2019 Fantasy Football: Draft Strategy

By Chet Gresham – @ChetGresham
Follow @walterfootball for updates.

The year is 2019. You’ve studied, you’ve mocked, and you’ve printed out and laminated your drafting tiers. You have a whiskey and your faithful hound at your side. It’s time to draft your fantasy football team. This day has the most promise of any fantasy football day of the year. You’re undefeated. Your players are healthy. Your fantasy name, “Baker’s in the Kitchen” needs work, but there’s still time for you to win the Nobel in Literature based off the name you eventually come up with. You watch as the draft counts down and your league-mates bing into existence in the draft room. It’s all happening.

But are you truly prepared? Never. You’re never completely prepared, as there are too many variables, but you can read my draft primer just below here and take what bits of information I have that you may need and add them to your draft bank.

I often get asked where my favorite position to draft from is, and if I were 18, I’d have replied “missionary,” but I have grown up slightly at this point and I don’t have a great answer this year. I have pieced together teams I like from all spots, probably because I have enough of “my guys” to feel good about grabbing in a wide range of draft positions. My biggest takeaway has been a lack of depth at running back. That has led me to hope for a top-54 pick to grab a stud running back to help anchor the position, as I like the wide receiver depth throughout this year’s draft.

For this endeavor, I’ll stick with composite Average Draft Position – ADP – from FantasyPros, which is probably too rigid, as drafts don’t follow ADP perfectly, but it’s what we have for a framework.

If I can’t get Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey or Ezekiel Elliott, I’m likely ending up with a wide receiver or David Johnson. I have Johnson as my No. 5 pick, but I’ve taken DeAndre Hopkins there and wouldn’t feel bad about taking any of the first-tier receivers in that spot either. We can argue Hopkins, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Thomas, Davante Adams and JuJu Smith-Shuster until we pass out, but I don’t believe any of them are far enough ahead of the other to get too worked up about. And they are safer than the top running backs with a slightly lower upside, which puts them as prime first-rounders in my book.

I don’t love the 12/13 turn, as I feel like I MUST TAKE MY GUYS! Even if it means grabbing them much earlier than I want, but I still prefer that outlook over letting the draft dictate your team. Yes, waiting on value is a perfectly viable way to draft, but then you can end up with great value, but players you aren’t sold on. I rather take a mixed approach when it comes to waiting on value. If a guy you don’t love, but you believe is in a position to put up good numbers, falls to you past their ADP, maybe you “love” him at such a great value and you have to grab him, but if he falls to you and you think, “well, that’s good value, but I love Curtis Samuel and he’ll be gone by the time my next pick comes around,” that’s when you grab Samuel. It might not be the best choice in the long run, but it’s a choice you feel excited about and one that has an upside you want on your team.

Will I take a quarterback in the first round? No, and of course not. That doesn’t mean one can’t put up first-round numbers, but the odds of him surpassing the field like Patrick Mahomes did last year are just too long. But I will contemplate taking Travis Kelce in the first round. I have him at 15th overall, but he’s firmly in consideration at the turn, as tight ends with his upside and consistency can give you a big leg up on the field, which doesn’t have enough elite tight ends to combat Kelce’s value. But you can find a somewhat comparable tight end up to the sixth and seven rounds, so I often wait.

If you drafted near the turn, the second round will feel good, as you are going to get two studs to start. An Odell Beckham Jr./JuJu Smith-Schuster turn is solid, but it will divert my focus to running backs at the next turn. You can also balance things out with a top receiver and Dalvin Cook, who I like a little more than ADP. That can also give you a bit more leeway for your next picks, but I’m still leaning running backs in the third and fourth rounds, as the drop-off in the fifth round is steep.

If you took one of the top backs, you aren’t getting another shot until after the 20th pick, which depends on who fell. Finding a top-flight stud there can be tough, but it does happen. If one of my first-tier wide receivers lands there, I’m snagging him, but they are usually gone. That often leads me to grab a running back like Dalvin Cook if I’m lucky or Aaron Jones, Todd Gurley or Devonta Freeman. I’m willing to grab Gurley if he falls to the very end of the second round, but it’s still risky. Jones and Freeman can likely be had in the third round, but I like them enough to grab them earlier.

If Travis Kelce happens to fall into the late second round, he’s a must-grab, with George Kittle not far behind.

The third round is where I usually grab a running back, even if I already have two stud backs. This can seem counterintuitive, especially if you only have two running back slots and three receiver slots, but I need me some Chris Carson, Kerryon Johnson, Aaron Jones, or Devonta Freeman. Carson’s ADP is still sitting at No. 43 overall, but I expect it to start migrating up the rankings sooner than later and I don’t want to wait until the fourth round to test it out. You may have already drafted Jones or Freeman, but they can slide and I’m gobbling them up in the third round.

