In fantasy drafts, choosing the right strategy for roster construction is almost as important as choosing players. The most important factor to consider when deciding which roster construction approach to implement is your position in the draft order.
With the first, second or third pick, you should apply a different methodology than if you are selecting in the middle or back part of the draft. This applies not only to the first round—as some drafters believe—but should be utilized throughout the draft, from the first pick to the very last.
Here the focus will be on drafting on the turn or back end of a standard scoring fantasy draft. How should you approach preparing for your selection at each round?
Note: A 12-team league will be referenced. The same general strategies apply to other league sizes, though the actual players available will change.
Before diving into strategy, here are a few parameters to consider:
• With the exception of Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, keep the QB position out of your mind until at least the seventh round (unless playing in a two-QB league or a league with non-convention QB scoring rules). When you take a QB too early, you’ll miss out on potential points from other positions that will be difficult to make up.
• Wait on TE until at least the fifth round unless you really want Rob Gronkowski. If you’re pleased with your WRs and RBs after the first four rounds and you see Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed available, go ahead and draft them as long as their potential output is greater than any RB or WR left on the board.
The first dilemma you’re faced with at the turn is whether to pass on RBs with your first two picks and draft two top WRs instead. If you do, there’s a chance you’ll be chasing RBs for the rest of the draft. By the time you get on the clock in Round 1, the top backs—David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell—will be off the board, and it’s unlikely that LeSean McCoy will be there, either. So the soundest advice is to assess opportunity cost—the players you’d be passing up—to make the best decision. The pool of players that should be available at the turn in the first round are Melvin Gordon, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Devonta Freeman and Jay Ajayi. Gordon leads that pack with 209 projected points in the 4for4 standard scoring projections, followed by Ajayi (197), Freeman (192), Nelson (182) and Bryant (175). From your draft position you know you’ll end up with two elite players (either two RBs, two WRs, or one of each), which is comforting. You can grab whichever one you like best in the first round and feel confident that your second-round pick will also be a top-seven player at his position.
In Rounds 2–4, it’s best to go with the top players available. Also, be mindful of who your competitors are drafting. For example, if you’re selecting from the 11th slot and your Round 3 pick is approaching, take a glance at the team in the 12-hole to see what its needs are. If that team grabbed two RBs with its first two picks, it’ll most likely be looking to draft at least one WR on the turn, so grabbing the best WR on the board before that team would be key.
By Round 5, you should have a balance of RBs and WRs. It’s time to check the TE column to see if any of the top guys have slipped in the draft. If Kelce, Reed or Olsen are there, grab them; if not, the best direction to go in would be drafting a second RB (if you haven’t already) or taking the best WR on the board. You’re most likely looking at guys like Ameer Abdullah and Mark Ingram if you’re still in need of a RB2, or Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate and Brandon Marshall at WR.
When it comes to pulling the trigger on a QB, looking at the rosters of teams around you comes into play again. If drafters around you have taken a QB early, you can wait a few extra rounds to select yours, knowing that others drafting near you aren’t like to go after another QB for a while. Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Andy Dalton or Dak Prescott could hang around as late as the 10 round—and get you similar points as Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Kirk Cousins, all of whom have ADPs hovering in the fifth or sixth round.
At this point in the draft, circling back to the TE position while adding depth at RB and WR is a good policy. I really like Martellus Bennett this season in Green Bay, a team with a TE strength of schedule that’s super soft; Aaron Rodgers loves to throw the pigskin in the red zone. If you want to wait past Bennett’s eighth-round ADP, Jack Doyle, the solo TE in Indy this season, and Eric Ebron, a third-year TE in Detroit due for a breakout, should be available in the 10th round. Both have the potential to put up similar numbers to Bennett.
Drafting on the turn has its challenges in terms of planning out your bench depth and bye week fill-ins. Depending on the particulars of the draft, what I like to do is select both of my QBs back to back on the turn. This ensures a solid backup, not only for a bye week, but also to have the option of streaming with. Since there is so much real estate between picks at the turn, the potential for QBs to fly off the board before your next pick comes up is a legitimate concern. Locking down two top-15 QBs will give you an advantage. The 9/10 turn is a great option to make this happen; tandems like Rivers/Prescott or Matthew Stafford/Dalton, could prove to be difference makers for you.
Filling in your bench with serviceable players or handcuffing your studs should occupy you in the next few rounds. You have to prepare for inevitable injuries and those pesky bye weeks. Grab a starting DST by the 14 round, but forgo a backup DST in favor of more skill-position depth. You’ll always have a player to drop for your DST’s bye week, or you may end up streaming the position if the DST you selected doesn’t pan out. If your league roster requires a kicker—many no longer do—save drafting one for the final round, and just grab the highest ranked kicker on the board.
Every fantasy draft is different; it can just take one crazy pick to throw everything out of whack. Coming into the draft with a loose plan that allows for flexibility is the best option, both for your roster and mental state. Picking on the back end at the turn certainly is not a death sentence, and can definitely have its advantages if approached the right way.
Fantasy championships can and will be won from the turn, so get out there and draft yourself a league-winning roster.