No one likes to be last. And if you're picking 12th in a 12-team Fantasy league, you're last to get your first player.
Of course, the bright side is if you're in a traditional "snake" draft, you're first in Round 2. You'll have two players before everyone else. So you've got that going for you. Which is nice.
|No. 1 overall||No. 5 overall||No. 9 overall|
|No. 2 overall||No. 6 overall||No. 10 overall|
|No. 3 overall||No. 7 overall||No. 11 overall|
|No. 4 overall||No. 8 overall||No. 12 overall|
The overriding strategy you'll have to embrace picking back-to-back is aiming for the two best-available players every time you're up. Can't really do anything else, can you?
One thing to keep in mind when you pick is acknowledging which players won't be there when you pick again. Early on there will be an obvious list of a dozen guys who won't make it back to you between picks 13 and 36. But as the draft progresses there could be some names that might actually slip 23 spots and fall back into your lap.
This is also where tiers come into play. Before you dig into your draft, sort players into groups based on general expectations (our version is here). When you're picking your two players, if you see a group of talent deep enough to survive those 23 picks before you're up again, feel good about going in a different direction. Conversely, if there's a tier about to dwindle and there's a guy at a position of need waiting for you, aim there.
Editor's note: The percentages listed are what position you should target based on that round for each pick.
In standard leagues, your gameplan is to kick off your draft with a pair of running backs. In a PPR format you can open that up to include a high-target, reliable receiver and a running back with your first two choices. Just keep in mind that the quality of talent at positions other than running back will still be nice when you pick in Rounds 3 and 4 whereas the running back talent will slip. In the case of PPR formats, some rushers should slip because of the expected run on receivers, which is why going with someone like Larry Fitzgerald is OK. I don't mind taking an inexperienced back like Trent Richardson because of his potential to dominate touches in what should be a much improved Cleveland offense. Don't forget that Peyton Hillis ran roughshod all over the league with a weaker supporting cast than what Richardson has now.
Players you can get here: Trent Richardson, Michael Turner, DeMarco Murray, any receiver not named Calvin Johnson
My selection at No. 12 standard: Trent Richardson
My selection at No. 12 PPR: Larry Fitzgerald
If you went running back with your first pick, hit that talent pool again. If you went anything other than a running back with your first pick, you almost have to take a rusher here or else risk having a weak running back corps. Again, it's the only position that will be decidedly worse by the time you get to pick again. Does this mean passing on a tight end like Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski? In a standard league it's pretty much a must. In a PPR league the case could be made to take one of those tight ends because we know they won't be there when you pick in Round 3. If you firmly believe one of the tight ends will exceed what they did last year, or if your PPR league allows tight ends to play the same as a wide receiver, then take the plunge. It's your team after all.
If you have two running backs, start looking for a receiver here and with your next pick. If you have only one running back, you might start surveying what's left of the running back field while also picking up a receiver. Common thread? Receivers should be on your mind. We talked about tiers at the beginning of this story -- you should be able to find receivers at the end of the near-elite receiver tier with your picks. Leave the quarterbacks, non-Graham/Gronk tight ends and good-but-not-great rushers for your fifth-round pick.
Players you can get here: Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, Victor Cruz, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles
My selection at No. 36 standard: Demaryius Thomas
My selection at No. 36 PPR: Marques Colston
The key to drafting receivers at this point is finding reliable starters so you're not searching for those kinds of players 23 picks from now (or later). But when is it right to not take a receiver here? If you already have two on board then the pressure to get a third isn't as strong. Moreover, if a quality talent from another position falls into your lap, why not take him? The combination of those two things happened in our PPR example with Marshawn Lynch landing at 37th overall. I wouldn't count on this happening in most drafts -- a receiver will probably be the way to go -- but it pays to pay attention and jump on a steal if one presents itself.
If you've already drafted two running backs and two wide receivers, now's a great time to spike your roster with value picks of very good players at quarterback and tight end. Basically solidify your starting lineup. This could vary in a PPR format depending on who's left at those spots. For instance in our PPR example the best available tight end is Vernon Davis, who is a good player but probably not too far from the kind of tight end you can expect to snag in Round 7. In that format it's cool to pick up a third receiver if you're looking for someone with 80-catch potential or a running back that might have slipped because he's not expected to put up a lot of receptions.
Keep filling out your roster with potential starters, something done in both formats in our mock draft exercise. In standard formats the tight ends are about to draw a lot of attention and in PPR formats the quarterbacks will begin to fly. This is a good time to aim for one of those positions. At the same time, start making a list of the Top 10 players you'd take with your next two picks, updating it as players get taken. Round 7 is the time to start buckling down on taking best available players almost without regard to position.
