Your first three picks in an 8-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 8-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 all serpentine with reverse order of drafting every other round (1-12,12-1,1-12, etc.)
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||2.08||RB Todd Gurley||3.01||WR Dez Bryant|
|1.02||RB Le’Veon Bell||2.07||WR Mike Evans||3.02||RB Jay Ajayi|
|1.03||WR Antonio Brown||2.06||RB Jordan Howard||3.03||RB Leonard Fournette|
|1.04||WR Odell Beckham||2.05||RB Melvin Gordon||3.04||RB Dalvin Cook|
|1.05||WR Julio Jones||2.04||TE Rob Gronkowski||3.05||RB Ezekiel Elliott|
|1.06||RB LeSean McCoy||2.03||WR Jordy Nelson||3.06||WR A.J. Green|
|1.07||RB DeMarco Murray||2.01||QB Aaron Rodgers||3.07||WR T.Y. Hilton|
|1.08||WR Michael Thomas||2.01||RB Devonta Freeman||3.08||QB Drew Brees|
Congratulations, you have a good team! Hard to avoid with only eight teams so within that you have to have difference makers. You must have top players in their position to gain any advantage because the league average is like a top team in a 12-team league. So gaining any advantage anywhere makes sense as does taking bigger risks on unknown players and situations that could pay off. If they do not – there is always something on the waiver wire.
Team 1: RB David Johnson, RB Todd Gurley, WR Dez Bryant
In this size league, picking first has less advantage. You are less likely to see a Gronkowski or a Rodgers fall to your second pick. This team opted to nail down the backfield first and Johnson is always an advantage. Taking Bryant is fine if he meets expectations for the first time in three years. Next picks have to consider a quarterback and maybe even tight end. Wideouts are still a need but avoiding the end of a positional run is also a need.
Team 2: RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Mike Evans, RB Jay Ajayi
Bell was an obvious pick for RB1 and still was able to get Evans at WR1. Jay Ajayi locks down the backfield though he’s less advantage than a safe play. It is a conservative start and frees up all future picks for best available. Bell and Evans are distinct pluses but future picks need to include sleeper picks.
Team 3: WR Antonio Brown, RB Jordan Howard, RB Leonard Fournette
Basically the same formula as Team 2 only with Brown as WR1 in the first round and then Howard as RB1 in the second. Taking Fournette in the third may leap frog safer picks but chasing the high upside makes great sense. Can go anywhere from here.
Team 4: WR Odell Beckham, RB Melvin Gordon, RB Dalvin Cook
This is a repeat of Team 3 and it works out just as well. If a Top-3 wideout is in reach, then following it with two backs works great so long as the eye is for upside and not just safety.
Team 5: WR Julio Jones, TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Ezekiel Elliott
Have to love this. Reached the Top-3 WR1 with Jones and then opted for the advantage of Gronk in round two. He may not last this long in an eight-team league. Then the Elliott pick is a great risk to take. This small of a league means there will be plenty of other running back options in the next few rounds to hold you over and you may not even need Darren McFadden (though you should still take him). Running back remains a pressing need for the next few rounds as well as another wideout.
Team 6: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Jordy Nelson, WR A.J. Green
McCoy was a good RB1 and then Nelson at WR1 should also pay off. Taking Green without the reception point is less advantageous but he’s there at the end of the third round. Next pick has to be running back like Lamar Miller or C.J. Anderson.
Team 7: RB DeMarco Murray, QB Aaron Rodgers, WR T.Y. Hilton
Taking Murray is still an advantage as the fourth back taken and could have been Devonta Freeman or Melvin Gordon. Rodgers this early makes sense in this format with only eight teams. He presents a great pick at one of the highest scoring positions. Reaching Hilton prevents any negative for a WR1. Next picks can be anything but running backs and wideouts are obvious needs.
Team 8: WR Michael Thomas, RB Devonta Freeman, QB Drew Brees
This worked out very well if Brees actually dropped to the end of the third round – no guarantee in an 8-team league. Thomas and Brees double up points with every touchdown while Freeman offers up a solid RB1. Running backs and wideouts are still on tap but a top tight end could show up soon as well.
