Perfect Draft: 12 Team PPR (Updated) - Footballguys

A round-by-round mapped out Value-Based Drafting strategy to dominate your league.

This is the first of a multi-part series.

I started penning this article in 2002 to put my pre-draft thoughts to paper. Like most things in life, I find I do my best when I plan to succeed. This article is my attempt at that. I work hard at doing projections every year. At Footballguys, we also put together the most comprehensive Average Draft Position Lists. So the information about value is certainly readily available. The trick to having a perfect draft though is to anticipate those "pockets of value" and build your team so that you get the lion's share of these guys.

There is no one way to have a perfect draft. In fact, the biggest criticism I often get is that I am willing to wait on a quarterback and/or tight end in a lot of drafts. Many drafters show me teams where they grab a guy like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees early and then knock the rest of the draft out of the park. That's definitely possible. And against weak competition, it can be the preferred game plan.

This article assumes fairly educated drafters. You need to decide whether your league is full of sharks, guppies, or a combination of both. Count the number of Footballguys subscriptions and/or Dominator apps and compare that to the number of guys crossing off players from their magazine cheat sheet to get a feel for this if you really are unsure. I state this here because against softer competition the shark move is to grab the quality quarterbacks and tight ends too. You should do this because it's nearly assured you will also get many great players to slide to you at running back and wide receiver. Against great competition, reaching for a player at the wrong time can quickly dismantle your draft and leave you missing the key "pockets of value" that can help your chances at winning.

Before we can have the "Perfect Draft", let's define our measure of success. After the draft, your team should have these qualities:

  1. Against multiple projection sets, your team always grades out as one of the best teams. And to make your life easy here, just run your roster through our Rate My Team application.
  2. You secured a great number of players that will outperform their draft position.
  3. You have quality depth (in the right places) to allow for post-draft trades.
  4. The majority of owners recognize that you have a team that should easily reach the playoffs.
  5. Your late round picks have the potential to be game-changing players

These aren't absolutes, but I list them here so we know what we are trying to build.

Let's start with the two basic principles of Value Based Drafting (VBD). I will expound on them as we go through this.

  • All Players Have Value - Don't love anyone. Don't hate anyone. Get players that will significantly outperform their draft position and you will build a winning team.
  • Understand What the Average Guy Thinks - You may believe someone will be the 10th best WR, but if everybody else does not then you should wait to maximize value.

If you don't follow these principles, you will not have a perfect draft. If you believe rookie wide receivers are always bad or drafting anyone over 30 is too big of an injury risk, then you will not have the perfect draft. Throw away the biases. Let value guide your draft. Let others succumb to prejudices and generalities. You are here to win your league. And you do that by getting value with every pick.

How do we define value? Value Based Drafting (VBD) has shown us that we can compare unlike positions for comparative value. The cornerstone of VBD starts with solid projections. And these projections can be manipulated to form Top 300+ lists. For this article, I will be using the Top 300 (PPR) list I created for the website. I have highlighted favorable differences in green to indicate players that may be bargains on draft day.

Let's have the perfect draft.

The goal is to get you the best possible team and to make sure you don't overpay for players that can still be had a few rounds later. What I look for are players that I project significantly better than where they are being drafted. The positional analysis tracks to my projections.

This article assumes a 12-team league using scoring that starts 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 defense, and 1 kicker. Fantasy points are calculated as follows:

  • Passing touchdowns = 4 points
  • Interceptions = -1 points
  • Rushing/receiving touchdowns = 6 points
  • Receptions = 1 point
  • Passing yardage = 0.05 pts per yard (1 pt per 20 yards)
  • Rushing/receiving yardage = 0.10 pts per yard (1 pt per 10 yards)

The Top 60 Players

Because ADP is a crucial barometer on when players will get drafted, I believe it's important to merge the Footballguys Top 300 with ADP to create a single Top 60 draft list. This list appears here for PPR leagues

  • For players that have a value lower than ADP, use the average of the two numbers.
  • For players that have a value higher than ADP, use the value number.

Example: Player A has a value of 13 and an ADP of 21. His drafting value would be 17. (13 + 21)/2. Conversely, if Player has a value of 21 and an ADP of 13, his drafting value would be 21.

Doing this for the Top 300 list yields these Top 60 players (ranked from 1st to 60).