This is the right time to begin searching for the best player available, almost without regard to position. It goes without saying that if you're at this point of the draft with a hole in your starting lineup, fill it as best as you can. But candidates for this pick and the next pick should be quarterbacks with 4,000-yard, 25-touchdown potential and skill-position players with 1,000-yard, seven-touchdown potential (you can dial down that number for tight ends).
So as I just said, taking the best player available is one way to go. Taking depth is another way to go. Each of these examples was made in our mock drafts when I took Michael Bush for depth in our PPR format and Peyton Manning for value in our standard format. Surprises like this happen in drafts. Typically I might be opposed to drafting two quarterbacks within your first eight picks but not here. Manning is considered a Top 60 type of player and with a non-Top 5 quarterback already on the roster, doubling down on passers with what's basically a mid-round pick was an easy call. I don't think Manning will fall this far in your draft but if he does don't be afraid to take advantage. I bet you can trade him for a Top 60 player as the season unfolds.
Handcuff running backs, low-risk running backs and low-end bargains are the name of the game in Round 9 and beyond. You can find a good value at tight end here and some decent quarterback backups will be around but really this is a good chance to land some running backs with potential to do well if they can find an opportunity. Be it as a handcuff or as a speculative choice, spending the pick now will either lead to an easy drop later or a tremendous find for your team. Though you might need a starter at another position, this is typically when going with a quality reserve running back is OK.
Just because you might have taken a running back with your previous pick shouldn't preclude you from taking another one now. One of the strategies we'll preach is loading up on running backs and getting them through Round 10 isn't terrible depending on who's left. A back with some upside is always worth the risk here. Of course, waiting for a tight end until this point isn't such a bad thing either. Tony Gonzalez provides some stability without much upside but he's certainly worth beginning the season as a starter.
Players you can get here: Tony Gonzalez, Jacquizz Rodgers, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington, Darrius Heyward-Bey
My selection at No. 109 standard: Jacquizz Rodgers
My selection at No. 109 PPR: Tony Gonzalez
You should still be looking for depth at this point regardless of format. You can toy with the idea of a DST or a backup quarterback with your next pick but first and foremost keep an eye out for a rusher or receiver you can either start on a moment's notice or hope for some surprise stats from. If you had made a sleepers list before the draft, now's a good time to take a look at it and pick a name from it.
If you know you're not picking again until the last pick before the final round, which is when kickers go en masse, that means you'll be dead last on choosing a DST. A tip: If you like your team through your first 11 picks and have a few leftover sleeper names who could make it back to you in Round 13, splurge on the top DST now and beat your leaguemates to the punch. This is a good year for it as the Niners defense is the consensus No. 1 choice and has potential to put up some decent numbers from week to week thanks to a decent schedule and a weak division. Lock up a reliable starter (even if they play at the Packers in Week 1) and sweat a sleeper later. You don't have to settle for a suspect defense just because you pick where you do.
Obviously if you need a DST and a kicker at this point, you'll go in that direction with your last two choices. But if you've already taken a DST, now's a great time to settle for a shot-in-the-dark sleeper. Think young and think potential.
Maybe it's a perk to pick early in the final round of the draft and get a kicker you can feel halfway decent about. Look for three things: Guys on teams with a good offense, guys who kick for accuracy and guys who can kick 50-plus-long field goals. And if the guy you pick stinks, just replace him off waivers. We're talking about kickers after all.
Here is a look at what the teams look like following the draft:
|QB||Eli Manning||QB||Tony Romo|
|RB||Trent Richardson||RB||Matt Forte|
|RB||Michael Turner||RB||Marshawn Lynch|
|WR||Demaryius Thomas||WR||Larry Fitzgerald|
|WR||Victor Cruz||WR||Marques Colston|
|FLEX||Titus Young||FLEX||Antonio Brown|
|TE||Aaron Hernandez||TE||Tony Gonzalez|
|K||Stephen Gostkowski||K||Stephen Gostkowski|
|BENCH||Peyton Manning||BENCH||Ronnie Hillman|
|BENCH||Felix Jones||BENCH||Michael Bush|
|BENCH||Jacquizz Rodgers||BENCH||Ben Tate|
|BENCH||Santana Moss||BENCH||Daniel Thomas|
|BENCH||Taiwan Jones||BENCH||Owen Daniels|