Your Draft Plan: First three picks in 12-team leagues

Your Draft Plan: First three picks in 12-team leagues

Fantasy football draft strategy tips and advice

Your Draft Plan: First three picks in 12-team leagues


This is a sample draft using the current Huddle rankings and what we suggest at each pick. The names are less important than the positions because each draft slot will have its own unique situation. Just as important is what you plan on doing with your future picks and what you must do given where you are at after three rounds. Below uses the three main types of drafts.

Performance Scoring (Non PPR) Leagues – 1/10 rush and receive yards, 1/20 pass yards, TD = 6 except pass = 4.

Point Per Reception (PPR) Leagues – Same as Performance but with one point per reception.

QB Heavy Leagues – Assumes QBs are significantly more valuable than other positions and/or you can start two of them.

12 Team leagues call for the most balanced approach since the drain on talent in drafts means you have to approach it carefully or you end up with weaknesses in some positions. It is the most common but only barely over 10 team leagues. Basically you will get four of the top 50 players and that is where a drop-off occurs in talent or risk. Depth is more important in this league over a 10 man because there will be fewer decent free agents on the waiver wire.

Your Draft Plan For 10-Team Leagues »

Your Draft Plan For 8-Team Leagues »

Performance Scoring (Non PPR) Leagues

Having no reception points, this scoring favors running backs and quarterbacks though it does make elite wide receivers even more important since they offer a difference. You can leave the first three rounds without a running back but most teams prefer to get at least one if not two.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 What’s Next?
1 RB T Gurley RB T Rawls QB A Rodgers Solid start with top RB, if Rawls returns to form he’ll challenge Top 10 stats and then Rodgers who should have a big rebound year. Top three scoring positional starts addressed and never had a shot at an elite wideout anyway other than Antonio Brown with first pick. Has to obviously look for wideouts the next few rounds but could snap up another good RB if one falls.
2 WR A Brown RB D Murray RB C Ivory This shows what happens in a non-PPR league when you grab a WR with the first pick. Both Murray and Ivory stand to have better years as starting RBs but taking that WR first makes it feel like an RB or two are need picks instead of best-available. Need a decent QB in this scoring but no real rush with top guys off the board. Value picks from here on out.
3 RB A Peterson QB C Newton RB J Hill This feels really good for the first two picks but then taking Newton – who is an advantage – means best RB is Jeremy Hill. Could have taken Allen Robinson which would have felt better but then RB2 would have been much worse. Probably consider WR for the next two picks.
4 WR O Beckham RB M Forte RB J Langford Beckham is a suitable first pick even as a WR and then following up with two RBs does seem more like a need and addressing a position after the top players are gone. This is starting out like an average sort of team that turns even worse if Beckham wasn’t to come through as expected. Might consider a top TE or best QB next just to get a slight advantage somewhere.
5 RB D Martin TE R Gronkowski RB C Anderson This is a good middle-round start. Two RBs and then snags the only TE that gives a clear advantage at the position that is meaningful. Gronk falls in this scoring usually though in some non-PPR leagues he is still a first rounder based only on the positional advantage that he gives. QB and WR are up next for sure and taking Gronk means less advantage in QB or WR and even RB3 is going to be worse than desired.
6 RB E Elliott RB M Ingram QB A Luck For a mid-draft team, have to like how this ended up. High upside RB, then solid RB and then high upside QB. Have to look for WR and RB3 over the next few rounds but if all three first picks hit correctly, this could prove a formidable team in this format. Getting Luck makes a big difference in this case. The next RB or WR would not have looked nearly as good and even the next QB is a step down.
7 RB D Johnson WR A Green RB A Abdullah Sort of a standard approach here. Start with RB that has plenty of upside and then still grab one of the final elite WR. That RB2 seems more risk than upside but could work out. Seemed more like a need pick too. QB and WR are up next but an RB3 should not be waited on either just in case Abdullah doesn’t meet expectations. This is one of the most basic plans for mid-round teams.
8 WR J Jones RB E Lacy RB L Murray Taking Julio Jones made sense since it was a tier change for RB and the team still reached a Top 3 WR. The next two picks were both RB – sort of need picks and big risk/reward shots. Both Lacy and Murray come off disappointing seasons but with reason to expect a turnaround for 2016. If they get the 2014 versions of Murray and Lacy this would be golden. If they get the 2015 versions, then it would be almost impossible to contend for a title in this league scoring without getting inordinately lucky later on. QB should be soon as well as WR of course.
9 RB L Miller RB J Charles WR A Robinson This ended up a very standard plan with an odd pairing. Miller is tons of upside moving to HOU but is untried there so far. Must just hope Charles holds onto most of what he has been worth in recent years. Finding Allen Robinson this deeply can happen in this format and is a major score of luck. Solid start that hinges a bit on what Charles you get. And there is no clear back-up for Charles with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware both involved.
10 WR D Hopkins RB L McCoy RB R Mathews Good start with Hopkins and then standard RB-RB next ends with McCoy and Mathews. McCoy should – health willing – be solid to great but Mathews is a high risk/high upside play. He needs to be backed up sooner than later. But a decent start and a safe start. Need to hit best player the next few rounds and likely QB in the next two picks.
11 RB C Hyde WR D Bryant QB B Bortles This is the late drafter trying to avoid building a very average team. Carlos Hyde (or Devonta Freeman) pays homage to the scoring and getting Bryant was possible because it was almost a lock either Bryant or A.J. Green would be there for the second pick. So RB1 was the first pick and a better one to control. Bortles is a nice add and could be several other QBs according to personal preference. But next pick has to be RB, then WR, then best available RB or WR or TE. This start allows flexibility in the next three rounds.
12 RB D Freeman RB L Bell WR A Cooper Normally this is the position where a team might go WR-WR or something odd to get an advantage at other positions knowing that RB’s had already been drained but this year those Big 3 WR are often gone in the first rounds and leaves some surprising RB quality at the back-end turn. And this scoring favors RB a bit more. Freeman fell off dramatically late last year but still produced. Bell misses four games and missed those reception point benefits but still offers top stats once he does get to play. Cooper is a high upside WR that should pay off. As it worked out – this is a solid start and drafting last may not be a disadvantage.

