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Fantasy Football 2022 Draft Strategies: First Five Picks Drafting 4-5-6

Find out how to proceed through the early rounds of your fantasy football draft when picking from slots 4-6.

There are plenty of pros and cons to drafting in the early, middle and late parts of the first round. Some managers enjoy picking at the turn, and others prefer to avoid missing out on positional runs by having a selection in the heart of each round.

We’ll be addressing each of those, in part, with the second installment of the second annual draft strategy series for picks 4-6.

It's important to consider positional value and rankings when building out your roster. There's a time to take the best player available and finally pull the trigger on a non-RB or WR. This series is here to help you make the correct decisions in those positions with input and analysis from myself and my editor, Matt De Lima.

Let’s get into the strategy for drafting from the 4-6 spots, which is a bit trickier than 1-3.

Draft Pick Draft Strategies
Picks: 1 to 3 | 4 to 6 | 7 to 9 | 10 to 12


Drafting in round 1
Before deciding on a player in this range, you must first choose which position you're targeting: running back or wide receiver?

Elite players will be available at both, depending on personal preference.

Cooper Kupp was the No. 1 overall scorer in fantasy football last season, and his ADP rightfully skyrocketed as a result, all the way to No. 4 overall, just behind the first group of running backs. Tyreek Hill's ADP of 11 was the lowest for a WR a season ago. If Kupp’s position holds, he will have the lowest ADP at WR since Antonio Brown in 2017. Managers will not be getting the reigning Super Bowl MVP at a discount again after his rise from fifth-round selection to league winner in 2021.

Third-year Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson is worth considering after he built on his stellar rookie campaign in Year 2 with a WR4 finish. The prospect of playing in an offense with a higher passing frequency makes him even more enticing.

The running backs available in this range will vary depending on how the top three picks play out. Realistically, you’re looking at Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry and Najee Harris. Ekeler is my choice of the three if he's available at any of the first-round slots in this range, and I like him better than both receivers. I'm not as high on Henry coming off an injury in a Titans offense that might be taking a step back this season, but it's impossible to argue with his body of work, and Michael Fabiano has him ranked No. 3 overall in PPR redraft. Harris is a volume play after he touched the ball a whopping 381 times as a rookie, though his receiving work could take a hit with the retirement of the quick-throwing Ben Roethlisberger, and the offensive line remains a point of concern in Pittsburgh.

With the fourth pick, I still lean running back (Ekeler or Henry) before the draft board begins to open up in the middle of the first. Kupp or Jefferson feel like safer selections in the 5-6 slots without sacrificing any ceiling.

Matt De Lima’s Round 1 Hot Takes:

The ideal draft slot this year may be just after the top running backs come off the board. You have to love the upside of the stud running backs, but receivers are just safer and generally more healthy and consistent. Like Kyle, I would lean Ekeler or Henry at No. 4 but at 5 and 6, I too would likely snag Jefferson or Kupp, in that order. Trust your first instinct on who to select in this spot because it's easy to make arguments for each option. They're in the top 6 for a reason.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting in rounds 2 and 3
So right now, you either have a top-end receiver to build your team around or a proven, workhorse running back, a commodity that's becoming rarer by the year. How to proceed in the second round should be based on what you're heading in with.

Let's say you bit on Kupp or JJ in the first round: Go get an RB1 in Round 2 before they're all gone! In the 19-21 ADP range, you'll find Javonte Williams, Aaron Jones and Leonard Fournette. Williams is being drafted at somewhat of a premium after a solid rookie season (RB18) and the anticipated bump that will come with Russell Wilson taking over at quarterback in Denver. That said, I prefer Jones or Fournette in this spot, who has finished among the top 12 running backs before and can expect additional work in the passing game this coming season. (I wrote about how Jones' target share could rise following Davante Adams' exit from Green Bay here).

If you’re not starting the draft with a workhorse, a capable pass-catching back is a very suitable consolation prize toward the end of the second.

