clock.
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 #4 or #5
First Round (1.04/1.05)
“Perfect” Picks: Ezekiel Elliot, Derrick Henry
Make up your mind: Michael Thomas
There is a sizeable difference between the 4 and 5 spot in the first round. The “big 4” running backs are gone by the 5th pick. Derrick Henry would be my pick instead of Dalvin Cook due to his consistent workload, proven upside, health record and contract.
If you really want to pick Michael Thomas, I can’t stop you, but I can help you navigate the treacherous RB waters over the next few rounds. Read carefully.
Second Round (2.08/2.09)
Perfect” Picks: Austin Ekeler, DeAndre Hopkins
Make up your mind: Early Tight End?
Acceptable Reaches: Leonard Fournette
This is a spot that you can really just take whatever the best option falls to you, particularly if you take 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 in the 2nd and 3rd. 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 box yourself into a corner.
If your league is going really RB heavy, the best running back option may be Fournette even if it seems early by ADP. Meanwhile top 6 WRs like Hopkins or Godwin are here, further reinforcing the incentive to go RB in the 1st.
You can also consider Kelce or Kittle if they are still on the board. Just know ahead of time if its something you want to do. Regardless, I would strongly caution against leaving the first two rounds without a running back at all.
Third Round (3.04/3.05)
Perfect” Picks: Todd Gurley, Allen Robinson
Make up your mind: Old Running Backs
Acceptable Reaches: Jonathan Taylor, DJ Moore
This is where all the questionable running backs fall. Le’Veon Bell, Chris Carson, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, James Conner, and Melvin Gordon. Know who you want and who you don’t. Todd Gurley has the best chance of returning value at this cost to me. While the knees are questionable, the available workload and the team’s need for a talented lead back are unquestioned. Melvin Gordon has competition for work but I think has nearly as high upside.
If you are going with wide receiver there are a number of top 12 WRs still here. Robinson and Moore are my favorites, but Mike Evans is a great option and has the best chance of still being available. You will be at the start of a big WR run here so don’t expect the options to be this good in the 4th.
Fourth round (4.08/4.09)
Perfect” Picks: David Johnson, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods
Make up your mind: Quarterback?
It’s hard to know what receivers will make it back to you. This pick is your wildcard. Your first 3 rounds were probably very interdependent. But now you are free to take whoever you want, any position.
You may see QBs start to be taken this round. I’m not even going to be diplomatic about this: In a one QB league I’m not drafting a QB yet. You can think about it in the 8th. But there’s a chance one of the top 5 options has slipped to you here. Make up your mind so you aren’t tempted, or you’re prepared if you do it.
Fifth Round (5.04/5.05)
“Perfect” Picks: Keenan Allen, DK Metcalf, Mark Ingram
Make up your mind: David Montgomery
Acceptable Reaches” D’Andre Swift
The receivers just keep coming. However, this is the last round and tier of WRs that I would be willing to be my first receiver. ZeroWR starts to just get dumb from here on out.
Meanwhile, Mark Ingram sometimes slips to this range and you can always reach for the rookie running backs. David Montgomery is beginning a 2-4 week recovery that will make him questionable for Week 1, and a risk for reinjury or setback. Taking him here isn’t much of an injury discount, but if you are playing for the playoffs and just want solid volume you can’t do much better.
Drafting from the #8 or #9
First Round (1.08/1.09)
Perfect” Picks: Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, Davante Adams
Make up your mind: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
There are a few locked in wide receivers available here even after Michael Thomas is gone, so your decision will be between safety or the risk and reward of a running back that could pay off with top 5 value.
Looking ahead to the second round, you’ll likely have at least one decent running back one option, so if they are good enough for you as your team’s RB1, then take your best receiver. But if you are just as happy with the lower end wide receiver one’s, take your running back now. The 8/9 picks are prime spots to get a top running back pair. One of them may even be the rookie Clyde if your league-mates are suspicious of rookies. “Reaching” on Clyde here isn’t so bad if you are planning on taking another running back in the second round.
Second Round (2.04/2.05)
“Perfect” Picks: Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, Julio Jones
Make up your mind: Early Tight End?
This is the first spot where we practice what I talked about earlier in taking the value that falls. If you went RB first and somehow Julio or Tyreek falls to you here I’d jump on that. But if Ekeler, Sanders or Clyde Edwards-Helaire are there, I’ll happily take them, especially as my RB2 if you went running back in the first round.
Third Round (3.08/3.09)
“Perfect” Picks: DJ Moore, Melvin Gordon
Make up your mind: Tier 2 Tight Ends
Acceptable Reaches: AJ Brown, Jonathan Taylor
Melvin is my favorite of the older backs often available here. He’s a great compliment to an earlier RB1. You have a strong chance at either Mark Andrews or Zach Ertz. I think it’s a bit early for them here, but don’t be caught on the clock being tempted to take one without knowing ahead of time.
Fourth Round (4.04/4.05)
“Perfect” Picks: Calvin Ridley, David Johnson
Make up your mind: Older Running Backs
You’ll want to make sure your team doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses coming out of this pick. Having no quarterback or tight end is not weaknesses. 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.
At least one of the older running backs will have slipped to you, know your rankings and which ones you are willing to take.
Fifth Round (5.08/5.09)
Perfect” Picks: Keenan Allen, David Montgomery
Make up your mind: David Montgomery
Acceptable Reaches: Rookie Running Backs
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.
Swift, Akers and even Dobbins are acceptable reaches here regardless your roster construction. They have league winning upside at this cost.
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 Quarterpost, too much happens before it comes back to you. From here on out you are better off drafting off a projection sheet than a ADP list. Luckily, we have that for you here at FusionFFB.com with our Singularity’s Top250 List (QBs not included)!
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.