Point Per Reception (PPR) Leagues

The additional point for a reception makes wide receivers as valuable as running backs if not more so. That evens out positions and mixes up the draft more. Elite tight ends can become very valuable in this scoring. This also changes how running backs are ranked since there are a few who catch 50+ passes in a season and yet others who may literally catch none. Quarterbacks tend to be less valuable since you only start one and they don’t offer the same bang for the buck as getting optimal wideouts or running backs.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 What’s Next?
1 WR A Brown WR J Landry RB L McCoy No doubt where this team starts and still reached a decent WR2 with Landry. Taking McCoy was more of a need and still gets someone who should be solid if healthy. Taking another WR in the next two rounds is likely a good idea since that position is drained. But as a swing drafter at the start/end of a round, next two picks likely will be RB/WR and then start to think TE and QB.
2 WR O Beckham RB C Hyde WR K Allen This ends up about the same as team #1 though it gets a slightly better RB1 without giving up too much at WR2. Next up will almost certainly be RB/WR before heading out for QB and TE. This is an upside roster after Beckham was picked and that could be sustained for the next two picks – it makes for a very risky roster but without risk you cannot expect to exceed common expectations.
3 WR J Jones WR D Thomas RB J Charles Starting out WR-WR this year in a PPR league is never going to be a bad idea no matter where you pick. Taking an early round three pick allowed getting Jamaal Charles in this came but it could have been Ingram or Forte just as easily. Rock solid at WR/WR2 already, a swing for the fence with RB1 is not a bad idea so long as taking RBs a bit earlier in middle rounds in order to cover is a good idea since Charles is coming off an ACL injury. At the #3 spot, WR-WR seems to work pretty well.
4 RB T Gurley RB L Bell WR M Evans This team could be interesting. Gurley gets him the #1 RB and in this case Bell makes it back to him. That may be hard to rely on though since it only takes one team to disregard the effect of missing the first four games. But even still the team could access other RBs for nearly as good results. But Evans as a WR1 is shaky in a PPR league and only taking Bell makes a lot of sense at this point if he falls. Have to assume that the three teams that go between this team’s picks are likely to go RB/WR or WR/RB so it is a question of which RB or WR makes the most sense at the #2 pick and then what is left over at #3.
5 WR D Hopkins RB D Freeman WR S Watkins For a mid-round pick, this looks appealing. Nothing wrong with Andre Hopkins at WR1 and then reaching Freeman or the like for RB1 is a strong start that respects the scoring rules. Watkins is a need pick of sorts since the WR to follow fall to a lower tier and this is a strong start that likely looks at RB next with an eye for any falling WRs.
6 WR A Green WR J Nelson RB M Ingram Standard start but starting to look like that common middle round team that just builds a “good roster” and has to land a few major sleepers to gain any advantage. Green and Nelson (or Demaryius Thomas) seem like a good move in this PPR scoring but team starts with the #5 and #12 WR. Looks good but taking Nelson is a risk given his return from injury. Ingram as a RB1 offers no major benefit. Middle round drafting has to avoid building good and never great teams. Just following positional runs is not a way to get there.
