2018 Fantasy Football - PPR Draft Strategy: Rounds 1 and 2

By Chet Gresham - @ChetGresham
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For this exercise, I'll be looking at the average draft position for the first two rounds and some possible strategies depending on where your draft slot ends up.

First-Round ADP
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams (12)
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers (7)
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals (9)
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys (8)
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (7)
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints (6)
Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants (9)
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans (10)
Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs (12)
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants (9)
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers (8)
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars (9)

Second Round ADP
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (8)
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings (10)
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints (6)
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers (8)
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (4)
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (9)
Davante Adams, WR, Packers (7)
Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons (8)
Mike Evans, WR, Bucs (5)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (11)
Jerick McKinnon, RB, 49ers (11)
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals (9)

The first round will always be the most consistent regarding players picked from draft to draft. This consistency makes your draft position more critical, as you aren't going to see a ton of variation and will likely be following ADP reasonably closely. The first eight players in PPR ADP this year are my Tier-1 guys, but after that, we move to Tier 2 where we can add Dalvin Cook, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas, which for me puts them right there in Round 1 value. Those four players are somewhat interchangeable with Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Melvin Gordon and Leonard Fournette in PPR.

In the first round, decisions are hard to get completely wrong. I'm not as high on Kareem Hunt at his ADP, but I'm also not down on him either. I know if he is healthy all season, he will put up substantial numbers, but I'd end up leaning more toward Gordon due to his high usage as a receiver or Cook with his likely high-usage and strong defense. If you have a late first-round pick, it means you will get another pick reasonably quickly, and I'm a fan of that scenario this year, as I prefer Cook, Allen, and Jones in the first round, making your first two picks relatively easy, especially in PPR.

I prefer Todd Gurley as my No. 1 fantasy player, but the group of studs in PPR is too large at the start of drafts to want to wait for 22 picks for your second player. It's not the end of the world if you get an early pick, as the stud running backs should give you a statistical ceiling that will soften the blow of needing to choose from Tier 3 for your second pick, but I do prefer two remarkably consistent players to start, and the pool, especially in PPR, is deep enough to get those two players if you can pick ninth or later.

I see DeAndre Hopkins as a strong mid-round pick, which could allow you a top second pick. It is a dangerous gambit, as there is a chance you aren't going to get the other Tier-2 graded players at the 17th pick, but if he falls to ninth or 10th, that leaves you with great options.

I would be happy with the 12th pick, which could allow me to take a Julio Jones/Dalvin Cook pairing. Or, if the draft goes as I'd like, a DeAndre Hopkins/Keenan Allen pairing would be optimal from the eight or nine hole in PPR. You'd be looking to fill those running back slots, but I feel the depth at running back for the top few tiers is better than wide receiver and you can strengthen your bench with receiving backs later in the draft. Getting those solid, high-ceiling receivers is my priority if I don't have a top-3 pick.

If you do end up with an early pick, pairing one of the top running backs with a top receiver could be tough. Gronkowski is a definite option, and getting Gurley/Bell/Johnson matched with Gronkowski is something I'd be interested in, but I do like the running backs still available as well, with McKinnon being my favorite as a for-sure PPR commodity. Getting Bell and McKinnon sounds like a PPR bonanza, but it will put you behind the eight-ball at wide receiver, and I am more inclined to go after the top receivers in PPR, as I don't love the receivers after the third round after Doug Baldwin. Baldwin is the one third-rounder who I want to add to a two-running back start though, and I'll talk about that some more in my next article, where I'll discuss the third and fourth rounds.

I do believe that the depth in the first two rounds is good enough to give you two players who will be studs without much doubt if they stay healthy, and that's what you want from an early pick. The question is, how will the rest of your team look after making those selections? You can, of course, make your team work with some savvy drafting no matter how you start, but I'd instead get those top receivers out of the way if possible. Would I take Antonio Brown over the high-usage elite fantasy running backs? Maybe, because wide receiver is always a safer pick than a running back who sees 300-400 touches and rams his body into 350-pound men, but the reason those backs rank where they are, is due to the position becoming more and more specialized and pushing those high-volume players toward extinction. The risk of injury is higher but so is the reward.

For more recommendations, check out WalterFootball.com's Fantasy Football Rankings.


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