Draft Position Specific Strategy
Picks 2-3 & 10-11
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.
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. 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.
As your frontside pick approaches, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Who is “my guy” coming up? What’s his position?
- Does the team(s) behind you need that position too? If you had their team, would you want “your guy” too?
- 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 his 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.
Drafting from the #2 or #3
First Turn (2nd/3rd)
You should know your top 3 rankings so your first pick will be automatic. If you need some help with that or other rankings, don’t forget to check out our rankings here on the site or email in to the Podcast at FusionFFB@gmail.com.
Once the draft rounds the turn and starts coming back you’ll 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. As a Whiplash, even if I pass on TE in the 2nd, if Gronk or Kelce fall to my 3rd I can’t see passing him up.
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 WR2s 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 put yourself in a corner.
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 Chris Thompson tier with your frontside pick. If you are lucky, Tevin Coleman, Isaiah Crowell or Tarik Cohen may make it back to 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 being 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 with your 5th, 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.
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:
If they already have an imbalance after their first 3 rounds you can make a safe bet what they will be taking 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 frontside pick.
Drafting from the #10 or #11
First Turn (1st/2nd)
You will likely have your pick of any low end RB1, such as Hunt, Fournette, Cook, or even Gordon. Depending on your league, the last top 3 receiver (Brown, Hopkins, Beckham) may have slipped to you. If you like any of the 3-4 RBs still on the board, it might now be worth taking one of these top WRs and still getting a RB1 on the backside. 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.
If the top WRs aren’t there, or you are just as happy with a Keenan Allen or Julio Jones, I suggest taking your favorite RB and letting the Turn decide your 2nd round pick for you by default. A top 5 WR is likely going to still be there for you if you want a WR1. And of course there are plenty of RBs still left to go around at your 2nd rounder too.
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 RB:WR ratio coming out of these picks. If Gronk or Kelce have fallen to your 3rd, congratulation. Take one smiling. But if you need a RB, don’t count on the best one making it back.
Lots of good receivers fall to your frontside pick: Fitzgerald, Hill, Cooper, Landry, Demaryius, Juju, while the running backs start to become more and more risky (See: Henry, Collins, Ajayi, Drake, Miller). Again, if you want one of each, take the RB first.
Third Turn (5th/6th)
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 or TE here. In fact, it’s likely that the top TEs are gone and you are better off waiting a bit longer. The only QBs I’m considering in the 6th are if Rodgers or Brady have fallen to you. I love Luck but as of this writing you can still easily get him in the 7th or 8th.
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.