What is your preferred draft strategy?
- Michael Fabiano NFL Media Senior Fantasy Analyst
You know what it is
My strategy is simple, and you all know it by now ... wait on a quarterback, load up on running backs, wide receivers and a top-eight tight end in the first seven to eight rounds. It's about supply and demand. There are a ton of good field generals. (A ton!) I know I'll never get Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, but I'm fine with that. Why get a quarterback early when I can get one who will be solid after Round 8? Guess who finished in the top 12 among quarterbacks last season ... Andy Dalton (late rounds), Philip Rivers (waiver wire), Russell Wilson (late rounds) and Nick Foles (waiver wire). I'll take any of those guys (other than Dalton) as my QB1 this season and be satisfied with it, because I won't have to use a pick in the earlier rounds or tons of auction dollars to acquire them.
- Matt Franciscovich NFL Media Associate Fantasy Editor
Time to wait on RBs
With a majority of teams implementing the running back-by-committee approach and the fact that the NFL is evolving into more of a passing league, fantasy enthusiasts need to adapt. Hence the popularity of the "zero running back" strategy. I'm completely on board with locking in a couple of stud wideouts with my first two or three picks and then honing in on running backs in the middle rounds. You can clean up on guys like Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown while other teams snatch up running backs in the second and third rounds, most of whom come with a good amount of risk. I would much rather go for some veteran runners in middle rounds that I know will see a high volume of touches and goal line work like Ryan Mathews, Ben Tate and Frank Gore and then make sure I build up some depth at the position in later rounds in case of injury. I like waiting on tight end and quarterback as there are usually viable options still on the board at both positions from Rounds 8-10, and after that it's all about throwing darts at some high upside guys and hoping for the best.
For whatever reason, in many of my fantasy drafts this season I'm picking in one of the last three spots, meaning I'm missing out on all of the top running backs I feel safe about taking in the first round. That's why I'm often employing a "zero RB" strategy on draft day. This way of thinking involves waiting on running backs until at least the third or fourth round, and instead getting a huge advantage at wide receiver and tight end. If I can, I grab Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham in the first, then come back around with another wide receiver or even a top quarterback in the second. It's a bit terrifying waiting on running backs, but once I'm stacked at the top of the draft with guys who have very high floors, I can then load up on high-upside guys like Andre Ellington, Toby Gerhart or Rashad Jennings for my backfield. The top of the running back position outside of the big names changes so frequently there's a good chance at least one of my selections in the middle rounds vaults toward the top of the heap. It's a risk, no doubt, but a risk I'm more comfortable with than one like taking DeMarco Murray or Arian Foster at the end of the first round.
- Marcas Grant NFL Media Fantasy Editor
Be confident in Round 1
If there's one pick you want to make sure you feel good about, it's your first round selection. That's why my biggest piece of advice this fantasy season has been to let everyone know that it's okay not to take a running back in the first round. If you're sitting outside the top four picks and you're torn between Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy or Jimmy Graham, don't be afraid to pull the trigger on the big tight end if you think he's the answer.
Beyond that, the goal is to find players with consistency. Those 30-point weeks are always fun, but not if your player backs it up with a couple of single-digit outings. As you fill out your roster, try to find guys who are going to give you fairly even point production from week-to-week. That steady production will give you a better chance to win more frequently.
I'm all about that Amoeba Strategy, boss. As in, you need to be flexible and adjust your strategy on the fly. If you're going to stick by the standard, "you need a running back in the first two rounds" then you're going to look as outdated as Trent's suit in "Swingers." You need to be able to play fast and loose and be willing to do something unconventional. Jimmy Graham with the fifth overall pick? Sure. Dez Bryant at No. 9? Hell yeah. A kicker in the first-round? Well, let's not go crazy with this thing. But you have to be able to adapt, improvise and overcome.
I want elite players with my first two picks. Positions be damned, get me projected "Tier One" performers and I'll sort out the rest later. Which means unless I get one of the top five picks, I'm likely to go Jimmy Graham/WR followed by a QB in the second. I'm content to sort out my running backs later in the draft. Remember, there's no position you draft a "handcuff" to cover besides running back. Rolling the dice on that position when the player is not projected to be a real difference maker is just too much risk. It's all math. I want to get near 100 points per week. However that happens, and whatever positions I need to get more points from, I don't care. In the first four rounds, I want the most elite player on the board, position not withstanding. Second and third tier players are available all the way into the 10th round. My late round strategy typically involves a lot of high upside running backs. Again, it's the position that experiences the most attrition, so prepare for the unexpected and try to "guess" right with those rookies and backups in the 10th round and beyond.