Draft Position Specific Strategy
Picks 1 & 12
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:
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
First Turn (2nd/3rd)
Assuming you know who you’ll take 1.01, now you want to pick a few realistic targets that conform to your strategy. This can be a great place for value in both RB and WR. A solid RB such as Mixon, McCaffrey, McCoy or Mckinnon will likely be available. Meanwhile, WRs like Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Hilton, and sometimes even AJ Green are falling to the end.
The end of the 2nd round is the prime spot for Gronk and/or Kelce 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.
Second Turn (4th/5th)
By the time it comes back to you in the 4th and 5th rounds most of the desirable RBs will be gone. Be prepared for this. If you need RB still you may need to reach on the Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Kerryon Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, and Tarik Cohen tier. If you are lucky, Tevin Coleman, Isaiah Crowell or Chris Thompson may last until your next Turn you if you are alright with that. Chris Carson is climbing the ADP boards as we speak so he may be a name to consider in one of these tiers.
Meanwhile, a nice crop of fantasy WR2s will likely start getting taken. A few high upside WRs may have fallen through the cracks to you, depending on your league’s QB drafting tendencies, such as Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry, Demaryius Thomas and Allen Robinson. However, if you want one of the next tier of upside receivers, you’ll need to take them now, even if it feels like a reach: Corey Davis, Sammy Watkins, Marvin Jones and Chris Hogan type players may not feel good if you look at ADP but they aren’t making it back.
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.
You will likely have your pick of any low end RB1, such as Hunt, Fournette, Cook, McCaffrey or maybe even Gordon. Depending on your league, the last top 3 receiver (Brown, Hopkins, Beckham) may have slipped to you. Whether you take two backs or two receivers or play it safe with one of each, be comfortable and confident in whoever you take. I’ve talked about reaching on the Turn, but now is not the time to reach.
Second Turn (3rd/4th)
Now is the time to fill out any glaring RB or WR weaknesses. Unless you are gunning for a 0RB or 0WR strategy, you likely want a 2:2 or at least 3:1 ratio coming out of this Turn. If Gronk or Kelce have fallen to you, congratulation. Take one smiling. OR, if you have trading mid draft, maybe ransom 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).
Lots of good receivers fall to this Turn (Fitzgerald, Hill, Cooper, Landry, Demaryius, Juju), while the running backs start to become more and more risky (See: Henry, Collins, Ajayi, Drake, Miller)
Third Turn (5th/6th)
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.
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.