*** Note this is a generic PPR list. You can get a tailored list by entering your scoring criteria into the VBD or Draft Dominator applications:

  1. Pick 1.01 - RB1 Todd Gurley, LAR/12 (ADP = 1)
  2. Pick 1.02 - RB2 Le'Veon Bell, PIT/7 (ADP = 2)
  3. Pick 1.03 - RB3 Ezekiel Elliott, DAL/8 (ADP = 4)
  4. Pick 1.04 - RB4 David Johnson, ARI/9 (ADP = 3)
  5. Pick 1.05 - RB5 Alvin Kamara, NO/6 (ADP = 6)
  6. Pick 1.06 - WR1 Antonio Brown, PIT/7 (ADP = 5)
  7. Pick 1.07 - WR2 DeAndre Hopkins, HOU/10 (ADP = 8)
  8. Pick 1.08 - RB6 Melvin Gordon III, LAC/8 (ADP = 9)
  9. Pick 1.09 - WR3 Odell Beckham Jr, NYG/9 (ADP = 11)
  10. Pick 1.10 - RB7 Leonard Fournette, JAX/9 (ADP = 10)
  11. Pick 1.11 - RB8 Kareem Hunt, KC/12 (ADP = 12)
  12. Pick 1.12 - WR4 Julio Jones, ATL/8 (ADP = 13)
  13. Pick 2.01 - WR5 Michael Thomas, NO/6 (ADP = 15)
  14. Pick 2.02 - WR6 Keenan Allen, LAC/8 (ADP = 17)
  15. Pick 2.03 - RB9 Saquon Barkley, NYG/9 (ADP = 7)
  16. Pick 2.04 - RB10 Dalvin Cook, MIN/10 (ADP = 14)
  17. Pick 2.05 - RB11 Christian McCaffrey, CAR/4 (ADP = 16)
  18. Pick 2.06 - WR7 A.J. Green, CIN/9 (ADP = 20)
  19. Pick 2.07 - RB12 Devonta Freeman, ATL/8 (ADP = 18)
  20. Pick 2.08 - RB13 Jerick McKinnon, SF/11 (ADP = 23)
  21. Pick 2.09 - TE1 Rob Gronkowski, NE/11 (ADP = 21)
  22. Pick 2.10 - WR8 T.Y. Hilton , IND/9 (ADP = 27)
  23. Pick 2.11 - WR9 Davante Adams, GB/7 (ADP = 19)
  24. Pick 2.12 - RB14 Jordan Howard, CHI/5 (ADP = 25)
  25. Pick 3.01 - WR10 Mike Evans, TB/5 (ADP = 22)
  26. Pick 3.02 - WR11 Adam Thielen, MIN/10 (ADP = 31)
  27. Pick 3.03 - WR12 Tyreek Hill, KC/12 (ADP = 29)
  28. Pick 3.04 - RB15 Joe Mixon, CIN/9 (ADP = 24)
  29. Pick 3.05 - WR13 Stefon Diggs, MIN/10 (ADP = 30)
  30. Pick 3.06 - WR14 Amari Cooper, OAK/7 (ADP = 33)
  31. Pick 3.07 - WR15 Larry Fitzgerald, ARI/9 (ADP = 38)
  32. Pick 3.08 - TE2 Travis Kelce, KC/12 (ADP = 26)
  33. Pick 3.09 - WR16 Doug Baldwin, SEA/7 (ADP = 35)
  34. Pick 3.10 - RB16 Kenyan Drake, MIA/11 (ADP = 37)
  35. Pick 3.11 - QB1 Aaron Rodgers, GB/7 (ADP = 28)
  36. Pick 3.12 - TE3 Zach Ertz, PHI/9 (ADP = 34)
  37. Pick 4.01 - WR17 Demaryius Thomas, DEN/10 (ADP = 44)
  38. Pick 4.02 - WR18 Brandin Cooks, LAR/12 (ADP = 46)
  39. Pick 4.03 - RB17 LeSean McCoy, BUF/11 (ADP = 32)
  40. Pick 4.04 - WR19 Golden Tate, DET/6 (ADP = 45)
  41. Pick 4.05 - RB18 Mark Ingram II II, NO/6 (ADP = 52)
  42. Pick 4.06 - WR20 Jarvis Landry, CLE/11 (ADP = 39)
  43. Pick 4.07 - RB19 Lamar Miller, HOU/10 (ADP = 47)
  44. Pick 4.08 - RB20 Alex Collins, BAL/10 (ADP = 36)
  45. Pick 4.09 - WR21 JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT/7 (ADP = 43)
  46. Pick 4.10 - WR22 Allen Robinson, CHI/5 (ADP = 48)
  47. Pick 4.11 - RB21 Derrick Henry, TEN/8 (ADP = 40)
  48. Pick 4.12 - QB2 Russell Wilson, SEA/7 (ADP = 50)
  49. Pick 5.01 - WR23 Michael Crabtree, BAL/10 (ADP = 63)
  50. Pick 5.02 - WR24 Marvin Jones Jr, DET/6 (ADP = 54)
  51. Pick 5.03 - RB22 Jay Ajayi, PHI/9 (ADP = 41)
  52. Pick 5.04 - QB3 Cam Newton, CAR/4 (ADP = 60)
  53. Pick 5.05 - TE4 Greg Olsen, CAR/4 (ADP = 58)
  54. Pick 5.06 - QB4 Deshaun Watson, HOU/10 (ADP = 42)
  55. Pick 5.07 - WR25 Marquise Goodwin, SF/11 (ADP = 74)
  56. Pick 5.08 - TE5 Jimmy Graham, GB/7 (ADP = 53)
  57. Pick 5.09 - RB23 Tevin Coleman, ATL/8 (ADP = 64)
  58. Pick 5.10 - RB24 Dion Lewis, TEN/8 (ADP = 56)
  59. Pick 5.11 - QB5 Tom Brady, NE/11 (ADP = 49)
  60. Pick 5.12 - WR26 Josh Gordon, CLE/11 (ADP = 55)

