Aug. 13, 2020.
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 1-5:
There are four running backs I have way above everyone in my Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet
, so select one of them. Note that I listed "Picks 1-5" because Derrick Henry is commonly sneaking into the top five of mock drafts I've completed this summer. Henry doesn't belong there, but just plan for him to be chosen that early.
Running back is extremely thin this year. I know I've been saying that every summer over the past decade, but it's worse than ever this season. You must walk away with two running backs in the first three rounds. Using your initial three draft choices on running backs is a viable option. Runners like Devin Singletary, Todd Gurley and Chris Carson make sense at the turn.
If you opt for two running backs, your third selection should probably be a receiver. Quarterbacks and tight ends are extremely deep and very matchup-dependant, so you can address those positions much later.
You must have at least three running backs at this junture. You might be able to land David Johnson or D'Andre Swift in this area.
The most appealing part of this range is the great receiver value. There are tons of excellent wideouts you can obtain in Rounds 4-5, including A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Courtland Sutton, Odell Beckham Jr. and Calvin Ridley.
I still wouldn't worry about a quarterback. Don't touch the position unless everyone in your league is using the same strategy guide and either Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson has fallen to you.
You should have at least four running backs by now because it'll be difficult to find good depth at the position later in the draft. Adrian Peterson, Cam Akers and Jonathan Taylor are some of the players you might be able to obtain in this area.
Meanwhile, there are still going to be great receiver options. Robert Woods, Deebo Samuel, Will Fuller, Terry McLaurin, DeVante Parker and A.J. Green are all excellent options.
Running back and receiver are the only positions worth considering at this juncture. There won't be any viable quarterback options until later.
After nine rounds, you should have four running backs and five wide receivers, or five running backs and four wide receivers. You might be tempted to secure a quarterback or a tight end, but trust me, you can find good options later.
Running backs I like in this range include Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Alexander Mattison. Good receiver options are Darius Slayton, CeeDee Lamb, Emmanuel Sanders and Christian Kirk.
Quarterbacks and tight ends now become options. If you're daring and crazy like me, you'll wait, but there will be some solid quarterback choices available like Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Daniel Jones and Ben Roethlisberger.
As for tight ends, I like Mike Gesicki, Tyler Higbee and Blake Jarwin. They're just as good as the other tight ends not named Travis Kelce or George Kittle.
Otherwise, it's time to begin plucking players off the 2020 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.
If you haven't gone after a quarterback yet, and you want to play matchups like me, I recommend Jared Goff, who will be able to throw all over Dallas in Week 1.
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 2020 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings
Drafting Middle: Picks 6-9:
You're still drafting a running back with one of these picks, only you're not getting one of the blue-chip talents I referenced earlier in the cheat sheet. Instead, you'll end up with Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb or Aaron Jones, which is perfectly fine.
You should open your draft by selecting two running backs unless Tyreek Hill falls to you in the middle of the second frame. Otherwise, you're looking at Miles Sanders or Devin Singletary.
The third round is trickier, as what you do will dictate based on which running backs are available. If you can get Le'Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon or Leonard Fournette, it would make sense to obtain one of those. Instead, you can opt for the best wide receiver on your board. There's no reason to draft a quarterback or a tight end.
You should continue to target the best running backs or wide receivers available unless Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson falls to you. It's not crazy to have four running backs in the first five picks. Once again, make sure to check out my updated fantasy football cheat sheets
to see who the best-available players are. Some who stand out as options are David Johnson, Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Sutton in Round 4, or Swift, Woods, Beckham and Ridley in the fifth frame.
I don't like any quarterbacks in the sixth- or seventh- round unless Deshaun Watson falls to Round 7, and it's too early for a tight end not named Travis Kelce or George Kittle, so keep stocking up on running backs and receivers. Some possibilities are Parker, McLaurin, Swift, Sutton and Kareem Hunt.
If you don't have a quarterback, don't panic. You can play matchups, or you can get a solid value in Round 10. If you're not comfortable with waiting, 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.
This should be the earliest you take a quarterback, and you'll be able to get Newton, Brady, Roethlisberger or Daniel Jones. Tight ends can be obtained at this juncture as well. Good options are Gesicki, Higbee and Jarwin. Otherwise, keep scooping up running backs and wide receivers.
The rest of the draft will follow "Drafting Early." Check out my 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers
list for some ideas on whom to select late in your draft.
Drafting Late: Picks 10-12:
There's a chance the top nine running backs will be off the board, so it's likely you'll spend one of these picks on Michael Thomas or Tyreek Hill. Don't take both. You need to obtain two running backs in the first three rounds. Ideally, you'll come away with Thomas/Hill and one of Joe Mixon, Miles Sanders or Aaron Jones.
As mentioned, you need to come away with two running backs in the first three rounds. If you're lucky, you'll be able to Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette or Le'Veon Bell in the third frame. If not, you may have to settle for David Johnson or Mark Ingram.
You should have at least one receiver after four picks. Metcalf, Sutton and A.J. Brown are all excellent options.
More running backs and wide receivers, of course. A.J. Green, D.J. Moore, McLaurin and Beckham are all great options in this range. Swift, Jonathan Taylor and Hunt are solid running back choices.
You can wait on quarterbacks unless you can get a great value like Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson. Otherwise, keep picking running backs and receivers like Michael Gallup, Will Fuller, Akers and J.K. Dobbins.
You may want to finally draft a quarterback. I wouldn't do so necessarily, but I wouldn't blame you for pulling the trigger on someone like Brady, Newton or Roethlisberger. Definitely don't take a tight end with the other pick though. Get another running back or a wide receiver.
ROUNDS 11-12 AND THE REST:
Find your quarterback in Round 11-12 if you haven't already. Get your tight end in Rounds 11-14. 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
More 2021 Fantasy Football Articles:
Fantasy Football Rankings
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings:
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - 8/19 (Walt)
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs - 9/9 (Walt)
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers - 9/8 (Walt)
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 9/8 (Walt)
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers - 5/2 (Walt)
2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defenses - 5/2 (Walt)
2021 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts:
2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets:
2021 Fantasy Football Articles:
2021 NFL Mock Draft - Feb. 23
2022 NFL Mock Draft - Feb. 12
NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 11
NFL Picks - Feb. 8
Fantasy Football Rankings - Jan. 11