Aug. 7, 2019.
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.
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Drafting Early: Picks 1-6:
There are six running backs I have atop my Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet
, so if you have a top-six selection in your draft, I would pick the top player at the position.
This is extremely important this year: Running back and receiver are extremely thin this season. That has been the case in recent years, but it's esepcially bad for 2019, thanks to some of the suspensions, holdouts and injuries that have already occurred. Do not take a position outside of a running back or receiver in this area. No quarterbacks or tight ends; not even Patrick Mahomes.
Specifically, I would select at least one receiver. I don't think leaving the first three rounds without a wideout is very wise. I'd go RB-WR or WR-WR in the Rounds 2-3.
I wouldn't take any quarterbacks yet, unless something crazy happens and Patrick Mahomes happens to be available. I would once again go RB-WR, ideally, but if you used that strategy in Rounds 2-3, you could double up on receivers in this range.
Running backs you can target here include Chris Carson, Phillip Lindsay and Tevin Coleman. Receivers include Calvin Ridley, Kenny Golladay, Robert Woods and Tyler Lockett.
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 is usually the right move, especially this year. There is no quarterback I would recommend in this range, unless Deshaun Watson is available, and even then, I wouldn't be thrilled about drafting him.
Otherwise, the correct course of action is to keep adding running backs and receivers. Solid running backs who can be obtained include Darrell Henderson, Royce Freeman or one of the Eagles running backs. Correct receiver choices include Robby Anderson, Dante Pettis, Will Fuller, Allen Robinson and Christian Kirk.
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. Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton would be my targets at this juncture.
I wouldn't worry about a tight end yet. There are so many decent ones who are being drafted in Round 10-12.
In terms of the other positions, I would look into players like Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Sterling Shepard, Courtland Sutton, Damien Harris and Carlos Hyde.
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.
As mentioned, solid tight ends are available at this juncture. Good ones include Austin Hooper, Mark Andrews, Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed.
Otherwise, it's time to begin plucking players off the 2019 Fantasy Football Sleepers
list. Check out that list for players to consider. You need to swing for the fences in the double-digit rounds, as your league could be won with a great value selection or two in the final third of the draft.
And lastly, I'm going to put this in caps because I can't emphasize this enough: DO NOT DRAFT A KICKER OR A DEFENSE YET!!!!!
More sleepers. Again, 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 once again, don't choose a defense or kicker yet. That's just lazy.
In leagues that require each position to be chosen, Round 14 is my final skill-position player - a super-high-upside long shot. Round 15 is my defense. Round 16 is my kicker.
If you don't have to draft a kicker, don't. Select another high-upside player instead and wait until the final days before the regular season. That way, you maximize your chances of landing a great sleeper, as you can get rid of a player who gets injured.
As far as defenses are concerned, you don't have to draft one either. Seriously, select as many high-upside players as possible and worry about a defense later. If you need to pick a defense, I love playing matchups. Go to my 2019 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings
Drafting Middle: Picks 7-8:
There's a chance you'll be able to select one of the top running backs in the cheat sheet I referenced earlier. If you can get Le'Veon Bell or David Johnson, follow the "Drafting Early" advice, and be happy that you'll have a better chance of landing a second-tier receiver in the second round.
Otherwise, you're taking a receiver with your top pick. The five elite wideouts this year are Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham Jr. I have those five players separated by four points, so it doesn't matter whom you choose. They're all great.
Ideally, I would select one running back and one receiver with these two picks. Selecting two running backs is also acceptable. Either way, you want at least one running back and one receiver after the first three rounds are complete. I wouldn't completely mind a WR-WR-WR start in most years, but running backs are very thin this year, so make sure you select one early.
I nearly came close to mentioning Patrick Mahomes as an option at 3.07 or 3.08, but missing the wave on running backs and receivers could ruin your roster. I wouldn't hate the pick, but I'd probably regret it if I made it.
My fourth-round pick will be the best running back or receiver available because none of the quarterbacks provide value, unless something insane happens and Patrick Mahomes happens to be available. Options include Mark Ingram, David Montgomery, Stefon Diggs, Chris Carson and Phillip Lindsay. Once again, make sure to check out my updated fantasy football cheat sheets
to see who the best-available players are.
Round 5 is likely to go toward a running back or receiver as well, with the exception being if Travis Kelce drops to you somehow. That's not likely to happen, but Kelce would be way too good to pass up with that selection. Otherwise, continue to fill out running back and receiver, which, as I mentioned repeatedly, is super thin this year. Possible options are Tyler Lockett, Calvin Ridley, Chris Godwin and Tevin Coleman.
I don't like any quarterbacks in the sixth-round range unless Deshaun Watson falls to Round 7, and it's too early for a tight end not named Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Zach Ertz, so keep stocking up on running backs and receivers. Some possibilities are D.J. Moore, Alshon Jeffery, Robby Anderson, Dante Pettis and Darrell Henderson.
If you don't have a quarterback in Round 8, take one. The signal-callers I mentioned in Rounds 8-9 for the "drafting early" portion all make sense unless a better one falls to you. Check my Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
for more. Otherwise, continue to take running backs and receivers. I'd pass on tight ends until Rounds 10-11.
Running backs and wide receivers are now acceptable, but I would make sure to lock in a solid backup quarterback and a starting tight end if you haven't already.
The rest of the draft will follow "Drafting Early." Check out my 2019 Fantasy Football Sleepers
list for some ideas on whom to select late in your draft.
Drafting Late: Picks 9-12:
I've decided to group these picks together because you're probably not getting one of the elite running backs. If that's the case, go with one of the top receivers I referenced earlier. If you're lucky, you'll be able to obtain two of them with these selections. Absolutely do not be afraid of going WR-WR. There are good runners to be had in the Rounds 3-4 range.
If you can't land two elite receivers, take a running back like Leonard Fournette or James Conner with your second choice.
I would definitely take Patrick Mahomes at the end of the third frame. I hate going with a quarterback early, but he's too good to pass up at 3.09 or later.
If Mahomes is off the board - which will most likely be the case - you're looking at running backs and receivers with these two choices. Make sure you have at least one player at the position after your fourth pick. Targets in this range include Keenan Allen, Devonta Freeman, Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper, Mark Ingram, David Montgomery and Stefon Diggs.
If Travis Kelce is off the board - almost a certainty, but you never know - keep adding to your running back and receiver stables. Good options include Tevin Coleman, Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Boyd, D.J. Moore and Alshon Jeffery.
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 10th or 11th round. There are some appealing running backs and receivers as well, including Robby Anderson, Dante Pettis, Darrell Henderson, Will Fuller, Allen Howard and one of the Eagles running backs.
ROUNDS 9-10 AND THE REST:
Find your tight end in Round 10-12 if you haven't already. The rest of the draft will follow the Drafting Early strategy. Make sure you look at our cheat sheets. We have regular fantasy football cheat sheets
and new customized fantasy football cheat sheets
. Also, keep up to date with the rest of our Fantasy Football Rankings
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