Note: There are five quarterbacks that appear on this list, but I am going to tell you a simple truth. Your team will end up a lot better if you wait until after this list is exhausted before choosing a quarterback. The reason for this is because there is value at quarterback once everyone in the league drafts one. In years where there were just a handful of difference makers, you could make an argument that you need an elite one. This year the quarterback pool is as deep as ever. Trust me here. Don't draft an early quarterback.

Building Your Core - Your First 5 Picks

You are looking to grab the best player available until this list is exhausted. But use some common sense while you do this. For example, you can't draft running backs every round and have the Perfect Draft since you are limited in the number you can start each week.

I would pay little to no attention to bye weeks during this phase. You have plenty of time to adjust after these Top 60 players are gone.

I would limit myself to just one tight end from this list unless the extra tight end is drafted in the eighth round or later (trade value alone makes the selection worthwhile).

After the Top 60 - Assessment Phase

The transition from the Top 60 to rounding out your team based on need is a critical one. Your analysis here can instantly turn a good draft into a great one. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your weaknesses:

  • How many backs did you secure? The average owner should have 2.00 running backs. Do you have two or more including one in the first round? Is this a position of strength for your team?

  • Did you draft a quarterback or tight end (the average owner should have 0.42 quarterbacks and 0.33 tight ends) yet? If so, consider yourself done at this position until much later in the draft. If you have not drafted these positions yet, do not panic. Good ones will be available later.

  • Assess your bye week situation. If three or more of your first five players are off on the same bye week, I will usually sacrifice that week so that I can be strong in every other week. If that is not the case, then I look to patch the holes with complimentary players that could have big weeks during these rough spots. Teams lining up against Indianapolis, Oakland, Miami, NY Jets, San Francisco, and Cleveland should all yield good results during these weeks.

As an example, Let's say you landed this team after five rounds (from the ninth position):

  • 9. RB Leonard Fournette, JAC/9
  • 16. WR Keenan Allen, LAC/8
  • 33. WR Amari Cooper, OAK/7
  • 40. WR Brandin Cooks, LAR/12
  • 57. WR Michael Crabtree, BAL/10

Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: You have not selected a quarterback or tight end.

Unless significant value presents itself, my plan for the next few rounds would be:

  • Grab another quality running back
  • Fill out roster need at tight end
  • Fill out roster need at quarterback
  • Grab a player sliding at wide receiver ONLY if he represents exceptional value.

Note the departure from looking for value at all cost here. The wide receiver position may represent value at your next pick, but this selected player is not a roster need. It is generally better to fill out your key roster spots instead of amassing a lot of value that you may not be able to use. So use your head. Are you able to select a running back, tight end, or a quarterback that represents at least fair value (ADP and value numbers are in line with the selection)?