7 RB D Johnson WR A Jeffery RB M Forte Reasonable first pick on high upside RB1 in David Johnson and then reached Jeffery for WR1. Went for Matt Forte as RB2. This is tough – trying to get some advantage with the RB1 and just missed out on the top 5 WR. But just missed out on Allen Robinson too. The WR2 would be next and likely would not be much different than if the #3 pick went on a WR. But this needs Forte to meet expectations on a new team in the twilight of his career. Hard to build a team of difference makers from the middle in any year and not that different now. The drain on WR early this year makes taking a RB first tough to make up for what is left as WR1. Next two picks would have to be WR. Have to be.
8 WR D Bryant RB L Miller QB C Newton Some applause for trying to get advantage with taking QB Cam Newton with the #3 pick and even though QBs don’t offer major benefits in this scoring, taking the #1 this deeply starts to make sense. Next four picks are probably going to be 2 RB and 2 WR. Slight risks with Bryant returning from injury and Miller on a new team, but very reasonable risk and undeniable upside. Bryant is a steal if he returns to his old form.
9 TE R Gronkowski RB D Martin WR B Cooks There is no arguing that Gronkowski is both a tremendous advantage and yet there is a price to pay. In a PPR league, unlikely Gronk makes it to Round 2. But while a huge advantage at TE is secured, RB and WR are going to suffer in quality. It make more sense here to take Doug Martin with the #2 pick and then the best available WR at the #3 pick. But this is going to force two WR next or be at a big disadvantage at a critical position in PPR and then RB2 is coming in Round 5 means getting lucky or furiously trying to make up starting WR and RB a round late because of Gronk. And being without Ton Brady for the first four games makes Gronk a slight risk for only moderate stats for the first month.
10 RB A Peterson WR A Robinson WR D Baldwin Really hard to pass by on Adrian Peterson and then still reached Allen Robinson with #2 pick for a really nice grab of a player that may not last in some leagues depending on how hot and heavy WRs are taken. This is a very reasonable plan near the end of the first round. Ending with two WR and one RB is always a good generic plan in a PPR league anyway and it works out pretty well here. Emphasis on WR means getting a great RB to start and yet still just barely reaching a very good WR in the second round. Doug Baldwin could be any one of many WR at that point and taking a RB in the fourth round is at least something to strongly consider.
11 WR A Cooper WR B Marshall RB E Lacy Starting WR-WR here near the back-end swing is certainly paying homage to the PPR scoring and two very good WR to start is a solid base. Have to consider this plan here. RBs are lasting in the third and fourth round to some quality. Maybe true for any slot, but this is a great plan IF you can land all three picks well. And after likely five or six WR are already gone, there are still very good options only with a bit more risk. Entering the fourth round, have to feel pretty good with this roster and probably best to consider RB unless a WR just looked too appealing. Have to realize though that after pick 4, there will have been 46 picks already made before round 5 and that’s really going to strip out quality everywhere.
12 RB E Elliott WR T Hilton RB D Murray At the back end there has already been top WR and RB already gone. But a player like Elliott has so much upside he is worth the pick. Hilton could be Allen Robinson or Brandon Marshall and that makes sense. What it does it make the #3 and #4 pick swings critical and going RB-WR certainly makes sense. Even WR-WR should be considered depending on what you find there. Like the team before, have to realize that the #4 and #5 picks are going to come after 47 picks have been made so think what makes sense then. Have to take a WR at the least – no question. Cannot go into Round 5 looking for a WR2. So Round #5 pick is best available RB or QB or even TE.

