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Faceoff: Middle Rounds Strategy

The Footballguys staff looks at how to attack the middle rounds of your draft

Generally speaking, what is your primary focus in the middle rounds of your draft?

Chad Parsons: In the drafts I have done in July and August this year, receiver is the bread and butter in the middle rounds. I find Torrey Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Josh Gordon, Kenny Britt, and Michael Floyd very atrractive names to build around at the position. Outside of hitting the receiver spot, I will be monitoring the terrain at the quarterback position. I am not one, outside of a Cam Newton in say round five, to snag an early quarterback. That means being flexible and ideally getting one of the last Top 12 guys in Round 7-8, whether it is Stafford, Luck, Griffin, or Romo is my gameplan.

Andy Hicks: I agree with Chad, normally wide receiver and quarterback are the key focus in the middle rounds. You will occasionally break it up with a running back or tight end that may have slipped too far, but there are way too many receivers in the meaty part of the draft to do anything but load up.

Jason Wood: I let each draft speak to me. There are natural ebbs and flows and no two drafts are alike so I never have a hard and fast strategy in terms of "X position in Round Y." Generally my plan is to use the middle rounds to aggressively target my breakout players. Assuming I've gotten my core starters in place, it's all about drafting players I think have a shot at becoming elite. If that means taking four receivers in five rounds (as I did in a recent staff draft), so be it. If it's instead grabbing two lower tier quarterbacks as a committee or my TE1 followed by more running back depth, that will work, too.

Will Grant: Best Player Available. I know that sounds like a complete lack of strategy but it really isn't. By the time that the middle rounds roll around, I've landed my core starting team and I'm looking to fill in the gaps or load up on bye week depth. Wide receiver is usually the position to pound at that point but you can easily find boom or bust running backs or even a solid quarterback or tight end option to use as part of a committee approach. I'll probably start to 'reach' a little here, looking to nab the guys that I want before their ADP catches up with them. I'm perfectly okay with being one round ahead of everyone else at this point - especially if I can load my team with guys that I think will out-perform their position.

Adam Harstad: One thing I don't do during the middle rounds is try to fill out my roster as evenly as possible. I'm not the kind of guy who has to draft all of his starters before he starts rostering backups. I don't believe in feeling forced to spread the backups evenly across all positions. I oppose any sort of methodical, formulaic approach to roster construction.

In my mind, the fill out your starting lineup philosophy suffers from a fatal flaw. It assumes that all of your picks will be successful, that none will overperform, and most importantly, that none will underperform. History tells us this is a wildly unrealistic expectation. The truth is, if I'm playing in a league that starts three receivers with no flex, and I've drafted three receivers, then I have almost certainly not filled out my starting lineup for any week beyond Week 1 (and possibly not even for that). So many players underperform expectations that I can practically guarantee at least one of those three receivers will be unstartable or even cut outright by midseason. I don't know which one it is (obviously - if I did, I wouldn't have drafted him), but I do know it's probably one of them. So when I'm drafting a fourth receiver, I'm not drafting a backup - as far as I'm concerned, I'm still drafting my starters.

With that mindset, the middle rounds become less about filling in holes in my lineup card or assembling the prettiest roster on paper, and they become more about just loading up on as much talent as I can, regardless of what position that talent plays. If I wind up drafting six receivers before I have two running backs, then so be it. If the league setup and the talent available dictates that I draft three tight ends in the first ten rounds (say, tight ends get a scoring premium and can be flexed to wide receiver), then I'll draft three tight ends in the first ten rounds. If taking the best available players means taking my second quarterback in the eighth round before some teams have even taken their first, then I'll do that. Like I said, I have to assume that my roster is littered with busts, just ticking away like a time bomb and waiting to explode, so many of these so called backups will see my starting lineup more frequently than the guys I took over them. Even if I don't experience the busts I'm expecting, if I'm right in my talent evaluations, I can always trade away talented players at a deep position for other talented players at a position of need.

Mark Wimer: Jason is right on here - I usually have a set of expectations for my first three-five picks depending on draft position (though even then sometimes players fall when you don't expect them to), but when you enter the mid-rounds of the draft it's all about finding value. Runs develop that may snatch up an entire tier of guys at one position ahead of your next pick, forcing you to pivot to another position where upside is greater. It's in the middle rounds that having awareness of the relative value of players available at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end really helps making sound decisions despite what has gone on during the previous round of selections.

Jeff Haseley: We all have a centralized theme when it comes to middle round strategy - find the best value. As several have already pointed out, the majority of that value is in the wide receiver position, but there's also a few diamonds in the rough at running back and tight end (Alfred Morris and Kyle Rudolph last year) I often find myself targeting the same players in the middle rounds. For example, DeAndre Hopkins, Kendall Wright, Emmanuel Sanders, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Givens, Golden Tate, Vincent Brown, Pierre Thomas, and Jermichael Finley, to name a few. None are a big reach and all have a reason for being in this grouping. They are taking advantage of an upgrade in the depth chart, they are on the fast track to success, have benefited from an injury or some combination of the three. In my opinion, the middle rounds is where you win your league. It's where your knowledge outweighs the luck factor. Chances are at least some of these picks will pan out and become weekly flex options. The more flex options you can solidify in the middle rounds, the better.

Jeff Pasquino: I'm going to answer this one a little differently. While I agree with most here that I do not like to paint myself into a corner, if my draft has gone in a certain direction (getting tons of wide receiver value, for example) then my middle rounds will focus on picking up running back value. Having just written my By Committee series, I will know which players combine to make solid RB2 duos, so those will be on my radar to pick up and bolster my team at a position that I might not have addressed as hard as others during the first several rounds.

I'm also in agreement that most of the value lies at wide receiver this year, and again, if I am looking to put together a WR3 by committee, I will target those players in the middle rounds. I will definitely have a list of players that I will like owning in Rounds 7-12, and I will undoubtedly wish I had more than just six picks in those rounds. Odds are that I will work at least one of my committee strategies during the middle rounds and have several Top 100 players that I like with big upside.


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