The third is also where I’ll at least think about taking a quarterback. I play in a lot of industry leagues, where the quarterback runs don’t hit until the sixth or seventh rounds and you can even see Mahomes last until the fifth round, but there will usually be someone who loves Mahomes enough to secure him somewhat early. That hasn’t been me yet, but I think about it in these types of leagues. But my love for stud running backs in the third round and even fourth round has me waiting, especially in more casual leagues where Mahomes can go in the second and then the other quarterbacks trickle in much earlier than I’d like.

If you have four running backs going into the fourth round, it’s time to get some receivers you can live with as starters. That has me targeting Julian Edelman, Robert Woods, Stefon Diggs, Chris Godwin, Tyler Lockett, D.J. Moore and Kenny Golladay. I have Christian Kirk in this tier, but his ADP should allow me to wait until the fifth or sixth round, which is good because I need another wide receiver if I’ve started with three running backs.

But if you are sitting with two receivers and a running back, you’re sitting pretty good for that second running back. There is always a running back in the fourth round who I feel good about, just like the third round. There are usually players I would even reach for in the second round like Chris Carson, Aaron Jones and Devonta Freeman, but even if they have hit the road, Marlon Mack, David Montgomery, Josh Jacobs and Sony Michel should be there to bolster your running back coffers.

Through the first four rounds, you most likely have, well, I have, two to three running backs and one to two receivers. That’s where I want it unless I’ve grabbed Kelce and then I’d likely push to get back to a better balance over the next two rounds.

The fifth round is the last round I believe there’s an okay chance to get a starting running back for our pretend team. There are a lot of backs who I think will put up numbers later in the draft, but they’ll likely be in a committee of some sort and I’m betting on their ability to outplay the other committee members. In the fifth round, you can still get a straggler from Round 4, depending on how running back heavy the draft has been. Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, Sony Michel and Tevin Coleman are right on the edge, and if I feel I need a running back, I’m grabbing one. But usually, I end up bypassing that choice by adding a second or third receiver in the fifth round.

There is a slim chance that Chris Godwin, D.J. Moore or Tyler Lockett are gifts wrapped for you in and if so, praise the deity of your choice. Christian Kirk, as I said, is someone I’ll go after here, but his ADP shows him lasting until the seventh round. In most of my leagues, that hasn’t been the case though. I’m also happy to draft Allen Robinson, Robby Anderson or, Alshon Jeffery.

At this point, I’m usually feeling fairly good with 2-3 running backs and 2-3 wide receivers who I value as strong starters. From here on, I’ll continue to prioritize running backs, as I feel better late in drafts if I’m flush at running back and in need of bench wide receivers. But I’m also balanced enough to grab a good value at any position and of course, we still need a tight end and a quarterback. And the sixth round is usually where I set my eyes on a tight end.

There’s always a chance that there was a big run on top-tier tight ends and the players you would take a sixth or seventh-round pick with just aren’t there anymore. That’s usually not the case if you are high on Vance McDonald like I am, but sometimes even he’ll be gone despite his 80th-overall ADP. But the sixth round is often where I grab McDonald. His injury history is concerning, so I will grab a backup tight end in deeper leagues, but in shallow leagues, I’ll just ride or die with him and stream tight ends if he misses time, because streaming tight ends is viable, especially in shallow leagues. I’d also add, I have Jared Cook ahead of McDonald and his ADP is right at the Round 5/6 turn, but he’s usually gone in my leagues at that point.

If I don’t end up with a tight end here, I’ll usually wait for someone with a strong history like Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham or Delanie Walker. And if you want Miles Sanders, you probably need to pick him before you hit the seventh round. I will take Sanders for the upside over McDonald here about half the time.

The seventh round is where I start the despair. That despair will often cause me to fall off the wagon and draft a quarterback because I don’t usually like my choices. Cam Newton and Matt Ryan are who I look at here, and if the other players I’m choosing from have ADPs in the ninth round or later, I’ll often grab one of those quarterbacks. The good news is, I feel great about drafting Jameis Winston this year and he can be had in the eighth and ninth rounds if someone else has slipped to me that I like.

My mid-round targets include Curtis Samuel, Larry Fitzgerald, Rashaad Penny, Josh Gordon, Matt Breida, Sterling Shepard, Kenyan Drake, Dante Pettis, Dede Westbrook and Emmanuel Sanders. These are players I’ll be looking at when deciding if I need to draft a quarterback or wait. As you can see, the running backs are thinned out, and you can quickly get sucked in by wide receivers who are good picks, but also keep you thin at a position that is often injured and, as I’ve mentioned a hundred times, is scarce.

After you navigate through the seventh through ninth rounds, which for this article I’ll deem the “mid-rounds,” you should have your core team in good shape. Now, it’s time to add depth.

Hopefully, you’ve been cognizant of adding running backs at the slight expense of wide receivers, but the 10th round is a good place to find high-risk, high-reward backs. Here’s a list of guys I will target in every draft from the 10th round on: Justice Hill, Austin Ekeler, Damien Harris, Duke Johnson, Darwin Thompson, Devin Singletary, Alexander Mattison, Jaylen Samuels, Tony Pollard, Ty Montgomery, Justin Jackson, Chris Thompson, Chase Edmonds, Giovani Bernard and Andre Ellington. At this point in the draft cycle, I very much want Hill, Thompson and Johnson if I can make it work.

