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The Master Plan for Picking First Overall

Sigmund Bloom breaks down the options for owners picking first in 12 team PPR leagues.

Congratulations, you are on the clock! Picking first is a blessing and a curse. You (should) know who you are picking in the first round, but you get stuck with having to reach for players more often at the subsequent turns. Most would pick a mid-round draft slot that is optimized for getting one of the last elite running backs and harvesting falling value picks throughout the draft, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the #1 hole work for you in a 12 team, 1/2/3/1/1/1/Flex PPR league. Here’s how to do it:

1st Round - Adrian Peterson

Don’t overthink this with superstitious “analysis” that warns you off of Peterson because the history of 2,000-yard rushers in year N+1. Peterson already proved that what applies to everyone else does not apply to him.

2/3 Turn

1. RB - Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore (Dream Pick: Steven Jackson)
2. WR - Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones (Dream Pick: Dez Bryant)
3. TE - Rob Gronkowski (Dream Pick: Jimmy Graham)

I would recommend RB/RB (assuming you have a flex position) or RB/Gronk here. Gronkowski has mega-upside with Aaron Hernandez out of the picture and tight end is deep enough to make covering his missed games with replacement-level production very cheap. Thomas and Jones are tempting, but as you’ll see, the wide receiver options stay viable a lot longer than the running back options do.

4/5 Turn

1. QB - Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton
2. RB - Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen (Dream Pick: Darren McFadden)
3. WR - Danny Amendola, Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Bowe, Reggie Wayne (Dream Pick: Victor Cruz)
4. TE - Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez (Dream Pick: Rob Gronkowski)

The rookie trio of running backs makes the prospect getting your RB3 (or even RB2) at the 4/5 turn not as scary, but they have a way of going to teams that are disproportionately high on them, which means you can’t count on them to be there. Starting RB/RB/RB does make it harder to grab that falling value if it’s there, so that is a good argument if you are inclined to go RB/WR or RB/Gronk at the 2/3 turn. Gronkowski is occasionally falling to the 4/5 turn, and if any negative news comes out, he should be there, so be ready to change the window of optimal Gronk drafting. If you don’t take Gronkowski or get gifted Graham at the 2/3 turn, and you’re not gifted Gronkowski here, Witten, Davis, and Gonzalez are all viable as the last true TE1s on the board. Peterson, RB/WR, and TE/WR is a very solid start. The quarterback value here might be enticing in six point per touchdown pass leagues, but it gets even better at the next turn. If 9-10 quarterbacks are gone by this point, the RB/WR value will likely be too good to pass on, so take your chances that one of the last few QB1s fall to the 6/7 turn. The quarterbacks listed might seem absurd for the 4/5 turn in more traditional-drafting leagues, where quarterbacks will still go early.

6/7 Turn

1. QB - Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III
2. RB - DeAngelo Williams, Chris Ivory
3. WR - Eric Decker, Steve Smith, Jordy Nelson, Cecil Shorts, Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Mike Williams (Dream Pick: Pierre Garcon, Torrey Smith, Antonio Brown)
4. TE - None

Quarterback is going to be tempting here, and if you think an opponent might double up before the 8/9 turn, or only one of this group is left, go for it. If you like gambling, there is a decent chance that you’ll get a top 12 quarterback at the 8/9 turn, and not getting one isn’t THAT scary. DeAngelo Williams is under the radar, but no one knows when Jonathan Stewart will be back, and the Panthers want to run more traditionally this year. He is a savior as a RB3 here, and a luxury as an RB4. Ivory has a bigger boom and more likely bust rate than Williams, so he makes more sense as an RB4 than an RB3. If he gets and stays back on the practice field, he’ll be more attractive here. WR/WR feels like the best way to go here, with the possibility that Nelson slips this far, and a number one like Steve Smith often available at the 6/7 turn. I have Britt and Williams worthy of picks at the 6/7 turn, but they are also the two names on this list most likely to still be there at the 8/9 turn if you want to let it ride. Tight end is brutal here, with a reach for Jared Cook, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen, or Jermichael Finley being the only real viable option. I’d rather chance it that one or more of them fall to the 8/9 turn if I am still without one.

