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 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:
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.
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 #1
This is as easy as it gets. I understand some may go for Saquon saying no running back has repeated as the RB1 in years and the odds are against it. While it’s true that in CMC vs the field, the odds are that someone in the field will finish 1st. But the odds for any one of the players in the field aren’t close. Even Barkley. Taking Christian McCaffrey first gives you the best chance at having a RB1 finish as high as possible. And RB1’s that finish high is how you win championships.
First Turn (2nd/3rd)
“Perfect” Picks: George Kittle, Todd Gurley, Chris Godwin
Make Up Your Mind: Early Tight End or Not?
Acceptable Reaches: Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson
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. 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 Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, or Melvin Gordon may be available. Meanwhile, receivers like Godwin, Allen Robinson may have fallen this far.
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.
Sometimes a top Tight End will slip to the the end of the 2nd. 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. I would not reach on your TE3 or 4 unless this is a key part of your strategy. Otherwise, I am avoiding Tight End if I can’t get one of my top 2 in the first two rounds, or my TE3-4 in the 5th or 6th round.
Finally, depending on your league, a top QB could slip to you. Just know ahead of time if you want to take one. Even I, a late round QB proponent, don’t hate Mahomes or Jackson with my 3rd pick. But you want to make sure you know the effect it will have on your earlier and future picks. 2RB/1QB means you will want to be ok with late WRs. 1RB/1WR/1QB will look and feel really good, but you are going to have to reinforce your running backs with sub-optimal choices.
Second Turn (4th/5th)
“Perfect” Picks: Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, Keenan Allen
Make Up Your Mind: How to rank these wide receivers.
The wide receiver run likely started mid third round and raged through the turn into the 4th. Thankfully there are a number of receivers with top 12 upside that are falling for seemingly inexplicable reasons. If you already have 2-3 running backs you can double up
If you took 2 receivers in the 2/3 then I hope you weren’t planning on taking a running back here, If you must, Mark Ingram might get you by at least for the first part of the season as your RB2, but you’ll want to pair him with an upside back like a rookie. Its not a reach to take Swift or Akers with the 5,01 if they will be taken by the end of the 5th.
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 (1.12/2.01)
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: Mixon, Chubb, Ekeler, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Make Up Your Mind: Kelce, Tyreek
If you are lucky, a solid running back has slipped to the end such as Mixon or Chubb. There’s even a chance Clyde Edwards-Helaire has slipped.
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. Meanwhile, the wide receiver run will just be starting mid 3rd round going into your next turn. There will be solid WR options available.
A top 4-5 ranked WR will be here if you really want one, just know your priorities. If you take one WR (oh goodness, please only one), you will want the RB to be safer, Mixon if he falls or Ekeler would be my targets with upside and consistency.
Second Turn (3.12/4.01)
“Perfect” Picks: Allen Robinson, DJ Moore, AJ Brown, Mike Evans
Make Up Your Mind: Early Tight End
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. The amazing thing about being at the 12th pick is you get two great RBs in the 1st and 2nd and you still have top 12 wide receivers available for you here. Some of the best looking teams I’ve seen this year come from doubling RB and then taking two receivers here. Any two of the four names above would be a fantastic foundation for your team.
The 4th round is a bit early for me to reach on an early Tight End, assuming Kittle and Kelce are gone. But if your league scoring makes it worth it, or its just a big part of your strategy, this is your last shot. Have a plan.
If you are reading this but for some reason didn’t listen and have 1RB and 1WR, then you will want one of these to be RB. David Johnson or Montgomery are likely the strongest available. Know if you are comfortable with that ahead of time. A “reach” for Ingram or Hunt is understandable as well (remember 16 picks ahead of ADP isn’t a reach for the Turn).
Third Turn (5.12/6.01)
“Perfect” Picks: Swift/Akers, McLaurin/Diggs
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 can start to reach on these running backs like Swift and Akers with upside without having to rely on them right away if you have two starting RBs already.
Most of the top 4-5 tight ends have probably gone off since your last turn, but if Ertz or Waller have slipped to here they are great values. I draw my line after the top 5 (Kelce, Kittle, Ertz, Andrews, Waller) as being worth top 6 picks and after this I’m just waiting until double digits to get my later round guys. Hooper if he slips to 9/10 turn or Hockenson, Jonnu, or Jarwin if they make it to the 11/12.
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.
After the 7/8 Turn just grab who you want, If you get to a point where you don’t like any of the RB or WR options that’s a great time to look at QB or TE.
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.