2012 Draft Prep: Strategies for third overall

Picking third is a pretty good deal this season. That's because the very top of the elite tier of running backs is three-deep. Not only are you promised to get one of Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice (most likely one of the latter two), but assuming you're in a snake draft, you'll also pick ahead of the other elite-tier running back owners in Round 2. You'll lock into two of the Top 22 players (and three of the Top 27) in your rankings.

Drafting in front of two owners is a nice perk, one that could help you figure out who to take when you're up in the even-numbered rounds. You should always pay attention to who everyone in your draft takes, but if you especially keep track of what the owners at Pick 1 and Pick 2 have and need you can make smarter choices for yourself. For instance, let's say it's Round 6 and you need a quarterback and a tight end. Pick 1 and Pick 2 also need tight ends, but both have quarterbacks. You should absolutely take a tight end before they get two chances each to draft one. Leave the quarterback for your turn in Round 7 since it's considered unlikely either team would take a second one so early. Manipulation of their needs with your own should help make tough decisions easy.

Editor's note: The percentages listed are what position you should target based on that round for each pick.

Round 1
Standard QB 0% RB 100% WR 0% TE 0%
PPR QB 0% RB 100% WR 0% TE 0%

Regardless of format, your choice should boil down to LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice, whoever is left after Arian Foster and one of those two backs go ahead of your pick. You cannot go wrong here. Both offer versatile, often-used running backs with excellent speed and goal-line reps. It's a Fantasy owner's dream to land a rusher with weekly 20-touch potential and both of these guys have it. If I had a preference, I'd take McCoy because the Eagles' offense is more explosive than the Ravens' and McCoy has hoarded reps for the last two seasons and shouldn't slow down now. With only a few great running backs available compared to the number of very capable quarterbacks and wide receivers, it doesn't make sense to pick Aaron Rodgers or Calvin Johnson over McCoy or Rice, especially when you see who's left when you pick again.

Players you can get here: LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Aaron Rodgers
My selection at No. 3 standard: LeSean McCoy
My selection at No. 3 PPR: LeSean McCoy

Round 2
Standard QB 10% RB 25% WR 45% TE 20%
PPR QB 0% RB 20% WR 50% TE 30%

Expect to see at least four quarterbacks, eight running backs, three wide receivers and perhaps a tight end get snagged before you pick here. With the talent available to you and another pick coming up soon, it's not entirely wrong to splurge on a quarterback or tight end in Round 2. If Cam Newton's there, you should have no problem taking him. Things get trickier if we're talking about Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, the consensus top tight ends in Fantasy this summer. If one has been taken, you should strongly consider taking the other here knowing that you'll get a crack at a top-tier receiver in Round 3. But if both Graham and Gronk are there when you pick, take a risk and pass on them. Why? With two teams picking after you, you're playing the odds at least one owner will pass on a tight end. That should allow you to pick up a No. 1 receiver and then dip for the elite tight end in Round 3. If it so happens that the teams behind you swipe both tight ends before Round 3, so what? It just pushes other talented players at other positions down to your pick. Doing something similar to this later on in the draft isn't advised because the type of talent around after, say, Round 6 isn't as good. The change-up for owners in PPR leagues is to pass on any quarterback but follow the same logic with the tight ends, though both should be gone by now in those formats. Also, I don't mind taking a quality running back with 40-catch potential over a No. 1 receiver in PPR, especially if there's a lot of good receiving talent left for me to choose from in Round 3.

Players you can get here: Cam Newton, Jimmy Graham, Greg Jennings, Ahmad Bradshaw, Roddy White
My selection at No. 22 standard: Greg Jennings
My selection at No. 22 PPR: Ahmad Bradshaw

Round 3
Standard QB 20% RB 30% WR 35% TE 35%
PPR QB 10% RB 25% WR 50% TE 15%

As per the Round 2 advice, if one of the top two tight ends makes it here, take him. I think that will be the case in standard formats more often than not, so that's the direction I'd call Plan A. But in case both tight ends get picked, here's your Plan B: Lean toward a receiver unless a very good running back is available. If you've picked McCoy or Rice with your top pick, you might not feel as pressured into getting a second back since you have a stud already locked up. Since the running backs expected to be available here are considered very good but not necessarily elite, it would not be a mistake to take a receiver even if you took one in Round 2. No. 1 options like Mike Wallace, Jordy Nelson, Wes Welker and Julio Jones will be around. And if you didn't take a receiver in Round 2, you should absolutely do so here -- you do not want to search for starting receivers in Round 4, and that goes double in PPR leagues when elite tight ends will be long gone. Also, expect Adrian Peterson to start drawing attention right around this very pick, No. 27 overall. If you believe Peterson will return to form following major knee surgery and are also willing to make the commitment to taking backup Toby Gerhart in Round 9, go ahead and get AP since this will be your last chance to get him.

