My process for developing an action plan for fantasy football drafts begins in the weeks following the NFL Draft. Depth charts have settled with the rookie additions. Average Draft Position (ADP) is still in flux but stabilizing by the day with a growing sample size. My first mock draft of the season I do not consult ADP or go into the draft with a plan of action. The goal is to feel out each position along the way and 'observe and report' the findings here. With the preamble out of the way, here are the results from this 12-team PPR mock draft:
*Mid-round (1.06) draft position*
I figured there was be a block of a few running backs at the top of the draft. My first decision was how low on the running back board to go before siding with a receiver like DeAndre Hopkins or Antonio Brown. As the picks began to roll in, I decided I would go receiver over Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley of note. The draft broke my direction, however, as it went Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and DeAndre Hopkins in the Top 5. Selecting David Johnson was a run to the podium no-brainer. I assumed he would go in the Top 5, leaving wide receiver and/or Alvin Kamara as realistic options.
My first thought as Round 1 continued was taking running back is optimal in Round 1 as the landscape in Rounds 2-3 are dicier at running back than wide receiver.
My assumption from Round 1 was correct as the following running backs left the board by my 2.07 selection:
With cornerstone picks already at running back and wide receiver through two rounds, the next 2-3 rounds would be vital to draft best players available, ideally with Round 1-2 upside potential. Joe Mixon did not make it back around to the mid-third, going 3.01 in this draft. Aaron Rodgers at 3.05 marked the first quarterback off the board, but I typically wait 5-10 rounds in a typical draft before even glancing at quarterback.
After Rob Gronkowski was drafted at 2.04, all others at the position were available, notably Travis Kelce, who I strongly considered at 3.06. Ultimately I sided with Amari Cooper here as I liked but did not love the next 5-10 wide receiver names on the ADP list.
Derrick Henry was drafted shortly after my 3.06 selection of Amari Cooper, but Lamar Miller was the glaring name to make it back to 4.07. I selected Miller, who was much better with Deshaun Watson last season than without. Also, D'Onta Foreman's Achilles injury could create a slow start to the season for the rookie who was impeding on Miller's role later in 2017. Travis Kelce was also gone by the end of Round 3, so I was committed to waiting a while at tight end, like quarterback.
With a solid RB2, wide receiver was the likely focus in the flat tier of the middle rounds. I opted for Corey Davis over Brandin Cooks at 5.06 with a cleaner depth chart to be the unquestioned No.1 on a rebound Tennessee offense in 2018. Davis flashed a number of times despite being an up-and-down producer by the numbers as a rookie. Davis, more than Cooks, meets the Round 1-2 upside mantra from this draft zone if one of them crushes their draft cost.
Quarterbacks start flying off the board in Round 6 (five in the round alone, more than Rounds 3-5 combined), including Jimmy Garoppolo, an investment I could not make around the likes of Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Carson Wentz. I opt for Will Fuller V is Round 6, my WR4, over Devin Funchess and Sammy Watkins of note. Fuller was the No.2 overall fantasy receiver in PPR PPG when Deshaun Watson and he were both in the lineup in 2017.
With the first few rookie running backs gone, my focus was on the likes of Royce Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, and Nick Chubb in this draft zone. With David Johnson and Lamar Miller already, the key is hitting on a weekly auto-start back by the time an injury or bye week hits. Royce Freeman was gone at 7.01, leaving Kerryon Johnson as my selection in the middle of the round. Many view LeGarrette Blount as more of a roadblock to Johnson's 1A role this season, but with Blount's recent erosion, I view him as closer to a speed bump slowing Johnson down only for a handful of weeks at most.
Nick Chubb and Jamaal Williams were my Round 8-9 selections, hammering running back now with five selections in the Top 100 or so of the draft. Both are in ambiguous depth charts, but have a shot to be 1A options. Considering Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr were drafted ahead of Nick Chubb, I like the value as the third Cleveland back off the board.
In Round 10, I nabbed Randall Cobb. The Packers have an amalgam of receivers beyond the entrenched Davante Adams and Randall Cobb in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. Josh Doctson was my only other consideration in Round 10. Outside of my selections, DeVante Parker (Round 9) was the other pick of note in this range.
Two of my selections had to be kicker and defense, which I drafted with Jake Elliott in Round 14 and Detroit defense/special teams in Round 15. The Lions have the Jets in Week 1, my lone consideration for drafting a defense being their initial matchup as I am a serial streamer early in the season.
Without a quarterback or tight end through 10 rounds, it was time to hit these positions. Even waiting until Round 13 and seven teams having two quarterbacks by this round, I chose between Eli Manning and Dak Prescott (with Jameis Winston drafted earlier in Round 13. I sided with Manning as his weapons are much improved from 2017 with a returning Odell Beckham and the drafting of Saquon Barkley added to Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram.
At tight end, with 13 tight ends off the board by Round 12, I landed Jack Doyle. He lacks the name cache but was TE5 in PPR PPG in 2017, and the weapons for the Colts are not dramatically improved. Plus Andrew Luck could return to boost Doyle's weekly upside and floor combination.
The low-hanging fruit is to wait on a quarterback like most years. In stock formats, there is little incentive to go early for the position. Beyond Round 10, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and others were still readily available. Rounds 11-13 look like optimal zones to get similar upside to the Round 6-8 crop.
The mid-rounds zone looks fertile in 2018 with appealing rookie options and a few cluttered depth charts which can deliver big dividends if chosen wisely. I still would not fade the position in the first 3-4 rounds for a block of selections in say Rounds 5-10. If this draft is any indicator, I would prefer to get one of the top four of five backs in Round 1 to create a stable base and be open to value in Rounds 2-4 when available. Lamar Miller ended up being the value of this draft at 4.07. If in the later Round 1 position, wide receiver was the better option in this draft, then hitting running back in the top half of Round 2 (like Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook).
While some depth options were solid in the middle rounds, the optimal zone looked like by Rounds 6-7 to get a core of 3-4 receivers. Passing on one for an elite tight end (only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce qualify) is in play, but not for a string of say three or four running backs to open the draft outside of rare circumstances.
As mentioned above, there is a divide between the studs (Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce) and everyone else. I may be in the minority, but Zach Ertz is not a rare talent and coming off a career year. Plus the Eagles drafted a more talented option (Dallas Goedert) in this year's class. The mid-rounds are ripe with risk when passing on select receivers and high-upside backs for the Tyler Eifert, Trey Burton, Jordan Reed, and George Kittle types. Waiting another few rounds stays within the same tier, and the draft cost enables an owner to be more flexible on the waiver wire and early-season adjustments at the position.