Point per reception (PPR) leagues
|Pick||Round 1||Pick||Round 2||Pick||Round 3|
|1.01||RB David Johnson||2.08||WR Dez Bryant||3.01||RB Ezekiel Elliott|
|1.02||RB Le’Veon Bell||2.07||RB Melvin Gordon||3.02||WR Allen Robinson|
|1.03||WR Antonio Brown||2.06||QB Aaron Rodgers||3.03||RB Jordan Howard|
|1.04||WR Odell Beckham||2.05||WR T.Y. Hilton||3.04||RB Todd Gurley|
|1.05||WR Julio Jones||2.04||RB DeMarco Murray||3.05||QB Drew Brees|
|1.06||RB LeSean McCoy||2.03||WR Mike Evans||3.06||WR Amari Cooper|
|1.07||RB Devonta Freeman||2.01||WR Jordy Nelson||3.07||RB Leonard Fournette|
|1.08||TE Rob Gronkowski||2.01||WR Michael Thomas||3.08||QB Tom Brady|
The reception point makes the elite wideouts have high value but the fact it makes so many middle tier players have fantasy merit means you can wait on the position once the top players are gone. Trying to get an advantage means that the Top-4 tight ends are more important here as well.
Team 1: RB David Johnson, WR Dez Bryant, RB Ezekiel Elliott
Johnson as RB1 starts out great and Bryant still there by the 2.08 pick for an upside WR1. Taking Elliott in this small of a league makes sense. His absence can be compensated more easily. Starting in Week 8 (assuming no shortening of his suspension) this team has Johnson and Elliott tearing it up. Can go with any position but needs to consider wideouts soon.
Team 2: RB Le’Veon Bell, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Allen Robinson
Opted to double-down on running backs with Bell and then Gordon at RB2. That’s a great backfield and Bell is also a top receiver as well. Went for the safer play of WR1 with Robinson who could have been Amari Cooper as well. Pretty conservative start though Bell is such an advantage that this is fine. Needs to hunt sleepers and undervalued players to avoid building an average team.
Team 3: WR Antonio Brown, QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Jordan Howard
Have to like the look of this. Beckham is huge for WR1 and then Rodgers is the top quarterback. Howard makes it all the way to the 3.03 pick for a very balanced start with firepower in three positions. Needs to look at wideouts next but this is more the start that respects the nature of an 8-team league.
Team 4: WR Odell Beckham, WR T.Y. Hilton, RB Todd Gurley
This standard reception-point league start still plays out well though less so that what Team 3 looks like. Beckham is a stud at WR1 and then Hilton offers a Top-8 wideout for WR2. That counts big with the reception point. Gurley could be great if he returns to form and with eight more picks before their fourth rounder, controlling the RB1 does make sense.
Team 5: WR Julio Jones, RB DeMarco Murray, QB Drew Brees
For a mid-round pick, this balanced approach worked. Jones at WR1 is as good as any and then Murray offers a better than most RB1. Picking up Brees this early makes sense in this format and league size. Next rounds should be wideouts and running backs though a tight end might pop up soon as well and you could get away with it in this small of a league.
Team 6: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Mike Evans, WR Amari Cooper
Standard approach with McCoy making sense as an RB1 and then Evans and Cooper filling out the core wide receivers. There is no real advantages here but no holes either. A solid start that needs to start picking up other positions or taking risks on high upside players.
Team 7: RB Devonta Freeman, WR Jordy Nelson, RB Leonard Fournette
Late round picks netted Freeman at RB1 and Nelson for WR1 which is safe enough. Taking the early chance on Fournette at RB2 is a reasonable attempt to make up ground and locks down the running backs with two that should also catch passes. Has to consider wideouts in the next rounds but also should look at quarterback or tight end to get an advantage there.
Team 8: TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Michael Thomas, QB Tom Brady
Great pick of Gronkowski here at the end of the first round to get a great advantage at a position that doesn’t offer much otherwise. That still allowed for Thomas at WR1 and then secured the hook-up with Tom Brady for a Top-3 quarterback. That is a great start at the end of the round and while very dependent on the Brady-Gronkowski connection, why not invest there? Next pick can still be A.J. Green or Dalvin Cook.