8/9 Turn

1. QB - Tony Romo (Dream Pick: Russell Wilson)
2. RB - Danny Woodhead (Dream Pick: DeAngelo Williams)
3. WR - Kenny Britt, Mike Williams, Miles Austin, Josh Gordon
4. TE - Jared Cook, Greg Olsen

Unless someone in your league doubles up on quarterback, you’ll get Romo here, and Wilson is not out of the realm of possibilities, since the Harvin injury cooled many on him. The other pick for you here is likely to be a wide receiver. ADP indicates that there is a good chance of one (or more) of Britt, Williams, and Austin being there. At this point, running back is a bunch of guys in murky committee backfields or backups who need an injury to be trustworthy in your lineup, no matter how talented they are. If you only have two backs at this point, you’ll need a “safe” RB3 in PPR, and Woodhead is the best pick for that. I would rather make sure I get three backs in my first seven (or even five or three) picks and not mess with the backs available at the 8/9 turn. Especially not over players with the upside of Romo and Britt.

10/11 Turn

1. QB - Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, Michael Vick
2. RB - None (Dream Pick: Danny Woodhead)
3. WR - Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Golden Tate, Lance Moore, Ryan Broyles, Alshon Jeffery, DeAndre Hopkins (Dream Pick: Kenny Britt, Mike Williams)
4. TE - Martellus Bennett, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener

The picture should be very clear. Wide receiver value at the 10/11 turn is overwhelming. There are more handcuffs and committee backs to pick from, but the wide receiver position presents young talent on the rise in roles that should give them the opportunity to hit big, along with a delayed gratification play like Blackmon and a very solid WR3 who can slip at times in Lance Moore. If you are without a quarterback, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, and Michael Vick all have QB1 ceilings and can function as an anchor for your QBBC/shotgun approach. Likewise for Martellus Bennett, although I wouldn’t blame you if you got nervous and took a Colts tight end instead of chancing them falling to the 12/13 turn.

12/13 Turn

1. QB - Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler
2. RB - Jacquizz Rodgers, Joique Bell, Jonathan Stewart, Bilal Powell
3. WR - Chris Givens, Brian Hartline, Rueben Randle, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin
4. TE - Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Fred Davis

As you can see, value at wide receiver continues to stretch into the teens as possible WR3/Flex options and upside plays like Harvin are still available. At least one of two of the names in the 10/11 turn group can fall into your lap too. If you wait until the 10/11 turn to take a quarterback, the erosion in quality at the 12/13 turn is very minor, so you might want to wait until this turn if you slough quarterback. Backup running backs with upside who need a break to start are much more palatable in at the 12/13 turn. If you don’t have a tight end yet, doubling up on the Colts combo is a killer move here. Lots of flexibility in the late rounds.

14/15 Turn & Later

1. QB - Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill, EJ Manuel
2. RB - Kendall Hunter, Roy Helu, Christine Michael, Michael Bush, Daniel Thomas, Chris Polk, DAL/NE/OAK top backup
3. WR - Cordarrelle Patterson, Vincent Brown, Julian Edelman
4. TE - Tyler Eifert, Travis Kelce, Rob Housler, Dustin Keller, Julius Thomas, Zach Sudfeld, James Casey

Some pretty nice names are likely to still be there in your end game. Note how many upside plays there are at tight end left -players with a legitimate shot at low TE1 numbers. This is also the point in your draft where any uncontested backup running back in shaky situation, or talented backup in a good offense present good “lottery ticket” options to fill out your roster.

Possible Rosters

QB12/Gronk Strategy
QB: Romo (8/9), Manuel (14/15)
RB: Peterson (1), Sproles (2/3), DeWilliams (6/7), Stewart (12/13)
WR: Amendola (4/5), Nicks (4/5), SSmith (6/7), Britt (8/9), Broyles (10/11), Hopkins (10/11)
TE: Gronkowski (2/3), Allen (12/13), Eifert (14/15)

RB/RB/RB + Slough QB Strategy
QB: Vick (12/13), Manuel (14/15), Tannehill (14/15)
RB: Peterson (1), Sproles (2/3), Gore (2/3), DeWilliams (6/7)
WR: Bowe (4/5), Shorts (6/7), MiWilliams (8/9), Gordon (8/9), Jeffery (10/11), GTate (10/11)
TE: VDavis (4/5), Fleener (12/13)

Early QB + Slough TE Strategy
QB: PManning (4/5), Bradford (14/15)
RB: Peterson (1), Bush (2/3), Ivory (6/7), JBell (12/13), Powell (12/13)
WR: DemThomas (2/3), Nicks (4/5), Britt (6/7), MAustin (8/9), Blackmon (10/11)
TE: Cook (8/9), Bennett (10/11), Allen (14/15)