Draft Position Specific Strategy
Picks 1 & 12
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.
When you are on the Turn you don’t have the luxury of watching or following positional runs or grabbing most players that fall a round later than expected. It is quite possibly the most difficult position and yet at the same time, you have a lot of advantages. Don’t be overwhelmed by worrying about missing out on players, instead focus on how you are getting the first and last say on who is drafted.
Playing Your Opponents
Unless you are in a draft where pick trading is common, drafting from the Turn might as well be drafting against NPCs, non human bots. While the Middle and Quarterpost are agonizing over which player or position they want to take on every single pick, you get two back to back picks to take whoever you want without having to be anxious about who may slip to you in a few picks. You’re not worried about that. You are completely given up to the fact an entire tier or two of players will be gone before it comes back to you. And unlike the Whiplash, you are able to take who you want now and immediately shift your attention to the next group of players without having to think about who to take first.
Remember that the Whiplash and Quarterpost that follow you, and even the other Turn, are going to be worried about the long stretch until their next pick. Every position you take is one less for them and one more anxious seed in their mind, one more subconscious reminder, that they need that position. Let them tilt, or even better, send them tilting by taking players that feed into their insecurity.
Perspective on Your Picks
That third player you were deciding between? He’ll be gone. Don’t even hope he’ll fall. Let him go. It’s actually quite freeing and lets you focus on being prepared for the next turn. You don’t have to give any thought or concern to who the other teams around you may pick, or even if you are reaching for a player.
After the draft, when you are comparing rosters you will soon realize that once the draft ends we don’t compare ADP anymore. You’ll compare a list players and who you took in the 4th round or who your 4th player was to other team’s 4th, with no regard for what overall pick it was, or if it was at the beginning or end of a round. Don’t be get scared off taking a player or two who’s ADP is as much as 20 picks “too soon.” In the end, especially for the Turn, overall draft pick doesn’t actually matter.
ADP is just that: *Average* Draft Position. Which means there are plenty of people taking him both earlier and later than that spot. You don’t have to wait to take players at ADP.
As your Turn approaches, you’ll want to ask a few questions:
- Who are my top players at each position in the upcoming tier that won’t make it back?
- What are my positional needs at this value range?
- What positions are the other teams taking or not taking? Has there been a “run”?
Plotting Your Draft
More than anyone, the Turn needs a plan going in. Unlike the Middle or Quarterpost you don’t get to wait and see who falls to you. You rarely hear a Turn drafter describing their draft afterwards as “I just let it come to me and the board dictated the best player” or any such sentiment. YOU dictate the board from the Turn. If you aren’t aggressively pursuing the players you want, you will quickly find yourself chasing the pack the whole draft.
Drafting from the #1
There’s a number of popular options this year with the first pick. All are running back. Unless your league scoring or your strategy differs greatly from the usual, you will be picking between one of the top three running backs, at least until we know if Ezekiel Elliott will return for certain.
First Turn (2nd/3rd)
“Perfect” Picks: Kerryon/Keenan, Fournette/Thielen
Make Up Your MInd: TE with Kittle or Ertz, Antonio Brown Drama
This may seem obvious, but it follows then that your strategy for the rest of the draft should take your 1.01 running back into consideration. A You want to pick a few realistic targets that conform to your strategy. This can be a great place for value in both running back and wide receiver. A solid back such as Fournette or Kerryon may be available. Meanwhile, receivers like Thielen, Keenan and Antonio Brown may have fallen this far. Know how you feel about Antonio Brown in case he falls. The upside is top 5 receiver, the downside is a headache WR2.
One of each is certainly a good way to keep balance (the assumption being you went RB with the 1.01). A “QuarterRB” approach going with two solid wide receiver 1’s here is a solid strategy as well. Only those more comfortable drafting high upside wide receiver 2’s and 3’s in the middle rounds and navigating their sit/start decisions weekly should take both a second and third running back here.
The 3rd round is also a common place for the next two Tight Ends, KIttle and Ertz, to go off the board. Turn and Whiplash positions will want to be aware of this going in, and know if building with one of these TEs is something you want to do. Try some mocks where you take one TE on the end here and see how you like the end product. It will be considered a reach by ADP to take one at the beginning of the 3rd, and you do need to consider the opportunity cost of other available players you are passing on, but if early TE is your strategy, go for it.