Players you can get here: Jimmy Graham, Mike Wallace, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall
My selection at No. 27 standard: Jimmy Graham
My selection at No. 27 PPR: Brandon Marshall

Round 4
Standard QB 35% RB 30% WR 30% TE 5%
PPR QB 15% RB 35% WR 45% TE 10%

You should find some nice quarterbacks and wide receivers at this spot, but choosing one could be a chore. Your personal preference on quarterbacks might shape your decision, as might the needs of the teams picking directly after you. If you want a safe starting quarterback and the rivals at Pick 1 and 2 need a quarterback, that's the direction you should go in. The only exception is if a capable running back with potential was left -- in that case I'd table the quarterback quandary to the next round. The same logic can be used in PPR formats with more of a lean toward receivers. Remember: You're picking again six spots later and can pick up whatever position you don't choose in Round 5.

Players you can get here: Michael Vick, Dez Bryant, Steve Smith, Eli Manning, Steve Johnson
My selection at No. 46 standard: Michael Vick
My selection at No. 46 PPR: Steve Johnson

Round 5
Standard QB 35% RB 35% WR 25% TE 5%
PPR QB 30% RB 30% WR 35% TE 10%

Same story as in Round 4: Quarterback and receiver values should be on the board. But if you've taken only one running back through the first four rounds, now's the time to "settle" for your second rusher before the talent pool thins out. Everyone in drafts will aim to stockpile rushers and if you've picked only one through four rounds, strike while you can and target the backs with 15-touch and 1,000-yard potential. They might be players you don't love (Beanie Wells, BenJarvus Green-Ellis) but you'll need them to fill out your lineup. This might mean temporarily punting on quarterback, but just remember the quality of passers available when you pick again won't be nearly as bad as the quality of running backs available. In PPR formats I prefer to pass on quarterbacks if I've waited this long, and if there's a good opportunity to take a productive receiver, it should be done.

Players you can get here: Beanie Wells, Frank Gore, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Peyton Manning
My selection at No. 51 standard: Beanie Wells
My selection at No. 51 PPR: Vincent Jackson

Round 6
Standard QB 35% RB 35% WR 25% TE 5%
PPR QB 15% RB 40% WR 30% TE 15%

If you've made it this far without a quarterback and there's still a Top 12 choice available (Ben Roethlisberger perhaps), you need to take him either here or in Round 7. That should entirely depend on whether the teams at Pick 1 and 2 have a quarterback or if they'd take a second quarterback before you get your first (some owners will pull those moves). It's a judgment call but if you think you can play the odds and let a quarterback slide to you in Round 7, go for it. Otherwise, expect the running back talent pool to start drying up quickly. If you want to have depth there, spend a pick here on someone who should get at least 10 touches per game with a chance to score some touchdowns -- that's about the best kind of rusher left at this stage.

Players you can get here: Mikel Leshoure, Peyton Hillis, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Jason Witten
My selection at No. 70 standard: Mikel Leshoure
My selection at No. 70 PPR: Peyton Hillis

Round 7
Standard QB 35% RB 25% WR 35% TE 5%
PPR QB 10% RB 30% WR 40% TE 20%

You should reconsider tight ends here if you don't have one already as they are pretty good bargains now compared to other non-quarterback positions. That's more likely the case in PPR formats. If you have a tight end, or don't want to take one, now's the time to move into a BPA (Best Player Available) mode. I'm always evaluating players based on who has the best chance to get 1,000 yards and at least seven touchdowns. There aren't many players left at this point who have that kind of projection but if you look for headline receivers on weaker teams and No. 2 receivers on pass-happy teams, you'll find some candidates.

Players you can get here: Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, Antonio Brown, Brandon Lloyd, Vernon Davis
My selection at No. 75 standard: Eric Decker
My selection at No. 75 PPR: Vernon Davis

Round 8
Standard QB 10% RB 35% WR 30% TE 20%
PPR QB 15% RB 35% WR 25% TE 20%

We're more than halfway through drafting relevant players -- we're not close to drafting a kicker or DST -- so the focus now shifts to using the good, not great talent left to either build depth or fill-in the holes in your starting lineup. Pretty soon positional need won't be as important as getting anyone who can put up numbers but now's the time to take one last look at the running backs left and get anyone who might come in handy for the majority of the season. In about two rounds, the running back talent pool will be real shallow and you won't want anyone who's left. Unless there's a potential stud at another position, or unless you still have a major need to fill, aim for the running back while you can.

Players you can get here: Peyton Hillis, Pierre Garcon, Santonio Holmes, Toby Gerhart, LeGarrette Blount
My selection at No. 94 standard: Robert Meachem
My selection at No. 94 PPR: Pierre Thomas

Round 9
Standard QB 20% RB 35% WR 25% TE 20%
PPR QB 30% RB 20% WR 30% TE 20%

Expect most of the Top 12 quarterbacks to be history by now -- if one of them slips here then you should consider him, especially if you've been lazy about drafting one. The value of a low-end No. 1 QB at this point is fantastic. If quarterback isn't your pick, building depth becomes the top priority, but so does finding sleepers. Owners will start taking chances with players who have strong potential but aren't quite considered safe enough to begin the year as a starter. The good news is that we're here with the third pick in the round, so choose wisely.