Now, here’s the list of receivers I’ll target after the 10th round. They aren’t as risky for the most part, as I love getting possible high-target slot-types late.

    John Brown, Jamison Crowder, Keke Coutee, Donte Moncrief, Geronimo Allison, Michael Gallup, Devin Funchess, Adam Humphries, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Cole Beasley, James Washington, Trey Quinn, Jalen Hurd, Rashard Higgins, Deebo Samuel, Mecole Hardman, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Breshad Perriman, and Jaron Brown.

Out of this group, I’ve been getting a lot of Brown, Crowder, Moncrief, Allison, Humphries and Beasley.

With these later picks, you can keep an eye on their ADP to help key you into when you might be able to draft them, but reaching in the 11th for a player with a 13th-round ADP isn’t much of a reach if it’s someone you want.

I usually keep drafting late-round flyers instead of a kicker and defense unless waivers cost too much or aren’t running at all before the season. Streaming kickers and defenses is completely viable and something I do in most of my leagues.

If I need to take a defense, I’ll always look at just the first two matchups so I can start my streaming on the right foot. Does that sound like I just peed on my right foot? Okay, well, be that as it may! The Eagles face Washington, the Ravens face Miami, Cleveland faces Tennessee, Dallas faces the Giants, Denver takes on Oakland, and the Chargers could play the Colts without Andrew Luck. As the season develops, we’ll get a better feel for teams to target for D/STs and quarterbacks will be injured. You can pick the Bears early, but the odds that they’ll put the numbers up that they did last season are slim, especially with Vic Fangio gone. They’ll still be good of course, but D/ST points are fickle.

Good luck in your drafts this year and be sure to have fun!

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Fantasy Football Rankings

2016 Fantasy Football Rankings:
2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - 9/7 (Walt)
Chet Gresham's Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - 8/30 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs - 9/7 (Walt)
Chet Gresham's Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings - 8/30 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers - 9/7 (Walt)
Chet Gresham's Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings - 8/30 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 9/7 (Walt)
Chet Gresham's Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings - 8/30 (Chet)
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2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers - 6/15 (Walt)
Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings - 5/13 (Walt)
Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Dynasty - 5/13 (Walt)
Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Dynasty - 5/27 (Chet)

2016 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts:
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: PPR - 9/1 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Video - 8/31 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Real Draft - 8/29 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 8/25 (Walt)
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2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Video - 8/24 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: PPR - 8/18 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Video - 8/13 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 8/11 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 8/4 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Video - 8/4 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: PPR - 8/2 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: PPR - 7/28 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft - 7/21 (Walt)
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2016 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets:
2016 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 PPR - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 2-QB - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 Touchdown League - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Custom - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football: Dynasty Rankings - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football PPR Rankings - 8/26 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Spreadsheets - 9/7 (Walt)

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2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator - 9/7 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Sleepers - 9/4 (Walt)
2016 NFL Preseason Recap, Fantasy Football Notes - 9/2 (Walt)
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2016 Fantasy Football Preseason Quarterback Targets - 9/2 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Waiver-Wire Targets - 8/31 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Busts - 8/31 (Walt)
Fantasy Football Auction Advice - 8/24 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Round-by-Round Strategy Guide - 8/18 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Daily Fantasy Preseason Week 2 Streaming Options - 8/18 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Draft Queue: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends - 8/17 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Draft Queue: Quarterbacks and Running Backs - 8/16 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Training Camp Notes - 8/10 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receivers to Avoid - 8/6 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Running Backs to Avoid - 8/5 (Walt)
2016 Fantasy Football Notes - 7/26 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Late-Round Wide Receiver Targets - 7/21 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Late-Round Running Back Targets - 7/19 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football ADP Values - 7/14 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: C.J. Anderson Profile - 7/7 (Chet)
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2016 Fantasy Football: 2016 NFL Draft Fallout - 5/11 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: MFL 10 Quarterback Values - 4/30 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: MFL 10 Wide Receiver Values - 4/28 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: Tight End Strength of Schedule - 4/25 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: Wide Receiver Strength of Schedule - 4/21 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: Running Back Strength of Schedule - 4/20 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: Quarterback Strength of Schedule - 4/19 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: MFL 10 - 2/19 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Philip Rivers - 2/16 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football: Quarterback ADP vs. Reality - 2/12 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Fallout: Marshawn Lynch Retires - 2/11 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Fallout: Calvin Johnson Retires - 2/9 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Forecast: Dynasty - 1/21 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Forecast: Tight Ends - 1/19 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Forecast: Wide Receivers - 1/14 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Forecast: Running Backs - 1/13 (Chet)
2016 Fantasy Football Forecast: Quarterbacks - 1/12 (Chet)

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

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NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

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