Planning the perfect draft: 10-team league

Planning the perfect draft: 10-team league

Draft Strategy

Planning the perfect draft: 10-team league

Your first three picks in a 10-team league define your draft and your team. Aside from taking productive players, each pick is critical because the player pool is ever shrinking. You could build entirely different teams based on what positions you take and in what order. Respecting how drafts typically raid positions places you in a better position to build an optimal team.

To follow are sample three-round drafts for 10-team leagues. They use either standard performance scoring, performance plus a point per reception or “QB Heavy” leagues where you can start two of them. Those three formats cover all but a few “esoteric scoring” leagues. They are serpentine with reverse order of drafting every other round (1-12,12-1,1-12, etc.).

(Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)

The names are less important than the positions because each draft slot has its own unique situation. Just as important is your future picks and what you must do after three rounds. Let’s examine where each team is after three rounds and what they should be considering.

Performance scoring leagues

Pick Round 1 Pick Round 2 Pick Round 3
1.01 RB David Johnson 2.10 RB Leonard Fournette 3.01 QB Aaron Rodgers
1.02 RB Le’Veon Bell 2.09 TE Rob Gronkowski 3.02 WR T.Y. Hilton
1.03 WR Antonio Brown 2.08 RB Isaiah Crowell 3.03 RB Dalvin Cook
1.04 WR Odell Beckham 2.07 WR A.J. Green 3.04 RB Lamar Miller
1.05 WR Julio Jones 2.06 RB Jay Ajayi 3.05 RB Ezekiel Elliott
1.06 RB LeSean McCoy 2.05 WR Dez Bryant 3.06 WR Allen Robinson
1.07 RB DeMarco Murray 2.04 RB Todd Gurley 3.07 WR Amari Cooper
1.08 WR Michael Thomas 2.03 RB Jordan Howard 3.08 RB C.J. Anderson
1.09 WR Jordy Nelson 2.01 RB Melvin Gordon 3.09 RB Ameer Abdullah
1.10 RB Devonta Freeman 2.01 WR Mike Evans 3.10 WR DeAndre Hopkins

In 10-team leagues, the lack of a reception point means running backs maintain an advantage. Quarterbacks may score well here, but there are always ten decent ones so everyone has a good starter. The league size means that everyone can have a good team but it still takes strategy to assemble an optimal team.

Team 1: RB David Johnson, RB Leonard Fournette, QB Aaron Rodgers
Great start with Johnson and then still reached Fournette for RB2. That is a risk but could pay off as the fantasy world looks for the next Ezekiel Elliott. The pick of Rodgers feels good enough at the time and is an advantage but likely not that much. It makes more sense without a reception point to boost receivers. Should consider wideouts for next two picks.

Team 2: RB Le’Veon Bell, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR T.Y. Hilton
This is an effective start as it worked out. Bell was the obvious pick in the first and then took the Gronkowski plunge in the second.  Hilton for WR1 creates a nice core but could have been Dalvin Cook or Lamar Miller or the like. Since Gronk carries an injury risk, taking the more sure thing with Hilton makes sense. Mix-n-match starters from here on out.

Team 3: WR Antonio Brown, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Dalvin Cook
Solid start with Brown for WR1 and then double-dipping on the running backs to come away with safe Crowell and upside Cook. In this format, could wait for several rounds for WR2 and consider quarterback, tight end or even another running back if there is a flex. Brown already serves as a two-wideout equivalent.

Team 4: WR Odell Beckham, WR A.J. Green, RB Lamar Miller
Unlike Team 3, went with Green for WR2 in the second round instead of a running back that could have been Isaiah Crowell or Leonard Fournette. This looks better with that reception point but at least wraps up wideouts for the next five or six rounds if desired. Can load up on other positions knowing that finding a suitable third wideout can be done much deeper in the draft.

Team 5: WR Julio Jones, RB Jay Ajayi, RB Ezekiel Elliott
Went with Jones for WR1 and that’s an advantage even in this format. Was able to reach Ajayi and then Elliott for a risk play. As usual, has to grab Darren McFadden early since he’ll start for six weeks. But it makes more sense in this format. Can still cherry pick best values here on out and inevitably his success will rely on Elliott coming through whenever he does show up.

Team 6: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Dez Bryant, WR Allen Robinson
McCoy made the most sense since the Top 3 wideouts were already taken. Went WR-WR next picks despite the lack of reception points. Both Bryant and Robinson may be great values that outperform their draft slot if they return to their previous form. But that is a risk and now the RB2 has to wait for the 4.07 pick where the quality starts to wane. Drafting in the middle means that third pick is critical. The first two rounds produce  Top-14 players but the third falls into a deeper tier for either running back or wideout.

