Fantasy Football Draft Strategy – Your Complete Step-By-Step Guide

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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy – Your Complete Step-By-Step Guide
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Fantasy football is an exciting game that combines strategy, luck, and skill. The best way to win is by using a good team and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each player on your roster.

The draft may be the most crucial part of the fantasy season. 

Draft day is where fantasy managers will select the core of their roster for the entire season. 

It is important to come into the draft with at least a general strategy and a plan of what you are going to do with your first few picks.

Do I need to have a draft strategy? 

While it is not necessary to have any kind of draft strategy to be successful in fantasy football, it definitely helps to at least have some basic strategy. 

Some very basic strategy is making a list of what positions you want to draft where, some players in mind to target, and some sleeper picks that you believe are ranked too low. 

Going in with no strategy could cause you to make a mistake with one of your top picks which could hurt you the entire season.

Draft strategy for beginners  

Beginners should go into the draft knowing a few things. 

This can be as basic as knowing that you should fill out your starting lineup before stacking bench players, drafting players that are not hurt or suspended, and drafting players at or around their average draft position (ADP). 

A good way to practice this for fantasy football players who have never played before is to do a free mock draft that is available on various sites. 

Mock drafts and their benefits are displayed below:

How deep do you think the draft will be?

A question to ask yourself is “how deep do you think the draft will be?” If you can spot a position that is deeper than the others then you can plan on getting that position later in the draft. 

For example, if there are a ton of wide receivers that you project to be good later in the draft, you could load up on running backs earlier and wait to draft a wide receiver. 

What position do you plan to draft at?

Looking at your draft position ahead of time is crucial. It will likely determine your entire strategy knowing if you are pick No. 1 or pick No. 10 in your draft. 

If you have the first pick you will likely take a running back, but if you are pick 10, you may take a wide receiver. Both of which impact your next pick and so on in the daft.

Understand the Importance of Position Flexibility

You should be cautious when picking a quarterback early in fantasy drafts, beginners will often make the mistake of going early on QB given the importance of the position in the NFL.

Instead, focus on finding a wide receiver who has the potential to score a lot of points. If you’re looking for a running back, go with the guy who has the highest upside.

Be Aware of the Risks of Going Too Young or Too Late

If you’re going too young, you might miss out on some of the top prospects. And if you go too late, you might not get enough picks to fill out your roster. 

So, what’s the right age range to draft? Well, there isn’t really an exact answer. You should consider the following when making your decision:

  1. How deep do you think the draft will be?
  2. What position do you plan to draft at?
  3. Do you prefer to take a quarterback early or later?

Do you prefer to take a quarterback early or later?

One of the most important positions to strategize for in your draft is quarterback. 

Depending on where your first-round pick is at, one of the top quarterbacks could fall into your lap after your favorite position players are all taken early in the draft. 

There are also other fantasy players who like to wait on a quarterback and get a mid-tier player later in the draft that has high upside. Both are viable strategies, and if there is a quarterback you are just as high on that can be taken later, the last strategy makes sense.

Choose Players Based on Their Value

To find out how much each player is worth, use our free fantasy football rankings. We’ve ranked every player based on their projected value for the upcoming season.

Understand league rules and scoring 

One of the most important basic strategies is to understand the league rules and scoring before the draft takes place. 

First, check what the starting lineup will look like. Some leagues have various numbers of starting running backs and wide receivers, a flex that can be any position, or even starting two quarterbacks. All of these things are crucial to know ahead of the draft. 

Scoring is the next thing to look at pre-draft. Make sure to check how many points quarterbacks will get. 

Commonly quarterbacks score four points for a throwing touchdown and negative two points for an interception, but some leagues award six points for a throwing touchdown and only negative one for an interception. 

Another scoring rule to look at is how many points per reception players get, which is extremely important on how players are drafted.

How deep do you think the draft will be?

A question to ask yourself is “how deep do you think the draft will be?” If you can spot a position that is deeper than the others then you can plan on getting that position later in the draft. 

For example, if there are a ton of wide receivers that you project to be good later in the draft, you could load up on running backs earlier and wait to draft a wide receiver. 

What position do you plan to draft at?

Looking at your draft position ahead of time is crucial. It will likely determine your entire strategy knowing if you are pick No. 1 or pick No. 10 in your draft. 

If you have the first pick you will likely take a running back, but if you are pick 10, you may take a wide receiver. Both of which impact your next pick and so on in the daft.

Understand the Importance of Position Flexibility

You should be cautious when picking a quarterback early in fantasy drafts, beginners will often make the mistake of going early on QB given the importance of the position in the NFL.

Instead, focus on finding a wide receiver who has the potential to score a lot of points. If you’re looking for a running back, go with the guy who has the highest upside.

Be Aware of the Risks of Going Too Young or Too Late

If you’re going too young, you might miss out on some of the top prospects. And if you go too late, you might not get enough picks to fill out your roster. 

So, what’s the right age range to draft? Well, there isn’t really an exact answer. You should consider the following when making your decision:

  1. How deep do you think the draft will?
  2. What position do you plan to draft at?
  3. Do you prefer to take a quarterback early or later?

Do you prefer to take a quarterback early or later?

One of the most important positions to strategize for in your draft is quarterback. 

Depending on where your first-round pick is at, one of the top quarterbacks could fall into your lap after your favorite position players are all taken early in the draft. 

There are also other fantasy players who like to wait on a quarterback and get a mid-tier player later in the draft that has high upside. Both are viable strategies, and if there is a quarterback you are just as high on that can be taken later, the last strategy makes sense.

Choose Players Based on Their Value

To find out how much each player is worth, use our free fantasy football rankings. We’ve ranked every player based on their projected value for the upcoming season.

Understand league rules and scoring 

One of the most important basic strategies is to understand the league rules and scoring before the draft takes place. 

First, check what the starting lineup will look like. Some leagues have various numbers of starting running backs and wide receivers, a flex that can be any position, or even starting two quarterbacks. All of these things are crucial to know ahead of the draft. 

Scoring is the next thing to look at pre-draft. Make sure to check how many points quarterbacks will get. 

Commonly quarterbacks score four points for a throwing touchdown and negative two points for an interception, but some leagues award six points for a throwing touchdown and only negative one for an interception. 

Another scoring rule to look at is how many points per reception players get, which is extremely important on how players are drafted.

Draft strategy for standard scoring leagues 

For standard scoring leagues, players won’t get any points for making a catch. In this case it is important to look at online rankings for the ‘flex’ position.

This will rank all the skill position players that are running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. 

Players that are bigger touchdown threats and get high-yardage outputs will be valued here more.

Rankings can be filtered on most sites as well to show their ADP and rankings from other experts such as shown below on CBS Fantasy: 

Draft strategy for half-ppr leagues 

In a half-ppr league, players will get an additional half point for a catch. 

For these leagues, it is important to look at how many catches a player gets and value them slightly higher than players that just get a lot of touchdowns and yards. 

Drafting players that don’t get a high amount of catches but are still good touchdown and yard suppliers likely won’t make or break your draft and fantasy season, but they are something to keep in mind. 

Draft strategy for ppr leagues 

Where ppr really comes into play is when your players get a full point bonus for a catch. 

When comparing two fantasy players in two individual performances we can see how much of a difference this makes. 

Draft strategy for ppr leagues

In this Los Angeles Rams game from the 2021-2022 season we can see that Cooper Kupp had 24 more receiving yards in this game than DeSean Jackson. 

In a standard league, Kupp would have 9.2 points on the week while Jackson had 6.8 points. 

In a full-point ppr league though, Kupp would get seven additional points from his catches while Jackson would only get one. 

This bumps Kupp’s total up to 16.2 and Jackson to just 7.8 points. Kupp would go from having just 2.4 more points than Jackson to 8.4 more points.

Use Average Draft Position (ADP) as a guide

The best strategy for beginners or for those unsure of who to draft at any point is to go by the average draft position. 

This shows where every other fantasy owner has drafted this player previously on the site you are using. 

ADP can be seen below as ‘Avg’ for tight ends in this example.

Use Average Draft Position (ADP) as a guide

How many rounds are in fantasy football draft? 

The number of rounds in fantasy football is determined by how many players will be on each roster. 

There are commonly 16 players drafted in ESPN standard leagues, so there will be 16 rounds in that case.

Draft strategy for beginners

Should I consider bye weeks in my draft strategy? 

Bye weeks are an important thing to consider when drafting your team in fantasy football. 

Each team will have one bye week during the season where their team doesn’t play. 

Most fantasy owners will look to draft players of the same position with different bye weeks so that they can slot a bench player into the lineup when their starter is on a bye week. 

This can be important to always have a solid roster out there every week. 

Another strategy can be to draft the majority of your players to have the same bye week. 

This is a strategy based on the idea that you have your full strength lineup every week except for one during the season. 

Your team will essentially give up on one week during the season where the majority of your players have a bye week but then won’t be limited in any other weeks throughout the year. 

When drafting, the bye week will appear in a column next to the player’s name:

Draft strategy by position

For those who have been playing fantasy football for a while, it is important to have a strategy going into your draft for every position besides defense and kickers, which are usually drafted in the last few rounds. 

Some strategies for each position are listed below:

When to draft running backs? 

The majority of players taken in the first round every year are usually running backs. 

This always seems to be the position that is the least deep in all of fantasy football. 

This is because about half of the teams usually have one go-to running back. 

The other half of the teams have a shared running back position where they split carries with another player. 

So, there are essentially only 15 running backs that are in a tier of their own as a workhorse running back. 

If you are in a 12-team league, by the end of the second round all of these top 15 players could be gone.

Zero RB Strategy

A totally different strategy for drafting running backs is the zero running back strategy. 

This means that you don’t take a running back in the first three rounds. You can even not take a running back until the eighth round according to FTN Fantasy.

Zero RB Strategy

They go on in this article to give examples of how you could find players later in the draft every year that turn out to be a top-15 fantasy running back. 

Some of these players can even be found on the waiver wire during the season.

When to draft wide receivers? 

Drafting wide receivers is based on what league you are in. A good majority of running backs are not great pass catchers which elevates the value of wide receivers in ppr leagues. 

It is also important to look into your league settings to see how many wide receivers start in your league, which is usually two or three, but starting three again puts more emphasis on drafting this position higher. 

When to draft quarterbacks?  

There are three basic strategies for drafting quarterbacks. 

The first one is taking a top-tier quarterback in rounds 1-2. The second is taking a mid-tier quarterback in rounds 3-5. 

Lastly, you can wait on quarterback and take one in rounds 6-9 as there will still be viable starting quarterbacks here. 

In this situation it is important to draft another quarterback soon after as one is likely to be a top-10 quarterback for the fantasy season. 

When to draft tight ends? 

The strategy for drafting tight ends is very similar to drafting quarterbacks. 

There are really three tiers of tight ends here again like there are for quarterbacks each year. 

In most cases, fantasy owners will wait on drafting tight ends if they miss out on the top four or five guys. 

Having a top tight end who is consistent every week and has high upside in every game is a huge advantage. 

Fantasy owners who wait on tight end will be scrambling every week to find value or the current tight end who is expected to have a big role each week.

Draft strategy round by round 

Early round 1st and 2nd pick draft strategy 

There are unlimited strategies for what you can do with your 1st and 2nd picks in any fantasy draft. Nothing you can do is wrong, but there are a few simple things that you can avoid. 

These things are not drafting a player way outside of their ADP and not drafting a player who could be in danger of losing their position or could be suspended. 

This means not drafting a player who has an ADP of 30 or higher in the top two rounds as you could likely get them later in the draft. 

Also, not taking a player who is getting older and could be replaced like Ezekiel Elliot or a player who could be suspended like Alvin Kamara, as two examples in 2022.

Mid round 3rd – 7th pick draft strategy 

For the mid rounds in 3 to 7, you will want to fill in the gaps in your roster. 

This means if you took two running backs with your first two picks, you will want to pick up some wide receivers, a quarterback, and tight end to fill out your starting positions. 

By pick seven you likely will want to have your starting roster filled out which includes: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 Flex and 1 TE. 

Late round 8th – 12th pick draft strategy 

In the later rounds that are picks 8-12 you will want to add backups to your starting positions that you view as weak points. 

If you got a quarterback in the sixth or seventh round it is usually a good idea to get another quarterback early in case your first drafted quarterback is a bust. 

You will also want to draft backups with different bye weeks than your starters if you choose to draft with that strategy. Finally, go for high upside players with these later picks. 

This means players that you think could fall into starting positions but are not currently starters or players who are right behind an injury prone player and could become a starter that way.

Dynasty Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 

Drafting for a dynasty league is a whole different story. 

When doing this kind of draft it is very important to do research ahead of time as you are keeping most of these players for the next season and beyond. 

This research is more about drafting players that are not close to retiring or have had major injuries in the past and could not have many good years left in them. 

An example of this is a running back who is 30-years-old and may still be good for the upcoming year but not in just two years down the road, but a quarterback who is 30-years-old may have eight more good years left. 

Drafting a player who has already had two torn ACLs also may not be a great player to draft as they could be one more injury away from retirement or may just not be as explosive as they once were.

Superflex 2QB Leagues draft strategy 

When drafting for a league where two quarterbacks can start, ensure you have at least two quarterbacks who start in the NFL. 

The majority of these leagues have 10 teams or less in them, so each team could draft three starting quarterbacks at least. 

That is usually the best strategy as there are bye weeks where you will need a backup who does not have the same bye week as your two starters.

Quarterbacks are commonly taken higher in these leagues as well as shown here:

Superflex 2QB Leagues draft strategy

Auction and Salary cap draft strategy 

Auction and salary cap fantasy football drafts are extremely different from other drafts. 

Essentially, players come up one by one and are bid on with a set amount each owner is given ahead of the draft. 

There are some simple rules to follow for these drafts. The first is to not leave any money on the table when the draft is over. 

Second is to have a set number in mind you are willing to bid for the top players. 

Lastly, don’t be afraid to be aggressive as you could be left with money leftover or miss out on the top players which will likely not win you the league.

Keeper Leagues draft strategy

The keeper league draft strategy is essentially the same as a dynasty league strategy. 

One difference is in keeper leagues you don’t keep as many players generally than you will in a dynasty league. 

For keeper leagues it is important to keep the two, three, or however many players you can keep who are going to have the best fantasy season that very next year. 

You can always not keep them for the following season.

Keeper Leagues daft strategy

Is league size important in draft strategy? 

League size is important for various reasons. Below we break down how to strategize for the most common league sizes.

Draft strategy 8 team league 

Eight teams is usually the minimum amount of teams you will have in your fantasy league. 

For these drafts it is important to remember that you can get a top-15 running back in the third round. 

If there isn’t a running back you love with your second pick, it is ok to wait until the next round at least to get that player. 

A best player available strategy is good for a league with this many teams. Unless you already have a tight end or quarterback, you would draft the best running back or wide receiver available in the earlier rounds.  

Draft strategy 10 team league 

10-team leagues are the most common. For these drafts you would follow the basics and strategies laid out in this article. 

There are a lot of different routes that you can go that were gone over earlier.

Draft strategy 12 team league 

For 12-team leagues fantasy owners will have to pay close attention to make sure they aren’t missing out on any given position. 

You can get to round six and all of the top 15 quarterbacks may be gone already and you will be left with the scraps. 

Make sure to find a set point where you have to have a tight end or quarterback so you don’t miss out on getting a viable player at those positions.

Draft strategy 14 team league 

For the most part, leagues are not bigger than 14 teams. In these leagues, it is even more important to fill out your positions like quarterback and tight end. 

Past the top 15 quarterbacks and top-12 tight ends, it is hard to find players who can start for you each week. 

A massive advantage can be found by drafting players that can be consistent every week for these positions.

Conclusion 

There are numerous strategies for every kind of fantasy football league. It is important to research the type of league you are in, what players and positions should do well in that league, and come up with a basic strategy heading into the draft. 

It’s important to remember that all strategies we’ve mentioned above can be successful. In fact some of the most successful fantasy managers will take multiple strategies into a draft. 

Going into draft day with multiple strategies allows you to read the draft and adapt. For instance, perhaps you’re entering a dynasty league draft and you notice that verterns are being taken early. 

You might want to pivot to a ‘young and rookies’ draft strategy, this will mean that you will pass on quality veterans for youth. You may not win your dynasty league this season using this approach, but you’ll be setup in future years. 

Whatever your strategy, happy drafting!

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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy – Your Complete Step-By-Step Guide