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The best fantasy football draft strategy for 2017

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What were the contents of Marsellus Wallace's briefcase in "Pulp Fiction?" What happened to Tony Soprano when the screen went black and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" came on? Is Luke Skywalker the father of Rey in the Star Wars saga, or is she a midi-chlorian birth? Is Jon Snow the son of Ned Stark on Game of Thrones, or the offspring of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, the son of the Mad King Aerys?

These are all mysteries, enigmas ... in some cases, secrets. Maybe we'll find out the answers to a few of these later this year, who knows. But for now, we're still searching for the answers. Well my friends, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that has helped me win more than my share of fantasy championships. It's my recipe of 11 herbs and spices. It's Marsellus Wallace's soul or Tony Soprano's death (maybe?). I still don't know what the hell a midi-chlorian is, but whatever. I'm here to share with you my round-by-round fantasy draft strategy (10 teams, standard scoring system) that I use to build elite fantasy football teams.

It's not rocket science or Einstein's Theory of Relativity. It's a simple and effective blueprint for finishing your fantasy draft with a smile, knowing that you just put together a team that will put you in contention for a league title. If you follow this plan and make smart waiver-wire moves and trades during the course of the regular season, I can guarantee a successful (and enjoyable) 2017 campaign.

Round 1 - Draft a running back or wide receiver: In the past, I would have been a lot more likely to focus on a running back. However, we can't ignore the impact wide receivers have made (despite a bad 2016 season for the position). So if you don't have one of the top three picks and can't land David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, all runners, consider the likes of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr. or Mike Evans in this round. I can see four receivers (or more) being drafted in the first 10 selections, but I doubt that you'll see anything but runners and wideouts come off the board.

Round 2 - Draft a running back or wide receiver: If you landed a running back in Round 1, take a wideout here ... or vice versa. The caveat would be that if a stud at the position you drafted in the first round falls to you in this round, don't be afraid to double up. For example, if you draft LeSean McCoy first and Melvin Gordon or DeMarco Murray falls to you in Round 2, I would take one of them over a wideout such as Jordy Nelson or Michael Thomas. Of course, you'll have to focus on the position that was ignored (in this case, wide receiver) with each of the next two selections in this potential scenario.

Round 3 - Draft a running back or wide receiver: You should be focusing on the runners and receivers in the next two rounds, choosing the best player available at both positions. The one scenario where I might stray from this blueprint is if Rob Gronkowski falls to me. While he has missed his share of games over the last two seasons, Gronkowski is also head and shoulders better than anyone else at his position. If you decide to pass on him, however, there will be more than enough options to fill that position in the middle-to-late rounds. In most cases, a runner or a receiver will be the selection here.

Round 4 - Draft a running back or wide receiver: Same drill in this round as in the previous three. If you took a runner in Round 3, then you should get a wide receiver here. If you went with a wideout in the previous round, then it's time to pick a running back. Whatever the situation, you'd like to have two players at each of those positions once you've made your first four picks. Fantasy fans in PPR leagues might have one running back and three receivers at this spot, and that's all right too. If you took Gronkowski with a top-30 pick, you're looking to take the best runner or wide receiver on the board.

Round 5 - Look at your best player available list: This is the first round where you'll see positions other than running back and wide receiver come off the board. Use common sense here, however. If Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady were still available in this spot, I'd be fine with the selection of either despite a deep quarterback position. I would also consider one of the remaining top three tight ends (behind Gronkowski) in Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed or Greg Olsen in this round, as long as those players are ranked higher than any other running back or wideout who might still be on your player list.

Round 6 - Look at your best player available list: Fantasy owners who have drafted nothing but running backs and wide receivers up to this point should consider a quarterback like Drew Brees or Andrew Luck (if available) or a tight end like Delanie Walker (assuming Kelce, Reed, Olsen are taken). Don't feel the need to reach for either of these positions, however, because it's too soon to select a quarterback or a tight end who isn't ranked in the top five at each of those positions. Instead, don't be afraid to keep building more running back and wideout depth with a few sleepers or rookie selections.

Round 7 - Draft a running back, wide receiver or tight end: If you already have three running backs, then you don't need a fourth (not yet, at least). The same goes for wide receivers. This is also the round you should start looking at what's left at the tight end position. If Walker or Jimmy Graham were still on the board, for example, this is a good spot to take one of them. Unless Brees or Luck are available (unlikely), I'd continue to wait on a quarterback if you'd done so up to this point.

Round 8 - Look at quarterbacks and tight ends: In a perfect world, you will already have three running backs, three wideouts and either a quarterback or tight end. If you still need a signal-caller, I look at Matt Ryan (if available), Marcus Mariota or Russell Wilson in this round. If all three are still on the board, I'd wait another round or two. If we assume that Walker and Graham are off the board, the lone tight end I would consider here is Tyler Eifert (assuming he's recovered from back surgery in time for training camp). Otherwise, look for more potential values at the running back and wide receiver spots.

Round 9 - Look at quarterbacks and tight ends: If you haven't picked your first quarterback or tight end, now is the time to consider it. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that you can still land a great value at either position. Maybe it's Wilson, Cam Newton or Dak Prescott. Maybe Eifert has fallen due to questions about his back. I would also warn owners not to reach past a certain point at either position, however. I think it's too soon to draft, for example, a quarterback like Matthew Stafford or a tight end like Eric Ebron unless depth at each of those positions has eroded. You can land those players later.

Round 10 - Draft a skill position player (QB, RB, WR, TE): At this point in the draft, you probably have three to four running backs, three to four wide receivers, and a quarterback and/or a tight end. If I'm still without a signal-caller, I'm looking at someone like Kirk Cousins or Stafford. At tight end, I'd be willing to draft Kyle Rudolph or Jack Doyle. If you've already filled those two positions, you're going to be looking at the best available backs and receivers. Upside players who could still be on the board include rookie Kareem Hunt, Cameron Meredith and Corey Coleman.

Round 11 - Draft a skill position player (QB, RB, WR, TE): Due to the depth at quarterback, there will be plenty of teams that still need a one at this juncture. This is the time to consider the likes of Stafford, Tyrod Taylor or Derek Carr. I'd prefer to have already drafted a No. 1 tight end, but those who have waited this long should be looking at Ebron or Martellus Bennett here.

Round 12 - Draft a skill position player (QB, RB, WR, TE): Owners who drafted a top-eight quarterback shouldn't look for a backup ... there will be good options on waivers. For those who waited, however, it makes sense to look at a second option. Ben Roethlisberger could be available. The same goes for the tight ends, as players such as Hunter Henry or Zach Ertz come to mind.

Round 13 - Draft a skill position player (QB, RB, WR, TE): Right now you should have one or two quarterbacks, four or five running backs, four or five wide receivers and one or two tight ends. While some might consider an elite defense like the Chiefs or Broncos, I'd continue to build more depth, add a running back handcuff or take a chance on a deep sleeper.

Round 14 - Draft the best defense or kicker on the board: A lot of analysts will criticize the kicker position because it's a tough one to predict, but ask anyone who had Matt Bryant or Justin Tucker last season how valuable the position can be in making a championship run. If those two and Stephen Gostkowski are unavailable, I'd grab a defense. The Chiefs and Broncos lead the position.

Round 15 - Draft the best defense or kicker on the board: This is and will continue to be the round where kickers most often come off the board. That is, assuming your league still uses the position and requires you to draft a full starting lineup. If you're not required to do so, however, I would add a defense (if still needed) or even more depth among the big offensive skill positions.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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