“Wait, the draft is tomorrow?”
No matter if you studied the NFL daily or just realized that your fantasy football draft is just about to happen, keeping up to date is more challenging than ever. Without the benefit of preseason games, it doesn’t feel like draft time. Water-cooler football banter has suffered from a lack of seeing helmets, scoreboards, rookie fumbles, or anyone “catching everything in sight.”
Not to worry. Armed with a high-quality cheatsheet from TheHuddle.com and the following tips, we’ll get you through that draft, this season, and eventually, your playoffs.
The First Half of the Draft
The reality of 2020 is that running backs are king, wide receivers are a strong second, and the rest can probably wait. Unless your league allows for two starting quarterbacks, that position can wait. Both Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes usually end up as second or third-round picks, but the overall difference is not that great between quarterbacks. Wait until the first ten or so are gone and then snap up Matthew Stafford, Daniel Jones, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, or Baker Mayfield. That fills your starting quarterback in the seventh or eighth round and allows you to pursue the other positions that will drain much quicker.
If there is a default pick in any round, it is running back. Expect all starting running backs to be gone after the fourth round. Grab at least two in your first four picks, or you’ll likely have a liability at a high-scoring position. If you get flustered because “your guy” was taken right before your turn – just pick a running back.
Opting where to take your tight end should depend on your scoring rules. If there are points for receptions, then decide if you want a difference-maker in the position or just accept it’s not going to contribute much to your weekly score. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, and Mark Andrews will be the first four to go and usually by the fourth round. Kelce and Kittle could be second-round picks. They provide an advantage at the position that is almost impossible to obtain by landing a sleeper tight end.
If your league doesn’t use reception points, or if you miss out on those four players, then just wait. The difference between the fifth and twelfth-best tight ends is just a couple of points per game if you could even successfully guess the order after the first four are gone.
Wide receivers are the deepest position. There are quality players to be had through the sixth round or even longer in most drafts. You can delay them more than any other position, and not suffer a liability. But, you also won’t get any advantage and the important reality is that your league likely starts more wide receivers than any other position.
The tradeoff on waiting for starting wideouts is that not only do you lose their potential fantasy points, but more importantly, their consistency. Owning at least one of the Top-20 wide receivers will help your weekly score remain high and not suffer as many flop weeks.
Putting this all together, make a plan on how you intend to seed in your starting quarterback and tight end. I’m typically a fan of filling out the starting running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks before I worry about backing up any position… except maybe running back that would usually be my preferred flex position.
Most common drafting plans for 2020:
Having three running backs after your fourth pick is hard to fault, and taking an elite wideout makes more sense the deeper in the first round you are slotted. The first half of the draft is all about your starters. Make the decision going in if an elite quarterback or tight end makes sense, otherwise, pick the best available running back or wide receiver.
The Second Half of the Draft
The latter part of your fantasy draft will provide a starting kicker and defense, and fill out the depth for the other positions. Granted, short of landing a sleeper, these are not going to be the players that deliver your team to the championship. But they can be the ones that keep you out.
Every year, the top defenses from the previous season are taken far earlier than the rest which is in the final two or three rounds. Of the Top-5 from 2018, none ended up better than No. 9 last year and three were No. 24 or worse. Defenses are reactive and their production relies heavily on their weekly schedule and what situation their own offense places on their opponent. There is nothing wrong with streaming defenses by taking the best matchup from the free-agent pile each week.
Kickers always end up at the bottom of the draft for good reason. There is usually a minimal difference between kickers, and they are notoriously difficult to predict. But, Harrison Butker, Wil Lutz, Justin Tucker, Robbie Gould and whatever kicker the Patriot use always remain Top-10 for the last three years. Beyond them, there is nearly no way to discern who else rounds out the better kickers each year. Three rounds from the end of your draft, consider one of those and gain a small but reasonably safe advantage.
The reality is that we cannot know the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it could impact NFL rosters and games. But it is prudent to prepare for the possibility by focusing more on backing up your best players. Definitely your best running backs, but even your wide receivers if it makes sense. And just because you selected a top quarterback doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to ride him all 16 weeks.
That goes back to investing in running backs. You can be certain a backup can step up should the need arise. Rounding out your depth with running backs from other teams is riskier this year – what if they too are out? This is also a year where owning wide receivers from the same team suddenly makes more sense. This will be a memorable year and the most important tip of all – just have fun within the chaos that has become 2020.