Second Turn (4th/5th)
“Perfect” Picks: Ingram/Sony, Lockett/Golladay
Make Up Your Mind: How to rank these guys.
It’s a very solid group of running back and receiver twos here. Not even thinking quarterback yet. We’re also in the gap between the top three tight ends and the next tier. A wide range of players are going to be available, you need to have some favorites and just take them.
As mentioned earlier, you can’t worry about ADP too much on the Turn. Even if their number ADP says they should be taken up to 16 picks later, that is still within the range your pick is covering. When the draft is done you will just be looking at which round you took them, not the overall number of the pick. Do not concern yourself with that.
Drafting from the #12 (or last)
First Turn (1st/2nd)
You are about to pick what should end up being the best top two combined players on any team. When I talked earlier about needing planning to pick on the Turn, this is the biggest decision of your draft. The two players you pick here will, or at least should, dictate or at least greatly impact the rest of your draft. Now is not the time to take a pair of players you haven’t mocked taking. Now is not the time to ignore the skill position you value most, only to have to chase it the rest of the draft.
“Perfect” Picks: Chubb/Conner, Juju/Hill
Make Up Your MInd: Kelce, Gurley
If you are lucky, a solid running back has slipped to the end such as Chubb or Conner. There’s even a chance Gurley has slipped. Know your position on Gurley if you want to avoid, or take th bargain.
If you are confident grabbing wide receiver two’s with upside in the next few rounds, you can go double running back here and solidify a high demand position. Running back can be a bit thin by the time it comes back. But the biggest argument to take one receiver here is that its likely one can be Juju Smith-Schuster. If that’s not your style, Tyreek Hill is often here as well. One of each gives you a solid foundation for your team.
Second Turn (3rd/4th)
“Perfect” Picks: Mack/Sony, Edelman/Cooks
Make Up Your MInd: Roster Construction
Now is the time to fill out any glaring RB or WR weaknesses. Unless you are gunning for a ZeroRB or ZeroWR strategy, you likely want a 2:2 or at least 3:1 RB:WR ratio coming out of this Turn. If Kittle or Ertz have fallen to you, you have some thinking to do. No wait, you don’t because you are going to do it ahead of time! Also consider, if you allow trading picks mid draft, ransoming your 4th while loudly commenting on the amazing TE option(s) left (as a general rule, don’t name names of unpicked players in a draft, it’s tacky).
A few solid running back twos are probably here for you: Marlon Mack, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry. Mark Ingram is a sure thing here, if you went risky in the early rounds he may be a solid insurance policy. Meanwhile if you went safe with someone like Nick Chubb, a little risk on Sony Michel could pay off big.
Similarly, if you went risky at receiver (Ok, I mean OBJ) getting a near WR1 on this turn in Edelman is a great option and he’s almost always here. High upside players like Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods and maybe even Stefon Diggs can also be had.
Third Turn (5th/6th)
“Perfect” Picks: Miles Sanders/Duke, Christian Kirk/Curtis Samuel
Make Up Your MInd: Tight End
This is where it starts getting fun on the Turn. You hopefully have a solid core team now and you can start “reaching” for players that won’t get back to you. Now is a good time to examine the whole league. Are they taking QB early? Don’t follow suit, take advantage. Are they all waiting on QB? Still don’t take QB! Don’t try and get cute trying to start a run on a position by yourself, especially if it’s an early tier.
Some nice upside wide receivers are still here and you an start to reach on these running backs like Sanders or bet on Duke getting work in Houston. A lot of tight ends have probably gone off since your last turn. You may want to check and see if you want to grab one of the last ones of the middle tier of tight end one’s; Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Jared Cook.
The Rest of your Turns
From here on out it’s simply a matter of continuing to take the best two players for your team while keeping an eye farther down the draft. Always know when position runs are about to happen, and happily add a rock to the tipping scale when it fits. You can more easily push a run “over the edge” when you are in the larger middle tiers of players and a few owners before you have set the table with a few picks of the position. Also recognize when a position run is already halfway through. Don’t give in. Take the other position players they passed up.
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.