The following is a round-by-round blueprint of how I plan on drafting in my fantasy football leagues this summer.
Keep in mind that depending on the circumstances, you might not be able to completely follow this strategy once your draft begins. There could be a run on a certain position; an unexpected player could fall; or another owner may take one of the key sleepers early. You have to be able to play a lot of it by ear, but having a strategy going into the draft helps a lot.
Also, most of this assumes a 12-man league with two running backs, two receivers and a flex (ESPN standard). If your league makes you start two quarterbacks or three receivers, you'll need to adjust accordingly.
ROUND 1: If you have the luxury of choosing where you draft, I would definitely want to be in the top half of the draft. There are six tier-one players: Antonio Brown, Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and David Johnson. I'd want one of them coming out of the draft, so perhaps the No. 6 spot is most desireable. That said, I love No. 3 as well, as Brown, Gurley and Beckham seem to be a slight cut above the other three.
If you're in a PPR league, however, things are much different. Antonio Brown is the consensus No. 1 option, so I would like to have the top pick in that format. That said, it's worth noting that the top-six rule applies for PPR. There are still only six players - the same ones - in the top tier.
ROUNDS 2-3: Unless your league counts six points for touchdown passes, I wouldn't take a quarterback early in the third round. Running backs and receivers are just too thin to do that this year.
I would focus on grabbing any mixture of running backs and receivers with these two selections unless Rob Gronkowski somehow slides in the second frame. Otherwise, consider players like LeSean McCoy, Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Keenan Allen (Round 2), and Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, Mark Ingram, Alshon Jeffery and T.Y. Hilton (Round 3).
ROUNDS 4-5: I would definitely consider a quarterback here if one of the top four - Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson - happens to be available. It's fine to wait on a quarterback - and this would be the year to do it - but those four players would provide way too much value at this juncture to pass on.
If the signal-callers aren't there, Jordan Reed might be. He's the only tight end I'd consider in this area. There's not much of a drop-off from Gronkowski to Reed, yet Reed's ADP is a couple of rounds later.
Otherwise, grab more running backs and receivers. You can't go wrong doing so, since those positions are very thin once again this year. Some options include Jeremy Hill, Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Maclin, Larry Fitzgerald and Doug Baldwin.
ROUNDS 6-7: If you don't have a quarterback yet, I wouldn't worry. You can almost certainly draft a comparable one at the end of Round 8. There's no need to panic, as waiting on a signal-caller seems like the right move this year. I don't think I'd take a tight end either unless Travis Kelce drops. There's no one else who excites me in this range.
With that in mind, you're probably best off taking more running backs and wide receivers. Rashad Jennings, Duke Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, T.J. Yeldon, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Matthews and Tyler Lockett all make sense to me here.
ROUNDS 8-9: If you don't have a quarterback yet, take one now. It's too risky to wait any longer because owners will begin drafting backups. Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Jameis Winston and Tony Romo would be my targets at this juncture.
I'd think hard about a tight end as well. Zach Ertz slots in perfectly here, as do Julius Thomas and Gary Barnidge.
In terms of the other positions, I'm not really in love with any of the running backs or receivers at this part of the draft in terms of ADP. Perhaps there will be a decent player who drops for some reason, but this might be a time to begin selecting sleepers if all other options don't seem enticing.
ROUNDS 10-11: It goes without saying that you absolutely need to nab a quarterback and a tight end if you haven't already. A backup signal-caller would also be fine. I'm a big proponent of securing a quality reserve quarterback. If your starter gets hurt or inexplicably regresses, you could be screwed because the players at that position put up the most points.
ROUNDS 12-13: More sleepers. Take high-upside players beginning in Round 10-11; doing otherwise would violate what I used to call the Wayne Chrebet Rule. Chrebet, a former Jets' receiver, was a very good player in real life, but was only a WR5 (an average year for him would be about 900 yards and six touchdowns). Yet, people would draft him even though as a possession receiver, he would offer no upside. You could always add someone like him on the waiver wire, so try to hit a home run with your late picks.