Let's look at another example. This one from the second position:

Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: You have no quarterbacks and no tight ends. Two of your top players have a Week 10 bye. Running back Mark Ingram II has been suspended the first four games.

Unless significant value presents itself, my plan for the next few rounds would be:

  • Look for players, not on a Week 10 bye
  • Grab a running back and a wide receiver
  • Fill out roster need at quarterback
  • Fill out roster need at tight end

Moving to Fill Positional Needs

Quarterbacks

If you followed this plan up to here, you should not have selected a quarterback within the Top 60 picks.

The league has morphed into a passing exhibition on most weeks. Eighteen quarterbacks finished the year with 3,500+ combined passing and rushing yards. Let that sink in. For every drafter taking a quarterback early, someone waiting still got a player who finished with 3,500 combined yards much later in the draft.

There have never been more quality quarterbacks playing each week than what is available this season. So for every drafter that pulls the trigger to get an Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, or Deshaun Watson early, some drafter (read YOU if you are wise) will grab someone like Alex Smith, Jared Goff, or Matt Ryan as many as six to seven rounds later. I am telling you that there is not enough difference to make getting the elite guys worthy of a draft strategy this season.

Waiting is for Winners...draft the 12th quarterback...or later.

From my own projections, here are my top fantasy quarterbacks for this year:

  • Aaron Rodgers, GB/7 (354 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Russell Wilson, SEA/7 (330 Fantasy Points in 15.3 games)
  • Cam Newton, CAR/4 (333 Fantasy Points in 15.5 games)
  • Deshaun Watson, HOU/10 (326 Fantasy Points in 15.2 games)
  • Tom Brady, NE/11 (327 Fantasy Points in 15.4 games)
  • Carson Wentz, PHI/9 (311 Fantasy Points in 14.5 games)
  • Drew Brees, NO/6 (321 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Ben Roethlisberger, PIT/7 (309 Fantasy Points in 15 games)
  • Matthew Stafford, DET/6 (315 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Andrew Luck, IND/9 (309 Fantasy Points in 15.1 games)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, SF/11 (310 Fantasy Points in 15.5 games)
  • Kirk Cousins, MIN/10 (311 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Alex Smith, WAS/4 (307 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Philip Rivers, LAC/8 (302 Fantasy Points in 15.4 games)
  • Jared Goff, LAR/12 (304 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Matt Ryan, ATL/8 (304 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Patrick Mahomes II, KC/12 (300 Fantasy Points in 15.3 games)
  • Dak Prescott, DAL/8 (300 Fantasy Points in 15.4 games)
  • Marcus Mariota, TEN/8 (292 Fantasy Points in 14.9 games)
  • Tyrod Taylor, CLE/11 (278 Fantasy Points in 13.9 games)
  • Blake Bortles, JAX/9 (291 Fantasy Points in 15.1 games)
  • Jameis Winston, TB/5 (253 Fantasy Points in 12.4 games)
  • Derek Carr, OAK/7 (283 Fantasy Points in 15.5 games)
  • Mitchell Trubisky, CHI/5 (281 Fantasy Points in 15.6 games)
  • Ryan Tannehill, MIA/11 (273 Fantasy Points in 14.9 games)
  • Andy Dalton, CIN/9 (277 Fantasy Points in 15.4 games)
  • Case Keenum, DEN/10 (271 Fantasy Points in 15 games)
  • Eli Manning, NYG/9 (271 Fantasy Points in 15.3 games)
  • Joe Flacco, BAL/10 (235 Fantasy Points in 13.5 games)

Now consider the people that took any of the top 10 names based on ADP. Are they looking to add a quality backup? Would you if you drafted Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees? This dynamic defines the solution. Once 11 people have drafted their QB1, a lull happens before they get a suitable backup. This lull is the sweet spot where you want to be selecting your QB1. Who is it? It depends on your draft, but usually, the sweet spot happens about a round after Kirk Cousins and Andrew Luck get drafted. I am nearly always pulling the trigger if Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Philip Rivers are available after Cousins and Luck have been picked. All of these players represent massive value at a discounted price. and would have had that quality-starter tag before the league became the passing exhibition it is today.

But David...what if someone snipes all these other guys from me? This is the beauty of waiting. You aren't penalized by this at all; There are still plenty of solid quarterback options that could easily threaten the top 12. Guys like Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, and Jared Goff are still projected to score 300+ fantasy points at the position.