So heading into the third round, you have a WR1, and you corralled one of the last available top-12 running backs by ADP. What now? I favor double-tapping the running back position in rounds 2 and 3 out of these draft slots. James Conner and Ezekiel Elliott are the RBs in the 28-30 range. I see a steep dropoff from those two, who were top-six players at the position a year ago, to the next group of Cam Akers, David Montgomery, Antonio Gibson and Josh Jacobs. Let me restate that: You can get a running back who finished in the top half of the RB1s just a season ago in the third round as your RB2!

The concerns about Elliott slowing down are valid, and his ADP reflects that, but he won the war of attrition last year on his way to 1,000 yards and 10 scores on the ground. And as for Conner, he's coming off the healthiest season of his career, and Chase Edmonds (who played a higher percentage of snaps in 2021) is gone. Darrel Williams is a nice depth add for Arizona, but he won't be stealing meaningful work from Conner.

Now for the second option: You went running back in the first round; now, let's get that WR1. The middle of the second round to the middle of the third is a bit sparse at the position. Only two receivers have ADPs between 16-25—Tyreek Hill and CeeDee Lamb. I'm higher on Lamb, Dak Prescott's new WR1 in Dallas, than ADP (18 OVR, WR7), as is Fabiano, who has him ranked 13th overall and fifth at his position. There's more uncertainty around Hill in a new offense with a new quarterback, who, no matter what you think of Tua Tagovailoa, is not Patrick Mahomes. Hill set a career-high with 111 catches in 2021 and could top that mark in Miami as a PPR machine. Mike Evans would be a bit of a reach going by ADP alone (26 OVR, WR9), but I also love him as a second-round WR1, especially if Chris Godwin misses any time. Fabiano has Evans ranked 16th overall and eighth among receivers, well above his current ADP, and I have to agree.

With WR1 and RB1 addressed, it’s time to find an RB2 or WR2. I prefer a running back in this spot and will refer you to my previous point about the tier drop-off after this point in the draft. Just think of the possibility of pairing Conner or Elliott with a top-end running back. But if you want to play the waiting game with your RB2, Keenan Allen is as solid as they come at WR2. The other wideouts in the 28-30 range are A.J. Brown, who’s a bit more of an upside choice, and Tee Higgins, who came on in the second half of the season and shined in the Bengals' Super Bowl run.

So far, I like the WR-RB-RB route, but if you must shore up WR2 in Round 3, I’m going with the tried and true Allen if he’s available.

Matt De Lima’s Rounds 2 & 3 Hot Takes:

If you've gone WR in Round 1, you have to go RB in Round 2. If you're waiting until Round 3 for a RB1, the options don't feel good for me. I'm fading Zeke, Conner and Montgomery. I really like Akers this year, but there are clear and obvious risks around a lot of these RB options, Akers included. After three rounds, I firmly believe you've got to be either RB-WR-WR or WR-WR-RB in the vast majority of drafts. I prefer 2WR in PPR and 2RB in half-PPR. Reaching for a QB means you're paying full retail price and while a luxury brand like Josh Allen is probably worth the draft capital, any dip in production kills his value. I just want a little value from my QB or TE picks and the earlier you take them, the bar set on that value is just extremely high.

Jacksonville Jaguars Travis Etienne

Drafting in rounds 4 and 5
Your draft can take a turn in Round 4. WR2? RB2? TE1? WR3?! It's all there for the taking. Let's address each of them.

I like the players in the 43-45 range for WR2 or WR3/flex. That is: Michael Pittman Jr., Terry McLaurin and DK Metcalf. They all have tremendous upside. Pittman and McLaurin will be playing with the best quarterbacks of their young careers, with Matt Ryan in Indianapolis and Carson Wentz now in Washington. Metcalf certainly downgraded at QB from Wilson to Geno Smith or Drew Lock, but he's a big-play threat who still finished as WR10 in a down year for Seattle.

At RB2, you're looking at an unknown commodity with rookie Breece Hall or second-year back Travis Etienne, a first-round selection in the 2021 draft who missed all of his rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury. I like Etienne, who was a touchdown machine in college while playing alongside his teammate, quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Hall also has a nose for the end zone, and the Jets spent an early second-round pick to make him the highest-selected back in April's draft.

