Everyone approaches their fantasy draft differently. No strategy is perfect and no strategy is foolproof, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one going into your draft. There are a number of ways you can attack the draft and we’ll go over a few of those today along with the pros and cons of each.
Before we get into that, we’ll let you know the SB Nation Fantasy Football Draft Guide is now available.
And now for the ways you can put that draft guide to use...
Value based drafting (VBD)
Summary: This is your basic “best player available,” but hopefully it’s more than just taking whoever is at the top of the rankings in your draft room when it’s your time to pick. VBD is the idea you take the best value still on the board whenever it’s your turn to pick.
Pros: Ideally, you’ll never “reach” for a pick because you’re always looking for value. Also ideally, you’ll always get good players because you’re attempting to optimize your pick over ADP in every round. You also won’t be forced to pass over good players who are available at certain positions because your chosen draft strategy calls to avoid them.
Cons: The concept of “value” is pretty fluid. What exactly is it that you’re valuing? Is it upside? Is it a higher floor? Are you strictly basing this off year-end fantasy points? Taking a value in one round could stop you from taking a better value in another, or if you sticking strictly to the idea, you can end up with five value picks at wide receiver and come away short-handed at running back.
Summary: Don’t draft a quarterback early because they’re easily replaceable and there’s so many usable players at the position, the difference at the top and the mid-tier isn’t all that big. Basically quarterbacks are the real life running backs of fantasy football.
Pros: Waiting on a quarterback allows you to fill out a roster with studs at other positions, which should give you a bigger advantage against your opponents at that position. It’s such a pass heavy league that just about every quarterback is going to put up numbers that can win a weekly fantasy football matchup. For as much of a step back as Dak Prescott took last season, he still finished the year as QB12. Blake Bortles was QB15. Tyrod Taylor with nothing around him in Buffalo was QB16. What this also can allow you to do is have shorter leash at quarterback and upgrades can be available on the waiver wire, especially in 10- or 12-team leagues that only start one quarterback.
Cons: You’re never going to draft Aaron Rodgers, or Tom Brady, or Drew Brees. There’s going to be weeks when you’re rooting for Alex Smith or Blake Bortles to lead your fantasy team and that might not sound like a fun proposition for some.
Summary: Running backs have the highest injury rates of the skill positions, so why waste a premium pick on a player who has a high probability of getting hurt? Ask anyone who took David Johnson with the first overall pick in drafts last season. Load up on high-end talent at other positions and take a high-volume approach at the middle tier of running backs to compensate.
Pros: They don’t make running backs like they used to. One back (Le’Veon Bell) got over 300 carries last season, opposed five just five seasons ago in 2012. Only eight running backs got 250 carries, opposed to 15 in 2012. This assures top talent at at least wide receiver and your choice of tight end or quarterback and you could do worse than the likes of Chris Thompson, Duke Johnson, or C.J. Anderson as a lead back — all of whom are available in the eighth round or later per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP. Sometimes stars can arise from nowhere. Alvin Kamara was a 12th round pick last season — drafted as RB52 — and he finished as RB3 in PPR scoring and probably won some people more than a few leagues.
Cons: Everybody gets hurt. Just because you’re avoiding a top pick at a high risk position, you aren’t eliminating risk all together. You’re also purposely lowering the ceiling at a position that can bring a lot of points. You’re also banking a lot on find good value at the position later in the draft. If you find an Alvin Kamara, you’re golden, but if instead you take Jeremy Hill — RB51 by ADP last season — you’re going to be scrambling.
Summary: Pretty much the opposite of Zero-RB — avoid wide receivers early and go hard on the top-tier running backs in the first few rounds. NFL teams use more wide receivers than ever — around 60 percent of plays feature three wide receivers on the field — so finding production from lower tier players is easier at a position that has a naturally deeper talent pool.
Pros: Bellcow or even high volume running backs don’t really exist anymore, so why not try to corner the market on them? Imagine starting your draft with David Johnson (1.04 ADP), Jordan Howard (2.10), Travis Kelce (3.07), and Deshaun Watson (4.12). You can still potentially grab the likes of Marvin Jones (5.11) and Sammy Watkins (6.08) with your next two picks and be more than fine at wide receiver.
Cons: Those wide receivers could easily become someone with injury concerns like Corey Davis (6.02) or quarterback questions like Michael Crabtree (6.04). Like Zero-RB, this guarantees no picks at the top of the positional tier. Fantasy football is a game of volume and there’s really no more consistent volume than from a team’s dominant No. 1 wide receiver. Unless something goes terribly wrong, the Antonio Browns, Odell Beckhams, and Julio Joneses of the world are getting their targets.
Future stream awareness
Summary: This isn’t so much a draft strategy as it is knowing your regular season roster building strategy. If you think you’re going to stream a position during the regular season, you should draft like it. “Streaming” is the act of replacing a given position each week with the best available matchup on the waiver wire. This is mostly done with quarterbacks, tight ends, team defense, and/or kicker.
Pros: Knowing your going to stream a position during the regular season let’s you kind of avoid it in the draft. If you know you’re going to stream tight ends, there’s no reason to target the position in the middle rounds. Instead of being tempted by George Kittle or Trey Burton in the eighth round, wait for Benjamin Watson or Vance McDonald in the 14th.
Cons: Streaming in general takes a bit of prep time. You need to familiarize yourself with multiple matchups every week in order to know which players to target. You’ll also have to plays some games on the waiver wire, which could be tough with whatever way your league’s waivers work — blind bids or by record.