Running Backs

In most leagues, elite running backs are golden. Their value lies in their ability to both run and catch. The reason they are golden is that there are simply not enough of them to go around. More and more teams are using a committee approach to the running back position...pulling the starter both on obvious passing downs and sometimes in goal-line situations. It has made the workhorse backs (that do all three roles) even more valuable. It has also created a bigger pool of next tier backs that don't do it all. If you followed the Top 60 plan from above, you likely have a decent stable of backs on your roster to build the rest of your team around.

But two or three quality backs don't make a powerhouse fantasy roster...Having depth at running back does.

Here are the other running backs that I would target for value (outside of the top 60 picks):

  • Carlos Hyde, CLE/11 (Value = 51, ADP = 83) in the mid-6th round or later
  • Marlon Mack, IND/9 (Value = 55, ADP = 91) in the mid-6th round or later
  • Isaiah Crowell, NYJ/11 (Value = 60, ADP = 86) in the 7th round or later
  • Jamaal Williams, GB/7 (Value = 73, ADP = 87) in the 8th round or later
  • Devontae Booker, DEN/10 (Value = 84, ADP = 125) in the 9th round or later
  • Peyton Barber, TB/5 (Value = 82, ADP = 137) in the 10th round or later
  • Giovani Bernard, CIN/9 (Value = 86, ADP = 126) in the 10th round or later
  • James White, NE/11 (Value = 91, ADP = 116) in the 10th round or later
  • Chris Ivory, BUF/11 (Value = 109, ADP = 200) in the 12th round or later
  • Doug Martin, OAK/7 (Value = 112, ADP = 161) in the 13th round or later
  • Adrian Peterson, WAS/4 (Value = 130, ADP = 290) in the 14th round or later
  • Javorius Allen, BAL/10 (Value = 135, ADP = 205) in the 14th round or later
  • Frank Gore, MIA/11 (Value = 144, ADP = 202) in the 15th round or later
  • T.J. Yeldon, JAX/9 (Value = 157, ADP = 194) in the 15th round or later
  • Wayne Gallman, NYG/9 (Value = 188, ADP = 290) in the 20th round or later
  • Jalen Richard, OAK/7 (Value = 204, ADP = 290) in the 21st round or later

Wide Receivers

The biggest key to having a great wide receiver corps is following the Top 60 plan above and then swooping in and stealing the players that slide unnecessarily in a draft. Here are some guys that should represent excellent value this year (outside of the Top 60):

  • Jamison Crowder, WAS/4 (Value = 59, ADP = 89) in the 7th round or later
  • Devin Funchess, CAR/4 (Value = 71, ADP = 92) in the 8th round or later
  • Kenny Stills, MIA/11 (Value = 75, ADP = 119) in the 9th round or later
  • Kenny Golladay, DET/6 (Value = 114, ADP = 142) in the 11th round or later
  • Rishard Matthews, TEN/8 (Value = 127, ADP = 159) in the 12th round or later
  • Tyler Lockett, SEA/7 (Value = 129, ADP = 153) in the 13th round or later
  • Mohamed Sanu, ATL/8 (Value = 131, ADP = 171) in the 14th round or later
  • John Ross, CIN/9 (Value = 137, ADP = 213) in the 15th round or later
  • Keelan Cole, JAX/9 (Value = 161, ADP = 199) in the 16th round or later
  • John Brown, BAL/10 (Value = 165, ADP = 198) in the 16th round or later
  • Ted Ginn Jr, NO/6 (Value = 169, ADP = 203) in the 17th round or later
  • Taywan Taylor, TEN/8 (Value = 171, ADP = 231) in the 18th round or later
  • Jermaine Kearse, NYJ/11 (Value = 183, ADP = 285) in the 19th round or later
  • Mike Wallace, PHI/9 (Value = 195, ADP = 244) in the 20th round or later
  • Quincy Enunwa, NYJ/11 (Value = 196, ADP = 248) in the 20th round or later
  • Terrance Williams, DAL/8 (Value = 210, ADP = 277) in the 21st round or later

Some other wide receivers will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the bargain list above. In recap, grab approximately three receivers by Round 6 and then wait for the value to emerge because it always does.

Tight Ends

Because so many more teams are utilizing the tight end position, there are almost always bargains at this position late in a draft. In fact, once the top seven or eight names come off the board, there is minimal pressure on the tight end position the rest of the draft (in leagues that start just one tight end).

