Congratulations, you have the final pick in the first round of your fantasy draft. This is a spot that comes with plenty of disadvantages. You miss out on the top guys. Unless your team does a “third round reversal” everyone else also has three players before you, and there are usually around 25-30 clear guys near the top. You have to wait a long time between making back-to-back picks, and have to plan for runs and can watch your sleepers get plucked.
But you also have a chance to zig when others zag and don’t have to just meekly play their game. The 2018 fantasy drafts should start to bear a stronger resemblance to the drafts that some of us veterans used to have back in the 2000’s, when running backs dominated the early portion of the draft and you could pair up two of the top 5 wide receivers.
So I’m going to lay out my 2018 strategy for conducting a fantasy football draft out of a late spot. For purposes of this post, I will use the 12th spot in a 12-team PPR league, and use the average draft position data from Fantasy Pros for PPR leagues to decide who might still be available. I’ll select 2 QBs, 5 RBs, 5 WRs, 2 TEs.
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1st/2nd Round: RB Leonard Fournette, WR Julio Jones (3rd option: WR Michael Thomas)
Fournette is going a little lower in PPR formats than in others, but I think this is the one chance for running back value, because I still have him above some of the backs going ahead of him on average in PPR. His historical comps were good the next year with some big breakouts, and he’s an immense talent. He missed 3 games last year and you know where he finished in PPR points for running back? 9th. By PPR points per game, he was 7th. He was a top 5 pick who was successful as a rookie, missed 3 games, and is just 23, and he’s 9th RB off the board? Take him if there.
If not, I’d go two wide receivers. I’ll take Julio Jones, who this time last year was going 3rd or 4th overall, but only scored 3 touchdowns while having over 1,400 yards receiving (the most extreme yards to touchdown split of the last 30 years). He hasn’t had double digit TDs since his 2nd year but still averages nearly half a touchdown per game played. A touchdown regression toward his career averages makes him a great pick in this spot.
I’d take Michael Thomas if Fournette was gone, and go with two top wide receivers.
3rd/4th Round: WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Brandin Cooks (WR Juju Smith-Schuster or WR Doug Baldwin if he falls here)
If I do get Fournette, I’m definitely going with two wide receivers here because I want to lock up two more of the top 20 guys and have a leg up (along with Julio) at the position over the teams I am chasing, rather than chase them at both running back and receiver.
I’d love if someone like Doug Baldwin fell here (he’s currently right around an ADP of 34). With the guys who are typically available, there are still plenty of options. You could go Jarvis Landry, Demaryius Thomas, Brandin Cooks, Juju Smith-Schuster, or Allen Robinson here. I’ll take Thomas, who I think will benefit from improved QB play going from Siemian to Keenum, and Cooks moving into the high-powered Rams offense. But there are plenty of options and right after this round those options are going to all be gone. This is the spot to start the run at this WR tier and not miss out on it.