Quarterback heavy leagues
|Pick||Round 1||Pick||Round 2||Pick||Round 3|
|1.01||QB Aaron Rodgers||2.08||RB Devonta Freeman||3.01||WR Mike Evans|
|1.02||RB David Johnson||2.07||WR Jordy Nelson||3.02||QB Russell Wilson|
|1.03||RB Le’Veon Bell||2.06||TE Rob Gronkowski||3.03||QB Cam Newton|
|1.04||WR Antonio Brown||2.05||QB Andrew Luck||3.04||RB DeMarco Murray|
|1.05||WR Odell Beckham||2.04||QB Matt Ryan||3.05||WR T.Y. Hilton|
|1.06||QB Drew Brees||2.03||RB LeSean McCoy||3.06||WR Dez Bryant|
|1.07||WR Julio Jones||2.01||QB Jameis Winston||3.07||RB Melvin Gordon|
|1.08||QB Tom Brady||2.01||WR Michael Thomas||3.08||RB Jordan Howard|
Perhaps the small league size suggests that you can wait on a quarterback since there are effectively three per team available. Not so. You must have any possible advantage and starting two top quarterbacks makes a difference in any league including this size. Have to own a quarterback by the end of the second round or risk a disadvantage in a league where everyone has a good team. Running backs last longer here than anywhere. Using two quarterbacks is a nice feature for a small league that interjects some strategy into deciding on sort of great roster you will build.
Team 1: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Mike Evans
Rodgers is the obvious start and went with Freeman and Evans at the wrap-around with the new two picks. It was a safe enough play – even in an eight-team league, there is a 14 pick wait to go again. Can assess the options then and go anywhere. An early tight end may make sense.
Team 2: RB David Johnson, WR Jordy Nelson, QB Russell Wilson
Johnson starts out the RB1 and then still accessed Wilson but he’s the seventh taken so he is below average for QB1. That can be compensated with picking a quarterback with the 4.07 pick and Johnson is a significant advantage at RB1 anyway.
Team 3: RB Le’Veon Bell, TE Rob Gronkowski, QB Cam Newton
While he waited on a quarterback, starting out with Bell and Gronkowski is huge in this format. Newton is no advantage at QB but at least has upside if he can get over his shoulder injury. Will need to double down on quarterback within the next two rounds.
Team 4: WR Antonio Brown, QB Andrew Luck, RB DeMarco Murray
Brown as the best WR1 makes sense and then taking the chance on Luck for QB1 is a worthy gamble. At least in this small of a league, there is a chance to get two other quarterbacks in case Luck has injury problems that persist. Still was able to reach Murray for RB1 since the position lasts much longer in this format. Wideout and quarterback have to be considered next with running backs seeded in later with value picks.
Team 5: WR Odell Beckham, QB Matt Ryan, WR T.Y. Hilton
Standard approach with Beckham and Hilton for wideouts and Ryan as the QB1 sandwiched between. Needs to address running back next but a solid start that respects both the two quarterbacks starting and the reception point.
Team 6: QB Drew Brees, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Dez Bryant
Brees is a great pick for QB1 and then still reached McCoy for RB1. He could have been Rob Gronkowski or Jordy Nelson. But a balanced and solid start that frees up the need for any particular position in the next few rounds.
Team 7: WR Julio Jones, QB Jameis Winston, RB Melvin Gordon
Opted to take the final Top-3 wideout knowing that could still access quarterback after the next two picks. That netted Winston for QB1 and then played it safe with Gordon for RB1. Goes again in two picks and should consider either A.J. Green or even Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins.
Team 8: QB Tom Brady, WR Michael Thomas, RB Jordan Howard
Very standard start with Brady and then Thomas at the back-end of the first round. Went for Howard at RB1 and then has the next pick – grabbing a quarterback would make this a very strong start.
Fourth round and beyond considerations
Quarterbacks – To have an advantage, you need a Top 4 quarterback and that may not make it past the first round in many leagues. You can take two quarterbacks after the first eight are gone and play mix-n-match but that is hard to get right. In an 8-team league, most teams will produce major quarterback points every week. Smaller league size means taking an earlier quarterback does not hurt as much as in larger leagues.
Running Backs – They last longer than they ever have. And even in the fourth round and beyond there are surprisingly good options because wideouts have a premium value with the reception point. Start-worthy running backs last into the eighth round or more in this small of a league.
Wide Receivers – Always the deepest position though they go faster in PPR leagues. Getting the first two has to be within the top ten to hope for any advantage but if you wanted to land a sleeper in any position, this is it. Should ensure that you get at least one if not two top wideouts but the third one can wait.
Tight Ends – Gronkowski is still a premium player and worth the risk of him getting injured again. In this small of a league, either reach early enough to get Gronk, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen or just wait.