This presents a dilemma of sorts in drafts. One can grab an elite (top 5 or 6) tight end or wait until the later rounds and grab some upside guys that could crack the top 10 at the position.

I generally prefer a decent tight end, but I think the wise drafting approach is to not reach for one if they go sooner than normal.

Here are the tight ends that I am targeting outside of the top 60 players:

  • Jack Doyle, IND/9 (Value = 99, ADP = 112) in the 9th round or later
  • Eric Ebron, IND/9 (Value = 133, ADP = 166) in the 12th round or later
  • Charles Clay, BUF/11 (Value = 141, ADP = 175) in the 13th round or later
  • Jared Cook, OAK/7 (Value = 168, ADP = 181) in the 15th round or later
  • Ben Watson, NO/6 (Value = 187, ADP = 192) in the 16th round or later
  • Virgil Green, LAC/8 (Value = 193, ADP = 273) in the 18th round or later
  • Jake Butt, DEN/10 (Value = 205, ADP = 235) in the 19th round or later
  • Antonio Gates, FA (Value = 233, ADP = 286) in the 21st round or later

Place Kickers

In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate kicker in the last two rounds of your draft. In leagues that draft this position real late (most leagues), look towards the second to last round to grab the one kicker you will roster. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait until their last pick to take their kickers and end up missing the good kickers by a few picks. Most likely that sleeper wide receiver you want in the second to last round will still be there for you in the last round. In waiver-wire friendly leagues (most), don't be afraid to draft just one kicker and add others as necessary during the season to cover the bye weeks and/or exploit matchups.

Instead of targeting any particular kicker this year, I just like to keep these 12 names handy and start crossing them off the list. When six to eight are gone, jump in and get the top-rated guy left. Here are my Top 12 kickers:

  • Stephen Gostkowski (NE/11)
  • Justin Tucker (BAL/10)
  • Greg Zuerlein (LAR/12)
  • Wil Lutz (NO/6)
  • Matt Bryant (ATL/8)
  • Chris Boswell (PIT/7)
  • Mason Crosby (GB/7)
  • Jake Elliott (PHI/9)
  • Matt Prater (DET/6)
  • Harrison Butker (KC/12)
  • Graham Gano (CAR/4)
  • Dan Bailey (DAL/8)

Defenses

Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken. I suggest you wait until 8-9 defenses get selected and then take the highest remaining one left. It's usually not necessary to take a second defense. Here are my Top 15 defenses:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Houston Texans
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Denver Broncos
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Chicago Bears
  • Arizona Cardinals

Another winning strategy to deploy after the draft is simply to look two games ahead for defenses via the waiver process. Most fantasy rosters will have at most two defenses meaning that half of the defenses are likely available as free agent pickups each week. By looking two to three weeks ahead at who will be playing the Bills, Jets, Buccaneers, Cardinals, or Bears you likely can find a cheap defense that should perform well against subpar offenses. Drop this defense after their quality game so that you can continue to pick up other defenses that will have good weeks. Because of this strategy, I advise you to draft just one defense and look to play matchups the rest of the way. Every year, two or three defenses are predicted to be terrible but end up playing great.

Putting It All Together

1. Draft for value until the top 60 players are exhausted. These are your core and will define how you approach the rest of the draft.

2. Look to select the 12-13th quarterback off the board a full round after the 11th quarterback is taken. Add another from the QB14-18 tier soon after taking your first quarterback.

3. Don't reach for a quality tight end early. If it comes to your team naturally, that's great. If the value does not present itself in the early rounds, grab a high upside player like Jack Doyle or David Njoku in the ninth or tenth round.

4. Add value at running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions in the middle rounds to protect bye weeks, add critical depth, and give yourself a chance to trade off talent to bolster your squad as the season progresses.

5. Use the final rounds to add your kicker, a defense and to go after younger players in a swing-for-the-fences mentality. Our Deep Sleepers series list a lot of these types of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Most are dart throws and could need an injury to be relevant.

6. Unless your league has some exotic scoring that elevates defenses, it is best to wait until the last few rounds to grab your defense. Grabbing Kansas City, Denver, or Carolina (after eight or nine defenses have been taken) should yield a great return.

7. Wait until the second-to-last round to grab your kicker.

Remember, the key is not to just follow the Top 200 list but to see where it differs substantially from average drafts. This is how you get value with every pick. And value is how you build winning fantasy teams.

Let's go through an example from draft position #2: