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This is my final piece in the Draft Kit, and it’s going to be a big one. This is the piece where you really learn how to draft. If I had to pick any article that I’ve written that’s going to help you as you sit in front of that empty white board on draft day, this is undoubtedly the one. Rankings help too.
As a very brief overview, quarterbacks and wide receivers are crazy deep. Running backs and tight ends not so much.
We’re going to go position by position, and I’ll let you know exactly how to approach those positions on draft day. It’ll be a good time. I’m going to cover these in a strange order, but you’ll see why at the end.
Okay, my quarterback strategy is one that almost all fantasy experts will agree with, though not everyone employs it. Everyone, myself definitely included, will tell you to wait to draft a quarterback.
Quarterbacks get the most points in fantasy football in standard leagues – by a mile. In points-per-reception (PPR) leagues, the gap definitely closes a bit, but quarterbacks still rack up fantasy points. This is why you may be tempted to take one early. Don’t.
According to FantasyPros ADP, Cam Newton is the first QB being drafted at pick 22, followed by Aaron Rodgers (28), Russell Wilson (40), Andrew Luck (43), Ben Roethlisberger (52), and Drew Brees (54). I’ll stop there.
Cam Newton lit the fantasy world on fire last year, which is why he’s going first among quarterbacks – that’s fine. He had 3,837 yards (fine, not great) and 35 touchdowns (tied for 2nd in the league) through the air. He added another 636 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, which really sent him above the competition.
Now look down at Drew Brees going 30 picks later. Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees’ lowest passing yard total is 4,418, and his lowest touchdown total is 26 – they were both in 2006. Over the last five years, Brees averages 5,127 passing yards and just under 39 touchdowns per year. What’s your point?
Is the difference between Newton and Brees really worth 32 picks? I don’t think so. Is the difference between Newton and Luck worth 21 picks? I still don’t really think so. I’d much rather use my second or third round picks somewhere else, and grab one of these other guys in the fifth or sixth round.
Alright, Donald, ya idiot, you only accounted for six quarterbacks. What about the others?
Okay 1. Rude. 2. I’m getting there.
All of my quarterbacks after number six (Wilson for me), are pretty much the same. I’d be as comfortable with Blake Bortles (7th) as I would be with Matthew Stafford (13th).
Keep in mind that Tom Brady (ranked QB11) is suspended for the first four weeks.
Check my rankings for the full list, but for me it’s probably going to go this way:
If I don’t get Luck in the fifth (and I’m not really targeting him), I’ll probably consider Roethlisberger or Brees after that. If I don’t get them, I’m probably going to end up with Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford. Romo is being drafted as QB11 and Stafford as QB17. I have no problem waiting that long.
There’s really nothing wrong with taking a quarterback early. I just generally wouldn’t do it. If they fall, go for it. Otherwise, there’s so much depth that you can wait and get basically the same quality. On top of that, there are always free agent quarterbacks that come out of the woodwork (see Palmer, Carson and Bortles, Blake in 2015). Don’t feel like getting an excellent quarterback is absolutely crucial.
Simply put, it isn’t.
Tight Ends are stinky.
Tight End is a very annoying position. You have Rob Gronkowski at the top, probably followed by Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed in some order, then the next bunch of guys are all pretty similar.
Drafting a tight end early (namely Gronk) is never a bad idea. You get a weekly advantage of the position, and that’s great.
I’m just not going to do it.
The gap between Gronk and the rest of the tight ends isn’t as gigantic as it used to be. Gronk did lead the league in receiving yards last year (1,176) and tied for second in touchdowns (11), but he was eighth in terms of catches (72). Believe it or not, there were seven tight ends who had more catches than Gronk. Those guys are Delanie Walker, Jordan Reed, Gary Barnidge, Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, Zach Ertz, and Benjamin Watson. Travis Kelce tied Gronk.
I’m not going to use a pick on Gronk when I can wait 2-5 rounds and get a guy who may not be as good, but may be good enough. It’s really the same concept as Cam and the quarterbacks (above). I’m not necessarily opposed to taking Jordan Reed (currently going 38th) or Greg Olsen (44th) for the right price. If I don’t get them, I have no problem sitting back and taking Delanie Walker (65th), Coby Fleener (75th), or hell even Jimmy Graham (108).
If you don’t want to sacrifice an early pick for the top one or two (or three in this case), just wait for a while. It’s fine.