Team 7: RB DeMarco Murray, RB Todd Gurley, WR Amari Cooper
Safe and the most common start without the reception point. Doubled down on running backs with Murray and Gurley and opted for Cooper at WR1. Has to consider wideout again in the next couple of picks but already has a nice set of running backs that allow for freedom the rest of the way.

Team 8: WR Michael Thomas, RB Jordan Howard, RB C.J. Anderson
This could work out. Taking a very productive WR1 with Thomas anchors that position. Two running backs lock down that core so long as Anderson pulls through as expected. A third running back should always happen in the first six or seven picks in this format and a question mark like Anderson means not waiting too long. But next two rounds can consider either wideout or even a quarterback.

Team 9: WR Jordy Nelson, RB Melvin Gordon, RB Ameer Abdullah
Like Team 8, opted to control the top tier wideout and wait on running back in the second round. Nelson secures WR1 and his touchdown count is even more important without reception points. Gordon is a safe play and Abdullah is a risk no matter his upside.  Like Anderson before him, Abdullah needs a second option within the next three rounds before the quality really takes a dive since he has an injury history. Next two picks should consider at least one wideout and then either quarterback or running back.

Team 10: RB Devonta Freeman, WR Mike Evans, WR DeAndre Hopkins
The backend swing in a ten team league is no different than a 12 team. You can either double up on running back or wide receiver for a solid core or opt for balance as this team did. Freeman is still an advantage at RB1 and Evans as WR1 is very strong. Opted for high-upside/high-risk Hopkins at wideout but gets the next pick as well which should be a back like Doug Martin, Christian McCaffrey or Mark Ingram. Could take a quarterback or tight end here but the bang for the buck is low and running backs will be much more drained in 18 more picks.

Point per reception (PPR) leagues

Pick Round 1 Pick Round 2 Pick Round 3
1.01 RB David Johnson 2.10 TE Rob Gronkowski 3.01 WR DeAndre Hopkins
1.02 RB Le’Veon Bell 2.09 WR A.J. Green 3.02 RB Jay Ajayi
1.03 WR Antonio Brown 2.08 WR Amari Cooper 3.03 RB Isaiah Crowell
1.04 WR Odell Beckham 2.07 RB Todd Gurley 3.04 RB Leonard Fournette
1.05 WR Julio Jones 2.06 WR Dez Bryant 3.05 RB Dalvin Cook
1.06 RB LeSean McCoy 2.05 WR Allen Robinson 3.06 WR Doug Baldwin
1.07 RB Devonta Freeman 2.04 WR T.Y. Hilton 3.07 WR Brandin Cooks
1.08 WR Michael Thomas 2.03 RB Jordan Howard 3.08 WR Demaryius Thomas
1.09 RB DeMarco Murray 2.01 RB Melvin Gordon 3.09 WR Davante Adams
1.10 WR Jordy Nelson 2.01 WR Mike Evans 3.10 RB Ezekiel Elliott

There isn’t a ton of difference between a 12-team and a 10-team league in terms of when to take players. With the reception point considered, getting two good wide receivers is a plus and ending up with two running backs by the end of the fourth round is a balanced approach. The reality here is that the addition of the reception point makes for deeper wide outs and less of a need for depth at that position.

Team 1: RB David Johnson, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR DeAndre Hopkins
Johnson is the RB1 but at that Round 2/3 swing went for Gronkowski as a difference maker and then Hopkins for the safe play as WR1.  Gronk should go earlier in a 10-team league since there is more depth at running back and wide receiver than in a 12-team league. Created a good core and can cherry pick. Will want a running back and wideout over the next few picks but free to take best available.

Team 2: RB Le’Veon Bell, WR A.J. Green, RB Jay Ajayi
After Bell as the lock for RB1 went for upper tier Green for WR1 and still reached Ajayi for RB2.  He could have been Doug Baldwin or even Brandin Cooks. Have to consider what will still be there in 18 picks when they go again and the likelihood is that better wideouts will be there than running backs.

Team 3: WR Antonio Brown, WR Amari Cooper, RB Isaiah Crowell
This is the standard plan in this format. WR-WR netted Brown and Cooper for a solid core. Then took Crowell as the safest play since even in this 10-man league waiting until Round 4 to get an RB1 really impacts the quality and risk.  Can now wait for a few rounds before worrying about wide receivers again.