Players you can get here: LeGarrette Blount, Ben Roethlisberger, David Wilson, Brent Celek, Jacob Tamme
My selection at No. 99 standard: LeGarrette Blount
My selection at No. 99 PPR: Ben Roethlisberger

Round 10
Standard QB 15% RB 30% WR 30% TE 25%
PPR QB 30% RB 20% WR 25% TE 25%

For the next few picks I'm trying to combine all the elements of what makes a good draft and take a player with some upside to either start for my team or trade to someone else's. Take a look at who's left and match it with any backup needs you have (No. 2 QB, No. 4 WR or No. 2 TE, for example). Then compare with the needs of the owners at Pick 1 and 2 -- would anyone you're looking at get taken within the next few picks and not fall to you in Round 11? Is there enough talent left at a position you're considering where you can pass on it now and pick from it with your next pick? I can't suggest one specific position at this point but I can tell you there should be some fairly decent receivers and tight ends left, some with 800-yard, six-touchdown potential.

Players you can get here: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jay Cutler, Sidney Rice, Bernard Scott, Robert Turbin
My selection at No. 118 standard: Darrius Heyward-Bey
My selection at No. 118 PPR: Jay Cutler

Round 11
Standard QB 15% RB 20% WR 40% TE 25%
PPR QB 15% RB 20% WR 40% TE 25%

Same strategy as Round 10 (minus the checking of other team needs). Going for the BAP is a good call with the more intriguing names particularly at wide receiver. That seems to be case if only because owners have already drowned the running back pool by now, but there should be some 800-yard, six-touchdown receiving types out there. Make this pick your last receiver in standard formats and perhaps even in PPR formats.

Players you can get here: Justin Blackmon, Danny Amendola, Laurent Robinson, Brandon Pettigrew, Andy Dalton
My selection at No. 123 standard: Justin Blackmon
My selection at No. 123 PPR: Danny Amendola

Round 12
Standard QB 15% RB 15% WR 20% TE 10% K 0% DST 40%
PPR QB 10% RB 15% WR 20% TE 15% K 0% DST 40%

I'm not opposed to taking an elite DST here. Everyone has their own take on DSTs, here's mine: If you love your team and you have to take a DST anyway, why not grab a real good one before the owners at Pick 1 and 2 have to get one? A rule: You must feel good about your roster and you must not leave any potential stud behind for a DST. While nice, just remember that even elite DSTs are not guaranteed to do well and are easy to replace. Picking again soon makes taking a top DST worthwhile.

Players you can get here: Ravens DST, Mike Williams, Mike Tolbert, Steelers DST
My selection at No. 142 standard: Ravens DST
My selection at No. 142 PPR: Ravens DST

Round 13
Standard QB 25% RB 15% WR 20% TE 15% K 0% DST 25%
PPR QB 15% RB 15% WR 30% TE 15% K 0% DST 25%

Obviously if you need a DST, take one. If you're stumped, check the Week 1 NFL schedule and find one with a favorable matchup to begin the year so you can at least begin the season without sweating a problem. If you've taken a DST and don't have a kicker then this is your last skill-position pick (unless your league says you don't have to draft a DST and/or kicker). Forget about need at this point -- this and all of these very late round spots are for taking low-risk, high-reward players. If you hit it, you're a legend. If you miss it, who cares -- it's just a 12th-round pick. Just keep in mind, this is where a lot of Fantasy owners took a swing on Cam Newton and Jordy Nelson last year. How did that turn out?

Players you can get here: Doug Baldwin, Josh Freeman, Alex Smith, Eagles DST, Packers DST
My selection at No. 147 standard: Alex Smith
My selection at No. 147 PPR: Doug Baldwin

Round 14
Standard QB 0% RB 0% WR 0% TE 0% K 100% DST 0%
PPR QB 0% RB 0% WR 0% TE 0% K 100% DST 0%

For me this is kicker time. Look for kickers who either post consistent accuracy or play with a high-powered offense. If they have a good Week 1 matchup it's icing on the cake.

Players you can get here: Matt Prater, Robbie Gould, Matt Bryant, Neil Rackers
My selection at No. 166 standard: Matt Prater
My selection at No. 166 PPR: Matt Prater

Here's what the teams look like following the draft:

Standard Point-per-reception
QB Michael Vick QB Ben Roethlisberger
RB LeSean McCoy RB LeSean McCoy
RB Beanie Wells RB Ahmad Bradshaw
WR Greg Jennings WR Brandon Marshall
WR Eric Decker WR Steve Johnson
FLEX Mikel Leshoure FLEX Vincent Jackson
TE Jimmy Graham TE Vernon Davis
K Matt Prater K Matt Prater
DST Ravens DST Ravens
BENCH Robert Meachem BENCH Peyton Hillis
BENCH LeGarrette Blount BENCH Pierre Thomas
BENCH Darrius Heyward-Bey BENCH Jay Cutler
BENCH Justin Blackmon BENCH Danny Amendola
BENCH Alex Smith BENCH Doug Baldwin

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Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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