I'd opt to stay away from the tight ends in this range, given the players available at other positions. George Kittle and Darren Waller are likely available in the fourth round after Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Kyle Pitts are all on the board. I favor Waller here if you want to go tight end given the established connection with Derek Carr and the expected offensive bump in Las Vegas with Josh McDaniels calling the shots, but the receiver feels like the smart play based on the current roster construction.

By the time the fifth round has come and gone, you should have a pair of running backs and two receivers on your roster. If that's not the case because you've selected three receivers already or went with a tight end in the fourth, it's time to address RB2.

I don't love waiting this long to take care of this need—the only players in the 52-54 ADP range are J.K. Dobbins and Elijah Mitchell. Those two are even bigger unknowns than Hall and Etienne in the prior round. Dobbins just missed an entire season due to an ACL injury and has to contend with the mobile Lamar Jackson for goal-line work. And Mitchell is subject to Kyle Shanahan's mercurial running back usage, plus the 49ers drafted another running back with a Day 2 pick in this year's draft: Tyrion Davis-Price.

There are other potentially suitable RB2s who you can reach a bit for, like AJ Dillon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Miles Sanders. Their situations don't necessarily justify a reach, though; there's no guarantee they're available next time you're on the clock if you chance it and wait for another round. That's why I like the WR-RB-RB-WR route so that the position isn't a need at this point in the draft.

If you follow that path, you can get your third receiver. Mike Williams is currently going in this range, as are Brandin Cooks, Marquise Brown and Amari Cooper, all of whom could be steals at this point in drafts. Quarterback is not a necessity here, but Lamar Jackson might still be available, and Joe Burrow is also on the radar with an ADP of 56 (QB5).

Matt De Lima’s Rounds 4 & 5 Hot Takes:

Drafting away from the turns and closer to the middle, I'm going to be at my least reactionary as a drafter to what others are doing. When you pick No. 1, there are 23 picks before you're on the clock again. I don't want to be at the end of a run in that draft position. In the 4 to 6 slots, I want to do my best to put blinders on and get my guys. In Round 4, I think it's a perfect spot to grab a tight end -- George Kittle or Darren Waller if you prefer. These rounds, to me, are where I want to really avoid drafting a QB. I'm fading Lamar Jackson. After the "independent study" story, I'm fading Kyler Murray. I like Joe Burrow. What's there not to like? But do I like him 35 to 50 picks more than Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford or Aaron Rodgers. No, absolutely not. After five rounds this year, I'm loving a 2RB-2WR-1TE setup.

Joe Burrow throws a pass in the Super Bowl.

Takeaways from drafting from picks 4 to 6
The first-round selection in this slot is a tougher decision than it is for 1-3. I felt picking in this range sets a manager up for great success. You're picking near the end of the RB1 and RB2 tiers in the second and third rounds, which puts you in a prime position to pair an elite receiver with two good running backs.

With running back addressed early out of these positions, you're free to stockpile receivers in the fourth and fifth rounds, and there are plenty of reliable options and upside players to select from.

I enjoyed the WR-RB-RB-WR-WR approach the most. There are deviations you can take with an early-round tight end or a fifth-round quarterback, but the prospect of starting the draft with Jefferson, Jones, Conner, Pittman and Williams or something comparable is enough to get me to buy in.

Matt De Lima’s Drafting 4-6 Final Takeaways:

The best thing about these draft spots is that you're still close to the top of the first round and the gaps between the top five or six players is very small, so whoever you end up with, as long as you're mostly following the ADP trends, you'll be fine. Then when you're up again in Round 2, there's bound to be a player who's fallen in your lap like Nick Chubb or Deebo Samuel or Tyreek Hill. The only way you get in trouble is if you don't load up on running backs and wide receivers. It's always tempting to reach for a QB or TE, but you've got to let the values come to you. I have no problem being in the middle of a position run. QB is deep this year so let it come to you. TE is top-heavy, but I'm not going to reach for a top-five TE unless I'm in a TE-premium league. The risk and talent decline at RB and WR moves too quickly in these rounds. Reaching for a QB or TE puts me behind the eight-ball at RB or WR.

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