Team 4: WR Odell Beckham, RB Todd Gurley, RB Leonard Fournette
Started with  Beckham and then opted for RB-RB with Gurley and Fournette. Both have some risk factors to them but the core of running backs is set. Next two picks have to consider wide receiver unless a tight end value cannot be passed.

Team 5: WR Julio Jones, WR Dez Bryant, RB Dalvin Cook
That standard plan works even better in this 10-team league since Jones and Bryant provide a strong wideout core and then still reached high upside Cook for RB1. With a reception point involved, it is just hard to argue against a WR-WR start and the smaller the league, the better that third round running back. Cherry pick the value from here on out but get a running back next.

Team 6: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Allen Robinson, WR Doug Baldwin
Once the Top-3 wideouts are gone, switching back to running back makes sense even in this format. McCoy offers an advantage and the wideout core is set with Robinson and Baldwin.  But notice the difference from Team 5 that went WR-WR-RB against this RB-WR-WR plan. Still, has to wait for 13 more picks before his next turn so the third player is critical here.

Team 7: RB Devonta Freeman, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Brandin Cooks
This is the same plan as Team 6 though it appears better in execution. Instead of taking the higher risk player in Round 2 and the safer play in Round 3, it reversed it with Hilton (safe) and then Cooks (risky upside). It looks to work out better. And the core of receivers is set so next picks include running backs but can grab any value it wants.

Team 9: RB DeMarco Murray, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Davante Adams
Starts out with a very solid set of running backs – the fifth and sixth best on the board. Waiting on wideout left only Davante Adams who acts more like a WR2 than a WR1 and more so in the smaller league size. This can still work well though but has to start searching for advantages in other positions once one or two more wideouts join the team.

Team 10: WR Jordy Nelson, WR Mike Evans, RB Ezekiel Elliott
The standard approach to final round picks worked great to get Nelson and Evans at WR1/WR2 and that is an advantage that allows waiting on the position for many rounds. Ending up with next best Lamar Miller for RB1 didn’t feel good so took the risk on Elliot who will yield a big advantage whenever he does play. The nicety of the smaller league is that there is less chance of someone stealing Darren McFadden early on. Has to focus on running back for at least two of the next three rounds since there is no starter yet.

Quarterback heavy leagues

Pick Round 1 Pick Round 2 Pick Round 3
1.01 QB Aaron Rodgers 2.10 WR Dez Bryant 3.01 TE Rob Gronkowski
1.02 RB David Johnson 2.09 WR Allen Robinson 3.02 QB Russell Wilson
1.03 RB Le’Veon Bell 2.08 WR T.Y. Hilton 3.03 WR Amari Cooper
1.04 WR Antonio Brown 2.07 QB Andrew Luck 3.04 RB Melvin Gordon
1.05 WR Odell Beckham 2.06 RB DeMarco Murray 3.05 QB Kirk Cousins
1.06 QB Drew Brees 2.05 WR Mike Evans 3.06 RB Jordan Howard
1.07 WR Julio Jones 2.04 WR Jordy Nelson 3.07 QB Cam Newton
1.08 QB Tom Brady 2.03 RB Devonta Freeman 3.08 WR A.J. Green
1.09 WR Michael Thomas 2.01 QB Matt Ryan 3.09 RB Todd Gurley
1.10 QB Jameis Winston 2.01 RB LeSean McCoy 3.10 WR DeAndre Hopkins

It works out neatly in a 10-team league. Everyone gets a Top-10 quarterback (theoretically) and then another one from the Top-20. Again, reception points are assumed which gives more value to receivers. Since the smaller league size means fewer teams taking good players, everyone has a good team. So while quarterbacks will certainly last in this league, getting a top one remains a big advantage when you have to start two.

This format sends the risky, deeper running backs even further back in the draft in deference to getting two quarterbacks and good wide receivers. The same recommendation remains for 10-team leagues – get a quarterback in the first three picks or be at a disadvantage for the highest scoring position.

Team 1: QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Dez Bryant, TE Rob Gronkowski
Rodgers is an obvious first pick in this format and then went with Bryant for WR1.  Taking Gronkowski as the 21st player taken makes sense to get a difference maker but will force the next pick or two for running backs. Yet again, taking Gronk feels great but slides either running back or wideout back a round. It hurts less here than in a 12-team league.

Team 2: RB David Johnson, WR Allen Robinson, QB Russell Wilson
Johnson locks up RB1 as a huge advantage and then went with Robinson for WR1 knowing that Team 1 already had a quarterback and would be more likely to not take another. So Wilson was still there with the 3.02 pick. A balanced approach that allows the best available player to be taken the rest of the way.