Oh, and don't choose a defense or kicker yet. That's just lazy.
ROUNDS 14-16: Round 14 is my final skill-position player - a super-high-upside long shot. Round 15 is my defense. Round 16 is my kicker.
ROUND 1: What I said for Round 1 applies here, with the added caveat that you'll probably have to select one of the following three players if the top six are off the board: A.J. Green, Adrian Peterson and Allen Robinson. All three are fine, though I'm concerned about Peterson because of his age. Perhaps he'll defy Father Time for a year, but that's a battle every single athlete has lost.
ROUNDS 2-3: Your options are wide open in the second round. There should be talented running backs and receivers available - the ones I mentioned in Rounds 2-3 above all work - and perhaps you can even get Robinson in the second frame. Rob Gronkowski should be considered as well.
The third round is much like the third round I described above, with an added caveat: A quarterback can be considered in the mid-to-late portions of this frame. As long as it's Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers, that is. Running backs and receivers are thin, as I've mentioned, but it's highly unlikely that Newton and Rodgers bust. There's something to be said about going safe early on.
ROUNDS 4-5: Unless Newton or Rodgers inexplicably drops to the middle of Round 4, this is your chance to take Jordan Reed or the best running back/receiver available. Consider the players I mentioned in Rounds 4-5 above, adding DeMarco Murray, C.J. Anderson and Randall Cobb to the list.
If you can take Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck in Round 5, do it. The value is just to great to pass on them here. Otherwise, continue adding running backs and receivers to your roster.
ROUNDS 6-7: Once again, I don't like any quarterbacks at this spot, and I'm not a fan of the running backs and receivers in the next two rounds, so this is a time to stock up on players like Allen Hurns, Melvin Gordon, Josh Gordon, Larry Fitzgerald and the other players I mentioned above in the Round 6-7 area.
ROUNDS 8-9: If you don't have a quarterback in Round 8, take one. Once again, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Jameis Winston and Tony Romo all work. A tight end should be considered as well, but you probably can get away with snatching one in the middle of the 10th frame.
ROUNDS 10-11: Running backs and wide receivers are now acceptable again. You should be strong at the other positions, allowing you to take some high-upside fliers. Check out my 2016 Fantasy Football Sleepers list for some ideas.
THE REST: The rest of the draft will follow "Drafting Early."
Drafting Late: Picks 10-12:
ROUNDS 1-2: These are the picks I absolutely don't want this year. Unless someone like Allen Robinson falls, the end of the first round is devoid of value. I think I'd even consider LeSean McCoy at 1.10!
Ultimately, you want to walk away with the following combination. Pick two:
LeSean McCoy or Le'Veon Bell (would not take both)
A receiver like Robinson, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper
Another receiver from that list
This is definitely the weak part of the draft this year, so my condolences if you're stuck with a late selection!
ROUNDS 3-4: I would definitely take Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton at the end of the third frame. With two iffy selections earlier, you need something safe with one of your first three picks.
With the other selection, it's up to the best running back or receiver on your board. You might be able to land Thomas Rawls, Sammy Watkins or Demaryius Thomas here.
ROUNDS 5-6: I saw Russell Wilson get chosen at the end of the fifth round of a recent mock draft I was a part of. He's a no-brainer if available. Otherwise, no other quarterbacks or tight ends would excite me, so I'd take the best running backs and receivers available. I mentioned numerous names above in this area, including Melvin Gordon, Allen Hurns and Larry Fitzgerald.
ROUNDS 7-8: Make sure you grab your starting quarterback at this juncture; waiting any longer would be too risky. You don't need your starting tight end here, as you can easily obtain a decent one in the ninth or 10th round. Unfortunately, none of the running backs or receivers are very appealing at this juncture. LeGarrette Blount is probably the best you can hope for, and that makes me want to vomit a little bit.