There are two separate schools of thought on running backs, and they’re pretty simple.
Get them early or get them late.
I belong to the “get them early” demographic.
Members of the “get them late” group are very intense about it and it scares me.
Okay, so looking at my rankings, I feel very comfortable until RB9 (Eddie Lacy), then slightly comfortable until RB12 (C.J. Anderson), then slightly uncomfortable until RB20 (Latavius Murray), then having the cold sweats after that (RB21: Jonathan Stewart on).
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the top nine – keeping in mind that Le’Veon Bell (RB8) is suspended for the first four weeks. If I can get one or two of those guys, I’m happy.
Moving to the next tiny group comprised of Mark Ingram, Doug Martin, and C.J. Anderson, I’d be content with them also. They have their doubts, and I’m worried about the handcuffs taking work from all of them (yes, even Tim Hightower), but I’d be content having them on my drafts.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to start anyone in the next group. I see the potential across the board, and I wouldn’t mind owning them, but in terms of having to start them, I’d rather have a better insurance policy.
As mentioned before, having to start anyone after that is nauseating.
I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to skip to wide receivers, then come back and address running backs and receivers together. Oh, you do mind? Oh well.
As mentioned above, wide receivers are very deep, just like any other year. You have to go all the way to WR26 (Doug Baldwin) to find a receiver that I wouldn’t like to start. Everyone in front of that is fine.
In terms of tiers, I see them like this
Tier 1: Brown, Beckham, Jones
Tier 2: Bryant, Green
Tier 3: Robinson, Cooks, Nelson, Evans
Tier 4: Marshall, Hilton, Allen, Cooper, Jeffery, Tate, Thomas, Watkins
Tier 5: Edelman, Cobb, Landry, Benjamin
Tier 6: Decker, Maclin, Sanders
So obviously there are some very good players at the top, then everyone after that is fairly similar.
It’s crucial that you take advantage of the depth at receiver.
Running Backs and Wide Receivers
Okay, we’re back. How do we address these two?
In terms of who I feel comfortable with, the running back list ended at RB12 (C.J. Anderson) and the receiver list ended at WR25 (Emmanuel Sanders). Where are those two being drafted?
C.J. Anderson is currently going with the 35th pick, and Emmanuel Sanders at the 63rd. What’s that mean? Essentially, in order for me to be entirely comfortable with my running back situation, I need to have two of them by roughly pick 35. In a 10-team league, that means two of the first four rounds. Not a huge deal.
If it was up to me, I’d probably take receivers in the other two rounds.
In case you haven't noticed yet, I focus heavily on running backs and receivers in the first four-five rounds - and most fantasy experts will tell you the same thing. They're the bread and butter.
Bringing It All Together
Okay, I’ve briefly laid out my perception of each position, so let’s quickly run through the first few rounds of a draft.
Assumptions: 3rd pick (just because), standard 10-team league, other players will be drafted at their ADP (obviously wouldn’t happen in a real draft)
First pick (3rd): Julio Jones
This is going to be the best left of the top three receivers.
Second pick (18th): Eddie Lacy
In terms of ADP, we’re looking at Brandon Marshall, Doug Martin, Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Lacy, Cam Newton, or Mark Ingram. I personally have Brandin Cooks (ADP: 27th) ranked higher than Marshall, and I know that in this mock draft vacuum, we can get Cooks with our next pick if we want to. Let’s go RB.
Third pick (23rd): LeSean McCoy
This is the time that strategy comes into play. Would you rather a) take Evans, Cooper, or Cooks and be left with Latavius or DeMarco Murray as your other RB? Or b) take Ingram or McCoy and be left with Edelman or Cobb as your other WR? Personally, I have to go RB.
Fourth pick (38th): Julian Edelman
Edelman or Cobb as discussed above. Cobb is dead to me after last year so…
Beyond (43rd forward)
At this point, we can start exploring quarterbacks (Roethlisberger coming up) or tight ends (maybe Olsen is still available). If that isn’t your thing, just keep drafting running backs and receivers. In most of the drafts I’ve done, I’ve started filling my bench before filling my starters. It might feel a little weird, but depth at running back and receiver is what wins you fantasy titles.
That’s it! I’ve let you into my mind. Use it wisely.
Never hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @DonaldGibsonFF for LITERALLY ANYTHING.