Team 3: RB Le’Veon Bell, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Amari Cooper
Bell occupies RB1 for an advantage and then Hilton is a suitable WR1. But went for Cooper to double up on wideouts and lock that position down. Did not get a quarterback though. It can happen if none of the available quarterbacks feel like an advantage anymore. This plan means doubling up on quarterbacks early if not the next two picks. Certainly within the next three if a running back seems a great value and makes sense. Land a sleeper quarterback and this can work. In a 2QB league, everyone is looking for that sleeper quarterback.

Team 4: WR Antonio Brown, QB Andrew Luck, RB Melvin Gordon
Brown is the best WR1 available and then opted for QB1 of Luck who so far is still a question mark. If he proves healthy, this is a great team. If he does not, this team is going to have problems. Gordon as RB1 is the balance that allows any position to be considered. Taking Luck in his current state does force taking that QB2 earlier and even have to consider a QB3 before anyone else does.

Team 5: WR Odell Beckham, RB DeMarco Murray, QB Kirk Cousins
Another balanced approach lands top wideout of Beckham and then a solid pick of Murray for RB1. The need for quarterback justified the Cousins pick which could still prove a value in this format. The remaining quarterbacks all have at least potential dings. But free to cherry pick value and could easily consider the same three positions over the next three rounds.

Team 6: QB Drew Brees, WR Mike Evans, RB Jordan Howard
Top running backs and wideout are gone and Brees is a great QB1 pick with advantage in that position. Still landed Mike Evans for WR1 and another top player and Howard should be a least average or better as an RB1. A balanced approach allows freedom and taking Brees respects the two quarterback nature of the league.

Team 7: WR Julio Jones, WR Jordy Nelson, QB Cam Newton
This approach seems to consider the reception point more than the second quarterback starter. But Jones/Nelson for the wideout corp is tops in this league and as long as Newton’s shoulder proves healed he will be a steal. Needs running backs soon and the uncertain nature of Newton’s shoulder suggests a QB2 is in quick order and maybe even a QB3 before others start to take theirs.

Team 8: QB Tom Brady, RB Devonta Freeman, WR A.J. Green
Brady too hard to resist here for a solid QB1. Freeman lasted until the 2.03 in this format for a great RB1 and then even still had Green there for WR1. This worked out well. A balanced team with firepower at the top of all three main positions. The best available player is on the menu the rest of the way.

Team 9: WR Michael Thomas, QB Matt Ryan, RB Todd Gurley
Opted to take WR1 Thomas knowing should end up with one of Ryan or Jameis Winston at QB1. Got Ryan and then turned to snap up RB1 Gurley for yet another balanced start. Hard to argue with QB-WR or WR-QB near the back end of the draft in this format. Cherry picking the rest of the way and could end up with Derek Carr or Dak Prescott with next selection after Team 10 doubles up.

Team 10: QB Jameis Winston, RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeAndre Hopkins
Winston at QB1 still allows McCoy at the 2.01 since running backs tend to fall in this format. That left Hopkins for WR1 but he could have been Brandin Cooks just as easily. There is a great temptation to double up on quarterbacks so that Winston and Matt Ryan could be the QB1 and QB2. And that feels great until all the running backs and wide receivers are taken so deeply that there’s a disadvantage to consider. Balance in a 10-Team works for this format.

Fourth round and beyond considerations

Quarterbacks – Excluding the 2QB leagues, waiting on a quarterback hurts less in this size league since there are always ten serviceable to good quarterbacks every year. Or more. Weigh the advantage that Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees could offer but in most cases, the optimal team happens by waiting on quarterbacks and filling in starting running backs and wideouts first.

Running Backs – This is a position that you can delay in a 10-team league and probably get away with it. While the drop-off in low-risk quality may only last for about the top dozen or so backs, there are reasonably good values out for the Top 30 of the position and in a 10-team league that means three for everyone. Locking down top backs is always an advantage but not one that cannot be compensated for by taking three or four middle-rounds back hoping to end up with two decent starts each week.

Wide Receivers – Always the deepest position though they go faster in PPR leagues. This year they are going faster than ever and you should assume in a 10 team league that the top ten are gone by the start of the third round. But as always, this is the deepest position with the most upside plays later in the draft.

Tight Ends – Gronkowski is usually a second rounder and then Jordan Matthews and Travis Kelce show up a few rounds later. Throw in Greg Olsen and then no one knows what to do with this position. It varies greatly from league to league but expect some quality still there by the seventh round or later.

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