Drafting From: The Whiplash

2020 Edition

Draft Position Specific Strategy

The Whiplash

Picks 2-3 & 10-11

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 Whiplash

General Thoughts

To be frank, the Whiplash spots are some of the most irritating spots to draft from. But the value of it’s advantages help make up for it. Yes, you have to worry about getting sniped around the Turn, but you get to snipe them first. Getting your guy and some craftiness can help boost your value.

Playing Your Opponents

The Whiplash is the one position where I may actually change who I would normally draft according to composition of the team or two behind me toward the Turn. If I want a TE with one of my next 2 picks and the team(s) on the end don’t have a TE, I may take the TE first. If they already have taken a TE I don’t need to worry about them sniping me and I’ll take someone else first. Same for QB. Know the skill position composition of the teams behind you.

You have as much influence on a position run as anyone at the Whiplash spot. It’s easy for other teams to dismiss the Turn, but if you add on it can push the rest of the round into a TE or QB run.

Recognize that the Turn is looking at his long wait until his next two picks when selecting his players. He’ll likely be trying to take chalk in the early rounds but may reach a bit on later turns. It will usually be easy to guess at least one of his picks. Never pass on a guy hoping he’ll get back to you just so you can take him closer to his ADP. The Turn doesn’t (shouldn’t) give a crap about ADP so neither can you. Take the guy you really want on the front side. Take what’s left after.

Perspective on Your Picks

All that said, it can be easy to get caught up in these “games” at the Whiplash spot. Use the strategies above and below to your advantage when they fit, but don’t get cute. Just because the Turn hasn’t take any WRs yet doesn’t mean he is going to on the turn. Maybe he’s going ZeroWR? Who knows?! You still want to take the players that you value and that fit your vision for your team. Everything else here is only to help tip the scales when you stuck in uncertainty.

Planning

As your frontside pick approaches, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Who is “my guy” coming up? What’s his position?
  2. Does the team(s) behind you need that position too? If you had their team, would you want “your guy” too?
  3. If you are stuck deciding between two players at different positions ask yourself, which player’s position has more other names at his tier that could fall to you? Take the one with less depth first and you won’t suffer. Even if you get sniped on your second preference, at least you have a fall back in the same tier at the same position.

You get some of the best value out of the first 2 rounds with a top 3 pick and one of the nice players that fall in the 2nd and back up again after the turn. You should come out of the first 3 rounds with one of the best looking trios of starters. This core will dictate the rest of your draft, so when you mock, try out different position combinations. 3 RBs? One of each? The idea isn’t to decide now which 3 you come away with, but to be prepared for a few possibilities. Then you can remain flexible in the draft without venturing into unknown territory.

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 #2 or #3

First Round (1.02 or 1.03)

It’s very likely the 1.01 is taking McCaffrey. If he doesn’t the 1.02’s job is easy, but either way its easy because you can have your decision made going in. It’s quite often Saquon Barkley, so the 1.03 already knows who you will be choosing from as well. Elliott and Kamara are the best options in my opinion, but Dalvin Cook certainly has that per game upside. Elliott has proven himself reliable, but Kamara has big play potential.

Whoever you pick, you’ll want to employ a strategy from here on out that incorporates the fact you have what should be a solid and safe RB1 . The choice will largely be made for you, but if you need help choosing, check out our rankings here on the site or email in to the Podcast at FusionFFB@gmail.com.

First Turn (2nd/3rd)

“Perfect” Picks: Kelce/Kittle, Austin Ekeler, Chris Godwin
Make Up Your Mind: Early Tight End
?

Sometimes the good options can dry up right before the Turn, but being the Whiplash let’s you grab some elite talent even in the second round. I’d take Austin Ekeler at the 1/2 Turn but he still falls in some drafts back to the late 2nd round.

There’s some serious top 6 receiver talent often still available, or even one of the top 2 Tight Ends.

This is also why I would never take 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 WRs 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 box yourself into a corner.

On the back side of the Turn you will have choices like Fournette, Gurley, Robinson or Thielen. With such good options at both running back and receiver, you should have a starting plan in place for if you are going two running backs, two receivers or one of each. The plan isn’t always going to work out, but have a direction or preference. I will say, going three running backs has a lot of potential, but you have to be prepared to really commit to receivers and be willing to deal with the start/sit decisions in season that may lead to.

Second Turn (4th/5th)

“Perfect” Picks: David Johnson, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, Mark Ingram, Keenan Allen
Make Up Your Mind: Are you OK with old Running Backs?
Acceptable Reaches: Rookie Running Backs

This area of the draft is a big mess of running backs and receivers in between the premium tight ends and quarterbacks and the middle class tier starting in the 5th round. You’ll want to know your favorites and decide which position your want to prioritize.

This is where knowing the position composition of the team(s) behind you will really matter the most. Most owners will want to come out of the 5th with one of the following:
2RB/2WR/1TE
3RB/2WR
3RB/1WR/1TE
2RB/3WR
If they already have an imbalance after their first 3 rounds you can make a safe bet what position at least one pick will be on the Turn. If they have a TE already, they aren’t taking one. If they only have one RB they will be taking at least one more, and so on. Use this to your advantage. Take what they want on your front side pick if it aligns with whats available and your priority. Don’t let ADP decide.

Drafting from the #10 or #11

First Turn (1st/2nd)

“Perfect” Picks:  Chubb / Ekeler, Mixon / Adams
Make Up Your Mind: Clyde Edwards-Helaire

There’s a lot of players to choose from at the back of the first round. You will be able to find a solid option at either running back or receiver. Anyone from Adams to Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb will be available.

Back on the clock in the second, and you’ll find the wealth of options haven’t disappeared. Options like Julio and Tyreek may still be here, with running backs like Chubb, Ekeler, or Sanders.

Whether you take two backs or two receivers or play it safe with one of each, be comfortable and confident in whoever you take. Now’s not the time for experimentation.

Second Turn (3rd/4th)

“Perfect” Picks:  DJ Moore, AJ Brown, Melvin Gordon
Make Up Your Mind:  Tight End or not?

The beautiful thing about being at the end this year is getting two early running backs and then getting two great receivers here and feeling like you just won the draft. However, if you only have one running back going into this turn, you should probably grab one. Luckily there’s still some solid veterans around.

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 Andrews 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! Just remember, if you need top running back talent, this turn is your last good chance.

Third Turn (5th/6th)

“Perfect” Picks:  Terry McLaurin/Cam Akers, Michael Gallup/D’Andre Swift
Make Up Your Mind: Rookie RBs?

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.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of trying to fill your starting lineup. You don’t need a QB here. You may be able to fill your TE slot at apparent value, but you will be happier with someone like Austin Hooper in a few rounds; don’t waste this pick on a tight end.

This is where you will start to depart from ADP and start focusing on who you like. Upsides like Swift, Akers, JK Dobbins, Michael Gallup, Marquise Brown, Will Fuller, or Tyler Boyd.

The Rest of your Picks

Continue to keep an eye on the composition of the picks behind you and their needs. Also continue to resist the urge to fill your starting lineup. If it works out with the best players, that’s great, but you don’t have to fill those QB and TE slots right away.

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.

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