QB Heavy Leagues

This is the same as the PPR league but where a quarterback is far more valuable than any other position and/or there are two started by each team. Some large contests use this format as it mixes up the draft even more. This league is all about when do you take a QB? And that will vary significantly from league to league.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 What’s Next?
1 WR A Brown RB D Freeman QB E Manning First pick can go for QB but knowing that they will miss out on all top WR and RB. So taking Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers better be a huge bang for the buck. In this case, waiting for the 2/3 turn to get a QB reached the 8th best player. That is hard to rely on though there are a number of at least serviceable options by then. Again – Can you live without an advantage for your QB1? Some might use WR-QB-QB here if two QB are started but 2 QB leagues often go nuts on the position and may drain as many as a dozen by this turn.
2 QB C Newton WR A Robinson RB L Bell Starting with Newton is certainly a strong start in this scoring and still reaching Allen Robinson and Le’Veon Bell looks very strong. Next picks are WR and RB unless a second QB is in order.
3 RB T Gurley QB D Brees WR A Jeffery Scooping the best RB is rarely a bad play and reaching Drew Brees would be a coup in this instance though he could be Palmer or the like. Sill allows a decent WR1 and it always allows freedom with the next picks since needs have been filled and and can go anywhere for best value. Would need to consider WR in the next few rounds though if only to make up ground lost by taking a WR1 in the third round. Hard to argue that starting out QB-WR-RB or WR-QB-RB wouldn’t look better in this scoring.
4 QB A Rodgers WR B Marshall WR J Nelson This is a strong start in this scenario with a top QB and then WR1 and WR2 next. Nelson is a little risky but could be a great value. But the third round is always going to be upside + risk sort of WR anyway. Next two picks probably have to be RB but at least they last the longest in this sort of scoring scenario than any other.
5 QB A Luck WR T Hilton WR D Thomas This is essentially the same team as #4 with the same sort of results. QB-WR-WR is a good middle round start.
6 WR O Beckham QB C Palmer WR J Landry The question to ask here is what is better? QB-WR or WR-QB? Hard to pass on Beckham and top 3 QB are gone so seems more optimal to get the elite WR then the QB here without paying too much of a price for it. As the other two before – going to hunt RBs the next few rounds but should find some quality.
7 RB D Johnson WR A Cooper QB D Carr This plan probably felt worse as it went on. David Johnson certainly a high upside RB1 and Amari Cooper could prove a great value at WR1, but then picking QB so late in this scoring scenario left Carr for no real advantage but a need pick none the less. Now would need to consider WR next for sure, then WR or RB in the Fifth round.
8 WR J Jones RB D Martin QB B Roethlisberger This is sort of the other side of Team #7 by taking WR over RB at first. Still ended with Julio Jones for an elite WR and then Doug Martin at RB1 is solid and a steal if he repeats 2015. Ben Roethlisberger was a need pick knowing that teams behind this pick are likely to go QB in their two picks before it wraps back. No major advantages but no holes. Now onward to WR and RB for a few more rounds.
9 WR D Hopkins QB R Wilson RB C Hyde This is a really standard plan for the 9th pick. Still reached a great WR1 and then Russell Wilson at QB will provide at least average QB1 stats if not better. Then going RB to get Hyde is less attractive but the reality from this spot is that it can access the back part of top tier WR, and a good QB and then has to settle for RB but that’s the lesser valued position in this scoring anyway. Would end up RB-WR for the next two picks to be sure.
10 RB A Peterson WR D Bryant WR K Allen This is what happens later in the first round. Opts for solid RB1 with Adrian Peterson and then still reached Dez Bryant for a top WR1. But then missed out on top QBs and went for WR next which makes sense – the round 4 pick has to be QB or the highest scoring position is a disadvantage. Landing a “sleeper” QB can make this all right, but everyone is looking for that in a QB-heavy league.
11 WR A Green RB E Elliott WR M Evans Essentially the same as Team 10, went for WR1 while the getting was still good and still landed high-upside RB Ezekiel Elliott. And like Team 10, has to look at QB in the fourth round as a need pick. For a late round pick that ignored the top scoring position, this can still work but that round 4 QB must exceed expectations.
12 TE R Gronkowski QB B Bortles RB L McCoy No arguing the value of Gronkowski as TE1 and he could fall to round 2 in this scoring scenario. Went with QB Blake Bortles at the wrap not wanting to lose out at that position. And those first two picks felt pretty good but by the next wrap around went RB with LeSean McCoy and then has to pick a WR – any WR. This is the Gronk effect in any draft and it makes it even more interesting when QBs are valued much higher than other positions. Have to look for advantages and Gronk gives that but getting the next picks to all be money has to happen.

Fourth Round and Beyond Considerations

Quarterbacks – The reality is that QBs have never been less valued in drafts other than the QB-heavy or 2-QB leagues. The point differential between the top eight or so quarterbacks is just not that great. And you only need one. In leagues with more serious players, quarterbacks may last beyond the sixth round before the run starts. So there is plenty of quality picks at the position in round four and beyond. And grabbing two quarterbacks between rounds seven and nine allows you to either figure out which one is better or mix-n-match while loading up more on the other positions that are drained much faster.

Running Backs – This is even more a year of the Wide Receiver. And serviceable running backs have never lasted longer. Especially in leagues with a reception point, there are “startable” running backs lasting into the sixth or seventh rounds in most leagues. It doesn’t help either that so many of the running backs last year flopped and so many surprises happened. If there was ever a year to wait on running backs – this is it.

Wide Receivers – This is the deepest position but high quality and low risk players are not going to last until the fourth round. By then, expect to start seeing the #2 wideout for their NFL teams start to be taken and the high upside guys The Top 20 wideouts are likely gone in the first three rounds so by the fourth expect to reach guys like Eric Decker, Doug Baldwin, Julian Edelman, Donte Moncrief and the like. But after the first four rounds are done, wideouts go pretty slowly from then on since the position has been raided so heavily.

Tight Ends – Rob Gronkowski is gone and occasionally Jordan Reed/Greg Olsen as well if tight ends get favorable scoring. But there is rarely a big tight end run and top eight generally lasts until round seven or eight in most leagues. Longer if there are no reception points. After Gronkowski, Reed and Olsen, there is no real consensus on which tight end is any better than another.

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