This article is about a 16-minute read.
- Draft Strategy with an Early 1st-Round Pick
- Draft Strategy with a Middle 1st-Round Pick
- Draft Strategy with a Late 1st-Round Pick
How you begin a draft can alter the entire composition of your roster. And where you pick in the first round can make all the difference in your early-draft strategy.
Let's talk about your game plan when you have an early pick in the first round. How do you prefer to start a draft when you pick between the 1.01 and 1.04 spots? Do you map out your first few picks? What do you like your roster to look like when drafting from these spots?
If I have a pick in slots 1-4, I generally will be targeting a running back, unless it's a Superflex league. For topic purposes, we'll focus on this not being a Superflex league. My second-round pick will either be Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or the best running back available. I don't need to focus on quarterback or wide receiver yet. The third pick is dependent on whom I selected in the second round.
If second-round running back - my third-round pick is George Kittle or best wide receiver on the board, unless a big name running back is still available, like Miles Sanders, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler. The likelihood of either of these being available in the early third is rare.
If second-round tight end - my third-round pick is the best running back on the board, no questions asked. I won't go into round four without rostering a running back. If I take a tight end early, I generally do not target a quarterback early, like Patrick Mahomes II or Lamar Jackson. It's difficult to sustain a good draft strategy by drafting both a tight end and a quarterback early.
If my first three picks are RB-TE-WR/RB - Pick four is likely a wide receiver, especially if pick three was a running back. If pick three was a wide receiver then I am looking at running back, preferably David Johnson, James Conner, or Raheem Mostert. Otherwise, the pick is a wide receiver.
If my first three picks are RB-RB-WR my fourth pick is usually a wide receiver or perhaps my third running back if David Johnson or James Conner is available. If I don't draft Kelce or Kittle, I won't target a tight end until after Evan Engram or maybe Hunter Henry is off the board. My target is Jared Cook or Rob Gronkowski.
With an early draft slot, I am pretty likely to exit the first three rounds with at least two running backs. With an earlier Round 1 position, running back is a lock on my board. I am more flexible at the 2/3 turn with mixing in a wide receiver or not. Mike Evans is one of my favorites at receiver to consider at the 2/3 turn. Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette are higher-volume running backs who are a luxury as my RB2 within an early draft roster construction.
I map out my first two or three selections regardless of my draft position, but it's easier to do that with a top-four pick due to the certainty that you'll have a high-level running back at the top of your roster.
From there, I do some mock drafts (using the Footballguys Draft Dominator, of course) where I select a tight end at the end of the second and see how I like my team. Then I'll do some drafts where I go with three running backs to start just as a way of seeing if the RB surplus is worth the weakness at WR.
It's always a good strategy to enter your draft with a plan. But be flexible because no draft has ever gone exactly how typical mock drafts go.
After picking one of those guys, I'm coming out of the Round 2-3 turn with at least one running back, and more often two. Usually, the choices come from the tier that includes Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, James Conner, Melvin Gordon III, and David Johnson. All of these guys project for the volume I'm after in my RB2/Flex slots. Non-running backs I would consider in this area include George Kittle, Adam Thielen, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Kittle provides a substantial edge at tight end over every non-Travis Kelce team in your league. Thielen and Smith-Schuster are both devalued coming off down years, despite realistic chances to lead the NFL in targets.
Rounds 4-6 are the sweet spots for high upside wide receivers. If I were carrying three running backs at this point, D.J. Chark Jr, T.Y. Hilton, Terry McLaurin, A.J. Green, and Marquise Brown are on my shortlist for my next two picks. Brandin Cooks or Will Fuller V are two of my favorite WR3 targets in the following rounds. One of them is going to exceed their ADP expectations. I'm just not sure which.
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