People make the draft strategy concept too complicated.
It is a simple strategy, but impossible to perfect.
My draft strategy is really only two parts. Part 1, stay flexible. Don’t go into the draft with a set idea that you have to draft a certain player or even a certain position at a set round. Be flexible and draft what the draft gives you. Part 2, always draft the best value player. The two parts fit perfectly together.
If you go into the draft with say a set “Zero RB strategy” you are probably missing out on value during the draft. You will probably end up picking say the 15th best WR when the 9th best RB is available. Last year RB9 was Aaron Jones who scored 248.6 points. WR15 was Brandon Aiyuk who scored 227.8 points. You would have cost yourself over a point per week, 21.2 points with this set strategy.
Saying you wont take a QB till round 8 or later when you could have gotten Pat Mahomes in late 5th or early 6th will cost you.
So here are some examples, both good and bad, of my drafts last year when I didn’t listen to my gut and had a “set strategy” and times I took what the draft gave me and was flexible.
Predraft I was very, very high on Alvin Kamara and Saquan Barkley and told myself that I was going to target those players in my draft. I had the 11th pick so was pretty confident that I could get both these players at picks 11 and 14, which I did. What I didn’t think would happen is that Derrick Henry would still be available at 11, and he was. I passed on him sticking to my strategy and instead selected Kamara even though I had Henry ranked higher. Henry ended up RB4 and Kamara ended up RB 16. Ouch. That was a difference of just over 91 points. Now Barkley ended up as RB5 so I got great value getting him at 14 and he was the 12th highest non QB in points.
So after going RB in rounds 1 and 2, the end of round 3 came and there was a player who I thought was a top 10 RB still on the board so I grabbed him instead of a WR since 15 WR had already been drafted. The player was James Conner and we all know what a train wreck Arizona was this year, so it didn’t work out, but I drafted what I thought the best value was instead of chasing after a WR. I got rewarded three picks later by landing Jaylen Waddle as the 17th WR drafted but ended up as WR8. That is value.
I had always been of the thought of filling up on RB/WR and waiting till like rounds 9/10 prior to drafting QBs and that had worked for me, but times are changing and grabbing that premier QB can give you a huge advantage if done when the value is great. If you can get one of the top 2-3 scoring QB’s without breaking the bank of using a top 40 pick, you will have an advantage.
So my 5th round pick comes around at #55 and Patrick Mahomes is sitting there. I think the last time I used a top 5 round pick was when I took Steve Young late in the 1st round in 1999. The year after he pretty much single handedly won fantasy leagues. Well that was the year he got his final concussion in Game 3 and never played again. However the overwhelming potential value of Patrick Mahomes at #55 was too tempting to pass on and I pulled the trigger. Needless to say, he was a league winner. He outscored the QB2 who was drafted 3 rounds earlier by 20 points and outscored QB5 by almost 114 points. That is an almost 7 point a week advantage over QB5. The QB position fell off that strongly after the top 4 QB’s.
The rest of my draft was pretty unremarkable. I hit on a couple rookies that returned decent to good returns in Brian Robinson in the 12th round as RB48 and Tyler Allgeier in round 13 as RB50. Daniel Jones was a HR pick in round 17 as QB22, but with Mahomes on the roster he only played 1 week. I suffered injury losses in rounds 7-8 as I lost Zach Ertz and Rashaad Penny to season ending injuries, but it didn’t cripple me because I had gotten so much value in Mahomes that I could absorb misses and injuries elsewhere.
In the other online league I played in last year I started to listened to my new found philosophy.
I was again shocked when Derrick Henry was available with the 9th pick and this time I did not hesitate to grab him. In round 2 at pick 16 I was very surprised when Travis Kelce was still available and I nabbed him as well. Understanding that I didn’t have to panic when there wasn’t a true WR1 available when I picked again in the third round. Travis Kelce was my WR1, making whoever ended up being my WR3 really as my TE equivalent. TE6 last year was Tyler Higbee with 152 points. There were 46 WR who scored at least 152 points with DeAndre Hopkins just missing despite playing in only 9 games. Kelce WAS that WR1. Only Jefferson, Hill, Adams and Diggs (by .3 points) outscored Kelce.
I looked to really load up on my WR positions, thinking a strong core of WR plus Kelce would provide me the most value. I picked up Evans, Godwin and Hopkins over the next four rounds. Hopkins when he first came back was everything I hoped he would be. A target monster that averaged 20.7 PPR points per week his first six games but then Kyler got hurt and the Cardinals were a train wreck. He managed close to 13 points per week the first two weeks post Kyler but then had his season ended early. Evans and Godwin never really could get it going and were impacted by Tampa’s struggles on the Offensive Line and their inability to generate a running game. They finished a respectable WR17 and WR18.
However after listening to my gut in my previous draft and pulling the trigger on Mahomes in round 5, I ignored my gut and stuck to my pre draft strategy of waiting on QB. Allen went in round 3. Herbert and Mahomes went in round 4. Mahomes one pick after my David Montgomery pick. Ouch. Then rounds 5 and 6 went without a QB pick and I am sitting on the clock in round 7 looking at Lamar Jackson and here is where things went drastically wrong and the 4th round Montgomery pick cost me again in round 7. I was worried that Montgomery wouldn’t be a solid enough RB2 (which I could have completely ignored had I picked Mahomes in round 4 because the value I would have already banked in rounds 1-4 with Henry, Kelce and Mahomes would have overshadowed one weak starting spot) so I ignored my gut on taking Lamar Jackson or even Joe Burrow and instead took Antonio Gibson. Yes I know, don’t give me that look you are giving me now. Both Burrow and Jackson were gone in the next three picks. Spoiler the team that took Burrow won a tiebreaker versus me.
No QB’s went in the next round so I took another WR in round 8 and with only six picks between my round 8 pick and my round 9 pick I felt confident that I could get Russell Wilson in round 9. Well he went two picks before I picked in round 9, probably a good thing looking back. So I waited till round 11 and grabbed Derek Carr hoping to pair him with a Justin Fields or Tua Tagovailoa hoping one of them would be a top 10 QB or I could play matchups and piece together top 10 points. Well Fields went later in the round and Tua again went two picks before my round 13 pick. I picked Jameis Winston two picks later sealing my disaster at QB for the season. I finished 9th in the league in QB scoring, but two of those teams abandoned their teams at times. 1 team had three weeks of 0 points at QB and the other had seven weeks of 0 points at QB. That means out of the teams that had an active QB for all 17 weeks of the season, I outscored only one of them at the QB position.
Henry and Kelce were great enough to get me a first place tie in H2H record. Two places paid out in the regular season, H2H Champion and Most Points Champion. I lost the tiebreaker by like 90 points. Had I listened to my gut and taken Lamar, I feel certain his early season success would have gotten me that 90 points. He outscored Carr by 17 points despite playing two fewer games. Had I taken Burrow, he outscored Carr by 130 points and I would have easily won the H2H tiebreaker or just won the H2H outright. That cost me $700 and a chance at another $800
Don’t worry about having “too much talent” at one position. One of the leagues had two flex spots so I was able to regularly roll 4 RBs. A lot of leagues are now starting 3 WR’s and a flex, so you can regularly roll 4 WRs. If you are in a home league, you have capital for trades to improve your rosters. In online leagues that don’t allow trades between teams, you will still likely have to face injuries and you will have the depth to put the next man up and keep rolling. At worst, you have talent and points on your bench that are not available to make other teams better. The one league above that I didn’t win, the winner had Mahomes AND Hurts.
Bottom line is, don’t box yourself in like I did at times above. Don’t overthink the positions, or that you have to have x amount of x position by x round of the draft. Keep drafting the most valuable player every pick you make, and you will find yourself at or near the top of the standings most of the time.